At our Oxford campus, our Head of Literature Emma Gernez organizes a creative writing competition each year where students are encouraged to send in a short story based on fun or inspiring themes. The contest is open to the entire school and the stories must be 1500 words or fewer. This year, students were asked to write a spooky ghost story.
Here’s contest winner Maria Victoria Pascon’s short story, The Incident in the Night.
It was already night. The skies had become dark and little could have been seen. I and my younger brother were walking home from our aunt’s house. We had spent the day there, enjoying the winter holidays. Dawn had come long ago, and the streets were dimly lit, as it was usual in England.
As we walked through the streets, everywhere we looked we saw almost identical two stories brick houses with small gardens and sometimes a car or two lined up in front of them. Some people could wonder: why did our parents and even our aunt let us, mere kids, walk alone at night? Well, we lived in a small city that had almost no criminality, so there was no problem in doing so. Although all the darkness always gave me a shiver down my spine.
‘Do you think we could visit Aunt again tomorrow?’ Asked Al. He was three years younger than me with a slim frame that promised great height in the future. He had sand-like hair and gentle caramel eyes. He was walking by my side, backpack in his shoulders, as was mine.
‘Yes, I think so’, I said. Back in our aunt’s house, I had managed to have almost my entire holiday homework done. It was a long, tiring task and I did not want to talk much.
‘Oh, I know! Why don’t we tell ghost stories before getting home?’ Suggested Al. He had always loved the dark, he thrived in it. There had been rare the occasions I’ve seen him afraid of it. I, for a change, was always a bit too cautious without light.
‘Yeah, think so. You go first.’ Ahead of us down the street, from the corner where two houses almost met came a black cat. It stepped into the light, focused its gaze at us and ran, disappearing into the night. Weird, I thought. I didn’t know anyone in this street had a cat.
‘There were once two siblings who were walking down the street. There was little light. The sun had already hidden, and all the creatures of the dark had already risen.’ Al began. I was starting to get worried. I never liked the dark, so little I could see and so vulnerable I would become in it. ‘There was, in the middle of their way, a house said to be haunted’, continued Al. That was true. There was, indeed, a house in the city no one dared to enter. There was a tale that this house was tormented by the worst of the creatures. And not even light could reach its insides.
And we were passing right in front of it.
I looked at Al. He looked as surprised as I was. I looked around, searching for the source of the sound.
It came from the house. Suddenly, the house’s door opened.
We both looked inside. There was no light to be seen in there. I took my cell phone and turned the torch on.
There was a footprint on the dust in the doorway.
Thinking someone had already been into the house and survived, I had a crazy idea. Feeling brave, I said to my brother, ‘If I get in there and come back alive, you owe me 50 pounds. Deal?’. Al laughed. He didn’t believe I had the guts to do so. I would prove him wrong.
I took my backpack off my shoulders and left it on the street next to Al. I looked at him. He was looking at me with an incredulous look like he had just seen something he thought impossible. I slowly walked up the steps to the house. I was almost there. I looked back at Al. He was staring at me with disbelief and a bit of cautiousness in his eyes. I directed my torch inside. Furniture covered with white dusty sheets met me in what seemed to be an old living room. I went further in. There was not much inside. I could see what appeared to be a kitchen connected to the back of the room.
Abruptly, it was dark. The door had been closed.
I was starting to feel the panic rise. I took a long breathe, calming myself. I was already inside, I could very well take the opportunity to discover what was in the house. I looked around a bit more. There were footprints like the one from before all around.
I looked down. I had stepped in something that looked like a bone, a human one.
I went further. There was a fireplace with old burnt coal still inside it and a sofa in front of it. I didn’t think this house had been used for years, decades even. Cobwebs were everywhere. I got down to avoid one as I walked.
Something caught my eyes.
There was a figure crouched in a corner between a sofa and a table. I directed the torch towards it.
It was a man-like creature. It had skin pale as death that was so stretched that you could see all the bones in its body. It was dressed in nothing and I don’t think it had the care to do so. It was rocking back and forth with its head down in a manic way.
Then, it looked at me. It had an outstretched, almost tired, face. It had no hair. Its eyes were as red as fresh blood and seemed to look inside my soul. Soon, it smiled a demonic smile.
I had no time to move. It jumped on me and grabbed a hold of my body. I fought, but it wouldn’t let go. Its nails, like claws, embedded in my skin. I screamed. Its mouth was so close to my face that I could smell the stink of rotten teeth coming from it. I looked around trying to find something to use as a weapon, all the way trying to stop the creature to do whatever it wanted with me. As I looked to my right, I found a piece of wood, probably a lost leg of an old table.
I tried reaching for it, but my arms were pressed to my sides. The creature was trying to keep me still, the reason I even now don’t know.
My brother yelled my name. That was all I needed.
The creature was distracted just long enough for me to release my right arm. I grabbed a hold on the wood piece. And stabbed the creature in the chest. It screamed. And finally, let me go.
I made a run for the door. I reached it. I opened it and ran, slamming the door shut behind me.
My brother was looking at me with terrified eyes. I had never seen him in such a state, so frightened as I don’t think I will ever see him again. I stopped just next to him. He was shocked and wanted to know what the hell had just happened.
I myself still don’t know what had happened, even as I tell you this ancient tale.
We came home that night, both shocked and scared. We had run all the way until our house, all the time looking around and behind us, afraid whatever that thing was would come for us. I somehow managed to leave the house with only a few scratches and bruises, but otherwise fine. We rarely talked about that incident, the two preferring not to remember such a terrible story. I never again saw the creature nor passed next to the house by free will.
I tell this tale to warn you of the dangers in the night. Be aware of what awaits in the dark.