The world is a scary place. Every day we’re forced to make choices, no matter how small, that may be leading us along a new path. Whether that path is heading towards something good, like a promotion or meeting some special, or towards something bad, like an accident, or even death, we can never know. In the end, that’s possibly the scariest thing of all.
That’s why I need your help to guide a character, or characters, through the possible dangers that await them in #YourHorror, an interactive horror story that will be shaped by the choices you make. Even I don’t know what will happen, and I’m the writer…
From Monday to Friday, at roughly 8pm GMT each day, there will be a new Twitter poll. These polls will ask you to choose between a number of options, each of which may take the story in a new direction. Sometimes a decision will give a bit more insight into the character, setting, or backstory, while other times the decision will solely focus on driving the narrative forward.
Excited? Intrigued? A little bit terrified of the unknown? Yeah, me too. Get involved.
It could have been a nice dream, surrounded by friends and family, or with some far-off future where she’d won the lottery and retired herself to a life of lunching, lounging, and lost animals (with money and space to spare, it was the natural progression of things, right?). Unfortunately, this wasn’t that kind of dream.
She was alone. Completely alone in the darkness, with the world inside her head yet to take any shape or form. It was pitch black, and she reached out into the emptiness. She wanted to find something to hold onto, but snatched it back when she wondered whether something else might also be reaching out. Not worth the risk.
Endless abyss it was, then.
(Wait… what’s that?)
It was if her eyes were adjusting to the complete blackness. The darkness changed from solid black to a slightly less solid black, then grey, then gradually to a white light that was almost too bright. So intense that it forced her to squint and raise her hand above her eyes, unable to make out anything other than whiteness. If anything, this was the exact same as the previous darkness, only more annoying. No-one squints for fun.
Bit by bit, the light faded away until she could see shapes and colours, and then the shapes and colours pieced themselves into a familiar, though not quite welcomed, jigsaw. She was back in the café.
If it hadn’t been for the incident earlier that day, it wouldn’t have been a strange place to find herself, but she wasn’t quite ready to revisit this particular café anytime soon. It was dark outside now, she thought, though it was hard to tell. A thick mist had enveloped the town, or at least the café. As far as she knew, the café was the only thing that existed. The rest of the town – shops, houses, people – had been swallowed whole, or perhaps lulled into an eternal slumber, until the mist decided that they could be free.
All she knew was that she wasn’t about to take a walking tour. With one last look into the mist, she turned her back to the window and looked around the café.
It was empty now, and the tables and chairs were stacked up on one side – all except one. One table was positioned in the middle of the café. Her table. She knew because of the book. That damn book. She took a step closer, then paused.
The air around the book seemed to get heaver as she drew closer. She could almost feel her clothes pressing down around her. Even so, she couldn’t help but take another step closer. As she did, the book flew open. The pages began to turn. Unable to move as she watched, the pages turned, turned, turned, like the Invisible Woman was flicking through an ancient issue of Cosmo.
The pages stopped turning, and the café was still once more. On her table, the book lay open.
She crept closer, and for the third time that day, she saw it.
Before she could even decide what to do next, the words on the page, most of which she didn’t understand, started to move. It was as if the ink itself was trying to decide whether it was happy with the sentences it had been shaped into. Each line, curve, dash, full stop – it all writhed and struggled against the paper. Until it didn’t need to struggle anymore.
Each letter tore itself from the page and morphed into a collective mass of scuttling insects. Ants. Beetles. Flies. Maggots. Crickets. Spiders. Termites. Earwigs. Worms. The mound of insects grew and spilled from the book to the table. All this time, the symbol on the page had remained still, but it began to move now, clearly visible inside a ring of insects. They avoided it.
She already knew what it would become. There was just one particular insect that was missing from this orgy of creepy-crawlies. Before long, it rose above the rest. Almost one-hundred legs reached out towards her as it wriggled upwards like a repulsive phoenix from its nest of slimy brethren. The rest of the insects, clearly inferior to the reincarnated centipede, dropped to the floor, now too numerous to fit within the confines of the table.
(Wake up. Please, just wake up.)
No luck. Slowly being backed up to the window by the ever-growing number of insects, she was trapped inside this nightmare. Then she was reminded that she should be grateful of her current situation, because everything can always get worse. It did.
The mound of insects began to grow upwards. Legs, antennae, shell, and pincers swarmed tightly together until it looked like a dense, constantly moving, figure. Almost humanoid.
There were no eyes to look into, no ears to hear the hammering in her chest, but a gaping hole formed where a face should be. Inside it, the centipede, like a wagging tongue. The gaping face hole closed and opened, and even though it should have been impossible, words were formed.
“You have been chosen.” As it spoke, lesser insects were impaled on the centipede’s sharp legs, now more focused in its movements. They fell to the floor, discarded.
“W-why? By who? For what?” She rasped, afraid to hear the responses.
“You have been chosen,” it repeated. She backed up against the window and felt the cool window pane against her back, now slick with sweat. “You have been chosen.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, almost pleaded. “Tell me.”
Without warning, the figure burst into flames. Insects screamed and popped. An acidic burning smell filled the air, and the insects began to lose shape as they melted to the café floor.
A booming sound snapped her attention back to the window. In the distance, a fiery glow was burning its way towards the café, turning the mist into a lightshow of reds and oranges. It was beautiful. If it had looked like this before, maybe she’d have gone outside. Only it wasn’t light. It was fire. In fact, a wall of fire, and it rushed towards the café as it driven forward by the horses of the damn apocalypse.
(Could I have a minute here, guys? Already kind of got something on the back-burner…)
She turned back to the burning insects, and the wall of fire was forgotten.
The insects had been reduced to a pile of ash and corpses. Only the bugs with harder exoskeletons had avoided complete cremation, and in one last “fuck you” had crawled into a shape she’d have been able to recognise anywhere.
(What is going on?)
She turned to the window, placed her hand against the pane – unsurprisingly not quite as cool as before - and steeled herself against what was coming. Fire and pain. Pain and fire. Burning.
She closed her eyes as the fire reached the café, and was consumed.
(It’s not real. It’s not real. It’s not real. It’s not r-
“eal,” she gasped, startled to consciousness. Alive. It was a nightmare. Just a nightmare. She raised her hand to her forehead, relieved to be back on her sofa. “Ssss-,” she sucked air between clenched teeth, surprised by the intense stinging in her hand. When the pain receded, she forced herself to turn on the light.
“No.” she whispered. “No. It’s not possible. It’s not real.”
Her hand was burnt.