In the tradition of Mary Shelley, who penned Frankenstein as an 18 year-old in response to a scary-story writing challenge proposed by her friend, the poet Lord Byron, prep English students tried their hands at horror as part of a class-wide contest. Each section of Humanities English voted for their favorite stories, and the winners read their tales aloud on Nov. 16 in Harris House.
Below are excerpts from a few of the stories:
An Encounter in the Abyss
In the abyss, there is no day and there is no night. Only the light inside of the cabin brings one closer to home. Through the vast darkness floats a ship. A ship in a sea which no man can swim and survive. A ship that is aloft in the waves of darkness, embracing every length of its spinning cell.
Sam was a smart man and Sam was a disciplined man. His days lasted thirty hours long, and for ten of those hours he was asleep. Fifteen waking hours were devoted to calculation, observation, and testing. In his long and mundane travels, he would spend his time going through a collection of foreign items which would be sent to him via white human sized capsules through the abyss. Every two "Sam Months," he received a new capsule one hour after waking up. The previous one would be ejected from the cabin through a control panel on the inside of the capsule and sent into the void.
What he would do with the items inside was nothing short of scientific. He calculated, observed, and tested on these items using the various "tools" provided in his atmosphere. He could display muscle tissue outside of the cabin in a glass box to record how solar radiation affected its composition. He could deprive the necessary oxygen from assorted bacteria to determine its ability to thrive without nutrients. He could test how lack of gravity affects certain types of life. He was assigned to base his surroundings for research. The only things Sam took other than research were his own souvenirs to provide memories from each test.
The last five hours of Sam's day were spent doing the most human thing possible: relaxing. He would wind down by watching old sci-fi movies such as 2001, Alien, and Moon. The movies tended to reflect off his loneliness, allowing him to relate. Spiraling millions of miles from earth, Sam was truly the loneliest person in history...
...Until he wasn't. Sam's next capsule would be his most interesting. Sliding open the cover, Sam heard something unmistakably different.
The delicate sound of another human breathing became thunder inside Sam's ears. Dread flowed through his veins like a poison. Backing away from the dormant body, he observed. Male, long brown hair, thin body, pale white skin, blue veins coursing underneath. Each individual bone was defined by the paper-thick film covering the body. Yet what made Sam's skin crawl the most was the gradual motion of his chest breathing up and down and up and down until... it stopped.
His eyes bulged open revealing veiny glazed balls. He shot up into a sitting position and began screaming like he was ripping apart his vocal chords. Sam stood paralyzed as the man jumped out of the casket and secluded himself into the nearest corner of the cabin. Shrieking out inhuman pleas, his sight darted from wall to wall, terrified of his surroundings.
Sam looked at those same places and saw his own souvenirs from past tests. Hanging in large glass cases were fingers, hands, lungs, brains, limbs, and the crown jewel: a humanoid body sewn together; a project of solving loneliness.
Sam turned back to his new friend, seeing him stare at one last place: the place in which he came. The man frantically fumbled into the capsule, shut the lid, and pressed the blaring red button displaying "eject." Just as Sam tore at the casket to save him, the man sent himself into darkness. Sam drifted through space, alone once more.
During My Time in New York City
During my time in New York city, I lived in a small apartment and worked in the preschool across from it. It was a quiet, dainty little street, apart from the hustle and bustle of the city. Every morning, I would get a croissant and a cup of coffee from the bakery down the street before heading to work.
The street was a cheery place. The closeness and the tightness made me feel safe and comforted. The children at the preschool were all smart, sweet kids. None of them deserved what happened.
On the night of October 16th, 2004, at around 10:35, I started getting ready for bed. I had recently moved in, so it took a little longer to get ready. I took a shower, brushed my teeth, and got into bed around 11:00.
I'm not sure of the exact time I noticed the eyes staring at me but I told the police it was 11:15. I was tossing around in my bed, which was unusual for me. I usually could fall asleep almost immediately after getting into bed, and I was confused as to why my eyes just couldn't close.
I decided to get a cup of tea. I grabbed my glasses and headed into the kitchen, the coldness of the tiles shocking me for a moment. That particular night, I chose chamomile. As I walked into my bedroom, my glasses were fogged up from the heat of the tea but as the fog disappeared I looked up and saw.
A pair of bloodshot eyes. Staring. Staring straight at me, through a window I hadn't noticed before. Cutting through the darkness, they almost glowed. I blinked twice, thinking I was seeing things from my sleep deprivation. I was not.
The following nights were the same. I couldn't fall asleep, I got up, drank tea, and then in the window, spotted a pair of bloodshot eyes. Not being one to believe in any sort of supernatural creatures, I was freaked out, but not terrified. So I fell asleep with them just... looking.
12:00 was naptime at Happy Times Preschool. October 20th, 2004 was the last naptime held there. I was on duty that night. All the kids were tucked in for bed, and I started getting a little sleepy myself. I knew I would be awoken if a child needed taking care of and started crying, so I let myself doze off.
I was awoken by a police officer, asking where the children were.
The children were found hours later, dead. The diagnosis of their deaths were inconclusive. The police recovered recordings of the room during the predicted time of death, 12:15. There we were, sleeping soundly. The video fuzzed for 2 minutes, cut to the same, glowing, bloodshot eyes I saw each night, fuzzed again, then cut to me being waking up. As I saw the eyes, my body went cold. Stuttering, I told the police about what I had been seeing in my window each night.
My life changed in the next 9 minutes. From minute 1-2, the policemen gathered up and got ready to search my apartment. During minute 3, we arrived in front of my door. During minute 4, I opened the door and let them in. Minute 5,6, & 7 were when I explained my nights in length. Minute 8 was when I let them into my room to see the window. Minute 9 was when they told me:
"Sir, this isn't a window. It's a mirror. The eyes were not outside of your apartment. They were in it."
Darkness. It's all I see, hear and feel. I am surrounded by nothing. It is as if I am in a dark endless cavern of absolutely nothing. It is as if I am floating in outer space with no stars. Where am I? Curiosity is replaced by a sudden rush of pure fear. Where the hell am I? Although the space surrounding me is vast, I feel claustrophobic. I am trapped in nothingness. There is so much room, that there is no room. I think more: Oh my God, Who am I? I have no idea. I don't even know. I know nothing. It is the most terrifying feeling not knowing. Not knowing where I am, who I am and when this nightmare will end. So much time passes but none passes at all. There is no time, no space, no nothing. I am stuck in black. I scream yet no sound comes out.
Sound. Finally, there is sound. I can hear! It's a dull ringing. It's a flicker of hope. Then it grows and grows and grows. This flicker is extinguished. It is demolished by an inferno of hellish sound. The once dull ringing, now completely shatters my ears. I writhe in pain trying to escape this blasting torture that invades me. A Flash of light blinds me. Then it happens again and again and again. Increasing in speed until... I'm out. The light. It stings. It blinds my eyes. Its is as if I am born again in unbelievable agony. As I focus my eyes for the first time, I witness a scene. It is my scene.
I'm young. I'm intimidated by lines of letters. I take a deep breath and read the first sentence. My parents are ecstatic over one of my first major accomplishments. FLASH. It's dark and cold out, but we don't care because it's just us. We laugh and come closer and closer. Then I finally go in and am greeted by her soft lips. FLASH. I wait anxiously for an email whilst my parents peer over my shoulder. Then finally, the results are revealed. I made it in! FLASH. I sit on the fraternity roof with some friends simply gazing at the stunning stars. I drunkenly move across the roof until suddenly my legs fail me. As if in slow motion, I slide and slide and slide and fall and fall and fall. Then it starts again.
I'm staring down the book. It's words challenging me until I conquer them. FLASH. The cold air bites my blushing cheeks as I lean in. I love the taste of her chapstick. FLASH. I made it into the college of my dreams! I'm set for life. FLASH. I enjoy friends, stars and booze. Then suddenly, I'm falling from the roof. It starts again. I'm finally reading. FLASH. Kissing the girl of my dreams. FLASH. I got in. FLASH. Falling as I stare up at the stars. It starts again. Read. Kiss. Colledge. Fall. Again. Again. Again. Again. BOOM.
I'm in a room. I can hear my heartbeat. I'm alive! I'm out of the nightmare! Something is still very wrong. My head insufferably throbs. There are doctors swarming me like crows. They wear menacing blue masks and rough gloves. My mom! I see my mom. I need my mom. Everything is happening way too fast. There are too many lights. Their knives slice into me. Everything is bad. Everything is wrong. I try to scream. I try to move. But nothing happens. My body won't respond. I'm trapped. I'm trapped forever. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. I'm back to Nothing.