Short Shocktober Day 9 – Shadow

Content warning: alcoholism

A Case of Alienation

The face in the inky black window was mine, but there was something wrong with it. Its eyes were dead, blank, sparkless. The lamp from my living room lit it, as I was drawing the curtains, and I stopped to examine it, disturbed my reflection should show such a soulless version of myself. Haloed by the night and front lit, its pallor made it look dead.

               Then it blinked its bloodshot eyes, by itself, and stepped away from the window, leaving just me and my reflection, staring at each other in surprise. I snapped the curtains shut, turned on the overhead lights and made sure that all of the doors were locked.

               I sat there in the glare, the TV on, the images unheeded by my brain, whose gears failed to mesh what I’d seen with a rational explanation.

               A double reflection, I settled on a few days later. The light from a car had reflected me onto a parked car, and as the car moved, so had my strange reflection. That’s what it was, I told myself, unconvinced that the solid face, pressed so close to the window that it should have left soft patches of condensation, was anything but real.

               A few days later, the curtains were shut, the overhead lights on (this had become a habit – no more shadowy lamplight for me), and a little rap came from the window. I froze, my hand on the TV remote, paralysed by indecision. Turn it off and listen again, or turn it up and pretend I’d heard nothing?

               I muted it and immediately regretted it.

               ‘Henry,’ something whispered outside. ‘Let me in, Henry.’ Its soft voice reminded me of dying words gasped by characters in films. ‘Let me in, Henry, it’s me, You.’

               Creeping as quietly as I could, I gently opened the passageway door and glanced at the front door.  The chain was on, the latch, too. Locked, I thought, good. It was a shadow of relief.

               I froze as the front flap of the letter box squeaked, and two pale, fish-flesh fingers stuck themselves through the inside flap. They felt about for a second.

               ‘Let me in, Henry, it’s cold out here. I’m You, Henry, your shadow. We shouldn’t be apart,’ the other person whispered, a pale face unclear through the frosted glass panes in the door.  It disappeared, as the creature ducked down. It lifted the flap with its fingers and I saw its bloodshot blue eyes then, my bloodshot blue eyes. The ones that had stared at me from the mirror every morning I woke up and drank. Every morning I woke up from another fight with people who cared about me, who’d promised not to have anything to do with me unless I sorted myself out.

               ‘C’mon, Henry. We don’t have to be apart. Let me in.’

               I went into the living room and crawled inside a bottle, and prayed it wouldn’t come back another night.


Prompt: Shadows

Words: 492

Day 9 of Short Shocktober complete. A particularly creepy one this one. Who hasn’t been alone at night, locking the doors and shutting the curtains, and wondered if there could be something out there?

I think, personally, that the quality of these is improving as time progresses. I confess to not having written much flash fiction before, and it’s a unique form – you have so few words to get things done in, that you find yourself having to cut things that you would normally be happy leaving in a longer piece.

Short Shocktober Day 8 – Chains

Content warning: stalking, mistreatment of the mentally ill

The Red Chain of Communion

Jane, the text message reads, there is a little red chain of communion between us, and there is nothing strong enough to snap that chain. If it should snap, I would bleed internally and die. I need you, Jane.

               It’s from an unknown number, but she knows who it’s from. She deletes it and blocks the number. The city square is crowded, the sun shines, people mill about their lives, but she looks over her shoulder nonetheless, and shivers. She doesn’t see anyone hovering over her, but it feels as though he’s there.

               It began as a job advert on a sketchy site. She’d known better, but she was desperate, and the pay was eye watering. That should have been the second tip-off. Live-in tutor in a fancy house in the country? Sounded ideal.

               Rochester had been pleasant enough, grumpy, perhaps, growing warmer, until she found herself blushing when he entered the room. Her heart beat faster, seeing him. Their conversations grew longer and longer, unphased by the sun setting, or rising, or the whispers of his guests or his house keeper.

               She began to suspect there was someone else in the enormous house with them. Perhaps an elderly relative that he neglected to mention out of some misplaced sense of shame. Some of her things went missing. She thought she heard someone whispering to themselves in the corridor one night.

               Then she awoke, in the middle of the black night, her doorknob gently rattling as someone tried to enter. The septic light of a torch lanced from the gap beneath the door. The door was locked – the house was creepy, vast, draughty, and the locked door made her feel safer – the intruder swore softly to herself and shuffled away, the floorboards creaking beneath her weight. Jane remained frozen in her bed until dawn whispered across the land.

               Rochester assured her she had dreamt it.

               She brought up marriage, again and again, assuming Rochester’s reticence was simply his taciturn manner. Eventually he broke down and revealed who it was that tried to enter her room that night, who it was that lived in the vast attics of Thornfield Hall.

               She had run, of course. As far, and as fast as she could, into penury at first, and then into the arms of distant relatives she hadn’t known existed.

               Then the messages from Rochester began.

               ‘She’s gone, Jane. There was a fire. It’s all alright now, we can marry. Come back to me, Jayne, please, come back to me, my helpmeet, my love, my Jane.’

               She hadn’t gone, of course. She had no desire to become the next Mrs Rochester trapped in the attic of whatever cobwebbed mansion he transplanted himself to. That poor woman. The news said she perished in a fire of her own making, but as Rochester’s messages, calls, visits, became more insistent, she began to wonder whether or not he had a hand in it.

               A  different apartment, a different city, distance; a different phone number, report after report to the police, all good things to keep between her and Rochester, but the calls continued, the messages got through every now and again.

               It seemed that little red chain of communion between them might truly never be snapped.


Prompt: Chains

Words: 542

Short Shocktober Day 8 done. Overdue and over length, sure, but done, at least. I can’t make going over length a habit, tho’.

I wasn’t expecting ‘Chains’ to come out as a horror rip-off of Jane Eyre, of all things, but it was such a fun idea when it hit me, I realised that I had to.

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?)

Short Shocktober Day 5: Whispers

The Whispers of the Saltmarsh Stone

5th of October, 1891

Yesterday we finally took our little trip to ‘the seaside’. Just a short excursion for the day, along the estuary to the salt marsh. It seems rather preposterous to say that you have taken a trip ‘to the seaside’, when Weatherly Hall overlooks the cliffs and sea, but Arthur has lived here all his life and that is what they have always called it, ‘the seaside’, as though it were the only coast in existence.

               And what a sea it is! Grey as slate and almost always miserable. I long so dearly to be back in Monaco with its sparkling blue sea, but Arthur, with his fussy old ways, will leave Britain on his death bed, I fancy. No matter.

               At the saltmarsh, Arthur and I disembarked and asked Jenkins to wait for us. We strolled then, I matching Arthurs arthritic gait as much as I could, though the slowness of his pace made my step feel as though I were hobbled.

               Through the skinny trees of the saltmarsh we walked, along the planks set out for that purpose. The path led to a small black sand cove, and this was where Arthur presumed that we were going, but I had other ideas for our walk, and my ‘beloved’.

               ‘What’s down there, darling?’ I asked as we came to a split in the path. He peered between the thicker trees and up the path that sloped up to drier land.

               ‘Oh, just some old standing stone, dear, nothing interesting.’

               ‘Oh, an ancient monument? I should like to see it, if we may.’ It didn’t take much cajoling. Strong though he once was, and admittedly, in his upper body, still is, a short walk with a rest at a monument was more appealing than a traipse to the black sand shore.

               Our little stroll was pleasant enough. As the trees grew thicker and the brackish smell of the marsh receded, the smell of loam and deep woods grew. The thin sun was bright enough to light the leaves from above, so we walked beneath a canopy off translucent green. My anticipation grew as we neared the spot I had discovered and hatched my design.

               In the centre of the clearing stood a moss covered stone. It came to my chest, and I dragged Arthur over, arm in arm, to stand before it and inspect the strange designs carved into the slanted surface. With a deftness that I didn’t know I had, I withdrew the sewing needle I had hidden in the hem of my sleeve, and jabbed him with it.

               ‘Great heavens!’ he exclaimed and jerked away. I dropped the needle.

               ‘Oh my darling, what’s wrong? Is it an insect bite? Let me see.’

               He swiftly acceded to my ministrations. I held his hand over the ancient surface of the stone, and told him that we had best ensure the sting didn’t remain, and under those pretences, squeezed out a single ruby drop of his blood, which dripped on to the stone.

               It was absorbed into the dark surface instantly.

               The curse began to take effect just as swiftly. We returned to the carriage, Arthur’s mood soured, and by the time that we were home, he was complaining loudly about the whispers.

               ‘That damn whispering! Is it you?’ he accused me, ‘are you playing some sort of jape? I demand you stop it at once.’ Soon after, he took to his bed, and this morning I have sent for a doctor to tend his rapidly emaciated frame. He’s barely sane now, you see, having had to listen to their whispers all night long. It worked perfectly – he’ll be no longer able to manage his estate, but he isn’t dead yet, and it will be a simple enough thing for me to remain here and live the life I desire at Weatherly Hall, effectively by myself. A rousing success, I think.

               To other matters. My hand is a little sore; I seem to have given myself a splinter somehow. Perhaps I caught it on a thorn on our little trip yesterday. No matter, it will heal swiftly enough.

               The servants will have to go, of course. They don’t like me very much. Even now, I’m certain I can hear them whispering in the hallway, probably accusing me of poisoning their poor master. Damn them.

               It’s the strangest thing; I went to confront them, and there wasn’t a soul there. I must be hearing thi-

               No, there it is again! Where on earth is that whispering coming from?


Prompt: Whispers

Word Count: 761

That’s Day 5! I should have posted this yesterday, but forgot, so here it is this morning, instead. This one’s much longer than it should be, over the target by over half, but I was enjoying this one so much that I decided to make it a little longer. Enjoy!

Short Shocktober – 31 horror flash fiction prompts for October ’21

Every year in October, artists gather on the ephemeral planes of the internet to collectively participate in a dark ritual. During that ritual they spill oceans of ink. Besmirch sheet after sheet of snow-white paper. Stab hard at the heart of creativity, to pierce it with pens and pencils and have its black ichor flow forth. An eldritch ritual, known only in the fearful whispers as… Inktober…

Anyway, I love spook-month, and Inktober has always appealed to me, but I’m not much of an artist, so I decided to do my own thing with prose. One of the things that I’m struggling with lately is getting things finished. My current projects are quite long, and I could do with the boost that finishing something regularly gives you. So for that reason, I’m going to use the thirty-one daily prompts, below, to write 500 words of horror flash fiction each day, and post them here. I’m posting the prompts and rules (“more like guidelines than actual rules”, he said, making an ancient reference), because I hope that other people will be interested and join me!

Continue reading “Short Shocktober – 31 horror flash fiction prompts for October ’21”