Vampires, sea monsters, aliens, banshees, slashers and more. Ten horror-themed micro stories, each a spooky, bite-size treat at exactly two hundred and fifty words. Read one just before bed if you dare!
|Publication Date||October 12, 2016|
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Horror Shots: Ten Tiny Tales of Terror
By Maison Crow
These ten stories, each exactly two hundred and fifty words, range from serious to silly and are hopefully as much fun to read as they were to write.
THE LAST GAME
“A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen.”
— Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
I’m no stranger to back-alley poker in unsavory places, but this dive smells like a barely converted kennel. One bare bulb hangs above the only table big enough for six, so I assume this is where I’m meant to be.
I take my seat, and a waitress slides a glass of something cloudy and pungent in front of me. I turn to thank her, but she’s already gone. The scuffing of rough chairs on a rougher floor draws my attention back to the table. Four players are now edging up, two on each side. They stare at me, stony-faced.
Lightning cracks, and something howls. I toss back the mystery liquid, hoping to counteract the chill I’m suddenly feeling. It bites like a Doberman and does crazy things to my head. My vision goes fuzzy. Faces seem to distort and elongate. Breath comes in shallow, panting gasps. I paw at my collar, trying to loosen it. All around, golden eyes watch me quizzically, heads cocked to one side.
The door crashes open, and the dealer stands there, his coat black as the abyss. Despite his bulk, he pads to the head of the table without making a sound. What little light there is seems to slide off him. I can barely make out his features, but I smell his hot breath. Sulfur and meat. His red eyes bore into mine as he clips the end of a cigar and lights it. That’s when I know. This will be my last game.
“Men really do need sea-monsters in their personal oceans.”
— John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
“Okay,” she said into her drink. “I’m a sucker for a good urban legend.”
“Ain’t no legend. It’s true,” he slurred, wobbling on his bar stool as he tried to make a three-fingered salute. “Swear.”
“Go ahead, then. Impress me,” she said, still not looking at him.
“You got it, honey. Hang on to your socks. When I was a kid, I had this gigantic seashell. You know, the kind where you can hear the ocean? So I’m showing it to my friend Tony, when this girl walks up. A girl with black eyes.”
“I know. Creepy, right? Anyway, she says forget the shell. What you want to do is look for a full moon after a heavy rain. Find a puddle, and put your ear up to the reflection. Mysteries of the deep will be revealed.”
“Did you believe her?”
“Tony did, poor bastard. That night we had rain. Full moon. The works. He puts his ear to the water and bam—I kid you not—a tentacle wraps around his head. Freaking tentacle. Pulls him into the puddle. And here’s the kicker. You ready? It was only two inches deep! My hand to God.”
He put up a hand and nearly fell off the stool. She leaned over to catch him, her face inches from his. He sobered up instantly, terror chasing away the alcohol haze. Her black eyes were just as he remembered them.
“It’s raining outside now,” she said. “Maybe you can show me.”
THE PROBLEM OF EVIL
“Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.”
— Milton Friedman
“Hey, would you hold the ladder for me?”
Farax, the pestilence demon, places a hand on the rickety ladder. “Whatcha doing way up there?”
Pentoth, the metalsmith, tosses down a yellowed piece of paper.
Farax catches it. “Says here to give this guy the works.”
“Yep. Full-on chain party. These babies snake out, hook into his flesh, and—”
“Yeah, I get it. But do you really think he deserves something that severe?”
“Does it matter? Orders are orders.” “I guess. You get yours from Prufas?” Pentoth grunts his affirmation.
“Makes sense. He’s been screwing things up since the Cretaceous period. Remember when he accidentally made, like, a hundred billion copies of the same kill order? Instead of admitting his mistake, he just sent them all out.”
“That was him? Damn. I had to work overtime for centuries. I still dream about dead dinosaurs.”
“Tell me about it. And the stubborn little prick refuses to wear his glasses. Last week I had to give cancer to a kid. I’m not talking a delinquent teenager either; I mean a little kid. That can’t be right.”
Pentoth chuckles. “So let me get this straight. You’re saying forget Karma, God’s mysterious plan and even Hell’s warped bureaucracy—just chalk up the injustices of the world to one incompetent, virtually unsupervised demon?”
“Maybe. I mean, you create infernal flesh-rending machines. I brew up gut-liquefying plagues, but honestly, I think the scariest demon of all has got to be Prufas, the idiot mail cart guy.”
“I am unused to banshees crying Boo at me. Your wife can’t be a banshee—or can she?”
— Ogden Nash, Private Dining-room and Other New Verses
“Say your goodbyes, doll.” He prods the mobile dangling over the crib with the tip of his knife. A tinkling melody begins to play.
The woman doesn’t move. She just stares with desperate, questioning eyes.
“You want to know why, I guess.” he says. “Tell you what. Quid pro quo. You first. Why’d you do that to yourself?” He gestures at the scar across her throat.
Without taking her eyes off him, she reaches for a notepad and unclips a pen. Thyroid cancer, she writes.
“Bullshit. That’s what you told them, but cutting out your voice box doesn’t make you any less a monster. And it’s beside the point. I want to know why you did it. Why you’ve been trying to pass for human.”
Her eyes harden despite the tears welling in them. She nods sideways at the crib.
“So it is yours. I didn’t think that was possible. Shame. Well, now it’s my turn.” He opens his jacket to reveal a clerical collar. “You’re an affront to God. And that little bugger is an abomination.”
As he raises the knife, she kicks the crib hard. A wail erupts from within and grows exponentially. All the glass in the room shatters. The man drops his knife and covers his ears. A moment later, the iron blade is buried in his neck. The woman releases the hilt and quickly lifts her baby up to witness the arterial fountain. At the sight, the wailing becomes the giddy cackle of an infant.
A GIFT HORSE
“Whoever concerns himself with big technology, either to push it forward or to stop it, is gambling in human lives.”
— Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe
“It’s the cops! Run!”
The boys dropped everything and split. All except Biff. He froze. He’d never been in trouble in his life, and this was all kinds of trouble. The sirens were getting louder, but he just couldn’t move. Then, as the alley walls were bathed in blue light, a nearby manhole popped open in a spray of steam. That broke the spell.
Biff pitched forward as if shoved by an invisible hand, arms flailing as he teetered on the edge before falling into the hole. He caught himself painfully on his elbows and scrabbled for purchase until his feet found the ladder. The moment he was below street level, the heavy metal disc clanged back into place, sealing him in darkness. He hesitated, unease at what just happened almost overcoming his other fears, but the muffled squawk of police radios got him moving again—fast. Too fast to recover when he reached a missing rung.
Somehow, instead of falling, he floated gently down into a shallow river of sewage. Flames erupted along the walls as makeshift torches of compressed garbage flared into life, revealing the biggest alligator he’d ever seen.
A wave of alien thoughts swept across his mind. “Nice to meet you, Biff. I’m George. Telepathic, obviously. A product of genetic experimentation. I’m also telekinetic, pyrokinetic, precognitive, postcognitive, yadda, yadda, yadda. But most unfortunate for you…” Biff rose slowly into the air and began to turn like meat on a spit.
“…I like playing with my food.”
THE COLOR OF ROSES
“I was shaking all over, and it wasn’t from the vampire. Memories have teeth, too.”
— Laurell K. Hamilton, Bloody Bones
The moment her car came to a stop in the secluded driveway, she knew something wasn’t right. The feeling stayed with her as she walked up the steps to the porch. At the top, she gasped. Her keys fell to the ground.
Wedged between the door-frame and the handle was a dozen roses, six of them crushed. She couldn’t help but remember the first bouquet he had given her. It was their first date. He tried to keep them hidden behind his back, but slipped on the icy steps and fell, crushing half of them. He was so disappointed and embarrassed when he handed them to her that she kissed him right there on the spot.
Completely engrossed in thoughts of the past, she didn’t notice the footsteps coming up the stairs behind her. As soon as the intruder’s feet touched the wooden porch, she felt the vibration and opened her eyes. There was no need to turn around. She knew who it was. He placed his hands on her shoulders and spun her to face him. She stared into his dark, hypnotic eyes until her resistance failed. Her shoulders slumped, and her arms went limp.
“Say you love me,” he commanded.
She whispered as if in a trance, “You know I love you.” Then with hardly a conscious thought, she snapped forward and sank her teeth into his neck. Bloody tears ran down her cheeks as she took his life into the vacuum of her tortured soul.
LAST CHANCE GAS
“I have marked in traveling how lonely houses change their expression as you come near, pass, and leave them. Some frown, others smile.”
— Emma Frances Dawson, An Itinerant House, and Other Ghost Stories
He hadn’t given a single thought to where he was going, much less where he was. Until the fuel light blinked on. He looked around frantically for some sign of civilization. Not so much as a cow. Then suddenly it was there—a small building just off the road with a single gas pump in front. He stomped the brakes, and the car skidded a little before stopping.
The place looked abandoned. He picked up the nozzle anyway and flipped the lever. The pump sprang to life, making him jump. The numbers spun and snapped into place at zero. He unscrewed the cap and squeezed the trigger. It was puttingsomething in his tank.
Flies buzzed around the entrance as he approached. He quickly pulled the screen door open and walked inside.
“You should have a sign out front saying last chance…” he started, and then stopped. The place was empty. Empty in a way that chilled him to the bone.
He turned back to see glimmers of light sparkle between gaps in the wire mesh and wink out. He grabbed the knob, and it came off in his hand, leaving behind a hole. For an instant he saw a large, white eye in its place, moist and searching. He blinked, and it was gone. He reached out a trembling hand and thrust three cupped fingers into the hole where the knob had been. Something screamed in delight or pain; it was impossible to tell. And then he came apart.
“Beware the dark pool at the bottom of our hearts. In its icy, black depths dwell strange and twisted creatures it is best not to disturb.”
— Susan Grafton, I Is for Innocent
“You’re not really going to order it, are you?” Buddy said.
“What the hell,” replied Chad. “Bartender!”
The bartender was big, with a bushy beard and a funny shape. Lumpy somehow, but then again, Chad was smashed.
“Make me a goat shootherie… schmoother… aw, you know what I mean.” He mockwhispered, “Your schecret drink.”
The bartender shook his head.
“No? Do you know who I am?” Chad slapped a crumpled fifty on the bar.” When the man still didn’t move, Chad reached up and grabbed his beard. He heard a soft tearing sound before an iron grip clamped onto the back of his neck and lifted him off the stool.
“Um, it’s getting late. Find your own way home, huh Chad?” said Buddy. He left without another word, the bar’s few remaining patrons in tow.
When they were gone, the bartender placed a glass of murky liquid in front of Chad.
“So thish is a…” Chad croaked.
The bartender lowered Chad back to his stool, but didn’t remove his hand.
The drink had four straws, slowly stirring themselves around. Chad leaned over to get a better look, and they snaked out, burying themselves in his neck like enormous syringes. He tried to pull away, but the bartender held him firm.
With each loud gulp, Chad felt himself grow weaker. Before he passed out, he thought he saw at the bottom of the glass a tiny black figure with glowing red eyes, greedily sucking at the other end of the straws.
ALONE IN A CROWD
“I am too much alien and not enough monkey to fit in here.”
— Melissa St. Hilaire
I came to this city for the crowds. The roommates. The subways. The nightlife. It’s not good for me to be alone; I never know when they’ll try to take me again. My blood runs cold at every flash of light and unexplained sound. Even in this fancy restaurant, with this deliciously cute guy sitting across the table and people all around, I’m a basket case.
It’s okay though. My façade is in place. I laugh in all the right places. He thinks I’m a normal girl with normal problems. Eventually, I have to excuse myself to the bathroom. My pulse races at the potential solitude. I walk faster than I probably should and don’t dawdle, but as I catch sight of myself in the mirror, I decide touching up my make-up is a necessity. Just as I reach into my purse, the lights flicker.
I freeze. The buzz of the fluorescent tubes seems suddenly louder. The voices beyond the door become distorted. Modulated. Inhuman.
The lights flicker again. No, this can’t be happening. Not again. Not here! I drop to my hands and knees, peering frantically beneath the stalls. All empty. I struggle unsteadily to my feet as the entire room seems to pitch and yaw. I race to the door and yank on the handle. Beyond is only brilliant, white-hot light. It sears my skin, burning it away to reveal the green scales underneath.
“Mom! I don’t want to go back! I can’t eat like this at home!”
MAKE IT PERSONAL
“The monstrous act by definition demands a monster.”
— Rick Yancey, The Curse of the Wendigo
The impassioned young lovers, entangled as they were, didn’t see the dark figure menacing them from the doorway. He took a step forward, raised his weapon, then hesitated as the lights flicked on and blinked in quick succession. The two on the bed leapt up and slipped through the cracked door at the other end of the room as though rehearsed.
The killer charged forward, swinging the door wide. A bucket fell from overhead and doused him with gasoline. He tore off his mask and rubbed his stinging eyes. The lights went out again.
“I knew you couldn’t resist,” said a soft voice from the darkness. A match flared and illuminated her face. She ran a hand through her hair, revealing a mutilated ear and a scar that ran all the way down her jaw. “Remember me?” She tossed the match.
The killer went up in a blaze. He lunged and slashed at the woman in the shadows, but she wasn’t there. Instead, his feet found a tripwire. He stumbled, crashed through a blacked-out window and plunged three stories. The hard-packed snow did little to cushion his fall, but he disturbed enough of it to put out the flames, leaving his body a smoking, lifeless ruin. Except it wasn’t.
His eyes snapped open. His fingers twitched and reached for his blade as he heard the crunch of approaching boots. A pretty, scarred face appeared above him.
“Always double-tap, bitch,” she said before swinging the axe to take off his head.
Horror Shots: Ten Tiny Tales of Terror copyright © 2016 by Maison Crow. First edition October 2016. Illustrations by the author and from purchased stock. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any format without permission in writing from the copyright holders. For further information, email email@example.com.
About the Author
MAISON CROW is a pathological dreamer. He spends more time inside his head than out of it, exploring the byways and dark corners of speculative fiction. Often when he finds his way back, he forgets to close the door behind him, and curious things follow him through. In his spare time, he uses words to lure them onto the page and trap them there. Let’s hope he gets them all.