In July of 1949, the small, backwoods town of Brundle, New Jersey went insane. Brundle’s forty-three residents had few visitors, so nobody knows exactly when it happened, or what caused it. But when the first outsider came into town on the twentieth, he found every man, woman, and child wailing, gibbering, and completely unaware of their surroundings.
The government investigated, and concluded that a viral epidemic caused mass brain damage. But they could never explain why everyone who’s ever tried to live there since has gone mad too.
“Have you talked to James lately?” Aaron asked. “I hadn’t heard from him, so I called him at home. He sounded very strange. I’m worried.”
Beth gave Aaron a puzzled look. “That doesn’t sound like James. But he’s struggled with his health since he returned from the dig. He must be very tired.”
“It’s worse than that! He started shouting some gibberish, and muttering about ‘Great Old Ones, soon to rise.’”
Beth’s eyes began to glow. “I’m sorry, Aaron. You’ve heard too much. You should’ve left him alone.”
I have become aware of a recent weakening in the metaphysical fabric that separates our living, sane world from the sunken and sleeping realm of R’lyeh, where that which is not dead lies eternal. But if that fabric is torn, “eternal” will sure come quick.
It is the work of some stupid man, fallen under the influence — effective even in their slumber — of the Great Old Ones. He foolishly intends to bend them to his will. He threatens the sanity of the world. I must stop him.
I have endured their ridicule long enough. Now, they will feel the wrath of my vengeance. They scoffed at my studies, made a mockery of my métier. For the last time!
The Great Old Ones exist! I have always been sensitive to their call. But no matter how much I researched, no matter how many old tomes I dug up, it was never more than a gentle tug in my mind.
This dusty volume holds the secret to waking them. At last, I call them up!
Yesterday was the winter solstice. There have always been stories in my village, legends about this night. But this year, I have learned that the truth behind those legends is indeed stranger than fiction.
The old ones would talk about that night, fifty years ago, when nearly half their neighbors disappeared. They whispered nervously of Ithaqua. He came on the winds of winter to take them that are his. And he would come back. Superstitious fools.
But now I know better. Ithaqua has taken me.
When I was twelve, I spent the summer with my uncle in the woods of Western Pennsylvania. My mother was worried about me, that I got on poorly with the other children and always had my nose in a book. She thought some time spent in the great outdoors would divert my attention. She was right.
Late at night I heard them. Guttural voices, chanting in some inhuman language. Once, in the moonlight, I saw someone. Or something. I left, and have never returned.
This week’s theme will be stories of the Cthulhu mythos. I tried to write today’s in the classic kitschy Lovecraftian style. I think I’ll do the rest in a slightly more contemporary voice, but I still want to stay true to the camp horror that makes Cthulhu stories so much fun. We’ll see how it turns out!
I have in my possession a rare and highly dangerous article — a book — which, if underestimated or ignored for the merest minute, would devour a man’s sanity within the space of a few breaths.
I speak of the original Necronomicon, penned by the very hand of the mad Abdul Alhazred. I hear it in the back of my mind. It knows what I intend. It knows I will destroy it. Even now, its protests grow louder. I am drawn to read it. Musn’t—
As a child, I could talk to animals. It wasn’t as strange as you’d think. I just understood their sounds. A lot of pet owners learn to understand their animals’ noises. But I knew exactly what they were saying. And when I spoke, they knew what I said, too.
My parents said I had quite an imagination. But real girls can’t talk to animals. They said it was time to grow up. So I did. I can’t talk to animals any more.
My father was a famous magician. He did all of the most unbelievable stunts and illusions. He made people disappear and reappear. He could tell you what number you were thinking of. He could name the contents of a purse without looking inside.
Most of his stuff wasn’t duplicated until technology caught up a decade later. Some of it never was. They never knew how he did it, and he never told anyone. Except me. It wasn’t “magic”. It was real.
They say revenge is a dish best served cold. Tonight, finally, I find out whether that is true.
I don’t think he knows that I tracked him down. He may not remember me at all. Really, I am just one more victim on this criminal bastard’s résumé. Why should he remember? He has no remorse, no feelings at all.
Ah, he will remember me before it’s over. He will regret. And he will never cut someone off in traffic again.
(Today’s story is inspired by a true-life event!)
Today was the day. I’d finally completed my training. I spent years, punishing my body and mind, molding it into the form of the perfect warrior. The samurai.
I carefully removed my katana from its case, and clipped the saya to my belt. It felt natural. I was ready.
It was not long before I heard the calls for help that would become my first test in battle.
I prevailed. Justice prevailed. South Shields would never be the same.
I puffed on a Cuban while sitting in the motel parking lot. It helps take the mind off unpleasant business. Normally, I enjoy my job very much, but it sucks when someone close to you falls under the wrong influences.
I straightened up as the door opened. It was Johnny Malone, my partner. I sighed, checked the silencer, and slipped out of the car. The Feds got to him. Unpleasant business. But you can’t let it get personal.
Denny packed his polyhedral dice back into their leather bag. “Great session, guys,” he said. “We’ll pick it up in the Forbidden Forest next week. Call me, just remember—”
“Yeah, yeah, don’t mention D&D to your parents. They think demons will jump out of the books and possess you.” Nasal giggles filled the basement.
“It’s not my fault they’re nut…” Denny trailed off as his friends’ eyes started glowing.
“Ah. But they’re not nuts. And you’re next.”
John was a mountain climber. He loved it. Altitude sickness, freezing your fingers off, and paying a fortune for the privilege. Loved it all. He always said that anyone who wasn’t a climber couldn’t understand, so he never bothered trying to explain.
After enough years, it didn’t matter much anyway. All his friends were climbers, too, and the understood. He lived for the climb. John knew plenty of ex-climbers, just none of them that were alive.
Pirates still exist today. Terror of the seas, plunder, kidnap and murder — that kind of pirate. I know. I used to be one. When I was seventeen, I ran away to become a pirate. I was adventurous, romantic, eager to experience life. And naive.
A pirate’s life is not romantic. It’s uncomfortable, dangerous, and smelly. But that’s okay; I’m not a pirate any more. I’m a prisoner. Maybe a pirate’s death will be romantic.
Three: tours of duty before finally making it home for good. One: remaining leg. Two: little girls who call him “Daddy.” Five: photos on the TV, so they wouldn’t forget what he looked like. Four: friends who died in the blast that took his leg. Seven: guns at their funerals, fired three times each. Eight: hours laying awake his first night home, staring at the ceiling. Zero: parts of him that are the same.
No one’s more of an expert on the afterlife than me. I’ve died and been brought back to live seven times. It’s the bum ticker, y’see. But not bad enough to put me down for the count, I guess.
At first, I saw the tunnel and the light and everything. But eventually, I got a better picture. It’s not a good light. Look closely, you’ll see. The light’s red, not white.
On July 7, 1865, the village of Coalville, Virginia disappeared. Neighboring residents saw odd lights over Coalville that night. Then, nothing. People, buildings, all gone without a trace the next morning.
But, every year since, on July 7, the town shows up again. You can see it yourself, at sunset, from the hills over the valley. But don’t wander into the village, because when it disappears again at down, so will you.
John was the world’s greatest Elvis fan, so he immediately recognized the rhinestone-studded jumpsuit as a Manuel original. It was soon his.
John carefully preserved the jumpsuit in a custom glass case. But the longer he had it, the stronger became his desire to take it out and try it on. It grew into an obsession. Eventually, he gave in.
Elvis opened John’s eyes and smiled. The King was back.
My name is Sam Redding. I’m a paranormal investigator. Spirits, ghosts, that kind of stuff. Most people think I’m a fraud. It doesn’t help when ninety nine percent of my cases are frauds. Old women who get spooked by their cat, nutcases who think their kid’s possessed, but really the kid’s just a brat. But still, I look into them all. Because that one percent — believe me, that’s worth it.
Heck, turns out I like writing ghost stories. Let’s make three days into a week and see how it turns out.
I just realized that the Word Plus One “year end” 365-word story will be on Halloween, October 31, so I’ll have to come up with an extra-special spooky story for the occasion.
Captain Beckett was a private man, but he opened up once you lubricated him a little. He’d just docked at Harrier Station, flush with credits after a long run to the Jovian asteroid belts. He was lubricated indeed.
“That ship disappeared in the belts two hundred years ago,” he slurred into his drink. “It haunts them still today.” Laughter roared, but not mine. I know. I’ve seen the ship.
Eddie shuddered as he walked the path to the abandoned house. “I never should’ve let my friends talk me into this,” he thought. “But I can’t let them think I’m scared.” He was scared, but it got a whole lot worse when he saw the translucent shape of a person through a shattered window.
As Eddie fled, the ghost sighed. He so rarely had visitors. It was lonely.
Sometimes, when I sit in the cemetery by the light of the moon, I hear them call to me. Only on the clear nights. Maybe it’s like radio reception, I don’t know. But if I’m very quiet, and I wait long enough, I can actually hear them. They call out in confusion. They don’t know where they are. I try to tell them, but they can’t hear.
I thought I’d try a short series of three ghost-themed stories over the next three days. Hope you enjoy them.
I had a friend in high school named Danny. Danny liked to sit and watch the grass grow, or the wind blow, or the rain fall. Kids teased him. Most who didn’t know better thought he was slow. He died after graduation, from cancer. He said it was okay; he’d learned to see beauty, and beauty was life. I hope I live as long as him.
Hi. My name is Henry, and I’m a werewolf. Nice to meet you. That’s a strong grip you have there. You know, most people are misinformed about werewolves. For example, the full moon thing. It doesn’t force us into wolf form — we can actually do that whenever we want. And our bite won’t make you turn into a werewolf. We do that with a handshake.
Life as an author can be tough. Ideas dry up, and you might produce nothing for days, weeks, months. It’s writer’s block. It happens to the best of us. But I’ve found a way around it. I don’t wait for the ideas. I make them. Sometimes, you just have to know what it’s like to steal a body. It’s for the sake of art.
The killer picked up my trail a few weeks ago. The first time I noticed him, I was leaving my apartment. He had been waiting in his car, and he pulled out ten seconds after me. Amateur. He must think I’m some helpless girl like the rest of his victims. But I’m not the rest of his victims. The pit is almost finished.
“So, what’s it look like, detective? Some kind of accident?”
“Not a chance, Sergeant. This is murder, plain and simple.”
“But are you sure? Maybe they were too drunk to notice?”
“No, look at the label. No one could accidentally drink this stuff. Definitely not everyone at the party.”
It was true. The label clearly said, “Trick Exploding Champagne. Do Not Drink.”
Mark had a calling. He had a talent, and it was something no one else could do. It wasn’t something he had learned. He’d had this gift all his life, although his mother hadn’t always appreciated it, and his wife certainly didn’t now. But Mark knew better than to let something like this go to waste.
He was the Rat Whisperer.
Aliens? They already live among us, you know. They’ve infiltrated Earth. People you see might not really be people. They’re masters of disguise; they can change their shapes. They can stretch out their mouths, make their teeth into fangs, and bite your head off. People say I’m crazy, but you believe me. Right? What are you doing with your mouth?
Does the sight of a bloody scalpel get you going in the morning? Are blue scrubs and white coats the height of fashion? How about doctors who are always better looking than real people? ER, Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs. The occasional Doogie Howser, M.D. episode. Call your cable operator today, and tell them you want the new Hospital Drama Channel.
I was blind until my fortieth birthday. My brother bought me an hour with a fortune teller. She was also a “spiritual healer”. And a phony. But somehow it worked on me, and I could see for the first time in my life. The light, colors, faces. It was too much to bear. But she couldn’t unheal me.
Albert Holland was misunderstood. It wasn’t his fault that people were too short-sighted to recognize the potential. They couldn’t see past their emotions, but Albert could forgive them. They weren’t blessed with his genius. But he needed his test subjects. So he must work in secret. It was for the good of humanity. They would understand.
RT750 had never met another human. He’d never left the room where he was incubated. He communicated with Terminal, and Robot saw to his physical maintenance. He’d never even thought to be lonely, until MB214. Terminal said it was a psychological experiment, but she changed RT750’s life. Until she malfunctioned. RT750 had never met another human.
We interrupt this program with breaking news this morning. Your family may have already noticed the missing presents. Last night, police stopped a swerving sleigh under the suspicion of flying under the influence. Santa Claus was arrested after tests revealed a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit. Christmas is postponed until further notice.
It was our tradition to trim the tree on Christmas Eve, just my father and me. We start with the lights, then the popcorn and cranberry garland, though we usually eat more popcorn than ends up on the tree. Then the ornaments. But Dad’s not with us this year. He’s in Cheboygan with Grandma.