It’s Only A Story

In Fiction on October 8, 2012 at 8:55 pm

It’s Only A Story

The train hurtled through the darkness – and the countryside, all black, rushed imperceptibly past.

“Tell us a story, grampa,” Dean said, “a scary one.”

An eyebrow raised, Charles set down his teacup.

“What would be scary?” he asked.

“Someone dying!” Michael exclaimed.

“Murder!” Sally shouted.

“Rotting bodies with worms in the eyes and guts all out on the ground!” Dean crowed, and they all stuck out their tongues.

“Ewww!”

Charles smiled. The gas lamps sparkled in his glasses from above and glowed pink through the skin of his ears. He sipped his tea and began to nod.

“Hmm, death is scary, but thrilling, too, isn’t it?” he said. “Have you ever seen Him?”

“Him?” Dean asked. The children climbed off the floor and onto the opposite seat.

“Oh, yes, Death is a man like any other – or almost. Except he has no flesh and his head continuously spins, with empty eyes that stare in all directions, seeing everything… and everyone.”

The train took a turn – too quickly, too sharply – and the car shuddered. The lights flickered and the windows rattled, and Charles barely saved his tea from spilling.

“Where is he, then? Hell?”

“Language, Dean. But no, he’s not there – he’s here, in the world. Whenever you can’t quite see in the darkness, or behind the bushes, or down under the floor, that’s where He is.”

Charles turned to face the window and the children did the same, their frightened reflections staring back, blurry in the glassy pane.

“Even right out there, walking under the trees,” Charles whispered, “dragging his bones through the fields, staring through the windows – maybe even looking at your old grampa here…”

“No!” Sally whimpered. She leapt down from her seat and took hold of her grampa’s arm as if to pull him back out of sight.

“Shh, dear, it’s alright,” Charles soothed. “It’s only a story. Besides, I couldn’t possibly leave you kids.”

And the train hurtled through the darkness, blindly, terribly – toward another bend in the tracks.


This is my response to the Trifecta Writing Challenge, where writers are prompted to use the third definition of a given word  as the basis of a short story (between 33 and 333 words. This one is 333). This week the word was Death (specifically as a personification) so I apparently decided to continue my trend of writing about ways to scare children.

I’d love to hear your comments and criticism, so lay it on me! And if you feel the urge (which you should), head on over to the Trifecta Writing Challenge and try your hand at the prompt.

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  1. I love how this takes a sharp turn from endearing to chilling and ominous when Charles turns to the window; the images there are as creepy as hell! (Oops, language.) You’ve created great atmosphere here.

    • Thanks, Annabelle! (It’s ok, you don’t have to watch the language when Grampa’s not around). I wasn’t sure if I’d gotten the right level of scary, so I’m glad you approved.

  2. This is so f*cking good. >___<
    I am jelly, seriously. That first line was awesome and it only got better from there.
    So, so jelly.

  3. Such a wonderful story, really drew me in with the window reflections. I used to travel at night and seeing your own reflection that way well just scary for never knowing what was out there… now I know.

    • And I guess Death is a good runner too, to be keeping up with that train. I’m glad you liked my story, and especially glad that you came to read it in the first place!

  4. First time here, and thanks to Trifecta for that! I LOVE those kids, trying to get Grandpa to tell a gross, gooshy ghost story. Reminds me of “The Witches,” when Grandma says, “Real witches don’t have any toes… so they only wear sensible shoes.” I had an ominous feeling when the train began “hurtling” toward the next bend, that perhaps they were ALL in for it! Amy
    http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/10/09/psych-ward-visitor/

  5. You could easily find a market for this story somewhere. I agree with Draug419, it is freakin’ excellent!

    • That’s a huge compliment, Russel – and I appreciate it like crazy. And hey, who knows? I should pay attention to my own short story contest listings to see if there’s anyone looking for short, short Halloween themed fiction. Thanks!

  6. I don’t think my comments came through so trying again. Love the setting. Love the dialogue. Love the unknown. Love the description of Grandpa’s ears and the light showing through. Nice.

  7. Never mind the children, Brian; I think you scared me! Great story full of atmosphere and description. I only wish it could have gone on longer.

    • Thank ye, thank ye. I did feel a little rushed at the end (somehow, whether the prompt is 100 words or 333 words, I always seem to want to go roughly 50 words past it haha). I’m glad it passed the Elmo test!

  8. I love how you put me right in the scene with your words.

  9. Oh, creepy! I love the ghost-story feel of this piece, and the ambiguousness of the ending. Fantastic!

  10. This was so well done. It flowed beautifully and had just the right element of scariness 🙂

  11. Very cool! I enjoyed your characters and the hint of danger to come. The train was an excellent setting – different enough to add an interesting twist onto a story-telling tableau!

    www(dot)barbaragildea(dot)com

  12. I was completely sucked in and I wanted them to come around the corner, have the lights flicker back on and find disaster. Grandpa dead or missing or something dramatic and terrifying! Continue please.

  13. This has a wonderful flow to it and I can hear the grandpa’s voice narrating, which belies an easy, real tone. Nicely done.
    Thanks for linking up. Be sure to come back soon.

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