October has finally come around bringing fall’s cooler temps and Halloween! In honor of which, Poised Pen Productions is hosting a flash fiction giveaway with a prize filled with books, gift cards, and swag. More on that in a moment, but first I’d like to tell you about my flash fiction written specifically for the occasion.
Last year I challenged myself—okay, my local writers’ group challenged each of us—to write a short story. That story, “The Perfect Birthday Gift,” appears only in the What A Day! Short Stories by Southern Authors anthology which released in April. It’s also linked to the Fury Falls Inn historical fantasy series, so you may want to get your own copy to read that exclusive story. (Hurry! The anthology will only be available through October 5! You can buy your copy here)
This year I was asked to write a flash fiction story for Halloween. Something under 1000 words. Now keep in mind I typically write novels, ranging in word count from 70,000-120,000. So, what the heck? The short story in the anthology was just under 5,000. Could I write a spooky story under 1,000? After some pondering, I drew from two events in my childhood—exploring a haunted building (or so I believed at the time) and having my dad scare us at a Victorian-style rental one fall—to write a 650-word romantic spooky story.
Writing short is much harder than writing long when you’re used to space to delve and explore actions, reactions, and motivations behind the characters. But writing short also hones the ability to cut to the essence of the narrative, sharpening the focus on what is important to the tale being told.
You can enter the giveaway simply by signing up with your email, and you’ll be given options for earning additional entries. Good luck!
My contribution follows:
© 2022 Betty Bolte
A thump sounded overhead, then another. Footsteps? I shuddered. “We should…go.”
The ancient house moaned, wind whispering past like voices of ghosts in the dark.
“Not yet. I want to see where it happened.” Cam grabbed my hand, and I squeaked in alarm. “Come on, Georgie.”
I planted my feet, but he tugged harder and drew me close. My heart raced so in my chest I could only hear its thundering in my ears. I stumbled along beside my fiancé toward a back room, stepping over a dropped pillow with what looked suspiciously like dried blood on its embroidered front. No, maybe catsup. I swallowed back the fear rising in my throat. Probably blood.
“They say she died in bed. That’s probably the bedroom, don’t you think?” Cam eased us closer to the scarred door, mostly closed as if trying to keep secrets from escaping but failing miserably.
“I…” I swallowed again instead of revealing the depth of my fear. He’d talked about invading the abandoned house for months to satisfy his morbid curiosity about the decades-old mystery surrounding the remotely situated farmhouse like fog. We do everything together, which I’m usually happy about. Even proud. This Halloween night? Not so much.
A thud behind me had me twisting around to stare into the dusky light of the hallway. Cam squeezed my hand and then let go as he strode briskly down the hall and with a flick of his hand told me to stay put. Alone. “Cam?”
He disappeared around the corner. I sucked in a shaky breath and tried to keep my knees from knocking together. I folded my arms across my chest as I stared down the empty hall. Suddenly, a light flared at the far end, illuminating a monstrous face floating in the darkness. Floating toward me slowly, inching closer with its open maw and glowing eyes. I screamed and the face vanished.
Cam guffawed. He clicked on his flashlight and swept the light over my face. “Gotcha.”
He sauntered up and I punched him on the shoulder. “Not funny.”
He pulled me into his warm, comforting embrace and held me tight for several moments. Kissing me lightly, he gazed into my eyes. “I’m sorry. I won’t do that ever again.”
I nodded and snuggled into his chest. “Thank you.”
He’s such a good man. Smart. Loving. Playful. His entire family loved to prank each other. If I weren’t so nervous about being in this reportedly haunted house, I would have laughed at myself. But something about the chilly and foreboding atmosphere of the place had every nerve on edge.
“Let’s just take a peek and then we’ll go have pizza. Okay?”
I nodded and squared my shoulders. “With extra cheese and jalapenos.”
“Jalapenos?” He noted the stubborn lift of my chin. “Fine. You win. Come on.”
Gripping his hand, I followed him through the squealing door as he pushed it open. He stopped just as the door bumped into something, sweeping his flashlight over the area. The bed occupied the center of the far wall, its mattress bare and…stained. The broken-out window let the sighing wind breathe through the bedraggled lace curtains.
“Looks like she really did die in bed.” Cam strode closer to the marred mattress, dragging me reluctantly along. He pointed to the largest dark red blotch. “I bet that’s where she bled out, too. It’s terrible to think about it.”
“See enough?” I hoped he had. I was more than ready to leave.
“Yeah.” He swept his light around the room one last time and then froze. “Uh…”
I looked where he aimed the light, shining on a young woman’s otherworldly figure in a white nightgown, blazing gold orbs for eyes, dangling dark tresses shifting in the eerie wind. She summoned us with a mesmerizing sweep of her ghostly fingers.
I screamed then turned and ran without looking back. Cam’s footsteps followed me down the hall and out the door. We tumbled into his Jeep and sped down the driveway, never to forget the haunting beauty.
This was fun to write, but did you enjoy it? What challenges have you made for yourself?
Happy fall! Happy Halloween! Thanks for reading!
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Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.
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Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers.