April Writing Prompt Responses
Q: Write a One Scene Horror Story
A: Who's There
By Rebecca Schwartz
“Hello?” Laura answered the phone. A puzzled look came upon her face. The faint lines
in her forehead began to wrinkle.
“Leave me alone!” she said firmly as she slammed the phone on the receiver. She flung
her hand to her heart.
I asked if everything was alright. Laura brushed it off.
“It was just an obscene caller, Nancy. I’ve gotten a few calls in the past couple of days.
It’s probably one of the neighborhood boys tricking me.” She tried to explain it away, but I could
tell it bothered her.
She circled the room a couple of times, rearranging photos on the mantle, organizing the
magazines on the coffee table, and fluffing pillows on the sofa.
“I’m going to make a drink. You want one?” she offered.
I accepted. Laura went into the kitchen. The phone rang again.
“Would you mind getting that Nancy?” she called.
“Hello?” I answered. I expected to hear James’ voice, I knew this was usually the time he came
“Where’s Laura?” it wasn’t her husband’s voice at all. It was a low, gravelly voice.
“You leave her alone! Who are you anyway?” I asked.
“Nancy, I see you, but where’s Laura?” he asked again.
“Where are you?” I asked, breathlessly.
The phone clicked. I put it back down and rushed over to the window. I could see the phone box
just a few yards away, under the soft glow of a street lamp. I shuddered. The caller must have
been in there, watching us.
“Who was it?” Laura asked as she entered the room with our drinks.
My face said it all. She set the glasses down firmly.
“This is becoming annoying. Next time it happens, I’m telephoning the police,” she
I relayed to her what the caller had said this time. She shivered and went around the room,
closing the curtains.
“I’m staying with you until James comes home.” I insist.
Laura sighed, collapsing onto the sofa. “Nancy, it’s about time I told you something,” she
paused. Something wasn’t right, I could tell. She lifted her hand to her forehead. “James won’t
be coming home.” Something eerie was in her voice.
“What do you mean?” I asked, puzzled.
“James is gone, Nancy. They took him two weeks ago. They said it was the best thing for
him,” she wiped away a tear. “He can get proper treatment there.”
“Oh, Laura,” I tried consoling her. “What happened?”
She explained that James had been acting strangely for the past couple of months. He’d come
home drunk, which was entirely out of his character, James never drank in the past. He began
forgetting things as soon as they happened. He’d disappear for a few days at a time. Laura finally
called in a specialist.
As she finished telling me all of this, we suddenly heard someone outside the door. A key
went into the lock and it clicked.
Laura got up and peered down the hallway. “Who’s there?” she asked, nervously.
“James! What are you doing here?” Laura exclaimed, backing up into the living room.
“Don’t worry, dear. I’m all better,” he paused and looked at me. “Oh, Nancy’s still here. I
thought she would have been gone by now.”
In a matter of seconds, he lunged at Laura. As he did, he tripped over the lamp cord,
pulling it out of the wall. The room went black and I heard Laura scream. It was suddenly
muffled. My heart was racing, I could feel it in my throat. I stumbled around the room, trying to
find the way out. Just as I reached the doorway, I felt James’ grip on my ankle.
By Tom Pinkston
The Plymouth scrapes as we drop off the lip of the county road down onto Esthelle’s
big sister at the wheel of the old family wagon.
From nary a cloud,
fat sundrops splatter the roof and the wipers mix a batter on the dirty windshield -
devil’s beatin’ his wife again,
and there’ll be squalls on the sound before the end of the day.
Middle sister has taken control of the dial,
little sister’s in the way back,
and all in between us are the friends we’ve picked up and packed in along the way -
not a soul among us wearing a seatbelt.
The scrub oaks glisten as we bounce along on the wagon’s rusty springs,
the windows are down and the music is pure 70’s rock -
we’re all going swimming,
over down at the soundside.
Esthelle’s Way is a one lane, sandy track,
so if you meet somebody else on it, one of y’all’s gonna have to back up.
And with a toot, a holler and wave, it always works out.
People come out here to the Soundside to bathe in the sun and have a good time in the
Everybody’s in good spirits,
coming and going.
There’s a few other shacks out here.
and big sister’s best friend Amy is the last one on board.
She squeezes in next to me taking my window seat.
I am nine years old.
She’ll be gone off to college at the end of summer.
Her skin is warm on mine and beads with a honeysuckle sweat.
Right away, she catches me staring at her breasts.
She gives me the look as she slams the door.
I’m embarrassed and feel I should try to make it even worse by explaining to her that
once you gaze into that valley - brush up against that event horizon -
you’re helplessly sucked in and there’s no way out.
But I just blush and say not a word.
A moment passes and I can’t help but look at her again.
She’s smiling out the window,
long brown hair blowing in the breeze
and I have no idea what’s going through her head right now.
But I am secretly in love for the very first time.
Back home, mom has promised dad to make burgers on the grill for when we get back.
That’s if she can get him out of bed in time. Something for the whole family to look
forward to be disappointed about.
The wagon’s making a rattle,
it’s that right front quarter panel.
I’ll fix it again when we get home.
big sister wheels us into our spot and we all pile out.
This close to shore, even with the tide in,
the sound’s not that deep at all.
But you need to gauge its depth before you dive off the end of the dock -
most of the time we just jump in.
And with the tide out,
you can stand on its sandy bottom with your head and shoulders above the surface.
You look, but you can’t see the sound’s opposite shore,
but if you squint,
you can spot the mastheads of shrimp boats plying near it.
I take a deep breath and submerge.
This is my favorite thing.
I swim down near the bottom and hold myself there as still as I can be,
it’s gentle as a pale root beer down here.
And best of all,
and it’s quiet.
The sunlight above plays here in the shallows with me.
I am soothed.
There’s a wrasse lurking under the dock,
he’s waiting on a piece of boloney sandwich.
I go up for air.
But something is stretched across the soundwater’s surface.
It’s thin, but I can’t break through it.
The water won’t let go of me.
I stand and push
but it only feels like the sounds’ entire weight is pushing back
holding me down.
I can see out -
I see Amy and big sister sitting on the end of the dock kicking their legs
a buddy of mine runs up between them for to do a cannonball.
I watch him hit the water -
watch it slurp him under.
The sunlight dazzles,
I begin to see images -
it’s my life -
and there is not one thing special about it at all.
In the next moment,
the urge to unclench my jaw will become an involuntary act
and I will take a deep breath of soundwater.
I don’t know what happened to anybody else that day.
I just don’t know.
All I know is that I didn’t make it.
Did I ever exist?
Was that my life?
Where’d I go wrong?
And where am I now?
I’ve had plenty of time to think of questions.
That bright day at soundside,
I want it to stop.
It’s all I have left, but,
it always ends the same.