The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. June 10th I saw him again, it was magical. I could hardly keep the tears of joy from welling up. I was so happy to see Bradley again. Our visit was ended by one of the people that run the facility. He told me it was getting too late for visitors and escorted me out. But that is alright, my next visit I'll get to actually hold my love in my arms. It will be our six month anniversary, and I can hardly contain myself. July 2nd It finally happened. I am no longer a girl, I am now a woman. I could have never imagined the ecstasy, the wonderful pain. I am still shaking from it as I write this. I came straight home after our encounter. I was worried that we would get in trouble for doing that during my visit. But luckily, no one was around the area this time. I can't wait to go back, to see him one more time. “What the hell is this? How is that even possible?” Mr. Ayers paced the room. He was at a loss for words. Sweat poured over his face, his reddened cheeks quickly going pale as the words in his daughter's diary sunk in. Who was she talking about?” “You know who she is talking about, do you really need me to say it.” Mrs. Ayers was on the verge of tears. Mr. Ayers staked around the living room, circling the diary like a carrion bird eying a rotting carcass. “No, no I don't need you to say it. I'll go talk to her.” Mr. Ayers walked dejectedly up the stairs towards the room of his daughter Elizabeth.  As he walked up the stairs he tried to focus on how to approach the conversation. He wanted to be compassionate and reasonable. Truly, that is how he wanted to be. But he had already had this conversation with his daughter so many times. He had talked to her about the incident that landed Bradley where he was. More than that, he explained to her how he was to be left where he was. He was not to be visited, he was not in a place suitable for a sixteen year old. Let alone his precious sixteen year old. The words bathed over him, he felt like he was drowning in the diary entries words. Before he realized it he had already made it to Elizabeth's door. He closed his eyes tightly watching the colors shift behind his eyelids as he exhaled. He raised his hand and rapped on Elizabeth's door. Just a moment later he heard his daughter from inside the room. “Go away,” she shouted. Her voice was strained as if she were choking back tears. “Lizzy, it's Dad. We need to talk sweetheart.” Mr. Ayers waited for his daughter to answer. “I don't want to talk,” as she spoke her last words squeaked as if she was giving everything she had to not break into tears. “Elizabeth, I am coming in. I know you don't want to talk, but we have to hear each other out. Alright?” A loud sniff was was heard as Elizabeth spoke, “fine.” Mr. Ayers turned the handle and pushed the door open. He looked over at Elizabeth on her bed as he crossed the threshold into her bedroom. His suspicions about his daughter crying were confirmed as soon as he saw her. Her eyes were rimmed with red, her eye make up smeared across her pillow and running down her cheeks. She had obviously been sobbing for a while now. Seeing Elizabeth like this made him feel many different ways all at the same time. He felt sorry for her, he felt pained the way parents do when their children are hurting. He also felt angry, white hot anger that quickly boiled the other feelings away like water on a stove. In just a few seconds Mr. Ayers' other emotions evaporated leaving only the roaring fire of anger seething away inside him. The words of the diary echoing in his head. He lost all sensibility. He was no longer talking to his daughter, but a ghoul who has stolen his daughter. A horrid doppelganger who ruined her innocence. He saw Bradley's face laughing at him. Mr. Ayers ears rang with all the words of the diary and the laughter of locked away Bradley. His head felt like a volcano and he was erupting. “Liz, I am sick and tired of this. Your mother is sick and tired of it. Why can't you see how crazy this all is? Are you really that stupid?” Elizabeth sat in stunned silence for a moment. This made Mr. Ayers even angrier. “Answer me!” “Love isn't crazy Dad. I love you, I love Mom and I love Brad,” Elizabeth began. But Mr. Ayers cut her off, “don't you speak his name under my roof!” He was fuming with anger, his voice full of malice. His anger, like a fire was beginning to consume him, the flames of rage engulfing him as he looked at the ghoul who had taken the form of his daughter. “You can't see him, he is in his box. Do you get that? He is not a part of the world anymore. He is not going to be a part of yours. He is where he is, and he is there forever. He is not getting out. What part of that don't you understand?” “I can see him if I want. I know where he is and I can go there if I choose to!” Liz was now standing in opposition. “Not as long as you live here. You are not seeing anyone like that. He is where he is for a reason. You don't really know him Lizzy. You only think you do, what the hell is wrong with you? You are tearing this family apart! Why can't you think of anyone but yourself?” Mr. Ayers rounded on...

The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. The estate was opulent; a palace among mere mansions. Yet to Chelsea Blackbourne it was a miserable prison of boredom and routine; grand yet familiar…and familiarity bred contempt. The manor was evidence of the great wealth and privilege that had once belonged to the Blackbourne family; a lifestyle Chelsea had never known. It had been nearly a century since the clan had been truly prominent; even Chelsea’s father had not experienced the majestic heyday of the family legacy. Unlike their ancestors, they had never been invited to balls or galas. They existed in the shadow of excess, devoid of the pleasures of extravagance that the house portrayed. It had high ceilings and winding staircases, thick stone walls and grand fireplaces, dozens of rooms and quarters for servants—spaces that were now empty. The manor’s décor was aging yet lavish which enabled the house to maintain its dignity despite its present owner’s problematic financial circumstances. Chelsea roamed halls covered by lush Persian carpets and lit by glass chandeliers than glowed golden. There were dozens of oil paintings, mostly portraits of well-dressed and long-dead relatives, and intricately carved wooden furniture that would last for centuries. Once, there had been considerable quantities of jewelry, silverware, and porcelain but the majority had been sold over the past 50 years. Now all the remaining treasures were in the attic—a place Chelsea was barred from but infiltrated whenever she could. Chelsea’s father, Henry, inherited the mansion and the acres of land it stood upon from his Uncle George, an eccentric bachelor who had lived his life in the lap of luxury and spent his fortune traveling to far-off locations like Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, where he amassed various artifacts. Uncle George, a private person, built a huge stone wall around the grounds and ensured that there was only one entrance onto the premises, which was guarded by a wrought-iron gate painted the darkest shade of black. Throughout his life he embarked on his own adventures and shirked all traditional roles. Chelsea had never met her Great Uncle George; he died before her parents married, but she assumed that he had been completely bonkers. To his credit, he hadn’t been responsible for any of the terrible investments that had ultimately bankrupted the Blackbournes. In fact, Uncle George had been quite the businessman. He created a business out of his “assorted oddities” collection by opening and operating an antiques shop in the city’s downtown. Of course, most downtown dwellers couldn’t afford to buy anything so George changed tactics; he turned the shop into a curiosities museum and charged the public admission to enter. When George passed away he had left all his worldly goods to his favorite nephew, Henry. Henry had been cared for by George since the age of sixteen after his father committed suicide and his mother had a nervous breakdown. Insanity, Chelsea noted, plagued all the Blackbourne women. Even her mother, Agatha, who had married into the family, hadn’t been quite right. Apparently, mental instability attracted Blackbourne men. Motherhood hadn’t suited Agatha. The scarce memories Chelsea had of her were not fond ones. When Chelsea was three, Agatha had fallen off the roof to her death…at least, that was what Henry said. Now older and wiser at age eleven, Chelsea strongly suspected that her mother had purposely thrown herself down, wishing to die. Agatha’s death had turned Henry cold and standoffish. Chelsea, meanwhile, hadn’t been dismayed; they hadn’t liked each other and so she had no reason to mourn her mother’s passing. Since then, Chelsea spent her days confined to the house or languishing in its sizable gardens as her father locked himself in the study. Her only company was her tutor, Miss Iverson, and Sara, the wretched maid. Chelsea utterly disliked dowdy old Miss Iverson, who constantly pestered her to polish her pianist skills, but she outright hated beautiful, perfect Sara. While Miss Iverson was only the latest in a string of tutors—few lasted long with Chelsea—Sara had been a near-constant presence, and enemy, for over four years. Sara worked at the estate three days a week, and as much as Chelsea tried to ignore her, there was something about the servant that captivated—and enraged—her. Sara was nineteen and much prettier than Chelsea, which seemed woefully unjust considering that Sara was also much poorer than Chelsea. In spite of how far the Blackbournes had fallen in high society circles, they were still undeniably privileged—utterly unlike Sara, who toiled away as a maid for three different households six days a week. Once, Chelsea asked her where she lived and the maid confessed to residing in a small row house, cramped with several younger siblings and a sickly mother. Sara was a pitiful creature burdened with a difficult life; the sole advantage she held over Chelsea were her looks. Sara was undeniably beautiful and Chelsea was indescribably jealous. Chelsea had first noticed her unfortunate features at age ten. Prior to that she hadn’t thought much about her pudgy belly, frizzy hair, and bucked teeth. She barely registered her broad nose, too-far-apart eyes and dull brown hair, until one day she looked in the mirror and realized that she didn’t look anything like the fairies illustrated in her storybooks. Fairies were dainty and delicate; stubby Chelsea resembled the depictions of witches. Sara, however, was tall and slim, with long blonde hair and bright blue eyes; the incarnation of loveliness. One day Chelsea had been in town with her father on a rare outing to the curiosity shop and heard a group of young men whistling and shouting. Several stable boys were desperately vying for the attention of Sara as she hurried down the street, wicker basket in hand, obviously on an errand. The sight had filled Chelsea with envy. She knew she was too young to be courted but one day she would be expected to marry…and how was she to marry when she didn't...

The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. It had been a year since the country club closed, but no offers had been made on the crumbling mansion.  Rex and I sat on the concrete steps leading up to our rickety porch and watched the sun sweep its fingertips for the last time across the Mississippi Dogwoods that hugged the rusty fence surrounding the club.  The weeds were as tall as my two year old son now.  Here and now a rabbit would poke its head out from the cotton plants that dotted across the golf course, perhaps checking to see if there would be any chance of a golf ball hitting him.  We had been hoping for a few weeks that someone would stop by and offer to buy the old man’s property and the golf course.  Rex’s roof was falling in, there was an occasional rat in the house, and there was always an ant problem.  Dad couldn’t make ends meet to save his life. “I’m going in,” said Rex.  “Gotta be at the shop early tomorrow.  Saturdays are damn busy.” “Well, yeah.  That’s the best day to get your bike fixed for the rest of us who don’t have fun jobs.”  He smiled and stumbled back into the house, remarking on the growing spider web and saying, once again, that he’d take care of it tomorrow.  After the door closed, I considered going in myself, but the night was so young, so limitless.  When did it become ordinary for me to miss out on it?  My husband was taking care of our child for the night, figuring that my status as a stay at home mom was most likely overwhelming.  Truly, it was, but I had this free time to do what I wanted and here I was; sitting on a crappy porch by myself.  While I was thinking about life and reminiscing over friends that had chosen actual futures long ago, I noticed a thick, white vapor emerging from the field of the golf course.  I stood up, looked around me to see if the passing cars would hold figures of pointing individuals with gaping mouths.  No one stopped.  The gas station nearby carried on with its customers running in and out for beverages and a quick fill up.  I looked back at this thick smoke and sniffed the air.  It did not carry the smell of smoke or burning wood.  There was a sweet fragrance in the air.  I started towards it. I’ve always managed to be interested in things I should stay away from; bad men, bad mojo, bad hair coloring.  It never stops me and this time it wouldn’t either.  I hopped the gutter in front of dad’s house and scanned the street for any oncoming traffic, hoping a cop wouldn’t just happen my way.  This street was always filled with cops pulling people over and the lights would shine at night through dad’s living room.  We always figured one day an officer would show up at the door with some bogus claim, because the majority of the ones in this town were severely rotten.  I surveyed the distance for a way in and found it; an inlet. The small hole in the fence caught the end of my white skirt and snagged my curly hair.  Part of me hoped for the neighborhoods sake that there weren’t a bunch of punks messing around in the vacant landscape, but if I were to meet them I would be completely helpless.  I pushed on, praying I wouldn’t step on a king snake, a field rat, or the newest locusts that had emerged.  I was getting close to the vapor and the sweet smell of honeysuckles was pulling me closer.  Though the sun was almost down, there were no birds in this area now.  The saccades had stopped there scratching and the hum of the locusts had ceased.  The rustling of my skirt through the tall, dry weeds was exceptionally loud and the sticks made a crunch every few minutes.  The vapor had begun to spread around me and I could see its source. An old trunk lay alone in a circular clearing of the woods and the sweet smell was pouring through the splintered cracks.  A substance was poured around its edges, murky and thick.  I stepped aside to avoid it and crouched down to open the chest.  The vapor covered my skin with its sick sweetness and then completely evaporated.  There was paper peeling from the inside of this trunk, adorned in a 1950’s wallpaper pattern.  It reminded me a lot of our wall paper in the house.  Dad had never redone the God-awful Mother Goose print some soul thought looked attractive decades ago. Locusts emerged from the depths of the chest.  They were large; some flying while others tried maneuvering over my arms.  Their faces were red and a deep hum noise vibrated from them all.  I screamed out in disgust and fell back, the chest falling from my push.  I ran from it a few feet, but inched towards it once I figured the bugs had left.  A few lingered on the base of the chest and its top held a handful, resting there as if it was the newest home.  That sticky substance was on my shoes now, almost gleaming.  Now that I looked at it, it seemed purple.  It was like liquefied grape Popsicle that wouldn’t sink into the ground.  It hadn’t rained for months and I could see the cracks of the earth beneath the liquid, yet it lay still and solid.  I touched it slightly with my foot again and it began to move onto my foot, forming what appeared to be an alien like arm. “Oh, screw this!”  I took off in the opposite direction, unsure of where I was now that night had completely fallen.  The farther I ran, the quieter it seemed to become.  There were no...

The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. Bridget felt the walls vibrating; they were buzzing along with the floor and the ceiling and her head. The murmurs swarmed around her, whispering suggestions and accusations and scandalous suspicions. It had been like this for weeks; months. It had to stop and Bridget had finally figured out a way to end it forever. Smiling, anticipating sweet release, she raised the gun to her head and pulled the trigger. She welcomed the darkness. * * * * * Even in her final moments, Bridget had no idea exactly what had been happening to her. She had assumed it was mental illness—a long running problem in her family—brought on by years of drinking and drug use and hard living. But the truth was infinitely stranger and more terrible; a truth so outlandish that even if Bridget had discovered it, and sought aid from others, she surely would have ended up committed to a psychiatric hospital. Bridget’s tormenters had not been voices formed in her own mind; her harassers had not even been of the world in which she resided. Bridget was the latest unfortunate who had fallen prey to Xoan and Quax, Salkumbries from the planet Saturn. Yet Xoan and Quax were not just any Salkumbries, they were outlaws, renegades—what humans would have described as young and restless post-delinquents. The Salkumbrie race had been aware of the presence of life on Earth for decades. Planet Earth captivated the Salkumbries because of its beauty. It had seas and land that was lush and peppered with cities and forests. Earth was utterly unlike Saturn which was so cold and windy that the Salkumbries had to construct all of their cities underground. Earth’s winds were nowhere near as strong as Saturn’s and earthlings lived largely above ground, out in the elements including warm sunshine that was nonexistent on Saturn. Earth had no rings. It was exposed and so it was easy to observe and study. Thus, the Salkumbries had learned much about its residents. For eons they had diligently studied human society and were both excited and intimidated by the idea of sharing the universe with other beings. The most learned of the Salkumbries studied humans extensively and developed theories about them and their societies. One fact was clear from the research...

The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. “Hey, man, I'm like Robin Hood. I rob from the rich and give to the poor, except replace rich with stupid and poor with me – same difference. Doesn't do me any good to kill my clients, then where does the money come from? Think about it.” “So you're declining a lawyer and sticking to your story?” “I don't need to stick to my story, officer. It's all on film. You'll see.” “Okay, Mr. Laumer, so tell me about your...

The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. ‘And all the insects ceased in honor of the moon’—Jack Kerouac, Lonesome Traveler The trajectory’s too high, too wide—everything’s gone wrong, and then some. Kazakov shouts at the mission console and gesticulates manically as though Command can actually see him. They’ve fired the retrorockets and successfully reentered Earth’s atmosphere but the superheated air and hot atmospheric gases have destroyed the internal wing structure and now everything else is coming apart. There’s Auxiliary Data and thermal stresses and compressed atmospheric gases—but Dyatlov knows that that’s not what’s going to kill them. The empty vault of cosmic waste wasn’t so empty after all—it’s the thing outside riding the temporal winds of space and trailing phosphorescence like the tail of a comet that’s going to eliminate their map. The deep vacuum of intergalactic space renders the keening shrieks and anaemic hisses silent but he can still hear them echoing off the walls of his skull. He shudders at the thought of whatever dark abyssal womb could have birthed such an eldritch horror as the thing that’s tearing at the mid-fuselage and clawing at the side hatch. There’s a sickly flash of bluish-purple at the overhead windows and even though he can’t hear them he can feel the dozens of sharp chitinous limbs tap-tap-tapping on the roof. Something bumps against the side of his head—it’s Kazakov’s graduation photo and the kid looks even younger than he does now except that in the photograph Kazakov’s hair is cropped and there isn’t a hint of a beard in sight. Beyond the curved windows of the crew compartment all of Earth is a toy, a lonely globe half-shaded in a library window. All land and water and light and dark and more untraveled places than Dyatlov has hairs on his head. A terrible vibration shudders through everything and he imagines the ablative heat shielding being peeled away like the lid from a can of sardines. Gaining speed now. Losing altitude. Never a good combination. The not-so-distant Earth stares unblinkingly—a cosmic eye of Cyclopean proportions. Dyatlov wonders how the Vedernikov looks, plummeting through the cosmic vastness leaving a twisted trail of shed debris in its wake. Then he thinks about what it is that’s tearing the shuttle apart and pomyani chorta, on i poyavitsya —he glimpses something at the starboard window that’s broad and flat and segmented and could be a head except there’s no eyes and no mouth and no antenna, just ridged arrangements of jagged mandibles glistening the colour of rotten teeth. Then it’s gone and the 1.3-inch-thick optical pane of fused-aluminium-silica-glass is spider webbed with cracks. Kazakov has abandoned the mission console and is struggling into his Extravehicular Mobility Unit space suit. It incorporates a built in life-support system in the backpack which won’t save him from burning up—or being torn apart. They won’t make it. But there’s another way, a quicker way. Dyatlov unfolds the stock of the triple-barrelled survival gun, the same model that’s been on board every Soviet spacecraft in history. It’s loaded with rifle bullets. Dyatlov calls to Kazakov and when the younger man turns with one leg still hanging out of his space suit he shoots him in the forehead. Dyatlov’s teeth clack off the gun’s cold metal barrel as he jams it against the roof of his mouth. He wraps his left hand around the stock and one finger of his right hand around the trigger. He can taste gun oil dripping behind his tongue. It’s the only way. His eyes find the thing looming in the starboard window. Its segmented coils glisten the bluish-grey of a man’s intestines. He’s wrong. There is a mouth. Dyatlov’s finger squeezes the trigger at the exact moment two huge segmented forcipules tear through the Vedernikov, and the ravenous dark rushes inside. * * * * * * The water was black and choppy and slapped and sloshed against the sides of the tiny wooden rowboat. The boy gripped the slippery wood as the old man bent his crooked spine to the oars. The last flickering of the waning sunset skirted a troubled sky. Dark panes of glass glinted along the shoreline, painted boards warped and weathered and bathed in dusky grey half-light. The boy trailed his hand in the rowboat’s chilly wake but didn’t leave that hand in the black water for all-too long. He gazed up at the large pale moon and wondered why it was so empty, then down at the other moon rippling and floating on the water— The boy blinked. Took a sharp breath of raw and blistering air. ‘Dedushka’, he leaned over and tugged at one of the old man’s sleeves. ‘Dedushka’. The boy pointed to the spot below the surface where he’d seen the leggy snake. The old man unhooked the lantern from its pole and shone it where the boy was pointing: the water there gaped black and empty like an open grave. Quickly, the boy explained what it was that he’d seen. The old man’s pinched face tightened, his eyes glimmering dully in their nests of wrinkles. ‘Ne skazhiy tvayeva babushka’, he said and hooked the lantern back on its pole and returned to the oars. Don’t tell your grandmother. The boy shivered. He knew that the shiny metal in the lake helped to put food on the table—and he was grateful to God for sending it. But he hated coming out here so close to full-dark. He thought that the old man did too, because now he was rowing faster. The boy kept his hands out of the water until he helped the old man drag the boat up onto the stony beach. The lake was thick with gathering dusk—blackness so deep it hurt the boy’s eyes. He wound in the excess rope and fed the looped end through the centre eye of the cleat at the rear of the boat. He turned for a final sight of the far shore such as he could make...

[button color="gray" size="medium" link="http://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/12/15/voting-now-open-november-2014-holiday-horror-writing-contest-gallery-and-voting/" target="blank" ]Is this story your favorite? Click here to vote for it now![/button]The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. The Snowmen Lenita Vidaurri No one knows for sure when the sugar factory showed up in the small town of Brereton, North Dakota. Though on the eve of the first snow fall in 1964, the good townspeople all said their prayers and went to bed like any normal routine. When they woke up, snow blanketed the town and an unholy sight meet their innocent eyes.   Far in the distance, on the outskirts of town, a black shaped loomed above and beyond the bridge. Black smoke curled lazily from the gray towers as the people stared towards the giant factory. Down on the lawns of the townspeople, large piles of white snow stood silently innocent.   Father Donovan was the first to venture outside. In his winter coat, the old Father surveyed the freezing scene before him. On every yard, snowmen were facing out towards the street, standing right beside the mailboxes, guarding them.   Each snowman was the same, a basic humanoid figure. Gone was the common shape of a child's creation. The jolliness of a fat snowman with buttons for eyes, a carrot for the nose, or the every present smile on the faces, was reshaped into nothing. Where the button eyes would be, there were just indents. Indents that were so dark they seemed black. There was no mouth, or nose; nothing to decipher the face. Looking down at the yard covered with snow, Father Donovan was startled to see that there wasn’t a single set of foot prints.   “It’s like they sprang up from the ground,” a wheezy voice spoke from the left.   Turning his head, the aged Father looked upon the shrunken groundskeeper leaning on a shovel behind the metal gate. Behind him, thousands of snowmen stood by tombstones neatly lined up in the graveyard, each similar to the ones on the other side of the fence in the yards. Barely standing, each snowman stared down at a small box made from snow, that they held in their hands, with faces that were barely different from those on the pale white yards. Inside their dented eyes, a pinprick of red could be seen above a softly shaped nose and tight lipped mouth.   “Tell them not to touch the snowmen Father; I don’t want to know what will happen.”   And with that the old man turned and hobbled back through the maze of tombstones and snowmen. Heeding the old man’s advice, Father Donovan hurried back inside to spread the news.   * The next morning, daylight broke once again on a strange sight. The snowmen in the street stood by open mailboxes. Inside each of the mailboxes were a small gray key and a small brown paper.   “Find the Box” it read. “Find the box.”   All over town, kids jumped up and down to try and read the simple note; neighbors whispered to each other, hoping and praying the other knew what box. The feeling of dread comfortably made its way through the unsuspecting town.   Night fell on the town again and no one noticed that something was different with the snowmen in the cemetery. No longer were they staring at the box, but into the town with their red pricked eyes.   Over the next couple weeks, the villagers slipped into the same routine. Wake up, stare at the snowmen that seemed to never change, read the note, and look for the box. It was tiring, it was nerve wracking, and tempers were rising. All the while, the snowmen stared at the factory with eyes of red.   * A month from when the snowmen first arrived, Father Donovan woke up to the sound of a man yelling. Still putting on his coat, he rushed outside to see what was going on.   Once again, the snowman was standing by the open mailbox in his yard, the key and letter waiting innocently inside. Beside it, the snowman was staring straight ahead with almost a frown on its perfect face. Across the street, a man with a broken expression was stabbing the one on his yard.   “Allen!” Father Donovan yelled. “For the love of God, stop! What are you doing?”   “It burned him” Allen said not stopping to look at him, “It burned my boy. Mark only brushed up against this thing last night and this morning his whole arm had blisters. Do you know how hard it is to keep a five year old from poking at it? Martha had to give him something to sleep so she could wrap it. This thing is a demon! We need to destroy them all!!”   Father Donovan ran inside as Allen continued to stab the snowman.   “Martha!” he called. “Martha where are you?”   “Oh, hello Father. Mother is upstairs with Mark.”   Father Donovan turned towards the soft little voice that spoke. Standing by the kitchen was the oldest child of Allen and Martha Jones, a small thing for the age of nine.   “Hello Annabell, how is your brother doing?”   “He’ll be fine, the snowman said so.” Father Donovan watched as she walked towards the window, staring at her father, her blonde hair turning gold in the morning sun. “He’s making the snowman sad. Can’t you hear him Father? He’s crying and asking Daddy to stop.”   The old man looked towards Allen, who had stopped stabbing the snowman and was staring at the snowman with a look of pure disdain on his face, his lip curled into a snarl. Turning, Allen made his way back to the house, knife pointing towards the ground. Hearing footsteps behind him, Father Donovan turned around to greet Martha, and couldn’t stop thinking of how pink the snow looked running down the blade of the knife.   Everywhere else in town, the rest of the villagers woke up to discover, for the first time in weeks, there was no key in sight. Except, in the good Father’s mailbox.   * Father Donovan, who spent most of the night pondering the lone key in town,...

[button color="gray" size="medium" link="http://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/12/15/voting-now-open-november-2014-holiday-horror-writing-contest-gallery-and-voting/" target="blank" ]Is this story your favorite? Click here to vote for it now![/button]The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. The Snow Builders Grey Harlowe The snowmen arrived the morning after the first snowfall on October 28th.  A light one, by Brereton standards, just three feet of it, which Victor Harris was grateful for, as it made getting his truck out of the driveway a relatively simple matter.  A lifetime of North Dakotan residency had conditioned his fifty-six year old frame to cope with snow and ice, and the work required to live in the climate had kept him fit and trim, but he didn’t mind a break from its harsh monotony now and again.   Still, the snowmen surprised him, because he began his day at 4:30 a.m., earlier if there was nothing to do at the general store he managed, or if he was making his Monday morning pilgrimage to Stanton, the next town over, as he was today.  Whoever built them, he thought, driving past the small homes that made up their eight hundred person city, had gotten up even earlier than Victor had.  It looked as if a snowman rose up from every lawn, which is when he stopped his truck, and craned his neck back toward his house.   A snowman, this one dotted with red on its head, stood in his front yard.  How had he missed it on his way out?  Putting the truck in neutral, he hopped out and marched back to his home.  Then the snowmen were no longer amusing.  The one three feet from his door had horns on its head, painted red, and a red, phallic shape on its lower half.  With disgust, Victor also observed a huge, forked tail, covered in that same shade of red, spiraling up toward his house.   Livid, he grabbed his snow shovel off the porch and beat the snowman into a pile of red snow.  Throwing down his shovel in the yard, he got back in his truck and drove on.  He had more important things to pursue today than someone’s rude prank, and they weren’t in Brereton.     It didn’t take long for everyone to discover that each household in town had awakened to a mysterious snowman.  Since Victor always left her in charge of the store on Mondays, Melissa Lane got to hear the tales personally, as customers came in to unload their fears and worries.  A few were nonchalant, believing the snowmen the work of teenagers, but most were scared, even terrified.  Especially after Briana Johnson told her story.   “I think it’s the sickest thing,” she had said, crying into a cappuccino.  This was part of what made the general store the gossip hub it was--Victor had turned the back wall into a miniature coffee bar.  “The kind of person who would do that is sick.  And without Jeff around, I’m scared to go back.”   Briana had told the others with her, Gracie Anderson and Gloria Russo, that her snowman looked like a pregnant woman with red paint running down her legs.  It was sick, all right, Melissa thought, because everyone knew Briana had suffered a miscarriage the previous spring.  She had been almost five months along.  This was the reason for her husband, Jeff’s, departure, the loss of the pregnancy had put too much stress on their marriage.   To break the tension, Melissa, who had been eavesdropping behind the coffee machine, chimed in with her own weird, unscary snowman story.   “Mine’s wearing glasses,” she said simply.  “They’re not mine, they’re those big, silly ones people wear for Halloween.”   “But there’s no red, nothing’s bleeding?”  Briana sounded quite bitter.  Melissa didn’t blame her.   “Nope.  Only glasses.”  She then went on to share the less horrifying snowman reports she had  heard--Rob Foresters had ear muffs, or maybe stereo headphones, and  Pamela Carp’s had red eyes doing a zombie circle.  Pam was one of Brereton’s rare pot smokers, and if you caught her late enough into her nightly regimen, she did look zombie-like.   “If only the ones at the school were humorous,” said Iva Benedict.   “There’s a snowman at the school?” Melissa asked uneasily.   “Snowmen.  Right in front of where the old gym used to be, a big batch of them.”   “Old gym?”   Iva ignored her question and said, “The ones at the school have halos on their heads.”   No one liked the sound of that.  The shootings in New Town and images of its memorial angels were recent enough to put the crowd in a greater state of unease.   “I should probably get back to the register,” Melissa said at last.  As she walked back to the front of the store, she could feel one pair of eyes on her, and not a friendly set, either.  She looked back a second, expecting to see Briana’s scathing glare, or Iva’s perpetually sanctimonious one.  Instead, it was Gracie Anderson.  For the life of her, Melissa didn’t know why.     The situation took a stranger turn when Brett Daniels, an administrator from the closest Sheriff’s department, stopped by the store around 2 p.m., along with another deputy and Julia McPeak, Melissa’s next door neighbor.  Daniels was a cordial man whom Melissa had met last year when someone left graffiti on the wall of the store.  When Melissa caught sight of the of the manilla envelope clutched in Brett’s hand, she knew instantly the bad day was now worse.   “Hey, Mel,” Julia said nervously.   “Good morning, ma’am,” said the young deputy she didn’t know, while Brett stood in back of him, arms crossed.  “We were wondering if you’ve checked your mailbox, yet.”   “No,” Melissa said.  “I usually don’t, until after I’m home.”   “Do any of these look familiar to you?”  The deputy dumped a pile of plain, copper gold keys on the counter.   “Miles,” Brett Daniels finally stepped in, “don’t do that.”   “Oh, right,” the younger man said, and hastily sweeping the keys away.  Melissa had backed away from the counter some.  Brett held up a comforting hand.   “You’re not in trouble, we just want to know if...

[button color="gray" size="medium" link="http://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/12/15/voting-now-open-november-2014-holiday-horror-writing-contest-gallery-and-voting/" target="blank" ]Is this story your favorite? Click here to vote for it now![/button]The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. Winter Apollonia Taylor What I remember most about the terrible end was the symphony of screams of which I was often a part. I was twelve years old. I had always lived in the big hilltop house in the little town of Brereton, North Dakota. The town consisted of, roughly, eight hundred people. The Harlow’s have always been the most important and influential people who lived in Brereton, and I am their son, Winter Harlow. That day in November the snow fell in a mean, all consuming, and frigid blanket. With it, came the screaming of the frozen wind in a sonorous and ever present howl. In the time that it had taken me to complete a day’s schooling, the world had gone from its many fall tones to whiteness of winter. It was cold, so cold, but not so different from the chill that radiated from my heart on even the sunniest and most agreeable of days. Secretly, I thought myself a psychopath, but that was not the sort of thing one shared with the rest of the class, or anyone else for that matter, so I was the only one who knew about the abysmal cold within me. The school bus dropped me off in front of a house that all the other kids looked at with a certain kind of undeniable envy. I had spent the whole of the trip fending off the amorous attention of Mary Thomason—a fiery red head, and the focus of all the combined lust of every boy in our class. Somewhere, deep down, I thought that she was lovely too, but it didn’t really matter because that pretty face, with its slight spattering of freckles just across the nose, those pouty lips some model somewhere would kill for, those glittering turquois eyes, all those things failed to inspire in me heat sufficient enough to melt the deep inner frost that I thought was my soul. I left Mary as sad and disappointed as always as I stepped off the high bus step and into the thick velvet waves of powdery snow. The snow man caught my attention immediately. It rested nearly dead center between the house and the road. It was unusual because he was not the normal, rounded, Frosty kind of snowman, but a carefully constructed … man … made out of snow. The man appeared to be on its knees.  One of its arms was shorter, and disproportionate to the other, but it was arm carved out of snow and not stick, which is the usual thing with snowmen. Its head was an oblong shape, almost human, just off, and its eyes were hollowed out black pits that seemed to be staring at me as I made my way toward the thing. I wasn’t really afraid of it. I merely found it to be grotesque in an odd sort of way. Even so, my wandering gaze kept traveling back to those inkwell eyes and resting there as if I was waiting for the snow creature to blink in acknowledgment of uncanny, unnatural life. The closer I got and the stranger the snow man became. Someone had taken the time to carve the thing the indentation of having a chest. The little detail was disconcerting and made everything else about the snowman stand out as obscenely wrong. Its mouth was a thick lipped slit and it hung open as if waiting to draw a frosty breath. Arched bows were carved above its eyes as eyebrows. It had a short, thick neck and slight bowed shoulders. I had never seen a snowman like this. I glanced back toward the trundling bus in the distance. I could see the whole of the little town from this vantage point. I was mad and I didn’t know why, but my anger stemmed from something like ‘someone out there had made this hideous thing and left it for me, but why?’ It was too ugly to be any kind of reasonable gift, and too deliberate to be child’s play. My father owned the mortgage on many a home in Brereton.  Lots of people owed him money. This seemed to me to have something to do with that, though I was far too young to really understand the kind of looks that the people of Brereton gave me sometimes when they thought that I wasn’t looking—looks filled with hatred as well as envy, a vehemence masked beyond the thin veneer of a polite smile. Even the teachers looked at me like that sometimes. It had never mattered before. I was cold to those things as well. But now, something malevolent danced across the dark corners of my mind. I viewed this thing as a threat of some sort. And while the snowman wasn’t scary in and of itself, black inkwell eyes or not, the threat was rather disconcerting. I turned back to the thing, looked again into the fathomless black eyes that were black anyway despite the fact that there was still some light to fading day. My hand, pale and trembling, reached out to touch its macabre face at the cheek, to feel the ice and chill of what passed for its flesh against my own. “You’re a very wrong kind of thing,” I said to the snowman. “A twisted thing. An evil thing, aren’t you?’ I leaned in very close to the place where its ear would be if it had one. “But you don’t scare me at all. You’re second rate. Monsters are real and you’re low down on the food chain.” My next words were a breathless whisper, but there was passion in them—a passion that both surprised and mystified me as I usually went around feeling nothing all day. “Fuck you.” The wind picked up at that moment. It issued a high-pitched, woman’s aching wail...

[button color="gray" size="medium" link="http://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/12/15/voting-now-open-november-2014-holiday-horror-writing-contest-gallery-and-voting/" target="blank" ]Is this story your favorite? Click here to vote for it now![/button]The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. In the Snow Jeffrey Ebright Office Memorandum – United States Government   To: Director, FBI   From: Dallas E. Wells, Lead Investigator   The following interview transcript took place on March 15th, 2012 at the Minneapolis office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Subject: Daniel Ulysses Healy, Sheriff of Brereton, North Dakota. 38 years of age, 6'4, 280 pounds. Excellent physical condition. Healy has multiple superficial lacerations and a broken left arm which has been set in a cast. Injuries resulting from Incident ND-5063.   (Transcript Begins)   Wells: We appreciate your time, Sheriff Healy.   Healy: Well, I can't say its a pleasure to be here, Agent Wells, considering the circumstances. (laughs) I could use a few more days of R&R.   Wells: I'm sure. Why don't we start from the beginning and work our way forward. When did you first encounter Simic's crew?   Healy: I would say the first time I encountered Koslov Simic was in early November. Brereton has a tendency to have some bitterly cold Winters, the kind that will chill the bone if you're not prepared for it. Simic and his “associates” were born in this kind of climate, so they were at home.   Wells: Bosnia, right?   Healy: We never found out, but that's as good a guess as any. These guys were well financed and very organized. They brought their game from wherever and wanted Brereton to be their new home base.   Wells: Why do you think that is?   Healy: Brereton, North Dakota is literally a blip on the radar. It would take two minutes to drive through. Even though we're the North Dakota capital of Baseball and Catfish capital of the North, Brereton is as forgettable as a passing car in city traffic. However, to a crew of black hats, it has certain advantages.   Wells: How so?   Healy: Minutes from the Canadian border? Hours from the nearest federal law office? A population around 800 people in an area less than a square mile? Chronically bad weather? Hell, the river is a literal conduit that runs from Canada to Mexico. It doesn't take a genius to do that math, agent.   Wells: When did you first suspect their motivations?   Healy: Well, with a town as small and rural as Brereton, the Sheriff doesn't miss too much. You can check the town records for the official purchase, but I believe they moved into the Starlight Dreams motel off I-29 the last week of October. Honestly, I was kind of happy to hear someone had taken the initiative to revamp the motel.   Wells: We show Simic purchased Starlight Dreams motel complex in early September.   Healy: Maybe, but he and his crew didn't make it on scene until late October or early November. I remember because the temperature had turned fierce and these work trucks showed up with Jack-O-Lanterns still on porches. And they laid into that piece of land with pioneer spirit.   Wells: Pioneer spirit?   Healy: Uh huh. They were out there from sun up to sun down getting that property into shape, no matter how bad the weather got. In my opinion, they picked the worst time of the year for a major remodeling project. They were like the old Sioux warriors that used to inhabit these parts and a bitter prairie wind or heavy snowfall was not going to slow their progress. Then again, I hear they dropped a quarter-million dollars on the property before a single hammer swung.   Wells: Money aside for the time, when did you first notice Simic's influence in town?   Healy: It was more an influence on the economy at first. When you have a couple dozen guys doing nothing but restoring a twenty-five room shanty of a hotel, you have to expect them to eventually spill over to the local grocery store, hardware store and, of course, drinking establishments.   Simic's money was a shot in the arm to our little community. Our economy is based on the sugar refinery just outside town that employs a quarter of the population and sometimes more when in season. The rest live as best they can and people would be a fool to turn down the boost to our economy.   Wells: When did you get suspicious of Simic?   Healy: Honestly, it wasn't anything he said or did; it was his manner. He walked through town with a look like he'd be owning Brereton soon enough and there wasn't a damn thing anyone could do about it. I smelled gangster the moment we locked eyes, but intuition and proof are two different things.   My first actual encounter with Simic was cordial, but I could feel a tension. He introduced himself, I returned the introduction. He stated he was renovating the Starlight Dreams motel with the intention of making it an upscale resort for outdoorsman. He even bragged he'd be adding about 100 new jobs to Brereton.   Wells: Did you believe him?   Healy: I...

[button color="gray" size="medium" link="http://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/12/15/voting-now-open-november-2014-holiday-horror-writing-contest-gallery-and-voting/" target="blank" ]Is this story your favorite? Click here to vote for it now![/button]The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. XXXXXXXX Kerry Ebright Memories aren't always something pretty to keep in a scrapbook  Sometimes, they're things that need to be put in a box and locked up tight, stuffed in the far corner of the attic, and left there forever.  My last days living in Brereton, North Dakota, were one of those memories.  It was November, and the first snow had just come in.  That's when the snowmen started to appear...

[button color="gray" size="medium" link="http://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/12/15/voting-now-open-november-2014-holiday-horror-writing-contest-gallery-and-voting/" target="blank" ]Is this story your favorite? Click here to vote for it now![/button]The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. My Last Winter T.F. Ahmad It was early November when everything changed. I found it apt that my life would take a sudden turn right after the first snowfall of the year. I’ve always associated this event with preparing for an annual mini-apocalypse that was winter in Brereton. Snowfall was heavy, and prolonged. Being two hours from the closest city and nestled in the American North meant the entire town was in hibernation every year from early November until March. Hell, being closer to the Canadian border than to a hearty American city meant you were pretty much in the Arctic Circle, as far as I was concerned.   I always started these Novembers the same way: by checking my inventory of supplies. I would make sure I had enough spare light bulbs, firewood for the wood-burning stove, batteries, bottled water, toilet paper, and dry goods in the pantry. It wasn’t impossible to get these supplies later. It was just harder to bundle up in multiple layers, shovel the snow from your driveway, scrape the ice off your car, warm said car up for twenty minutes, and trudge through the snow on cheap snow tires at ten miles per hour.   On that early November morning, I noted that I was dangerously low on bottled water.   “Shit,” I said, looking out the window of my small one-story cottage-style home. The snowfall had already begun, but it was light. The grass and blacktop of the driveway were still visible beneath the light dust of white powder.   I smiled. It was good that I took care of my inventory this early. In previous years I had procrastinated, and I’d paid for it dearly.   I put on my coat and started the car. I held my bare hands to the heating vents, hoping the feeling in my fingers would return soon. When a hot, painful sensation crept into them, I put the red Ford Taurus in reverse and headed into town.   Brereton was small, in both population and in area. You could walk from one end of downtown to the other in less than an hour, and run it in a third of that time if you were so inclined.   Harley’s General Store on the corner of Route 49 and Pear Tree Road was the closest place to stock up on supplies. I found a spot as close to the front entrance as possible, not wanting to walk very far.   Inside, Old Man Harley greeted me with a grin and a glance from beneath his square spectacles. He was a nice man, living in Brereton longer than anyone else besides George Paul, the retired Army general. He didn’t talk much, and let you do your shopping without interruption. I walked with a practiced ease back to the section of the store that held the bottled water. I grabbed one 24-pack and headed to the check-out. The store was eerily quiet and empty. I would have thought more people would be doing their shopping before the storm, but maybe I was a lot more prudent than I thought I was and everyone was at home watching the news or the odd game shows that were on at this hour.   I pulled out my wallet and placed a twenty dollar bill on the counter. Harley simply looked at it, then looked up at me, his gaze cold and distant.   “No charge,” he said in a growled, scratchy voice; the voice of a long-time smoker.   I stared at him blankly, not sure how to respond.   “No charge,” he said again, his face unmoving. “Ain’t gonna need money no more after today.”   “What do you mean?” I asked, regaining my composure.   “Ain’t gonna need money no more,” he repeated.   He was starting to scare me. He wasn’t moving a muscle, and his lips barely moved when he spoke, as if he were a statue cast of wax.   “Okay,” I said after a prolonged silence. I gingerly picked up my money, thinking he would grab my wrist and laugh at me, as if this was all a joke.   But he didn’t laugh. And he didn’t shift his gaze from me the entire time. I grabbed the case of water bottles, the picture of Andrew Jackson visible from the bill still clenched in my fingers.   “I’ll see you around Harley,” I said over my shoulder, and walked out of the store.   The snow had gotten heavier. I quickly forgot about Old Man Harley’s odd behavior and drove home. When I pulled into my driveway, I could barely see out of my windshield, even with the wipers on full blast.   “Oh screw this,” I said, and ran to the front door with my keys firmly grasped in my hands. I stuck the key in the lock and turned it. The wind flung the door open, and I stumbled inside, almost slipping and falling on my ass. I turned to close the door and hesistated for a split-second.   “What’s that?” I thought, looking into a copse of trees towards the side of my front lawn.   I squinted, and saw what looked like a human figure standing at the edge of the trees, his hand resting on the trunk of a pine tree. He seemed incredibly tall and thin, and had to be wearing an all white outfit, as his silhouette seemed to blend in with the snow.   “Who would be crazy enough to be out during this storm,” I said aloud.   I noticed I was letting snow blow into the house and I closed the door without sparing a thought for the man out by the forest.   I licked my lips in thirst, and realized, in my haste, I’d forgotten to bring the case of water bottles in with me. I cursed, but resolved to just live off of tap water before the pipes inevitably froze.   My thirst also brought out a deep-seated hunger that decided to make itself known at that...

[button color="gray" size="medium" link="http://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/12/15/voting-now-open-november-2014-holiday-horror-writing-contest-gallery-and-voting/" target="blank" ]Is this story your favorite? Click here to vote for it now![/button]The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. Invitation Meagan Meehan The sun was setting. Jane watched the glorious colors splay across the sky from where she stood in her antique shop, staring out the dusty window at the world beyond. The sunsets in Brereton, North Dakota, truly were magnificent; certainly more beautiful than anything else in the sleepy and dilapidated town.   As she basked in the glow of the sunset, Jane caressed the mysterious key in her hand. Where had it come from? More importantly, where did it lead to? Jane would give anything to find out the answers to those questions.   Beginning after the first snowfall in early November, the residents of Brereton had begun finding grotesque-looking snowmen in their yards and small silver keys inside their mailboxes, carefully placed in sealed, unmarked envelopes. No one knew exactly who had made the snowmen or left the keys but nearly everyone blamed local teenagers. With merely 800 residents Brereton was an especially small town and young people often found the oddest ways to amuse themselves, even if it was at the expense of others…   When 87-year-old Tyler Perrison spotted one of the figures on his lawn he had been so surprised that his heart started to race—subsequently resulting in his hospitalization. Amy Harrison had screamed herself hoarse at the sight of hers. Even Rodney Rickson, the most dedicated hunter in town, had been so alarmed that he shot his snow figure with a bow and arrow, convinced that some sort of mutant had crawled onto his property. When he realized that it was just a mound of sculptured snow he humorously put red dye all around the spot where the arrow struck and posted the photo on the Internet.   Although the majority of Brereton residents were horrified and angered by the sight of the monstrous snowmen, Jane found the situation rather amusing…perhaps even somewhat thrilling. It had obviously taken a great deal of time and effort to construct the snow demons and whoever had done so possessed incredible artistic skill—they really were gruesome. Jane knew that better than anyone since she had taken a brisk walk all around town just to see every single one.   Jane had also discovered a dreadful snow figure on her property but she hadn’t screamed or shot at it. Truth be told, she had rather admired it. It was a noticeably larger figure than the others with several arms, numerous eyes, and rows of sharp and pointed teeth. She was planning to keep it for as long as possible and she was extremely annoyed when Officer Henley and Officer Palmer arrived unannounced on her property and promptly kicked the snow figure until it disintegrated into a formless pile. As Jane watched the snow creature—which oddly appeared to be hollow on the inside—disintegrate she had a sudden urge to kick the officers until they were nothing but bits of blood and bone. She always suppressed violent impulses, of course, yet she did wish that she had taken photos of every ferocious figure.   The presence of the police led Jane to consider the possibility that there could be a lunatic loose in town. It would certainly be exciting if there was because nothing interesting ever happened in Brereton. Years ago it had been a thriving factory town supported by an active sugar mill but now it was little more than a rusted ruin. In the summer there were two tepid town fairs, “Riverfest” in July and the “Modern Corn and Apple Festival” in August, but Jane rarely lingered long at either. The villagers were quite tiresome with their petty gossip and that was precisely why she also never joined any bingo nights or “Bone Builders” group exercise classes.   By far the most enjoyable occasions were the rummage sales where Jane both sold and bought things. She was always hopeful that at least one item would turn out to be possessed by some dark force but, thus far, all objects appeared to be quite normal. The only other occasions that the town residents seemed to get excited about were related to baseball and football and such things did not appeal to Jane. She hated sports.   Secretly, Jane was addicted to watching “True Crime” programs on television and so she knew all about homicidal maniacs. She thought the topic was quite interesting, although she kept her obsession to herself since she knew many of the townspeople might think it was morbid or strange and such perceptions would not fare well for her antique business. Undoubtedly the church women would think her media preferences were downright scandalous—just like the church folk had thought her teenage preoccupation with heavy metal music was reprehensible.   Jane had always hated attending church services and she often dreamed about burning the church to the ground. When she was younger her fantasies had been so intense that she could practically smell the smoke and feel the heat of the flames. But it was all in her mind, of course, she would never actually do such a thing. Truthfully, she had never actually done much of anything. She had never journeyed out of state or had neither a nemesis nor a kiss. When she was a girl she had escaped into fairy tales and films like “Labyrinth,” hoping that one day something special would happen to her.   Yet nothing exciting ever did happen—until those snow figures appeared. They were, by far, her highlight of the year, maybe even the decade, and that was why they intrigued her. It was also why she had lied to Officer Palmer about the key. Like everyone else she had received one in her mailbox but she swore to the police that she hadn’t. They were collecting them to test on every lock in town and, although Jane was desperately curious about their purpose, she didn’t want to surrender hers. It was...

[button color="gray" size="medium" link="http://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/12/15/voting-now-open-november-2014-holiday-horror-writing-contest-gallery-and-voting/" target="blank" ]Is this story your favorite? Click here to vote for it now![/button]The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. The Long Winter Samantha Dunworth Aislyn was on her way home from the market when the first snow of the season started to fall. Soft, fat flakes drifted down and began to build up on her car's windshield as she drove down the empty road. It was late afternoon and the sun had already set. The only reason she wasn't in her house like all the others living in the small town of Brereton, North Dakota was because she had run out of wine. Every night, after she made it home from working at the sugar factory, she would sit down with a fire in her fireplace and a glass of red wine. She had already stopped by her house only to remember that she was supposed to pick the wine up at the store beforehand. She grudgingly left, unwilling to break her afternoon routine even for one night. Now she was glad she did. Winter had always been Aislyn's favorite season and she moved to Brereton in part because it had a long winter. Snow fell every year and lasted for several months. It made commuting difficult at times but looking out her window to see glittering, pure, white snow decorating her yard and trees made it worthwhile. Some of her coworkers detested the dangerous weather but liked the closeness that small towns bred. With only eight hundred and fifty six inhabitants everyone in the town knew each other to some extent. Pulling into her driveway, which was already dusted with a thin layer of the white stuff, Aislyn grabbed her grocery bags and headed inside. A fire hadn't been lit that day since she had to double back to the market so the house wasn't as warm as it normally was at that time. With her coat still on she started a roaring fire then made her way into the kitchen. While she opened her wine, she listened to the crackle and pop of flames as they ate away at the logs. It was a soothing sound and she smiled to herself. With her glass of wine in hand, she took a seat on her bay window cushion. She had installed the bench herself and it was one of her favorite places to sit. It over looked her front yard and she liked to gaze at the stars late at night. She swirled her wine and stared at the silver lined sky. Thick clouds heavy with snow gave off an unearthly glow, lighting up the night. To Aislyn it always seemed like the snow held the darkness of night at bay. After an hour of watching the snowfall and listening to the sounds of her fire, she decided to call it a night. She put her glass in the sink and banked the fire taking satisfaction in the comforting warmth of the still burning coals before going upstairs to her room. Tomorrow was her day off so she planned to sleep in. She clicked off the light and fell into a peaceful slumber. The sky was bright but still filled with clouds that foretold of more winter weather when Aislyn pulled herself from the comfort of her warm bed. She didn't have much planned for the day but she was expecting a letter from her sister who lived in another part of the state. Putting on a terrycloth robe she stepped out on the porch with intention of heading to the mailbox but stopped short. Down the driveway next to the mailbox was a snowman. The distance from the porch to the snowman was too great for her make out much but it was about three feet tall. Aislyn was confused for a minute. She didn't think it had snowed enough for a sculpture that large to have been constructed. Trying to shrug it off and thinking of logical reasons for how the snowman ended up in her yard, she walked toward her mailbox. A weird feeling came over her as she moved. It wasn't fear or dread but some mixture of discomfort and agitation. With each step the feeling intensified. When she was just a few feet from the figure made of ice and snow she stopped again, a look of shock on her face. She knew why that horrible emotion had over taken her. Why she had paused on the porch at the sight of it. The head of the snowman had been sculpted to emulate her features. It was Aislyn's mirror with its smooth rounded cheeks and plump lips. Her own eyes gazed at her from a face of white snow. Who would go to so much effort to make it look so much like her and why? The body of the snowman was the normal large ball rolled up with a second smaller ball placed on top. Looking at herself on such a lumpy cartoonish visage made her shudder slightly. It had to be someone who knew her for the details to be so accurate. Aislyn decided that it was an admirer that constructed the snowman. It was the most logical explanation and calmed some of the turmoil that raged through her. She finally pulled herself away from the sculpture to get her mail. As she looked up she noticed something that made that bizarre feeling creep back in. From where she stood she could see a few of her other neighbor's mailboxes. Sitting next to each of them, facing towards the front door of each house, was a snowman. It dashed her admirer idea to bits. Maybe it was a group of kids? That wouldn't explain why the face on her snowman was so well sculpted. She made a visible effort to shrug it off and vowed to dismantle it after bringing her mail inside. There were only a few letter nestled in the metal receptacle which...

[button color="gray" size="medium" link="http://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/12/15/voting-now-open-november-2014-holiday-horror-writing-contest-gallery-and-voting/" target="blank" ]Is this story your favorite? Click here to vote for it now![/button]The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. Merry Misfortune Dorian Gray It was early November in my hometown of Brereton, North Dakota. Brereton is a small town of around 845 people, it is right on the border between North Dakota and Minnesota. It's total area covering around half a mile. There wasn't much around, aside from the Route 66 Cafe. I live at 200 N 5th street. It was a block away from both the school and the park. We have no big chain stores and no malls, but we do have plenty of ma and pa shops. But I’m not here to describe how great my hometown is, so let's get back to it.   First frost had just fallen and the crisp, clean air was ripe with the delighted screaming and laughter of children. In all, it was setting up to be a typical holiday season. My wife Sandra and I were already setting about, shopping for the newest gadgets and gizmos for her oldest nephew and the prettiest dollies for her young niece, both of whom still had that starry, doe eyed belief of the big man in the shiny red sleigh. We were on our way home from our most recent shopping trip when we saw an odd sight...

[button color="gray" size="medium" link="http://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/12/15/voting-now-open-november-2014-holiday-horror-writing-contest-gallery-and-voting/" target="blank" ]Is this story your favorite? Click here to vote for it now![/button]The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. Wreck the Halls Charles Swain A series of bizarre events swept the town of Brereton, North Dakota. The town was Leon Maxwell’s ideal place to take a vacation. Not only did he have family in the area, but it was peaceful. This year, however, his vacation was much longer than usual. Leon was an accomplished writer, his wife; Claire thought it was a great idea for him to do a story on his hometown. Leon could not leave until the novel was finished. The cold and harsh winter this year was just as bitter as the previous ones with temperatures cold enough to chill someone to their very bones. It didn’t help matters much that some of the winters could very well last into May. Leon loved the quietness of the town, but after a month, he missed interaction with people, so he got a seasonal job at the sugar refinery.   Leon, along with the rest of the town, would be troubled by the upcoming days. One evening, He arrived at his house and saw more snowmen in peoples' yards than the day before. He wouldn’t have thought anything of this except that there was now a snowman in his yard…and he surely didn’t make it himself. Once inside the house, Leon questioned his wife about the snowman. She told him she didn’t even know there was a snowman in their yard until he brought it up. Leon also found a gift on the table. It didn’t belong to him or his wife and nowhere on the gift did it hint who it was from. He was curious and picked it up; he even tried to shake it to see if he could hear anything. For now, Leon left it on the table and invited some friends to his house that night to talk a few things over.   They were sitting around a squared table playing a card game. During the game, Leon brought up the snowman that was made in his yard and the mysterious gift he received. All of Leon’s friends admitted to a snowman appearing in their yards too, along with the gift in their homes. Chris, Leon’s next door neighbor spoke up, “I don’t even have any children and my wife hates the snow so I know she wouldn’t even try to make a snowman.” He continued on, “as for the gift, I…I opened it. Well, at least the wrapping paper, I have no idea what is inside.”   “What are you talking about?” Leon questioned. Chris told Leon and everyone else in the group that the gift was just a box, a box that is locked and didn’t come with a key. Chris mentioned he did everything he could to try to open it, even smashing it, but it’s as tough as titanium. Leon thought it was odd to be given such a gift with no way to open it or know what’s inside. Claire mentioned that she tried calling the police all day but everyone has apparently reported the same incident, so it will be a while before the police get to their home. After the game, Leon had all his friends go home, and then he went to sleep. For the most part, the next day for Leon was normal, until he returned home and checked the mailbox. Inside was a sealed unmarked envelope. He walked inside of his house to show his wife as he started to open the envelope in front of her. A key fell out. The key had no company name or numbers on it. There was also a note inside the envelope. This note mentioned a gift, and said not to open it until Christmas. Both Clair and Leon looked at each other and then to the gift they got yesterday. Could this be a twisted prank?   Before either of them even thought to open the gift and unlock the box, they heard a loud and horrific yell. It sounded just like their next door neighbor, Chris. Leon told Claire to stay home as he rushed over to Chris’s house. He banged on the door and tapped on the window, but no one answered. Leon finally lost his patience and broke down the door. Fear instilled every fiber within his soul when he stepped his way into the kitchen. There was Chris, but his left arm was missing and his throat had been slashed. A pool of blood surrounded the victim. The face left on his friend was that of pure terror.   Leon rushed out of the home and when he returned to Claire he called the police. When the police arrived, Leon was sent to the station for questioning. Claire was also at the station but was questioned in a separate room. The officer asked mostly about her husband, starting with where he worked. She responded, “He is a writer. He doesn’t live in Brereton anymore, or even North Dakota for that matter, Leon visits this town once a year because only about 800 people live here. No publicity and no fans.” “Is he going to give us a hard time?” said the officer. “I can’t definitively say yes or no. Leon is the kind of person that if you treat him right he will give you the shirt off his back to help you out. However, if he’s treated like a suspect, you won’t get him to answer a single question even if you interrogate him for hours, and if he does, I can say with absolute certainty it won’t be the kind of answer you like.”   Meanwhile, a group of teenagers are having a party held at their friend’s house. By now, nightfall has approached. The music was so loud that they didn’t hear the constant knocking on the door. One teen finally sees the door...

[button color="gray" size="medium" link="http://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/12/15/voting-now-open-november-2014-holiday-horror-writing-contest-gallery-and-voting/" target="blank" ]Is this story your favorite? Click here to vote for it now![/button]The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. Umbra Mariko Pratt “Beginning around the first snowfall in early November, people began to find snowmen in their yards, with no idea of who exactly had made them.  At the same time, everyone began to find keys in their mailboxes, in sealed, unmarked envelopes.  Some of these keys came smeared with blood, which were later proved to be that from a lamb while others came attached with travel tags in various foreign languages.” Hailey Ueland considered what she just wrote, and then stared out of her bedroom window.  In the early morning stillness, a smooth sweep of newly fallen snow covered the ground, disturbed only by the hummocks of hidden bushes and the skeletal shapes of trees. Suddenly, from behind her, there came a muffled thump— rather like the sound of a small bag of potatoes falling.  She glanced behind her.  A mammoth Maine Coon cat plodded on thick paws from its perch on the rocking chair at the end of the room.  It sniffed disdainfully at a small black and white kitten browsing at a food bowl before shoving it aside. “Rumpole!” Hailey exclaimed, getting up. “Don’t be rude!” Scooping up the squeaking kitten and taking down a box of Purina Kitten Chow from the shelf, she shook the contents of the box into another bowl on the desk. “Go ahead, Boots,” said Hailey before returning to her diary. “I didn’t used to believe in ghosts and demons.  In the continuation of a restless spirit that persists long after death.  Now I know better.  Not everybody goes gently into that Good Night, especially when they’re burning for revenge for an unnatural death…or just filled up to the brim with pure malice and envy for the living. “Even innocuous objects, like what I described, can signal the impending approach of a horde of restless hostile spirits. “Even seemingly ordinary objects such as keys and snowmen. “I remember it happening like this…” The aroma of baked potatoes and fried catfish lingered in the heated kitchen of the rather ornate farmhouse near Brereton, North Dakota. Fifteen-year-old Hailey Ueland stood at the sink, her gold-flecked hazel eyes focused on the TV rather than on the dishes she was supposed to be finishing. She had the TV tuned to Animal Planet and was watching the latest episode of Bad Dog!  This featured various animals behaving badly and still getting unconditional love from their doting owners. Outside, the wind whipped through the surrounding trees.  The bare branches rattled and shook, sending showers of fresh snow over the previous, powdery layer covering over the ground. Down below, she could hear her parents clattering around in the basement as they cleared away the remaining clutter left behind by her great-aunt Ramona as well previous generation of Uelands. Great-Aunt Ramona was known to be an eccentric, a cigar-smoking, outspoken woman who amassed a vast treasure trove of souvenirs in her years as a photojournalist working for National Geographic. Even though Ramona was a hoarder and borderline cat lady, she certainly wasn’t crazy to the point of bizarre public behavior. In this Northwestern corner of North Dakota, where catfish fishing and baseball reigned supreme, there were plenty of other candidates that fit crazy train category. Unfortunately, as Hailey would soon come to find upon moving to Brereton, a few of these mental cases lived down the street from her and rode the same school bus. Sometimes, like something out of a horror movie, they just appear out of nowhere…when you least expect it. Hailey let her thoughts drift away from her as she lazily scrubbed and scraped.  Now they were showing a hilarious video of what could possibly be the world’s laziest bulldog. “Wow!” she murmured. “What a cute, lovable fat ass.” The kitchen light flickered suddenly then began to wane from a bright yellow to a dull amber glow. “What?” Hailey peered up at the dimming lights. “That’s odd…” Her voice trailed off. Guttural barking jolted her from her daze.  Chase the Shiloh Shepard burst into the kitchen, his hackles bristling straight up. “Chase, relax, it’s just a brown-out,” Hailey muttered, peeling off her dish gloves.  She winced as another volley of hysterical barking clashed against her eardrums.  By now, the shepherd had skidded in front of the kitchen door and was growling low in his throat. Probably just those damn coyotes again, Hailey thought as she walked toward the door…only to jump back in shock when Chase suddenly lunged at it, clawing furiously at the screen. “Chase, get down!” Hailey commanded, grabbing hold of his collar, but he persisted on clinging to the screen, strings of saliva now coating the netted wire and his gray fur. Finally she shoved the dog aside, and taking the deep breath, threw open the screen and pulled back the curtain. The backyard was empty.  Not footprints—human or animal marred the several inches of snow on the ground.  There were just starless winter skies and bare, ice-encrusted trees of the silent North Dakota woods. “Seems like a false alarm, Chase,” Hailey remarked as she slammed the screen back in place.  She peered worriedly at the dog huddled against her legs, still growling. “If you keep this ruckus up, Mom and Dad are going to send you to sleep in the laundry room.” She frowned as she regarded the fluorescent bulbs still dimming and turning bright again. “That’s majorly-bizarro,” she muttered. “It shouldn’t even be doing that since Dad had all the electrical stuff replaced.” Five minutes later, it happened, the lights suddenly flickered out, the TV signal cut out to static, the refrigerator fell silent. Chase whined then turned tail and fled leaving Hailey standing there in the darkness feeling rather annoyed.  Perhaps Dad had inadvertently triggered a short circuit by plugging in one those electronic pinball machines downstairs.  Yep, she thought, that must be it. Staring at the TV, Hailey frowned in puzzlement.  Then walked forward and switched through some more channels.  Nothing but static on every one. She...

[button color="gray" size="medium" link="http://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/12/15/voting-now-open-november-2014-holiday-horror-writing-contest-gallery-and-voting/" target="blank" ]Is this story your favorite? Click here to vote for it now![/button]The following story is the property of the cited author and may not be reproduced in any capacity without their express written consent. The Silver Key John Andreini 1958 A fist pounded impatiently on the front door. Someone yelled, “Let us in, Levi.” Angry men with guns paced in anticipation, and the front porch ached under their weight. Levi sat in his favorite chair a few feet from the fireplace, which was the only light in the room. He knew why the men had come and nothing he could say or do would sate their anger. These were his final days or hours. He held a small human figure made of straw in one hand and recited the words he had learned as a child from his “crazy” Louisiana aunt, words he believed contained power and magic.  The door flew open with a wall-shaking crash and police fell into the house, waving their weapons, expecting, maybe hoping, for resistance. Levi tossed the doll into the fire and stood, hands raised in the air, his shadow on the wall looking like a performing circus bear. 2014 Winter nights in the upper Midwest, beyond the meager yellow glow of the small prairie town of Brereton, are as cold and black as the bottom of a covered well. A lone pair of headlights bounced up and down on a rutted gravel road, capturing swirls of snow as they strained to cut through the heavy darkness. The driver, Josh Helms, grimaced after a swig of whisky from a bag handed to him by Gavin Larson, who gladly took back the half empty bottle and tilted it up for another gulp. The truck’s side windows were frosted, and Josh lowered his a few inches to gaze into the raw black void of a North Dakota night. “Damn, it’s hard to see. Why didn’t we just do this in the daylight?” asked Josh. “What fun would that be?” “It’s snowing, dark as shit, and about 20 degrees outside. Somehow ‘fun’ doesn’t quite capture the moment.” “Hey, I brought whisky so shut up.” “And the key. Your old man’s gonna be pissed when he sees it’s gone.” “He’s passed out by now. I’ll put it back on the counter when we get back. Besides, there was nothing on the envelope. It could have been meant for me.” “Look. There’s the house up on the right. Damn dawg, it’s creepy.” Captured in the bluish white lights of the truck was a farm house, at least the skeletal remains of a farm house, it’s clapboard siding dark and moldy with age, windows covered in grime, and vines crawling up it’s two story exterior like the tentacles of some terrestrial octopus. Josh pulled his truck to a stop and grabbed the bottle from Gavin. “Why is there even a lock on the door? A person could just break a window and crawl in,” said Josh, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. “Surprised no one’s done it.” Gavin looked down at the silver key in his palm with the name “Hastings” engraved on it. “I don’t know, but it’s like some kind of invitation. There was a photo with it, but my old man took it before I could see what it was.” He smiled at his friend and adjusted his tan UND baseball cap. “It’s all just too damn crazy to pass up.” The young men stepped out of the truck into the frigid night air. Gavin turned on his flashlight and inspected the drooping remnants of a front porch. “Nobody’s lived here for a long time.” “Like out of some horror movie. Maybe this—.” “Don’t you wuss out on me now, Josh.” Gavin walked cautiously up the steps to the front door. “Weird. It looks like the lock is brand new. Come on.” Reluctantly, hands deep in his jacket pockets, Josh joined his friend next to the door. A sudden gust of snow swirled around the two, perhaps a subtle warning, but Gavin slipped the key into the lock and turned it with a click. Flashlight in hand, he pushed the door in and signaled for Josh to follow. After the two disappeared into the darkness, the door slammed violently shut behind them, violating the deep-space quiet of a moonless prairie night.   Winnie Larson wiped the kitchen counter with a sponge in one hand and held her cell to her ear with the other. The plump, rosy-cheeked woman wore a concerned expression. “I know he’s twenty years old, and I don’t normally keep tabs on him, but he’s usually good about texting me if he’s not coming home. I don’t know where he went. He was with Josh. I’m not trying….” She paused at the kitchen window. In the middle of the freshly frosted front yard was what looked like a snowman, although she couldn’t make out any details. Whatever it was, it wasn’t there last night. “I’ll have to call you back, Sis.” A down coat pulled around her ample waist, untied boots plodding across the yard, Winnie approached the strange sculpture cautiously. It was a crude replica of a man with a frowning face. A knife was buried into one eye with red dye dripping down from the wound like blood. Confused, Winnie finally noticed the cap on the snowman’s head. It was a tan UND baseball cap stained with dark red blood. Her screams sent a tree full of blackbirds flapping skyward.   Beneath a grim charcoal sky, a procession of cars with their lights on made its way slowly down Main Street in the direction of Skjeberg Cemetery at the southern edge of Brereton. In the third car behind the hearse sat a somber Scott Schuster, a gifted young native of Brereton who left town three years earlier to attend law school at the University of Iowa. He’d grown up across the street from Gavin and the two had been closer than most brothers. Scott had been in a black state of confusion ever since his aunt called him to tell him that Gavin and...

[button color="gray" size="medium" link="http://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/11/03/updated-voting-method-vote-now-october-2014-flash-fiction-horror-writing-contest-gallery-and-voting/" target="blank" ]Is this story one of your five favorites? Click here to vote for it now![/button][box type="shadow" align="aligncenter"] STORY SYNOPSIS There's a been murdering on the street luckerstreet but who did it? Recently a girl named Sophie bought a doll from Sophie's mums store. When she went to sleep that night, her parents woke up seeing her dead. What happened? Read the story to find out...

[button color="gray" size="medium" link="http://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/11/03/updated-voting-method-vote-now-october-2014-flash-fiction-horror-writing-contest-gallery-and-voting/" target="blank" ]Is this story one of your five favorites? Click here to vote for it now![/button][box type="shadow" align="aligncenter"] "Pagan Poetry" by Hywel JÖnes (Read in Edinburgh accent) So I was on a night shift when I got the call on the radio. Some sort of murder in a house north of the river. Me and my partner drove up there to do the usual, you know, tape up the place, tell people that there’s nothing too see here, usual shite. But on this occasion something very different had happened. Usually it was somebody hanging themselves or someone killed in a dispute between a husband and wife. But this was no normal case. I got that sense as I noticed that, when we were turning people away, there were a lot more men in suits than usual. After a couple of hours I noticed that a filled body bag wasn’t brought out yet. I asked a college what was going on, she had no idea. I asked another, still no idea. I couldn’t stand standing in the fucking freezing rain at midnight waiting to go home. So I decided to see what was going on. As I entered the house I instantly saw what had happened. There was blood everywhere and it was a mess. I walked through the house when I came across an open door where I noticed a suit standing there in silence, looking at something. I opened the door for a better look when I noticed that he was looking at a teddy bear. “Don’t fucking move!” The suit shouted at me “I’m police” I replied “That’s not what I mean” the suit responded “It’ll get you!” “The fuck are you going on about” I answered back as I moved further in, I was restless and wanted to know why I was standing in the rain for so long. I saw a look of horror on the suit’s face, like he’d seen a ghost. And I thought he was CID. “Look at the bear!” he whispered in a panicked voice. I did look at the bear and noticed that it wasn’t on the table anymore, it had moved to the floor. It had fallen on the floor, what had happened here that petrified a seemingly experienced CID officer, well judging by his grey hair. As I looked up I noticed that there were three other suits, a priest and someone wearing a white cloak. He wasn’t forensics as there was no mouth mask or googles. “What’s with the cloak?” I asked “This is pagan” he replied. When I heard this thought, oh no, druids, not these crazy fuckers who wonder around Stonehenge praising the sun or some bollocks like that. But then I wondered, what were a bunch of suits and a priest doing here, so I asked. “They saw mysterious things and they thought it was associated with my religion” the priest answered “but it wasn’t” “Well what’s going on then?” when I asked this I noticed a crying girl in the corner, covered in blood. It was at this time I realised that something really fucked up had happened here. I started to head for the door when it closed all of a sudden with no explanation. I sighed, it must have been the wind. I was about to open the door when I heard a young feminine voice suddenly talk “he doesn’t want you to leave” I turned around “What?” “The monster, he likes you, he loves you, and he wants to play with you and for you and it to be best friends” the young feminine voice replied completely emotionless. As I looked around I noticed that the bear was right next to me. “Ah fuck” I yelled as I jumped so hard that I fell over “what the fuck? Is this a fucking wind up? What the fuck is going on? Is this a prank ‘cause it isn’t fucking funny? Doug, this isn’t fucking funny, you can fucking stop it now!” “It isn’t Doug! It’s the bear, he just wants to play” the little girl continued “come and play” her voice was starting to creep me the fuck out! It was so emotionless yet so intimidating. I tried to remind myself that it was just a little girl. “He wants him, he wants him, he wants him!” she continued. I looked at the suits and two religious people. “Againn nach féidir a dhéanamh sin, ach a fhágáil léi , saoire an saol seo , ní gá duit a bhaineann le dó” the man in the white cloak announced “But he likes him” the girl answered “ach ní féidir linn a bhfuil tú ar an saol seo , ní gá duit a mbaineann anseo ...