Earlier this year, Ashburn Magazine announced our first creative writing contest for Ashburn students. We challenged local middle schoolers and high schoolers to write up a spooky story fitting for the fall. We received quite a few wonderful submissions. Our winner was Salonee Verma, a sophomore at Stone Bridge High School. Her story — A Trick of the Light — was published in the September/October issue of Ashburn Magazine. You can read it here.
There were three other stories our judges identified as the runners-up in the contest. We are sharing them below, in no particular order, for your reading pleasure. Congrats to all our budding Ashburn authors!
By Maegen Peppe, Senior, Broad Run High School
It’s 10:00pm, the night before Halloween. Timmy lays in his bed terrified by the thought of the following day. Timmy, only six years old, usually loves Halloween. It’s a time for his entire family to get together, and it gives him a chance to hang out with all of his favorite cousins, too. This year is different, though. All his family has moved away, scared off by the sheer amount of people who have started to move into their little town of Ashburn. Timmy and his parents are the only ones who remain. With his family being extremely isolated, Timmy doesn’t know any of the neighborhood kids. For as long as he can remember, his parents have always told him how dangerous and spooky everyone around them was. With that being said, there were no ties between Timmy’s family and everyone else in the town. His family became extremely self-sufficient: growing all of their own food and raising chickens.
James, John, and Joe are the town bullies. They love Halloween. It gives them the chance to scare the bejeebers out of all the little kids in Ashburn. The town bullies, also known as J3, loved to steal entire bowls of candy, too. All in all, they terrorized this little town. Halloween came, and J3 decided that they were going to prove how brave they were. There was a house and a farm on the far edge of town that spooked out all the neighborhood kids. No one ever went in or out of it. It was rumored around town that it was haunted. J3 planned on ringing the doorbell of that house that night. When it came to be time, J3 met up at the driveway of the spooky and scary house. It was dead quiet. One could hear a piece of candy drop a mile away. They slowly but surely made their way up the driveway. They walked up to the porch and knocked on the door. All three of them were extremely terrified, but they made sure to hide their fear with a cocky smile.
After getting no sleep the previous night, Timmy is exhausted. All of a sudden there is a knock on his front door. At first, he thinks he is imagining it. In all of his six years here, no one has ever knocked on his front door; but then the knock comes again. Timmy goes and looks through the tiny peephole in the door. Seeing three boys a little older than himself, Timmy gathers up all his courage and opens up the door. The second he opens the door the boys start screaming which causes Timmy to scream out of fear. The three boys run faster than humanly possible down Timmy’s driveway and back into town.
The second J3 arrives back into town, they run straight to the police station saying they saw something in that house. The police chalk it up to some Halloween prank and tell the boys that that house has been abandoned for years. James, John, and Joe are adamant about what they saw. Soon J3 became the laughing stock of the town. They go home feeling both humiliated and frightened,
After slamming the door shut, Timmy runs off to find his parents. He is so confused. Who are those weird-looking boys who were here? Timmy’s parents turn ashen when he says what he saw. In a shaky quiet voice, his mom tells him about how those boys are a type of magical creature called humans. They have superpowers that allow them to eat without the food just falling straight through them. Timmy then proceeds to ask his mom what he was called if the boys were humans. His mom answers with a smile and says ghosts.
THE BOOK OF DEATH
By Stephanie Ding Draughon, Senior, Homeschooled
It was a dreary, sunless day when she went on that fateful trip to the used bookstore. Thick, white stratus clouds covered the sky. Her mood matched the weather. It was one of those days where nothing seemed the way it was supposed to be, and a veil of boredom hung over everything.
The interior of the used bookstore was very small and cozy, with a musty smell hanging in the air. There was a roped-off staircase leading to a second floor, where she assumed the owners lived. Unorganized piles of books lay everywhere, with no path between them. Amid the clutter was an antique desk and a cushioned chair. The man sitting there made everything around him look young in comparison.
Her mood brightened. She loved being around old books, especially horror stories. She walked tentatively up to the desk and asked, “Do you know where the horror stories are?”
The old man pushed his spectacles back up his nose, grunted, and pointed towards the darkest corner of the bookstore.
She groped blindly at the piles of books, looking for some kind of path to the back corner. Luckily for her, the old man didn’t notice, or didn’t care, when she stepped on several books and pushed others aside in her eagerness to find the horror stories.
Finally, she found the dark corner, where several books with chilling titles and cover photos were displayed. But something in her head told her that none of those books were what she was looking for. She kept scanning the books for something that would catch her interest, something unique, but she didn’t find anything.
She was about to give up when she noticed a small gap between two piles of books. She squeezed through it, looking around curiously. What she had previously thought was a back wall of the building was really a huge curtain, and she ducked under it to find herself in a tiny room with even older books. There was one in particular that caught her attention.
It was tightly wedged between two other boring-looking books. She pulled it out. It had a faded red cloth covering that looked as if it had been made at the beginning of time. The pages were yellowed, and when she opened the book, they crumbled beneath her touch. She gingerly closed the book, and looked again at the cover. On it, she could barely discern the once-golden lettering, The Book of Death. There was no author’s name anywhere that she could see.
She strangely felt that that was what she had always been looking for. She pushed back through the curtain, squeezed through the gap between the two piles of books, and fumbled her way to the front of the bookstore again.
When she showed the old man the book, he said, “Ah, inquisitive, aren’t we?”
She didn’t know what he meant, so she just stared at him and pushed the book forward.
“Really…” he said. “This isn’t what you think it is. You’re much better off with one of those horror stories over there…” He pointed back towards the dark corner he had first shown her.
But she shook her head, and said, “No. I think I like this book. I’ll try it, and I won’t blame you if I don’t like it, okay?”
After a minute, he reluctantly nodded, and she pulled out her wallet and paid for it.
By Ved Bhandare, 7th Grade, Trailside Middle School
“It’s okay, Andrew, we all get bad dreams sometimes,” my mom said to me. Beads of sweat were running down my forehead and I felt my heart was beating at the speed of light. I had stormed into my parents’ room and forced them to come to my room. Because of the door.
That night I had woken up with an eerie noise filling the room. I sat up in bed. A mystical blue glow surrounded me, and I noticed that it was coming from a door. A tiny door right next to my closet. It was as tall as my finger with a small violet ladder below it. I was terrified and instantaneously ran to my parents’ room, woke them up and dragged them to my room, but it was gone! So strange how that dream was so misgiving and felt so real. That night I laid in my bed unable to sleep.
The next day I continued to think about it and no dream had ever felt so real. Luckily, I almost forgot about it by the time I went to sleep in the night.
Creeeeeeek! I heard a noise and opened my eyes. I was in bed, my heart started racing, bad thoughts running through my head. Is this another bad dream? Is there going to be a tiny door again? Creeeeeeek! I heard the noise again and this time I sat up in bed. There it is. The same tiny door with the mystical blue light illuminating from it. I got out of bed, but this time I didn’t run to my parents. I took a step towards the door, shielding my eyes from the bright light. I took another step, then another, and another. My feet were automatically stepping towards the door like an invisible rope pulling me in. I tried to resist but I couldn’t control my feet. With every step I took, my body started shrinking. I shrank till I was as small as the door. I climbed up the ladder and stepped into the door.
I had to cover my eyes with my hands, because the blue light was so bright, I thought it was brighter than the sun. Creeeek! The door closed behind me and suddenly the blue light was gone. I was surrounded in darkness. I turned around and tried to open the door, but I couldn’t. A slimy thing wrapped around my foot and I got pulled into the darkness, pointy objects scratched my body and face.
“Help,” I screamed as I got pulled further and further into the darkness. “Somebody please help me!” And then I lost my consciousness.
I opened my eyes. Everything was hazy. I was upside down. I looked at my feet, I was stuck to a stalactite with some sort of green sticky goo. And the sticky goo was growing. Everything around felt exactly similar to The Luray Caverns. I had been there with my parents last summer.
I looked around and was baffled to see lots of horrifying things. On the ceiling were scintillating blue crystals that lit up the entire cavern I was in and lots of other children around the same age as me. They were stuck to stalactites or stalagmites with the same sticky goo, except for some it had covered their entire body, from head to toe. While, for others it was growing, slowly consuming their entire body, just like me!
Split! Splat! Split! Splat! Something or someone was approaching the room. I closed one eye and opened the other eye a little bit to peek at what was coming. It was a hideous creature. It was green with four legs and four arms and covered in some weird slime. Everywhere it went slime dripped from its body. It looked around and then focused its gaze on me, slowly walking towards me. With each step the creature took towards me, my heart was beating faster and faster. It stopped right in front of me and opened its mouth showcasing rows and rows of pointy, sharp teeth. A slimy purple thing came out of its mouth. It was a tongue. It slowly came towards me and licked my face covering my face with slimy saliva.
Another creature came and made a loud noise looking at the creature that was licking me. It stopped licking me and walked to the other creature. Then, they started yelling at each other and hitting each other. I guessed that they were having a dispute. With the creatures distracted, I had to try to break free from the slime, but how? I felt something hard in my pocket and realized that it’s a box of matches. It was the Fourth of July, so we lit fireworks and I completely forgot to remove it from my pocket. I know mom would have freaked out, but I had never felt so relieved to see matches in my pocket ever. I lit a match and held it awfully close to the slime and it slowly shrank and shrank until it was completely gone.
Thud! I fell on the ground and quickly hid behind a stalagmite. I slowly maneuvered my way through the cavern hiding behind stalagmites in case any more creatures were around. Finally, I reached an entrance to a narrow, dark path in the cavern, but there were lots of creatures by the entrance. I guess I’d have to wait it out.
Drip! Drip! Something wet fell on my arm. Drip! Drip! A slimy liquid dripped on me from the ceiling. I looked up and above me was another creature. The slime on its body dripped off its long pointy nose. And it was looking at me. It pounced on me, but I got out of the way just in time. It let out an ear-splitting roar and all the creatures in the cavern started running towards me. I ran for my life towards the narrow, dark path. When I entered the path, I realized that I couldn’t see anything, but that didn’t stop me. I just continued running.
Oof! I tripped on a stalagmite, so I took out the box of matches and lit a match. Standing over me was a creature. Not again! I quickly threw the lit match towards it and to my wonder it exploded, covering me and everything around me in slime. The creatures were flammable; now that was a twist. I lit another match and made my way down the narrow path. Goosebumps covered my skin and my heart was beating fast. It was really very cold, and my only source of heat was the match that I was holding.
While wandering through the path if any of those creatures came in my way, I would throw a match at it and it would explode. Then, I saw it. At the end of the path there was a bright blue light that looked exactly like the light that was coming out of the tiny door in my room. It must be the way out! I ran towards the light but stopped when I saw a huge shadow step in front of the light. It was another one of those creatures, much larger than the others. It looked at me with a nefarious look on its face. I took out my match box, but there was nothing inside. I was out of matches.
It took a step towards me and I took a step back. Its sharp claws slowly reached out towards me. I tripped on a stalagmite and I fell on the ground as the creature stood over me with its mouth wide open. Without thinking, I just chucked the empty match box into the creature’s mouth. To my surprise it let out a weird groan and grabbed its own throat. It was choking on the match box! Without wasting a second, I got up and sprinted towards the light, shielding my eyes.
Beep! Beep! Beep! The alarm clock hollered. I woke up with a jolt. It was almost morning, I was in my room and on my bed, drenched in sweat. I remembered the dream I had. Wow! It felt so real, I couldn’t even believe it was a dream. I could still feel the slime all over me. This was the spookiest dream I had ever had in my entire life. I sat up in my bed, thankful to be in my room, looking around just glad to see all the familiar things surrounding me. There’s the window and all my Legos right next to it, my bookshelf with my karate trophies on it. The door to my room, my closet, and a tiny door…