Short Shocktober Day 7 – Lantern

Content Warning: gore, death

The Light in the Woods

I was so lost that when I saw a lantern light, bobbing through the trees in the distance, I ran toward it. Its warm orange glow seemed to float and swing around, far above the ground, so it must have been on some sort of pole, I thought.

               Ferns lined the forest floor, thick and green, making passage slow, and the lantern bearer failed to hear or ignored my cries, begging them to wait. I stumbled on thick roots wound amongst the loam and pine needles littering the forest floor, and I followed the lantern desperately, unable to catch up.

               When we had stopped in town and said we were going camping in this wood, there wasn’t a single person who had said, ‘that’s a lovely idea’. They said ‘don’t go up into those woods,’ ‘that’s not a good idea, that forest is cursed. Strange things dwell in it.’

               Of course, we ignored them; we drove three hundred miles to see natural places that weren’t on any map or chattered about on any travel blog. We should have listened.

               We set up our tents, in small glade not far from the muddy clearing that served as a parking lot, and in the morning, prepared for the day’s hike through the woods. That was a full day ago.

               First, we got lost. As panic and night began to set in, we wandered past our marker of stones and sticks for the fifth time. We began to feel we were being toyed with.

               Then May spotted it. A skeletonized deer carcass, its bones held together by ragged strips of rotting meat – not a strange thing to find in a forest at all, but it was stranded up in one of the pines, tangled among the branches.

               ‘Something must have dragged it up there,’ May said, unable to take her eyes off it.

               ‘A mountain lion,’ Lonnie replied, dismissive.

               A cavalcade of skeletal animals had followed, all of them stuck in the trees, from snakes to deer to bears.

               Then we turned around to ask Lonnie something, only find he was missing. We searched for what felt like hours, and when I turned to see where May had gone, I found myself alone.

               Then I saw the lantern.

               I began to catch up with the glowing orb, at last, but to my horror, I found it was no lantern at all.

               Before me floated an enormous jelly-fish, its shining, gelatinous body glowing fire orange and fringed with frills of deep sea green. From its bobbing, undulating form draped enormous ribbon tenacles that dragged along the forest floor.

               I started and span to run, but found myself tangled in a net of tenacles behind me. Where they brushed my skin it blistered with fire, and I fought wildly for a short time, but their paralysing venom quickly took effect, and soon I fought no more.

               The forest was lit with the glow of hundreds of these creatures, bobbing feet above the floor. The last thing I saw was May, tangled in one’s tentacles, her face in blank agony, unmoving, as I was dragged, limp, off my feet, towards the pulsating body above.


Prompt: Lantern

Words: 532

Day 7 of Short Shocktober! I really liked the idea behind this one, I hope that the image I had in my head comes across. It was inspired by this video on Tumblr of a guy paddleboarding over a very still sea filled with jellyfish, and someone wrote about how wild jellyfish are beneath it, just floating about, eating far more complex organisms without realising it. I can’t find the post again because Tumblr’s search features etc are garbage.

P.s. I promise to write one where the protagonist surives one day. Maybe. I maybe promise it. I think. I dunno. Probably not? Well… we’ll see.


Update: OH! OH! I found it! The jellyfish post that inspired this mess! It rolled back around on to my dash, and it still made my skin want to crawl off my body and walk away!

Short Shocktober Day 6 – Stars

Nothing Between the Stars

Something thuds against the hull. Spencer freezes, shock overwhelming his system for a second. He leaps over to the observation bay and flicks through all the cameras.

               There’s nothing there except slightly fuzzy, black and white images of the outer hull, lit by the external lights. Nose, nothing.  Midsection, nothing. Airlocks, nothing. Aft and engines, nothing.

               There’s another thud above his head; the metallic noise reverberates through the ship. Spencer flicks to the dorsal nose camera – it shows the outside of the ship.

               There’s nothing there. There’s nothing outside but the deep black of space. There aren’t any planets near. He’s travelling several thousand miles an hour, and there’s no atmosphere out there. There’s nothing there.

               He listens, frozen once more, to the sound of something walking across the hull. Nothing on the camera. The sound walks towards the nose and stops at the three panoramic windows in front of the flight controls. Spencer watches the window with growing dread, but nothing appears. Still nothing on the cameras.

               Spencer steps over to the life support and integrity desk. The hull’s intact, none of the warning sensors are going off, none of the electrical systems are compromised, there are no leaks detected. Could a loss of structural integrity, a series of panels buckling, cause the walking noise? All the instruments are green; the structural integrity of the ship is perfect.

               His head whips up at the screeching noise, and he watches, trembling, as a long, thin white scratch is drawn across the outside of the right hand window, like someone dragging a nail across it. It stops as suddenly, leaving a metre long scratch.

               Something thuds back along the outside of the ship, heading to the midsection and the first bank of airlocks.

               Spencer races to the emergency locker by the door, drags out the orange suit and begins donning it as fast as he can. If there’s something out there and it decides it wants to be in here, he doubts it’ll wait for the airlock to cycle before it makes its ingress.

               He’s got the tight weave overalls on, and is putting the boots on, sealing them tight, when an alarm begins to sound. He ignores it; gloves next, and then fishbowl helmet. Safety first, Spence.

               Over at the howling integrity desk, he can see a big red mark on the holographic readout of the ship. Something punched straight through the airlock doors and into the corridor. The doors to the adjacent rooms have snapped shut already, but he strides to the helm door and slaps the emergency closure. The door scythes shut beside him, sealing with a mechanical whirr.

               There’s a noise on the outside of the hull by the window. Spencer’s head snaps around.  There’s two?

               The window with the scratch shatters and Spencer scrabbles for a console as he and the air are ripped from the ship.

               He smashes his head on the ceiling on the way out, and the black engulfs him.


Prompt: Stars

Words: 497

Day 6 of Shocktober over! It’s hard to consistently produce something different each day that you’re happy showing to the public, but it’s also rewarding and teaching me to ditch my perfectionist tendencies. They’re normally what stops me from doing the thing. Anyway, enjoy space horror, brought to you by Alien and Jurassic Park (did you make the connection?)