This year's Nightmare Fuel: Scary Story Contest was the first of hopefully many more teen writing competitions to come at the library. Writers in Grades 6-12 were challenged to craft their best scary stories in 2,000 words or less and send them in for judging by three librarians who love a thrill. We had a difficult time choosing from the 28 total spine-tingling entries. Thank you to everyone who submitted their work to the contest. All of the stories were creative, original, and truly frightening! Look out for next year's Nightmare Fuel!
Congratulations to our 2023 Winner, Ella B., who wrote the bone-chilling story, "Walls." This story was unanimously selected by our judges. Please enjoy reading the winning story below!
1st Place: "Walls" by Ella B. (17 years old) - $30 gift card
2nd Place: "The Coward and the Sentinel" by Vivienne R. (17 years old) - $20 gift card
3rd Place: "The Rabbit Man of Goreville Hill" by Norah H. (16 years old) - $10 gift card
"Footsteps" by Will G. (14 years old)
"After Hours" by Emily P. (17 years old)
"Being Brave" by Zoey S. (15 years old)
"Walls" by Ella B.
I like to live in walls. Well, their walls, specifically. There’s an undeniable coziness to it—the tight spaces provide a feeling akin to a hug, and the warmth and laughter of the family inside always lets me feel like part of the group. Game nights happen every other Saturday night, as they always have for the past seven years, right on the dot at 6:00 P.M. after dinner. It’s admirable how often they keep it up.
Lucy’s favorite game is hide and seek. No one else likes it much, but no one can say no to her. She’ll pout, and plead with them to please, please let them play hide and seek, and when told yes she’ll squeal so loud it can hurt and she’ll rip at her red hair ribbons in excitement. Edith always gently admonishes her for it. “Those ribbons were expensive, dear,” she’ll say, and Lucy always follows it up with a “sorry, ma’am.” It happens again tonight.
Aside from me, the person with the biggest soft spot for Lucy is definitely Ward. He picks her up in his big arms, and laughs, saying it’s alright. He takes the ribbons out of her hair and he undoes her pair of golden braids. Even though Ward loves her, she’ll still squirm away once he’s finished. It’s been a few years since the war, but he’s still got that mile long stare that pierces everyone. He’ll look at nothing for too long. Sometimes, I’m convinced he’s seen me, just beyond the boards of the wall as I peer out into our family, but he turns and walks away.
I watch as she hurries out of his arms and he stands up from his big brown chair, clapping his hands together. “Alright,” he smiles, “let’s play hide and seek. Who wants to be the seeker?”
I do. I do, pick me, I think, but I keep quiet. I’m a good seeker. I always have been. It was how I found this family, back when Edith was enrolling Chester in elementary school. He’s a teenager now, lean with a strong build. His arms are thick and his legs carry him fast. He’s built like a monster, I would joke to myself as he would do push ups in his room, scrambling away from the floor to look like he was reading whenever his parents would come by to see what he was doing. He’s too sheepish for his own good sometimes. His mother was like that when I first found them. Young, stunning, the wife of such an important figure in the community, and yet she was too quiet for anyone to listen to her.
After Pearl Harbor, Ward went out with the medical personnel. Then, Chester was born when he was away, and Ward returned injured. Then, years later, they had Lucy, in 1944. Ward ended up not being able to work the same way anymore and turned into a professor at a medical school nearby. He was no longer a renowned surgeon; simply another patient.
I’m snapped out of my thoughts at the groan from Chester. “Come on, Pa’, do lights have to be out for this?”
“It’s a lot more fun when it’s in the dark!” Lucy says.
“But you can barely see.”
“Aw, you’re no fun!”
“Lucy, that’s no way to talk with your brother.” Ward admonishes. It’s lovingly.
“Uh-huh.” He laughs before ruffling his sister’s hair. “No harm done. You’re fine...and you're the seeker!”
“Aw, no fair!” Lucy argues, shoving at his arm gently. I can tell on her face that she’s happy. She loves to be the seeker. “Alright, but don’t go easy on me this time! I can do it!”
“We never do,” Ward lies. “Come on. You count to a hundred and we’ll all hide.”
Everyone watches as Lucy comes up to the wall, leaning on it as she puts her eyes on her arms. She begins to count loudly as everyone shuffles off and away from her, away from me, off into their spots to keep silent. I scramble away from the wall that she leans on and crouch down, going between the wooden plates in the walls and lying down. I’ve lived here for many years, so I’ve been sure to make it cozy. Blankets, pillows, silverware, the works.
I listen intently as she counts–seventy-nine, eighty, eighty-one–when suddenly there’s a loud thud. I hear Lucy giggle but I feel terror creep up my spine as two sets of breath stops. I know one is my own.
Chester is standing there, inside the wall, right before me. He watches me with wide eyes as I stare back. He entered through a smaller door I had put in the very back of a closet they never used. He must have thought himself to be so clever until he noticed the door handle inside.
“Oh, God,” he says, but it’s barely audible. I crouch down to try and keep low but he just says “oh, God” louder. He goes to try the handle again but I scramble to him on my legs and arms and rip him away from it. Chester may be family, and this is my family, our family, but I won’t let myself be ripped away from it. I push him to the ground and cover his mouth with my hand. He bites but it doesn’t hurt. He hits at me but I stay firmly planted. I bring one finger on my other hand up to my mouth, shushing him gently, softly, but he doesn’t get the memo and he keeps kicking at me.
“Ready or not,” Lucy cheers, “here I come!”
Chester hits at the wall hard. He kicks a chunk of the wood loose and swings at me, hitting my head, and I scream and fall back. I scramble off to prevent being hit again. I hear him as he runs out from the walls, panting, knocking things over in his daze.
“Get out, get out, Ma’, Pa’, we gotta’ get out, there’s someone in there!” He shouts. I watch through the cracks between the boards as he points at my general vicinity. “There’s something in the walls!” He swoops up Lucy as she yelps from surprise, like a startled puppy, and she stares at him.
They hear his panic and come out from their spots.
I can’t let them leave. I’ve worked so hard for a family. They can’t leave me.
I crawl low on the ground until I’ve reached my door, slowly going through it. The bathroom is an utter wreck. The towels are on the ground and he seems to have broken the toilet when he ran into it. I slink over the tiles as I keep pressed down. I crawl towards the back door and lock it, thankful they’re all gathered in the den, away from the dining room and back.
“What? What do you mean something’s in the walls?” Edith asks. She knows this outburst is uncharacteristic for him. After assuring that they couldn’t leave me through the back, I go to the windows, locking them too and pressing them down until they can’t move up anymore. I’ve always been strong. I’m glad about it.
“I’m saying there’s something in the walls!” I move on from the back room, moving around the coat rack and moving slowly so they don’t hear me.
“It–it grabbed me and shoved me down, we gotta’ go!”
“Chester, this might’ve been funny when you were a kid,” Ward admonishes, “but
“Pa’, I’m not lying, please, I’m not!”
They’re in the den, so I skitter fast on the ground to prevent them from seeing me. It doesn’t work. Lucy gasps.
“What was that?” She asks. “I’m scared.”
No, no, please. I hurry towards the living room, locking the door and shutting the windows tight. I break the bulbs so no light will be possible. I have always dreamed of our first meeting. Me coming out of the walls and being hugged and embraced, offered food and drink and comforts. Edith will smile as she pets my head and Chester and I will go and play catch.
“What was that?” Ward asks. I’m fearful so I crawl low, keeping down as I creep past the den once more, going into the basement.
I know what’s down there.
The circuit breaker and the shotgun. I can’t let them get there before me.
“Come on, let’s–let’s go.” Edith says. She hurries into the living room after my escape. I hear the pitter patter of their footsteps and the prying of the door. “It’s stuck!”
“It can’t be–move!” Ward demands, and she scrambles to the side. I hear loud thudding. He’s trying to kick it down. It doesn’t, and won’t, budge. I’ve gotten down the stairs and I’ve located both the shotgun and the circuit breaker. With heavy force I ram my foot into it, smashing it to bits, aiming right for when Ward kicks the door so it’s drowned out.
I grab the shotgun and the shells underneath it. I pocket the shells and take the gun, sliding it between some boxes and putting clothing over it.
“It won’t budge!” Ward shouts. “Chester! Get the shotgun!”
“Don’t make me go alone, Pa’, don’t!”
“Fine then, I will–you stupid brat, you-!” He spits as he cuts off, and I hear him run to the basement door and come down. He flicks the light switch repeatedly and at seeing it won’t turn on, he mutters words under his breath and hurries over to the circuit breaker and gun. Rather, where they should be. I see his brown hair in the darkness and watch as his fists clench into shaking balls. He mumbles something before turning around, red in the face, looking around in the basement.
“Where are you? You think this is funny? I’ll show you something funny!” He’s shouting. I can hear Lucy crying—poor Lucy, poor thing, don’t cry. I feel awful for having caused such a ruckus and making her so upset.
I’m back to reality when I see his eyes on me. They are no longer angry, but frightened, like his fears have been confirmed. He stares at me like a deer in the headlights.
“...he wasn’t lying.” He says. “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, he wasn’t lying.”
I flinch under his gaze and press lower into the ground.
“Get out of my house.” He’s breathless.
“I’m sorry.” I say.
“Who...who are you?”
I’m sorry Ward. This is nothing against you. I didn’t mean to hurt you all.
I charge at him. He hits the stairs and he shouts in pain, shoving at me. I feel my head hit the concrete wall and it’s suddenly wet. He’s trying to grab onto me but I keep slipping out of his arms due to my boney frame and the dark. I scramble up the stairs on all fours, running through the kitchen and into the living room. My family screams as I barrel through the window and onto the lawn. The snow cushions me. It’s dark now aside from the street lamps.
I feel tears fall and glass in my flesh as I crawl away from my family. Lucy is still screaming. I drag myself through the snow. It’s cold.
I take refuge in the dump a few blocks down. I hear on the radio later that they found my home, that they don’t know how long I’ve been living there, that people need to be on the lookout. I miss my family, but I know that I can’t wallow in my sorrow. I need a new family.
It doesn’t take long. Wouldn’t you think more people would lock their doors at night? I find spots in the house that Johnny doesn’t go to often, where Clarissa doesn’t like to be. She’s expecting a child soon. They’re thinking Ray if it’s a boy, and Lucy if it’s a girl.
I love my new family already.