October 2021 Horror Short Story Writing Contest

Thank you to all who entered!

We enjoyed reading your submissions.

Check out the winner below!!

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Winner:
Morning Coffee by Ellen Taylor

    Ellie closed her eyes as the infant rays of the morning sun danced across her cheeks. This was going to be a great day, she could tell. The office worked her too hard, and she was looking forward to relaxing today. The nutty scent of her coffee filled her nostrils as she gripped her favorite "luckiest wife in the world" mug. The sunrise was spectacular, full of reds and golds. She'd already taken multiple pictures and posted them on Instagram. It was the least she could do for her night owl friends.
 

The white gold wedding ring around her finger clinked against the handle of the cup as she took another sip. She got lost scrolling through Instagram. It was lovely, mindless, and exactly the sort of thing one deserved at the beginning of a three day weekend. The travel pics were Ellie’s favorite. She was content to watch other people travel while she sat on her back porch watching a sunrise. She tried traveling once, and it didn't live up to expectations. The pictures were what took her breath away, not the actual places, though she learned not to tell other people that. It was one of the reasons why she and Jake hit it off so well. They both hated traveling.
 

Ellie glanced up from her phone, her eyes traveling to their bedroom as she thought of Jake. If she didn't wake him up, he'd sleep all day. Sure, they had nothing planned, but she wanted him awake when they did nothing together. The warmth reminded her of the beautiful sunrise, and Ellie turned toward the sky again. Something ominous began to burn in her gut, but she couldn't tell what. It made the unease she felt more palpable. She checked the time on her phone and saw it was 6:17. Too early for her to wake Jake up. Frowning, she opened up Instagram to the picture she took of the sunrise. She held it up to the sky and saw, despite however long she spent scrolling through Instagram, the sunrise was still identical to the picture she took. She checked the timestamp of when she took the picture. 


6:17


The urge to run away and hide washed over her. she got to her feet and stumbled inside their little house. It seemed silly, being afraid of the sun, but she needed Jake. He could help her not feel so afraid. 


The moment she entered her and Jake's room, she knew something bad had happened. She couldn't hear Jake's familiar deep breathing.


"Jake?" Ellie shook him, but he didn't respond. He still looked asleep, except for the fact he wasn’t breathing. Her mug tumbled out of her hands, crashing onto the floor as she dialed 911. Her phone made a garbled noise. "Hello?"


No answer. 911 always had to answer, right? She tried dialing again, but it was the same garbled noise. With a cry of panic, she ran out of the room, not noticing the small slice in her toe from the broken bits of her favorite mug.


"Help!" She flew out of her house and rushed down the street, no idea where to go, but knowing she had to go somewhere. "Please! Someone help Jake!"


Across the street Ellie saw her neighbor, Mrs. Perkins, watering her gardenias. She was older and hard of hearing. Ellie sprinted across the road, only stopping to grab Mrs. Perkins' shoulder. 


"Please, I-" Ellie stopped cold, fear settling into her soul. Mrs. Perkins had a glassy look in her eyes, like she was dead. But if she were dead, why was she still standing? And watering gardenias? Ellie felt the cool hose water soaking her bathrobe and she let go, taking a few steps back. Every emotion seemed to roar through Ellie, but she could only stare at Mrs. Perkins, open-mouthed. The old woman's limbs were jerky, but had a pattern to them. It was like she was playing the same five seconds over and over again.


Ellie's breathing turned unnatural as she backed away. Filled with a sense of urgency, she began running down the street, taking in the strange sights. The Anderson's were in their minivan, their two kids jumping up and down in excitement in the back. They must be heading somewhere fun for the three day weekend. Mr. Anderson backed the van over and over again into the brick mailbox, the excitement on his face seemed odd considering his mailbox was denting his van. A mailman opened a mailbox and put his empty hand into it and out again before closing it again. A few letters were scattered on the ground, completely unnoticed by anyone. The clang of the mailbox echoed in Ellie's ears like a bizarre drum beat. What was going on?


The sky began to darken. Ellie covered her face from the sunrise that hadn't moved from it's spot in the hour or so since she'd taken it's picture. It wasn't clouds blocking the sunlight, it was more like the entire sky was on a dimmer switch. A small corner of the sky brightened, and Ellie followed the beam until it fell on an abandoned shed half mile away. Adrenaline pumped through her. The bizarre scenes on her street were too much. As much as her inner self was telling her that nothing good could come from a dilapidated shed after the strange horrors she was seeing, she couldn't help but turn and run for her car. She drove past other strange scenes, witnessing the same five seconds of her neighbors and friends' lives, before she reached the shed. 


It didn't take much to break open the door. It looked ready to rot away at the touch. She stepped inside and found herself in some small observation room. Every light in the room was blinking at her, the urgency of their red and yellow lights not helping to calm her nerves. There was a large screen cut into four sections, each showing a section of the street. Ellie frowned as the strangeness played across the screen. Who had done this? 


A keyboard rested in front of the screen, and she hit a few keys. The cameras changed and she saw her house. Ellie's eyes widened as she kept hitting the arrow keys. Every inch of her house was on the screen. It changed to her office desk. Whatever was happening in her neighborhood also happened in her office. Her boss was at work, typing something into the computer before reaching over for his mug. He paused right before grabbing it, his limbs jerky as they returned to the keyboard and he began typing again. Ellie swallowed, not realizing she was crying until she closed her eyes and squeezed out more tears.


"Flip the switch."


Ellie jumped and spun to the open door of the shed, but no one was there. The voice sounded like hundreds of voices speaking in unison, some high pitch, some low pitch, some in the middle. It felt so disconcerting and familiar at the same time. 


"Everything will go back to normal."


On the side of the wall, right by the door, Ellie found the switch. Thousands of questions battled through her mind.


"We will take care of you."


A part of her wanted to rebel. She couldn't comply! This was insane! As far as she was concerned, she was the only normal human on this entire planet. What did it mean? 


"We always have. We always will."


Thoughts of her life flickered through her mind. It was a pretty good life. She had a good husband, a good job. Normal and content. She never did like to question.


Ellie grabbed the switch and flipped it. The lights all went off and a quiet whirring sound permeated the shed. She drove home, ignoring the Anderson's fighting over their mailbox, ignoring the mailman hastily inspecting the letters he had picked up from the ground, ignoring Mrs. Perkins saving her gardenias. She walked into the house as Jake finished pouring her coffee. He smiled as he pressed her favorite "luckiest wife in the world" mug into her hands, miraculously all in one piece.


"Black and hot. Just how you like it."