Congratulations to our three winners. We had some imaginative responses to our Horror Fiction Writing Competition where we gave you the first part of the story and you had to complete it, inciting tension and fear.
Check out the overall winning submission published below, unplug the phone, turn off the lights and read….
1st Prize: £300.00 Theresa Jones
2nd Prize: £200.00 T. Harper
3rd Prize: £100.00 Christine Mitchell
Always Too Late
by Theresa Jones
An acrid odour gripped the room, death and decay were ripe but darkness became a shroud for the unspeakable horrors within. Quelling an intense sense of rising panic, Marcus fought to keep his nerve, his hands shaking as he shone his old torch into the impending gloom. The odour was getting worse, not of damp or mould, but an odour so vile that his stomach churned. Old floorboards groaned as he moved cautiously, testing to see whether it would hold his weight.
Spiders scuttled in every direction as he probed deeper into a room that repelled him on every level.The light from the torch began to fade, the beam failing to reach deep into the corners, but enough to send the fattest of rats scurrying from the invading light. Sweat dripped a trail down his neck. He felt chilled to the core and suddenly, with the last flash of light from his torch, his vision fixed, he stumbled backwards, fear gagging his reflexes. His strangled scream,- a whimper as his weight took him off keel, falling, hands outstretched, eyes enormous, his head splitting open like a shell on contact with the floor, blood spilling, dripping through the gaps between the floorboards to the room below….
When he awoke, the odours, the sounds and the feeling of the room were different. He had been moved. Marcus tried to shift his cramped body, but waves of pain erupted across his skull and he let out an anguished cry. The sound of his pain echoed around him. Waves of nausea threatening to engulf him as he struggled to sit up.
His memory was fuzzy. He had seen something before, something that had made him step backwards in sheer terror, but what? The memory taunted him, annoyingly out of reach. His mind felt small, distant. He mentally re-traced his steps. Nothing. It was as if fear had wiped his memory clean.
A small, grubby window allowed a sliver of light through. It was almost enough for him to see, but the shadows remained ominously present in the corners. Imagination working overtime, Marcus wondered who might be lurking there, was someone watching him and hiding in the shadows, even now preparing to strike? He reached up quickly, trying to focus on anything bar his fears, using his sleeve to wipe a little more of the grime from the window and looked around. The room was filled to overflowing with old furniture, broken pictures and haphazardly stacked boxes, all filled with old clothes from a bygone era. There didn’t seem to be anything of interest, and disturbed dust flew up into the air making him sneeze. Box after box was discarded. He had no recognition of anything here. He continued to scan the room carefully, hoping to find something of interest. A human shape came into sight, standing silently in the corner of the room, hands reaching forward as if to touch him. His breath caught in his throat. He felt unable to drag his eyes away, waiting, watching.
“Who are you?” He demanded. His voice sounded small.
No reply. Indecision hovered. He swallowed hard. Someone was keeping him here against his will and he had to break free somehow. Marcus made his decision and launched himself across the room. The momentum carried him forward and he hit out, shrieking as the head disconnected and rolled across the floor. In the half-light, the scene was macabre, but the body remained resolute, headless and in front of him.
“What the F..?” Marcus cried.
A mannequin? He picked up the rolling head, pulling off the wig. Its wide, staring eyes looked up at him as if in surprise. He threw it down in disgust, angry with himself for being so afraid. His nerves were on edge but in this eerie light, it had appeared human. Marcus rubbed his head. It ached unbearably. A pressure headache had engulfed his whole scalp. He had to find his way out of here, before he could no longer control his feelings of panic.
Beads of sweat shone like dappled dewdrops on his forehead. Dust irritated his lungs and the air was cloying, there was only one door and he tried it in desperation. It was locked, and the window was too small for him to squeeze his bulbous frame through it. He was trapped. There was no choice but to wait. Marcus groaned. He felt ill. His body ached, his memory felt blurred and his tongue began to swell. Even his heart beat was erratic. Fear yes, but this was a physical pain inside him pounding away.
Someone was coming. Marcus flattened himself against the wall. His ears had detected a slight sound from outside of the door, and he needed to press home his advantage if he wanted to escape. He heard a metal key in the lock. The door handle turned slowly and light flooded in. The room outside beckoned, it was familiar. Marcus realised that this was the room he had started in; somehow he had been taken to the room next door. Confused, Marcus peered out. There was no-one about.
Moving stealthily, he crept out of the room. The floorboards sounding his presence, but no-one came to investigate. The foul smell was there again. It ripped at him and he swallowed, afraid that he would be sick. He breathed in reluctantly, his lungs filled with the foul odour that gnawed away at him. Marcus coughed, as bile rose. How did he even come to be here? He couldn’t remember a damn thing. The temperature began to drop rapidly, and shivering, he placed his hands in his pockets, warming his fingers. One hand felt a shape hidden inside, his fingers searching out the clues, metal, ornate, a key.
‘What the hell?’ He thought.
The room was now bitterly cold, his breath, frosted and he shivered again. He was afraid, terribly afraid. The creaking floorboards alerted him, and he felt their movement, and he knew that if he looked around, he would see the person responsible for all of this. He moved slowly, terrified, and his breath caught in his throat, it couldn’t be.
He stepped back quickly, allowing the vision of himself to pass. It was as if it couldn’t see him at all. Its gaze was fixed, intent on some scene ahead. Marcus followed. The closer he got to his vision, the worse he felt but he had to find out what was happening. Ahead, the room opened up and he remembered it all too well, the memories washed over him, this was where he had walked before. Was this vision of himself replaying the scene? As if on cue, he watched himself cry out in alarm, felt the sheer terror and panic and saw himself stumbling backwards. The jolt went through him over and over again. Like a sharp stabbing pain in his brain. Marcus stepped over his own self and moved forward, he had to know what was so terrible. What had he seen?
Flies filled the air, buzzing, attention focussed on a scene in the corner. The odour was now putrid. He could almost taste it and rotting flesh greeted him, eyes bulging out of their sockets on stalks, Marcus gagged. He could see the victim’s tongue visible and half-eaten and the decomposing body was covered in maggots.
Marcus wanted to run but knew he couldn’t. It was hypnotic, the silver blade piercing through the brown leather jacket into the heart. His leather jacket. His gold chain. His favourite watch adorning the bony wrist of the victim.
“Oh no, no, no.” Marcus cried out. “It can’t be.”
He was dead, murdered and had met his grisly end right here. The memories came and went suspending him in disbelief. No-one had discovered his body yet and he was trapped, repeating a cycle of memory loss and discovery. The shock discovery sent him spiralling out of the scene and back into the locked room each time, the room where he had the key. The room began to fade, he had to remember, he had to remember, he fought against this invading darkness, there had to be a light, a way out into the light, but it was too late, and the darkness came again. It was always too late.