You guys didn’t pull any punches with your entries into the Horror Story Writing Contest! We had a fantastic response and choosing the winner was really difficult! After much debate and discussion we are happy to announce that “Not Here For A Book” by Jessica Payseur is the winner of the Evil Supply Co. prize of Boneyard Stationery Suite and 5 greeting cards of their choice from Evil Supply Co!
You can read “Not Here For A Book” below or download the PDF which includes all the entries from this contest!
Winning Story: Not Here for a Book
By Jessica Payseur
Zoe sipped warmed cider and sorted through broken crayons. The foam pumpkins sat on a newspaper-covered table, awaiting transformation. From his perch atop the bookshelf, Zoe’s cat peered down at the scene, despising everything in his lovable way.
When the doorbell rang, Zoe’s arms were full of hair dryers. Tessa spilled in, bag of pumpkins in hand, and immediately began to laugh.
“What are we doing, then? Giving our pumpkins creepy hairdos?”
“No,” said Zoe, leading the way to the table. “I saw this online. We’re going to melt crayons over them.”
“Weird,” said Tessa, waving at the ginger cat. “Hi, Pumpkin Spice Latte!”
With a hiss the cat sprang from his roost and darted off, a streak of festive orange through the house.
“I always offend him,” said Tessa, sighing. She accepted the mug of cider Zoe passed her. “Anyway, where were we? Right, crayons. Nothing will ever be as good as last year’s pumpkins, though. Mod Podging Avengers comics on them!”
“Yeah,” said Zoe. “But this will still be good. I’m going to use crimson to make it look like my pumpkin’s bleeding. Or maybe I should use green and make it ooze?”
“Oh, definitely the ooze, and I’m stealing that idea.”
“Not fair,” said Zoe, then, “Do you feel a draft?”
She retraced her steps to the door, only to find with horror that not only was the thing wide open, but Pumpkin Spice Latte stood experimentally outside, and he was strictly an indoor cat. As she stared, his tail twitched once, and then he was darting across the lawn.
“Stop!” shouted Zoe, dashing after him. The cat streaked away, a fiery blur, first across the street, then down it. Zoe gave chase, dodging lawn decorations, styrofoam headstones and fake coffins and giant fuzzy spiders, secretly apologizing to her neighbors. Still she could not seem to catch the cat, who always seemed to be just in front of her.
At the end of the street she came to a halt, panting. Perhaps she should have a few less Star Trek marathons and a few more days at the gym. The idea was so absurd she laughed at herself.
“I don’t think it’s funny, I think it’s creepy,” said Tessa, panting by her side. Zoe looked up to follow her gaze.
Beyond a rusted fence lay what Zoe had always referred to as ‘the mansion.’ The old, sprawling home built right along the lake was gray and spooky in the early dark, nothing but a thin flicker of light in the windows.
Zoe sighed, suddenly cold. Of course she’d forgotten to grab her coat.
“Did he run in there?” asked Tessa, shuddering.
“Sure looks like it, doesn’t it? Come on, the sooner we grab him, the sooner we can get to those pumpkins.”
Zoe could tell by her hesitation that Tessa wanted to get no closer to the place than she already was. Neither of them wanted to turn back, though.
“We watch Supernatural,” said Zoe. “We can handle this.”
Tessa nodded, and they both crossed the lawn in quick, shaky steps. Around them the willows shuddered in the wind, the trees bare of leaves and reaching out for them like some sort of land kraken.
At the door Zoe knocked, waited. Her hand was on the latch when she heard the whisper, directly in her ear.
“Please, please come in. You’re here for a book?”
“A cat, actually,” said Zoe.
“What?” asked Tessa, and Zoe felt her flesh crawl. Tessa had not heard the voice. She swallowed.
“Nothing,” she said. “Let’s go in.”
If Tessa was just as scared, she did her best to hide it. Zoe silently cursed Pumpkin Spice Latte for bolting. When she got her hands on him…
They let themselves in and wandered down the darkened hallways, peering into rooms in search of the cat.
“No cobwebs,” said Tessa. “This place doesn’t have cobwebs. Someone lives here. That’s a relief.”
Zoe did not feel relieved at all. Beyond the door in front of her was the flicker of light they had seen from the road; it slid out from the gap between the wood and the frame like golden liquid. Slowly she pushed the door open, heard it creak.
“Hello?” she asked. “Pumpkin Spice Latte?”
“The cat’s not going to answer you,” said Tessa, gazing around the impressive library. Candles were lit everywhere, showing off floor-to-ceiling shelves of books. The room was lushly carpeted, a fireplace in the far corner, a mirror above the mantle.
When Zoe glanced at it she was sure she saw a shadow flitting behind her. When she opened her mouth, Tessa spoke.
“Oh, there he is. C’mere, Pumps!” Tessa held out a hand, withdrew it. “Z-zoe…is that a…?”
She could not finish. Zoe leaned around a chair to get a look at what Tessa was staring at so wide-eyed. Her blood turned cold.
A man, book in hand, was sprawled on the floor. His hair was a matted mess; a trail of coagulating blood led from the back of his skull to a heavy bronze candlestick.
“You’re here for a book?” asked the whisper again, directly into Zoe’s ear. “I have so many wonderfulbooks…”
Zoe turned and ran from the library, Tessa following her. In the hallway Tessa grabbed her and pulled her up short.
“Shouldn’t we check for a pulse?” she asked. Zoe reluctantly nodded.
Yellow cat eyes fixed mercilessly on them as they re-entered the library, but there was no longer any trace of the body staining the plush carpet, no longer a shadow in the mirror.
“Let’s get out of here,” said Zoe.
“What about Pumpkin Spice Latte?”
“He can come home whenever he wants!”
Zoe led the way outside at a run, nearly bowling over a neighbor walking his dog.
“Saw you at that house,” he said when she stopped to apologize. “Don’t bother with it. No one’s lived there since the murder. It’s been deserted for years…”