Constance sat straight up in bed, eyes wide open. Light from the full moon seeped through the window and cast shadows around her attic bedroom. She gazed about and then stood. Slowly, she walked to the window. It was still latched. Yet, she¢d felt . . . no, it was a dream . . . her imagination, nothing more. Again, an icy gush of air rushed passed her, almost through her. Her heart beat quickened. Her imagination? She caught a glimpse of something in the antique, full-length mirror. She hurried to it, only to see . . . screaming was the last thing she remembered.
She had lived in the old wooden house two months. The sounds the wood made had been charming and even funny but after time she had begun to notice that the creaks weren’t under foot so much as roughly a yard behind her. When she walked through the intricate double doors into the dining room she heard the wood under her as it spoke in its language about weight and pressure and manner and permission to pass through. Along behind her came the slighter sound of another weight, another pressure, an altogether different manner. That this other had as much authority as she to walk these floors and halls was as disconcerting as the mere admission that another entity might be there at all. Once when she was going upstairs she started slightly at the sound of a tread on the stair just three steps below her. Out of the corner of her eye she glimpsed the merest flicker of a shadow of movement like branches in a breeze where there is no wind. Clutching her warm laundry to her chest, she fled the rest of the way to her room.
The comments on the first Halloween contest submission bring up some good points. You’re right, I said no swearing in the rules. That word slipped past me because that allusion to Shakespeare is so common that it doesn’t seem to be actual swearing to me. I suppose we could either consider that a commentary on how I have become so inured to evil that I don’t even notice it anymore… or it could be that because it’s in the Bible I don’t put it in the same category as some of the other, more offensive, words.
In this case, by loosely quoting that phrase from Macbeth, the writer is evoking all of the ghostly tone and emotional guilt from the original work, using it to foreshadow what is coming next. (At least, I assume something is coming next that will brilliantly reflect the implications of that quote.) It works. “Out, darn spot” wouldn’t cut it. Another use would be to reference Rhett Butler’s classic quote. That one probably would have floated past my notice as well.
“Hell” can be a swear word too or it can be a literal place–a place that someone might want to reference in the opening paragraph to a horror story. It could also be used as an adjective (that hellish blog is giving me fits), in which case, I would not call it swearing.
After thinking about this for hours and hours, I’ve decided to let the submission stand as is and to revise the rules as follows:
If you use one of the two words I’ve mentioned above, as described above, then I’ll let you slide. Other words, or these words used merely as expletives, will cause your submission to be sent back for rewriting.
As always, if you find a submission personally offensive, don’t vote for it.
Erin soaked the stain five days: brownish red, spilled over the right leg of her jeans. Each day she pulled them out of the bucket, inspected, scrubbed. Brown particles floated away from the fabric, but the stain remained bright. She went online and looked for stain remedies: Blood: soak in cold water. Use hydrogen peroxide for stubborn stains. She pulled out the hydrogen peroxide and dabbed some on. White foam fizzled, bubbling until it spread over her hands and wrists. “Out, damn spot,” she muttered to herself, scraping off foam to see if the peroxide had faded the stain. But the foam grew back, creeping up her arms, edging towards her neck.
I was recently reminded that I haven’t done a contest in awhile. So in honor of Halloween, let’s hear it for the Scare-Your-Pants-Off Opening Paragraph contest.
Maximum word count: None; but no slopping together multiple paragraphs and pretending it’s just one.
No swearing or graphic gore. Set the mood with your WORDS, not with hack tricks.
Published paragraphs ineligible, as are entries for last year’s contest. Other than that, you’re free to recycle something you wrote previously.
Paste entire paragraph(s) into an e-mail and send to me. No attachments, please.
You may submit more than once. Send each submission in a separate e-mail.
SUBMIT it any time between now and Monday, October 29th.
I will post all paragraphs as they come in.
VOTE between October 30th and October 31st.
We’ll have a Popular Vote winner and a Publisher’s Choice winner. My winner will be the one who creeped me out the most. You guys can vote by whatever criteria you want, just don’t make it a popularity contest.
Don’t vote for yourself.
UPDATE: You may vote up to three times, but only once per paragraph. We’re on the honor system here.
You may make all the comments you like, but VOTING COMMENTS must clearly indicate that it is a vote. (Ex: I’m voting for this one…)
Winner will be announced after Halloween.
PRIZE: A classic horror book of your choice (must be available in paperback and easy to find) AND full story (if there is one) posted here with a link back to your blog or website.