Midnight Fear: A Flash Fiction Spooky Story

Hey everyone!

I’m back from vacation (did ya miss me? :P) and I’ll be doing some NaNo-ish posts soon (eek!) but today I’m doing something… different. XD

Jenelle Schmidt has a Spooky Story Challenge again this year (check it out!), flash-fiction edition, aaand I decided to join in.

I’ve been kind of enjoying writing flash fiction — works one thousand words long or less — lately (like We Otter Do It and Mentor Problems). Only problem is, spooky/scary stories are NOT my thing at all. XD

But I did have a flash-fiction piece around that I wrote a few years back and recently rewrote, based on a nightmare I had. I kind of wrote it as “therapy” and after I got it down “on paper,” it didn’t scare me anymore — but I wasn’t really planning on posting it lest it scare other people! 😉

So be warned, if that’s not your thing.

But I decided to share it anyway.

Enjoy!

Midnight Fear

by

Deborah O’Carroll

Night shrouds the world. Black as ink, the dark sky hangs overhead—the roof of a giant safe or vault, locking me into this world of nightmare. A car screeches somewhere. The city block stretches before me, with but a few yellow street-lamps to shine small patches of imagined safety onto the pavement—bits of light, small, pitiful, feebly trying to push back the night.

The wind is on the move. It drives grey rags of clouds across icy stars, slips cold fingers of air down my collar, shrieks relentlessly through the branches of a tree I walk beneath. The twigs chatter together like teeth. I shiver and hasten my pace, casting glances this way and that. I should have been home long ago.

Someone runs up the road—whisks past, a shadow under a street-lamp. He calls back from behind me in a hoarse whisper: “It’s coming!”

I don’t need to ask what “it” is.

I break into a panicked run, clutching my skirt, my shoes pounding a war-drum’s call, my heart a fluttering bird trapped between metal bars. The street stretches on forever. I must reach home before it finds me.

My house appears in the darkness. Relief floods me. But as I near my yard, I freeze. Terror grips me in an iron vice. At the crossroads where my street meets the next, a shadow moves.

Round the corner with slow deliberation pads the embodiment of midnight fear.

The black panther.

It’s twice as big as I had heard. It stops in the midst of the crossroads, shadowy head swinging slowly as if deciding which street to take. Not my street. Not— Motionless save for the twitch of its tail, its gleaming eyes full of quiet malice fix on me.

I stand transfixed as we stare at each other for a short eternity. Then, with slow, measured steps, it pads up the street toward me. Panic breaks me free of my terror-induced paralysis. I tear across the road, stumble up my sidewalk and front steps to my house. Safety lies in wait for me behind the door. I claw frantically in my pocket for the key. Not there. It has to be there—

The key is gone. I can’t get in.

Nowhere to hide. I must find somewhere . . . I dart a glance over my shoulder. The beast still pads slowly up the street. I run across the porch, down the steps, and heave myself over the side of the bed of the pickup truck. I hunker down low with my head down, breath coming in ragged gasps, heart running a marathon. Perhaps the panther will pass by, continue down the street . . . Perhaps it will not find me.

All is quiet. I wait forever. Silence. I dare a quick glimpse over the side of the pickup bed. My heart trips and falls and skips a beat.

I had heard no sound. Yet the panther pads toward me across my grassy lawn, as silent and graceful as any of its smaller kin. In horrified fascination I watch its dark bulk make its slow, sinister way toward me, a deeper black beneath the tree shadows cast by the moon. Instead of leaping, the creature circles the truck. A long wooden plank forms a ramp from the ground up to the tailgate of the pickup’s bed. A path straight to me. The panther sets a fore-paw on the plank and begins its slow relentless ascent, fixing near-hypnotic eyes on me.

I seize the end of the ramp with frantic prying fingers, trying to flip it over. It doesn’t budge. The panther takes another step.

I scrabble desperately about in the dark in the back of the pickup. My hand touches an object. A hammer. I fling it with all my strength.

It strikes the beast between its gold street-lamp eyes.

I hold my breath. The panther pauses, shakes its head once, then comes on. Its teeth glitter under the moon. Its paws tread softly pad-pad-pad up the plank.

In a final surge of mind-numbing panic, I grab the next object my hand finds—a large heavy mallet—and fling that too. Then another—a length of pipe—and another and another, I know not what, flinging them in quick succession. I shut my eyes against the terror and only hope one of them will make it stop coming. Just make it stop coming toward me. I am out of things to throw. Dark despair seizes me, but no claws. I open my eyes.

The panther still stands on the plank. It does not move. Then it sways.

And

The shape of terror hits the ground with a thud. It lies still.

Relief tears a gasp from my lungs as I remember to breathe again. I collapse in the bed of the pickup truck.

***

Time follows in a blur. They come at last to find the beast, and find it dead. I climb shakily down into my lawn. People surround me, despite the midnight hour, praising me and my non-existent bravery for the death of the terror. Voices roll around me, talking of taking me to dinner, of celebration. I don’t listen to them. I can only stand beneath the trees, swaying like their branches, staring down at the panther. It lies on the grass, a sleek pile of black fur, motionless. Dead. But without losing its menace.

Unthinking dread still fills me, and I can’t look away, despite knowing that it’s dead from the heavy metal things I had thrown at it. I wish I’d thrown heavier ones.

I keep staring, half expecting the panther to move.

It does.

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I’m Back From Realm Makers! + Announcements/Updates!

Hey, friends!

I’m back and I have new shinies to share with you!

Including a website and new social medias and *whispers* the time my short story got read aloud at Realm Makers. (Whaaat??)

Ahem.

Backing up… I’m back from the Realm Makers writers conference! *collapses and curls up in a tapestry to sleep for a century or three* *crawls quickly out again because it’s far too hot to do anything of the kind*

Sneak-peek! (Full post coming soon; promise.)

I’ve hardly been home in the last month or so, let alone blogging (sorry, my neglected bloggy and readers!). But although I’m still trying to climb out from under the pile of Things That Need Doing, I’m back, so hurray!

I’m still sorting through Realm Makers pictures and typing up notes from the classes, and trying to get back into the swing of life again. (It’s… taking awhile. Being gone again shortly after getting back from my roadtrip didn’t help things, and then I went kayaking this weekend. So it’s been fun, but it’s nice to be home.)

I’m HOPING that I’ll be able to pull together some kind of Special Edition Ishness for a Realm Makers recap shortly and get that posted next week. Because I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

In the meantime, I wanted to say that I’m back, I had an AMAZING time, met so many author friends, and got so many books. XD (You can see my bookhaul over on my bookblog if you like!)

More details will be forthcoming! But I’ve kind of abandoned my poor little blog for a month and wanted to say hi to you lovely readers. 🙂

I also have Announcements!

Remember back in the day, I had writing dreams/goals for this year? Well, I’m happy to announce that I’ve accomplished several of them! 😀

See, I wasn’t only busy with Realm Makers — I was also busy kind of polishing up my online writer presense, and it’s time to tell you aaall about that!

I have an Instagram!

*gasp* The shock! Okay, so I’ve had one for awhile but couldn’t post any pictures on it until I recently acquired a smartphone. XD

After getting back from Realm Makers, I’ve been having a blast putting together fun Bookstagram posts. 😛 So if you’re at all interested, you can check out my profile here. 🙂

I have a Facebook page!

Yes indeed, my very own writerly FB page, where I’m planning on sharing (hopefully) writing updates and occasional snippets, as well as… well… probably writerly stuff and my blogposts and maybe some bookish things. I haven’t totally decided. But it’s my new fun place to share stuff when it can’t quite fit on Twitter. XD (If you like, you may like it, and I will like love you for, like, forever. Yikes, that was way too many likes in one sentence. Somebody save me from myself.)

New Website

I have my very own official website, guys!! :O I’m so excited. I’ve only been working on this for MONTHS. *nervous laughter*

At the moment, I’m still keeping my two blogs separate, just linking back and forth to all the things — although someday I might change that and transfer these to my domain. For now though (because that’s scary *cough*) I’m using deborahocarroll.com for a central hub, sort of, which I can link to (instead of trying to decide which of my blogs to link to).

It’s also where I have Important Stuff all in one place, like social media links and About Me and my Reviewing and Editing Services (oh, yes, I’m a freelance copyeditor/proofreader; did you know? :P) and a smol page about my current WIPs and so on.

But I got it done and it looks nice (I think) and I’m SO HAPPY. ^_^

It’s also hosting my new…

Newsletter!

Yes, I actually have a newsletter now! *cue gasps from the astonished audience*

I haven’t done much with it yet but I finally set one up. As of next month, I’ll have been blogging for 5 years (FIVE! :O) and I’ve thought of a newsletter as kind of the next step… so I’m finally taking it!

We’ll see what said newsletters turn out to be like (definitely Deborah and fantasy and writing and book related, though! XD) but in the meantime if you’d like virtual otters/cupcakes and a short story and my eternal love and adoration, you can sign up for it if you’d like to at all. ^_^

I’m planning for it to eventually be my go-to way of reaching my most loyal fans about All The Things so… yeah. (I’ll still, obviously, be blogging as well, though!)

Wait, what was that about a short story, you ask?

Let me tell you about that… 😀

How My Flash Fiction Was Read Aloud at Realm Makers (and You Can Get It For Free)

At the very beginning of July, I saw a contest held by Splickety for fantasy flashfiction works of 300 words or less… and the winner would be published in the January edition, and that and nine other finalist stories would be chosen to be read aloud in a “flash critique” session at the Realm Makers conference.

So I wrote a little something, sent it in (my third time submitting to a real contest), and figured that was that.

Well it wasn’t.

The winning story was by a blogging friend (CONGRATS, KIRA!!), and my story was one of the 10 — actually the very first one — that was read aloud and critiqued by a panel of Splickety people. *collapses* I. was. so. excited. 😀

Andrew Winch, Will Wight, and Josh Smith, giving their critiques of the Splickety stories. (Photo credit to Ralene Burke, found here. I was far too gobsmacked to remember to take pictures.)

They said mostly nice things about it and it was read aloud in a room full of people (aaahh!) and everyone laughed at one of the funny parts and just — it was absolutely amazing. 😀

If you weren’t one of the people in the room listening to it, you can still read it if you’d like. 😉 I decided that I’d make it available to my newsletter subscribers as my little opt-in reward thingamawhatsit (I know, such technical terms. *cough*).

Here’s info I wrote up about it if you want to know what it’s about:

Mentor Problems, a 300 word flash fiction story by Deborah O’Carroll, was one of ten finalist stories read aloud at Splickety Magazine’s flash-critique session at the Realm Makers 2018 writers conference. Do you like humor and fantasy tropes with a twist? Then you’ll love this bite-sized read!

So yeah! If you’d like to read it, you can get it by subscribing here! (And of course you’re welcome to unsubscribe at any time; nobody knows how full inboxes can get like I do. 😛 Though of course I’d love it if you stick around!)

Wattpad and adorable new otter cover

I haven’t done a lot on my Wattpad, but I did put a few short stories I’ve had hither and yon on the interwebs over there, including the otter one with an adorable new cover I made. 😉

Not sure what I’ll do there in the future, but there it is!

Cuteness. Because you need Gavin the otter secretary in your life.

Okay, I’m done now!

So I may also have tweaked some things around this blog and my book blog, in terms of pages/links/social media/etc., and on already-established social media like my Twitter, trying to get it all tied in together. It’s kind of exciting. ^_^

But that’s all I have to share today. I just had to show you the new shinies! I’m thinking of it as getting my authorial internet house in order, so I can focus on moving forward in whichever direction I end up going… which at the moment is going to look like lots of writing and an epic #RealmMakers2018 recap post hopefully next week! YAY!

So I will see you then! 😀

What do you think of my new shinies? Are you curious to read my flash fiction? (AAHH, I’m so excited!) And what have you been up to? I’ve missed you guys and can’t wait to chat in the comments! Thanks so much for bearing with me and reading my updates. You’re the best! ❤

We Otter Do It: I Won a Flash Fiction Writing Contest!

Guys! I won a contest! *squeaks*

I’m really excited to announce that I won the fan-voted Fellowship of Fantasy Mythical Doorways flash fiction Writing Contest! I can’t believe it, and little Gavin the otter and I are so grateful for y’all’s votes!

The contest was to write a 500 word or less story, opening with “The door creaked open …” I won the adult section, and the winner of the 15 and under category wrote an amazing story too!

FYI, flash fiction = a short story of one thousand words or less. Or, in this case, 499 words, which is how long “We Otter Do It” is — and you can read the whole thing on the Fellowship of Fantasy blog where it’s being featured today! 🙂 Along with the other winning story, which is fantastic. 😀

So drop by to meet a little otter secretary named Gavin. 😉 And leave a comment here or there to let me know what you think! ^_^

We Otter Do It

by Deborah O’Carroll

The door creaked open. A tall, wobbling stack of parchment pattered into the room on little furry paws. At least, that’s what it looks like when your otter secretary comes into your office carrying the mail.

I’m a respectable young man and a magician, and nobody would believe me if I told them my life is tyrannized by an adorable otter.

Read the rest at fellowshipoffantasy.com


P.S. Oh, and the writing contest was a publicity thing to celebrate the release of a Fellowship of Fantasy short story anthology which released last week, Mythical Doorways, featuring stories by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt, H.L. Burke, and nine other fantastic authors. You can get the ebook free online in some places (I think Amazon is currently being difficult but it’s 99 cents there at the moment and might be free again). Anyway, I’m reading it now and enjoying it. And it’s unrelated to the contest, except in both having doorways. XD

P.P.S. This is the first time I’ve won a writing contest and I’m SO EXCITED. It’s got me floating in the clouds! AWK.

Thank you for reading! ❤