Coquitlam and Port Moody public libraries once again partnered with The Tri-City News to present the Scary Story Contest, which asked young people to write a terrifying tale in time for Halloween. Dozens responded and librarians narrow down entries to shortlists of about half a dozen stories in each age category; the winners were chosen by a Tri-City News judge.
15 TO 18 YEARS
WINNER: Update Complete by Kiara Kozak, 15, Port Moody
“Software update complete,” my computer reads to me. I unplug the cord running from my laptop to the back of my head. I’ve added 10 extra Yottabytes to my memory and can now think and analyze even faster. Everyone does this now. Five years ago, I had the surgery to add a memory chip to my brain and I’ve convinced my family to do the same. Having computer chips in human brains has benefited humanity for years now — we have been able to advance further in fields of technology and physics from our upgraded analytical skills. This is the future.
I turn off my laptop and go to sleep.
Except I don’t. I lay there, awake for hours, like I can’t turn my brain off. No problem, this usually happens after a software update. I just need to relax.
I decide to go out for a drive. Maybe it will calm me. I get in my car and drive out to the abandoned side of town — it’s very calming at night. There’s an old bell tower there that doesn’t work anymore that I like to look at. I gaze up at the belfry and notice something strange. There are people up there. What are they doing? I call out, but get no answer. Then it gets stranger — they start floating around like wraiths in a graveyard. Are those humans? What’s going on? I don’t stay long enough to find out.
I’m driving home as fast as I can when the ground starts to split. I scream. These figures are haunting me. I manage to make it over the cracks before I fall through, and look back to see the old town fall into a sinkhole. It seems unreal. I keep driving until I get home, far away from the eeriness following me.
I get home and go to bed where my wife is. I have to tell her what happened. Except she isn’t there. Someone — something — else has taken her place and is laying where she used to be. I start yelling at it. “Who are you? Where’s my wife!?” The figure starts saying something back that I can’t understand. “Get out of my house!” I scream. I start throwing things at it — anything I can find — when the room starts to move back and forth like a pendulum. I fall to the ground, hitting my head. As soon as I do, everything stops moving. The figure is replaced with my wife yelling at me like I’m insane. My bedroom is a mess of broken lamps and scattered pillows. I look outside and see no sinkhole in the middle of the road. Did I just imagine everything? But it felt so real. It felt so…
It was then I realized. I’ve been hacked. The ‘software update’ was a virus that everyone has downloaded into their minds. I was the first. Now the madness begins.
SECOND: Horror, Anton Miguel Villadolid, 15, Coquitlam
I never believed in the paranormal and the occult, but I gave into peer pressure and agreed to participate in my friends’ ghost-hunting expedition. After gathering at Justin’s house on the pretence of a sleepover, we proceeded to our high school. It was a private institution enclosed by a wall. There were several gates, but only one was open. As expected, it was guarded.
It didn’t take an expert to climb an unattended gate. The gaps were large enough to serve as stable footholds. Once our infiltration was accomplished, we proceeded to the multi-floored gymnasium.
“We’re here! Let’s bring out our videocams,” said Chloe.
“Do we really have to split up individually?” Alexa asked.
“We already talked about this,” Chloe replied. “The school’s notorious wraith won’t appear if there are too many of us. But if you’re that scared, go with Justin.”
The rest of us responded with teasing sounds until Vince warned us to keep quiet. Alexa’s face became red as tomato; Justin on the other hand maintained a calm expression.
“All right then.” Chloe resumed. “Let’s prove it once and for all that this building is haunted! If at least one of us records something spooky or supernatural, I’ll treat us all to the movies.”
Ugh! Why did I even agree to this? This was a waste of time. It would’ve been rewarding if the promise of movies wasn’t dependent on an impossible condition. Oh well, it was too late to back out now. And with that, we went our separate ways.
I was assigned to begin my search at ninth floor and make my upwards. Upon reaching my starting point, I proceeded to the jogging track and rested on the railings. It was dark, so there was no sight to appreciate. I saw the campus’ old-fashioned chapel. Noticing the belfry, I admitted to myself that it would creep me it out if it rang all of a sudden. Of course, such a thing would never happen at this hour.
I still had two floors to inspect, but I decided against wasting my efforts with the fruitless task. Giving up on our ambitious objective, I entered the elevator and pressed the ground button. While waiting, I took out my pocket watch and swung it like a pendulum out of habit.
Huh? The elevator stopped and opened at the eighth floor. There wasn’t anyone. Maybe one of the others pushed the button and left.
Again? The elevator stopped and opened at the seventh floor. The same happened on the sixth, fifth, and fourth. Seriously? Which one of them pushed the button on every floor?
Finally, on the third, the elevator buzzed. A small screen displayed the words: “Maximum capacity exceeded.”
THIRD: The Game I Play by Emily Lam, 17, Coquitlam
I like them young. They’re softer. More tender. Eyes like saucers filled with water, threatening to spill over. Cheeks so chubby that it’s a miracle they haven’t burst. Minds unmarked, untainted, uncontaminated. Vacant canvasses, begging me to scrawl my name. Their tiny hands reach up, adoringly, as if I’m the good guy. I’m not. It doesn’t fool me, their adorable antics. I hate them. Every single person on this planet. And that’s why my job is so much fun.
Most days, I catch the puny ones while they’re sleeping. Not that anyone can see me, but it’s easier if I’m alone. I like to watch their sickening innocence for a moment, peacefully at rest, before I brutally destroy it. When I start, I don’t hold back. Ripping it out, there is no blood, no torn tissue, no visible injury. They feel no pain either, until I crush it to smithereens between my frigid fingertips. Then, the agony is unbearable, damage irreversible. I make sure to pop the pitiful pieces back in before the shrieking becomes too deafening. When the parents bolt in trembling, faces contorted in concern, I cackle with glee, a wraith in the corner. They never suspect me.
One pesky problem persists. The teenagers. Healthy, strong-willed, still young enough to dream. The only ones remotely capable of resisting my power. It’s true that some have already developed nicely to my desires, barely requiring any effort at all to reduce it to rubble. Others take much more. The pieces stick, glued together with a vile substance: love. Disgusting. I struggle to control their sinful compassionate minds. These days, more and more of these wicked, bats in the belfry youngsters give me trouble. It makes me worry, but I’m stronger. I always win.
Adults offer me the most pleasure. Their beautiful depravity causes me to buzz with euphoria. The raging wars, heartless destruction, and degrading slavery confirm my vast superiority. I delight in witnessing the hate I make them have for people who aren’t like themselves. Humans. They think they’re so intelligent, so advanced. So civilized. No one realizes what I do to their world so easily every day. People don’t know that it’s abnormal to think this way. The way I want.
Patience. Not my strong point, but I always save the best for last. When they die, I devour it, swinging it above my jaws like a pendulum. The aroma is tantalizing. The taste, by then, exquisitely perfect. The pungent flavour explodes in my mouth, both savoury and bittersweet, with a hint of spice. You’ll never experience this indulgence. I’m the only one of my kind. Every human that slips into my grasp helps me win this game of hatred.
The best part is, no one knows I exist. No one knows that I’m the one who engraves those ideas in their heads. No one knows that the game I play always works the way I want.
11 TO 14 YEARS
WINNER: Manor of Blood by Amy Luty, 14, Coquitlam
“This is a terrible idea. We shouldn’t be doing this Hannah… We need to turn back,” Caleb said, visibly shuddering.
Hannah, ignoring her brother, traced the intricate designs on the Manor’s iron doors. It towered over their little town, a constant reminder of the powerful forces inside.
Behind them, the bells in the church belfry stood still, creating an eerie silence. Reluctantly, Caleb approached her. Mist swirled around them, like ghosts attempting to pull them into the afterlife.
“I’m not turning back,” Hannah confirmed, wrenching the double doors open. Dust poured out of the building, clogging up her throat. Coughing, she fanned the air with her hands and tried to get a look inside. She almost wished she hadn’t.
Ripped furniture littered the room, as though something had torn it to pieces. The ancient wallpaper hung limply from the walls, tattered and stained red. A grandfather clock leaned against the wall, pendulum swinging. Glistening, white bones stuck out of the carpet at their feet. Caleb squeaked, backing away. Hannah grabbed his wrist, holding him there. They would not, they could not, back down.
A row of little candleholders lined the walls. They glowed softly amidst the darkness. Hannah, reaching her hand in, felt the dripping wax. It clung to her hand, sticky and hot. Someone, or something, had been here recently.
She walked up the winding stairs, stopping when Caleb spoke up. “This is trespassing, not to mention it’s dangerous! I’m leaving.”
“Be my guest,” she muttered, tired of his complaining. His footsteps echoed after him. Guilt lingered in Hannah’s chest. The least she could do was help him find the exit. She headed down the stairs, hoping she could catch him.
As she ran, something cracked underneath her feet. Hannah glanced down, a piercing scream rising from her throat. Below her, blank eyes staring into her very soul, lay the body of Caleb. Blood oozed from his chest and pooled around her, staining her shoes crimson.
A cold wind ran along her neck. Hannah turned, falling silent. A wraith stood over her, its eyes empty and black. A long, shadowy cloak hung from its shoulders and rusted chains twisted around its wrists. She stepped backwards, hyperventilating.
Floating closer, the wraith let out a shrill howl. Blood dripped from the bottom of its cloak. Caleb’s blood. Hannah turned and tumbled down the stairs.
The demon chased after her, it’s rotten hands reaching for her. It yanked at her coat, pulling her backwards. Hastily, she struggled to undo the buttons on the coat, sending it flying backwards. Howling, the wraith lost its hold on her.
Hannah grabbed a candle from the wall, hurling it at the window. Glass shattered around her, and dug into the flesh on her legs. She crouched down, springing upwards.
Just as she reached the window, the wraith grabbed her by the leg. Hannah kicked at it desperately, but it pulled her back into the darkness. In the distance, the church bells rang softly.
SECOND: Snow White, Snow Red by Coco Ruan, 13. Coquitlam
At exactly midnight, the apprentice pulled the worn rope and the bronze pendulum struck the bell with a metallic clang. “Maybe a life will be spared today,” Jem prayed. Nonetheless, the singing began, softly at first, then gradually reaching a crescendo.
There was nothing nefarious about the singing; in fact it was quite lovely. But what else can explain the mysterious deaths? It was when the singing began that everything went wrong. Each morning came a call reporting a loved one missing or found gruesomely murdered, occasionally half-eaten. The only pattern in the deaths was the victims being targeted in alphabetical order. The locations of the deaths were scattered.
The singing grew louder, louder! Jem’s eyes widened in astonishment and fear. “Hell is where I sleep. Hell is where I live. But Earth is where I have my meals. Earth is where I play.”
The singing fell silent. It always does before a kill.
Just then, a young girl skipped merrily through the town square.
No! he thought. The little girl. At the wrong place at the wrong time. Without thinking twice, he headed towards the door. With his hunting knife in hand, he hastily put on his gray cloak and blindly descended the stairs of the belfry.
He waited behind a stone monument. Sure enough, an elderly woman crossed the town square. The witch! With his knife out, he tensed, ready to strike the moment the little girl screamed.
“Dearie, why are you out in the cold?” the grandma asked. He blinked, confused. Dearie?
“I am hungry,” the little girl answered brightly.
“Poor dear, here,” the lady cooed. He furrowed his brow. She must be disguising herself, he thought.
Then he heard the earsplitting scream he had been waiting for. He lunged. Ah ha!
The lady fell backwards. The light went out of her baby blue eyes as she died. She hit the snow-covered pavement with a thump. Where there used to be a blanket of snow, now lay red stains.
He placed two fingers over her heart. There was no pulsation. She was dead. Lifeless. He examined her corpse. She seemed almost human, with silvery-white hair and gnarly hands. Iron poured out of her veins.
He turned around to face the little girl. Her lips were blood-red; her hair ebony-black. Her snow-white skin looked translucent in the moonlight, like a wraith of Snow White.
“You okay sweetie?” he fretted.
“I am hungry,” she enunciated. “Hungry, hungry. I am ravenous, oh so ravenous!”
She stepped forward. He stared in horror at her blood-drenched mouth. In hell, he saw brooding demons lurking in the shadows and a throne made of flesh. Human flesh.
Wrong one, he realized, stricken. He sprinted but steel nails pinned him down. Steel nails muffled his shrieks. Steel nails dragged him and scored his head and arms. His vision went black.
Oh, was his last thought. It was letter J today.
The next day, the police reported Jem missing.
THIRD: Children Make the Best Food by Sunny Liang, 13, Coquitlam
I was walking home from a friend’s house late one night. I knew my mother was probably very worried about me already. A loud gong came from the church belfry reminding me that it was probably a little late for someone my age to be out so I started walking with a slightly faster pace. A man in formal clothing startled me when he approached me from behind.
“Are you hungry?” he asked, “you look hungry, come with me.”
Before I could even speak he took me by the arm and led me off. I reluctantly let him, my decision heavily influenced by my growling stomach.
It was a surprisingly nice house, much bigger than mine. Once we were inside he sat me down on a comfy leather chair at a dining table with enough room for twenty people. There were all sorts of ornate furniture pieces including a massive china cabinet, a mesmerizing chandelier, and a grandfather clock with a pendulum almost as tall as me. The man immediately got to work setting up my cutlery and carefully placing a folded napkin on my lap.
“Just one moment, I must get the children to cook,” he said as he made his way towards a solid oak door directly across from me.
“You have kids who cook for you?” I asked, slightly taken aback.
He simply grinned and stated, “Children make the best food, don’t they?” Then he disappeared behind the door.
I sat there confused, I had heard enough bedtime stories about children being devoured by some wraith or witch, something clearly wasn’t right, but before I could decide to run away, he came back with a whole rack of barbecued ribs and a steak.
He lay both in front of me, “Bon appétit,” he beamed.
He merely stood there watching as I gingerly picked up a knife and fork and started picking at the steak. I hesitantly took a bite; it was tender, but not as soft as beef, this was slightly leaner but it tasted incredible. My caution soon dissipated and I kept on eating. Not long after, I had finished half the steak and most of the rib. I was so engrossed in eating my meal that I almost forgot there was a man patiently looking over my shoulder.
“Do you like it?” the man asked suddenly, startling me.
My mouth was still full of ribs so I just gave a happy nod in agreement.
He smiled at me brandishing a butcher knife, “Children do make the best food after all.”
I stopped eating.