Writing Challenge: A Dreadful Scene

Deirdre McCluskey Harlequin Administrative Coordinatorby Deirdre McCluskey

Our list of 7 Spooky Romances to Watch This Halloween reminded me of a favourite fiction genre, the gothic romance.

Gothic romances build suspense through setting, atmosphere and characterization, often employing first person point of view to heighten that chilling sense of isolation and confusion felt by an outsider introduced to a new, strange, and sinister world.

Your challenge this week? Write a short 5-7 paragraph spooky scene in first person POV. You can employ any gothic elements you like – supernatural occurrences, sinister characters, spooky setting, etc. The only requirement is that somewhere in the scene you include the sentence,

“I was filled with a sense of unease.”

Post your scene in the comments below any time between now and Sunday, October 28, 2018, and we’ll pick our Top 3 on Monday!

21 replies on “Writing Challenge: A Dreadful Scene”

This was hard! 5-7 paragraphs and in first person—fun Friday challenge though! 😀
Sometime at midnight, I jerked up from bed, my gaze fixed on the ceiling. Someone was definitely moving up there. Pacing fast. Dragging something, too. It thumped and slid across the floor. And they said this creepy old house wasn’t haunted—how did it explain that overhead? Was there even a fourth floor here? A secret passage to a secreted attic?

Leaving the bed, I walked out of my room, turning the key I’d left in the door open and peeking out into the hall. It was pointless. I was alone on this floor, with the manor’s owner and his grouchy and infuriatingly handsome nephew downstairs. “Someone’s up there,” I muttered, glaring up at the dark paneled ceiling. “And I’m going to find out who, and get them to keep it down.”

It always got dark quickly here. This old house, the last of the grand castle-like manors in New England, was drafty, and even though I’d called it home since I moved in for my live-in nursing job, it still sounded like the walls were whistling. Like they were breathing. It was all so very Shirley Jackson and haunted hill houses.

I followed no particular path, my ears perked up for sounds that I was getting closer to my Midnight Pacer. It was how I ended up in the library, the best room in this creepy place. There was even a loft where tall bookshelves comprised the walls. The creaking had stopped, which was unfortunate because I’d gotten out of bed to solve this mystery. I yawned, fatigued now that my determination ebbed fast. I promised myself I’d try again to ask about the house’s history first thing come morning, but as I turned for the door out of the library, I heard shuffling up from the dark loft.

Swinging back, I squinted in the dark, wishing I had the forethought to bring along a flashlight, I made for the direction of the loft when the soft shuffling picked up again. I didn’t call out, afraid of who—or what would answer me. Climbing up the wooden spiraling stairs, I stepped onto the loft with trepidation chilling my blood. The flashlight, I realized belatedly, could have also been a weapon.

“Ah!” I screamed, the shrill sound burning my throat as I shielded my eyes with my arms. The blinding light dipped from my face and I peeked around my shield to confront Holden Whitcross and his familiar scowl. “What are you doing here?” he all but growled. He had that kind of deep, gravelly voice to get away with it. Gooseflesh riddling my body, I hugged my arms around my middle and instinctively took a step back. “Careful,” he snapped. He was right. My foot brushed the top step of the staircase. Taking a tumble like that could kill me.

“I thought I heard…” I trailed, knowing he wouldn’t want to hear it again. He already shut me down twice, and forcefully, making it clear he didn’t like having me around. And he hated that I was snooping. So, pasting on a fake smile, I shrugged. “Um, I was filled with a sense of unease and, uh, I had to walk it off.” Holden’s face in half-shadows still looked movie-star gorgeous. I should have been terrified. But as usual all I felt was sparking thrill in his holier-than-thou presence.

It was the same route I walked home every night.
Tonight, though, I was on edge.
It had been a strange day. On my way to the office, someone had pushed me while I was waiting for the light to change. Fortunately, I’d fallen against a large, sweaty man in an ill-fitting suit, and he’d stopped me from falling on the street. People were too impatient to wait for the green.
At lunch time, my shoe lace came loose. I’d just stopped to retie it when an electric bike veered in front of me. People were often careless, but the two incidents had unsettled me.
Now, I was walking down the same street I always did, but it was too quiet. I didn’t hear the usual neighborhood sounds. I looked over my shoulder repeatedly, and paused before crossing by the alley.
I was filled with a sense of unease.
Then I heard the gun cock.

Darkness falls as the carriage rambles down the dirt road through the forest, racing toward the cliffs beyond. I hold tight to the cushioned armrest and try not to bite my lower lip though fear trembles in my bones. This was a promise made to my mother on her deathbed. One I would never refuse. And yet, the hesitancy to go sickens my heart and it is all I can do not to think about the upcoming days. Alone in Ramsey Hall with the man who murdered my father.

Horses neigh and bells jangle. I find myself listening to the even clip-clop of their hooves as they hit the ground, pounding and beating it like I want to do to this man I have come to loathe, though I know nothing about him. Not really. My mother’s dying breath requested that I must go to Edward Ramsey now. He will take care of me. It is my duty and my destiny, though I am nearly twenty-four years of age. I can make decisions on my own but for a lady, it isn’t proper to be alone. I will find out what is so important to my mother that I must show myself to this evil man.

I swallow but my throat is dry. Parched from lack of anything to drink over the past three hours on this wild ride into the winter night. I peer out the window to my right and catch sight of two dismal towers reaching for the moonlit sky. Small windows scattered here and there peek from the large cut stones that are the bulk of the hall’s exterior. As more of the building comes into view, I cover my mouth and hold my breath. It was not as I expected for it resembles a castle more than a manor house. I tremble as the carriage horses head straight for the drawbridge as though they are coming home. I am not frightened, nor nervous. I feel for my silk purse and the small revolver that lay hidden there. I can take care of myself. I refuse to be afraid of this vile man. The horses come to a halt and the driver calls out. A slight breeze makes me shiver as the drawbridge lowers. A tall figure walks into view and pauses near the yawning gap that leads to my new home. The man nods and speaks to the driver. I catch sight of the lantern light reflecting in his green eyes. I lean forward to study him as we pass and enter the courtyard. Is this the man? No, he is far too young to be the one who took my father’s life twenty years ago.

“Miss Northcraft, I presume?” His voice is deep and appearance well-groomed in a dark dinner suit with his midnight hair combed back from his face, all but the mischievous curl that teases his brow. “I’ve been expecting you. We share a common sorrow. My father passed away recently and I understand your mother died this past week too. Is that correct?”

I nod, unable to gather my voice. There is something wrong here. I feel it when he takes my hand to assist me down from the carriage. As we walk toward the open door, a black cat scurries across in front of me and I hold my breath. Bad luck. Even the welcoming candle glow from within the castle hall cannot shake my sudden fear of my situation and this man.

“My condolences.” He opens a door leading into the library and offers me a seat with the sweep of his hand. He turns his full attention on me at that moment. “Just how much do you know about the relationship between my father and your mother?”

I was filled with a sudden sense of unease. But the courage to right the wrong committed so long ago forces me to speak. “Our parents were siblings.”

I’d heard enough. Not this again. Not the: “Hey, let’s buy a dump and pour all we have left into it and pray for buyer’s to come along and spend lots of money!- bit again. I sighed and got up. It worked for us when the market was up but when we’d bought the last three houses, the market went down and so did the equity we’d hoped to make on it.

I started to object, when I noticed how eerily bewitched William was with the picture of the house. I shook my head, determined not to waste my breath again and headed to the bathroom for a shower. During my shower, I closed my eyes briefly and let the water fall over me. As the water fell, I began hum a little tune to myself. Suddenly, I thought I heard the bathroom door open. I peered from between soap stained eyes.

“Babe?” I called out thinking it might be my husband, William. Not hearing anything, I continued to lather.

Once I finished, I turned the shower off and stood there for a moment. So many thoughts swirled around my head. The car payment was due, the mortgage, the electric was late and right now we are in more debt than we were in love. I began to wonder if the fully furnished estate William was looking into, was as good a bargain as it looked. ‘Why had no one else jumped on this so called ‘opportunity’? I thought to myself. With that thought I grabbed the towel and decided I would get back on the computer and look up that old estate.

I reached out for the towel and swore I felt a hand brush up against mine. I was filled with a sense of dread. I immediately snatched my hand back into the shower. I slowly peeked from behind the shower curtain. Nothing. I immediately closed the curtains and then took a deep breath. Okay…nothing out there.

“Lillian,” I said to myself aloud. “You are just in need of some sleep that’s all.”

I thought about how I’d been working too hard lately. Determined to prove that I wasn’t imagining things, I decided to exit the shower. I took a step out, placing one foot on the cold tiled floor. The bathroom was steamy from my shower, so I couldn’t immediately see but so much. I then grabbed my towel and proceeded to step all the way out. I dried off and then wrapped the towel around me.

As I stepped to the mirror, I wiped it off to begin pulling my wet hair up. The mirror began to clear, as I briefly looked away to grab the scarf from the towel rack behind me and when I turned back the face of a man with long hair and blazing red eyes stared back at me! I jumped and screamed. I scrambled towards the bathroom door and was startled again by my husband who gently grabbed my arms and shook me.

“What’s wrong? What…why did you scream?” he says looking to me for an explanation.

William began looking around the bathroom wondering what could have scared me so bad.

I tried to regain my composure but felt completely shaken up. Who was that and why would they be coming for me?

I checked my compass, making sure my bearings were right. It should be up ahead, just another 100 yards or so.
This is insane. What am I doing out here? I thought as adjusted my goggles and tightened my face mask around my eyes, the subzero temperatures clawing at my lungs, sucking away the moisture as I breathed. Why am I following the last wishes of a looney old woman who was probably hallucinating right before she died?
I adjusted my ski poles for the deeper snow and made the uphill climb through the boreal forest, breaking trail as my heart pounded.
Because she loved you. She was the only person who loved you, Gina.
I was breathing hard, thick frost collecting around my nose and mouth as the old lodge came into view. I let out a sigh of relief to see that the building was still intact, my breath hanging in the twilight. With darkness falling along with the temperatures, I would need to get a fire going quickly. I slogged the last remaining feet to the dilapidated cabin, dragging my sled of supplies behind me.
I shoveled away the snow in front of the door and wrenched it open. I detached my sled and set my pack down. I pulled my pistol from my waist, scanning the dark interior for signs of life. Nothing looked disturbed. I lowered my pistol and dragged my gear inside.
I lit the fire in the old cast iron stove and sat back on my heels. A chill ran down my spine, and not from the temperature. I was filled with a sense of unease. My ears perked up. No, I wasn’t imagining things, there was a noise outside, coming up the trail the same way I had from the valley below. I leapt to my feet and reached for my pistol. I looked out the window, nothing could be seen but darkness through the old glass.
The handle of the door twitched.

I was filled with a sense of unease. A body mangled beyond recognition was found in the warehouse district on each night of the full moon. I was in the warehouse district. Tonight is a full moon. It was a couple years since I did street patrol. Since I made detective, my job was to catch the bad guys with my keen observational skills. Still, with a killer on the loose, the chief wanted everyone out on the streets. It would help calm the public down he said. We could evben catch the six foot three, two-hundred-and-fifty-pound guy in the act, he added. The shadows in the doorways had an ominous tone. The pale moonlight gave the trees a menacing appearance. I turned onto Riverside Parkway when I heard a woman’s moaning.
“Four twenty-seven requesting backup! Riverwalk Park, between Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth!” I screamed into my radio as I began running towards the noise. After a short while, I come to the bench where the moans are coming from. With my flashlight in one hand and my service revolver in the other, both pointed at the bench, I scream, “Police! Let me see your hands!” My command is greeted with four hands and two panicked faces. One of them belongs to a man and another belongs to a woman, both in their early twenties. “Please don’t shoot!” the girl pleads as she pulls her top down. “What the heck are you two doing here? Don’t you know there’s a killer on the loose?” I ask incredulously as I put my service revolver away. “We didn’t know,” the boy says as he’s pulling up his pants. “Four twenty-seven, cancel the backup,” I say into my radio, a lot calmer than I did before. “We’re sorry! Please don’t arrest us!” the woman pleads. “Get a room, and don’t let me see you here again,” I tell them as they walk out of the park.
I get back to my unit when my phone vibrates in my pocket alerting me to an incoming call. I check my phone and see the call is from Jack Newport, the young investigative reporter for Channel 11. I try to maintain friendly relations with the press. I give them an anonymous tip, and they let me know what their sources are telling them. It’s a pretty beneficial quid-pro-quo. “Detective Sanders,” I answer waiting for Jack’s smooth voice to answer. “Hi, Marlene,” he replied, “How are the streets tonight?”
“Quiet so far. All I’ve found so far is a couple who picked a bad night to get amorous in Riverwalk Park.”
“Well, I have a party tonight. My producer wants me to check out this werewolf party in the warehouse district tonight.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“That’s what I told my producer, but he thinks this would help lighten up the late news tonight.”
“Where is it?”
“Twenty-eighth and Superior, in the old railroad warehouse.”
“I’ll drive by. I’d hate for this killer to get one of you guys.”
“Okay, thanks.” Jack said as he hung up.
“Werewolves,” I said to myself. People are having too much fun with this. I hope I catch a break in this before one of these revelers, or that couple I chased from the park, ends up the next victim.

I was filled with a sense of unease as the door creaked open. I hadn’t been in this part of the manor. Such a sprawling place, with stairs that seemed to lead nowhere and everywhere, and rooms that were more like mazes that led to even more rooms. I hadn’t been able to see them all. But my uncle left me the manor in his will, because without any heirs there was just me to leave it to. The lightning and thunder crashed outside as though it wanted to come in, come for me. I moved in here for a while myself while awaiting my cousin to join me. The doctor had said that the peace and quiet would alleviate my wandering uterus and the anxiety plaguing me recently, it would help. I dare say I’d gone a bit mad and was hoping for relief.

The door gave way to a large library which had been closed up for eons. The light from my candle was wavering, and cast a weak light on the ancient furniture and baroque bookcases. Then, suddenly, a gust of wind slammed the door behind me, and my candle went out! I was plunged into pitch darkness and struggled as my heart beat, beat, beat, beat, out of my banging breast like some animal unbeknownst to me. “Who is it? Who’s there?” I shrieked. A writer myself, I recently enjoyed the story of woman so stressed she began to see patterns in the wallpaper, convinced it was alive.

“Hello Victoria, I’ve been expecting you.”

“Who, who is it?” I bellowed, fear almost taking my words.

The room was enrobed in a weird illumination but I could not say wherefore or how it was lit up, but it was. A figure outlined in golden light approached me. He did not make me afraid. There was a kindness in his spirit eyes that albeit he was a spectre, put me at relative ease.

“What do you want with me?” I said breathlessly, summoning what courage I had remaining with my depleted psyche.

“I’ve come to help you Victoria, be with you, give you a choice.”
He reached me and though not physical took my hand, warming me on this blustery night. “My name is Benjamin. Come, look at my library. It can be your library too. Come over and be with me for eternity.” There was something spellbinding about the spirit, I felt compelled to obey. “I owned this mansion many years ago and it was taken out of my hands through awful means. I died right here, and as my spirit ascended I could not bear to leave my wonderful library. So I’ve watched over the owners of the house, each, and when your uncle died I sensed you, you were the one to come with me and help me with my agony of loneliness. I will be good to you. Come to the wraith world with me.” There was something about this presence. I felt drawn to him in a way I had never known.
“Go up to the parapet outside and I will meet you there.”

“But the storm, I will perish.” I said mesmerized.

“You will not perish my love, but we will live for eternity in each other’s arms.”

Leaving the library, I made my way out the door to where Benjamin would be waiting, a parapet, a floor up from where I was and as I went to leave, the way in front of me began to blur and change.
I heard voices. “Miss, Miss, where are you going? You’re in a nightgown. You’ll catch your death!” But I instinctively knew to run away from her, to run away from the people who would steal my sense of being free.

“Leave me alone! I must go to Benjamin. He is calling me to come to him on the parapet.”

“But Madam will fall, in this dark night? Who is Benjamin? Let me call the master. Annie run, get the master get him right away!” The young servant ran quickly. But William, hearing the commotion, came up the stairs.

“What is it?” He looked at me pitifully like a wild animal caught in a trap. I was. I rushed by him. I’m smart, I’m smart. But I don’t get to the door leading to the parapet. Strong arms wrap me up. My husband! I am almost wanting to lean into the arms that bind me so tight but I struggle instead. “Run, alert the stable master! Tell the Butler we must make an emergency carriage trip to the asylum. My wife is not well.” He addressed me directly.”My love I thought this manor, the peace of the country would’ve helped you. But alas it has not. We must find other ways.”

“No!” I wailed. “Do not take me back there!”

This is my way of honouring the powerful story “The Yellow Wallpaper” it means so much to me and I endeavoured to write a passage in a similar way.

From a WIP called “The Rushes

I strode to the front entrance of my surprise inheritance, thrust the key into the lock, and wrestled the door open. The hinges moaned as the heavy slab of oak moved slowly from the jamb. Setting my jaw, I willed myself to take one step into the house, then another. The door creaked and groaned as it closed itself behind me. The thud echoed throughout the dark space in front of me.

I was filled with a sense of unease, but I wasn’t going to give in to superstitious nonsense. Switching my puny flashlight on, I played the beam over the grand foyer of The Rushes.

It looked like the set of a 1950s horror movie.

Everything – the walls, the floors, the bannisters, the wainscoting – every blessed inch of the room was furred with thick gray dust. Even the cobwebs that gracefully draped the chandeliers or floated from the banisters of the grand staircase were as fluffy as a Persian cat.

I stopped breathing – partly from dismay, but mostly so I wouldn’t choke on the proliferation of dust. That’s when I heard a sound. Several sounds, actually. A series of thuds that seemed to come from upstairs, that bounced off the walls and made my heart gallop. Forcing myself to breathe, I aimed the flashlight toward the staircase and edged a little closer. Then closer still, until I was sure of what I was seeing.
Footprints. Distinct, large, and unmistakable, imprinted in the heavy dust of the staircase.

I was not alone.

It was a brisk autumn day, and the growing wind bit at my shoulders as I walked to the mailbox at the end of the lane. I missed my lover. As I thought of her, my footsteps on the brittle frost-covered grass sounded as mournful as my soul felt. Why, i questioned did you have to die so young, you were just thirty-two. You were my soulmate. I felt anger at my the loss of the love of my life. By the time I reached the mailbox and opened the door, my bottom lip quivered with hurt.

I opened the door, and reached inside grabbing mail. The door closed softly with a click, and I began my trek back to the house. Our house, the one we bought just two-years ago. The one she loved so much, and it still carried her fragrance inside. Or was it just me remembering?

Suddenly, I stopped in my tracks. I wasn’t imagining, I smelled her fragrance. Only she, wore it. A musky jasmine, exotic and soft. My shaking hands dropped the mail, and when I bent to pick it up, I saw it. It was a letter addressed to me from Terri. I pinched the corner of the envelope, and straightened. “Who would play such a sick joke,” I murmured. The perfumed envelope was small, there was a heart drawn on it, it was her drawing. No one could know it, she always did it a special way incorporating our initials in it. I was filled with a sense of unease, as I slid my thumbnail under the flap and opened it. It was on pink stationary, her stationary, the one she ordered the first year in our house. I shook my head as if I could toss out what was happening. I couldnt.

It was a short note, “Meet me, tonight. Ten o’clock. I love you.” The address was the cemetery down by the creek, just a mile from the house. She loved that place.

It was just after ten that night, the full moon showed the way. My heart pounded as I reached her resting place. There was nothing, an eerie silence punctuated the night. Why would someone torture me in such a way, I thought, slowly turning away from my lover’s headstone. Then, a soft voice called out my name. I forced myself to turn, dry throated, wide-eyed, somehow I managed to turn. There she stood, like silver flotsam. She floated, her long blonde hair looked the same, her smile as enchanting as ever. I loved her deeply, regardless if it was imagination or her apparition.

She spoke, softly, “I love you, I never got the chance to say goodbye, my love. Please, don’t hurt over me, anymore. I will always be in your soul.”

Hot tears rolled down my face, I reached out for her, struggling to pull her in to me, and then, she vanished, not into thin air, but into my soul. Suddenly, I felt whole again. Her spirit lives inside of me, now. On the walk back home, I smelled jasmine.

Unfortunately once an article is up, there is no way of editing it. So, writers remember, two things, it’s always a draft until its not, and everyone could use an editor as a second pair of eyes. My rush to write, shows in this piece. Apologies.

The clouds blanketed the moon again, and my light was gone. I knew I had just replaced the flashlight batteries, and it frustrated me that the flashlight wouldn’t turn on, but more frustrating was my phone not working, so I couldn’t use the flashlight app, either. It must’ve roamed itself to death on the drive up to the cabin I figured I should at least visit once before I sold it. I owed Uncle Trent that much after he was kind enough to make sure, as his will had stated, I would “always have a home.”
This place, though…this cabin could never be home. Uncle Trent was unaware of all that had transpired between me and Koty when I stayed with Uncle Trent and Aunt Tess up here for summer vacations years ago. No sense thinking about it, especially because I had stopped trying to fiddle with the front door lock once deep in thought, and my fingers were beginning to turn numb from the night’s cold. I took the cheap gloves off my hands, the little stretchy kind I bought for my nieces so they could lose them all winter long and I could replace them just as quickly as they lost them.
First a glove dropped, and then the front door key. I almost groaned in frustration and then I heard a twig snap. No, more like the crack of entire branch, which meant something big had broken it. I was filled with a sense of unease. Which instantly became terror when my arm was gripped.
I screamed, or tried to, but it was muffled by a giant glove as I was twisted around and pulled up against a very solid chest. I tried to brace myself from being smashed into him and under his subtly aftershaved chin, as I had only caught a scent of the musk and spice now, but he was too fast for me.
He murmured into my ear, “Working your arrector pili overtime, aren’t you, Dainty?”
The fear fled, replaced instantly by anger and hurt. “You can’t call me that anymore, Koty.”
“And you can call me Dr. Dakota Gentian, Ms. Dayna Tiana Hertz.” The arrogant bastard made sure to work his title into it, all the while reminding me that I had known anatomy terms before he had. I was a beauty school drop out. Older than him by a year, I had showed him all the anatomy I was learning by exploring his body. This affected his arrector pili muscles, which were usually known as goosebumps. I had once thoroughly enjoyed affecting his arrector pili muscles. Before I could reminisce any further, however, he followed my full name with a biting question and a tightening of his grip. “Why are you here?”

I sit on the porch and wait. The sun sinks below the horizon, stealing away the pink clouds and blue skies, until only darkness remains. My callused fingers catch at the knit of the afghan as I pull it tighter around my shoulders, a futile effort against the bone-chilling wind. Only the creak of the rocking chair keeps me company as silence descends on the mountain. There will be no hoots of the barred owls, no singing frogs. Every living thing knows to be still on this night.

Just a month ago my evenings were filled with so much sound that I sometimes longed for silence. How foolish I was. My husband. My children. My neighbors. I’ve dug so many graves.

And now the monsters come for me.

A revolver sits heavy in my lap and I tap trembling fingers against it. I’m filled with a sense of unease. How long do I have? Will I be able to do what must be done?

I strain to hear a twig snap, listen for a snarl or a growl, but no sound alerts me. It’s the smell that comes first. Wet dog and musk and the metallic tinge of blood. Golden eyes shine with the reflection of the moonlight before they emerge from the woods. Part human. Part animal. All beast. Six of them, teeth bared, muzzles stained with the blood of a fresh kill. A whimper escapes my lips. “Please…no…not me…I don’t want to…oh, God.”

I steel my nerves and grip the revolver. These monsters murdered my family and left me alive with barely a scratch—but a scratch is all it takes. I press the gun to my temple and scream at the full moon above, begging God for the strength to squeeze the trigger. Every night I’ve tried and every night I’ve failed. I’m out of time.

“Why didn’t you just kill me?” I want to know. I need to know.

As if answering me, the wolves raise their heads and howl in unison, a hauntingly beautiful sound that echoes through the hills and valleys and fills the caverns of my broken heart. I feel warm…happy…loved. I am one with the pack. The pack is everything. We throw our heads back and howl.

It used to be a thing among the local teens, going to the abandoned state asylum on the outskirts of town. It was reckless and defiant and hidden from the eyes of adults. In the temerity of youth, we’d run, boisterous, through these halls, daring one another to explore forbidden rooms. We’d laughed, played at frightening each other, drank soda-pop-sweet fruit-flavored wine. I’d felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I’d shivered in the warmth of a summer evening. I’d even feared my heart would pound out of my chest. It’s where we shared our first kiss.

“Let’s stop, for old times’ sake.” Jackson pulled into the parking lot, headlights bouncing back from a thick blanket of mist punctuated by spiny weeds tall as a man creeping up through the cracked asphalt. He cut the engine outside the front door. In the sudden silence, there lingered the echo of a distant howl. I reminded myself houses were built well past what used to be the city limits, and their yards were populated with restless dogs. Nothing more.

The long-vacant Rock Creek asylum today was a dilapidated bunch of low-slung cement buildings encased in an eight-foot chain-link fence topped with strands of barbed wire. In my imagination it was inhabited by the ghosts of helpless inmates, held against their will in buckled canvas straight jackets, wailing, hugging themselves and rocking back and forth. It was malevolent family members who found it convenient to lock them away. It was evil doctors and sneering nurses. Patients who died within these walls had good reason to hang around, waiting to pull intruders into their dark underworld. In my soul it felt evil. I was filled with a sense of unease.

Across the car I saw his mischievous smile, the flirty sparkle I remembered so well in his eyes. When he opened his door and reached for me, the desire to recapture that teenage magic overwhelmed my dread. Overcame my reason. Hand in hand, I followed him through heavy creaking door he seemed to know would not be locked. We breeched a curtain of cobwebs with each echoing step, following the weak beam of his flashlight. Its dim light swept across the curve of the mid-century reception desk, encased in layers of dust.

“Let’s go all the way.” His grin. My butterflies. Double doors leading to rooms where screams of the incarcerated might still reverberate after all these years. I gasp at a fleeting chill in the air, shiver, and nestle into the protective curve of Jackson’s arm. He kisses my forehead. I feel the doors shut behind us. I remember a boy, ten years ago, warm summer nights. The man who’s led me here tonight is no longer that boy.

“Listen,” he says, clutching me closer. Far down the hall I hear a child’s ghostly laughter and the slam of a distant door. “Didn’t you ever wonder what happened?”

I finally got an invite to a party! I am so excited. I really need to just chill. Level down some. I said to myself standing in the bathroom mirror. There’s a knock at the door and it’s my mom worrying as usual. She’s so afraid someone is going to find out about me and the world’s going to end. Blah, blah, blah.
“You just need to be careful. I know you’re going to go regardless of what I say but I truly feel you’re going to be in trouble.”said my mom. Of course I’m stubborn. I admit it. I’ve been working on it but I never been invited anywhere since I came to this stupid town and all my classmates seem to be scared of me or something. I don’t have horns growing out of my skull. And I accidentally set the science class on fire. Which at the time I was having some weird, magic, growth spurt or whatever you call it going on and that caused me to burn the classroom. I didn’t mean to. I just couldn’t control my powers. But nobody knows it but me and Mom. And she some to keep it that way.
“I will be fine Mom. Stop worrying so much. I have to learn to take care of myself at some point.” I said.
“I know Adara, but you don’t know this world. What people are capable of. Remember the school incident? I roll my eyes. She never let me forget it since then.
“I remember. It’s wasn’t like I did it on purpose.” I told her.
“I know. Just be careful and call me if you need me.” Said Mom.
I kissed her on the forehead and ran down the stairs and out the door. My best friend Trinity is waiting for me in her black ninties mustang. We arrived at what appears to be a park. Who throws a party in the park at dark? There are only a handful of cars here and down a ways a fire is going and squinting I see people around the fire dancing.
“What kind of party is this? I asked Trinity.
She smiles at me and patted me on my back. “Your coming out party. She said. A new birth.”
“Um, Tricks, that’s my nickname for her, I’m very much straight. I’m just not ready for a relationship yet soooo. ” Trinity laughs escorting me towards the fire. I realized the people around me we’re changing and not only that but none go to our school. While chanting strange words but somehow they seem familiar to me my heart began pounding harder. I see a girl not much older than me bound and gagged being carried to the fire. Trinity holds out a knife waiting for me for me to take it. I refuse.
“You’re here to make a sacrifice to your father. Trinity said. He sent us to find you and you must set him free from the pits of hell. All of a sudden I was filled with a sense of unease as I felt the knife ice cold in my hands. I ran away from my father for a reason and I will not let him escape hell to come find me.

All of these entries are Spook-tacular! As promised, here are our Top 3 (in no particular order):
Ashley: for the strong, atmospheric writing
Chrissie: for the gothic details and twist ending
Patricia: for the contemporary setting and horror-movie jump scare
Thanks to everyone who participated! – The SYTYCW Team

Thanks, Deidre! I loved Gothics when I was young and must have read every single one. But I never write in the first person so I was a bit surprised. I saw a few errors after I posted. Lol. 🙂

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