Fright Write: Short Halloween Stories from The Metaworker’s Writing Group

The Metaworker’s writing group, known as The Seasonal Writing Sprint crew, recently held a Fright Write session in honor of Halloween. Our time was short, but thankfully, our imagination is long. We enjoyed writing our stories so much that we wanted to share the results with you! 

I found a list of words voted as the most repulsive online and used them as our prompt: Bloated, Fester, Viscous, Sputum, Maggots, Gurgle, Moist, Pustule, Smear, Bulbous, Clogged, Discharge, Munch, Vomit, and Lugubrious. Our goal was to work in as many of these words as possible into our stories. I love doing this type of prompt because it highlights how each writer thinks and shows how words can truly influence the tone and style of stories. Each of these stories have the same starting place, but we all ended up in very different places. 

In addition to these words, I gave a small selection of one line prompts from published horror stories. Two of these stories used this prompt:  “There is no excuse. Not for this,” from The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. I was the odd one out and used this line, also from Jones: “The boy shakes his head, kicks his shoes off, is already counting the seconds of this night.”

If you’d like to try out writing with a group or using prompts,  consider joining us on Discord on Wednesday evenings at 8:30pm (EST). I post the prompts for each session to our writing chat, so you can use the prompts on your own or you can join the voice channel to join in our timed writing sprints. While this last session was creepy, I promise the group as a whole is a place to find encouragement for your writing and we would be happy to have you!

Below you’ll find three stories: one by a write group regular, Matthew Smallwood, then two by our very own editors, Cerid and myself. We hope you enjoy our stories! 

– Melissa Reynolds

Amongst the Clouds by Matthew Smallwood

His mother insisted on pulling over for their annual stop at the overlook. The scenic byway going to the fair took them through the highpoint of Willowing Pass. The Pass offered a unique spot where the whole of Wabash County stretched out beneath them. His mother loved gazing at the rolling hills below. It left her breathless, and she would take dozens of pictures. She would fawn over the area as Kenton focused on the bordering mountains.

The Meaksore Mountains stood monumentally tall, so much so they practically vanished from sight no matter how far you craned your neck. Mountains everyone swore to be ice covered even in July’s warmest weather. Eleven-year-old Kenton Proust always stared as hard as he could at these giant peaks hoping to one day see the distant ice caps. Kenton stood on his tippy-toes, sneakers bunching up around the balls of his feet, his eyes watering from the effort. He stared until the muscles of his face drew his lips into thin lines of concentration.

Kenton grew a little taller every year and every year he hoped these few inches would make the difference, but still the distance was too great. The last second before the strain of staring became too much something, a small dot in the sky shifted. Something able to cast a shadow along the far-off peaks and clouds.

“We really shouldn’t linger here long, or the parking lot is going to be too clogged to find a good spot,” his father said forcibly smiling for one more photo from his mother’s small travel camera.

His mother offered an exasperated frown. “You know my own mother says rushing is like driving impaired, you remember that, Kenton.”

Kenton nodded and observed a subtle eye raise from his father. His mother liked to quote his grandmother, the same way other people quoted the bible. Kenton turned back to the mountains, but the large shadow was gone.

His mother opened the back door of their small car and said, “Kenton, don’t doddle, your father is going to get impatient.”

His father stiffened at this, his jowls shaking as he swallowed any sort of cold dinner causing rebuttal.

Once they all three had their seatbelts on, his father steered them back onto the road. Kenton leaned across the seat to stare up at the mountains. After a mile or so of quiet driving he said, “Dad, I thought I saw something move at the top of the mountains. What do you think it could have been?”

“Probably nothing but imagination,” his mother said, offering him a bottle of water from a travel bag she kept by her feet. “Perhaps a plane, someone flying foolishly low.”

His father tapped the steering wheel and kept the car moving slow around the winding curves. “Your mom is probably right cause it would have to be pretty big whatever it was for you to see it, like really big.”

“It was boyish thoughts working too hard,” his mother said.

Kenton nodded, not sure if he wanted to pursue the matter any further.

His father surprised him though, by continuing, “Could be it was the thunderbird, the great spirit of the cliffs. You know the natives who used to roam the plains. They told tales of such a creature nesting amongst the high-high peaks. With wings so large its flapping could cause great thunderous storms.”

His father took his hands off the wheel and crossed his palms like bird wings.

“The road please,” his mother said curtly, the words coming so fast they gurgled out of her. “There is no excuse, not for this.”

“Just sharing a little local history with the boy,” his father replied, returning his attention to the steering wheel.

His parents had planned the whole trip around a clear forecast but a minute later debris began pelting the windshield. A loud noise like silverware caught in a garbage disposal echoed from the mountains. At the same time something blotted out the sun casting a large shadow along the interstate.

Shredded clothing and clumps of mud fell across the windows. Large heaps of gunk bounced off the hood and struck the roof hard enough to rattle the entire car.

His father switched the windshield wipers on and hunched over the wheel. The rubber blades broke apart the debris releasing a swarm of squirming maggots. The bugs smushed into the glass leaving yellowish smears. The wipers caught something white and dragged what looked to be a small bone back and forth across their view.

His father gave the mess several squirts with washer fluid and tried to keep an eye on the nearing bend in the road. With his vision all but obscured by the blackish mud, he jammed on the brakes and did his best to ride the yellow lines.

The terrible sound came again, and his mother shrieked when part of a skeletal torso struck the ground further ahead. The car swerved right into the remains which vanished under the tires with a dry cracking sound.

His mother continued screaming while his father veered towards the mountains and the other lane. A moment later the sky darkened all around them. The enveloping shadow plunged everything into an early night. The car came to a stop at the edge of the road and more discharge rained down. Partially digested bones and shredded clothes obscured everything.

“Get out of the car,” his father shouted, struggling to undo his seatbelt with trembling hands.

His mother managed to get free and tried helping his father, but the seatbelt’s release button wouldn’t budge. Kenton slipped his belt off and wanted to help, but his mother froze him with a pained look.

She yanked on his father’s belt strap and punched the metal clasp to no avail. With tear-streaked cheeks she said, “Go Kenton, get out of the road, and watch for other vehicles. Try and warn anyone you see coming we’re here.”

Kenton nodded and opened his door allowing the puke-smelling goop to drip onto his back. He fell onto the road as both front doors of the car suddenly smashed inwards.

Lost in the darkness Kenton looked up to see a gigantic bird gripping the car in its terrible claws. The barn sized condor had golden feathers, all black eyes, and terrible talons as orange as any Halloween pumpkin. The bird’s huge black beak dripped with the ichor it had regurgitated on them.

This horrible creature let out a booming shriek paralyzing Kenton with fear. His mother’s agonized face appeared at the window as she called to him. She pounded on the glass but then the huge bird spread its massive wings. With a single thunderous flap, it ascended back up the mountain. Within seconds the car and the huge bird became smaller and smaller until both vanished from sight.

Kenton could only stare after them.


Matthew Smallwood was born in Morgantown, WV and has been published in numerous anthologies and collections. His debut novel Immortal Again is available on Amazon.

Sweetness by Cerid Jones

You enjoy it, don’t you, sweetness? Your auburn hair blissfully slipping curls from your bun as you roam the dusty path. Carefree, careless. You have no concern for the heaviness of your footsteps. Slithers of sun streaking the softness of your pale, delightfully asymmetrical face. A vision of immense beauty among the dismal shades of the canopy above.  The others do not have the reckless abandon of gaiety that you do, hoods held tight to their feeble cheeks, hunched and fretful. They clutch their superstitions, scrambling over bracken on the shadowed path, hurried to gain relief in reaching the other side, pushing their grumbling joints into quickness, fast as their gnarled stumps can carry their wasteful skins. Oh so very careful not to stray, no to dally, not to stop. So many lugubrious faces. But oh, sweetness, not you. Your pale blushed lips turn upwards to crinkle the clear green of your devouring eyes, cape lolling unbridled around your exposed shoulders, you indulge your lengthy limbs in the art of savoured movement. Assertive in your fearlessness. I am in admiration of your unabashed candour in comfortability.

Your lilac aroma clogged my senses the moment you stepped from the fecundated fields into the thicket of my domain. Did you know what you would do to me? I think you did. No one else would smile as you do with your head held erect in the density of the copse.  Goddess like, your evanescence is directed to discharge me of my melancholy. You have enchanted me, freed me from the long mundane rhythms of a slow salivating munch at the distasteful minds of boring people. Weak people. Those who would rather consume their own fear like a bird regulate its vomit to their young. How could you blame me, sweetness, for being so enamoured by you as you dallied on the path longer than any of those before you?

You must have heard, my love, of that which dwells here, watching, waiting, lurking unseen. You must have heard them spit their feebleness in tales of me, conjuring the winds bristle on the thatch roof to echo me, guilty in their souls for the wrongs they know they commit, day after day. But you, you heard the tales and dreamed yourself of being chosen, pure as your soul, there is no guilt or shame as you place one sure foot before the other by the glow of your small lamp light. Did my stories fill your head with thoughts of longing? Did I inspire a desire so strong you were compelled to seek me out, smile so tantalizing that you would catch my eye? Did you hear the tales of those, oh so very very long ago, who were made immortal under my careful protective touch? They inspired you, didn’t they? Kept you from sleep as the moon rose high in the belly of the shadow-stained night. They plagued you. Squirmed beneath your skin as you attempted to carry out your day unperturbed. Saturating your pores with possibilities of promises, of what it would be to be protected by me. 

The morning before you left your quaint little house, you combed your hair thrice over and then thrice again, knowing how the golden streaks would catch the lip of the sun’s supple tongue. How it would inspire my eye. You picked your favourite dress, the yellow lilly smock with hand stitched daisy on the hem, knowing how it hugged your hips and hung at such a length it framed the appeal of your dainty legs, not too short to be unseemly but not too long to hide your elegance. You knew it would entice me, sweetness. From your mothers jewellery box, the one she gifted you on your name day, you selected the copper hair pin with the vines. Simple. Shapely. You knew it would catch my eye, that your perchance for understated things would summon my admiration. An adornment too simple for one such as radiant as you. You who should be showered in garnets, rubies, diamonds, sapphires and tourmaline. But no, my love, even with such jewels your incandescent would shine more decadent still.

You came for me, didn’t you, sweetness? As if I had willing entered your dreams to suckle the marrow from your heart. That warm beating orifice fluttering with breaths stimulation. Dripping in life and joy.  I imagine how velvety your alabaster skin would slide against me. How intimate your strands of hair – hanging loosely in the wind, already seeking me out – would feel tucked behind your ear. How your graceful fingertips might gain power under my considered tutelage. I wondered then, if there were others who had placed their undeserving jowls upon you. Boiled by the thought my tempests raged. How dare any insignificant creature cast even a glance upon you! Their fickle menial minds have no such right to consume themselves with even a wisp of your brow. You are a goddess, sweetness. They are unworthy of breathing the same air as you. They are but preverbal foetus’s that deserve to be gulped into the belly of the abyss before their basic being can dare to encroach on the blessed ground your feet give grace to touch upon. My love, you are a creature that is beyond the paramount of the divine. Sacred. To be preserved.

You know this, don’t you, sweetness? That you are breathing among snivelling wretches as repulsive as the mucus the old excrete from their failing organs.

You are perfect.

Time nor age should dare to infect themselves upon you.

You know I am the salvation to your torturous suffering of such lowly creatures, despicable roaches deserving of their skins singed and flayed until their lungs can no longer make sounds. If I extend a hand, you would take it, willfully, wantonly, wishfully. I will welcome you to my realm and have you crowned my everlasting queen. I will be your salvation.

I whistle.

My tune as soft as melted honey from the lip of a dusk dancing moth. You turn your head, ears provoked, pricked, inviting. Your green eyes flash. You know it is me, don’t you? You have heard the tales of lost travellers, alone in the forlorn woods who provoke creatures such as I in hunger. You know the tales and yet, sweetness, love, you do not run. You prick your ears and deliberately excite me. Every subtle movement you make, intentional. Laced in the language of invitation. But yet, you stop. Silence your bracken crunching steps, halting your saunter. The ivory of your eyes grow with your unmistakable excitement. You cannot believe your luck, my love. You think it a joyful bird? Let me put aside your doubt. Let me comfort you with certainty. If I but knew your name I would sing it, weave the syllables of your tenderness into every melody I could conceive. Instead, I shall have to summon the belly of my longing for you into one melodic cry. My anguish that you are yet beyond my reach channelled into the echo of the expanse that lays between us. Let it echo towards you, let my voice penetrate your ears so that I might be within you, my sweet.

I feel the reverberation as my voice reaches your ears. See the subtle response of your near translucent hairs rise to greet me, your flesh pimpled in anticipation. Yes my love, I am calling for you, only you. I am doing as you desired, my love. Your body jerks, I watch the constriction ripple over your fragile face. It is beautiful, sublime. Your body turns toward me, tentatively you place one gentle foot before the other. Creeping towards your fulfillment. Towards me.

I let my whistle envelope your surreptitiously curved ear, brushing the inside of your mind. You need only step off the path, my love.

I will give you everything, eternity.

There is no other excuse. Not for this, sweetness.


Cerid Jones, is a life-long closeted writer only just learning how to be brave enough to share her musings. A lover of folk tales and myth, she hails from Aotearoa (New Zealand). Growing up in a house where there were more books than wall space and fae at the bottom of the garden, she has always been a creature with a passion for the arts and literature. Reading anything that transports her elsewhere or delves deep into the psyche of human nature, she has found a home working in the publishing industry and teaching people how to throw axes.

On The Backs of Roaches by Melissa Reynolds

The boy shakes his head, kicks his shoes off, already counting the seconds of this night. His hands weep with blisters and leave smears of pinkish fluid on his bedroom door. The door is not enough to block out the gurgling sounds of his father vomiting downstairs or to erase the image of his mother’s lugubrious visage. The disease took half the village people before it dragged its bloated form into their home to fester.

Jarod, still too young to properly work their farm, had attempted to do all his father’s chores in addition to his own. And light bless, his father had worked long past the first appearance of the telltale pustules on his shoulders and neck, had kept going even when the viscous discharge ran thick and rust brown down his forearms. He’d collapsed this morning in the field, his bloated belly so distended it should have popped. He looked like mother had when she was heavy with his little sister, Martha.

Jarod dropped onto his straw mattress and barely felt the sharp pieces poking through the heavy canvas, barely noticed the fleas jumping, tickling, munching. Martha wailed from her crib, adding her plaintive cry to the melody of misery.

Filled with the type of weariness normally reserved for the elderly, Jarod did nothing more than blink at the dark ceiling. Sleep did not come last night and he doubted it would this night. The long seconds would ride by on the backs of roaches, would drip down the walls, curdle in the corner, and clog the corner of his eyes with mucus that would crust over by morning.

Martha quieted to body shaking hiccups. Maybe she watched the slow creep of seconds too. Or maybe Mother had managed to pull herself away from Father long enough to suckle the babe, but probably not. Martha went untended more often than not today, but he couldn’t do anything for her.

Jarod would let the cows, horses, and goats free tomorrow to fend for themselves. They should be safe enough in the fields and he’d have some extra time to help Mother more. He could even get some goat’s milk for Martha if need be.

And he figured there would be need.

His parents thought the farm’s location would be enough to protect them. Rural living meant they were fully self-sufficient and didn’t need to go into the tainted town for supplies. Mother spun wool into yarn which she then knitted, crocheted, and weaved into blankets, hats, gloves, and sweaters. Father raised and butchered cows, pigs, and even the occasional lamb. Jarod helped with the garden and milking and the making of butter and cheese. They didn’t have a lot of luxuries, but they were happy and safe.

They were safe. 

Aunt Sarah and her family of seven were their closest neighbors. Her oldest daughter, Hannah, had been coming to help Mother while she was laid up with Martha. Jarod liked Hannah with her full laugh and curly blonde hair that always escaped her bun. Last week she came by with a chicken casserole for dinner, but it had tasted awful. Mother and Father were too polite to throw it out, but Jarod only pretended to eat, giving large bites to Shamrock, their sheepdog, resting under the table.

Shamrock went missing not long after and not even two days after that Father had a fever. Stupid Hannah and her stupid big dreams of city life. This had to be her fault. She was always going into town to trade for ribbons and to flirt with the blacksmith’s boy. She brought the disease back to the chickens or maybe just touching the casserole was enough.  But no, it was his fault for not scooping that horrid casserole right up off the table and throwing it in the backyard.

The roaches carrying seconds on their backs scurried away as Jarod painstakingly climbed to his feet. Let them take the entire night with them for all he cared. Stupid Hannah and her idiot casserole. Stupid Mother crying all the time. Stupid Martha…

Martha hadn’t made a sound in hours. He eased the door of his room open and let silence steal into his room, a black cat stalking its prey. His skin pricked, but he moved forward into the common room. Martha’s crib was near the stove where she would always be warm. His parents lay still and stiff on the floor near the kitchen table. Jarod crept to the crib and peeked through the rails to see Martha, perfect, pale with blue lips and fingernails.

The town’s disease had won. Had taken everything from them. They were not happy. They were not safe. They were not anything anymore.

Jarod screamed and rushed to the stove. The fire had burned down to hot coals. He used a shovel to toss heaps of glowing red coals all around the common room. The house his father had built with his own two hands, the house his Mother had made a home, was nothing without them. The flames caught, licking the blanket his mother had been working on, caressing the crib leg, warming his Father’s side.

And they were not anything, but at least they would be clean and disease free.

When the smoke thickened, Jarod scrambled out the door and ran to release all the animals. They might not survive on their own, but at least they would have a chance instead of starving slowly in the barn. He stared towards Aunt Sarah’s farm, but she was not safe. He briefly thought of town, but it was the source and tainted beyond hope. So he turned his back on it all and disappeared into the wilderness and the forest where he could be safe. Maybe even happy someday.


Melissa Reynolds is a mom to four amazing kids, an editor at The Metaworker, a recent WVU grad, and a rescuer of discounted plants. She is a reluctant poet, aspiring novelist, and a mean barbarian in DnD. 

Image Credits:
Photo 1 by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash
Photo 2 by Geranimo on Unsplash
Photo 3 by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

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