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Tales of Terror

Angela Kim

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Tales of Terror
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For the second Halloween in a row, Weekend America asked writers from all across the country to scare up some original - and short - spooky stories. Throughout the show, we bring you brand new tales of terror that clock in at just 30 seconds long. This year, we have David Rakoff, Elise Primavera, Dana Gould, Laura Benedict, David Wellington and Richard Sala.


My Beloved

I hold the reading lamp out in front of me as I approach my bed, its tiny glow illuminating the pool of dark at my feet, that vulnerable space between bed and floor. I tell myself that, even in death, my beloved would not hide beneath my bed to frighten me. But the light isn't enough to keep him away, and when the spiny bones of his once-tender hand seize my ankle, my heart freezes in my chest. He is still strong, and pulls me under, under, to share the icy comforts of his lonely river grave.

-- Laura Benedict


The Backless Dress
(a la The Raven)

Once upon an evening, dreary,
Late for dinner, sighing, weary,
My wife glared at her reflection
In our mirrored closet door

"It's this b-backless dress," she stuttered,
"It makes my back look fat!" I muttered,
"NO, it doesn't. Hon, you're crazy,"
But alas, I was ignored,

And so, forced, I hatched a plot,
Improvised there, on the spot,
Around her waist, I placed my arms,
And whispered gently, "Mi amor"

"We'll be late," she gently chided,
Grabbed her purse and glided,
Down the stairs, and to the car,
For what the evening had in store,

So I turned off the light,
And bid a fond goodnight,
To my perplexed reflection,
In our mirrored closet door

-- Dana Gould


The Beeps

There are bad people out there--at least that's what the security system guy told me.

"I hate security systems," I told him.

"You are by yourself at the end of a deserted road," he said. "I can even set yours so a beep sounds every time a door is opened."

"I don't need that," I told him.

Nevertheless, when he left, I went out to get the mail, be-e-e-e-p. I came back in, be-e-e-e-p. I put the garbage out, be-e-e-e-p.

I cursed the security system.

But hours later, I am awakened. My heart is pounding. Alone, in the dark, I hear the sound of... be-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-p.

-- Elise Primavera


The Candy Corn Corpse

The Candy Corn Corpse is coming, bad candy givers! This Halloween he will exact his revenge by force-feeding you candy corn until every organ in your bodies turns into a kind of yellowy orange lump of wax.

If you know what's good for you, stop handing out that those stupid pencils, raisins, cups of yogurt, and lemon Jell-O Snacks that look like pee.

For the love of God, go out and buy some Snickers bars, bad candy givers, or you will never live to hand out another one of those orange marshmallow Circus Peanuts ever again!

-- Elise Primavera


Untitled I

Henderson felt the needle go into his forearm, and almost immediately, he tasted the drug on his tongue. And then he didn't care about anything. The cold metal gurney? A featherbed. The screaming fellow down the hall? Birdsong. Suddenly he couldn't wait to have his appendix out! The nurse smiled at him. "Relax," she said, as she fitted the rubber mask over his nose and mouth. "You won't even remember the triple bypass by the time you wake up."

-- David Rakoff


Untitled II

"Class, we have a very special treat today," the teacher said, looking directly at Nathan. "We're going to be learning sex education. And, here to teach us, is Nathan's mother!"

-- David Rakoff


Untitled III

Even when she felt her shoe catch the hem of her dress and heard the fabric tear, Shirley knew they'd laugh about this for years. They'd tell their children how on their wedding day, Carl forgot to hire a car and they'd had to run down 74th street to find a taxi, and how it had started to rain... She was laughing by the time she climbed into the back seat of the cab, and was about to tell Carl to lighten up just as she heard him tell the driver, "Take her wherever she wants to go..."

-- David Rakoff


My Enemy

My enemy had gotten into my house. He was hiding´┐Ż Waiting.

I'd been wrong before, but this time I was sure. What had alerted me? A whisper of fabric? A floorboard creaking?

I sat frozen on the edge of my bed, holding my breath. I had to act before he did.

So with a manic burst of energy, I scooped up an iron poker and leapt into the next room, skidding on the carpet, spinning around, and swinging the poker.

Then I stood there, panting and exhausted. There was no sign of him. I let the poker slip from my hand as I fell back into the big chair, breathing heavily.

Then the arms of the chair slithered up around my chest and tightened around my throat and it was too late.

-- Richard Sala


Death Takes a Coffee Break

I met Death at the mall today and he was really nice. He was picking out a new tie. He wanted something somber but tasteful. He told me he goes to a lot of funerals.

I found one that matched his scythe. To thank me for my help he bought me a giant pretzel down at the food court. It was kind of dry and tough and hard to chew, but, hey, free pretzel.

I said it must be nice to take a break from all the killing and stuff. He shook his head and said, "No, I never get a break. I'm still on the clock."

You know, maybe he isn't such a nice guy after all. Or maybe he just doesn't know the Heimlich maneuver.

-- David Wellington


Red Flag

"Stand clear of the closing doors, please," the subway conductor squawked, his voice distorted and blaring.

A few of us glanced up sullenly from our papers and iPods, all of us in a hurry to get moving.

A new voice came on the intercom, the voice of the station master. "Hold on, Chris. Keep your brake on, there's a red flag. There's a kid down on the track! He got squeezed off the platform. Keep your brake on!"

We all looked around at each other, then, until the conductor spoke again.

"What was that? I couldn't hear you. I've got a timetable to keep."

The doors slid closed with a chime. We were up on our feet, pounding on the doors and windows, shouting for the conductor.

But he couldn't hear us, either.

-- David Wellington


The Spot

It started with an itchy spot. Marcos placed his finger on my shoulder. "You should have that looked at."

I did, but too late.

It's autumn now, Day of the Dead. The city breathes flowers and the fragrant scent of food. Marcos has swept the front walk and scattered marigolds.

Inside, he built an altar of my favorites: a book, chocolate, a violin. He has fallen asleep waiting for me, a flower in his hand. It is midnight.

I place a bony finger on his shoulder. He scratches.

-- Kathleen Alcala


The White City

Once, there was a bruja in a city of white stone. In the streets were white peacocks that only ate white corn. They screamed at dawn like children being murdered. There were no children.

A man came who played a flute like children laughing.

"Everyone gather at the next full moon," he said. In the plaza, he played a strange melody, and the trees began to rustle.

Children came running, laughing, into the plaza. They had been peacocks all along.

The bruja became a peacock. Listen. At dawn, she screams like a murdered child.

-- Kathleen Alcala

  • Music Bridge:
    Artist: Supersilent
    CD: 4 (Rune Grammofon)


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Claire Gebben

    From Mercer Island, WA, 11/22/2008

    Some of this flash fiction is real scary, some of it scarily real. I especially enjoyed Alcala's eerie magical quality, Wellington's black humor, and Rakoff's cruel edge. Thanks for posting these.

    By Kim Lundstrom


    I enjoyed "My Beloved", "Death Takes a Coffee Break", "The Spot" and "The White City". I'd especially like to read/hear more of Ms. Alcala's work.

    By monty hubbard

    From portland, OR, 10/31/2008

    Thanks for the reply Ray, but I still don't see the spooky here. Your explanations are good and I appreciate your effort to lay them out - but do they terrify you at all?

    By Ray P

    From Pittsburgh, PA, 10/27/2008

    Monty, you could read the Backless Dress two ways. Actually I read it two ways, I'm sure there are more.

    The first is that the scene is the scene as it's laid out: married couple getting ready, wife asks question, husband, for expediency sake lies, and in doing so he ever so briefly ponders what kind of person lies to his beloved so.

    Or the wife is dead, being prepped for her funeral (funerary clothes tend to be backless, at least that's the assumption I'm working with here). This backless dress conjures up a remembrance or faux remembrance getting dressed to go somewhere. Then this wave of sentimentality hits his perplexed look in the mirror for the whole, "How do I go on?" moment.

    Or it's all a metaphor. Or a farce. Or just a cute take on a favorite poem. The scary thing is, you could read it all of these ways.

    By Kassi Malzan

    From Charleston, SC, 10/27/2008

    I didn't care for "Red Flag," "Death takes a Coffee Break" or for the Untitleds. "Red Flag" was confusing. "Death" was just not written very well at all, although a fine concept! The "Untitleds" were bad jokes gone wrong. The rest were interesting and well written.

    By Monty Hubbard

    From Portland, OR, 10/27/2008

    I loved the stories - but I have to admit that I don't get Dana Gould's - and I want to! Can someone please clue me into what the Backless Dress was about? Thanks

    By Charlotte Morganti

    From Vancouver,, BC, 10/26/2008

    Amazing, the ability to tell a complete story in so few words. I love the magic in Kathleen Alcala's stories. I have all her books - a wonderful writer.

    By Angela Kim

    From Minneapolis, MN, 10/26/2008

    Some stories were shortened because during the reading, the story came out longer than 30 seconds. But we wanted to preserve the writer's earlier draft so people could check out the original intent of the story.

    Also, you can find out more about each of the writers when you click on their name in the left column where it says "Web Resources." Thanks for listening!

    By Ruth Cepeda

    From Chihuahua, Chih. Mexico, 10/25/2008

    I have a brain injured child, y spend a lot of time feeding her, I really enjoy earing your stories while y was feeding her, specially Kathleen Alcala, who is my cousin

    By Claudia Dey

    From Grand Rapids, MI, 10/25/2008

    For terrifying movie archetypes nothing will top blinded Sampson crashing down the temple.

    By Christine Myers

    From Bellingham, WA, 10/25/2008

    Excellent selections. Why were so many of the recorded pieces shortened from the posted written versions? Alcala's Day of the Dead approach was certainly refreshing - and chilling. I agree that I'd love to hear more. Thanks for this treat.

    By richard stanley

    From FL, 10/25/2008

    Yes, she is very good.
    How would I go about sumbmitting entries to this myself?

    By Carol Frischmann

    From Portland, OR, 10/24/2008

    I loved these short short stories-- especially Ms. Alcala's. Can we see more of her work?

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