Sorry for the lame title but I can’t think of any other way to express my fondness for middle grade horror. I LOVE it, and not just because I write it. There’s something so magical about scaring kids. I remember hiding in the back shelves of the library, pouring over SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. I was hooked on the shivers and the adrenaline I felt coursing through my veins when that girl’s sore split open and spiders went ALL OVER HER FACE.
When I read IN A DARK, DARK ROOM (and other scary stories), I became obsessed with the story, “The Green Ribbon.” It became my go-to story to tell my brothers and sisters. I would always try and scare them the very second Alfred untied that green ribbon.
Okay, like what the f**k, Jenny. Couldn’t take that one to the grave? Just had to horrify your husband? Was he a dick? I bet he was a dick.
Anyhoo, since I love MG so much, I just have to share some with you. I asked fellow Midnighter and MG Horror writer, Erica, to share a snippet of her work with us.
A Snippet from
The House Called Ransom Oaks: An Alphagorey Story
by Erica Davis Secor
Note from the author: I’m honored to share this snippet from Chapter 11: Kelsey’s Kidding Kraken. Here, an eleven-year-old girl meets a Kraken and her comeuppance during a doomed field-trip to a sentient house of unfathomable terrors.
If Kelsey’d had anything to drink that day, she would have most certainly piddled herself. A little. A thousand excuses flooded her mouth. A lie? Too risky. Flattery? Too weird. The truth? Huh. Yes! That was it. Tell the truth.
And for a moment, it was on her lips. But as soon she took a breath, her mouth had another idea. “Why did the mermaid cross the road?”
“What!” Boomed the Kraken and if it was disturbed before, it was furious now.
Oh sweet lard, mouth, you’re going to get us killed.
“WHO? WHO got out? Was it that gangly one with the big head?I knew that one was going to be—”
“No. Uh. Sir. I—it’s a joke.” Kelsey waggled her fingers like they were laughing. “Blar-ha-haha.” Shut. Up. Shut up shut up shut up.
The Kraken blinked.
Kelsey cleared her throat. “A joke. You know. Just a…pretend scenario designed to make one laugh, often applied during slightly…uncomfortable situations.”
“Or tense moments.”
“Say it again.” said the Kraken.
“Oh. Uhm…” her pulse returned and she started, “It’s a pretend scenario designed—“
“SAY. THE. JOKE. AGAIN.”
“OH! Well, yes.” Kelsey looked everywhere except the Kraken’s eye-holes. “W-why did the mermaid cross the road?”
“Sh-she didn’t, because she didn’t have a leg to stand on.”
Goodbye Mom. Goodbye Dad. Goodbye Putney. Goodbye Red Bearded Lunch Lord. Goodbye—
The Kraken exploded into peals of sloshy laughter. “Bless my ink, that is funny.” And the Kraken laughed and laughed and laughed.
Oh, Gentle reader, do you know what happens when a Kraken laughs?
That laughter breaks into a million pieces and those pieces become sparkly baby dolphins, all of which immediately throw themselves into the jaws of the nearest shark to escape the horror that is a Kraken’s breath.
Pray that you will never have to make a Kraken laugh because it is a bad day for everyone.
Kelsey gagged. It was like a rotting fish and last week’s gym socks. She steadied herself on a squishy log but jerked her hand away when she realized it was a tentacle.
Though the Kraken didn’t seem to mind. And t least it wasn’t angry at her anymore.
She relaxed a little and smiled.
In fact, they ended up having a long and lovely chat.
Breathing through her mouth, Kelsey scratched its tentacles and even taught it a few more mermaid jokes. And one about a mama goat. The Kraken could not get over how funny the punchline sounded, “Just kidding!” and tried it out a few different ways. “Just kidding…Just kidding!”
Feeling confident, she said, “This was really fun, Krackie,” and it seemed to enjoy that nickname almost as much as how ‘kidding’ sounded underwater, “but I’ve got to go now. My class is expecting me.” Liar, liar. Surely it would hear the fib in her voice.
But, in a great show of gratuity and politeness, the Kraken extended a tentacle and bobbed its bulbous head. Kelsey smiled and cordially shook extremities with it.
The Kraken said, “Thank you so much for a wonderful afternoon. Do stop by the gift shop on your way out. JUST-KID-DING! There is no gift shop.” He seemed very amused with himself.
So much in fact, that Kelsey didn’t even mind when a tip of tentacle curled gently around her wrist. She just laughed and pulled her hand back.
The tentacle tightened. “You’re not going anywhere,” it snarled.
—Goodbye mailman. Goodbye fellow Write Your Own Dang Endings fan club officers—
“JUST KIDDING. You can leave any time!”
“Oh gosh!” Kelsey couldn’t help but breath a sigh of relief. “You had me. You had me for a minute there, Krakie. You’re funny. Dark. But funny. I like you.” And she laughed and laughed, wiping a tear from her eyes with her free hand.
The Kraken still had the other.
“Take care, ok?” said Kelsey.
The Kraken said, “Yes. You go on back to the
others, now,” and released her wrist.
Kelsey’s knees gave out. She stumbled back, away from the edge of the water and dropped to the grass. Her insides felt like a ripped bag of spiders. She exhaled. And inhaled. She was going to be OK.
The Kraken gave her one final look and as if reading her thoughts, said, “Yes. You are going to be OK.” Then slipped beneath the surface.
SQUELCH. THWAP. Kelsey felt the squeeze of the tentacle before she saw it.
“Just kidding,” said the Kraken.
Erica!!! That was amazing!!! The final line ‘ “Just kidding.” Hahaha creepy and awesome.
One of my critique partners, Jessica Bayliss (BROKEN CHORDS COMING SOON!) writes wicked horror. Intense, beautiful stuff. She sent me over a peak at one of my favourite unpublished books of all time,
by Jessica Bayliss
I stood there, the laundry basket growing heavier in my arms with each passing second, and waited for the voice to repeat its request. After nearly a minute, when nothing happened, I relaxed my muscles a little and shivered from the fresh slick of sweat drying on my skin. Just my imagination. I’d gotten myself so worked up back there I was hearing things.
“I said, yoo hoo!”
The basket slipped from my fingers and plummeted to the carpet with a whoomp!, making me jump and scramble down the hall where I waited for like ever. When my heart slowed some, I inched closer to the door: one shuffling step, pause, listen. Repeat. The smell that greeted me when I got within range was easily double what I’d left behind—no longer just the sulfur stink of a swamp marsh, it was now edged with a tangy odor I couldn’t quite place.
“That’s right, my boy,” the voice coaxed. “I can hear you, you know. Come on. A little closer.” The words bounced off the dryer’s interior with a slight echo. “A little closer, now.” It let loose a string of tittering giggles.
I couldn’t go in there, no way. I needed to run, to get as far from this place as humanly possible. But I couldn’t not go in there, either. Something had really spoken to me from inside an empty room. I crossed the threshold and paused before the machine, but unless I squatted, the facing of the dryer blocked my view inside.
“Good, now get lower, so I can see you better.” Its voice deepened to a growl with those last words, and another chuckle skittered off the dryer walls. “There’s a good boy.”
Like a slave before a king, I lowered myself to my knees until my gaze leveled straight into the bore of the appliance. Though it rested in its normal spot moments ago, now the vent plate at the back of the dryer had disappeared. An eye gleamed from within the dark like a hazy, boiled egg white. The owner of the eyeball blinked, a translucent green membrane skating over the milky surface and bathing it in oozing liquid that trickled out of view like sickly tears.
“Ah, there you are.” The note of pleasure in the creature’s tone turned my stomach. Good thing I hadn’t eaten yet.
Chuckles bubbled out at me. “Now, now. It won’t do to get all worked up. We’ll have plenty of time for questions, Simon.”
That couldn’t be good. “How do you know my name?”
“Oh well, you see, I’m a very good listener. I’ve been listening—and watching—for quite a while.”
“This isn’t real.”
“I assure you, I’m quite real. In fact, you and I are going to become the best of chums. Fast friends. You’ll see.”
Since I’m feeling rather blah about my own writing these days, I’m going to throwbackthursday and share a bit of the project that landed me my fab agent, Gina 🙂
THE BONE TREE
By Jenna Lehne
A woman steps – more like staggers – out of the fog. She’s all wispy and blurry, but it’s definitely a woman. She falls against a tree first, and then to her knees. She clutches her chest and then falls sideways. Her feet twitch and then all her breath rushes out in a cloud.
“Did she just fall asleep?” I ask.
Roman takes a step closer. “I think she just died.”
“Oh.” The fear in my stomach turns to sadness. I slide my hand into Roman’s, thankful that we’ve put the death stuff behind us.
Roman leans a little closer to the extra-dead ghost. “How did Grams die?”
“She had a heart attack,” I say. “Why?”
The ghost stirs and sits up slowly, like she’s just waking up.
“Don’t look.” Roman spins around and covers my eyes. “I’m so sorry, Elsie.”
I grab his wrist and pull his hand down. ‘What are you talking about?”
The ghost falls again. She’s closer now, close enough that I can see her face. I can see red seeping from her mouth as her teeth clamp down on her lip. I watch her skin break as her nails dig into her chest. She groans and falls to her knees. I fall too.
“Grams,” I whisper. I reach for her but my hand passes right through her. She bucks against the unmoving leaves. “Roman, help!”
Roman sits next to me and grabs my other hand. “I can’t do anything, I’m sorry Elsie. I’m so sorry.”
“Tell me what to do, Grams.” I suck back the sob waiting to escape. “How do I make it stop?”
“Dig the earrings up,” Grams gasps. “It hurts so much. Please, dig up the token.”
Grams gnarled hand slides against the ground in the direction of the Bone Tree.
“The earrings!” I scramble to the tree and dig up the fresh hole. I stop before I grab the earrings. “What will this do to you, Roman?”
Roman shakes his head. “I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. Grab the earrings, Els.”
Grams shudders and dies again. I choke on a sob as a part of me dies too. I can’t believe this is what happens to the token’s owners. I feel so terrible my stomach aches. I grab the earrings and jam them into my pocket. The pointed end digs into my middle finger but I don’t care. I crawl back toward Grams, leaving a miniature trail of blood behind me. She stands to her feet, but this time she doesn’t fall.
Well that was super fun! Thank you, Jessica and Erica, for joining me!