We asked our readers to send us their ghost stories of 250 words or less, and we were honored by how many people answered the call. Thank you to everyone who submitted their spooky, subversive, and haunting tales. We had a great time reading them, and they sent a tingle up our spines. Here, we present five of the most unique submissions we encountered, all of which play with traditional ghost story tropes. They are sure to get you in the October spirit. We kick things off with the winner of our $50 prize, “Kittens” by Tasha Coryell.
BY TASHA CORYELL
There were kittens living in her walls. Josette had never seen the kittens, only heard their yowling and scratching. She told herself that they needed the warmth of her pipes to stay alive as they banged around the borders of the bathtub while she showered.
Along with the kittens came the fleas. It wasn’t common for fleas to stick to people, preferring instead a nest of animal fur. Josette had fleas though, little things that bounced around and bit her skin. She sprayed and she picked and she scratched and the fleas wouldn’t leave.
When the cockroaches started appearing, she assumed it was the cold weather that was ushering them in. She sprayed the borders of her walls and in the morning she would wake up and find them there, dead.
When the noises stopped, Josette hoped and wished that it was because the kittens had found a new home. One with a food and water bowl and a litter box. Then the ceiling started caving in, first in flakes and then in giant chucks until the wood was exposed.
Josette called a plumber. She thought it was water damage, something ordinary and expensive. She wasn’t prepared for the plumber to find a man. An emaciated body with long fingernails and toenails and a giant beard. A man who wormed his way through the crevices of her house. Who banged against the wall as she showered, his fists saying, “Please come closer to me.”
Tasha Coryell lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and hopes that the things living in her walls really are kittens. More work from Tasha can be found at tashacoryell.com
“After the War”
BY SARAH BEAUDETTE
I had polished the floors, repainted, and installed new copper pipe, but the tenants began to complain within weeks of moving in.
The husband would walk in to find his books rearranged—at first gently alphabetical and later boldly, by theme or the color of their jackets, as I had sorted our books as a child.
I wondered if my mother was haunting the place, but the tenants said it was only in the library. My mother was never much of a reader.
It couldn’t be me. I had a baby named Annalise. I had a closet full of dresses, not pretty ones, but a closet full. I had rouge, and a wooden table covered in flour from dumpling dough. I had soup that scalded my throat and a husband who understood my silences. There was nothing left of me to haunt my childhood home.
One day I went to look in on the tenants, and they’d gone. The place sat empty and clean.
As I turned to leave, something moved. The house flickered, showing me the red rug I’d played on before we had to stop laughing for fear of being heard, the yellow walls pockmarked with glaring white squares, soft light from the green lamp before we all hid in the dark.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, for I understood then.
We all remade ourselves to survive the war, and the house haunted itself—because someone had to remember.
Sarah Beaudette is a nomadic writer, currently living in Mexico. Her fiction appears in Necessary Fiction and Trigger Warnings, and she can be found online at http://theluxpats.com and on twitter @sarahbeaudette.