It's Witching Season once again, which means it's time to engage into the centuries-old practice of SPOOKY STORIES! WOOHOO! Here are a few personal favorites that I thought I would share...
Have You Heard The One About Anamaria Marquez?
I've bragged before about my awesome Clarion colleagues, and they continue to pump out kickass stories on a fairly consistent basis. I had the pleasure of reading an earlier draft of Have You Heard The One About Anamaria Marquez? by Isabel Yap, and it's only gotten eerier since. It's got your Catholic School creeping, your Urban Legend uglies, and that general high school angst that we all know and love. What's more, you can read it for free online, or listen to a creeptastic podcast version of the story (just make sure that there's a nearby lightswitch available, and that it actually works).
If the Halloween spirit hooks you enough, you can also read Isa's story A Cup of Salt Tears on Tor (or Amazon, or Nook), and check out an interview with her on the Interstitial Arts website.
Scary Sammy; or, Stranger Things Happen
Kelly Link is a magician, who weaves weird, creepy, and utterly beautiful short stories that defy most narrative conventions but still hit you right in the feels. She was also part of my Clarion anchor team, so I might be biased, but still. On our last night at Clarion, we sat around telling ghost stories, and Kelly regaled us with this tale, which was featured in Time magazine's "What Scares The People Who Scare Us?" feature from 2011 (also featuring Stephen King, Colson Whitehead, RL Stine, and more):
“There were eight or nine of us at a restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina, and we were telling ghost stories. The friend of a friend said, ‘When I was a girl living in Texas, I had a recurring dream. In this dream, I was walking down the street of my hometown, and a man would walk toward me. Sometimes he was older and sometimes he was younger. He didn’t always have the same face, but I always knew it was the same man. He would get closer and closer, and I would know that something bad was going to happen, but I would wake up each time before he reached me. I would be terrified.
'One night, in my dream, we finally got face to face and I spoke to him. I said, “What is your name?” He said, “My name is Sammy.” And then I woke up, and I was so afraid that I couldn’t go back to sleep. I went to my sister’s room and said, “Can I get in bed with you? I’ve just had a really bad dream.” My sister said, “Was it Sammy?” I said, “What did you say? How do you know Sammy?” And my sister said, “I don’t. But you just brought him in the room with you.” I turned on the lights and I saw that my sister was asleep.'”
Are you creeped out yet? Believe me when I say that hearing Kelly tell it herself as she sips on straight rose vodka is even scarier. Some of Kelly's stories might leave you confounded by the end, but I assure you this: they will also leave you undeniably changed.
If you're interested to read more of Kelly's trippy, slipstream-y short stories and fall down into an endless of weird and unpredictable awesome, you can find some of them online, including Some Zombie Contingency Plans, Catskin, Stone Animals, The Faery Handbag (which starts off at the Garment District in Cambridge!), or The Wrong Grave. You can also pick up one her fantastic short story collections: Stranger Things Happen, Get in Trouble, Magic for Beginners, or Monstrous Affections, a brand new anthology that she co-edited with her husband, Gavin Grant (also featuring Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Sarah Rees Brennan, and others).
To top that all of, Flavorwire has a great list of 50 of the scariest short stories of all time, most of which you can read for free online. I haven't even read most of the ones on the list, but I can say that "The Pelican Bar" by Karen Joy Fowler made my heart pound like a gatling gun, so there's that (also Lovecraft is something everyone should read, either in spite of or because of his questionable eugenics and unnecessarily clunky but undeniably luscious prose, like a dense, overgrown forest of way too many words).
And finally perhaps — most importantly — here's the Halloween episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete aka the greatest "kids" television show ever, for your viewing enjoyment: