2012 Horror Story Contest
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We had a truly terrible time determining the winning stories from a plethora of petrifying entries. In the end, our academically diverse panel of judges selected the following winners. Check out their stories below!
In the dense jungle of the Congo, the young men of tribes don masks after dark. They wear the faces of tricksters, Yudrig and Garmuth, saints, Acobi and Lemaign, savages, Pyth and Olak. Seeing their reflections in the river, the men’s actions take on the form of their new faces.
He had many faces; she had only seen a fraction. The kindly old man, cutting roses. Always smiling cherry wood teeth painted white. She always passed him to and from school. He offered her roses. And, one day, a vase for them. And some tea. He just wanted some company, ever since his wife passed away all those years ago. She followed him inside for tea. The trickster.
When he wasn’t someone else, he was carving. Hard, controlled swings from his mallet crack against his chisel, sending chunks of wood flying from buried features and falling to his feet. Most nights he rose from his work with wood shavings up to his ankles.
The caretaker, keeping her fed and bathed. Things she couldn’t do tied up. This woman cooked her warm, filling meals. Three meals a day, and dessert. Anything she could spoon-feed her. The woman doted on her, looking on with caring looks from crinkled eyes of mahogany. She brushed her hair every morning and gave a sponge bath every night, with a sure hand and a gentle touch. The saint.
He doesn’t just put on a mask. She knew. She had seen him. He had a full-body mirror with a wall all to itself. He will stand before it, legs apart, head bowed. The mask comes on, and the head slowly rises. He will stare at his reflection. Or her’s. Or its. He’ll trace rough hands over this new face, first in disbelief, then in recognition.
One night, he dragged her into a chair in front of the mirror. It had been weeks since she had seen herself. Auburn hair, combed straight by the caretaker, covered pale cheeks, tear stained and shallow. Soft pink and cracked lips, slightly open, letting out short breaths from a throat hoarse from screaming. There were deep rope burns around her wrists and ankles from knots being tied and re-tied. She looked tired.
In his hands were two masks. One was dark and scarred, with eyes deep set, red, and murderous. The rest was featureless and warped. Savage. He forced her head down with one scarred and slipped on the mask with the other. The hand slowly lifted her face to the mirror. Once he released her hands she traced them over the scars and knots and warps. She felt her eyes.
As she rose from the chair, he took her place, and placed on the other mask. It had auburn hair, straight and neat. Pale cheeks. Cracked lips. His fingers followed the shape of his nose, his chin, and the chisel held to his neck. There was a soft sob before the crack of the mallet.
There’s a man in the walls. Today I saw an eye pressed to the vent from the inside. It was wide and yellow and it disappeared almost as soon as I caught a glimpse of it, but I know it was there. The iris was enormous so that I could only see a small triangle of white at each corner. It almost looked like it was on fire, the way the orange flecks swam around the dilated pupil. The surrounding skin looked steel-colored in the shadows of the vent, but the fingertips curled around the bars were lighter – the color of ash, the color of smoke, the color of doubt. And then it was gone, and the only sound was the steady beeping of the machine beside my bed.
There’s a man in the walls. Today I heard scratching inside the wall behind my headboard as I lay in bed watching the shadows crawl over the atrophied stumps of my legs. It started as a quiet rasp traveling from a place just above my head to a place near the floor, just audible over the beeping. As I listened, it grew louder, grinding in an unceasing rhythm that abruptly fell away just as it seemed the wall must crack. And then the only sound was the steady beeping of the machine beside my bed.
There was a man in the walls. I saw him crouched in the far corner of my room when I woke up today. The sunlight crawled across the walls and the man crawl across the floor to stay in the shadows, and all the while he stared into the air with that one wide eye while the empty socket that had cradled its twin gaped, endless and black except for pale shadows that flickered inside. I tried to speak past the tube in my throat, but I could make no sound and my lips would not move. The shadows carried him to the foot of my bed and he lifted his great bulk from the floor, his spine unwinding like a chain, his clawed gray hands hooked around his concave abdomen, his sunken cheeks and the hollows under his collarbones scooping darkness out of the air. He opened his mouth and from the abyss inside it I heard the echo of a single word. His claws punctured the white sheet as he shifted forward and dragged his grotesque form onto the bed. He crouched where my feet should have been, and his eye twitched down to meet my gaze, and the beeping of the machine seemed to keep time with the echoes of the word in the hollow darkness of his throat.
The Ultimate and Never Ending story
Just Like Everyone Hopes For
As Matt kneels on the pristine kitchen floor he watches Sarah’s face. Studying every emotional tic. He worries that he has done something wrong. He worries that she really doesn’t want to marry him and is looking for an easy way to tell him so.
Sarah smiles down at Matt. She can see his fingers flicking nervously.
“Will it make you happy?” she asks him.
“Yes” is his immediate answer.
“Really happy” she asks again, “as in the happiest you will ever be. As in you could never possibly get any happier?”
Matt’s reply is “Absolutely.”
With this affirmation Sarah easily agrees. They spend the night celebrating quietly together before both of them lay down in bed to sleep. For Matt sleep comes easily but for Sarah the excitement is too much. She is going to be with Matt the rest of his life. She will make sure Matt dies in bed, in his sleep, perfectly happy. Just like everyone hopes for.
At this thought Sarah gets up from bed and enters the kitchen. She crosses over the patch of linoleum Matt kneeled on as he proposed. She walks past the table that ate dinner at that night. She stops at a drawer by the stove. While Sarah opens the drawer she thinks of the smile on Matt’s face when she said yes. As she pulls out a knife she sees his face in her head and thinks “Right now Matt is perfectly happy.”
This thought repeats in Sarah’s head as she navigates through the dark and returns to the bedroom. It repeats as she softly touches Matt’s hand and smiles. This thought repeats as she lifts the knife above her head. It repeats as she brings it down into his chest. In fact this is the only thought in her had other than a passing reminder to turn the knife sideways to avoid the breastbone, because a knife scraping bone is an unpleasant sensation.
Sarah smiles down at Matt. She can see his fingers flicking.
“You get to die in bed, in your sleep, perfectly happy. Just like everyone hopes for.”