The theme for this month’s New Writing on the Net is, what else? spooky stories. Collected below are new stories and essays that invoke the holiday of horrors in ways that are both familiar and new. And when you’ve finished reading these and are inspired to write your own, be sure to read Amber Sparks’s essay on writing horror: “A Horror Tale is a Fairy Tale Turned Inside Out”.
“A Thousand Words of Burning Alive” by Serrana Laure | X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, October 9, 2019
The black hole where his face should have been shifted, looking up at her. She tried to empty her brain, prepare herself. The shadow’s machine spurted torrents of orange and crimson, and the wood beneath her feet burst into heat. It felt good at first. The warmth was some small relief to her frozen toes and she was transported, for a moment to a happier time. A time when they had stumbled in from the snow and he had pulled her boots off near the fire and held her frostbitten feet between his warm palms and they had laughed and smiled and everything had been comfort and heat between them. A time when things had been stable and he had been kind.
“Conversation With My Father” by Mark L. Keats | Waxwing, October 2019
“Do you want something to drink?” I ask.
He puts his hand up to signal that won’t be necessary. You’re probably wondering what I’m doing here, he says.
“I’m not sure how you found me,” I say.
Oh, that, he says and smiles. Well, it’s easy when you’re dead. You kind of just have a sense about things. He lets out a small laugh. Shall we sit, he asks.
I nod. That’s the one way we know how to communicate.
“The Men in Paris Always Wanted” by Amber Sparks | Jellyfish Review, October 14, 2019
At dinner tonight, Cocteau told the same story he always told, about the premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps. Brilliant chaos, said the dapper little man to her left, smiling. Like the pagan gods themselves were taking over.
And when the performance was finished, Cocteau continued, myself and Stravinsky and Nijinsky and Diaghilev — we all drove out — in the early morning, it was so late! — to the Bois de Boulogne, Diaghilev madly quoting Pushkin between sobs as the sun climbed into the sky.
It’s not true, whispered the little man, still smiling. He’s been spinning that yarn for years — don’t you believe it.
“In The Dark” by K. Swallow | The Rumpus, October 10, 2019
As a child, I imagined my stepfather to be many things. I knew about evil stepmothers but nothing of stepfathers. Storybooks seldom mentioned anything about them and so I made characters for him myself.
He was a volcano and I was the city in the valley below. He was Jekyll and Hyde, except his outbursts were not caused by strange science but by his own volition. He was a werewolf whose rage made me stand not on eggshells but on broken fragments of glass. Or, he was a dog, unbearably loving at one moment and then snapping his jaws at your jugular at another.
In reality, he wasn’t evil. He raised me and cared for me and I made Father’s Day presents for him at school and called him Dad. But I was so afraid of him that I was unafraid of anything else. My lack of fear unsettled my mother, who saw the same sides of him that we did but let her love blind her. It unsettled my siblings, too, who took solace in his good days when his love shone down on us like the heat from the sun. It was only me standing alone in the shade even on those glorious days, for fear of being burned.
He was the creature under the bed, the ghost in the attic, the monster in the closet.
“Haunted Mansion” by D.S. Levy | Coffin Bell, October 2019
In a story, a character must want something; there must be a dilemma or problem to be solved. In this case, we know two things: 1) Rose wants to get the hell out of this haunted mansion, and 2) the ghost wants something of her.
The things you want.