Adult winners of the library’s annual scary story contest have been announced. Stories were judged by four adults and nine teens and preteens.
First-place winner was Roger Green with his story “Spittin’ Image.” Second place was Sandy Dolak and her “(Mostly True) Scary Alaska Story.” The winning stories are posted below.
By Roger Green
“Damn kids,” Wade grouches over the late night news on the television.
Looking over embroidery she works beneath the illumination of a solitary lamp, Collette pushes glasses down her nose. “Hush, Sergeant,” she scolds their lowly growling Sheppard. “Oh, let it be,” she then scolds her husband of forty two years with a similar tone. “It ain’t like we’re asleep and they don’t seem to hurt nothing.”
Sergeant continues to growl at the distant sounds of pickups racing up and down the county road outside.
“All summer, all fall, and now into the winter. Don’t these kids got to get up for school?” Wade mutes the television, stands from the recliner, and goes to pull curtains back. On the far side of the windbreak, through lightly falling snow, are headlights and taillights stopped where they always stop. Too far away and too many trees between to see anything but shadows moving in the black of night.
“Little bastards,” Wade grouses.
“An’ they ain’t hurtin’ nothin’. Let ‘em be kids. Finish yer news an’ let’s go to bed. If you get all worked up, you aren’t going to be able to sleep.”
“No, Collette,” Wade argues on his way to the door. “They might be kids, but someone needs to learn ‘em to respect the quiet of people livin’ out here. I gonna tell ‘em to move it down the road.” He takes a jacket off the hook, mashes a hat on his head, and grabs the rife that’s always leaning against the knotty pine wall inside the door. “Stay, Sergeant. Don’t need you bitin’ anyone.”
“Now you be careful,” Collette advises as the front door closes on her concern.
The wipers of the Silverado take the dusting of snow off the windshield while Wade drops the truck into gear. His weathered face is stern as he squints to see down the long driveway to the road. Turning, he goes a tenth of a mile to where the damn kids meet up every night. Yet as Wade drives in the dark, there are no headlights, no taillights, not even tire tracks in the snow. He drives a quarter mile, then a half mile down the road – just flakes of snow falling lazily in the beam of the headlights and Wade squinting at what he doesn’t see. “Well, what the hell?” he whispers as he brings the truck to a stop.
He turns about in the cab to look through all the windows, then cranks the wheel and gets the Silverado turned around. Following his solitary set of tracks back up the road, he slows where he damn well knows the kids are every single night at nine-sixteen. He stops, then twists to look around. No one. No tracks. Only gently falling flakes of snow. “Well, this don’t make no sense,” he huffs, looks one last time, then begins to drive back home.
Off to the right, barely caught by the beam of the headlights, on the other side of the ditch near the windbreak, someone is walking. Cranking the wheel to aim the headlights that direction, Wade stops the truck and throws it into park. He opens the door, stands up inside the opening and yells over the roof of the cab, “Hey kid. Come here.”
The lonely figure in blue jeans and a short sleeve tee shirt continues to walk.
“Hey kid. I ain’t messing around here. I’m tellin’ you now, you come on over and talk with me a minute. We need to straighten some stuff out ‘bout all this commotion.”
The young stranger’s course remains the same.
“Goddamn,” Wade curses, grabs the rifle off the seat and takes a flashlight from the glove box. Slamming the door of the idling truck behind him, he takes after the stranger with a long stride and a bouncing shaft of light. “Kid. You deaf? I said hold up. I want to talk with you.” Wade’s breaths are steaming in the cold as he catches up and parallels the boy on his side of the ditch. “Good Lord. Don’t you know how to dress? It’s snowin’, you damn fool.”
Looking only ahead, the youth walks steadily forward.
“Something wrong with you, boy?” Wade asks while holding the light firm on an expressionless face. Wade’s breaths and footfalls are the only sounds as he keeps pace with the young man. “Ain’t you cold, son? Why ain’t you sayin’ nothin’?”
The young man stops looking straight ahead.
Wade’s cheek pinches quizzically with the words, “You ain’t right, son.”
With a slow turn of his head, the young man looks directly at Wade.
Wade squints and tilts his head to the side. His lips part. “This ain’t possible.”
The phantom sound of engines revving and pickups racing toward him on the washboard road draws Wade’s attention. Turning the flashlight, the only thing on the road is the idling Silverado with snowflakes falling in the beam of its headlights.
“You hear that?” Wade asks, but turning back, finds himself all alone. “Boy?” Wade asks again. Then unseen pickups skid to a stop on the road beyond the Silverado. Doors open and blaring country music spreads through the quiet night. Loud voices. An argument. Boots scuffing in the gravel. Fists hitting flesh. Grunts.
“No,” Wade yells, breaking into a stiff run toward the sounds. “No. Stop. Don’t do that,” he screams. As he’s approaching the invisible scuffle he runs through a half dozen sets of footfalls running around him the opposite direction. He stops, turns, yells, “No. Stop. You don’t know what yer doin’.” The footfalls sound on the gravel road a little further before most scuff to a halt.
One set continues to run.
Then Wade’s voice from forty-four years ago orders, “Let him go. I got him pretty good. That ought’a learn him.”
With a cracking voice, Wade argues with the ghosts from his past, “No. Go get him. Don’t leave him.” He stands motionless as the footfalls begin to walk back around him.
“We’ll take his truck. If the coward wants to run, he can walk back to town.”
“Look at ‘em, he’s staggering, Wade,” says the voice Wade recognizes as Jesse’s.
“He should have taken it like a man.”
“Wade, he’s down,” Jesse argues. “I think he fell in the ditch.”
“I said, leave him. Maybe the boars’ll git him. Serves him right.”
“Nooo,” old Wade begs.
But unseen doors close and the engines rev and truck tires dig into the dirt. Two trucks rattle away on the washboard until it is only silence, falling snow and the idling Silverado. With wild eyes, Wade calls down the road after them, “Come back you damn fools. Don’t leave him out here.”
From behind him come the squeals and grunts of wild boars and a young man’s frantic and deathly screams. The flashlight and rifle crash onto the road when Wade’s hands come up to cover his ears. “No. Make it go away,” he cries with closed eyes.
Instantly, there is silence.
Cautiously removing his hands from his ears, Wade opens his eyes. With just the snow falling around him, he looks again up and down the road, picks up the rifle and flashlight, hurries to get in the truck, then sits there with his eyes shifting side to side. “This is some kind of hallucinations,” he reasons, then thinks some more and lowers the window. Defiantly shouting into the night, “Damn ghosts can haunt me all you want. You ain’t real an’ ain’t nothin’ you can do. It was over forty years ago. What you want me to do about it? You ran. You should’a taken it like a man. An’ you ain’t real. Leave me be.” Wade sets his hard jaw and puts the truck in drive.
Parking beneath the mercury light in the ranch house yard, Wade takes the rifle off the seat, gets out of the truck, and walks up the front steps to the welcoming lights of home. He no sooner steps inside the door but a crease comes to his brow.
With a steaming mug in her hands, Collette walks briskly toward him from the range with worried eyes set in a drawn face. Beyond her, sitting in a chair at the kitchen table, is a young man wrapped in a blanket. She whispers, “Now before you go sayin’ anything, this young man came up to the door while you were out. He was freezing cold. I got him warmin’ up an’ we’re gonna feed him an’ let him stay the night an’ I don’t want to hear any a your complainin’ about it. I don’t think he knows who he is much less where he is an’ I ain’t havin’ the sheriff take him off to no loony bin on a night like this.”
Wade’s eyes never leave the form sitting at the table and the crease doesn’t leave his brow. Setting the gun beside the door, he steps forward.
“Wade, you’re trackin’ snow.”
With steady steps, Wade continues toward the kitchen.
“It’s the funniest thing, Wade,” Collette adds as she follows him. “Remember the boy that just up and disappeared back in high school? Justin, I think his name was…”
Wade comes even with the young man in the chair.
“This boy looks a lot like him, don’t you think?”
Hesitantly stepping around to see the young man’s face, Wade stops moving. Stops breathing.
An eye hangs from its socket in a face of gouged flesh and shattered bone.
“You remember him?” Collette asks, then leans around to hand the boy a steaming cup of milk. “Here you go, sweetie. This will get you warmed up.”
“Collette,” Wade utters as he raises a trembling finger to point at the boy’s gory face.
“It’s like goin’ back in time isn’t it? You think he does too?” Collette asks excitedly. “Tomorrow I’m gonna see if I can find my old yearbook. Don’t know if you ever knew, but that Justin boy was sweet on me. I don’t recall, did anyone ever find out what happened to him?”
As Wade stares at the aberration, shreds of flesh around bare and broken teeth pull into a smile.
Wade’s desperate eyes shift toward his wife.
Collette laughs. “I swear, when this boy smiles, he is just the spittin’ image of that boy Justin.”
“(Mostly True) Alaska Scary Story”
By Sandy Dolak
Alaska is such a mystical, magic place. You are either attracted by its mystique, or repelled by its cold and darkness. Laura and her son Michael had been in Alaska for barely a year and were thoroughly enjoying the mountains, the waterways, the vistas, the legends and the lore. Although they had just been through their first winter, even the darkness and cold held a certain enchantment and added to their feeling of being brave pioneers in the last frontier.
Laura ran a clinic and when she had advertised for clinical help, she had many qualified applicants, but Sue absolutely stood out in her mind. Even though the young woman did not have any clinical experience, she presented well and shared life experiences that made up for her deficit of educational credentials. Sue was a fourth generation Alaskan that only recently had moved to Anchorage after always living “off the grid” in bush (rural) Alaska. Even though it had nothing to do with the experience that Laura was looking for, when she asked what would make Sue uniquely qualified for the position, Sue had answered, “there had never been a chain saw she couldn’t fix and she didn’t scare easily!” Liking her spunk and moxie, Laura decided to give Sue a chance.
Sue learned quickly and was an excellent employee, but what Laura enjoyed most was Sue’s many stories of her Alaskan heritage. Sue’s great grandfather had come to Alaska from Missouri in the great Alaskan Gold Rush of the late 1890’s. He endured the perils of the Chikloot trail to get to Nome where he had heard the tales of chunks of gold lying on the beach. He had no luck in finding gold, but did find an Eskimo wife and they had two baby boys. He settled into working for a fish merchant, fell in love with cold artic waters and was content with his new life in the harsh land that was now his home. In 1925 he was devastated when his young wife and first born child died in the diphtheria epidemic. He took to the bottle to find solace and soon was known for his seething anger and hot temper. An icy, miserably cold night in one of the many saloons in Nome, he took offense at a disparaging remark regarding Eskimo wives and smashed a whiskey bottle into a young man’s head killing him. He immediately left Nome, not wanting to face the consequences of the murder he was responsible for. The murder victim had a twin brother who vowed that he would seek justice for his brother’s death, or if not justice, then revenge. The twins, fully bearded, long shaggy hair and always dressed in matching plaid lumberjack shirts had always been the topic of gossip about their strange ways and questionable mental health.
As Sue’s great grandfather left Nome and left his surviving young son with his wife’s family, he started wandering the interior of Alaska. Frequently he had nightmares about a bearded man in a plaid shirt. And as if the nightmares, weren’t scary enough, sometimes he would just get an eerie feeling that there was someone stalking him, just out of his vision. Occasionally he would even think he saw a flash of red plaid in the woods! He couldn’t decide whether it was the wind or truly a voice that always was telling him he was about to die. It was making him crazy. Anyone who met him would agree with that assessment.
As he reached Talkeenta Alaska and was hiking on Sheep Mountain he came over a ridge into a stunning valley with a beautiful natural lake. He immediately decided that we was going to quit running and if the land was available, he was going to make it his by filing a homestead claim. He named the Lake Tookalook—he “took a look” and knew this is the place he wanted to spend the rest of his life. In the 1930’s Alaska was anxious to increase the state’s stability and population by offering 160 acres for a mere $20 with the only requirement being that the homesteader build a home (cabin) and live on the land for 5 years. The crazy, bereaved man put his energies into building a small birch cabin, all the while looking over his shoulder for the man that threatened to kill him. Even though he only came into Talkeenta twice a year for provisions, he didn’t make his fall trip. After the spring thaw, a ranger was sent to check on him and found his decomposing body. He was found not far from his own front porch in a blueberry patch. His death was a mystery, but the most popular theory was that a bear was not pleased with an intruder sharing berries. But that didn’t explain the tattered piece of plaid fabric that was found near the skeleton’s clutched hand.
Sue’s grandfather was now a young man and was eventually notified of his father’s death. He traveled from Nome to check out the homestead and reported that no matter how beautiful it was, it was the home of death spirits and he could not leave soon enough.
The grandfather went on to be a fisherman of renown out of Homer Alaska and when he lost a hand in one of the net gears on his fishing boat, he maintained it wasn’t an accident. It was the death spirits that took his father that had grabbed his hand.
Sue’s dad was not cut out to be a fisherman and had moved to Soldotna and started a lumber business. He always had a curiosity about the homestead and Lake Tookalook and would frequently take his young family to hike in the 5 miles to the deteriorating birch cabin. Later they had ATV’s that made access much easier. One fall, when he was going in to hunt moose, the ATV overturned and he was killed. His hunting partner said he swerved to miss hitting a bear, but curiously the accident site was flagged with a piece of tattered plaid that looked like a piece of old shirt.
Now we are to Sue a fourth generation Alaska woman that had said she didn’t scare easily. She felt the only way to avenge the deaths of her great-grandfather and dad was to go live at Tookalook. She had an adventurous partner and two young daughters. They built a second birch cabin on the opposite side of the lake. They lived there for four years. Four years that were fraught with hardships. Sue’s partner had a chainsaw accident and would have probably bled to death if not saved by Sue’s quick thinking. One of the girls almost drowned while swimming in the lake. The younger girl got very ill and by the time they got her out and to Talkeenta, she had to be life-flighted to Anchorage with a high fever of undetermined origin. Sue developed a rash that was unexplained, but attributed to allergies. It ate off all her fingernails and toenails. The final straw at Lake Tookalook was the 4th summer when Sue and her partner went off to cut wood and left the two girls alone. One stayed in the house while one went to the outhouse; while they were separated, a grizzly bear came onto the path between the house and outhouse and for more than an hour paced the 100 feet between the two structures growling, and occasionally standing on his hind legs and emitting a roar that caused the windows to rattle. By the time Sue got back home the girls were nearly “frightened to death”; she had to fire several a shots into the air before the bear finally went lumbering back into the woods. Sue felt it was more than just the bear, it was part of curse planted with the murder years ago. They closed up the cabin and moved to Anchorage 3 days later. It was soon after this Sue applied for the job.
The next summer, Sue went back up to Lake Tookalook to get a few more possessions and pick blueberries. She brought back pictures and Laura had to agree it was one of the most beautiful places she had ever seen. Sue said she would draw a map and Laura and Mike were more than welcome to hike the 5 miles into the cabin. Sue said because they were not part of the family, they probably wouldn’t be part of the curse of Lake Tookalook. In addition to map, she told them where the best blueberries were, about the boxes of books stashed underneath the bed, where the fishing poles could be found and the loaded 22 behind the pantry cabinet.
Laura and Mike set off on a beautiful fall morning to go to the cabin. They marveled at the scenery as they hiked in. They came over the same rise that Sue’s grandfather had 50 years before, and the beauty of the valley took their breath away. The cabin was something straight out of a “Grizzly Adams”. They kept reassuring each other that they didn’t think it was at all creepy. They heeded Sue’s warning and took turns being on lookout for bears while picking the huge blueberries. They sat on the dock while Mike caught fish for dinner and moose came down for their evening drink. However, the early evening lent itself well to storytelling, even if it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to recall all the things that had happened at this place. Mike shivered when Laura tripped on the way back to the cabin and sprained her ankle. After a great dinner of trout and blueberry fritters they settled down to a long Alaska evening of playing cards. As it got darker, they lit the kerosene lamps and rummaged through the under bed library. Strangely, the lamps kept flickering out. They went out onto the front porch and saw a sky lit with aurora borealis. Instead of seeming beautiful, it just added to the surreal circumstances that they were perceiving.
Frustrated and confused by feeling somewhat frightened, Laura said she was just going to go to bed in the big feather bed and rolled out the sleeping bag on the couch for Mike. With no lights, it wasn’t long before the short Alaska night created an absolute black out. With the lights out, the strangest noises started. Laura couldn’t sleep. Finally she called softly out to Mike, hoping he was soundly asleep. Not surprisingly, Mike also was wide awake. Laura got out of bed and went to the living room and saw Mike sitting in the rocking chair with the 22 across his lap. “Mom, I think there is something on the porch, I could hear the boards creaking.” They reassured each other that they were just experiencing overactive imaginations and there certainly wasn’t anything that was going to harm them. Yet the silence between them kept being broke by strange noises first on the front porch and then around at the back door. Laura ran to the back door to make sure she had locked it. She peered out the back window and could see nothing but darkness. Mike stayed in the front room and convinced himself that the noise against the windows was merely wind in the birches.
Laura and Mike made occasional small talk waiting for the sun to come up. At the first light they looked out and couldn’t see anything but the movie set perfection of the cabin and Lake Tookalook. Then Mike noticed that there were tufts of hair on the porch railing. A midnight raid by a bear would explain it all. Except Laura was really puzzled by the tattered piece of plaid cloth dangling from the birch tree.