Short & Dark

The Screaming~

October 30th, the day before Halloween. Here’s an especially eerie poem to welcome those we fear yet cannot see.


The Screaming

The screaming woke me at a quarter to three

But there was nobody there,

There was nothing to see.

There was a sound like the rattling

Of the chain on the old barn door

But the old barn had burned down a year before.

I laid there wide awake and shaking

When I heard the squealing of the garden gate,

When footsteps started up the path,

I was quaking.

I rushed to the window

Shouted, “Leave me alone.”

But there was nobody there,

I was all on my own.

I heard the rattle of a key in the kitchen door

But I knew my keys were under my bed,

So it was just imagination

Playing jokes on me,

When I thought I heard the snick of a lock.

Then I heard a creak on the stairs

But I knew I was alone,

So, there was no one to fear.

My bedroom door opened

And in crept the light of the moon

And there Nobody stood, at the end of my bed.

© 2015 | Frank Regan, All rights reserved.


Dark Discourse, Short & Dark

Murky Waters~

Here’s another creepy short by a young talented writer. Enjoy!

murky waterpic


Uncle Macon had been dead a year when Aunt Bessie saw bodies rise from Burgaw Creek. Her ankles rolled as she turned to run, and she fainted behind the house. Bedsheets clipped to the clothesline sailed in the wind gusts, sheltered her from the drizzling rain.

Mama and I drove three hours to Burgaw to check on her. When we arrived, the toilet was backed-up, the water shut off.

“We had a really bad storm come through last night. You know Burgaw Creek floods every time it rains,” Aunt Bessie said. I squirmed in my chair at the kitchen table, squeezing my inner thighs together as warm urine bled through my jeans.

“How have you been using the bathroom?” Mama asked.

“I been makin’ do,” Aunt Bessie said, which meant she hadn’t been flushing. Two days of Aunt Bessie’s waste clogging the commode with what was buried in Burgaw Creek—natural or supernatural—caused the bile to rise at the back of my throat. I feared that if I sat to pee, a hand would reach up from the feces and mud, pull me under. There was no place outside for me to relieve myself. The backyard was flooded from the creek. The treeless front yard faced highway 53 where peeping Tom truck drivers could catch a passing glimpse of me naked from the waist down as I squatted in the overgrown grass.

Before the highway was built, the area had been farmland. Uncle Macon’s father grew corn, green beans, okra, snap peas, turnips, and potatoes. He also had a few animals—chicken, cows, pigs. He didn’t budge when the government came to buy his land. He refused to sale the home he had built with his own hands. However, the pressure and money was too great for his poor family, and the government eventually plowed the road down the center, dividing the farm, separating the animals and crops. It was difficult to tend to the other side with a two lane highway standing as barrier. The weeds grew up over the front porch of the old farmhouse, concealing the lost rural era from mass consumerism.

We checked into a hotel in Wilmington, and Mama called the plumber who promised to pump the septic tank the following afternoon. I was thrilled that we didn’t have to stay at Aunt Bessie’s. Burgaw was hot. It was only a thirty-minute drive from Wilmington, but the temperature differential was easily fifteen degrees. Wilmington had the breeze from the ocean, but Burgaw was situated in a pocket of humidity. With the backed-up sewage in Aunt Bessie’s yard, it made for a sweltering stay.

“How are you doing, Aunt Bessie,” Mama asked after we had settled into the room, turned the television to channel three so Aunt Bessie could watch Eyewitness News.

“I been alright,” she said, dragging out her vowels with her nasal voice. “Wish you’d come see me more often.”

“You know I have to work. And Cassandra’s still in school.”

“You ain’t graduate yet?” Aunt Bessie asked looking in my direction.

“In May,” I said. “Gotta study for exams so I can pass.” I sat in the armchair by the window reading Toni Morison’s Paradise. I had reached the haunting final chapter after the elder men of Ruby had laid siege on the Convent, gunning down all of the women, only to discover their bodies vanished hours later.

Aunt Bessie pulled a slim, red photo album with black trimming from her oversized pocketbook. “I finally got the pictures from Macon’s funeral developed,” she said, flipping through the pages. “They did really good with the flowers.” She turned the album to Mama, pointed to a picture of Uncle Macon in the casket. “That’s his favorite suit. I made sure to have it dry cleaned before the wake.” Aunt Bessie brought her fist to her mouth, coughed into the tissue to camouflage her voice cracking as she spoke of her deceased husband.

Mama jerked her head away. She pressed her lips together into a thin line, pinched her eyes closed, a single tear gliding down each cheek.

“What can you tell me about the people you saw in the creek?” Mama asked, switching to a different, though no less disturbing subject.

“I saw them through the sheets, just standing there. You know, Macon used to see people around the house. I just thought it was his sickness, but now I see them too.”

“Did they look scary?” I asked.

“No, just lonely.” She didn’t say anything else, and we didn’t badger her for more details. After Uncle Macon died, Aunt Bessie shocked everyone when she asked to be taken home instead of spend the next few days at a friend or family member’s house. She’d said that she had to get used to living by herself; that if she left, she wouldn’t be able to come back.

The heat hadn’t yet arrived when we returned to Burgaw late the next morning, the dew still on the grass in the front lawn.

“Who cuts your grass, Aunt Bessie?” Mama asked, looking at the tall blades.

“I have someone come and do it,” Aunt Bessie answered.

“Well, whoever that is, you need to call them. You don’t want to worry about snakes.”

We waited in the kitchen while the plumber worked on the septic tank. Aunt Bessie stood in front of the window overlooking the backyard and Burgaw Creek.

“I hope it don’t come up a thunder cloud,” she said. I straightened in my chair, looked up over her shoulders through the window, seeing nothing but blue sky.

Mama touched her at her shoulders, guided her to the kitchen table. “Why don’t you sit,” she said softly. “I’ll check on the plumber.” She eased Aunt Bessie down into her chair and left out of the back door.

The kitchen was silent save for the ticking of the clock on the wall. Aunt Bessie sniffled, wiped her dry nose with her knuckle. “Sometimes Macon comes to visit me.”

Unsure if she was recounting pleasant memories of Uncle Macon alive or if she had actually seen his spirit, I asked, “What do you mean?”

“Sometimes I would be in the den watching TV, and I’d hear him coming down the hall.”

The wooden floorboards creaked behind me. The sound of boot heels approached the kitchen from the front bedroom, echoing through the hall.

“He’d come to the door and say, ‘It’s gettin’ late, Bess. Cut off that TV and come on to bed.’ ” She smiled and looked at something over my head. The hairs on my neck prickled. I sat frozen in my seat, afraid to turn around and see who or what stood behind me. I nearly wet myself to the sudden slam of the screen door as Mama reentered from the backyard.

“Girl, why are you so jumpy?” she asked.

I swallowed air, my throat dry as if dust had been poured into my mouth. “Is the plumber done yet? I have to pee.”

“Yea,” Mama answered. “It cost me 300 bucks.”

I ignored her rant and scrambled to the bathroom, ripping off my pants and falling onto the toilet, nearly tipping it forward, prying it from the mildewed tile floor. To my left, the white lace curtains on the window ruffled in the air flowing up from the vent below. I never liked windows in bathrooms. They denied me privacy. I felt I was being watched in my most vulnerable moments.

In the distance, I heard a low rumble. I stood, holding the zipper of my pants at my knees, and looked out the window. The grayish-blue clouds had accumulated. The wind had picked up. The bedsheets hanging on the clothesline flapped furiously. I watched the creek just behind them, half-expecting to see a person, maybe Uncle Macon, emerge from its murky waters. I licked my dry lips, the movement of my tongue tickling the back of my throat. If I were to see a head, or a hand, or a soggy bedroom slipper, would Mama dismiss me as we had Aunt Bessie, and she Uncle Macon? What were the odds that three people would hallucinate the imprint of a face—eyes, nose, an open mouth—through the thin bedsheets along the banks of Burgaw Creek?

Written by,

Nortina Simmons

Twitter: @Nortina_Mariela


Dark Discourse, Short & Dark

Old Man Jessup~

Here’s another very cool #horror short to put you in the mood for #Halloween.

windoOld Man Jessup

“Can you smell it?” asked old man Jessup rocking in his rickety wooden chair. Considering his age, it was difficult to tell if it were his bones or the chair which creaked more.  “It’s the scent in the air, boy, what always comes this time a’ year.”

Max rolled his eyes at the old codger’s babbling as he passed him on his way out of the small town’s produce store. Max had absentmindedly passed close enough to Jessup’s chair for the old man to sense someone had walked within earshot.  A smile crossed Jessup’s wrinkled face when his ears detected what his blind milky blue eyes could not.  Some said Jessup had outlived most folks in the small town of Sleepybrook, while others claimed he had been around since before the town was founded.   Max just thought he was a kooky old man with nothing better to do than sit out on the wooden slat porch of the  store and harass the tourists.  Out-of-towners found Jessup to be a quaint bit of ambiance that added to the old world feeling of the town square area, but Max found him to be an annoyance he had to tolerate when his mom sent him to pick up groceries.

“A-yup, it’s the autumn smell, boy,” Jessup continued after spitting some greenish phlegm past his scattered yellow teeth. “The stench what comes from mixin’ dead leaves and harvested autumn corpses.” Max stopped dead in his tracks. Surely the withered codger had meant to say “crops” and just mixed up the words in his addled senile mind.

“I think you mean autumn crops old man,” Max corrected him, flashing a wry sarcastic smile. “You know, like the corn and apples and pumpkins for sale inside?”

With the speed impossible for such a frail looking elder, Jessup shot a hand out to grab Max’s wrist in an iron grip, sudden clarity filling his normally vacant stare. “I said exactly what I meant, boy. Harvested. Corpses.” Max felt rooted to the dry porch boards, unable to pull his arm from the old man’s skeletal hand.  Jessup’s eyes were no longer cataract-ruined, but had shifted to be unnaturally black.  The gaze of those dark eyes swallowed Max up in their emptiness.  Seconds passed like soul-crushing hours before Jessup released his grip with a cackle, rocking slowly back and forth in his chair.  His milky blue eyes returned to stare out blindly across the town square.  Still in a state of shock, Max took a few staggering steps backwards, almost falling off the edge of the porch.  Jessup did not as much as glance back in Max’s direction, the bewildered teen already forgotten, waiting to chatter to the next patron who wandered near.

For days Max tried to rationalize the startling encounter with Jessup.  Despite his difficulty telling the story without stammering over the details, his friends criticized him for attempting to get attention with some ‘scary’ Halloween story.  He avoided the county store for weeks, making up excuses to his mother for why he could not pick up the weekly groceries.  Visions of the old man haunted his dreams, waking him drenched in a cold sweat with a scream caught in his throat.  Try as he may, Max could not shake the image of the old man’s transformation.

It wasn’t until the night before Halloween that Max saw old man Jessup again, with those withered hands pressed up against his bedroom window and the moonlight reflecting off Jessup’s pitch black eyes.  Max had only seconds to puzzle out how Jessup had found the strength to climb up to his second story window or how the blind man found his house, before the window glass shattered under Jessup’s impossibly strong fists.  In the blink of an eye, the skin and bones creature skittered from the windowsill across the floor to Max’s bed, its mad cackles drowning out Max’s strangled cries for help.  Wet tearing sounds at the stroke of midnight greeted that year’s All Hallows Eve.

Written by,

J.L. Rach

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Short & Dark

Its All Bunk~

A few writers are ushering in Halloween with original stories pulled from their dark imaginations. Read with the light on, and enjoy.

image courtesy of

It’s All Bunk

The Fayette County Fair was so picturesque.  The sounds of people screaming as rickety rides twirled them about added to the excitement of the hawkers calling out for suckers to try their shifty games.  I don’t know why I loved to visit the fair year after year, but it drew me every time.

As I walked up the midway, I noticed a hand-painted sign.  Its faded, peeling paint announced Veritas the Witch.  I should have walked right on past, but for some reason I stepped to the fore.

An old woman sat in the booth selling spells and curses.  Another sign, sitting on the worn wood of the counter, said she would guess your occupation correctly or you’d win a prize.  I watched as she looked deeply at the hands of a young man who had accepted her challenge.

Veritas manipulated his meaty paw, turning it over and tracing the lines with her boney pointer finger.

“We have a coal miner,” she announced.

The man lowered his head and retreated from her booth in defeat.

My inner skeptic goaded me forward and I looked into her gray eyes and whispered, “Good guess.  Probably ninety percent of these men are coal miners.  You could probably see the black residue under his nails.  It’s all bunk.”

“An unbeliever!” she announced to everyone who was near.

“A realist,” I corrected as a small group gathered near.

“And what would it take to make you see the truth, Mr. De Murral?” she asked in a loud voice.

Great. She knew my name.  I’m a well-known local scientist who has spoken out against the paranormal.  I’d been in the paper and even published a book on the subject.  She had to know me from one of those.

“Good guess,” I conceded.  The crowd was eating it up.  Trying to of think of a magic feat she could preform, I immediately remembered playing Dungeons & Dragons when I was young.  “Summon a demon,” I declared.

The crowd gasped at my words, but the old crone didn’t hesitate.  “That’s a very dangerous request,” she said while scratching her pointy chin with her long nails.  “I can’t endanger the crowd.  Meet me in my tent and I’ll prove my legitimacy.”

The people behind me voiced their disappointment at not being included as I accepted her challenge.

Her tent was very macabre, painted with imagery associated with her dark arts.  Inside, it was even more bizarre.  Glass jars and bottles held all sorts of strange and disturbing artifacts.  It reminded me of scenes from all of the old spooky movies I’d seen in my youth.

“Nice place,” I joked as I moved through the dark, dreary interior.  “Can I have the name of your decorator?”

“I can assure you that it’s all quite real,” she mumbled as she sat at a small, round table in it’s center.  “Come and join me.”

I slowly moved forward across various rugs bearing ornate designs.  I recognized many pagan symbols adorning each before sitting in the chair she had indicated.  It was all part of the show, I assured myself as I wiggled on my seat.

“What, no crystal ball?” I asked, uncertain what to expect next.

“This is a summoning,” she chided.  “There’s no need for such instruments in this instance.”

“Listen, Veritas. We don’t have to go on with this charade,” I explained.  “I’ll let you off the hook.  I won’t even publish anything about tonight.”

She stared at me with a growing, toothy grin.  As she scratched her long, pointed nose, I thought she was considering my proposal.

Then she emitted a low cackle as she pointed at me and said, “I’ve read many of your articles.”

“Oh,” I moaned.  “I’m sorry if you didn’t find them to your liking.”

“They’ve brought much pain and anger to many of my sisters.”

This was becoming uncomfortable.  Here I was, about be confronted by one of the people I’d spent so much time debunking.  I should’ve never accepted her offer.

“Once again, I’m sorry.  But I was just informing the gullible public about the fraud your kind perpetuate.”

“Fraud!” she hissed sharply.  “Those people you exposed aren’t my kind.  They’re leeches who use our name for their own gains.  They have no power.”

Choosing my words carefully, I continued, “And you are so different?  Using a simple process of deduction to guess someone’s occupation.  Telling a person what they want to hear and calling it their fortune.”

“Don’t associate me with those simpletons,” she said, waiving a skeletal hand dismissively.

“Then why are you at a fair in a rundown booth?  If you have such arcane powers, why not use them to your advantage? Conjure a big house and vast riches?  Your very presence here proves you have no powers.”

“It’s time I show you the truth,” she said with fire in her eyes.

Beginning to rise, I proclaimed, “It’s time I was leaving.”

“So, you don’t want to know.”

Her words held me.  I was ready to leave, but for some reason I held my ground.

“Fine,” I said, dropping back into my seat. “Summon me my demon.”

“As you wish,” she cooed.

Immediately, the lights dimmed.  Candles lit, as if by themselves.  Moans sounded all around as she began to chant.

“Nice effects,” I mumbled.  “You’re going to have to do better than that.”

Veritas didn’t respond.  She maintained her rhythmic chanting, increasing her cadence every second.  I could feel the very air tingling with energy.  I couldn’t figure out how she was doing it.  Lifting a corner of the table cloth, I checked for some mechanism producing the effects.  There was nothing there.

That’s when all of my Dungeons & Dragons experiences came to mind.  Having failed to find any logical explanation and starting to panic, I pleaded, “If you’re summoning a demon, where’s the pentagram to contain it?”

As my last words left my lips, she suddenly brought her spell to its conclusion. Cackling knowingly and sensing my absolute distress and terror, she howled, “It’s woven into the rug your chair’s sitting on!”


Written by,

Doug Ward


Twitter: @ZombieDoug