Dare To Scare Contest
Take a look at the entries and leave a comment. Come back to vote on your favorite story from 25-30 October. The winner will be announced on 31 October. Good luck to all the entries.
Selene brushed rubbery slime from her slim, bare shoulders, spun around, narrowed her silver eyes and glared. “Scorpio, you know I hate the feel of gummy worms. Gross.”
Scorpio, dressed as Death Warmed Over, offered an unrepentant smile. “You looked too serene. I know you’re itching to confront Catherine over her choosing your lifetime for tonight’s party.”
“You don’t have to remind me,” Selene snarled. “As if that bit…uh, biddy, had the strength to live Cleopatra’s life. She wishes. Hmmm, maybe I should ask her to kiss my Asp.” Selene smiled and wiggled her realistic fake snake.
Scorpio shuddered. “And you complain about gummy worms?” He leaned against the wall and surveyed the room. “Oh, look, two Napoleons strutting toward each other. Wonder if Wellington’s here?”
“I don’t know why I attend Leo’s Come As You Were Reincarnation Ball. It’s always full of famous faces. Where are the servants? We couldn’t all have been famous every lifetime.”
“You have the same complaint every Halloween. I don’t see you coming as a stable boy.”
Selene ignored the gibe. “I see Elton finally stopped dressing as Mozart. It’s about time. We all know that was one of John Lennon’s lives.”
“Elton does make an accurate Beethoven. But don’t try sidetracking me. I know you’re waiting for Mark Antony. Maybe he’ll show this year.”
“I hope so, but with my luck, he’ll choose Catherine.”
“Sweetie, if Mark doesn’t recognize you, he’s not Mark.”
Bolstered by Scorpio’s loyalty, Selene brightened. “That’s what…who is that?”
“Just follow the eyes of every female in the room. You’ll see.”
Scorpio swiveled. Posed in the doorway was arrogance on the hoof. The newcomer’s short curly hair topped a strong featured face with large almond-shaped eyes, a Roman nose and straight yet sensual lips. His leather breastplate and short tunic covered well-developed muscle. An air of dominance punctuated the whole package.
“I’m just venturing a guess here,” Scorpio whispered, “but isn’t that Marcus Antonius?” And not a moment too soon. “I wonder what name he’s using this lifetime.”
Mark’s eyes sought and found Selene’s across the room. Recognition exploded as they leapt into a combined awareness and cosmic embrace. Selene felt the rush of soul mate energy hit her just as Catherine swiveled up to Mark. Catherine placed her hand on Mark’s chest, attempting to interrupt the energetic clinch.
“Sweetie, it’s good to see you, again.” Catherine smiled at Mark.
Mark looked down his nose at Catherine, remaining silent.
“Don’t you remember me? Cleopatra? We were lovers?” Catherine’s voice shook. “I killed myself after you died. Remember?”
Mark’s lip curled. “Yes, I remember you as Octavia. You always were a sore loser.” He brushed past Catherine, strode to Selene, bowed and held out his hand.
“My dear, I believe this is our song. Would you care to dance?”
Strains of Cyni Lauper’s Time After Time flowed into the room as Selene accepted his hand and said, “Yes. Let’s go around once more.”
Laurie was heavily into vampires. I liked some of the books and movies, but it wasn’t an all-consuming passion with me.
Laurie was, though. And so I tolerated all her endless babbling about Anne Rice and Fred Saberhagen and Stephenie Meyer and Christopher Lee and Frank Langella… you get the picture. There are plenty of gorgeous-looking quail at the University of Pittsburgh, you should excuse the small sexism, but Laurie was in a class by herself. Black hair that fell to her calves. A face pale and luminous in the 19th-century consumptive way, though she was far from consumptive — she went up and over the six-foot fence as fast as I did when we got caught trespassing in the Holiday Inn pool one Tuesday night. As for her figure — don’t get me started. I hadn’t been able to talk her into bed with me yet, but I had hopes.
She was an art major, I was a physics major. She came from a little, rural town in Minnesota, I was a native Pittsburger. She was full of enthusiasms, I was intent on getting a series of degrees and then settling into life in a university faculty somewhere. But she didn’t seem to mind how different we were, and I sure didn’t.
We sat at the Original House of Hot Dogs, sharing a foot-long and a bottle of beer — neither of us had much money. It was after ten.
“I know where I can find a vampire,” she told me. “A real one.”
“Mmm. Honey, from all I’ve heard about those folks, it’s best to stay away from them.”
“But wouldn’t it be cool if we could see a real one?”
“You’re talking about a bloodsucking animated corpse, twenty times as strong as a man, and able to change into a bat, a wolf, or a mist,” I said. “If vampires existed, I would stay away from them for the same reason I stay away from wolves or bears.”
“I’ve got protection,” she said. She reached into her purse and pulled out two long rosaries with crucifixes dangling from them. She put one around her neck and handed the other to me.
“No, thanks,” I said. “I’m not Catholic.”
“Paul, don’t be a dummy, take it!”
“I’ll depend on my intrinsic purity to guard me from harm.”
“Oooh!” she said. The three-syllable oooh meant she was getting really ticked off. “Paul Herman Barker, if you don’t–”
“Sorry, honey,” I said gently, putting a hand over hers. “I didn’t mean to make fun of you. Come on, we’ll go look at your vampire. Only don’t be too disappointed if there’s nothing there, okay?”
“You’ll see,” she said.
* * *
We rode the 54C to the North Side and I followed Laurie off the bus at Allegheny Cemetery. “I hear Stephen Foster’s buried here,” I said.
She led me on a circuitous route through the tombstones and mauseolea. Finally she stopped at a square white tombstone. There was just enough moonlight to make out the inscription:
PAUL HERMAN BARKER
Taken from us too soon
“You’re it,” said Laurie quietly.
“Laurie, Barker is a fairly common name.”
“He died at twenty-two. You’re twenty-two.”
“Laurie, really, this is stupid. Look, why don’t you come back to my apartment with me?” I edged closer to her.
“Don’t try it,” she said, holding up the crucifix.
“They don’t work,” I said gently. I sank my fangs into her throat.
After visiting various sites in Bulgaria throughout the day, my best friend and I spent the evening drinking coffee laced with liquor and playing Yahtzee.
Jazzed from the caffeine rush, I walked the country lane to my cottage. A full moon hung silver and pregnant in the ebony sky, and a great-horned owl hooted as I passed the oak in the garden. I startled, danced sideways and tripped over a barrel of blooming flowers.
Chagrinned, knowing that sleep was hours away, I hurried inside and flipped through the cable channels. Oh, a vampire movie, wonderful! I watched The Lost Boys and devoured snacks that I’d bought in the village.
Later, tired of television, I braided my hair and retired. Moonlight streamed through the open bedroom window. A night insect screeched on the sill. I covered my head with my blanket, muffling the annoying sound.
The insect grew silent. I raised my head, listening. A breeze soughed through the window. The locals’ yappy dogs had quieted too. Flipping the blanket back, I lay there mulling over weekend projects as I enjoyed the silence and cool breeze.
The footsteps outside my window urged me bolt upright in bed. Long sure-footed steps walked past my room and dissipated. Who was outside? Would one of the locals or a neighboring guest rob me?
Moments later, the footsteps rounded the opposite corner of my bedroom and stopped under the window. I pulled the cover over my head, my heart slamming painfully. Fear buzzed in my ears, and I held my breath. The footsteps moved behind the cottage again.
Shaking, I slipped out of bed and padded down the hall to the back door in my nightgown. A broom, propped against the doorframe, beckoned me. I snatched it up, but what a pathetic weapon.
With my hand on the doorknob, it occurred to me that in horror movies it’s always the idiot who sticks his head outside only to have it ripped off. So why was I stupid enough to poke my head out the door, exposing myself, armed with only a broom?
I shoved open the door and peered outside. Moonlight bathed the garden. The flowers in the barrel nodded in the zephyr. Footsteps rounded the cottage again, and my pulse thundered. The noise ceased. I stood still, straining my ears for any sound.
The wind kicked up stronger, and soft thumping sounded in the distance. Shaking my head at my silliness, I recognized the noise as the rhythmic drum beat in the village two miles away. Each night, from dusk to dawn, the menfolk took turns beating on the drum to chase away evil spirits. The wind had brought the sound over the hollow, distorting it, convincing me that someone stalked my rental.
Laughing, I bowed and said, “Do come into my home.” and tossed the broom back against the doorframe. I shut and locked the door.
A glass of water in my hand, I crawled into bed. Not only did caffeine jangle my senses, but an adrenaline buzzed throughout my body. I sighed and rolled over.
Glowing amber eyes blinked at me. I screamed and jackknifed over the side of the bed. His black clothes and ebony hair were virtually undetectable in the dark room, but those bright, cat-like eyes and glistening fangs told me his identity. My joking invitation sealed my doom as Prince Vlad of Wallachia violently embraced me.
As I stand here beneath your window, I find I’m growing very thirsty. Won’t you please invite me in?
After finishing up the late shift at work, I gulped the dregs of my coffee before heading home. At just after midnight, I locked up the deserted building and made my way across the silent emptiness of the parking lot, carried along by a chilly blast of late-October wind.
I was halfway to my car when I saw it. The wolf-like dog that emerged from the shadows beyond the parking lot was black as coal, its fur spiked and matted. The sight of it moving purposefully through the empty lot raised my hackles. My trepidation only increased when the animal came to a stop next to the driver-side door of my car. It lifted its massive head, training its red-rimmed eyes on me.
I stopped in my tracks, not ten feet from it, eying the animal cautiously. No domestic dog, this. Collarless, it had obviously been roaming wild for some time, probably riddled with fleas, possibly rabid. The menacing look in the dog’s bloodshot eyes caused fear to rise in my throat like battery acid. The animal remained perfectly still, marking me with its strange eyes, daring me to make a move.
In the absolute silence of the deserted lot, I could hear its hot, panting breath. I imagined its razor-like incisors at my throat, the rancid smell of its breath in my face. Sweat began to trickle down my back, despite the icy wind that made my eyes water. The showdown continued, neither of us moving. Saliva dripped from the dog’s mouth as it panted with impatience. I tried to slow my racing heart and mounting panic, knowing the animal could sense my dread.
Seconds ticked by, and I knew I had to act before fear immobilized me completely. Reckoning I was closer to the passenger door and could get there before the dog was able to travel around the car, I took my chance.
I almost made it. My fingers grasped the door handle, just as the hound came tearing around the back bumper like damnation. It sprang at me, leaping into the air on powerful hind legs, its teeth bared, a low growl deep in its throat. Too slow, I raised my arms to protect my face, closing my eyes against the sight of its slobbering mouth and sharp fangs. I felt its mangy fur brush my face as it swept by me, heard its ferocious growl of attack.
From behind me, someone screamed in terror. Unharmed, I opened my eyes and spun around. The dog stood over the supine body of a man, his open jaws at the man’s throat. On the pavement nearby, the blade of the attacker’s knife glinted in the moonlight as the animal continued to hold the mugger at bay with its deadly maw.
Five minutes later, I watched as the police summoned by me led the gibbering thug to a flashing cruiser. I looked with fresh eyes at the now-docile dog panting at my feet. Opening the car door, I issued an invitation. The dog scrambled in, licking my hand in passing. He’d emerged from the shadows to protect me, and Shadow is the name I gave him before taking him home.
– End –
She ran like the hounds of hell pursued her.
She’d sensed It the moment she’d left the hospital, known It watched her, waiting for the chance to find her alone. Wasn’t it enough she felt its presence on the floor, waiting to steal souls that weren’t protected by loved ones? She knew It abhorred her, hated that she protected the dying from its clutch. She swallowed paralyzing fear and tore full bore across the parking lot.
Her breath huffed out in sobbing, frightened gasps as she ran into the parking garage and dug the parking ticket out of her jeans pocket.
Level two. Slot thirty-nine.
Jesus. So far. She chugged up the incline between the first and second floor and snapped a nail on the pocket of her scrubs in search of her keys.
It gained on her, its heavy breathing closing in until heat brushed her neck. Another shot of adrenaline accelerated her movements and she shrieked and redoubled her efforts, the slapping of her footsteps echoing between the cement pillars and metal I-beams of the garage.
Surely, the parking attendant would hear her, or cameras would detect this crime. Cars, pickup trucks, SUVs passed by in a colorful blur as she huffed toward the second level. Another blast of heat hit her neck in warning and with knees threatening to buckle, she whipped around and swiped at her assailant with a sharp key. A quick flash of another-worldly evil flitted before her before the image changed shape and a huge man fell to his knees. He bellowed in pain and furious anger. Without breaking stride, she watched over her shoulder as he clutched his cheek.
Up ahead, her silver Elantra beckoned. Legs tightened and protested as she pumped toward the compact car. Fumbling with the fob on her keyring, she repeatedly hit the unlock button until the doors clicked and she clutched the door handle. Oh, thank you, God.
Without any warning from behind, a hard hand slammed her face against the driver’s side window. Her teeth bit into her cheek and blood filled her mouth.
Oh, God. It caught up with me. She began to sob at the futility of running. She’d felt It, felt its presence every single time a patient passed. Felt its deep hatred for her skills, her desire to keep patients safe until their loved ones could come to claim them.
And she’d never expected her life to end this way. Please let death come swiftly.
Rapid movement and a sudden roar of protest sounded behind her. Heavy weight fell away and a blessed warmth replaced the feral force pushing against her body. Even so, she fought the comforting hold, choking and fighting against abject fear.
“Shhh,” a deep, welcoming voice sounded in her ear. A large hand slipped around her waist. “Go home, sweetheart. You’re safe now.”
Refusing to acknowledge her savior, she opened the door and slid behind the wheel. A shaking hand slipped the key into the ignition and the engine gunned in reverse. Without a backward glance, she slammed the car into drive and tore out of the garage.
A black and white photo, scratched, creased, faded in spots remains as testament to Johnathan Grant’s short life. In it, the little boy stands alone against what looks like a gray sky and black grass. He stares blankly up at the photographer. He could be looking into the camera.
He had dark hair, pale skin, and eyes that appeared clear in the sepia tones of the picture. Maybe they were blue. Maybe green. Assuredly pale near the point of white beneath black lashes. His gaze even now is like a grasping hand…
In the picture, the boy wears a severe black suit and an inquisitive expression. His head lolls just slightly to one side, but he continues to stare, to silently request. He holds something in his hand, but the picture quality will not reveal it not matter how long and how hard it’s studied.
Jonathan Grant, a silent child, was nine years old when the image was captured. On that day, Jonathan Grant was also the victim of one of the most vicious and mysterious murders in the county’s history.
On a sunny but windy day, 54 years ago, twelve children executed Jonathan in art class.
Hair pulled off her face with a tortoiseshell band, broad cheeks, cardigan even in summer, his teacher, a Mrs. Fenton, was gone for no more than twelve minutes. Office Assistant, America Gonsalves, had met Mrs. Fenton in the main hallway and together they entered the classroom finding Jonathan and the other children. America stood stunned and silent while Mrs. Fenton screamed and screamed and screamed.
Another photo taken on that sunny, windy day: Compact, intense, the twelve stand in a circle around Jonathan’s body.
Every child-little boys and little girls in dingy, ill-fitting smocks-are bathed in blood gone black in the photo. Cheeks smeared. Hands soaked. Every child bears serious, dutiful gazes.
All hold art instruments: sculpting trowels, carving knives, precision cutting blades. Long after the photo, each of the 63 punctures and cuts on Jonathan’s body were matched to at least one of the twelve blades.
This next image is difficult. A photograph of Jonathan Grant.
Same black suit. Same wide, clear, disconcerting eyes. Except this image was captured from above his still form. A shoulder sticks out of one jacket sleeve awkwardly. Beneath, his shirt is ripped to shreds and deep lacerations cover his frail chest and arms, even one punctured his cheek in a long, swollen, black gash. The boy’s eyes are open and staring, it seems, with colorless content. His forehead is smudged with some sort of charcoal symbol. One open palm reveals another such symbol.
The children all admitted to their parts in killing Jonathan Grant. The police, psychologists, and parents asked why they did it during separate questioning sessions. Each child told the same story:
“Jonathan Grant was the devil. The angel told us there is only one way to kill the devil. Then he taught us how to do it. We learned it by heart and we used it. We did good. We killed the devil. It took all twelve of us. The angel told us it would. The angel told us how to do it.”
An angel? Yes, an angel. When they were asked to describe the angel, they all-separately-gave only a name.
Not one child blinked. Not one child breathed. When parents and psychologists and policemen sat on the edge of their seats nearly tipping forward but holding steady so as not to startle their fragile children, each one stated with calm reverence: Jonathan Grant.
The clouds parted, allowing the full moon to bathe the earth in its silvery light. Jensen shivered. Halloween was the wrong night to be caught outdoors. Every witch and wizard on the planet would be casting spells. Tendrils of magic could wind themselves around a person and the next thing you knew, you were enchanted or cursed.
Jensen locked her car, turning toward her house. She had almost reached the door when she felt a tug on her arm. She whipped around, her pale blonde hair lifting in the breeze. Her sharp grey eyes searched the yard. It was empty. Yet she had felt the presence of another. Halloween. Full moon. Out in the open alone. She might as well have a target painted on her ass.
“Oh, but that would be a waste of a perfectly fine ass.”
Jensen stiffened. She knew that voice. Heat filled her as the shadows shifted into the shape of a man.
“Bram.” Her heart slammed against her ribs as she spoke the wizard’s name.
One long fingered hand caressed her jaw, his thumb stroking over the wildly beating pulse in her throat. “Aren’t you glad I’m not a vampire? I could have drained you by now,” he murmured silkily.
Jensen shivered. His touch was driving her mad with lust and he knew it.
“It’s a full moon too, which means you’ll not be able to resist me,” Bram smiled, his white teeth flashing in a devastatingly handsome face. “I can’t resist you either, Jensen. You’re Alpha. You were meant for me.”
Bram’s fingers tightened around her arm, and he pulled her down the drive, into the moonlight. “Show me!” he ordered, his dark eyes glittering.
Jensen stared up at him, completely overcome with lust from the heat cycle thrust on her by the full moon. Bram bent and kissed her hard, his teeth scraping her bottom lip, making it bleed. Jensen growled, the pupils of her eyes elongating. Bram’s tongue flicked over her fangs and she shuddered.
He pulled away, his hands ripping her shirt in two. Her pink nipples stiffened in the cold air. “You’re rare. The only white were on the planet and now you’re mine,” he whispered. “Shift for me, Jensen.”
With a piercing howl, Jensen’s body dissolved, her pale skin becoming white fur. She nipped at Bram’s hand, drawing blood, then ran down the drive. He stared after her, eyes alight with lust. She stopped and thrust her nose to the sky, howling mournfully. Then she swished her white tail at him. She might be in a heat cycle because of the full moon, but she was still Alpha. It was her choice who she would mate with. Tonight, it would be Bram.
He stepped toward her and she grinned, fangs gleaming. If he was lucky, he would survive the mating and she would keep his wizard ass. If he didn’t survive, then he had no business rousing a white werewolf on a full mooned Halloween, now did he?
The midnight hour approached and Evelyn lay in bed waiting. Her stay at the beach house had been intended to overcome the loss of her husband. Caroline, her sister, had insisted she needed to come to terms with his death and find peace. At first she’d been afraid and questioned her sanity. Now she simply accepted what had transpired. All that mattered was Marcus.Translucent, nothing more than the essence of a milky moonbeam, Marcus appeared. She held her arms open and he floated toward her. How she ached for his touch-to know the silken feel of his lips, to savor his taste.
He leveled his body to hers, melded within her flesh, and possessed her wholly. ‘Twas only the mere kiss of air to her skin, yet unparalleled passion ignited within the depths of her soul and burned through her veins. Her body arched, desperate to feel him, but fell into nothingness. Tears spilled to her pillow.
“Join me, my love.” A shadow of a whisper found her.
Stunned, Evelyn’s eyes widened. He’d never spoken a word before, just loved her through an exquisite merging that left her with an endless, painful need to be with him.
“I’m waiting on the cliff.” His vaporous entity lifted from her and vanished.
Evelyn sat up and threw her legs over the side of the bed. She donned a wispy, white wrapper and rambled through the house in search of him. “Marcus!”
“The cliffs, my love.”
His words seeped into her mind and drew her to his voice. Her fear of heights had kept her from strolling there during the day, but now she had no choice. Love outweighed cowardice. She breathed deep and flung the door wide.
In the distance, his gossamer form emerged. Barefoot, Evelyn ran to him. Chilled air filled her lungs with the brackish scent of the sea that lay beneath the jutting rocks. An orange moon sagged low on the black horizon and cast an ethereal blush across the murky water. White capped waves burgeoned and curled, crashing against the shore.
He faded away and she screamed his name, “Marcus!”
His whisper rose from the dark depths and found her on the cliff. “I’m here. Join me.”
Lured to the edge, she trembled. “I’m afraid, Marcus.”
His hand reached for her, enveloping her in a swirl of wind that hurled them upward into the silvery veil of stars. Evelyn lay her head upon Marcus’s chest, once more touching the warm flesh of her beloved husband.
Sunlight swept across the water, tinting the waves into a glimmering blue. Marcus stared at the jagged rocks below. He draped his arm across the shoulders of the beautiful blonde beside him. “As her only heir, I trust you’ll play your role well.”
“Almost as well as you, dear departed Marcus. She always was a bit too emotional. I guess it was the death of her.” Caroline molded her body to his and laughed.