October 16

Fictober, Prompt 16 – “Listen. No, really listen.”, Original Fiction

Warnings: horror, implied monster, ambiguous ending. Midwest/north woods gothic.


I stuttered to a halt in the middle of the trail, looking warily to my left where the high, trilling call had sounded.

Of course, there were loons out on the lake at this time of year, making their way south for the winter. I just hadn’t realized how much more eerie the sound would be when I was out in the woods after sunset, and not safe inside the coziness of our cabin. We couldn’t see the lake from here, the trees were too thick, but it was nearby.

“Just a loon,” Lukas called back to me, still walking up ahead.

“I know,” I said, unable to shake the feeling of uneasiness as I continued, trotting a little to catch up to him. He had spent more time up here than I had, but even I knew what the loons sounded like by now.

We passed on through the increasing darkness. Lukas thought there might be some good owl-watching tonight, if we could find the right spot in the woods. That had sounded a lot more fun back in the cabin, where it had been warm near the fire.

Now, out here, with night falling around us and the temperatures slowly dropping, I was less sure about it. I shivered, and shivered more when the loon called again, long and wailing.

Another voice answered it this time, almost that same, wailing cry.

Almost.

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October 12

Fictober, Prompt 12 – “What if I can’t see it?”

Warnings: implied violent death, implied eldritch horrors. Horror-flavored fantasy.


“Of course, the containment is in place!” The Head Sorcerer was clearly offended by my question, drawing himself up to his full, thin height and looking down his nose at me. “What did you say your credentials were?”

Keeping my face neutral, I held out the badge I had already shown to five different people to make it as far as the Head Sorcerer’s office. “I am an independent containment inspector, sent by Magistrate Susumu. I am making rounds of all the known Holding Places, doing a standard inspection, and I need to see the seals and locks myself.” I handed over the letter of command from the Magistrate before he could ask for it.

“Well, I’m sure this is all quite unnecessary, but seeing as Magistrate Susumu has commanded it, then we must comply.” He gave a put-upon sigh, tossing the letter back to me. I caught it deftly just before it slid off the edge of his desk and tucked it away in my robes. The Head Sorcerer grabbed a large ring of keys carelessly from a drawer, and stood, coming around the desk and sweeping out of the room without waiting for me.

I followed silently, noting the problems that would have to be entered into my report: unsecured keys, a dangerously arrogant attitude regarding the containment, and a failure to perform any basic magical verification as to the veracity of my person, my badge, or my letter of command.

I followed the Head Sorcerer down through the great stone building, and then further down still into the catacombs below.

Poor lighting, I noted, continuing my earlier list, unsafe levels of moisture on the staircase.

Perhaps that last was a little bit petty. Despite being only halfway through my tour of inspections, my tolerance level for authorities overly impressed with their own importance had rarely been lower. And a slippery staircase was never a good idea anywhere, much less one leading to a containment area, where one might conceivably need to move fast.

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October 11

Fictober, Prompt 11 – “It’s not always like this.”

Warnings: horror, blood, blood-drinking, implied violent death(s)


The light beneath the trees darkened, and I wandered on carefully. I knew I was heading in generally the right direction, and eventually I’d be close enough to find the path, or to hear my car beep if I unlocked it.

I’d lingered too long, deep in the woods near an old scouting camp where my grandfather had come frequently to hunt. It was lonely out here, but peaceful, and I’d accidentally fallen asleep when I sat down to rest earlier under the autumn trees. It was night now, but a large, orange harvest moon was rising over the hill to the east, and with so many leaves already down it provided enough light for me to walk without stumbling.

I crested a small rise, and dropped down into the small hollow beneath, a clear area in the trees, filled with boulders left over from the last Ice Age; common in the foothills here in western Pennsylvania.

The deer standing in the clearing were common too.

What was not common was the fact that they did not bolt when I appeared so suddenly nearby, and most of them did not even glance at me. One, the farthest away, was backed up against the largest rock outcropping, eyes wide and rolling with terror, though it seemed frozen in place. The other deer stood around it in a loose semi-circle, silent and still in a way that made me uneasy.

This was very strange.

Keeping quiet myself, I started to back up…only to realize that there was now a short drop, slippery with leaves, and a rock at my back. No easy way out that direction.

The slope continued down from here, though, and that was the direction that I needed to go. If I could just edge around the deer carefully, I could leave them to whatever it was they were doing and get back to my car.

I froze only half a dozen steps later when one of the circling deer finally turned its head and looked at me.

It had fangs.

Cold fear uncurled in my stomach. There was some weird, small kind of deer that had long teeth, somewhere in Asia…but these were the usual white-tailed deer that were native to this area. They should not have teeth, or tusks, or whatever these were.

The rest of the watching deer turned to look at me.

They all had fangs too.

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October 6

Fictober, Prompt 6 – “Yes, I’m aware. Your point?”

Warnings: horror, monster, implied violent death, midwest/north woods gothic.


A loon call echoed over the lake, a single wailing note that might be either loneliness or a warning.

I heard my companion’s stride pause briefly at the sound, then her footsteps hurried across the gravel of the lake shore as she caught up to me. She walked closer than she had before.

“You said you knew that people have been going missing up here, right?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“And that it’s been recommended people stay away from this area?”

“Yes.”

“And we didn’t tell anyone we were coming.”

I took a breath, making sure that none of my frustration showed in my voice. “Yes, I’m aware. Your point?”

“Just that for someone who claims to be woods-smart, you aren’t really taking any basic, sensible precautions!”

“You’re the one who wanted to follow me out here,” I pointed out. “You didn’t have to come.”

“I did if I want to get this article written,” she muttered, a bit sullenly, but fell quiet.

It was a gray afternoon, the otherwise vibrant leaves muted by the lack of light, the trees themselves standing dark and tall beneath their autumn foliage. A mild, steady wind blew off the lake, rippling the otherwise calm surface and pushing the already cold temperatures a little bit lower.

I was always careful to dress in what would be sensible clothes for this time of year: thick socks, sturdy shoes, warm pants, a hooded jacket with a scarf, and gloves to cover my hands, which was an additional convenience. A backpack with some supplies in it. My companion (she had given me her name back in town, but I couldn’t remember it) was wearing something similar.

The loon called again, and I sensed the fear in her shiver.

The stories didn’t worry me. There were always stories, and nothing had come of them yet.

I kept walking, keeping to the narrow strip of stony shoreline between the water and the woods. We would have to go into the trees eventually, but my companion was already nervous, and there was no reason not to stay in the open for now.

She stayed quiet for some time. At last she ventured, “Do you really know what’s causing people to disappear up here?”

“I have an idea,” I replied carefully.

“But you know of a safe place to stay while we search?”

“I do. We’ll be there before dark.”

“Oh good. It’s cold out here, and I’m getting a little hungry.” She did not say that she was going to be too scared to be outside after the sun went down, although I knew that was the case. “Could we go a little faster?”

“That might be a good idea,” I agreed, and increased my pace. She matched her steps to mine, and kept a little closer, eyeing the darkening trees with misgiving.

I tilted my head down so that my mouth was covered by the scarf I wore before allowing myself to grin. It wouldn’t do to let her catch a glimpse of my teeth at this point.

After all, I was hungry too.

October 4

Fictober, Prompt 4 – “I know you didn’t ask for this.”

Warnings: horror/body horror, parasite, parasite removal, blood.


I sat in the little stand of woods, huddled beneath the biggest tree, knees drawn up to my chin, arms wrapped around my legs, fingers digging into my arms hard. Too hard. I was almost certainly going to bruise myself.

Since the alternative was to start clawing my own skin off, I thought bruises were probably a better option.

I couldn’t feel it. You never could. That was the awful part.

If it hadn’t been for Lydia, I wouldn’t even have known one had attached itself to me, would still be walking around in hideous ignorance.

And they would probably already have come for me.

Rustling from the field next to this stand of trees, and I looked up quickly, watching with wary eyes until the corn and then undergrowth parted to reveal that it was just Lydia, back with (hopefully) everything she would need to get it off me.

If it wasn’t already too deep.

I shuddered even as she came over and quietly dropped the backpack she carried into the leaf litter and crouched down in front of me.

“How are you doing?”

I made myself relax one hand from its death grip on my arm and waggled my fingers in a so-so motion, not wanting to move enough to shrug.

“Well, best not wait any longer,” she said, accepting that with a nod. “Can you get your shirt off yourself?”

Taking a deep breath, I nodded tightly and forced myself to move. It felt uncomfortable, being so undressed out here in the open; it wasn’t something I’d ever done before, but the thing was on my back and I wanted this to be as easy as possible for Lydia.

“Are you sure?” I forced myself to whisper. “I know you didn’t ask for this.”

Lydia regarded me steadily for a long moment, then said, “No, I didn’t. But you asked for help, and I accepted, and I meant it. I’m not going to let them take anyone else…and least of all you.”

Oh. There was an intensity in her eyes that I hadn’t recognized before, and it made me flush. We had known each other for a long time, but not well, not until recently. But now…

Lydia didn’t seem inclined to make anything further of it just now, pulling on a headlamp with business-like motions and digging through the backpack for whatever else she needed.

Okay, I thought. Something else to deal with later. If we got a later.

Please, let us get a later.

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October 1

From the Fictober prompt list on Tumblr, Prompt 1: “It will be fun, trust me.”

Warnings: Horror, unseen monsters, implied violent death, Midwestern gothic


“You do realize that this is not my idea of how to have a good time on a Friday night?”

“So you’ve said, but you’re still here aren’t you?”

I was forced to grunt in acknowledgement as I followed Kevin up over the chain link fence. It was one thing to hop over the short fence between our yards but the one around the county fairgrounds was at least twice that height.

“Surprised there’s no barbed wire at the top,” I muttered, slinging a leg over.

“It’s the fair, not a prison,” Kevin jeered, already on the ground.

“Says you,” I jeered back, dropping the last few feet. I landed with an unfortunate jolt, but kept my balance.

“I’m the one who practically lives here during fair week,” he pointed out.

“Which, once again, begs the question of what we’re doing here now. You always say you’ve had enough by the time your 4-H events are done.”

“This is different!”

I followed him across the open field, the long grass dry and rustling now in early October. It did feel different, like this, with none of the booths or crowd I was used to from fair week, and only the permanent buildings taking up space. It was more open, yet the buildings seemed to loom somehow taller in the dark. With no lights on, only the dim light of the quarter moon lit our way.

“Seriously, Kev,” I said as we got near the office building. “What got you in such a hurry to do this now?” We both kind of liked sneaking into places we weren’t necessarily supposed to be, but Kevin had insisted that it had to be the fair tonight, even though there wasn’t anything to see here that we hadn’t seen before.

“Well, people said they were hearing weird noises, right?”

“People always say that. And I thought that was out in the fields?”

“Here too, though, I heard my mom saying on the phone. Thought it was time someone came to check it out, right?” He looked back over his shoulder to grin at me. “It will be fun, trust me.”

“I doubt it,” I muttered again, but sighed and resigned myself. If I was going to back out, I should have done it before we hopped the fence.

The office was closed and locked, as was the first exhibition building. We skirted both, avoiding the brighter open areas where someone driving by might notice us. The next big building was latched but not padlocked, so we eased the door open and snuck inside.

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