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Halloween Fiction Contests November 1, 2018

Last Saturday our local newspaper, the Bend Bulletin, published the winners of its second annual Halloween Fiction Contest. My submission, "The Haunted Library," took second place!

Scan of The Haunted Library, published October 27, 2018

The journalist misunderstood a few things I said on the phone and wrote, "Tamara Marnell accomplished two firsts with 'The Haunted Library' – it's the first time she has published a short story, and the first time she has written horror."

Neither of those statements are true. I won a newspaper's Halloween fiction contest once 1997, with the story "The Haunted Path." My mother dug up the clipping and sent me a scan.

Scan of The Haunted Path, published October 28, 1997

I personally like "The Haunted Path" more than "The Haunted Library." That story won first place in the Ages 8-10 category, compared to the second place I got this year, so clearly it is superior. At least my skill in writing titles hasn't deteriorated.

The Haunted Library (2018)

I like the quiet.

I like the calm of the university library on a chilly autumn evening, the sounds of muffled whispers and fingertips on keyboards. I like to sit in my favorite armchair on the second floor and watch the sun set over the campus quad, turning the golden trees black against the fiery sky.

Mary doesn't get it. This afternoon she made a dramatic entrance in a sexy wedding dress splattered with blood, holding a bouquet of black lilies and a hatchet.

"Why aren't you dressed up?" Mary asked.

"I am," I said. "I'm dressed as a college student."

Mary rolled her eyes. "You're gonna go to the library again, aren't you? Come on, it's Halloween! The one day a year we get to go wild and wreak havoc!"

But I'm not the wild type. I don't enjoy going out to hunt for guys. I don't like guys. Not since... Anyway, I prefer to spend the evening with a good book.

The sky is dark now, and the library is empty. The intercom crackles. "May I have your attention, please. The library will close in five minutes."

I ignore the announcement. The staff never see me here. I zip up my hoodie and burrow into my armchair.

A nasal voice startles me. "Hey, pretty girl. What're you doing here all by yourself?"

A man leans on the back of my chair. There's something creepy about him. Maybe it's the tangled, greasy hair. Or the cheesy getup. He looks like he stole a costume from the set of Titanic and ripped it up with dull scissors.

He says, "It's dangerous to be here on Halloween. Haven't you heard of the Killer Poet?"

I don’t like the way he grins at me. I hug my book close.

"Back in the nineties, the Poet murdered three girls here. He cut their throats with an aluminum bookmark."

"As if," I scoff.

The man leans close. His breath stinks of alcohol and rot. "The Poet still haunts this place. Every Halloween, he trolls the library for new victims. Girls who are pretty, and weak, and all alone...just like you."

I look down to avoid the man's leering eyes, and I see the tattered book of poetry in his hand. A bookmark gleams between the pages. Metallic. Sharp. Bloodstained.

Over the intercom, a calm voice says, "May I have your attention, please. The library is now closed. Thank you!"

The man grabs me with icy, gnarled hands.

I scream, but no one can hear me. No one will walk by. No one will see me.

The man pushes me down. He covers my mouth and unzips my hoodie.

Then he yelps and lets go.

Ah, he saw it. The gash across my throat, where the Poet slit it twenty years ago.

The man stumbles back. He falls to the floor, dropping his silly props. What an amateur costume. The real Poet wasn’t greasy. He was charming and kind. So kind...until he killed me.

I reach out to steal the man's life, like the Poet stole mine.

The man clutches at his neck, but there's no point. He can't breathe. He can't scream. He's trapped, and weak, and all alone.

The intercom fizzles. "May I have your attention, please. You will die now. Thank you!"

The man struggles to get away from me. He claws at the carpet desperately. His grimy nails bend and break.

His fingers close around his bookmark. He throws it at me. Distracted, I release my hold on him. He gasps for air and runs down the stairs. He sprints for the doors, out into the dark quad.

That was foolish of him. Mary haunts the quad on Halloween. She does so love to wreak havoc.

The man's blood-curdling screams fill the air. The hatchet thuds once, twice...ten times. Then all is quiet.

I like the quiet.

The Haunted Path (1997)

One day I was walking home from school. For Show and Tell that day, I had brought an old antique doll that my mother had given me. I came to an old path that had a sign that read, "No trespassing."

I peered around the sign. Suddenly, someone came up behind me. I spun around, letting go of the doll. It went flying down the path and out of sight. It was only my little brother. I caught a glimpse of him as he ran around the corner, giggling.

Now what was I going to do? If I didn't bring the doll home, my mom would be boiling mad. If I walked onto the path and someone saw me, I would probably have to pay some major bucks. I decided to get the doll. I looked around me to see if anyone was watching, took a deep breath, and stepped onto the path.

It was getting late, and it was creepy with all of the twists and turns in the road and sometimes the bushes and tree branches brushed against me. I heard eerie sounds coming from a house that loomed ahead in the darkness. Was that the antique doll just ahead? Yes it was. I started toward it.

A viscious (sic) creature leaped out at me. I couldn't tell what it was, but it had sharp teeth, horrifying claws and was about 4 feet long. It lunged for me. I ducked. I grabbed the doll and ran. The creature followed. My friend knew a lot about monsters. What was it that she had said? I couldn't remember.

I ran faster and faster. Aha! Now I remember! Most monsters are afraid of light. There was a lighted street lamp just ahead, where the sign was. I ran hard. My lungs were burning. I was almost there when the creature hurled itself at me, claws out, teeth bared. Then it stopped. I was at the street lamp. It ran away, howling with terror.

I was safe now. I walked toward my house. When I came in, my mother said, "My goodness. It's almost supper time. What kept you?"

"It's a long story," I said. I put my backpack down and walked out of the kitchen.


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