By Harley Nefe
With Halloween coming up in less than a week, there are many opportunities to participate in spooky activities. From haunted trails to horror movies, there are a lot of ways people like to celebrate.
At Wilkes Community College, students were invited to participate in a Scary Stories Writing Contest to celebrate their skills and achievements.
“Our students are so amazing and talented, and we wanted to provide them with a way to showcase their creative writing,” shared Stephanie Darnell, Director of the Academic Support Center at WCC.
The Academic Support Center, which hosted the contest, provides free unlimited tutoring in writing, math, science, computer skills, history, nursing, study skills, time management, and more to students enrolled in WCC courses.
“We offered our Scary Stories Writing Contest to students at WCC as a way to increase student engagement with the Academic Support Center,” Darnell explained. “Unfortunately, tutoring has a negative stigma, so building relationships with students is important to overcoming that stigma and helping all students be successful.”
Submissions for the writing contest were collected until October 5 and then were judged by a team of Academic Support Staff who independently read and ranked submissions. ASC tutors were among the committee that helped judge stories. Winners were chosen once scores were tallied.
“For this contest, we encouraged students to work with one of our writing tutors, but we didn’t require it,” Darnell said. “Lots of people think that tutoring is just for remediation — that students only need tutoring when they’re failing. This simply isn’t true. Students should seek tutoring even when they’re doing really well in their courses. Tutoring is for everyone, and this contest is just one way that we’re trying to help students see that we’re here to support them.”
By the deadline of the writing contest, the ASC received 47 student submissions.
“I was surprised to have so many on our first attempt at a writing contest,” Darnell described. “It was extremely difficult to choose the winning stories. There were so many that were very well-written. These students clearly put a lot of effort into their submissions. I am extremely proud of the great work they have done.”
Out of the 47 total submissions, the ASC picked the top five stories to be winners of the contest, and 10 other students received honorable mentions.
First Place Story: “Death’s Game” by Sydney Perry
First Place Poem: “Ol’ John’s Barn” by William Epley
Second Place Story: “A New Doll” by Conner Felts
Third Place Story: “New Beginnings” by Kaylea Jones
Fourth Place Story: “Midnight Painting” by Delaney Phillips
“Monsters Within Us” by Alessa Widener
“The Night the Devil Rode Along” by Noah Farmer
“The Mirror” by Mark Davis
“Meet Me at the Carousel” by Haven Jordan
“Azura” by Kelly Ta
“The Cycle” by Kiari Walker
“Why So Smiley?” by Isabelle Byers
“The Farmer’s Boy” by Kaleb Thornton
“The Choker” by Anna Byrd
“Irrational Tendencies” by Ashley Lofland
Sydney Perry, who wrote the First Place Story titled “Death’s Game,” is attending Ashe County Early College High School while taking WCC courses. She found out about the Scary Stories Writing Contest by an announcement made by the school’s principal.
“I was like, ‘Oh, that sounds fun!’” Perry remembered. “I thought it would be neat to try. I figured I would give it a whirl.”
Perry said she drew inspiration for her story from a horror podcast she listens to called “The Magnus Archives.” “I really like the way they do their story writing,” Perry shared. “They build up the suspense, and then hit you at the end with it. I really like stuff that has a story behind it, and it’s not just trying to scare you. There’s a reason behind the scaring. I tried to mimic that.”
Simon had just stepped foot into the Boyds’ household. He was there to house-sit their home while they were away on vacation, at least that’s what Simon understood from the email. It was an older house; it had been renovated earlier in the year. Originally, the house came from the 1700s. It gave him the creeps. However, for $300 a night, Simon didn’t mind the eeriness one bit.
Most of the uneasiness didn’t come from the house itself, but rather the strange requests the family left. Obviously, it was mostly the typical things like no shoes on in the living room, cleaning out the trash once it filled, and the like. There was one that left Simon befuddled though. “Do not ever touch the chess board on the coffee table.” It seemed simple enough, but it was so odd. Least to say, he was sure to stay clear of the chess board.
On the second night, there was a knock on the door. Simon went to answer it. Opening the door, he found a man who seemed to be in his mid-thirties who had an expression of surprise on his face.
“Oh, are you part of the Boyd family? Apologies, I was sent to watch over the house today! I must’ve gotten the dates wrong.”
“That can’t be!” exclaimed Simon, “The family hired me to watch over for the next three days.”
“Well, the family must have been the ones to get the dates wrong.” The man chuckled, “My name is Donn, and you?”
“Simon.” He outstretched his hand to shake Donn’s. Donn’s own hand was freezing cold to the touch, which was odd given the warm weather.
“Come inside; I’ll show you around.” Simon stepped aside to let the man walk in. Donn thanked him and entered, making sure to wipe his feet off. Simon began guiding him around the house, showing him where each room was and the interesting features of the vintage building. Donn took great interest in everything, greatly intrigued with everything. They ended the tour in the living room; Simon went on to gesture towards the strange chess board on the table.
“I’m not sure what that’s about, really. The family told me to never ever touch that chess board. I don’t see what’s so special about it! I figured I should tell you anyways. I figured they’d tell you, ‘Hands off!’ as well.”
“Oh!” Donn looked in wonder at the board, kneeling down to examine the pieces. “How marvelous! You don’t know the story behind this specific set, do you?” Simon shook his head, confusion written all over his face.
“Some call this story a legend, but I personally believe it to be true! Centuries ago, when this house was built, smallpox had hit the Boyd family. The only one to survive was the father. He had lost his two sons, his daughter, and his wife to the viscous disease. He prayed and prayed for something, anyone to bring his beloved family back to him. That’s when Death appeared. Its towering figure loomed over the man, making him cower in fear. Death then spoke, saying if the man won a game of his choice, it would bring his family back from the dead. If the man lost, however, his family would perish, and it would kill him.”
“The man immediately struck the deal up, offering that they play chess with his custom chess board. Death agreed, so they began playing. After hours upon hours of intense playing, the father finally seized Death’s king. The man cried in triumph, while Death sat there and silently laughed to itself. The man asked Death, ‘Why are you laughing?’ To which Death replied, ‘I shall bring your family back as promised, however, you shall take my place.’ The man realized in horror that he had been tricked. Death agreed to return his family to the world; however, it never stated what would happen to him. Death’s laughter became more and more loud, as the father felt his skin peel from his body and his spirit corrupting, the creature in front of him taking his appearance. Legend says that if anyone were to play a game of chess on this very board, the father would appear and attempt to make Death’s cycle continue.”
Simon shook his head, chuckling to himself, “What a fascinating tale. I don’t buy it, but it’s a great story to keep kids from touching the chess board.”
Donn laughed and gestured his hand to the board in front of him, “Say, if it’s a story for kids, I’m sure the family won’t mind a quick game to test its truth…How about a round?”
Simon shrugged, “Why not!” And he plopped down in the opposite chair. He had just reached down to grab the first piece when a question struck his mind.
“Say, Donn, what was that father’s name?”
Donn laughed, “I figured you’d never ask! His name was Donn Boyd.”
Simon had already placed the chess piece in its new position. He laughed hesitantly, “Nice joke!” He then looked up, and his heart dropped into his stomach. Sitting in front of him was no man, but a skeletal creature with a menacing glare in its eyes. It outstretched a hand and moved a chess piece from the opposite side. At this moment Simon knew, he himself had fallen into Death’s game.
An ASC tutor shared in a survey given out to collect feedback on the student submissions that “out of all the stories, [Perry’s story] was the one that [they] felt had the best prose as well as the best plot elements. The writing was concise but still vivid, and the twists and turns of the plot were masterfully done.”
When finding out that she was the winner of the Scary Stories Writing Contest, Perry said, “I’m surprised! I really didn’t expect that because I was submitting it for fun.”
Another student who was shocked when they were named a finalist in the writing contest was William Epley, who was awarded First Place Poem.
“I was very surprised,” Epley shared. “I didn’t know when or if I would be contacted or how many people would have won or how many submissions there would be. I was very surprised, and I’m ecstatic at the fact.”
Epley is a student at Wilkes Early College High School who is also taking WCC courses.
“I learned about the contest because I saw the flyers up around the school,” he said. “I was excited right away. I originally planned to submit a full-length story, but ultimately, as I was driving home one night, I sort of became inspired, and I figured it would be better suited as a poem.”
Epley submitted a poem titled “Ol’ John’s Barn” to the writing contest.
Epley continued, “I’m a big fan of creative writing. I love writing analyses specifically about literature. I’m a very ravenous reader, and I’ve submitted some poetry to some places before, and I really enjoy doing readings; I love writing!”
I’ll tell ya the story about Ol’ John’s barn
yonder over there, closer than far.
John woke up late one night,
not a cloud in the sky, the moon shining bright.
Heard a holler and a growl and commenced to hopping
out of his bed, the sound wasn’t stopping.
Ol’ John got up quick, grabbed his shotgun
and popped sprinting off in a wobbling run.
Flew out his house in the blink of an eye,
running to his barn to see what he could spy.
Wearing a nightdress covered in patches,
feeling so nervous he broke out in rashes.
Ol’ John burst through his Ol’ barn door,
feeling so dizzy thought the ceiling was the floor.
Up above he heard a great big commotion
heard a-yellin’ and a-screamin’ but he saw in slow motion.
He glared up above and saw the shadow of a great horned devil
and screamed a mite while its head started to swivel.
Eyes burning bright like a lit-up coal,
Ol’ John swore it would swallow his soul.
Got up his gun and was quick to aim,
mild intoxication sure changed the game.
‘Cause where once there was one devil there now was three,
his head was a-buzzin’ like the fur on a bee.
Finger on the trigger with one eye closed,
Ol’ John was so numb, he couldn’t feel his toes.
Then the minute before the shot went through
the horned, winged devil cried out…
That’s the story about old John’s barn,
thanks for letting me spin my yarn.
And if you’re ever getting drunk and hear a fiendish yowl,
Well, that’s probably just an Ol’ Barn Owl.
A staff member said in the feedback survey that they “liked the poem format, and how it focused, not on the supernatural, but on how our mind can play tricks on us.” Another staff person shared, “‘Ol’ John’s Barn’ had one of the best writing styles and voices with a surprise ending. I love when something weird/scary has a mundane explanation after the fact.”
Regarding the story format, Epley said, “There’s beauty in brevity.”
“I feel there are certain formats that are better suited for the kind of story that I wanted to tell,” he explained. “This short, choppy poem was much better than the longer payoff of a narrative that I could have written, so I chose to write the poem.”
A response on the survey also noted, “Writing poetry is truly an amazing skill. William’s poem was witty, humorous, and a sheer pleasure to read!”
Epley drew inspiration for his poem from his fascination with Jack Tales.
“I really love southern storytelling because of growing up in a rural community in North Carolina,” he described. “I’m a big fan of stories that can be told around the campfire. I enjoy the archetype of a southern Jack Tale, and I very much just wanted to replicate that.”
The Second Place Story winner of the Scary Stories Contest is Conner Felts, who wrote a short story titled “A New Doll.”
“When I saw the contest, I was interested in it because I’m a big horror fan,” Felts said. “I love scary stories and scary books and the genre in general. It piqued my interest.”
Felts is a student at the Wilkes Early College High School, and as part of a sophomore-level course, students were assigned to write a short scary story.
“I figured I was writing a short story for my class anyway, why not turn it in and see what happens?” he said.
A staff member wrote in the survey, “‘A New Doll’ was my favorite submission. Reading it brought ‘The Twilight Zone’ series to mind.”
However, “The Twilight Zone” wasn’t Felts’s inspiration. Instead, it was R. L. Stine, who wrote the “Goosebumps” series.
“R. L. Stine was a massive influence,” Felts shared. “I loved the ‘Goosebumps’ TV show as a kid and the books, and so, I went for an R. L. Stine vibe going into it because I’m a big fan. All of his stories have this twist at the end.”
In addition to R. L. Stine, Felts said a lot of inspiration also came from Stephen King because Felts is currently reading “It.”
“I tried to describe things and word it similarly because I liked that I could envision everything that was being said,” Felts explained. “It plays like a movie in my head as I’m reading it. And so, I wanted that same imagery to appear in my story.”
Stevina always loved the carnival. The smell of fresh peanuts and cotton candy enlightened her six-year-old brain. Every year she begged her parents to go, but neither of them felt like going. Instead, she went with her older brother Steve who her parents idolized.
This year, the carnival was lively with new games and attractions she had never seen before. Stevina wanted to do everything. From the miniscule games to win a goldfish to the impressive DropZone that would surely make her throw up. She looked forward to it the most because it’s the biggest ride she had ever been on. Unfortunately, the DropZone had quite the line, so Stevina coaxed her brother Steve into handing her five dollars to play a game or two while she waited for the line to die down.
The stall she had approached had a boring game, but the reward. Oh, the reward. Giant dolls of all sizes and vibrant colors. They both walked over to the stall.
“Why, what do we have here,” said a sweet, plump old man. Stevina blushed and handed him her money.
“You have three shots to make the ball inside the basket,” he instructed. Stevina shot the first ball. It was an astounding miss.
“Hey Steve,” a voice called from the bustling crowd.
It was Steve’s friend Jeremy. The first time Stevina had seen Jeremy was the other day when her mother picked Steve up from soccer. He walked over to Jeremy as if completely forgetting Stevina existed.
Stevina turned around to continue her game, but found something off about the gentle old man that was behind the stall. He seemed quiet. His face seemed much thinner than it had when she first looked at him. His eyes glinted like black beads in his head. She threw her second ball this time determined to win one of the prized dolls and to quickly leave.
She threw the second ball another miss but much closer to the target than last time. The air around her grew heavy and dank, as if there wasn’t enough oxygen for her to breathe. She looked around hastily to look for Steve. He was still over with Jeremy and some other boys in his grade.
She began a step forward but was stopped. “You still have one try,” said a dry hoarse voice. Stevina turned to see the old man who once looked so chubby and adorable looking miserably thin and tired.
Almost dead, she thought.
Stevina shifted on her feet. “I should really get going,” she said.
“Aw, come on, little one. Not without a prize,” replied the man. Stevina reluctantly took the ball from the man and threw it at the red and white target. It was a bullseye.
The thick air was about to strangle the little girl. Nothing about the carnival seemed as bright as it used to. The colors all were dreary and mundane; the tents all seemed tattered and worn. She looked at the old man begging for her prized doll. He gave a rotten wormy smile.
He stepped aside from his post at the tent. Fear began to set in for Stevina. She felt that cold chill run down her back as if someone poured cold water over her. Her legs trembled. It felt as if nothing in her power could move them. There she stood as the old man slowly moved toward her. Still flashing that horrid, yellow smile.
He then reached out. His ice-cold hand snatched the back of her neck. She could feel her life being sucked out of her. The old man, however, began to look more alive and back to his previous self. All the while Stevina began to grow thin. Her skin began to wilt and dry up. Her skin hardened and her muscles froze up. The paralysis took her body, but she was still conscious. She was trapped in this shell of hardened flesh. Forced to observe the outside world but never interact with it.
The plump old man then picked up her body and placed it on the shelf with all of the other dolls. There she would sit watching the same process which happened to her repeat forever.
After being recognized as a finalist, Felts said, “I’m excited. I didn’t really think I’d get too far. It’s pretty cool.”
Kaylea Jones, who received Third Place Story for her work titled “New Beginnings,” also wrote her submission as part of her class at Wilkes Early College High School.
“Right when we got done with our assignment, my instructor asked me if I was going to submit mine to the contest, and of course I did because I was like, ‘What could go wrong?’” Jones recalled. “I was super excited to receive the notification of my submission in the contest because I’m really proud of it. It’s probably the best thing I ever wrote so I was really happy. I’ve never really made anything a solid story until in class, and it just bloomed, and I love it.”
A tutor said in the survey about “New Beginnings” that “the prose and plot of this story were very smooth. It also conveyed a chilling perspective that was fully fleshed out.”
Well, here goes nothing as I wake up for my first day of work at Francis’s Flower Shop. I am not sure if I am ready for this “adult” life. Having to work and be a full-time college student can be overwhelming, and my late nights are not helping with anything. But you must do what you need to in order to survive; that is what it is all about.
When I get to work, I notice the shop is packed with people, which does not surprise me with all the funerals that have been going on lately in this town. I reluctantly got out of my old beat-up car, cool autumn air nipping at my skin. I lazily shut the door behind me, putting on my brown leather jacket as I’m walking towards the entrance. I walk through the door, with a sigh. All these people here make me feel claustrophobic.
Pushing through the crowds, I notice Silas, my crush since kindergarten, picking out flowers with his mother. He seems upset, with a tear-stricken face, while his mother has her arm comfortingly around his shoulder. Rumor is his girlfriend got brutally murdered last night. The police assume it was personal. Well, yeah, if you want to call it that, but I feel it was for a good cause.
Silas stops me and asks me if I could go with him to the funeral for emotional support, so of course I agree. We make plans for him to pick me up at 2 p.m. so I inform my manager of my early departure, and he approves, sending his condolences.
I jump in my car all smiles; it is finally happening. I am finally getting my reward for all my hard work. I get home and start the chore of getting ready. My mind is going one hundred miles an hour, and then I realize, that not only was this Silas’ and my first date, but this is also his now-deceased girlfriend and my best friend’s funeral, so I will have to give them waterworks, so this calls for waterproof makeup.
I finish my makeup by putting on my waterproof black mascara, smiling to myself, admiring my beauty. I take out my hair rollers then fluff my long brown hair to where it’s framing my face perfectly. Walking to my closet, I take out my pre-picked dress. It is long, black, and lacey. As I’m putting on my favorite golden bracelets, I notice dark bruises on my wrist. I put on a white knitted cardigan to cover the bruises; mental note: do not roll up your sleeves. After putting on my black strap heels, I decided to finish the outfit with my favorite perfume. I must look good for this!
It seems forever for 2 p.m. to come around, but Silas is finally here. It is hard for me to control my excitement as I jump in his 2007 red Mustang. I manage to muster some tears and words of comfort. Oh my God, this is already exhausting; I am ready to fast forward to the good part of this date. I place my hand on his, my brown eyes meeting his green ones, giving him a brief look of reassurance. I shift in my seat out of anticipation, looking out the window, smiling to myself, thinking about all the possibilities in store for me and Silas after this.
When we finally arrive, I hurry and shift my mood from a presumptuous girlfriend to a heartbroken young woman who just lost her best friend. I get out of his car, smooth out my beautiful black dress, and give my soft hair a toss before linking my arm with Silas and walking inside the service. Frankly, it’s a mediocre crowd at best. But we are here, so let’s get the stupidest part of this first date over with.
At the ceremony, as they lower her mahogany wood casket into the ground, I wipe away crocodile tears from my face. I then fully realize, this was my first kill in an animalistic world, but like I said, it is all about survival. Silas is mine, and I think that he is realizing that as well. This may be her end, but it’s my beginning. Tear-stained face and bloodshot eyes is how we say our last goodbyes. But not for me, this is my world, and it’s my time to shine.
The inspiration for Jones’s story came about from her interest in psychology.
“I really like psychology, and I really like the minds of criminals,” Jones described “It’s crazy. My mother told me I should make the story psychotic, and it just went from there.”
Reflecting on the writing experience, Jones said, “I’ve learned how to make my stories more engaging and interesting and in-depth. I learned how to make my characters have good character development. I think my story is really good, and I’m quite proud of it.”
Delaney Phillips, another student at Wilkes Early College High School, earned Fourth Place Story in the Scary Stories Writing Contest.
Phillips learned about the contest through some of her friends.
“Horror and fantasy are two of my favorite genres,” Phillips shared. “I’m also interested in creative writing, too, so I just saw an opportunity to not just write a story, but to let other people read it, which is a very big thing for me because I usually get nervous when showing people the things that I’ve done.”
After reading Phillips’s story titled “Midnight Painting,” a tutor said in the survey, “I think this story was perhaps truest to the horror genre because of the detail Phillips provided. I liked the characters’ names, the setting, the dialogue, the uncertainty, contrast and the use of questions and answers between the two characters. It was very well crafted and thought out. I hope Phillips continues writing.”
Another staff member wrote, “‘Midnight Painting’ had an amazing voice, setting, and concept. I loved the use of mythology.” It was also described as “clean, tight writing, with an interesting premise that incorporates Irish folklore to add richness to the story.”
I suppose now is a better time than ever to record the events which transpired last night in the abandoned church that lies just beyond the tree line at the edge of the village.
It was around midnight, and I was trying to complete my newest work. My reason for doing so in the darkness of an empty building? Well, to set the mood, I suppose. My painting was of an angelic figure. However, the figure itself was meant to give off an… off-putting feeling to the viewer. Like that there was something dark beneath that divine surface.
And, to me, what better way to help capture that feeling than in an abandoned church in the woods?
Now, I have written in this journal the reasons for my sudden departure from my hometown. Reasons I have not shared with another living soul. This is important to note due to the events I am about to recount.
The moon was hung high when it happened. I was about halfway through the painting when I felt the presence of…something. I will not say someone because the THING I met was not anything close to human.
Anyway, I had heard some footsteps behind me, so I had turned around. There I saw a man dressed as a priest. His hair was a bright, golden blonde, and his eyes were a piercing green. He looked odd, but I did not necessarily see anything wrong with him.
After a few moments of staring at each other, he finally spoke. “Young one, that is a lovely painting.”
I lightly blushed. I am not used to people complimenting unfinished works of mine. “Uh…thank you…Priest? That is quite kin-”
He laughed. “Please, Child. Call me Judas.”
I scoffed at that. ‘Ironic.’ I thought. ‘A priest of God named Judas.’ I kept that thought to myself. Again, I did not see anything wrong with the man at this point.
He sat down on one of the pews after a moment. “May I ask for your name?”
I blinked. “I’m sorry?”
“Your name. Could I get your name?”
This was where I made my mistake. I did not think twice about telling this odd man my name. “You may call me ‘Isaac’.”
He hummed. “‘Isaac’…interesting name. Say, do you know what the name ‘Isaac’ means?”
To be perfectly honest, yes, I did. However, he seemed to be in the mood to talk, and I was getting quite lonely regardless. ‘What’s the harm in letting this man speak?’ I thought to myself. “No, I do not. Please enlighten me.”
He gave a small smirk (this should have been my clue to get out) “It means “one who laughs.” I’m sure you are aware of the biblical reason as to why.”
“I believe I do.”
Ah. The subject of religion. A topic that due to…reasons I do not really like discussing.
“Isaac, I have some questions for you. If you wish to stay and answer them, of course.”
I should have left that second.
“I don’t see the harm in it.”
“Good. Let us start with something easy: Are you from the village outside of the woods? I do not believe I’ve seen you around here before.”
“No, I’m a bit of a wanderer. Traveling artist and all that.” I responded. “Just stopped here for a job and a place to stay. That’s actually why I’m here.” I gestured to my painting.
“Ah, so your profession is that you’re an artist? Must be a rather time-consuming job.”
“It is. I came in here to ‘set the mood’ if you will.”
A small ‘hmm.’ “Interesting. Did you want to become an artist? Or were you forced into it? Any reason in particular as to why you’re a traveling artist? Why did you leave home, Isaac?”
Many questions. Most of which I didn’t want to answer truthfully. Not completely, anyway. Especially the last one.
“No, I chose this path. My Father was actually trying to force me into being a farmer, but art is a passion I truly have. I left because I knew I’d be judged for the rest of my days for it if I stayed.”
Half the truth, half a lie. The part with Father was completely true; he did want me to become a farmer like him and “give up messing with those paints and brushes,” but I persisted.
No, my father’s judgment was not what made me leave in such a hurry.
I honestly could’ve dealt with Father’s judgment.
“You mention a father. Do you have any other family?”
Easy. “A mother, a younger brother, and a sister. It used to be two sisters, but one…is unfortunately no longer with us.”
He made a sad expression. “Well, I’m sorry to hear that. I hope she is resting in peace. May I ask, what happened to her?”
Now, this would be slightly more difficult. You see, here is the truth: my older sister, the one who had ‘died,’ was a changeling. She did not truly ‘die,’ but simply left us one day. I was a small boy back then, unaware of what the Fae were and about my ‘sister’s’ true origins. I just remember following her just slightly into the woods (as far as Mother would normally let us go), only to see her keep walking.
I told her to stop. Mother doesn’t like us going into the woods.
She smiled and said her goodbyes. She offered to let me come with her, into the woods, and to take me ‘home.’
“But our home is with Mother and Father!” I cried. “And you know that they don’t like us to go far into the woods.”
She sighed and told me that she had to leave, to go ‘home.’ I still didn’t understand. She simply left me at the edge of the woods, told me that I could always come with her, and kept walking into the woods.
I believe I stayed there until I could no longer hear her.
Afterwards I ran home to tell my parents, “Tabitha is gone! She walked into the forest!”
Mother mourned in the way that one would when they knew their loved one is about to die; you know it’s coming, but it still hurts. She knew this day would come, but it still broke her heart.
Father never mourned her. He didn’t even look up from his work when I told him. He probably believed that it was good riddance.
At that age, I didn’t know what the Fae were. I didn’t know what changelings were.
All I knew was that Tabby was gone.
Perhaps if my parents kept me ignorant of that, perhaps if they just let me believe that my ‘sister’ had simply walked into the woods one day, never to be seen again, maybe one day I would’ve taken her offer and went ‘home’ with her.
I know better now.
She wasn’t my sister.
My sister, the real Tabby, was either already dead or suffering through a fate worse than that.
But I’ve never been one who liked to talk about my history. Everyone who I’ve met on my travels has been told a different story of Tabby’s “death.”
Some believe she drowned.
Some believe she burnt to death.
Some believe that she got sick one day and passed away in bed one night.
Some believe that a man, of which she had been married off to, killed her one day.
But, for some unknown reason, I decided to be at least slightly more honest with ‘Judas.’
“She walked into the woods one day and never returned.”
Technically the truth.
“…I see. What makes you think she died?”
Anxiety crept in me. “Well, I believe she’d come back if she were still living, don’t you?”
“Couldn’t she have just ran away?”
“She wouldn’t. Had no reason to.”
“Are you and your family certain of that?”
“As far as we know.” This was starting to create dread.
“Did she have eyes for anyone not in the village?”
“She rarely left the house. And before you say it, for I know you will, our house is an old one. Had she been moving around after dark, we would’ve surely heard it.”
“…Well, what does your family believe happened to her?”
More dread. “Attacked and eaten by wolves, most likely. Drowned in the river, froze to death at night, the list continues.”
Silence for a moment. Agonizing silence. “Isaac, have you and your family ever heard of the Fae?”
The dread turned to fear. Not that I’d show that to him. “Those are just stories. They aren’t real.”
He just raised an eyebrow at me. “Not real, hmm? Are you and your family certain of that?”
“I, at the very least, am certain of that.” That was a lie. I know as well as anyone in my home village that the Fae exist.
After all, that knowledge is the reason I left in the first place.
And I was starting to suspect that my odd visitor was one of them.
“Hmm. How odd. I don’t believe I’ve ever met someone who didn’t, in some capacity, believe in the Fae.”
“Well, now you can say that you’ve met one!”
He narrowed his eyes at me. “I can tell that you’re lying.” He gently stalked over to me. Every inch of my body was screaming at me to run. But I didn’t get a chance to. Judas grabbed me by the chin and forced me to look at him. “So tell me the truth this time: Why did you run away, Isaac?”
That wording sent fear through me. Because it’s true, isn’t it? I didn’t simply leave, I ran away.
The part that was freezing me in terror was that Judas somehow knew.
And that begs the question: How does he know about that?
“I-I-” I was still at a loss for words. What was I even supposed to say to that? “Listen, I know that my responses have been a little odd, but I can assure you that I have answered with the utmost-”
His grip tightened. “No, you haven’t. Stop lying.” I let out a small whimper of pain. “In fact, I feel like you’ve been lying about much more than just that, haven’t you?”
He gave me a grin, full of evil. “So why don’t we try this again? What is your name?”
I glared at him. Hopefully it hid my fear well. “I told you; my name is Isaac.”
Well, it’s what my name is now. It is not my birth name.
My birth name is Jonah. Almost fitting, if you think about it.
If this was a Fae, however, then I felt it would be even more dangerous to share that name with him. Names give power to the Fae, and sharing your true name with them practically hands power over you to them. He most likely already had some level of control over me already, and I wasn’t willing to give him any more.
However, I fear that I may have angered him further. “What did I say about lying?”
I couldn’t take it anymore. “Alright, fine. Isaac is not my true name, but given what you are, I do not feel as if it would be in my best interests to tell you what my true name is.”
He laughed at that. “Oh, so you finally understood? Well, Isaac, I thought, given your history, that you’d know how to discover the Fae easier.”
I felt myself freeze at that. Was Judas…one of the Fae from the village? Shouldn’t he know my true name then? Or was he simply messing with me? It wouldn’t be the first time that a Fae decided to do that.
He calmed himself for a second. “Now, I’ll ask you this only one more time: Why did you run away?”
Well, no use in lying now. “Oh, so you really want to know? Perhaps I didn’t want to live the rest of my days in fear. Perhaps I decided that a cycle in my bloodline would end with me. A cycle of fear. I do not want my children to live their lives terrified of the Fae.”
He smirked at me. “There we go. Now, was that so hard?”
I just simply glared harder. “Well, it doesn’t matter either way. I’m almost done with this work, and then I will leave this accursed place. And I pray we never cross paths again.”
He let out a dark chuckle. “Well, I do truly wish you luck with that, Jonah.” I felt myself freeze, but it felt like there was magic behind it this time. Which was not good at all. “You know, how about we make a deal, hm?”
I didn’t have the power to say no to that, and I felt myself nod against my will.
He grinned again, but this time I noticed how sharp his teeth were. “So how about this: I’ll let you go back to the village, and you can stay there in peace for as long as you wish; I will leave you be. However, the second you choose to leave, to escape again, then all I advise of you is to get out of the forest quickly. If I catch you, it’s over. You won’t get a second chance after that. But if you manage to make it out of the woods before I can so much as lay a finger on you, then you will be free. For now, at least. There’s no guarantee that I won’t just chase after you again afterwards, but you’ll be safe at that moment, anyway.”
He held his hand out to me. “Do we have a deal?”
I thought long and hard about this. If I didn’t accept this, would he just take that as me giving up? Would my freedom be cut tragically short? I didn’t know, and it was far too terrifying for me to want to figure it out. However, the deal was also quite dangerous. If I failed, then at best I would be forced back to my home village and stuck there the rest of my days. But that’s not what would happen, most likely. At worst, and what I believe would actually happen if I were caught, was that I would be taken to the Fae Realm and spend the rest of eternity there. A fate worse than Death, some would say. I surely believe it.
But what choice did I really have? Deny the deal and risk signing my freedom away in the process? Or take a deal, but risk more than just my pride if I fail?
So, I extended my hand out and gave a firm shake. “I-I believe we do.”
He smiled. “Alright then. Good luck, Isaac.” He turned to leave but paused for a moment. He spoke one last time, “Oh yes, I hope that the priest from the village enjoys that painting of his. If things don’t work out in your favor tomorrow, that painting is going to have more costs to it than just some coins.”
With that, he left. The pale moonlight was shining down on me as I rushed to finish the painting. I ran back to the village as soon as I could. I never looked back at the church. I didn’t sleep after that.
That brings me to this morning, as well as now. I gave the village priest his painting. He told me that the painting looked lovely, exactly as he’d hoped, but he seemed…concerned. For me. He said that I looked tired and pale, as though I had a nightmare and didn’t sleep. Oh, how I wish that was what occurred. I simply told him that I had to leave immediately and that I needed a horse. His concern seemed to grow as I told him that. He simply gave me my payment and told me he wished me luck, and that he’d pray for me. I needed that. I’ll surely need his prayers.
So here I sit. I have bought food, bought a horse, and am now writing this journal entry to document my encounter and the fear it has left in me. My hands still shake as I try to pen this down, and they show no signs of stopping soon. I will leave shortly after I finish writing this entry. I will gather my things, jump on the horse, and fly through the forest, not stopping until I reach the other side. I cannot afford to stop for even a second in those woods. If I do, then I shall never know freedom again. I will see Tabby again; it will just not be on my own terms. Perhaps one day, if that’s what happens, I will grow used to living there. I will have accepted my circumstances. But today is not then, and I hope that I will never have to experience the Fae Realm, as beautiful as I’ve heard it is.
This may be the final entry I ever write. If it is, then whoever discovers this journal shall know my fate. If it is not, then I will have experienced a miracle.
May the Lord help me.
I do not know why I wrote that name again. This must have shaken me more than I thought.
Phillips shared that the idea of her story came from Old English folklore.
“Nowadays when people think of fairies, they think of stuff like Tinker Bell, a nice little fairy” Phillips described. “But in original folklore, sure they could be nice, but they were also mischievous in some ways. Some of them were straight up malicious, which the one in my story obviously is.”
Phillips continued, “I also don’t think people think of the horror aspect of the Fae too much, so I was like, ‘I like fantasy; I like horror. Let’s connect them.’”
As winners of the Scary Stories Writing Contest, students have the opportunity to have their work published across WCC platforms such as social media. They also will receive certificates and trophies. However, above all, the winners will earn a vast amount of recognition across various campus events including opportunities to have their stories read aloud for others to enjoy.
When reflecting on the turnout and participation of the writing contest, Stephanie Darnell, Director of the Academic Support Center, said, “This contest is just the first of many,” and requests for the next writing contest have already been pouring in.
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Students Named Winners of Scary Stories Writing Contest at Wilkes Community College – High Country Press
By Harley Nefe