An update from our twenty-sixth Writing Workshop!
A summary of the workshop held on Saturday October 24, plus some of the output published below
This week our founder William Rubel and Stone Soup contributor and Writing Workshop member Liam Hancock, 13, led a workshop designed to get everyone ready for Halloween–on horror writing. We talked about the differences between the merely scary and the truly horrifying, and discovered that our members are uncannily good at writing fiction that can keep us all up at night! Read on below for some chilling examples (and you would be well advised to read them on a sunny morning, not immediately before bed...).
To watch a video of the instruction in full, click here
The Writing Challenge: Write a terrifying piece of horror fiction!
The Participants: Nami, Charlotte, Madeline, Margaret, Anya, Emily, Lina, Samantha, Janani, Lucy, Tilly, Gia, Olivia, Jonathan, Enni, Juniper, Charlotte, Rithesh, Ma'ayan, Nova, Liam, Lena, Maddie, Tegan, Ava, Hera, Lena, Nico, Peri, Elbert
Ava Angeles, 12
It started out as a regular day. The sun was shining and a cool breeze was blowing. It was a perfect day for a spring festival. But this would not last.
I remember—for some reason—that there were tables, round tables, with tablecloths that draped over their sides, standing there in the green grass. For another unknown reason, there were also white plates, napkins, and glasses set upon the snow-white tablecloth. It was like a restaurant, but outdoors. As we set up the last of the chairs, people began to arrive. They found their seats. It was a picture-perfect setting.
I remember going into the building. It had a canopy in front, with a single step leading up to the door. Inside this particular building, there were mats—long, colorful tumbling mats—lining the walls and the floor. I played with the rest of the children on these mats, hopping and jumping, knowing that the mats were there to cushion our fall. But we didn’t get to play on them for very long.
Suddenly, clouds rolled in, and it began to rain lightly. I watched the adults take the tables and chairs into the building, while sitting on the single step below the door. Some people began to leave, seeing that the festival was cancelled. I remained on the step, watching the rain gather into puddles around the canopy.
Then, I suddenly heard crying. It wasn’t a baby crying, but a child, desperately crying, as if crying was its last hope. I turned my head to the right, where the sound was coming from, and felt shivers come over me.
There—in front of another building with many gigantic steps—was a younger version of myself. Its face was blurred and distorted, and I could not tell whether it was where the crying sound was coming from. I saw its clothes clearly—it was wearing a gold coat that my mother had bought for me, as well as a light blue pair of pants. Its hair was in ponytails—my usual childhood hairstyle, with blue bows at the roots. It looked normal—like me—but something was wrong.
As I stared at it, frozen, terror struck me. The uncanny feeling of staring at your own, younger self, but knowing that it wasn’t your own, younger self washed over me like a wave. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it, and my mouth opened to form three words—“Who—are you?”
My horrified whisper must have been heard, because the creature shook its head slowly. As I realized that I wasn’t going to get an answer, feeling came into my legs, and I ran, ran away from the mysterious, uncanny creature that I thought I once was. The mats inside the building were gone, replaced by a wide marble stairway that I dashed down, not feeling the tips of my toes touching the marble, just running, running, running—
I woke up, staring at the plaster ceiling. It was just a dream, I reassured myself, just a dream…
As I lifted myself up from the bed, I came face-to-face with that same creature from my dream, standing just a few inches away from the side. As I froze with petrified horror, the creature’s mouth broke into a maniacal grin, and it said, in a high-pitched, chilling voice, “Who are you?”
Lena D., 12
I was going on a hike in the forest by myself. The skies darkened. Rain clouds appeared.
Wild rain poured down. I had to turn back, but it was too dark.
I wasn’t afraid. How could I be afraid? The dark deep forest. Nothing scary. Just dirt and trees.
Then I saw it. There it was. A house. I walked towards it. I knocked on the door. But nobody answered. I waited and waited. Nothing.
I had to find shelter. Fast. I shivered. It was so cold. I opened the door.
I entered, my hands shaking wildly.
The floorboards moved. “Huh?” I gasped.
Rats skittered across the floor.
“Whew, those were just rats, of course, this is not haunted,” I said, nervously.
I stepped on the stairs.
I opened a door. It was a bedroom. It looked like it belonged to a girl from long ago. There was a broken bed. It had stuffed animals on it and a pillow that was ripped.
One of the stuffed animals looked right at me.
I looked away. How odd, I thought. It’s probably not looking at me. Stuffed animals don’t move anyway.
I heard some walking. I turned around. The stuffed animal fell off the bed.
That’s weird, I thought. It was in the middle of the bed, not hanging off. How could it fall off?
I looked away again.
The stuffed animal moved towards me on the floor. It smiled at me. Not a happy smile, a scary one.
I grabbed my flashlight to defend myself from it. “Back off!” I shouted at it.
The stuffed animal’s thread came off. Stuffing was spilling all over. Yet, it was still walking.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” I screamed in horror.
My heart was beating fast. Very fast.
Then my flashlight turned off. It was out of batteries. Wait. No. It turned back on.
I looked down. Blood was smeared all over the floor.
No! I screamed.
The stuffed animal was staring at me. It had a smug smile on its little face.
Horrified, I ran down to the stairs and ran into the living room, looking for a weapon I could use to defend myself.
I grabbed a broom that was in the living room. The floor moaned. I looked down.
A hole gave itself in, and before I could do anything, I fell.
As I was falling down the hole, a vampire lunged towards me, like a jumpscare.
It bit my neck. Hard.
Before I could even do anything, I screamed at the top of my lungs as I fell down the hole with the vampire’s teeth still affixed to my neck. Suddenly, I felt like I wasn’t breathing.
I didn’t feel anything.
I wasn’t alive anymore.
Peri Gordon, 11
I lay in my bed late one night, eyes shut tight, trying to fall asleep and failing. I was unusually tense. I breathed in and out and tried to think pleasant thoughts. But every time, an image would transform into another. A lake would become an ocean storm, a rainbow would split into two giant…what were they? I opened my eyes, and I could still see them. They looked like two eyes themselves. Then they disappeared. I must have imagined it, I thought. But…they were so real.
I got out of bed and went into the kitchen. Got a snack. I looked both ways every two seconds like I was crossing a street. I couldn’t stop myself from checking for danger, though I didn’t know why. I had never believed in any sort of fantastical dangers before. Dreaming? I pinched myself. My hands were cold. I flinched at their touch, as if it were someone else’s doing.
I went back into bed. Shut my eyes tighter than I normally do. Pinched myself again. No I didn’t…my hands were at my sides. I saw the rainbow split into the two eyes again, and I opened my eyes, and they were still there. They looked at me accusingly, and then they vanished. My heart was beating rapidly. What was going on? I sat up. My lungs were breathing rapidly. What was going on? Maybe I was afraid of the dark. My eyes were blinking rapidly. What was going on? I tried to walk towards the light switch, though my legs were trembling. Rapidly. The eyes appeared and melded into the face of my least favorite movie villain from childhood. I shrieked. That alerted more eyes, more villains from nightmares years ago.
Then I become one of them.
Enni Harlan, 14
As I stepped out of the cream-colored house that morning, I heard the voice of my deceased mother in the susurrus wind. It came from afar, across the field, perhaps; so fresh, so sweet, so alluring, and accompanied by a haunting tune. The harsh wind slapped my face, and yet it brought my mother’s voice–her voice and her violin. I closed my eyes and saw it clear: her beautiful face, her tangled black hair, those huge beady eyes, exploding with passion, and her fingertips; so nimble, so practiced, dancing across the ebony fingerboard. I kept my eyes shut. I didn’t want to open them. I could see her, oh, I could see her so well. And I could see my own violin, resting on my shoulder as I attempted to imitate her pure sound.
I heard my mother’s voice wash over me once more, delivered by strands of swaying grass which flickered hypnotizingly to and fro in the wind. Adagio, my mother would command, using the old Italian music term. Slowly, my dear. Slow down. Adagio.
I watched complacently as the door slammed behind me. And then I ran.
I ran across the empty field, trekking through the forest, passing the stream where I’d once collected smooth pebbles and stored them in my pockets, chasing aimlessly for my mother, that voice, her music…
Adagio. I heard the whisper again. Slow down, my child. You’re running out of steam.
I looked up. I had reached the middle of the woods. I’d never been here before. Jagged branches glared down at me daringly, and piercing howls filled the murky air. It was dark, darker than I’d ever known.
Where are you, mother?
I sprang to my feet and kept on running. I couldn’t hear my breath wheezing in and out of my body, or the cries of hatred I muttered at branches that pierced my vulnerable flesh. No, all I could hear was my mother’s voice. It was stronger than I’d ever heard it; even when she was living.
Slow down, my child. It’s Adagio. You’re running out of steam. You’re headed nowhere, and far too fast.
My heart palpitated faster and faster, ticking upwards like that big wooden metronome I’d burned with the old violin. The woods grew darker and darker as I ran, half mesmerized, half conscious, onwards and onwards.
Then suddenly I was falling, fallen; sprawled desperately on the ground. I hit a pile of leaves with a crash, my eyes darting from one threatening tree to the other in panic. A dark owl hooted, swooping right over me, and I recoiled in alarm. And then I saw her.
“Mother?” I brushed leaves off of myself in the darkness, pushing myself to my feet. I could see her, sitting on a fallen log, her long black hair dancing down behind her. Moonlight shone through the woods. I hadn’t remembered it to be night time.
“Mother!” I rushed forward towards her, my arms outstretched. Adagio. I could hear her voice again, but I shook it off. There she was right before me. I knew it was her. I just knew.
As I uttered another pressing cry, my voice faltered a bit as my mother turned around–slowly, far too slowly–and then I gasped.
A slip of moonlight haunted her ghastly face, and two empty eye sockets greeted me. Her lips were smooth but lacking color, and I watched in horror as they twisted themselves upwards into a snarl–slowly.
Lavender and her Stalker
Lina Kin, 10
Lavender was at a festival, eating her caramel apple. She had gotten her face painted, and was hanging out with her friends. It was a wonderful sunny day, and Lavender had done her homework and chores, leaving her with a free day. Suddenly, a large, dark gray cloud moved towards her, hovering over the festival. Lighting struck, and the sky thundered. Lavender felt as if eyes bore through her, watching her. She heard a rustling in the bushes. “Did you hear that?” She asked Eva. “Hear what? It’s a pleasantly sunny day, and everything is perfect! Let’s just enjoy our caramel apples.” Eva replied. Lavender eyes widened. So the other girls didn’t see the dark clouds. They couldn’t hear the thunder crackling, or the ominous sound of a sharp wind rustling through the leaves. She slowly turned around, and noticed a pair of yellow glowing eyes through the bushes. She sucked in a breath, and walked confidently with her friends, pretending not to notice. If she freaked out, her friends may think that she had gone crazy.
They found a pond, and her friends waded their bare feet in the water. Lavender refused, partly because her mother would be horribly angry with her for getting wet, and partly because she wanted to be ready to run if the stalker found her. Her friends finally convinced her to, and she reluctantly sat with her feet in the pond. She thought that she had seen the glowing eyes deep beneath the pond, but when she blinked, they were gone. She felt a tug on her feet and screamed. The other girls looked at her strangely. “Is there a spider? I assure you that there is nothing scary about a spider.” Cora assumed. She saw gnarly hands, covered in blood and grime pulling her down.
Her friends screamed in horror as Lavender was pulled under. Just like in the horror movies that her older brother had forced her to watch, she would not be getting a happy ending.
Madeline Kline, 13
I dare you to go in.
What are you, chicken?
The disappearances are rumors. Nothing more.
The dark giants loomed over me, wind screaming through the trees. I take out my phone to check once again how much time I have left. 5 minutes. Exactly what it said 5 minutes ago. And 5 minutes before that. My cursed phone must have broken an hour ago, stuck with 5 minutes left on the timer. I don’t have to be in this forest anymore. I didn’t go far in, at first. I’m not stupid. The cold, low hanging fog and dense, looming trees would have made me lose my way if I took more than even 5 steps in. But there was a voice. Such a voice that I had to investigate. At the time I still had 30 minutes left on the timer. Investigating was one way to make time pass more quickly.
Second by second, step by step, further into the forest. The voices stopped. The wind went silent. In fact, everything went silent. I couldn’t even hear myself breathing anymore. I couldn’t move, either. The cold, packed earth, freezing my face, wouldn’t let me. Why my face, though? I was standing. Wasn’t I? I couldn’t look around. The earth squeezed itself shut around me. Burying me alive. My chest heaved, trying to find any air. But my lungs refused to open for ay reason.
Suddenly, the earth shifted, and a spade dug into my shoulder. Sharp, painful, but I could move again. I turned myself over, blood leaking out of my wound. Looked up. And then the wind resumed its howling. Loud, fierce, ricocheting off the giant bodies of the trees. My mouth was open, and I couldn’t close it.
Standing in front of me, with a spade in its hand. Grinning, as though I was a vegetable it just dug up for dinner. I can’t move, again. Its eyes bore into my head, and my shoulder throbs. Once. Twice. Or maybe it’s my heart throbbing. Once. Twice.
The wind picks me up, shoving me toward it. My legs regain feeling, and I run. I sprint, blue blood leaking out of my shoulder. I run, and it opens its arms. I run, as I lose my sense of sound. I lose my sense of taste. I lose my sense of smell. I lose my sense of touch. And the last thing I see, as I lose my sense of sight, is the phone, lying cracked on the ground, the timer still blinking, 5 minutes remaining.
The Angelic Demon
Nova Macknik-Conde, 9
I stared at the forest of dark pine trees looming over me, laughing at me, each becoming a vision of the one I used to welcome into my house, my arms, my heart, until he stood over my parents with a bloody knife in his hand and the look of a crazed, cornered, monstrous animal in his eye, his beautiful kaleidoscopic eye, the eyes I could sink into and be lost in those pools of colors and sadness and intelligence and sometimes tinges of humor, but now, only hate and pleading for help. And his gentle hands now flecked with red drops falling to the floor as though the blood was crying, pooled on the wooden floor and creating dark swirling masses of danger, as though it was warning me to run away, far away from this person named Angel I thought I knew. I was able to think all this as Angel’s servants and guards of Fallen Angels growled at me to get going and pushed me toward the forest where my death was waiting as a sacrifice to not Angel, for Angel had changed. Angel had morphed into the God of Death, a Demon, or as I now thought of him, the Angelic Demon.
Tilly Marlow, 11
They have always been out there, waiting for us. They think we’re evil and corrupted. They think they’re good. They hunt us down. They never rest. I’m the only one left now. I’m Alone. Always running, hiding, looking behind me. I’m never safe.
I start to run. I can’t run faster than them, but I can run as fast. If I get a head start, I’m OK. Always running, always hiding. A miserable life. What would it be like to succumb, to become one of them? But they can’t think. They have no minds of their own. They are controlled. I’m not them. I will never be–
I heard a crunch in the leaves behind me. I knew what it was. They were coming. If they had really wanted me, I would be long gone. Now they did, I knew they would find me.
It was only a matter of time.
They were getting closer.
But what if . . .
I could escape?
I had to decide. Now.
I stood up
They must’ve noticed me. They were getting faster.
They were catching up now
I could feel their foul breath on the back of my neck. It was putrid.
I took a glance behind me
Their jaws were open, tongues maggot infested, yellow teeth glistening with saliva, green eyes piercing the darkness. I saw the teeth most vividly. They were what had ended many lives.
They were sprinting too now. I had no hope.
I tripped, and fell. It was all over.
Rabbits and Wolves
Elbert Park, 8
The coyotes kicked and body-slammed each other without noticing their hard-caught prey skittering away. One unnamed rabbit, though, took advantage of the fighting coyotes and started chewing away their skin after somehow jumping on them. Blood started spaying, and coyotes started dying. Soon, one coyote died. The other coyote took this as a moment of triumph, but while it was distracted more rabbits jumped on the remaining coyote. Not long after, the coyotes had died. The rabbits started eating the dead coyotes, but they also had to take care of the intestines and other things. Soon, they simply hopped away, content about their dinner. It wasn’t till later that the rabbits were visited by more coyotes. This time, the coyotes were prepared. They attacked the rabbits hard, and the rabbits had no choice but to run for their lives . . . and fall into a ditch. The rabbits squirmed and squirmed, but no dice. Waiting didn’t help, and the rabbits had no choice but to start digging away. They had to keep digging till they found water, food, and somehow land. Worms were in plentiful supply, but no water. Their only choice was (still) to keep on digging. Luckily, after a few hours, they found an underground stream and hopped all the way to the end of the stream, where they finally came to ground level. They had only one chance to survive, and they needed to use it carefully.
Ma'ayan Rosenbaum, 14
Flipping the light switch up and down, back and forth a number of times in order to brighten the dimmed ceiling light at the center of my bedroom, I began the day as I had all others before. White walls empty of any life or decoration were bathed in a dull gray tint of morning rain. Suddenly, I feel trapped, as if the corners of the room are beginning to close in on me. Feet
pounding against creaky floorboards carried me out of the house and down a slippery path. Oftentimes I find myself running. Running from death, from fear, from heavy clouds of depression that swallowed me up and spit me out to find a broken world, selfish in taking all those I once loved. Running, really, from myself. The landscape flashed by my peripheral vision as my speed increases, my body beating itself in rhythm against muddy ground. I’m climbing a mountain now, tall and steep. Quick and coordinated, my limbs sting not from the sharp wind and bullet-like pellets of rain that slap against my back, but a sort of pain that consumes my whole soul, begging it to keep going. Going, going, going away from this life I am forced to lead. Suddenly I fall, legs sprawled out in front of me. Autumn leaves made soft by water cushion beneath me, like a bed topped with a fluffy duvet. Staring upwards I see the sunset tones of thick fall trees. Sunset...sunset...I’m back, back at the ocean's edge with her. On a checkered picnic blanket, we laugh as a summer breeze blows straw-colored hair across her smiling face. Now we’re dancing, the aroma of vanilla wedding cake intoxicating us both with waves of pure serotonin. I feel a kick, a flutter of life and love inside her stomach, and as time passes, so too does my daughter grow older, skipping across the cornfields, she beckons. “Come, come play with me!’ she calls out. My wife's smile draws me in, begging me to come, to walk alongside her as we marvel at the perfection of our lives. We’re driving now, across a sunny road. My eyes flutter shut in contemptment, drifting off into a peaceful sleep. But as I once again become conscious, a swelling void grows inside my heart. As I look beside me, where once lay my family now is only rotting corpse. My own skin is punctured by the glass that once made up my windshield, but the discomfort of deep abrasions could not overcome me. I would not succumb to this pain, not melt away. I reach for a wrist, but feel no pulse. I am blinded by a shining light. I can hear them calling my name, pulling me up towards their dwelling place, but my eyes are glued shut and their voices fade away. Fading, fading, fading. And I awake once again, flipping the light switch up and down, back and forth a number of times in order to brighten the dimmed ceiling light at the center of my bedroom, doomed to live this day over and over, again and again, as I had every other day before.
The Girl and the Doll
Angela Tang, 12
The bed was strewn with the woolen fibers of the thin shredded blanket, the only thing she had left before the dark night that had appeared beyond her front door. The stone tiles hung as drab, jagged blades, cutting into her brisk skin until she felt no more of it. The girl had cried herself to sleep as the blanket that could hardly be called one shed layers like locks of wretched hair.
Hours were shed just like the layers of thin fibers until the clock rung midnight. Just as it rang, she woke, her legs tangled in the thin measly blanket, her only possession.
The girl kicked her legs free and stood up, the surroundings around her were just a dingy black, covered in layers of ash, gathered upon these neglected years. She froze despite how bleak her toes were, for a sound sounded a floor beneath her.
Who was it?
What was it?
The girl fell on her bottom on the cold floor as the reverberating sound echoed, but sounded clearly in front of her door.
Who was it?
What was it?
The girl found herself unable to run, unable to back any further than the wall that separated her and freedom. The world then was silent as the crows that were once cawing from the thick, gnarly boughs of the willow that stood outside her microscopic window.
Who was it?
What was it?
She took the frosted handle of the iron door and flung it wide open. There was nothing. Just a doll.
She stepped outside the doorframe and peered at the doll. It hadn’t moved, but its eyes blinked and shuddered. The girl stepped swiftly pass it, for it was midnight and dark. Goosebumps formed on the girl’s slim, delicate arms as she stepped into the small living room, all cloaked in a translucent haze from her family’s death.
Who was it?
What was it?
It was the doll. And it was there, positioned on top of the great grandfather clock her mother had once owned.
The girl bent low and placed herself gingerly on the broken couch, sprains groaning as she yielded her whole weight in the center. It sagged. The doll stared at her with unblinking pupils, seeming to survey, curious of her every movement. The girl stared right back.
She felt her eyelids growing heavy, as she yielded to the night sky outside the window.
The stars were heavy just like her dreams and mind worn from years of abrasion. The moon was sticky and sweet, but unable to move any farther just as she was.
As the girl’s eyelids closed, she propped her legs on the handle of the couch, seeming to forget about the doll, still watching her as an unwelcome guest atop the great grandfather clock.
And nobody but the doll knew that her victim would not be alive the next morning, her blood shed on the dull, drab couch.
Who was it?
What was it?
It was the doll, and years later, the girl’s body still lay preserved on the translucent couch she had met her fate on.