This writing business is a weird gig at the best of times. Sometimes, it’s downright bizarre. And usually lots of fun (not counting the endless waiting and relentless rejections!) And to make any kind of living, lowly mid-listers like myself are always on the lookout for extra work. The thing that came my way recently turned out to be a whole heap of fun. Along with a few fellow horror writers (John F D Taff, Richard Thomas, Olivia White, Gabrilelle Faust, Josh Bernoff, and Grady Hendrix) I was commissioned to write three scary stories to be promoted on Twitter throughout October, in the lead up to Halloween. Each story had to be pretty short, ideally around 500 words total. The other writers took various approaches – some penning straight-up third person yarns, some using a more obscure approach. Personally, I chose to use Twitter for the first person format it is and made my stories as indistinguishable from real life as possible. And in fact, all three draw on genuine real experience. How much? Well, that’s for you to wonder, dear friendo. Anyway, now the campaign is over, I thought I might immortalise the yarns here for posterity. I’ve regularly used Twitter for micro-fiction, and will continue to do so – I’m a writer, after all. But as these were three yarns for a particular purpose, I figured I’d keep them together here.

Below are each of the stories, in the order they were posted. At the start of each is the original first tweet, so you can click on that and read the thread on Twitter as it was posted, or you can just scroll through this post and read them here. All the other stories from the campaign are linked at the end. Enjoy!

Story 1 – Walking Rufus
Release Date: Tuesday, October 8 (~10pm Eastern Standard Time) | Wednesday, October 9 (~noon Aus. time)

Had a spooky experience last night. It started with a weird thing that happened walking my dog. #ScaryStories

I kinda wrote it off as paranoia, but I’m not so sure. It began when I was walking Rufus along an old farm track we regularly use.

Here’s a photo of us enjoying it once before. It’s a great place to walk, because there are hardly ever any cars, except maybe the farmer in his pick-up every now and then. You can see up to one side it’s a steep hill of thick bush.

Walking there late yesterday, right before dark, there was crashing in the trees. Rufus stiffened, staring into the gloomy bush, his hackles up.

“Chill, dog,” I said to him. “Just a roo.” They blunder through there all the time. But this did sound a bit different.

The breaking sounds stopped, right in line with us, but too far in to see anything. I got Rufus to (reluctantly) come with me and we carried on. After a few paces the crashing started again. We stopped. It stopped too.

I had the sensation of being watched. Rufus growled.

I’d left the walk a bit late, so it was getting dark and, I’m not too proud to admit, I was getting spooked. I decided to call it a day and head home. I started back the other way and called Rufus to follow.

The noises started again—and they seemed to be getting closer. I started jogging. My nerves were up by now.

Roos don’t track people. Why would they? But what else could it be? Then Rufus barked and tore off into the trees.

I stopped, yelled for him, whistled, running back and forth near where he’d gone in. I heard his barking, and a deep growling sound, then more bush being ripped and broken.

Then a deep, thrumming kind of… groan? Then a yelp.

I shouted myself hoarse for Rufus. There was more thrashing in the bush. I braced myself, not sure how the hell to fight whatever might come out.

Relief surged through me when I saw Rufus, eyes wide with fear. He had blood around his mouth—and something else.

Once I realised the blood wasn’t his I decided not to think about where it came from.

I don’t know what else was on the fur around his snout. Some sort of grease or slime. In the failing light, it seemed almost green.

Rufus whined and trembled. “Come on!” I said, and we ran together the couple of kilometres home.

I thought that was it. But much later, right before I was about to go to sleep, Rufus leapt from his bed, teeth bared. He stared out the courtyard doors.

He stood there like this for ages, growling low, still with a tremor in his legs. No light out there.

It was late and I was a bit freaked out, so I didn’t do anything else, just decided to go to bed. Made sure everything was locked up and that was it.

But I can’t stop thinking about it today. Might not walk there again for a while…

This story originally ended here, but I followed it up with some extra fun, so click here to see how the thing grew from this original posting:

 

Story 2 – Hitchhiker
Release Date: Tuesday, October 15 (~10pm Eastern Standard Time) | Wednesday, October 16 (~noon Aus. time)

Let me tell you about the weirdest hitchhiker experience I ever had. #ScaryStories

I was on a short book tour, and being a low-key author like me, that means a lot of driving myself around and staying in cheap motels.

One time I was driving late after a signing. I’d decided to get in a few hours towards the next location before stopping for the night.

As I left town, a young woman was standing at the side of the road, thumb out.

Tall, blonde hair, well-dressed, and wearing a short denim jacket.

I thought she was taking a risk, but then again, maybe she was a serial killer and I was the one taking the risk if I stopped.

But I couldn’t ignore a woman on her own at night.

So I pulled over, asked her where to. She said, “Anywhere. Just away from him before it’s too late.”

Sounds pretty heavy, right? So she got in and I drove on. She was quiet, subdued. I guess scared.

I didn’t want to pry, but I asked if she was okay. She said, “He told me one day he’ll lock all the doors and burn the house down with me in it. So I’m leaving.”

I told her that sounded like the best plan. Did she need me to call the police? Could I take her anywhere specific? She shook her head, hugging herself. “I just need to get away,” she said, almost whisper.

Okay. I could help with that.

We drove on in silence for a while. Then she sucked in a breath. “Is it hot in here?” she asked.

She pulled off her denim jacket and threw it in the back.

I turned the AC up a bit, but I didn’t think it was hot. More silence. I tried to think of something to say.

Eventually I turned to tell her I where I was heading, just to make conversation. She wasn’t there. No-one was there.

My heart slammed and I nearly steered off the road. I’d been doing 100kmh on open highway for a good twenty minutes.

I figured I was more tired than I realised, and I stopped at the next motel.

I came back that way four or five days later. Passed through the same town late at night, maybe close to midnight.

I should have stopped there really, got some rest. But after the last time I was a little freaked and decided to drive right through.

On the way out the other side of town, I saw someone at the side of the road, thumb out.

I didn’t stop, didn’t catch her eye.

But I glanced over as I went past. Sure enough, the same well-dressed young woman, same blonde hair. Same need to leave. No jacket though.

Because that was still in the back of my car. Had been all week. I’ve kept it ever since.

Story 3 – The Old Lady In White
Release Date: Tuesday, October 22 (~10pm Eastern Standard Time) | Wednesday, October 23 (~noon Aus. time)

There’s an old lady in our lane, always wears white, and my son thinks she’s a witch. He says the white is camouflage. I’m inclined to agree with him. #ScaryStories

It started with little things. One time on a bright sunny day some black cockatoos flew over, screeching like they do. “It’ll rain soon,” the old lady said. I looked at the clear blue skies and she just smiled. An hour later there was a downpour.

But that’s folklore, you know? There are other things, little things that add up to bigger things.

She grows weird herbs I’ve never seen anywhere else. They smell kinda… rich. She talks to her cat in a weird language. She says it’s Greek, but I’m not so sure.

Sometimes, at night, there’s a weird keening sound in the lane and my wife says it’s just the cows.

The mama cows lament their calves when they’re taken. It’s sad as hell. But this sound is different, and I think it comes from the old lady’s place.

One time I got home really late at night and saw movement behind her house.

I caught a glimpse of what looked like someone naked, dancing in the moonlight, such pale flesh. But not quite the right shape for a person.

I didn’t stop to see more.

She always smiles a little weirdly when she sees my son, and her voice changes. Becomes creaky and wheedling, like a child herself. It’s a hypnotising tone.

Sometimes her eyes are so bloodshot they look red.

But here’s the thing that really made me think my son is right about her.

A while ago, a backpacker was visiting. German, maybe, or Swiss? Anyway, he’d stopped with our neighbour across the lane for a while, doing work around their place in exchange for room and board.

He was arrogant, not a nice guy. Really up himself, thought he was better than everyone. No idea why.

One day the old lady was tending the herbs out the front of her place, and that backpacker dude told her she had an ugly garden. How weird is that?

“Why don’t you grow some nice flowers?” he asked her. “Instead of ugly leaves like your ugly face!” The hell?

The old lady didn’t respond, just scowled at him, and headed back inside. I caught her eye, but she only smiled. I felt sorry for her. “Pretty rude, mate!” I said to the guy. “What’s your problem?”

He just laughed. “Crazy old lady!”

Later that day, I heard music playing and saw the German dude working in the front yard of the neighbour’s place again. He had a radio on the fence, blasting too loud. Like I said, arrogant.

The day wore on and that music kept blaring. I went to ask him to turn it down, but he was nowhere to be seen. So I turned the radio off and left it for him to collect later. There was an empty coffee mug sat next to it.

Later that night as I was closing up the curtains I saw the radio was still on the fence, but the mug had gone. I remember it well, it had this strange design on it, like runes.

I never saw that guy again.

A week or so later I saw my neighbour and asked where the guy was, had he moved on?

“I guess so,” my neighbour said. “And honestly, we don’t miss him.” I asked if they kicked him out. “No,” they said. “It was weird. One day he was out here working in the front yard and then he was gone. Left his backpack behind and everything.”

“That *is* weird,” I said.

“We told the police,” my neighbour said. “They asked a lot of questions, took his bag, but we haven’t heard anything since. Maybe they’ll ask you some stuff soon.”

“I don’t know anything,” I said. “How strange.”

But then I remembered taking Rufus for a walk that day the radio was playing so loud. Right after I turned it off, I headed down the lane with the dog and I noticed smoke coming from the old lady’s chimney, kinda black and oily.

I thought it was odd, way too warm to need a fire. And I smelled something as well, partly enticing, partly disturbing, like roasting pork. I didn’t like it, and neither did Rufus. We hurried on.

After I spoke to my neighbour about the guy disappearing, I looked over to the old lady’s house. She was sitting in her front yard, drinking from a mug. The same mug I’d seen next to the radio that day. She grinned at me, and winked. #ScaryStories

***************

So there you have it! It was a pretty fun project. If you’re keen to read the Twitter threads of all the stories in the promotion, here’s a full list:

Olivia: Leave My Shells Alone

https://twitter.com/horrolivia/status/1181359223399161857

Alan: Walking My Dog

https://twitter.com/AlanBaxter/status/1181722583021936640

Gabrielle: Jack-O-Lantern

https://twitter.com/Gabrielle_Faust/status/1182098005769560065

John: Greenspace

https://twitter.com/johnfdtaff/status/1182461085829533698

Olivia: My Dear Old Neighbor Barbara

https://twitter.com/horrolivia/status/1182808127000981504

Gabrielle: Mirror Sister

https://twitter.com/Gabrielle_Faust/status/1183170219939942402

John: Chewed 

https://twitter.com/johnfdtaff/status/1183548259949858816

Gabrielle: Open Windows

https://twitter.com/Gabrielle_Faust/status/1183893318687698944

Alan: Hitchhiker

https://twitter.com/AlanBaxter/status/1184258388512821248?s=20

Olivia: Serena’s Necklace

https://twitter.com/horrolivia/status/1184620270071488512

John: Red, Red Paint

https://twitter.com/johnfdtaff/status/1185004665722822656

Richard: Danielle Descends

https://twitter.com/richardgthomas3/status/1185345627951108096

Josh: Aurora

https://twitter.com/jbernoff/status/1185707759347666944?s=21

Jess: WeWork

https://twitter.com/JessZafarris/status/1186070114518654985

Richard: Richard Returns

https://twitter.com/richardgthomas3/status/1186432591022428161

Alan: The Old Lady in White

https://twitter.com/AlanBaxter/status/1186793823256502272

Richard: Martin Migrates

https://twitter.com/richardgthomas3/status/1187157393546907649

Josh: Mindless Work

https://twitter.com/jbernoff/status/1187517404152238082?s=21

Grady: Square Feet

https://twitter.com/grady_hendrix/status/1187889147979223040

Jess: Opposite the Gorilla

https://twitter.com/JessZafarris/status/1188961273024843778

Grady: The Room Mate

https://twitter.com/grady_hendrix/status/1188247415414853632

Gabrielle: Daddy Long Legs

https://twitter.com/gabrielle_faust/status/1188607741063061504?s=21

Josh: Final Edit

https://twitter.com/jbernoff/status/1188977750004129792