We’re proud to announce the winners of our first-ever scary short story contest! The judges anonymously scored each story on the basis of quality, originality, organization, and adherence to theme.
First Place: “Colors” by Aubrey Haskell
Second Place: “Don’t be Afreud of the Dark” by Anthony Novelli
Third Place: “Worn” by Mal Sklar
Thank you to all who participated. It was a pleasure to read all of the submissions, and the scoring was extremely close. Find the winning stories after the break below.
First Place: “Colors”
Aubrey Haskell is a senior studying Psychology and Biology here at Clark. They are a genderqueer person who enjoys hedgehogs, BBC’s adaptation of Sherlock, and pumpkin spice everything because yaaaas. They’ve watched way too many horror movies and enjoy writing in their spare time.
My name is Alex Kinney, and I have a rather unusual gift.
I can tell when people are going to die.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve seen people wrapped in colors. Bright, vivid colors that hum and crackle and radiate like electricity. Each person I’ve encountered in my life has been a unique amalgamation, colors cocooning around their form to produce a living work of art. And they’re bright, so bright. Especially when people are young, full of energy and boundless, unquestioning optimism. They are neon billboards that tug on the corners of my eyes like an impending migraine. To be fair, not everyone has quite so obnoxious a presence. The introverts, the cynics, and the loners like me tend to have more muted colors—pastels or neutral hues. My primary colors are deep, mossy greens. I look like something you might find clinging to the underside of a log.
All of these colors are fine—it’s grey that is a cause for concern. People grey around the edges when they start to lose themselves—when their minds or bodies are assuaged by debilitating illness. They slowly turn grey until their last shred of willpower leaves them. As they surrender to death, they crumple inwards and turn black.
But it isn’t always a slow process. As I was soon to learn, those marked for a sudden and quick death are swallowed in inky darkness before very much time at all.
I was walking past the Astronomy Tower one blustery November evening, insulated between layers of oversized wool sweaters and tightly wrapped scarves and comfortably full from dinner. The dining hall fare had been surprisingly good and I was feeling lazy and satisfied. I had already decided to do nothing productive that night.
When I saw Sophie out of the corner of my eye, I stopped in my tracks.
Sophie and I had known each other vaguely in high school, and had ended up going to the same mid-sized liberal arts college. I hadn’t seen her in two months, hadn’t talked to her since long before that, but… she had been fine, then. Fine, always. Sapphire blue, with a vibrant streak of electric orange. A shy, tentative smile and deep, passionate eyes.
Now her whole body was consumed, surrounded by an impenetrable black void. Her very essence seemed to swirl and blend into the dark metal doors leading up to the tower.
Her head swiveled, and her eyes latched onto mine. I recognized nothing in them. They were empty, devoid of color. My voice quivered in my throat, stopped by fear. I willed myself to say something, anything.
Like her eyes, I said nothing. She turned away from me and opened the door.
I ran, and I didn’t look back. The wind whipped my face angrily. My feet ran a frantic race against time and reality, but no amount of deception could convince my ears not to hear the distant, sickening squelch of blood and bone upon pavement.
Second Place: “Don’t be Afreud of the Dark”
“I’m a third year student majoring in biology. Originally this was an assignment for class, but then the contest itself became an assignment.”
– Anthony Novelli
Don’t be Afreud of the Dark
We were greeted by an unexpected cacophony of blaring sirens and swirling glow of police lights. The emergency responders went about their work, looks of disgust dominating their faces. Campus was devoid of students, having either chosen to remain confined to their dorms or return home.
“Don’t be ridiculous, how could those two things possible have any relation?”
I gave my roommate, Johnny a stern look as we passed the crime scene, unable to see anything of interest, streaks of blood glistening boldly.
“I’m just saying it’s an awfully strange coincidence,” Johnny argued, “ the cameras went fuzzy during the time of the attack.”
I rolled my eyes. “That would be impossible. It’s a statue,” I said, trying to be done with the business.
An attack had taken place at our University, Clark; a student was killed just outside his dorm building. It wasn’t the first, but the shock persisted. The police were on site almost immediately. They would normally have some leads to go on, but this case lacked anything resembling normality. Another gruesome report was given in the police, the same as the others. The victim’s bones were crushed and limbs splayed, each having the same inexplicable head injuries. Each had been thoroughly lobotomized, the removal of brain tissues being the cause of death.
Students were nailing their own explanations to the attacks trying to rationalize what kind of a person could do such a thing. My roommate was one such person. Some ludicrous conspiracy theory from the 80’s about killer statues kept him unnerved.
“We have to do something about Freud,” Johnny shuddered, “He’s not going to stop.”
“Will YOU stop,” I pleaded.
“It’s happened before,” he continued, ignoring my sarcasm, “In the 80’s there was a string of killings, with exactly the same MO.”
“Where could you even access those kinds of records?” I asked, impressed at his diligence.
“It’s really not that hard, but that’s beside the point,” he continued, “I’ve looked over the footage from the Red Square camera, and there are gaps in the footage when the attacks would have taken place. If you’re not going to help, I am going to stop him on my own.”
Johnny stormed out. I was determined not to buy into his fantastical ideas, but had no alternate hypotheses to offer. The killings were too savage for a person and too uniform to have been an animal.
I turned to my computer, accessing the live stream that was perpetually watching Freud’s casting. The loading bar at the bottom grew at a crawl. I scanned the webpage and found the usual view of Red Square. I examined the dark, solitary figure of Sigmund Freud, his metal eyes unfeeling and unwavering. He seemed a predator. An instant later a dark foreboding wound tightly in my gut as the camera transitioned to static.
Third Place: “Worn”
“I am a studio art and English double major and in my spare time, of which there is little, I watch period dramas and draw comics. I also happen to write short stories, so I hope the one I cooked up for this contest is to your liking. Happy Halloween!”
– Mal Sklar
Since last Friday there’s been a new Mannequin in the Macy’s storefront. This wouldn’t be news except that the window is part of a disused entrance on the street I take every morning. Previously the display consisted of a couple of out-of-season jewelry arrangements and some cheap plastic baubles, but now there’s a mannequin, I guess.
It seems like a normal mannequin, with that rail-thin, skeleton-turned-runway-model quality, display clothes pulled into shape by unseen pins.
It’s awfully lifelike, to be honest. Only the glassy eyes betray it. They’re amber-colored, which is both beautiful and a little off-putting, too animal a color for something that apes at being human. Once or twice, I thought I’d seen it blink, its eyelashes a quick fan across wan cheeks, but I always force myself to look away and walk on. If I didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. Or something.
It had been there two weeks before they took it down. By Wednesday they had put it back, and I only had time to glance in the window and confirm that it was there as I hurried past, late for work. I take a different route home at the end of the day, so it wasn’t until Thursday that I got a real look at it.
It had new skin this time, its hair a crazy cloud of tiny curls. The clothes it modeled were bold and tasteful, and diamonds dripped from its throat, ears, and wrists. By all accounts, it should have had the same starved-beautiful look as before. That’s how mannequins are supposed to look, right?
But its skin was grayish and ill fitting, wrinkled at the wrists and knees where there was excess, and pulled just a little too tight against the skull. It looked like a bad taxidermy job, and the thought made the hastily-drunk coffee of this morning churn in my stomach.
Worse were her eyes. They followed me as I moved past, ducking my head to avoid her pleading, amber gaze.
Maybe I’ll take a different route to work tomorrow.
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