Welcome to the October edition of the potpourri blog series! This month we've got a few Community Coordinator-written short, spooky stories for your enjoyment.
| M A G E M A D I |
One mid-October evening, a pair of young men were walking along the bike trail near their homes when the sudden screeching of an owl nearby made them nearly jump out of their skin with fright. Another owl screech had them quickening their pace towards home, but under the light of the waning moon it was hard for them to see if they were even going in the right direction. They thought they recognized the babbling brook that came up next to the path as being closer to their homes so they kept going. "Screech!" the owl cawed again, almost as if it was following them!
"Is it chasing us, Oliver?" Frederick asked, huffing and puffing as he ran.
"I sure hope not!" Oliver replied, turning to look behind them in the semi-darkness. A huge shape instantly blocked out the light of the moon as it flew over the tree tops, obscuring the path in front of the young men. They nearly tripped to a stop, fumbling with their trouser pockets to get out their phones for light.
"Screech!" the owl cawed above them, causing Frederick and Oliver to cover their ears from the painfully loud noise. The owl loomed large overhead, nearly thirty feet long and with sharp talons on its feet that glittered menacingly in the scant moonlight. It was out for prey this dark night.
"What do we do?" Oliver asked, frightened.
"Run! We're almost home, I know it!" Frederick answered, finally getting the flashlight app to work on his phone as he took off running along the path again, Oliver trailing close behind.
The owl swooped down but the trees were too close together for it to make a proper grab at the two humans, so it glided back up above the treeline. Frederick and Oliver picked up the pace as they saw the glowing of lights in the distance indicating the first row of homes in their neighborhood after the bike path ended. The giant owl screeched again as it continued pursuing them, but the trees were still too close together for it to do more than halfheartedly try and swipe at them with its talons. It saw the treeline ending up ahead and flapped its wings, rising higher into the air in preparation.
"My house is closest, we go two houses left and across the street, and we're safe!" Frederick huffed. Oliver mumbled his agreement as they kept running.
They broke through the treeline and absolutely sprinted towards the front door of Frederick's house, no longer hearing the flapping of the owl's wings yet feeling all the more in peril. The owl was gliding in a shallow dive, straight for them, but they did not look back! It screeched once more, extending its talons as it reached for them in front of Frederick's house.
Frederick felt the whoosh of air as the owl closed in, twisted the handle of the front door, and awoke from his nightmare as he fell off of his bed onto the floor. Shaking his head to clear it of the terrible images, he stood and went to his window, firmly closing the curtains. The soft hooting of an owl could be heard in the distance.
| R E N A C E R A |
I think my new house is haunted.
I was so excited to buy my own home, and maybe that excitement stopped me from asking all the questions I should have...but to tell this story, I need to start from the beginning:
A few months ago, I began my house search with a modest budget and what I was pretty sure was a reasonable wish list. I turned thirty-three this year, and the chance to buy my own home so young felt like such a huge blessing. I couldn’t wait to take on the challenges of being a homeowner, but I also wanted whatever I chose to be perfect, so I took my time. I think I must have looked at fifty properties in various states of disrepair. I’d expected whatever house I bought to need some work. Even with a decade of savings post-college, my funds were limited, so I wasn’t afraid of choosing a property I’d have to fix up. Then I found The House.
It was the only property I saw on that day, and I met the realtor out front at 9 a.m. sharp. It was a clear morning, sunny with the crispness of fall just starting to creep in as summer faded away. The house was at the end of a narrow street. A dirt lot beyond it showed tire tracks where people had to turn around after missing the Dead End sign on the corner.
From the outside, the house was quaint: a narrow two-story craftsman with three steps leading up to a covered porch. The inside needed work, sure, but it was in better condition than a lot of the other houses I’d seen, and there was something almost...me about it. Something that said, “You could belong here.” Even without that feeling, I was drawn in. It was priced well below market value, after all. The realtor even said she’d been surprised to see it for such a steal, but it had been on the market for a while, so she expected the discounted price was set by owners who wanted it off their hands.
After the walk-through, I knew this was my house. I made an offer that day and it was accepted the next. And in no time, the keys were in my hand and my cardboard boxes were piled in the empty rooms.
The strange things started small.
Every once in a while, I’d open a box to unpack it, and there would be something in it that wasn’t mine. A glass figurine or a newspaper clipping too faded to read. Or I would be lying in bed at night and hear the sound of footsteps—no, just normal house creakings—above, below, all around me.
I was being ridiculous, I told myself. So I didn’t think much of it.
When I’d settled in, though, the eeriness seemed to get more comfortable showing itself—I live alone, but sometimes things wouldn’t be where I left them. My tea cup would be washed and left to dry on the rack. The throw blanket I’d tossed on the couch would be neatly folded across the back. The plants would be freshly cared for, their leaves glistening with water I didn’t pour.
This house isn’t old, exactly. Fifty years or so, not even my parents’ age. But it seems to have a presence that movies usually reserve for ancient places that saw true horror. But I’ve read through the newspapers at the library and nothing about this house stands out. No murders. No disturbed burial grounds.
Still, there’s something. But maybe it’s kind. After all, a malicious spirit wouldn’t water my plants or wash my dishes. A malicious spirit wouldn’t hum quietly in the mornings when i sit up in bed and rub my eyes.
So I think I’ll hold off on an exorcism for now. Instead I’m going to keep settling in, maybe finally go into the attic and clean out the mementos from owners past. Maybe I’ll learn something up there, find a clue as to who might be lingering. After all, it couldn’t hurt, could it?
| R O N S G I R L F R I D A Y |
“I just want you to know that I don’t really want to be here either.”
The hooded figure leaned indifferently on his scythe as the pert, young, tragically doomed blonde shrieked and scrambled away from him on all fours.
“I tried to get today off. I never take time off. I’m burnt out, you know? But you know what Management said? Last time I took a day off, Queen Victoria survived her eighth assassination attempt. Century and a half later, they’re still holding that against me.”
He picked at a hangnail in annoyance, lost in his own thoughts.
“And it’s like, ONE day off. It’s not like I’m asking for a century, like Plague. That guy hasn’t worked since the fucking Spanish flu."
The blonde groped about for the stairs and began to half-run, half-crawl up them. The figure sighed. Why did they always go up the stairs?
A few seconds passed before he trudged after her halfheartedly, scowling and whinging as he went.
“I know we’re short-staffed, but whose fault is that? Population’s been increasing for millenia, but they won’t hire more psychopomps. How do they expect us to do our jobs? Morale is low, really low. And they’re just like, ‘Are you practising self-care? Are you drinking water?’”
He spared a sympathetic glance at the wretched creature cowering and sobbing before him. He’d just made quick work of the rest of her friends and it had been a draining night for both of them. He raised his hands in a temporary truce before babbling on, turning the scythe pensively in his hands.
“Times like these, you really find out who your friends are. Management said I could have the day if I got someone to cover for me. Tempilcahue owes me big time, but all of a sudden he’s like, ‘I’m busy.’ Busy with what? He only does Chile and Argentina. And he doesn’t even take everyone! He’s like Charon, he doesn’t take you if you don’t pay him. Pay him. To die. How’d he get into that racket? I don’t have that luxury, I take all of you. And Azrael is all like, ‘I’m an archangel,’ so he can’t be arsed. Can’t stand that guy.”
He sighed as the blonde reached one trembling hand for the doorknob behind her, ignoring her increasing panic upon finding it would not open.
“I want to watch a film, you know? The last time I tried watching one was The Godfather, and it was just like… too close to work. Love’s always telling me I need to check out 10 Things I Hate About You, but I dunno, I was never really into fantasy…”
A beep from his waistband drew his attention.
“Can you believe we’re still using pagers?” he asked wryly. “Budget cuts. Oh, shit…”
Murder-suicide in Manchester. Time to get back to work. He reached out one pale hand to the blonde, who let out a bloodcurdling scream.
“You think you’re upset? I don’t even get overtime.”
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writers: madi, emily, melanie