Halloween Writing Prompt: October 22 – October 30, 2019 “The Not So Haunted Home for Sale”

Halloween Prompt: “The Not So Haunted Home for Sale.”

Use your imagination, get spooky dear writer…

Story Requirements:

  • A Pumpkin or pumpkin(s)

Word Count: 1,200

*Note this is a special holiday prompt. The deadline is one week instead of two weeks. Story deadline is October 30, 2019 at 12:00pm CT.

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  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
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Voting starts WEDNESDAY OCT 30, 2019 morning at 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 5:00am AEDT (Friday).

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99 thoughts on “Halloween Writing Prompt: October 22 – October 30, 2019 “The Not So Haunted Home for Sale”

  • October 22, 2019 at 8:28 am
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    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked in this comment within a day or two, feel free to use the contact form to let us know we somehow missed it.

    Meanwhile, please be patient, moderators are not always online. We’ll get to it as soon as possible. Thank you.)

    Reply
    • October 23, 2019 at 10:57 pm
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      Signing in

      Reply
    • October 24, 2019 at 7:01 am
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      Hi Carrie,

      I am very confused. After our exchange of comments about my story not meeting the requirements of this prompt I have reposted my story and asked if you would take the old one down. Now, everything has disappeared including comments and replies from other people such as Ken Miles.
      Can you help?

      Regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • October 24, 2019 at 7:15 am
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        Something is very strange. I show the comment you made with the new story in my WordPress app, but not in the comments itself.
        Hang tight, let me fire up the laptop and see what happened.

        Reply
      • October 24, 2019 at 7:26 am
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        Figured it out. The WordPress app doesn’t let you know if a comment is nested as a reply under a story, I thought your “here’s my new story” comment was a new comment instead of a reply to your 1st draft. So when I deleted the original story comment is blew away everything else.
        I fixed it!

        Reply
        • October 24, 2019 at 8:05 am
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          Hi Carrie,

          Thanks for that.

          Let’s hope you get a few more as well.

          Regards,

          Ken Frape

          Reply
          • October 24, 2019 at 8:36 am
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            Me too!

            Insanity…..I might actually get one in this round!

          • October 26, 2019 at 12:15 pm
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            I won’t be around very much over the next few months, so will be unable to contribute stories (and I don’t like to post things in a rush or undercooked, as I did in the ‘bonus’ story contest)

            So hope you get a lot of entries, and good luck to everyone!

            Andy

          • October 26, 2019 at 12:38 pm
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            Gonna miss you and your stories. Meanwhile, Merry Christmas and Happy New Yearr to you as well.

  • October 22, 2019 at 10:07 am
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    PUMPKIN SURPRISE (Revised)

    Author’s note. “My Dad wasn’t a big fan of the Americanisation of Halloween, as he saw it. This account sounds a bit like him, although he missed Brexit and Donald Trump and Boris as he died in 2015. He would be apoplectic if he was still here.

    by Ken Frape 1193 words

    The sharp bladed kitchen knife glinted in the Village Hall striplights as octogenarian George Harris slashed back and forth, punctuating his complaints by cutting a swathe in the air around him.

    “Halloween? George rumbled on. “I’ll give you bloody Halloween!” He brought his knife down violently, stabbing his pumpkin, burying the knife in the flesh up to the hilt.

    Senior supervisor Eileen Turner was not put out by George’s antics and anyway, he might not be around for much longer. His wife Marnie had explained that they had just put their house up for sale and were planning to move to the warmer climes of the English south coast, The English Riviera, as it was affectionately known by its elderly residents or Death Row, as some wags put it.

    Eileen and George’s fellow Silver Seniors had learned not to mention within George’s radar-like hearing, a whole range of topics. This included fast food, all politicians, baseball caps worn backwards, the EU, Brexit, American football, football in general, electric cars, Love Island, door to door salesmen, wheelie bins, urban foxes, people cycling on the pavement and so many other things that conversation generally stopped when in George’s company. When his fellow seniors wished him a speedy house sale they really meant it. But it was Halloween that really upset him.

    “Halloween! It’s just gangs of kids roaming the streets demanding money with menaces. Used to be a criminal offence in my day.”

    “Right everyone, today we are going to hollow out these pumpkins and put lights inside them.” Eileen tried to distract George, to lighten the atmosphere in the room and prevent a full-scale argument.

    “You can make a face or carve letters in it or …or….or… whatever,” she suggested, quickly running out of ideas as to what else people might like to do with their pumpkins, short of eating them. Her exhortations were unnecessary as the Silver Seniors were already embracing the task. They were up and running.

    The next hour or so was like a trailer for the remake of Edward Scissorhands as the elderly group carved, chopped, sliced, stabbed and emptied out the contents of their pumpkins, some on the tables and some onto the floor, turning the village hall into a pumpkin abattoir. Their enthusiasm was considerable. Their artistry was debatable. For Eileen it was a potential Health and Safety nightmare. However, mercifully, only the pumpkins suffered and Eileen was quite content to clear up only lumps of pumpkin flesh.

    George, however was a stubborn old man and he couldn’t allow himself to be seen to lose face by showing any interest at all so he sat and sulked, harrumphed and ate all the Hob Nobs. At the end of the session, Eileen noted that George tucked his pumpkin under his arm to take home.

    “We all know what he will be doing when he gets home, don’t we, Marnie?” Eileen suggested to George’s diminuative wife. She gave a tiny smile and a nod.

    Eileen was quite right. Well, almost right. As soon as George got home, he rummaged in the kitchen drawer and pulled out a large marker pen.

    “What are you going to do with that?” Marnie asked in surprise.

    “You’ll see,” he retorted and with that he went to the garage and got out his step ladder. He strode down the garden path to the front gate and opened out the step ladder underneath the House For Sale sign. Some wag had painted in the word HAUNTED next to the HOUSE FOR SALE wording. George was clearly not a popular man. He mounted the stepladder and using the marker pen he wrote the words,

    “THIS HOUSE IS NOT HAUNTED”

    This really got the neighbours talking, or rather, gossiping and tittering.

    Over the course of the next couple of days leading up to Halloween itself, George shut himself away in the garage and carved numerous pumpkins until he had two that satisfied him. His work was exquisite, with beautifully chamfered edges around the openings he had carved which were perfectly even and uniform in size. Finally, he had fitted a light bulb inside each pumpkin, spliced the two cables together and placed the pumpkins on the high windowsills on each side of the front door. He had extended the cable so that he would be able to switch the lights on from the comfort of his armchair. Everything was set for the big event. He gave Marnie strict instructions that she was not allowed to look.

    “It’s a surprise,” he explained mysteriously. Marnie knew better than to pursue the matter further.

    “I bought some Quality Street for the kids, George,” said Marnie, risking a typical George outburst, before adding quickly, “and we can eat what’s left. I know they’re your favourites.” George let that one go, unaware of just how skilfully his wife managed him, as she always did. Listening intently for the first knock on his door, George rummaged around in the Quality Street tin for his favourite, the orange cream. He found four, lined three up on the arm of his chair and popped the fourth one into his mouth.

    At about six – thirty the younger kids started appearing in the street so George grasped the switch but still didn’t switch on the lights. “Not yet,” he told Marnie who was straining to catch a glimpse of his handiwork. The first group arrived and skipped happily up George and Marnie’s garden path; two fairies, a ghoul, a ghost and two harassed young Goth mums. The kids were carrying small sacks. They were expecting a big haul of cheap, sugary, sweets and the young mums were dreading the effects at bedtime. George heard their voices before they knocked, his hand hovering over the light switch beside him.

    Ting-a-ling went the door bell. George waited a moment longer, just to build up the tension, then flicked the switch to turn the lights on in his beautiful pumpkins. Marnie skipped out of her armchair to answer the door, picking up the sweet tin as she did so. As she reached the door she had expected the sort of reaction one gets at a firework display, you know, those “oohs” and “aaahs “ as her husband’s skilful handiwork was finally revealed in all its glory. Therefore she was a little surprised to hear instead a squeal and a scream and by the time she had fully opened the door, all she saw were the backs of the fleeing children, accompanied by further screams.

    At the garden gate the mother of one turned and made a gesture involving the use of only one finger. “You should be bloody ashamed of yourself,” she shouted. Marnie was shocked.

    “Some people are so rude,” she muttered, mystified by their reaction. “And ungrateful too.” She looked around to find the source of the fright and the mother’s anger. Two steps down her path she turned to look back at her front porch and immediately saw George’s careful handiwork. On each windowsill was a pumpkin, lit up just as George had intended. His Halloween welcome message, with one word in each pumpkin, was there for all to see.
    “FUCK “ ……. “OFF”

    Reply
    • October 22, 2019 at 10:37 am
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      Hi Ken,
      An amusing “get off my lawn” type of story, not particularly spooky or Halloween-y but definitely amusing! And one I’m sure lots of people can relate to!
      Unless I missed it somewhere, it doesn’t quite fit the story theme though as there is no (haunted or not) house for sale.

      Reply
      • October 22, 2019 at 2:43 pm
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        Hi Carrie,

        As the prompt only says, “story requirements 1200 words and a pumpkin or pumpkins” I interpreted it this way. If you don’t think it fits then it can be taken down as it’s just a bit of fun and a different take. I won’t have a problem with that.

        Kind regards,

        Ken

        Reply
        • October 22, 2019 at 2:51 pm
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          Ken, the whole point of the theme/prompt/title of the post is to provide the scene of the story. 😊

          Reply
          • October 23, 2019 at 5:47 am
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            Hi Carrie,

            That’s a fair point so go ahead and take it down. I might amend it if there is time.

            Ken Frape.

        • October 23, 2019 at 8:24 am
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          Hi Ken… I know you only have some five words to spare, but perhaps a little rewrite may allow you to incorporate a house sale somewhere within the story? Even a reference just to tick that box (shhhh!). It would be nice to have you in the game 🙂

          Reply
          • October 23, 2019 at 8:58 am
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            Hi Ken,

            You may be right as I am just doing that. I might repost it if I have the time.

            Ken Frape.

        • October 24, 2019 at 5:40 pm
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          I didn’t get a chance to read the first story but this one goes down nicely. Loved it as it echoes my sentiments exactly about Halloween a dangerous and pointless festival of Moraless over indulgence which is so typical of the worst Mid Western American WASP. I am writing a story but it is not pro Halloween ….

          Reply
    • October 26, 2019 at 3:46 am
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      Amusing with a great, unexpected twist in the end. You built the story nicely.
      I was expecting a trick from the children but got a surprise at George’s nastiness.

      Reply
    • October 29, 2019 at 1:09 pm
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      Haha I thought he was going to try and scare the living daylights out of the kids, but that was even funnier. I like how he let his wife think she was managing him but had the last laugh anyway.

      Reply
    • October 30, 2019 at 5:58 am
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      Hi Ken,

      You carved out George’s character as skillfully as (you give us reason to think) he carved his pumpkins. You had a model for him, you say, in your dad – that may have added that nice touch of realism in the way you portray this obstinate octogenarian. Halloween brings out the worst-best in him. And indeed, this festival, uprooted from its darker origins and redesigned for kids in our modern times, is somewhat a silly bit of fun… I’m quite with you there, George Harris!

      I sort of expected his pumpkins to end up getting smashed on the unwelcome visitors, in a farce-like way sort of thing (I don’t think he’d want to hurt kids). But it’s great, the way it is. You skillfully included the (already harassed) moms in the visiting party – or else kids might not care much reading the F word, they may even find it amusing!

      A seaside resort popular with retirees and referred to as “Death Row” – brilliant! That’s the great horror of life, not so much Halloween…

      Ken

      Reply
      • October 22, 2019 at 7:57 pm
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        We have missed you too!

        Reply
      • October 23, 2019 at 5:29 am
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        Welcome back Kristin!

        Where have you been? You left a short trail of great stories behind you – and then disappeared!

        Thinking of it, you must be super busy with your upcoming change of business. I hope nothing will seem insurmountable, and things will fall in place for you asap. Any luck with the stolen truck, btw?

        Know what? There is another story prompt still live, but just (“Blind Woman meets Deaf Man”) – if you’re really but really quick with some magical story idea, you may still make it on time! There are only four stories so far, I just threw in mine yesterday…

        Got anything for the Halloween theme? I think I’ve got something. Alas – finding the time to write it is a bigger issue! And it’s only one week this time…

        Nice to see you around again!

        Ken

        Reply
        • October 23, 2019 at 8:13 am
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          Oh geesh Ken. Life has been a whirlwind. Between closing my store, trying to find a new job, dealing with financial aid issues for my son in college,taking my Volleyball team to the championships and preparing for the Witches Ball, My days are smooth running together.
          I have managed to squeeze put a few short tales for Menage Monday but that’s about it.
          The truck! Oh lordy! What a nightmare. They saw it run a toll booth with stolen plates and instead of apprehending it sent me a freaking ticket in the mail!!! I am never gonna see it again, sure of that.
          I am looking forward to a writing event that starts November 1st with Writer in Motion, so yay!
          This prompt, funny enough I kind of already have a story written using this prompt, but it is one of my first works and after reading it I am going to start with a blank page.
          I am looking forward to reading everyone’s tales for this one!!!!
          So happy to be back!

          Reply
          • October 23, 2019 at 8:45 am
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            My, my… you’ve got things to do by the truckloads there (excuse me the unkind pun!). Hope it’ll be fine for you with the tedious bits (job-hunting, bureaucracy…), but also with the fun bits. I see you’re already dressed for the Witches Ball (gravatar!) – and you must be quite ready for this week’s Halloween prompt too, in that costume!

            I have a horror real-estate-related story that was once going to be a novel (on which I ran out of steam and wish to get back to one day). I will try to take some elements from it and use them for this prompt. More than ever, the 1.2K word limit is going to be a challenge… but I’ll see what I can do about that.

            The time is short too… I’ve only just finished with the “Blind/Deaf” story yesterday, and got to start working on this one, back-to-back already (both successive prompts have a one-week deadline!). I love writing, of course, but I find two-week deadlines more convenient. I’m trying not to skip – I’ve so far had a story in every single time, since I joined! Somehow the inspiration cells work better when under some pressure…

            So we’re both digging in our old drawers (or hard-disks, these days, right?) for this one. But, indeed, old stuff is always about rewriting, rewriting and more rewriting! Almost like starting from scratch for me too…

            Hey, stick around this time (when you can) – I see that you’re quite active on other writing fronts, which is brilliant, but don’t forget this lucky spot 🙂

            Ken

          • October 24, 2019 at 3:44 pm
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            Kristen,

            Your November 1st event “Writer in Motion”, is this similar to NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) which also starts Nov.1 and goes through Nov. 20th?

            I would love to hear more about it.

            Adi

  • October 24, 2019 at 3:40 pm
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    Signing in for comments

    Reply
  • October 24, 2019 at 5:19 pm
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    Lambda Chi

    By Kristin Record 1,199 rushed words

    2009 –

    Screams echoed through the halls, shattering the silent rooms of the Lambda Chi sorority house. From the porch rows of jack-o’-lanterns grinned, flames flickering off their carved orange flesh. The front door swung open, unleashing piercing shouts into the quiet night. The house illuminated, the windows casting a harsh glow, then fell dark again snuffing out the pumpkin flames. Silence hung heavy as the front door closed.

    2019 –

    “Wasn’t this the one for sale when we visited for freshman orientation?” Lila shielded her eyes from the setting sun, gazing up at the multi-level sorority house.

    Elle barely glanced up from the pamphlet. “Maybe, the houses look the same on The Row.”

    “It had that hilarious for sale sign!” Lila snapped her fingers. “Remember, it said, NOT HAUNTED.”

    Elle squinted her eyes at the house trying to place the memory. “Oh yeah, humorous sales tactic. Guess it worked, now it’s the home of…” she stopped, her eyes stapled to the Greek letters above the pillared porch. “The Lambda Chi sorority.”

    Lila bounced on her feet. “Let’s see if they’re pledging!” she tugged at Elle’s elbow. Elle didn’t protest. She folded the pamphlet, stuck it into her back pocket, and followed Lila up the steps.

    “Wow, that’s a bunch of pumpkins.” Lila stopped on the top step; two wheelbarrows full of odd-sized pumpkins sat by the door. “They must really be into Halloween!”

    Lightly knocking, Elle made a face. “It is probably part of a hazing ritual.”

    “Could be.” Lila shrugged. The door opened and a slender girl with dark hair and pale eyes stared at them.

    “May I help you?”

    “Hi, yeah, so we wanted to know more about your sorority. Are you new this year? Are you taking pledges? Is this house haunted? Why do you have so many pumpkins?” realizing she was rambling; Lila snapped her mouth shut, her face turning crimson.

    The girl in the doorway emitted a soft chuckle and held the door open, “Please come in. I’m Vanna.” She stepped aside. “You’re just in time, the other pledges are getting ready for the pumpkin carving competition.” She looked pointedly at Lila, leading them down a long macabre hallway.

    “This décor is pretty gothic,” Elle said glancing at the black and white oil paintings.

    “We prefer, simplistic chic.” The hall led into a vast living room. Stark white walls contrasted the inky black furniture. A handful of girls sat in various areas.

    Vanna clapped her hands. “Pledges! Welcome to Lambda Chi.”

    A murmur of excitement rippled through the room as the ladies gathered closer.

    “We’re a unique sorority, built of the belief that our Gods hold the key to our success, and by satisfying them, your future is secure.”

    There was an uncomfortable shift until Elle said, “Gods? So Plural? Is this a Pagan thing?”

    Vanna’s eyebrows lifted. “Well, that’s dramatic. We aren’t witches. We’re servants that do menial tasks ensuring a fruitful life ahead.” She tapped her watch, “Tonight, for example, we’ll be carving pumpkins to honor Nicneven, Goddess of Samhain!”

    Two college boys, dressed in black pushed in the pumpkins, then retreated.

    Vanna picked one up and held it out for them to see. “We each carve a pumpkin, then you’ll write your answers to the questions here.” She tapped a piece of white paper taped to the underside. “After we will light them and burn the questions. Simple as pie.”

    They carved in silence, no talking, no music, only the squishy sound of slaughtered gourd

    Putting the last touches on hers Lila grinned at the one-toothed orange fellow smiling back. She wiped her hands looking over the questions and frowned.

    One–What is your favorite color? Two- Have you ever been in love? Three–Are you a virgin?

    The girls lined up and walked to the porch where they placed the Jack-o’-lanterns in rows.

    They took turns burning the paper, flames engulfing red and hot until it turned to ashes. Lila put hers onto the fire, it ignited, a deep plum color bursting from inside the pumpkin. Startled, she jumped backward.

    “Why was it purple?” she peered up at Vanna who was grinning.

    “Oh, dear. It may have been the ink. Nothing to fuss about.” Clapping her hands she brought the girls to attention. Pointing, she called out three girls.

    “You three, aren’t quite the material we’re looking for, Thank You.” They started to protest until the boys arrived and escorted them away.

    “The rest of you, welcome.”

    2 weeks later –

    “Just hear me out,” pacing across the dorm Lila’s face was a mask of concern. “I’m certain the sorority will sacrifice a virgin.”

    “That’s nonsense!” Elle shifted her position on the bed.

    “It isn’t though, I’ve been doing research, last time anyone heard about this sorority was ten years ago. They vanished one night, leaving a body in the basement. In press interviews, her parents kept talking about what a good girl she was. A virgin.”

    “Okay,” she shook her head humoring her, “so what’s the plan then?”

    Lila’s eyes widened,” I will lose my virginity.” pulling a phone from her pocket she opened the college dating app and swiped right.

    24 hours later –

    A knock from the door caused Lila’s heart to race. She drew a deep breath and looked over the candlelit room. On the other side of the door was an average-looking guy. Trent.

    “Hello.” Lila peered at him from her eyelashes.

    Trent smiled and greeted her with a hug.

    “Is this awkward?” Lila asked, moving aside the bed pillows. Trent shrugged, testing the mattress with a finger.

    “A little, but you were specific in our messages. Do you want to just do it, or should we talk first?”

    “We can talk after. I pray this doesn’t come across wrong, but I just need to get this over with.” Removing her top, Lila pulled him closer. Lips meeting, they tangled together and crashed onto the bed. His hands caressed her body and tongue massaging hers. Lila moaned into his mouth. “Now.”

    Trent kissed her neck and slid off her panties. “It’s Showtime,”

    Something metallic touched her backside; it was cold and foreign. Lila gasped.

    “What is that?’ attempting to move out from under him, Trent pinned her by the shoulder.

    “It’s for the blood.”

    “The Bloo–” lips crashed into hers muffling the words. He stabbed her. A sharp pain swelled in her side. Lila tried to scream, but his mouth held fast. As her body thrashed, blood oozed freely into the metal bowl.

    A voice from the shadows, “We honor you with the sacrifice of this virgin.” Vanna appeared, dipping a finger in the blood she raised it to her lips, rubbing the red fluid like a lip gloss.

    Lila’s vision warped, the pain was excruciating. She tried pleading for help as Trent released her but no sound came.

    “A virgin sacrifice for our God’s” Elle’s voice, barely audible.

    “Please help me, El.” the croaking noise from Lila went unnoticed as Vanna dipped a finger into the blood again. She drew a cross on Elle’s forehead, then turned and winked at Lila.

    “Welcome to the sorority, Sister Elle.”

    The room illuminated and then plunged back into darkness.

    Reply
    • October 26, 2019 at 4:11 am
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      Kristin
      Very good, ritualistic story. It feels real, something that can happen behind closed doors.

      Reply
    • October 29, 2019 at 1:14 pm
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      Setting this in a sorority really reminded me of 70s and 80s horror films so this felt really halloweeny to me.

      Reply
    • October 30, 2019 at 8:18 am
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      Hi Kristin,

      This story certainly hit the mark as regards being spooky and Halloweenish. The American sorority house is something I know very little about but you clearly understand this and your tale-telling is clear and confident.
      Obviously, there had to be some blood and there certainly was.
      Well told story.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
    • October 30, 2019 at 9:51 am
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      Hi Kristin,

      Even if (given the prompt at hand!), I suspected from the outset that something very nasty was going to happen, I hoped it won’t happen to Lila or Elle, but to someone they were going to observe on my behalf. You bring in these two young women as our friendly girls-next-door guides into the dark world of Sorority. When the moment comes, you slash one of our guides and show us how untrustworthy our other guide – her “friend” – is.

      This is skillful horror-story writing to me. It works because you pulled the rug from beneath my feet, with that accompanying destabilizing effect. The atmosphere around the events, although Halloween-cliché to a large extent (but that’s again necessitated by the prompt), is nicely created, so that when the gory bit happens it does in a believable context. And I found nothing and no-one to hold on to, at that point. Certainly not Vanna. Well done!

      Though, I’m not sure if it was intended, there may be some subtle foreshadowing in the choice of the name Lila(c), the color of her flames (purple) and what was to happen, purple being symbolic of the path of suffering and pain. Vanna says “it’s just the ink”, but once the ink was burned, there was no turning back on what had been written. Lila had declared herself a virgin and that’s how (and why) she was going to die. So shall be written (and burned) and so shall be done. I liked all this too.

      Us writers often give the written word quite a great deal of importance in our writing. Well, that’s understandable. You actually gave me an idea for a future story here. Just a sketchy outline for now, but it may come in handy one day…

      I don’t know why Vanna winks at Lila, towards the end. This has confounded me a little. For me a wink happens as a nonverbal cue between co-conspirators (not between a conspirator and her victim). I thought Vanna actually winked at Elle (who supposedly organized – or reassigned in scope – the sexual rendezvous with Trent – therefore a co-conspirator), and you may have written “Lila” by mistake. (Like when, several weeks ago, you said Bryan instead of Ryan in your winner story 🙂 ) But, no, you wouldn’t have made that mistake again this time.

      Perhaps I’m not well-versed enough in Sorority sub-culture (certainly never been in one!) and perhaps winks, there, may have another meaning? Or perhaps they see the sacrificed person not as a victim but as a means to the Sorority’s wellbeing, sort of like the Sacrificial Lamb and Jesus in Judaism/Christianity? So Lila was therefore still a co-conspirator of sorts. Anyway, it’s just a detail, but it happens at a critical moment of the story.

      And, once again, let me say that I very much enjoy your linguistic style – fresh, flowing language with just enough well-crafted turns-of-phrase to please the reader without overwhelming him. Well, this reader, at least!

      Ken

      Reply
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  • October 24, 2019 at 5:46 pm
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    Gory but good story. Just wondering though I thought Christians viewed sign of the cross as a positive thing?

    Reply
  • October 25, 2019 at 8:40 am
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    , long before the coming of Christ, pagans used the cross as a religious symbol. The ancient world used many variations of the form of the cross. 

    Reply
  • October 25, 2019 at 8:45 am
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    In fact most Christian symbols, holidays, and rituals are all pulled from Paganism. I could babble about this for hours honestly, as I am Pagan myself. The cross, the christmas (yule) tree, literally Jesus being crucified and rising from the dead..all of these match Pagan stories from before his time. It is truly fascinating.

    Reply
  • October 27, 2019 at 7:30 am
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    HAUNTED

    There are so many: ‘The Slug & Lettuce’; ‘The Hung Drawn And Quartered’; ‘The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn’… Yes, I collect odd pub names, and Britain has loads. But when I say I collect them, I don’t just note them down as I go past on a bus, and nor do I – God forbid – merely Google them … though I may do that to find them out initially.

    No, for them to go in my book (I keep a notebook, with dates, things consumed, notes on any conversations I’ve had there, any odd circumstances arising, and a mark out of 10) I have to actually go there and have a drink. Sometimes, the pub is awful, and I know that as soon as I set foot in it. In those ones, I just have a Coke or something quick, then scarper. Sometimes, though, the pub is – or seems to be – so good that I have more than just the one drink, and maybe I eat there, or on one occasion I’ve stayed overnight.

    ‘The Not So Haunted Home For Sale’ was the place. I found it, as I said earlier, by Googling pubs in the vicinity of where I would be passing. I’m a travelling salesman, which is perfect for my hobby; my product is culinary knives, and my area is the whole country. It’s a small company and doesn’t have the resources to employ a team of salespeople, so the sales force is me.

    This pub, I discovered, was located in a tiny, remote village in the countryside. The name attracted me instantly because of its humorous take on an old cliché – the haunted house – and what seemed like an afterthought: the ‘For Sale’.

    I’d planned visits to some restaurants in the area and figured I could drive out to the pub in the early evening, see it, have a quick drink, write it up in my notebook and be back to my hotel for supper. I wasn’t counting on the roads on the way to it, though. They were narrow, winding, badly surfaced … and after getting caught behind a couple of tractors, and having to drive at 20 mph at times, I got to the pub at 9 pm.

    On first impressions, the ‘Not So Haunted’ part of the name seemed like a misnomer. It was an old cottage, covered with ivy, with candles in the leaded windows. I got out of my car and into a thin mist that I hadn’t noticed while driving. I used my mobile phone’s flashlight to take a look at the sign hanging over the door, swinging gently in a light but chill breeze that made the mist swirl around things: the sign, my car, me.

    I was a little disappointed by the sign, in fact. It was simply the name, in black capitals, on a white background. No pictures, no allusions to ghosts … in short, nothing to write home about. I suppose the name of the pub justified the design, but I was miffed nonetheless.

    I entered the pub – the ancient door gave a very satisfying creak – and was met with lovely warm air and the smell of something very nice roasting; I thought it might be beef.

    What seemed like the only room in the pub was deserted. In the gloom, attenuated only by the candles and the fire crackling away in the grate, the furniture looked rustic, made of dark wood. There was a bar at the far end of the room with a candle at each end. I made for that.

    As I approached, I almost jumped out of my skin: the bar wasn’t deserted. Behind the counter, a woman stepped forward from a cubby hole, suddenly illuminated by the candles, flickering in the draught caused by her movement. In the second after my fright, I took her in – or rather drank her in, in one gulp.

    She was ravishing. Her skin was as white as the sign outside, her eyes large and dark yet fiery, her lips full and crimson. Strands of her long black hair draped over her barely-covered breasts, straining against the red velvet dress she wore. I can’t lie; I was at the same time awestruck and smitten.

    I stopped dead in my tracks and opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. She came to my rescue.

    “Good evening! Welcome to the Not-So-Haunted Home.” Her voice was sweet, warm and welcoming. I relaxed enough to resume my bar-wards trajectory.

    “Good … I … evening …” I was getting words out, but they weren’t making much sense.

    “What can I get you?” That voice again. It was like a siren song.

    “I … I … a beer?” It wasn’t a lot, but it was something.

    “I’ll give you a pint of my special. Won prizes, it has.” Before I could protest that I was driving and really only wanted a half-pint, she was at the pump. She had a strong arm. In a jiffy, there was a pint of beer on the counter, golden brown in the candlelight, topped by a perfect half-inch of froth.

    “Can I … can I get you one?” I stuttered. I’m a salesman. I’ve got the gift of the gab. But now the gab was somewhere else – possibly swirling about in the mist outside. Anyway, it wasn’t with me.

    “I’d love one,” she said, and I noticed her glistening tongue lingering at the back of her front teeth to prolong the ‘l’. She drew herself a pint, smiling at me as she did; her teeth were perfect. I felt something jiggling in my stomach.

    I sat on a stool – at the third attempt – and leaned an elbow on the bar, taking a long draught of the beer she’d served me; it was like honey. She took a ladylike sip of hers, leaving a little line of froth on her upper lip. She seemed not to have noticed, and I tentatively pointed it out to her with a little gesture. She ran her tongue over her lip, removing the froth and the jiggling in my stomach, replaced by a jig.

    “Tell me all about yourself,” she said, leaning on the bar and cupping her chin in her hands. And so I did … leaving out the fact that I’m married; on reflex I’d slipped off my ring and dropped it in my pocket while she was pouring her beer.

    We talked for what seemed like hours; no one else came in. She was lovely, and interested, and fascinating, and served me dinner – it had been venison roasting in the oven. I drank too much to drive. She had a spare room upstairs where I could stay the night. I fell in love, but remained faithful to my wife – in body, at least. I found out her name was Jacqueline. Jacqueline Tern.

    I left the next morning and never went back. Indeed, the house wasn’t for sale, and nor was it haunted. But I will be, for the rest of my life.

    Oh, and the pub got a 10.

    .

    Reply
    • October 28, 2019 at 1:22 pm
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      Terrific story Philip. Wonderful writing. Brilliantly understated take on the ‘not haunted’ requirement of the prompt.

      Reply
      • October 31, 2019 at 3:12 pm
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        You’re very kind, Ken. Thanks.

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    • October 29, 2019 at 1:17 pm
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      I kept waiting for the pubkeep to end up being a vampire, but she was just mortally hot lol. I liked the take on him being haunted by her and tbh the idea of visiting pubs with funny names appeals to me so I like the whole feel of this story.

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      • October 31, 2019 at 3:13 pm
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        Thanks, Wendy. Glad you liked it.

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    • October 30, 2019 at 8:26 am
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      Hi Phil,

      Just loved this story. It appeals to my sense of humour and touches that genre of stories where a stranger wanders into a pub and everybody stops talking and then licks their lips in anticipation of …..?
      Great idea to visit pubs with unusual names. You could spend a lifetime doing that.
      I admire your restraint with Jacqueline Tern. I am puzzled about her name. Am I missing something here?
      Great story.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

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      • October 31, 2019 at 3:17 pm
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        Thanks, Ken. The story may appeal more to British readers because o the whole pub name thing. Lots of pubs closing all over Britain, though (or being taken over by W*thrsp**ns …).

        (The woman’s name was a terrible attempt to get a mention of the pumpkin in: Jacqueline Tern = Jack O’Lantern. I know.)

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    • October 30, 2019 at 10:08 am
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      Hi Phil,

      And welcome back – it’s been a while. You may have been going around the Island noting down pub names, perhaps. But I see you live in Lisbon. Less scope for that there (but many other better things to do)…

      You build up the tension, man, but then let us go with very little actually happening in the end. At least Juergen tells us we’re going to be disappointed readers when he does that!

      Really, I expected that this woman was going to be up to something very very nasty by the time the salesman is out of there (if he does get out of there in the first place). But then, they don’t even… Ok he’s married. Made your point. There are still good, honest, faithful people out there. Even in a Halloween story.

      She leaves him marked for life – haunted, no less. That may be bad enough. A vamp of those kinds, she is then. But any woman with the breastitudes (breast-beatitudes – a word I invented just now. For you) you painted so well may have that effect on any given straight man in the world. Which leaves me questioning what is so special about the story I’ve just read.

      Of course, I may always be missing something subtle but important. It happens to me all the time. That’s why I’d never take literary-critique as a big-time job.

      Very nicely created atmosphere, very Phil Town-like at his best. And that whole thing about pub names is inspired stuff. Full marks here. Or a 10 as your man says.

      This story is going to remain with me every time I notice a pub with a strange, catchy name. That’s the most memorable aspect of it. It’s not going to die here, once this thread is closed.

      Ken

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      • October 31, 2019 at 3:22 pm
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        Thanks, Ken (though I’m not sure you liked it or not – you kind of change tack halfway through). I quite like (even though I say so myself) the fact that bad things are suggested, then nothing happens … except the ‘haunting’.

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  • October 28, 2019 at 7:25 am
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    Hi!

    A big thank you to everyone who voted for my ONE MISSING CUCUMBER story last week.

    It may have been the most heavily criticized story that then went on to actually winning the contest!

    By popular demand (a 100% majority of the one person who asked!) I’m celebrating by bringing back my baby hippo Gravatar 🙂

    I got the news quite late, since I usually go on a self-inflicted screen/media curfew/detox on weekends. It’s nice to wake up to something like this on a Monday morning. I’m very pleased this story got appreciated (and also critiqued, rather violently), since I think it brings up quite some interesting, even controversial, issues about our times and times to come (even if I tried to tell it in the funniest tone I could).

    I would also like to thank those who criticized it – there are some valid takeaways for me in what they said, to improve that story, in case I need to use it elsewhere in the future. (Cartisano, I will be getting back to your long “rebuttal to my defense” comment later on, when I have some time, in the old thread itself – I’ll let you know when to go and look for it). Anyone who still wants to comment is also welcome to do so, of course. Especially, in the light of Cartisano’s original comment, right after the story itself. Some have done already – thank you too.

    Now, on with the Halloween prompt… I’ve got one coming, but it still needs a good deal of chiseling before it’s even presentable…

    Ken

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  • October 28, 2019 at 5:17 pm
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    Hi Ken,

    What can I say Mr. Miles? For some reason, there’s nothing so soothing to my soul, as a bit of baby blue hippopotamu.

    I didn’t realize that the critiques on your story rose to the level of violent. Did I threaten anyone? I hope not. (Your story wasn’t that bad.) I’ll have to go back and check. My opinions may be out of step with the majority, but I’m always willing to explain and defend them, perhaps too passionately. And that doesn’t make them any more valid than anyone else’s, but to me, the worst kind of feedback is none at all.

    I don’t mind discussing your story further on the old thread Ken, I don’t want to re-litigate though. The tally indicates that the story was viewed favorably by a majority of the voting writers. And even though many chose not to weigh in on the debate on the comment thread, I’m forced to see the vote as a silent but resounding rebuke to my literary instincts, both as a writer, and a critic. Perhaps my opinions are best kept to a minimum. (Or at the least, to old expired threads. Where only the most wily of hippos roam.)

    Cheers.

    Reply
    • October 29, 2019 at 5:36 am
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      Hi Ken,

      I didn’t mean it that way – I also said, elsewhere, how I appreciate you for calling a spade a spade in your comments. “Critiqued rather violently” was probably an over-exaggeration on my part, in my enthusiasm to bring out the irony of an underdog story that went from whips to wins.

      I treasure critical comments, from you and others, for it’s through those that a writer grows and improves. Got to be quite harsh on a pumpkin (since we’re on that theme, right now!) to get a nice smooth pumpkin soup out of it. Also on a story.

      So, pleeeease, take my comment above as a compliment rather than a critical critique of your criticism. I think I used the wrong word, “violently”. Could have been “passionately”, maybe even “ruthlessly.” Furiously”? “Ferociously”? No, not that – it’s getting too close to “violently” again…

      You know, you sometimes hit hard on me for being too nice in my comments, and encourage me to up my ruthlessness… I will try my best, too.

      Indeed, you’re there to hit hard on our stories, when needed, but also to give a good pat on the back when there’s a case for that. Anyone else out there who can attest that? I’m sure your comments (positive or critical) are valued highly around here.

      Just two prompts ago, in fact, you defended my story (ruthlessly) (ferociously) (violen…) against the (perhaps justified) onslaught it had received from Andy. If you lashed at me, it was for having removed the original story due to Andy’s criticism. Nothing of that lesson has gone above my head, and it’s been a highlight of my writing career (no exaggeration there – you’ll be mentioned on the Wikipedia article about me, when they write one after I die!) It was a lot of fun too.

      Thanks to you (mostly, though not only, of course), things are alive in here! So many other online Writers’ Clubs fall flat on their noses, just because there aren’t enough people like you out there who animate them with their wit, humor and the occasional lashing. And also, dedication. (I had started a Writers’ Club called Writer’s High back in 2013 – incidentally the same year this Place started, I got told), but it didn’t get far, because – I can tell in retrospect – it failed to attract enough people like you).

      You’re the model commentator in here – once I called you “the Commentator of Reference.” So please don’t ever say again (or even think of it) that you’ll start to keep your opinions to a minimum! Not you, of all people!

      I’ll make a confession. In my early days here, I just posted stories and said nothing or next-to-nothing else. Then I read a post from you (this was a few months back, so I’m not sure if you remember), in which you (yes Cartisano!) complained about us “so-called writers” refraining from writing (commenting) – and I could sense that you were pretty much pissed off that sometimes this Place had become like a monologue sort of thing.

      I was affected enough by what you said, and felt some guilt about it, to tell you the truth, that I decided to start contributing here in the way I now do. It started that way (so to quite some extent, also thanks to you), then it turned out to be big fun, something to look forward to, with a sense of belonging to this group.

      Now, if you say you want to minimize your contributions (and because of me!), that would be shifting the earth’s axis and spinning it backwards. (Sorry science geeks, I really have no idea how the earth spins, so pardon my analogy if I didn’t get the technical bit right!). I’d feel I’d better not ever said anything in here, if any of my comments make Cartisano bite his tongue even a single time. So, no, don’t keep it to a minimum! Keep going as you always have! Your disco needs you. Ermm… website. Writing club? What do we even call ourselves here?

      Not only that. Besides the usefulness in improving people’s stories and writing habits, your comments are the next most entertaining thing in here after the stories themselves. (Sometimes before the stories themselves). I seek you out, mate, and don’t feel a story (mine or whosever) is complete before Cartisano has commented on it! So there, you got it straight from the hippo’s mouth.

      Once I had a story (“A Hooker Named Hailey”) on which you didn’t comment. I felt lost. I thought it was a good story, but it hadn’t got the Cartisano-stamp to prove it (or disprove it, whatever the case maybe). I was a bit down, truth be told. One tries to find reasons. Perhaps, he didn’t see it. Perhaps the time-difference. Perhaps he was busy. Perhaps he was up in the mountains with no internet. I didn’t actually mind it too much if you liked my story or not. More the possibility that you may have found it so boring that it wasn’t even worth commenting on (not even to say how bad it was!). Then I happened to read a comment you wrote to someone else (I think it was to Andy), where you mentioned that my story had a great plot and deserved a higher placing, in your opinion. That made it, for me! I think I had hinted something about this to you back then, too.

      One thing I should generally stop is this habit of mine of reading Cartisano comments before reading the stories they are connected to (that’s my kind of thirst for reading anything-Cartisano!). Sometimes, there are spoilers, you know… But that is the kind of magnetism your comments and writing in general have on me. I think on some others too.

      So, before you say that I’m orgasming in praise again, the bottom line is that you’re quite the life and soul of this group here, and nothing should alienate so much to abdicate from that role. Not even my possibly wrong choice of words. Your comments are very valid to me because they are honest (which means, sometimes they hurt, but it’s ok – even necessary!). Besides, your writing style, in stories and comments alike, is so much fun (honestly I don’t know what you’re doing *just* here and not somewhere bigger) and your sense of humor, wicked (clearly an understatement).

      And you have a nice name too.

      Ken!

      PS Have you got a story for us this week? At least get you friend Una to post one. She’s very good too.

      Reply
  • October 28, 2019 at 5:51 pm
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    Asking Price by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin [666 word count]

    “Ms Hart, we thought we had hired the best. We were told you were a professional.” Ron Maxwell had that look that Clarissa’s father would get right before he took away her driving privileges. “Haunted houses are all the rage right now and we really wanted to sell above market on this one.”

    Clarissa had tried everything she could think of – Ouija board, incantations, potions, complex mystical equations, fostering a disturbed teenager, leaving old, broken dolls in the attic – but the house still wasn’t haunted. 150 years of happy, untroubled families just made it inhospitable to malignant spirits. There was really only one thing left to try and she just didn’t think her clients would go for it.

    “I do have one more option, but it is something reserved for our top tier clients. It’s not for everyone and it come at a price. This service is so effective, even if the property remains unhaunted it will command top price.” She let that last bit sink in. Ron Maxwell was a stingy bastard, but the idea of a guaranteed profit margin might loosen those purse strings.

    “What is this ‘top tier’ service?” His words dripped with disdain, but the glint of greed was sparking in the Maxwells’ eyes.

    “Well, like I said, it’s not for everyone, but have you considered murder?”

    There had been the pretense of moral objections, but the extra zeros the event would add to the selling price won out. Naturally, there was a ton of paperwork, so much legalese and fine print that Clarissa could see their eyes start to glaze over. After some customary haggling over the fees, the Maxwells signed the contract.

    “OK we’re all set. All I have left to do is arrange the murder. If you have any suggestions, let me know, but I’m sure I can come up with something appropriate.”

    * * *

    Mrs. Maxwell was the first to call her. She had seen the clause that if one spouse was no longer alive at closing − for whatever reason – the remaining partner would be the sole beneficiary of the sale. After Clarissa assured her that the firm would be discreet, Mrs. Maxwell explained how her husband had been having an affair with his secretary. She dropped very unsubtle hints that if he was the intended victim she wouldn’t be to upset about it.

    It wasn’t long after that phone call when Mr. Maxwell stopped by to complain about his wife’s infidelity with the interior decorator. He was less subtle in his suggestion that she would make an excellent victim.

    Clarissa worked in earnest to craft the perfect murder; a dropped hint here, a mis-text there. It all led to a party she had convinced the Maxwells to throw on Halloween night. If all went according to plan, the murder would happen around midnight and a haunting was pretty much guaranteed.

    She set the stage with candles and dry ice, placing pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns in every nook and cranny. The tension between the Maxwells could be felt throughout the house, seeping into the floors and walls. It was a costume party and both Mr. Maxwell’s secretary and the interior decorator were there with masks on. It took some doing, but Clarissa had orchestrated the perfect series of mishaps that culminated in both illicit couples trying to sneak a quickie in the same closet.

    As their war of words became more and more intense, the guests began to slip out. Clarissa was the last to leave and as she sat in her car she heard two gunshots go off nearly simultaneously. She smiled as she started her car. They both may have hoped to benefit from the clause concerning one spouse dying, but they had both glossed over the part where if both parties died Clarissa’s firm became the sole beneficiary of the house sale. With a smirk of satisfaction, she drove away. Of course, she had warned them there would be a price for her services…

    Reply
    • October 30, 2019 at 10:35 am
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      Hi Wendy,

      Wicked stuff. One should always read the small print, I suppose! Good ending that ties up very well with the story, but was still a surprise to me.

      It took me some time to realize that Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell were selling their own house. Maybe it’s just me, but for some, reason I thought Mr. Maxwell was some realtor in the business of selling haunted houses. The story became more airtight to me when I got the point that there is only one house to sell, their own – and therefore worth paying the ultimate price for a good sale.

      The important bit about the partner inheriting the property, also hinges on a couple selling their own private dwelling, rather than a real-estate company selling one of many properties.

      On a second reading, I think it’s this early sentence that got me off-track “Haunted houses are all the rage right now and we really wanted to sell above market on this one.” Mr. Maxwell does speak sounding like a realtor there!

      Perhaps a little addition like “… we really wanted to sell OUR HOUSE above market…” would have kept me on track.

      But then you’ll have to chop off two words somewhere else to keep the word count to 666! I like that off-story, but very telling devilish bit of the word count a lot. I suppose it was indeed meant, right? If it just happened by pure coincidence, I’d be at least a little frightened, you’d really need to watch your step this Halloween…

      Ken

      Reply
      • October 30, 2019 at 11:31 am
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        I totally see what you’re saying. I think maybe I was originally thinking about them flipping a house or just that they are “people with money” so they think of their house as a commodity rather than a home, but more clarification would help there.

        The word count by the way was totally meant. I was at 656 by accident, so I thought, why not figure out 10 more words to make it devil-y. I guess I should have used them at the start lol };^>

        Reply
    • October 31, 2019 at 2:46 am
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      I’ll probably fall asleep before I finnisht this comment but, here goes:

      This is a really cool plot, At first I had a problem with it, but then I realized it’s a criminal enterprise, something that could happen anywhere, given the right conditions. I already voted, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. I wish I’d given it a higher ranking that what I did.
      Really nice dialogue too.

      Reply
  • October 29, 2019 at 8:15 am
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    THE ZOMBIES OF BELLEUR
    by Ken Miles
    (1200 words – excluding title and this line)

    Melisse’s bloodied dress lay torn on the front-door steps. Reynold jumps out of his Ferrari, grabs the dress and rushes inside, nearly slipping on the bloodstained marble-floor.

    His eyes finally adjust to the dark Gothic church. Bones, large and small, flesh and cartilage savagely gnawed out of them, strings still hanging on some, are scattered down the aisle. He finds the head near the altar. Melisse was killed. And eaten.

    FIVE WEEKS EARLIER

    “Let’s fuck!” Reynold choreographed all this in his head, the first time the realtor brought him to see the church.

    “Here? In church!” Melisse protests.

    “Yes! Here! Now! I want to break all the rules with you!” the billionaire insists, slamming his beautiful girlfriend against his chest. His hand goes down and lifts her dress all the way up. He throws his Massimo Dutti cashmere-coat on the floor, for her to lie on.

    Mystical rays, from the stained-glass above, light up her naked body in a myriad of strange colors. Angels and demons stop what they’re doing and look down at what’s to unfold.

    “This is creepy!” Melisse is still unconvinced. Reynold hasn’t yet told her that he bought that church – and the whole abandoned village of Belleur, in Rouelle county – and intended it to be their home. They drove endless country-roads until they got to this gem-of-a-place right in the middle of nowhere. He’d only said he had a surprise for her.

    Reynold’s inside the ex-Miss Normandy, when bright light, without warning, penetrates the dark interiors. Someone’s opened the massive church-door.

    Reynold gets up, cursing, and hastily gets dressed. An elderly man, haloed in bright sunshine, paces towards the side-chapel of the Archangel. Melisse gets up too, and wraps Reynold’s coat around her.

    “This is private property! What are you doing here?”

    “I came to pray,” the intruder states feebly.

    “You just can’t pray here, this church is… deconsecrated.”

    “Let him pray!” Melisse intervenes, irking Reynold.

    The man is skin-and-bones, almost withered away, undernourished. And looks like a simpleton.

    “Thérèse? You’re back! Thérèse! I knew you’d be back! Thank you Archangel! The Reverend was right: you answered my prayers – Thérèse’s back!” he squeaks at his loudest, hopping like a happy elf towards Melisse. Reynold pulls her away, to prevent that lunatic from touching her.

    “They’re all gone, my love. All gone! No-one will stone you now!”

    “I’m not Thérèse,” Melisse says, softly, instantly feeling sympathy for him. There must be some very sad love-story buried deep inside this man.

    He grabs her hand in both of his, and runs a trembling finger on her skin, much to Reynold’s annoyance.

    “You’re not Thérèse!” he finally pronounces, as she lowers herself from double his height to his level. “Thérèse’s much more beautiful.”

    “Where did Thérèse go?” Melisse asks, overlooking his unflattering statement.

    “Thérèse found sanctuary in this church, after we sinned. Then vanished. I pray here everyday, I bring my offering to the Archangel, even if I go hungry myself. All so that Thérèse will one day return.”

    Reynold is furious. “Interesting story, but you can’t pray here anymore. This church is now mine.”

    “Reynold, don’t! Let him stay. It’s not a problem for me. Shouldn’t be for you.”

    Melisse took the man by the hand and carried his twine-casket with the day’s offering: ample fruits and bread and wine too, which the man placed neatly in the hollow under Archangel’s altar.

    Reynold just watches them. He’ll call the realtor as soon as this absurdity’s over and ask why this man hasn’t been evacuated.

    ***

    “That’s where them zombies must’ve come from!”

    “Zombies? Are you really talking zombies, Inspector?” Reynold asks, stupified.

    “Eyewitnesses’ words. Not mine. We’ve already had six people down in Rouelle, torn to shreds, eaten. Just like your fiancée here. There are some thirty of them: fierce, deformed, blind, hair-to-the-ground. Creatures from Hell.”

    “And why you say they came from here?”

    “You bought more than you bargained for!” The Inspector points at the Archangel’s chapel, now cordoned-off by police-tape. “We discovered an unknown crypt down there. It leads to Hell.”

    Reynold observes police-officers cautiously descending a narrow opening under the altar.

    “We got hold of the old Reverend’s diary,” the Inspector continues, “He looked after this church fifty odd years ago. Died recently at 102, at the Sanatorium. He speaks of a young woman: she smeared her family’s name, slept with a nitwit, out-of-wedlock. Her brothers wanted her dead. The Middle Ages never ended here.”

    The Inspector stops to swallow, then goes on, “The Reverend hid the woman in the crypt. To save her, at first. But then for his own pleasure.”

    The Inspector’s cellphone rings.

    “I’ve deciphered the last bit.” Classics Professor Dupasquier has been translating the old diary. Not an easy task. It was handwritten in Latin. And the Reverend hid it for half-a-century in his underpants.

    Dupasquier starts reading: “I’m writing this as a record in front of God. My mind is failing me. I’ll be a wasted madman by when He finally calls…”

    “Skip the bull, Profs… give me what interest me!” orders the Inspector, impatient.

    “Ok, here goes: ‘Thérèse had two daughters and a son, then died. Her own children ate her flesh. There’s no way, Lord, I can unwind what I’ve done.”

    Dupasquier gasps, then adds, “After that, it’s gibberish, I can’t translate it. It’s when he probably got crazy.”

    “Jesus!” the Inspector processes the new information, “Two girls and their brother grew down there in darkness, never learning that the sun rises and sets. Soon enough they grew and also had sons and daughters, and then those too had their own! All mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers… sisters, brothers… aunts and uncles to one another… that’s the lot scorned by Nature we’re dealing with!”

    “That old pray-rascal knew something!” suggests Reynold.

    “I don’t think he knew. He just brought his offerings and prayers. Probably indoctrinated by the Reverend. There is a one-way steel trapdoor under the Archangel’s altar and those poor rats must’ve flapped down the old man’s food and wine. That’s how they survived. And you made us take him away. Bad idea!”

    The Inspector wipes his mouth and goes on, “The zombies must’ve got very hungry. And somehow got out – or your curious fiancée opened the trapdoor. We’re still looking into that. They ate the first edible thing they found – her.”

    The police-radio buzzes: “Roberts here, I caught one of them zombies!”

    “Bravo Roberts! This gonna work wonders on your promotion-file,” the Inspector congratulates him. But the line dies. “Over and out”, whispers the Inspector, worried.

    Ten minutes and the radio comes live again. PC Jones sounds agitated: “I’ve just found Officer Roberts’ head, Sir! Not the rest of his body yet…”

    Reynold calls his realtor, “So this place isn’t haunted, huh? Say that again to the next customer! Hang some pumpkins too, to make it more convincing!”

    With that, he sets off in his Ferrari as fast and as far as possible. Sure enough, the police aren’t going to bother him about speed-limits. Not today. He hopes Gabriella, ex-Miss Italy, would join him on that round-the-world yacht-cruise he initially conjured up for his and Melisse’s honeymoon. If only Melisse lived to walk down that aisle.

    Reply
  • October 29, 2019 at 4:07 pm
    Permalink


    Haunted Manor
    By Neha Neil
    Word count:1,015
    Deleterious bats fluttered above the blood coloured sky as the rickety door of the old house swung open. Trees withered upon the moor side as birds ushered themselves away from the unwelcoming sweep of the bitter gale. It was Halloween in Trowelling street, all was silent…

    “So, what do you think about the carving of my pumpkin?” Melissa asked, scuffling her pumpkin against Rosie’s cheek. The design carved into the strange pumpkin was of those reflected of the gloomy atmosphere of the moor, the withering branches symbolising the haunted climate upon the grey manor that stood. Rosie looked up once and gave a light chuckle, before returning to her Whats App chats once more.

    “Rosie what’s the point of Halloween when you wouldn’t get to the spirit?” Melissa claimed, gazing out across her lawn to the neighbouring village of the deathly manor. The slanted sign wrinkled away still reading out the words,’ HOUSE ON SALE, NOT HAUNTED!’ It had been twelve years since the neighbouring house was abandoned, left to decay under the bright moon. Yet, Melissa longed to search for the horrors that lurked in the shadows at night.

    “Right Melissa, if you hurry up quick, we could pop around the street for sweets and treats!” Rosie was already up on her feet, eagerly waiting for her at the front door. Hurriedly, Melissa dressed herself up as a virulent vampire, accessorising herself with a rose of sweet sense, giving herself a Gothic touch.

    “Hurry up Melissa, or else I shall ditch this awful idea in the first place!” Rosie shrieked, impatiently waiting for her little sister to come stumbling out of her dressing room. Eventually, Melissa rushed down the stair and adjusted the buckle of her leather shoes, before adjusting the tiny buttons of her jacket and trotting out of the small, thatched house.

    To Melissa it wasn’t really a neighbourhood of the sort. There was only one manor of the sort that laid amongst the land, and that was the moor house. It laid upon the dithering graveyards of those that adventured further amongst the deadly foliage, or some say.

    “Not haunted, hu!” Melissa muffled. It seemed so childish to put such a sign up, of course it wasn’t haunted. It was just a huge, abandoned house on the moor followed by a few graveyards here and there, but that was all!

    “Ok Melissa, where would you like to go first?” Rosie question, getting out her phone to take a few selfies of her in her Gothic witch outfit, which was really a striped top with trousers and a pair of old, muffled trainers. Melissa thought to herself for a while, before pointing towards the moor-side house. Rosie followed her gaze, before shivering with sudden distress.

    “We are definitely not going into that abandoned house, no one lives there!” Rosie exclaimed.

    “What if someone does live there, it does say that the house is not haunted!” Melissa argued, stubbornly kicking pebbles of the winding lane.

    “But….what if it is haunted!” Rosie gasped. Melissa didn’t play the fool; she knew exactly why Rosie refused to go. It is all the Whats App status stuff; it literally haunts her! The looks, makeup, dresses, everything!

    Melissa grunted before marching across the lawn towards the moor, she was determined to find out what was inside!

    “Melissa no!” moaned Rosie, but after minutes of subtle silence, Rosie followed behind her curious little sister…

    The ferocious wind whined wildly as the bitter gale stormed around the shivering children. As the two children approached the derelict house gate, two shadowy figures summoned upon the dreary setting, lighting eerie pumpkins as the flew past. The pumpkins were of an unusual design, there bloodcurdling image moulding into those of a virulent devil, sending a chill of fear flooding through the petrified children.

    Suddenly, the eerie gate swung open, bats ghastly fluttering about, thirsty for blood. Yet the cold night was kept stealthy, the bitter gale surrounding the children like a pack of vicious wolves hunting down prey. Quietly the two children stumbled forward, until they came to the vast creaky door.

    Melissa turned back to the rickety sign which still read ‘NOT HAUNTED HOUSE FOR SALE!’, the words fading away as she though hard. Who would spend their Halloween decorating a creepy looking house that is said to be not haunted?

    KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! With every knock Melissa shuddered, clutching on to her terrified sister. Although she was older than she was herself, Melissa could still recognise the fear that had summoned up in Rosie’s eyes. Their hearts pumped rapidly, their bated breath waiting for an answer.

    Without warning the door creaked open, but no one seemed to be home. Curiously Melissa edged closer and closer to the opening, still clutching at the scarf she wore around her neck. What could be inside? Who had opened the door?

    Speechlessly she opened the door and stepped inside.

    “Are you insane, we both going to get into huge trouble!” hissed Rosie from behind, tugging at Melissa’s t-shirt to retreat. However, whatever was in her mind now, would not let go. Something behind this house was strange, a mystery that must be unravelled at once.

    “I can’t hold back now, after all that we have discovered!” whispered Melissa, tugging away from her sister’s strong grasp. She couldn’t let her sister stop her for finding out a secret that needed to be found.

    Suddenly, a loud whine pierced through the whole house, making Melissa tremble backwards into her sisters’ arms. Her lips trembled, face as pale as the moon above them. Whatever the sound was, it has frightened her almost terribly. She turned into her sisters arms, murmuring subtle words into the warmth of Rosie’s fluffy coat.

    “Let’s go home!” she exclaimed, turning to escape the horrifying scream that haunted the horrible manor.

    “Your right!” Rosie said, leading the way done the cobbled road ahead of them.

    Frightfully, Melissa turned back to see the manor for the last time. That was when she saw it. A ghastly figure peering out from the red curtains of the highest window…

    Reply
    • October 30, 2019 at 12:12 pm
      Permalink

      I know people have mentioned this here before in previous contests, but paring down on some of your descriptive words would help to clarify your story. Sometimes the plot gets a little lost (for me at least) in adjectives and adverbs. Especially with horror, leaving a bit to the reader’s imagination creates room for them to get sucked into it.

      Reply
    • October 31, 2019 at 1:14 am
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      Neha,

      Deleterious bats? (Oh my.) No. I don’t think so. You must have meant something else. Delirious bats? Delightfully ravenous bats, perhaps. Or you could go with furiously delirious bats that looked like rats. (I’m just goofing around now.) Maybe just, ‘bats.’

      I point this out because it’s the first word in your story. A pretty prominent position. The beginning of a story is pretty important and we owe it to our readers to resist the temptation to confuse them with our very first sentence.. (Save that for the end, or the middle of the story, like I do.)

      Maybe something like: Bats fluttered all around them in an odd blood-red dusk…

      I don’t know. I would forget using deleterious. Get rid of your ‘frightfully’s’ and ‘suddenly’s’ too. They’re cluttering up your story.

      Reply
    • October 31, 2019 at 5:05 am
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      Hi Neha,

      This story very much rests on often beautifully-written, but sometimes overwhelming or repetitive/cliché atmospheric descriptions.I was ready to go for the ride, but got stuck in the rather long-winded journey till the girls actually reach the haunted house.

      The story ends when the real excitement is about to come – “a ghastly figure peering out…” This is an atmospheric prologue with a cliffhanger that begs for a Part 1 (and maybe more) sequels to follow it. If this were a DVD, what you gave us would be the appetizer on the cover. We now need to watch the film!

      Some polishing is needed here and there (eg, “Your right”, “stair(s)” – those kinds of things). Also, I think the bats fluttered beneath not above the blood-colored sky. Or else they’d be in outer space! But otherwise, there are many nicely phrased bits all over the place which I liked too.

      Ken

      Reply
  • October 29, 2019 at 4:21 pm
    Permalink


    Mansion for Sale

    By Adrienne Riggs

    Margot read the listing for the Mockingbird Lane estate.

    Historical Mansion for Sale. Built in 1882, this home has many unique features. More than 6,000 square feet, this home boasts 8 bedrooms and 9 baths on a fence enclosed 5-acre lot. Features include stained glass windows, hardwood floors, original wood paneling and large fireplaces on each floor which create a musical effect when all are lit. The third-floor balcony offers an enchanting view of the surrounding woods and trail leading to a private lake with dock. The tower turret at the front of the house gives the house the air of stately majesty common at the turn of the century. There is a full attic, completely finished, which spans the length and width of the home. Vintage antiques have been left to keep the historic atmosphere of the mansion and will remain in the home. The kitchen boasts vintage appliances with new upgrades for modern convenience. A marbled terrace off the kitchen allows for outside dining and barbeques. A large, manicured back yard provides room for games and events. Decorative and ornamental stones gracing the lawn must remain on the property. Call Doug Levy for more details.

    “You aren’t serious!”

    Doug just smiled. “Of course, I am” he replied calmly as he straightened his tie. “It’s a great old house with a lot of history. Over a hundred years old.”

    “And are you going to tell prospective buyers about that ‘history’? All of it?”

    “My dear, some things are better left for new buyers to discover for themselves.”

    “But, what about…?”

    Doug cut her off. “Tsk, tsk, Darling. People die all the time.” He combed his dark, thick hair and admired his reflection in the bathroom mirror. “And, the best part? We live in a state where we are not obligated to inform potential buyers that someone died in the house or on the property.”

    He leaned over and kissed Margot. “Have a good day, my Sweet. I’m off to make a comfortable commission on that old house.”

    She watched her husband leave in his prized sports car. She had to admit, he did have a flair for selling real estate and it had made them very wealthy. She read the listing again, shaking her head.

    ***
    “I’m not sure about this” Dana whispered to her husband as they stared up at the large mansion.

    Ron squeezed her around the waist. “Honey! This house is great, and we can’t beat the price. This will make a great bed-and-breakfast. You know you’ve been talking about this for years.”

    “I know. But something is not … quite … right about this place.” She looked over the house again.

    “It’s ok. Look around but let me do the talking.”

    Dana grabbed his arm as he moved toward the house. “Look! There’s someone watching us from that attic window!”

    Ron peered upward. “I don’t see a thing. It’s probably just a reflection of the trees. Look at these magnificent oaks!” He moved toward the front porch.

    “Welcome!” Doug was confident as he exited the massive front door to greet them. “You must be the Wallace’s!”

    Doug and Ron shook hands vigorously.

    “You are going to love this place!” Doug enthused. “Let me take you inside. So, you are interested in starting a bed and breakfast venture?”

    Dana followed slowly behind the men as they entered the massive foyer with double staircase, content to just observe. A chill washed over her as she stepped inside. Looking around, she had to admit, the woodwork was beautiful and gleamed from polishing. Someone had taken excellent care of the home, considering its age.
    She wandered into a large living room with a massive fireplace at one end.

    ‘I have never seen such a huge fireplace!’ she thought. “I could stand upright inside it.’

    Vintage couches and chairs were positioned nearby, giving the room an air of old-fashioned elegance. As she strolled around the room, she saw a man lying on the floor, his shirt blood soaked and she stifled a scream. When she looked again, no one was there. Walking toward the lush area rug covering the floor between the couch and two chairs, she looked at it carefully. Seeing a dark mark near the edge of the rug, she raised the corner of it; startled to see a large rust colored stain hidden underneath. When Doug spoke behind her, she dropped the rug and whirled around.

    She pointed at the floor. “What is that stain? It looks like blood!”

    Doug just laughed. “I’m sure it’s just some wood stain that was spilled. You could always sand it down and refinish the floors. Let’s go to the kitchen.”

    Grabbing Dana’s hand, Ron pulled her behind him toward the kitchen. Dana took one look at the kitchen and immediately loved the superb blending of vintage and modern appliances in the bright, spacious room. Large windows opened onto a marble terrace offering a view of the backyard. Ron and Doug moved on to the next room discussing measurements.

    Dana stood near the windows, admiring the smooth lawn. Curious, when she spotted a row of ornate stones at the back corner of the house, she walked outside and strolled across the grass. She came to a sudden halt when she saw names engraved on the stones. Turning, she ran back toward the house and screamed Ron’s name. He appeared at the back door and caught her as she ran into him.

    “What is wrong?”

    Dana pointed breathlessly, “There are dead people in the backyard!!”

    Doug quickly joined them. “It’s nothing to worry about. Just the family cemetery for the original owners of the property. You can see that it’s been well kept. There is a trust in place to maintain it. You won’t have to bother with it when you buy the house.”

    “Dana, you are over-reacting. This is a great place.”

    “I don’t know…” Dana mumbled.

    She remained silent throughout the rest of the tour through the old mansion. She began to see it through different eyes. She could smell the scent of decay permeating the house while Doug and Ron were oblivious. She bit her tongue when she saw the figure of a maid hanging from the staircase. She said nothing of the giggling child running in the hallway. She backed away when she saw a woman floating in bloody water in a bathtub, her wrists slashed. Only she saw the figure of a man falling past them on the staircase to his death at the bottom, his neck twisted. She had seen enough.

    “We have to go now!” Dana insisted to Ron. “I don’t feel well.”

    Looking at her pale face and blank eyes, he grew concerned. He rushed her down the stairs to the front door. Thanking Doug, he stated he would call later.

    Doug watched as they drove away.

    “Do you think they’ll buy the house?”

    “Nooooo…” the shadowy figure next to him sighed, “She saw too much and would have to die.”

    “Well, there goes another commission.” Doug said, as he locked the front door.

    Reply
    • October 30, 2019 at 11:39 am
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      I love the bit at the end where the realtor is talking to a ghost, that really sealed it for me.

      Reply
    • October 31, 2019 at 5:26 am
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      Hi Adi,

      Dana said it herself: she’d fit standing in the fireplace. And that’s where she’s going to stand. For a long time to come. I love that bit of foreshadowing and the way it ties up with the ending.

      I was wondering why so many people got killed in that house. Some of them, if not all, seem to be previous prospective-buyers, from what I can gather (given Doug’s final complaint). That makes it a “complete” well-rounded real estate story.

      The house ad in the beginning seemed a bit too long to me. I mean, when I seek to buy a property, I appreciate long, detailed descriptions. More than the ones that simply go “House for sale. Renovated. Contact X for price”. But, as I’m not actually interested in buying, this time round, I think there is a little bit too much to read for me.

      I know that Margot, then, brings the issue of the ad’s length to Doug’s attention “are you telling them… all that history”. But instead of being a potentially off-putting history in terms of length, it could be shorter but pointing out a couple of things that may scare some people (and entertain others) like “an authentic period graveyard in the back garden”.

      I was at a hotel, once, carved out of an ex-nursing house in London, with an old cemetery in its garden. Made it all the more interesting to me! But it’s not everybody’s cup of tea…

      Ken

      Reply
      • October 31, 2019 at 2:47 pm
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        Thanks for the comments Ken! I had much more in the original draft but had to cut a lot to fit the word requirement. The original ad for the house did have enticing tidbits tucked into it (about the cemetery, the large fireplaces, etc.) I even had a sealed off room with the mummies of 4 women who died/were killed playing cards and they were still seated at the table with the cards in their hands. I may make this a longer story and put back all of the things I had to cut out. I had fun with this one. Adi

        Reply
  • October 29, 2019 at 5:06 pm
    Permalink


    WHOO-HOO – TRICK OR TREAT

    Like a strong gust of wind, Gordon huffed and puffed as he rushed into the kitchen, interrupting his mother, Clara, as she carried on with placing and lighting tealights inside the carved pumpkins.
    “Trust you to come and help me.” She jerked her head towards the pumpkins, almost ready to be placed on display outside. “Where did you disappear to?”

    She raised her head up to him, looked at him intently, then gave him one pumpkin whilst she carried another outside to place them on the low wall by the entrance to their house.

    Clara waved and smiled to the neighbours. It was Halloween evening and they were putting their pumpkins on display.

    “The haunted house is lit up. The old witch is back. Her ghost lives there.” Gordon flailed his arms as he told everybody.

    “What do you mean? There is someone in that dilapidated, almost falling to the ground house. It ‘s hidden, disappeared under the overgrowth of ivy and long, dried grass.” Clara responded. “ Well, it has become the landmark of our village.” Clara nodded at the neighbours who stopped to listen to the conversation.

    “Yes. My friend and I saw her rocking on a chair turning her head around by the first floor window, She’s got pumpkins glowing and flickering with an orange light there.”

    “Oh, Come on.” Clara shot an unhappy glance at her son. “You haven’t gone back on taking drugs again. Hallucinating, are you! Have you and your friend been squatting in that house again?” She frowned at Gordon

    “We don’t do drugs anymore. My friends have gone to tell their parents, and ask them to call the local councillor and the community Police Officers. This is an emergency. The place can catch fire and reach our house. So many dead trees, plants out there. I’m scared.”

    “Honestly! That old woman has been dead ten years ago. The Council should do something about this house. It’s such an eyesore.” Clara turned her head to the neighbours. “We must raise the issue again”

    “They still haven’t sorted out who the inheritors are. Never saw any visitors. Never talked to us and kept her business to herself. Hated us! Never welcomed us here. We’re young, noisy families to her. ” One of the neighbours recalled. “ Not at all surprised she died all alone in that house. Her body was decomposed for so many days when they removed it. The smell! My goodness. I can still smell it.” She covered her nose with her fingers and pinched it.

    “The smell still lingers in that house. She stared at us from her photographs. We heard her asking us to leave or she will chase us with her broom. She is a dead witch, a ghost. She touched us with her cold wrinkly hands as we crashed on the floor.” Gordon said. He pulled his jumper over his arms to show his arms. His eyes grew wild. “Look at the goosepimples springing over my skin as I remember that.” He rubbed the back of his neck to ease the tension rising in my temples.

    “You and your friends were drug addicts then. You used mind altering drugs. You were so difficult then trespassing in there.” Clara reminded Gordon and glanced at his arms. “The place is infested with rats, pigeons and creepy crawlers. There isn’t any ghost.”

    Her neighbours nodded. They agreed with her.

    “We heard her walking and whispering in the rooms. The floorboards creaked . We stopped going there because of her interference. It freaked us away. I’m telling you. She is there now. She lit all those pumpkins.” Gordon insisted on his ghost theory.

    “Let’s go and see .” One of the neighbours suggested. They walked the short distance to the house.

    They were shocked to see one more family, the councillor and one male and one female community Police Officers already there. Gordon was telling the truth. The house was lit by glowing pumpkins. It felt so ghostly. The cold wind swirled around Clara. She pulled her shawl tightly around her.
    “This is so spooky. You should go and find out.” Clara jutted her chin and raised her face to the house, then to the officers.

    “Well. We should all go. You’re called for us.”

    “Are you scared?” One women in the crowd forced a fake laugh and asked . “Maybe there are squatters in there, trying to scare us with their spooky antics. They will set fire to the place and burn the whole village.”

    “Let’s all go in.” They volunteered to brave it up.
    They walked behind each other, their eyes getting used to the darkness. Using sticks they cut a path along the overgrowth. The house was still boarded on the ground floor but the front door. An orange light shone through the gap in the door. They slowed down at the sight of pumpkins stacked by the entrance. They glanced upwards. A dark figure of an old woman perched to look back at them, turned her head around then moved back inside.

    The sound of scratching, shuffling and something running around could be heard.
    “What if there is a ghost?” She thought and regretted following the neighbours.
    “Did you see that?” Gordon hanged on Clara who grabbed the person next to her.
    “Something really cold is crawling along my legs.”

    “They’re grass snakes.” Someone shouted and jumped along.

    Three black cats suddenly shot out of the house. They screamed and took a few steps back.
    “Anybody there? Police and the villagers here. What’s going on in there.” The male officer called in a broken voice.

    The lights blew out from the ground floor. The door creaked wider and they could barely see a sort of darkly draped apparition with outstretched arms growled and whined in an inhumanely manner.

    “Mum, run. Another ghost. It has no legs.” Gordon pulled his mother and dragged her with him. Everyone followed falling down and scrabbling back on their feet as they retreated.

    “We need backup here.” The Officers made an emergency mobile call to the Police station.
    “What? You will only come out if someone is injured.” They shouted after a pause.

    Clara’s heart was pounding. “I’m not staying here.” She rushed back to her house and double checked the door to make sure it was securely closed.

    In the morning the neighbours informed her. “There’s a board with “For Sale” stuck by that rusty, unhinged metal gate. “Who will buy such a house? It’s haunted. That board was definitely not there last night.”

    Police Officers joined them when Clara and Gordon went back to the house. It appeared calm. The battered long grass along the path was a sign they did not dream of that night.
    Already aware of the rumour the Officers showed no interest to go in. Instead they punched their mobile phone to call the Estate Agents.

    They started to laugh. “The house is sold.” They informed clicking the phone shut. “A film maker bought it to use for his next project.”

    Reply
    • October 31, 2019 at 5:49 am
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      Hi Chitra,

      It’s more appealing to me to bring in a lot of what’s going on in a story through dialogue, as you do here, than through chunky descriptive paragraphs as we sometimes get from some writers.

      But your dialogue bits are often too long. I notice that in real life people don’t talk that long, as they are frequently interrupted (or fear being interrupted, so they cut what they have to say short) by the person(s) they’re talking to. I’d suggest shorter, more “spoken-like” dialogue bits. Fewer words, if used well, can still convey the same information/backstory in a more effective (and efficient) way. I often fall in that same trap, mind you, of having my characters talk too much!

      On the story itself, I like the idea that you plant other – and more rational – reasons why Gordon and others think there is a ghost in the haunted house. Gordon used to take mind-altering drugs. There could be squatters in the house. There are wild animals around that could fool people into believing something else is at play. In the end we learn a film-maker obtained the house. I don’t quite like it (even when it comes from the masters) that I’d HAVE TO believe in ghosts and such as the only way that can make what I’m reading make sense. On the other hand, leaving an open door for the paranormal, as you also do, is a thing I desire too. So, well done there.

      Good story, if it’s shrunk a little (as I mentioned above). And a bit of subtle foreshadowing for the film-maker ending could also help. I know that’s a tricky one – too little foreshadowing and the ending comes as too brusque; too much foreshadowing and some readers might guess too early what’s going on… But, then that’s our main challenge as story writers, isn’t it?

      Ken

      Reply
      • October 31, 2019 at 6:48 am
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        Thanks very much for reading my story and spending time giving me your helpful feedback. Ken M
        I remember Andy too pointed my dialogue needs improvement in the sense that it is long, and correct.

        I thought the filmmaker ending comes a bit too abrupt. I then thought it will make readers think. As a filmmaker he has the gadgets to make the house look spooky, and playful, he and the Estate Agents trick the villagers on Halloween night.
        His next project is to make a spooky film and the house was just right for that.

        The treat is the house will be occupied in the future, no longer an eyesore for the villagers.

        The house sale was on hold because the Council was looking for the inheritors. People believed the house will never be sold.
        I didn’t get to convey the ideas very well. I think there are too many ideas thrown into a short story.

        Reply
  • October 30, 2019 at 8:01 am
    Permalink


    “The Not So Haunted House for Sale” by Carrie Zylka
    899 words

    Whirling winds on this cold October evening sent chills down my spine, the realty sign said, “not haunted”, and it sure didn’t look haunted.

    A beautiful colonial style home, the front driveway was freshly paved, the windows were new, and an old oak door beckoned invitingly. Situated in a rolling subdivision, the front yard had several mature trees, huge retaining walls and lots of grass.

    I turned back to the road and looked both ways, admiring the lovely houses, decorated for Halloween, “it’s not too busy,” I thought, “oh man, this house will get lots of trick or treaters” and I wanted to squeal in delight.

    The realtor arrived with the keys to let me in, he smiled warmly. “It’s a great area, lots of kids if you have them.”

    “I do not have children myself, but I absolutely love handing out candy to the kids. Their pure joy for the holiday is just the best.”

    “Yes agreed, some people come up with the coolest costumes. Do you dress up?”

    “Every year! I absolutely love having the opportunity to be creative, I probably spend more time, money and effort on Halloween than any other holiday.” I grinned feeling my cheeks stretch almost uncomfortably. I probably looked like an idiot.

    “What are you going as this year? Or don’t you know yet? You still have four weeks to go.”

    The wind was driving me crazy, and I tucked my crazy blond hair behind one ear. “I’ve been planning my costume for this Halloween since last Halloween. I bought a suit with pumpkins all over it last year when Spirit of Halloween was getting rid of their inventory. And I am going to do a fancy pumpkin makeup. Like one of those pinterest girls do!” I couldn’t help myself; I clapped my hands in excitement like a child. I managed to get a hold of myself and looked at h im seriously. “Tell me about the not haunted sign.”

    The realtor laughed. “Rumor has it, all the houses in this subdivision are haunted, it’s of course not true but thought the sign would be helpful for the more superstitious folks. Come on, lets show you the house.”

    We walked up the driveway and he punched in the code to unlock the door.

    The minute I stepped into the foyer I felt it. I felt home.

    “With a first-floor master, it’s a five bedroom, three and a half bath, three hundred square foot home.” He stated as we walked through the living room, dining room and kitchen. “The house is a little older and is owned by an older couple. They kept it up for the most part and added in some great features, but it just needs a little TLC.”

    “How so?” I asked as I opened closets and cupboards.

    “I mean, like the toilette upstairs runs unless you jiggle the handle, the thirty-year-old carpet in the basement rec room needs replacing, that sort of thing. Oh, and did you see in the listing there’s a wine cellar in the basement?” I saw his amused glance.

    I nodded, feeling the excitement grown in my chest.

    We stepped into the master bedroom and I stopped. The carpet was disgusting, odd black and yellow stains stared back at me. “Yuck.” I muttered. “An older couple you say? I’m guessing someone sick stayed in this room.”

    “Yes, but come this way and let me show you the gem of the house.”

    The realtor stepped through the far doorway; a lively gas fireplace greeted us in an old school family room. Dark paneling on the walls led straight to the wet bar and I grinned again. It had a very “rat pack” or “old school 1940’s come home from work and have a hot totty to warm you up” vibe.

    “This…is…awesome.” I breathed.

    “Wait, it gets better.” He was as excited to show me the place as I was to see it.

    We stepped through another door into a mudroom, which led to another door and I just about fell over. A huge four-season room complete with an inground hot tub and dry sauna greeted me with open arms. “Holy shit.” I muttered.

    I spent another hour wandering through the house, looking at details, noting things I’d change or remodel.

    Finally, I walked back into the family room. The realtor was off exploring another section of the house so I had a minute to myself. The stone fireplace was original, and whoever build it, did so with loving care. I envisioned Christmas trees and family game nights.

    I stood in the room, envisioning where I ‘d put my furniture when I heard…no felt maybe?

    A voice.

    It spoke one simple, powerful word: “Welcome”.

    “Not haunted indeed…” I muttered. Walking briskly to find the realtor, he was in the kitchen. “I’ll take it. Full ask, close in twenty-one days.”

    He was surprised. “Twenty-one days?”

    I nodded. “Yes, I need to be in this house in time for trick or treaters.”

    *this story is a combination of fact and fiction. If you’d like to see the actual pumpkin makeup costume I did for Saturday’s Halloween party click here:

    http://wwocz.net/carrie-zylka-2019-halloween-pumpkin-costume-001/

    and here:

    http://wwocz.net/carrie-zylka-2019-halloween-pumpkin-costume-002/

    Reply
    • October 30, 2019 at 12:07 pm
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      I like that your house had a welcoming spirit in it. We always think of scary ghosts remaining behind to terrorize the living, but I like the idea that the house knew she was “the one.”

      Reply
      • October 30, 2019 at 12:12 pm
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        Hahahaha thank you! I always write such grisly horror, I was in a fabulous mood this morning and banged out a happy one!

        Reply
    • October 31, 2019 at 2:02 am
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      Great writing, very crisp. A fun story, nice warm twist. Like Phil’s.

      I clicked the link. Awesome pumpkin costume!

      Halloween’s a hoot. One day out of the year to scare the crap out of your neighbor’s kids. And then you give them candy.

      Reply
    • October 31, 2019 at 10:26 am
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      Hi Carrie,

      Great story and, as others have commented, nice to see you as the writer. This one gets my vote ( am I allowed to say that out loud? Too late, done it!)
      Great pix too.

      No offence intended to any native of the USA in my story. There definitely is a different attitude in the UK towards Halloween although I think we are beginning to adopt a more American approach but we’re not there yet. My Dad hated it but my three year old grandson will love it. It’s progress, I guess. We have sweets ready for any kids who come a- calling.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
  • October 30, 2019 at 11:10 am
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    Hi Carrie,

    Not without some trepidation, I attempt to critique our very own moddy’s story 🙂 It’s nice to see you wearing this hat, too, Carrie, as a writer-like-us, and not just waiting for us with stick in hand (lol!!) as the almighty moderator. I know I can listen to your stories in the podcasts, and I have. But, still, it’s nice to have you mingling with us here too. Like one of us. Ok, I already said that…

    Not haunted, the realtor says, but from what we see, as you walk us through this house, every little bit of it comes across as potentially-haunted. I had the feeling that this woman wanted a “clean” house from what she says in the beginning, but being that much into Halloween, it doesn’t come across as an incredible u-turn when the voice is actually the very thing that convinced her to buy. After all it said “welcome” to her. Nothing nasty. Well, yes…

    The only thing I may criticize is that the story only holds in a culture where Halloween is such a big deal (as it is in the US and some parts of Western Europe). I may be wrong but I’m not sure if it would resonate that much with readers elsewhere. It’s sort of “Halloween-dependent”. The idea of haunted houses and mystical interpretations of such is a much wider – and worldwide – phenomenon than Halloween. But then, yes, it’s for this prompt and it’s that time of year again. And you’re a big Halloween fan, I can see!

    Btw. so it is possible to have italics in our stories! I’d told myself that it may not be possible in WordPress. Italics are a very useful device in the hands of a writer (as you prove in your story). How did you do them? Whenever I paste from Word to WordPress all my italics disappear (and I have stopped even trying to use them). The fact that they are in a different color, though, does distract a little bit…

    Phew, I’m out of this! It’s the moderator herself I’ve been talking to… it’s like being at the Headmistress’s office at school 🙂

    Ken

    Reply
    • October 30, 2019 at 11:37 am
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      Hahaha thanks Ken,
      I would think if I were to write a book to market it would primarily be US based. It’s my all time favorite holiday and I always write Halloween-y stories for the podcast around this time. And they always seem to have a friend Casper the Ghost like character!
      We do afterall, tend to write what we know 😉

      You can add word for italics
      or word for bold!

      It should come through when you comment! It usually works but sometimes WordPress can be finicky so no guarantees hahaha

      Reply
      • October 30, 2019 at 11:38 am
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        You can add
        < i > word
        < /i >
        for italics
        or
        < b >
        word
        < /b >
        for bold!
        Just take out the spaces between the < and the >

        Reply
    • October 30, 2019 at 12:35 pm
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      “Phew, I’m out of this! It’s the moderator herself I’ve been talking to… it’s like being at the Headmistress’s office at school 🙂”

      I just re-read this line and it actually cracked me up!!!

      Not arguing but conversation starting:

      I think it’s a mistake to try and write to the broadest audience, That would be like me never reading a book written by an Indian woman because the culture didn’t resonate with me.

      I think many people see Halloween as a frivolous activity, and I would agree with that.
      But what’s the harm in getting kids outside to go trick or treating, instead of inside playing video games? They get to embrace their creative side and play dress up. And me too (obviously)!

      It’s absolutely ok that they look down their noses at this festive holiday here, there are many cultural holidays/rituals from those overseas are distasteful to me.

      I think too, for example if this was a book written to be sold, I would write it with Americans in mind, I’d be spending all my marketing dollars on that demographic as well, it would be too costly to market outside of the region. Not to mention too costly to ship there.

      Also, if I always had to take into account it might not resonate with people in other countries (countries I’ve never been and would have no idea what offends them and what doesn’t) I probably wouldn’t write a single word.

      Thoughts?

      Reply
      • October 31, 2019 at 9:53 am
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        Well, I often make that “mistake” you’re alluding to, Carrie – I try to write with a “Hello World” frame of mind… Come to think of it, even my profile location is “Earth, MWG” (Milky Way Galaxy)! But readers (like authors) belong to particular cultures and it’s very difficult to excite everyone alive at once!

        But then, still, I find it frustratingly limiting that many things only resonate with people sharing the same, or at least a similar, culture to the one I’m featuring in any given story (which, as you say, often has to be something I’m somewhat familiar with…).

        I’ve had a Catholic upbringing, so my stories sometimes circle around that theme (like the one of this week!). With so much “church” force-fed into my subconscious, I can assure you I need no Halloween to think up horror plots!

        I’m always very much aware of the possibility of non-Catholic readers possibly missing out on something. And I’m sure they do, sometimes. My approach is to try (not necessarily succeed!) to ensure that what they might miss is not critical to the plot. I mean if a priest abuses a child in a church setting, and my readers have never stepped inside a Catholic institution in their entire lives, they can still picture a boy-scout leader instead, or a nasty school teacher, or a Shinto monk, for all I know. Just someone who, in their culture, is entrusted with power and is usually considered safe and responsible with kids, but who may abuse that trust. That way, the story may somewhat extend to cover more universal issues with a wider appeal.

        The flipside is that killing off too much of the original setting may water down the authenticity of the story. Like what may have happened to me, a few prompts ago, with the detective story and the immigrant setting I was trying to portray (and which is not something I’ve personally experienced). Some loved it, some hated it. Both vehemently. It’s impossible to draw a line.

        If it’s a book (novel), one has the space to actually induce the reader in the culture in which the story takes place. Reading “Midaq Alley” by Naguib Mahfouz, I absorbed so much of his superb presentation of daily life in Cairo that, although I’ve never even been to Egypt, not even as a tourist, it’s almost like I’ve lived there and can feel the pulse of the place and the people in the era the story takes place.

        But to do that in just 1.2K words is not an easy task! Some commented positively on how I transported them to Italy in my Orange Cat In Rome story. But I think that’s because they had either been to Italy, or Italian culture is so often portrayed in films and other media around the world, that it’s already sort of universal at the outset.

        About Halloween itself, well, it’s a big deal here too, and I do participate in it in some way too (this year it’s just been down to having pumpkin soup almost every day this week! Does that count?). It’s a great festival for (some) kids and anyone who likes dressing up (well done for your costumes this year, btw – I saw your photos in the links). In Catholic areas All Hallows Day is even more eerie, as families visit real dimly lit cemeteries at night (and I remember all sorts of “real ghost” stories from my childhood). But the ancient lore has in the past decades been abducted by the high street stores and got over-commercialized. The real scare has been taken out of it, IMO. That’s what happens when something is over-popularized. Like the delicious German Frankfurter that became that soapy hot-dog they sell for a dollar all over Manhattan. I’m very much into anything that’s dark, cult-y, freemason-y, mysterious, paranormal and all that. And Halloween would have fallen into that category if it didn’t become so mainstream. In spite of all the popularization, however, it is – perhaps surprisingly – virtually unknown beyond the Western World.

        On selling books worldwide, costs don’t have to be prohibitive. Dropshipping *printed-to-order* (down to individual copies!) books from China is dirt-cheap. Those who tried it say it’s worth it even for the copies sold in the US. Trump’s tariffs may come in the way, but Chinese overhead costs are so ridiculously low that it might still work out!

        By the way, is there a book in the works, Carrie?

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
  • October 30, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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    Hey writers!!

    You know the drill… It’s time to vote!

    Remember you MUST vote for your story to count, you can only vote once, and you may NOT vote for yourself.

    http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/VotingHalloween2019/

    You officially have 24 HOURS from the timestamp of this comment to read through the stories vote.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  • October 30, 2019 at 12:32 pm
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    Sorry, All … I won’t have time to read the stories with the care they deserve so I won’t be voting, I’m afraid (so please don’t vote for mine).

    Hope to be more on top of it next time.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  • October 30, 2019 at 12:33 pm
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    (Sorry, Carrie – could you take my name off the list? – that would be a better idea. Should have told you earlier …)

    Reply
    • October 30, 2019 at 12:36 pm
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      No problem!

      Reply
      • October 31, 2019 at 3:27 am
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        Thanks!

        Reply
  • October 30, 2019 at 9:42 pm
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    Guys! I did get to read and vote, which honestly I needed all of you amazing stories!!
    My little brother was killed in a motorcycle accident Monday and I have been flipped upside down, drove 12 hours to be with family and it has been a crazy emotional whirlwind.
    I took the time to read these and for the first time in days I didn’t ugly cry for almost an hour.
    Thank you all for your great stories!

    Reply
    • October 31, 2019 at 3:29 am
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      Terrible news, Kristin. Very sorry. Força!

      Reply
    • October 31, 2019 at 4:32 am
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      This is really terrible. My deepest sympathy, Kristin, in this time of grief.
      Take care. We’re all here for you.

      Reply
    • October 31, 2019 at 12:03 pm
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      Kristin, my heart goes out to you and your family!!

      Reply
    • October 31, 2019 at 2:50 pm
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      Kristin,
      I am so sorry for your loss! Sending you hugs and love!
      Adi

      Reply
  • October 31, 2019 at 12:01 pm
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    Well geez ya’ll – I am humbled!!!!

    Winners are as follows:

    1st Place: The Not So Haunted House for Sale by Carrie Zylka
    2nd Place: Lambda Chi by Kristin Record
    3rd Place: Asking Price by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
    4th Place: Mansion for Sale by Adrienne Riggs
    5th Place: Pumpkin Surprise by Ken Frape
    6th Place: The Zombies of Belleur by Ken Miles
    7th Place: Haunted Manor by Neha Neil
    8th Place: Whoo-Hoo – Trick or Treat by Chitra Adjoodah

    Favorite Character: Pumpkin Surprise “George”
    Best Use of Dialogue: It’s a tie between “Mansion for Sale” by Adrienne Riggs and “Whoo-Hoo – Trick or Treat” by Chitra Adjoodah!!

    Congrats to all – the stories were AWESOME this round!

    Reply
    • October 31, 2019 at 4:26 pm
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      Congratulations Carrie

      Great stories

      Thanks to everyone who voted for my dialogue. It is a nice surprise. It raises my confidence in my writing skills.

      Reply
    • October 31, 2019 at 2:45 pm
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      Kristin so sorry to hear about your awful news. Having also lost a younger brother in June this year under very different circumstances admittedly, feeling a sense of sadness and kinship. Terrible when you expect them to outlast you and a younger sibling doubly terrible. Prayers for healing and peace. 😢

      Reply
  • October 31, 2019 at 2:52 pm
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    Congrats Carrie! See? This validates your need to participate more in writing stories with us!

    Congrats to the other winners as well! Great stories all!

    Reply

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