Short Horror: The Bench

After several years of avoiding the genre altogether, I have decided to come back to horror with this new short story. This one was originally intended to be published by a horror magazine. Instead I have chosen to make it free to read. It’s good to be back.

Without further ado: “The Bench”.


It had always been her.

She couldn’t say if there was a reason for it. But she did know that every morning that she went to the park as a child, early in the morning, an older woman, perhaps in her sixties, would come to the park bench right at the big hump in the road near the lamppost. She was always dressed in the most whimsical of outfits, wearing bright blues and pinks, and most often with a nice big hat to block out the sun as she did her work. She did always have the kindest smile to work with, and carried a large bag of “gourmet birdfeed”. At least, that’s what was written on the bag.

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Red Moon of October

As is tradition, I am doing a horror story released once every weekend for the month of October. This one is a bit late, but is the first part of a three-parter to be finished the last weekend of October, rather than the separate short stories of last year’s style.


October 27, 2017

Day one of the weekend! Nick, Maddy, Cindy, Mai, and I are going to be with Mai’s grandmother in Upstate NY for the long stretch. Her name is Gramma Doli. She’s quite an intriguing person, really. When we first met her, she was dressed like someone who is still stuck a bit back in her ways. She isn’t really, I promise you. She bakes cookies, and pancakes, and everything. Nick was really appreciative. She even has her own smartphone, and uses it! I think that’s impressive for her age.

Is that mean? Maybe. But honestly, her face is almost completely comprised of wrinkles, so much that you can barely tell her eyes are even there. She’s really the nicest woman you’ll ever meet. She also has this gorgeous walking stick, something straight out of an old western. Knobby old thing with a hand-knitted knitted pattern on it, and it has a few beads and this this big black feather dangling from it. It’s a gorgeous thing, really – makes me want to get my own, even though I’m not Indian in any way. Maybe I’ll convince her to make me one.

It’s a quaint old place. It’s a small brick house, probably the third of the size of most houses, with only about six rooms. Three of them are bedrooms. She already had a fire going by the time we got here, and cookies, and a whole dinner ready. Nick was really appreciative, but that’s because the guy has no actual stomach. I swear he has a black hole in his torso. Anyway, It’s got a huge garden out front, a creek out back down the hill, and it’s surrounded by trees otherwise. I actually really appreciate that Mai took us out here, even though she hasn’t been here herself in about three years. I could spend the rest of my life here, honestly.

I take that back. It’ll have to be a lot warmer here before I consider that one. Probably not having a high in the forties and all the wind. Otherwise, I’d be down.

Everyone else is asleep, including Cindy, who was already well asleep by the time night came. I nearly fell asleep on the rocking chair in the living room myself. I almost got to see a deer while I was here too, which I don’t really get to see back at university. Gramma Doli closed the blinds on me. So now I’ve seen the shadow of a deer’s horns. At least, I think it was a deer. Either Gramma Doli is very afraid of deer, or it was something else, because she was shaking.

Maybe she shakes normally? I don’t know.

Will start homework tomorrow.


Oct 28, 2017

I was right. It was not a deer. I should have figured something was wrong with the house, I should not have let Mai take us here. I should have asked if there was something wrong with her family, I…

There really was no way I could have known. I thought Maddy was just tired. Everyone was tired. We drove for hours and hours and Maddy works three jobs. I didn’t think anything was wrong. I thought she was fine. We heard a scream and then the window was broken. There’s this massive crimson trail going down all the way to the creek. There’s deep scratches, like that of a massive dog, all across the inside of the room. There’s still a lock of red hair on the bed.

Grandma Dolli, she says she took something she shouldn’t have. It was the feather on the staff. I thought it was for decoration, but she took it from someone when she was a kid – I didn’t catch what she said, it wasn’t English. But I could tell that it was a very bad someone. I figure it must be the thing that’s here, hiding away in the trees.
She won’t let us out of the house.


Oct 29

Gramma Dolli set up traps late yesterday, sprinkled things around the house, drew symbols. She doesn’t want it to get in the house. I don’t want it in the house. No sane person wants this thing in the house.

Nobody walks outside of the house.

Nobody walks outside of the house.

Nobody walks outside of the-

We’ve been hearing screams from outside all day. Gramma Dolli says not to walk outside, that we can’t do anything anyway. She still shakes at night, and twitches every time someone screams.

She cries quietly when they stop. She knows why the screams stop, after all.

We don’t know how she’s lasted this many years without anyone to watch over her. Mai says she remembers getting earplugs and putting wood over the windows every Halloween. She thought it was just a strange Navajo tradition, and says Dolli used to talk of evil spirits. She had always assumed the strange screams were really coyotes. They are fairly common up here, and with earplugs in, even I admit it sounds like one sometimes.
I do not dare open the door.
Oct 30

We put wood against all the windows, and some furniture. Gramma Dolli says we have to wait it out, until the weekend is over. She says we cannot let anyone know what happened. We cannot even tell Maddy’s mother. The police will make up a story, she says.
But they know.

I heard it pacing outside. I heard its giant footsteps, walking back and forth. It nearly shook the house with its massive strides, just going around the house, over and over again. It won’t stop walking.
Occasionally, I hear something like Maddy’s voice. She begs me to let her in the house.

She’s hungry.

She’s tired.

She promises she won’t hurt me.

She doesn’t know what‘s going on.

She needs me to let her in.

She wants to go home.

She’s hungry.

She needs me to let her in.

Don’t I know it’s her?

She needs me to let her in!

I ignore her, even when she starts to cry. She screams for a few minutes. I keep quiet and wait for her to stop. I only sleep during the lulls.


O 31

I saw it.

One of the boards fell from the windows, and I saw it at the edge of the trees, standing, staring at the house. It was nearly as tall as the trees themselves. The legs were too long. The arms were too long. The fingers were too long. It was all too long. It was all very wrong. And I realized why I had thought it was a deer. Its face was a deer skull, still stained in a splotchy red from whatever it had been eating, with two huge, huge horns jutting from the top. It also had long hair falling down from the skull – long, red fiery hair.

Maddy’s hair.


She needs me to let her in.


(Late) Short Story Saturday: SMILE

           Because this is an eerie piece, I decided to not post it in the middle of the night on Saturday, and instead to do it on Sunday. Also, Part 2 of The Other Side is delayed so that I can do better planning. So here you are, my new short story SMILE

           It was going to be a good day. The sun was up and beaming in the very blue sky, the workday was over, and she was going back to her apartment to finally watch this Jessica Jones show that Sarah had been raving about. It was supposed to be very dark and realistic and grungy. That was basically her entire queue of shows anyway. As long as it stayed clearly in the realm of fiction, unlike that last weird show about serial killers that Sarah had talked about, she would be glued to her laptop for the night.

She walked along the bustling city street until she saw a cab coming. She raised her hand. The taxi stopped, thankfully, but not before someone walked by her, saying only one word:


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The Machine by Gabriel Penn



Well, really, it’s just a repost of the original story. But you all should read it anyway. It’s my favorite thing that I have ever written, and one day I want to do another one. Sequel or prequel, I will not say.

And, as always, please vote for me in the contest.

EDIT: Rape scenario in part two. Not intensively described but it is there. You will understand the reason it is there by the end of that chapter, I promise.

In case you missed it last night.

The Machine by Gabriel Penn

The Machine by Gabriel Penn


Well, really, it’s just a repost of the original story. But you all should read it anyway. It’s my favorite thing that I have ever written, and one day I want to do another one. Sequel or prequel, I will not say.

And, as always, please vote for me in the contest.

EDIT: Rape scenario in part two. Not intensively described but it is there. You will understand the reason it is there by the end of that chapter, I promise.

The Machine by Gabriel Penn

The Eyes: A Short Horror Story

These walls can’t hold me.

Speaking of the walls, they’re very protective… for the ones walking in the halls rather. They want to keep people from seeing me. They say I’m insane. They tell everyone I’m insane, but I’m not. I’m cooped up with all the crazies, but I’m not like them at all. I know a lot of them say that, but even they know I’m not insane. They remember why I came here in the first place. I wanted to help people; that’s all I ever asked. I wanted to tell them about it, to protect them from the thing that’s got me stuck in here! But I guess that’s not happening anytime soon. But when I do get out of here, everyone’s going to know.

They say I’m insane, but I’m not. I know I’m not. Please, you seem like a good listener, let me tell you. What I’m going to tell you sounds… insane. The story is, but I’m not. Hell, I’m just the messenger. So let me send a message: none of you are safe, not anymore. 

It all started at a local seminary that I was going to for the year.

At first, it was nothing. It was the local bug, and everyone gets it around fall. It’s not a big deal, really. Some sniffles here and there, headaches maybe, and then you’re all done. Some guys get really up in arms about it – really being a baby if you ask me – but it’s nothing unusual. At least it didn’t use to be unusual, until the unusual happened.

The sickness was worse than the regular type of sickness. A lot of guys were being stuck in their dorms it was so bad. The poor kitchen was going crazy with all the deliveries that they were making. The on-campus doctor had the same reply to everyone. “Go see the hospital in town,” they’d say. A few would listen, most wouldn’t.

It was just an odd pandemic until one kid… one kid… he just got sicker and sicker. He never got better, and he died about a month into the sickness unexpectedly. Poor guy, a lot of guys loved him. He was so energetic until he’d gotten sick. He’d been a little cranky, I thought, but I didn’t see this coming. He wasn’t that sick, I thought. Nobody did. He’d literally been complaining about how cold he was fifteen minutes before they found him cold as death under, like, fifteen blankets. I exaggerate, but you get the idea. I was at his service the day before everything happened. Everyone was blaming everyone – the family blamed the doctors, the doctors blamed his roommates, his roommates blamed the doctors, it was vicious.

I was lying on the pillow that night with tears down my face. I loved the heck out of that guy. Why do people have to die so young? What did they ever do? My roommates who didn’t know him as well tried comforting me, but what did they know? Questions plagued me till I went to sleep.

I woke up the next morning a little later than usual, no biggie. I looked at my alarm clock. This was weird. Why hadn’t my R.A. woken me up? We had a small part of time set apart to read the bible, pray, so and so. Good things, all of them. But he was gone, and he would’ve normally woken me up, reminded me of why going to sleep before midnight was important, which I would never pay attention to back in… those days. And now he wasn’t here. Maybe he’d just forgotten, I thought, didn’t want to bug me today of all days. I understood.

I quickly brushed my teeth, got a shower, put some clothes on, and headed out to class. That was when I noticed something odd as I walked past my R.A.’s room. The door was open, which was already odd, and his stuff was all over the place like he’d thrown it around in a mad rush. Weird. So he was still here?

“Nick!” I yelled. “You forgot to wake me up, bro.”

No response.

“Bro? Hey bro, I said…” I pushed open the door fully.

There was no one in sight. His bed was messy, which was never the case, as was everyone’s in the dorm. He’d left in quite a hurry apparently, even more than I’d thought. Everyone had, which was really odd indeed. Everyone was groggy in the morning, and I doubted everyone had woken up late. Was it daylight savings? I checked my phone. No, that had been two weeks ago. So what on earth happened here?

I walked around the hall. Everyone was the same, beds undone in a mad rush, things scattered, like some sort of campus-wide fiasco had just happened and I had been left behind.

Had I? This would happen to me, I thought. But that means that literally everyone ran out and forgot about me! What punks, I thought, who does that? I thought these guys were friends, and now I find out they’d leave me behind in a state of emergency!

I picked up my most important possessions – bible, laptop, and some Neil Gaman books – and rushed out of the room as quickly as possible. The basketball court down the hill was where everyone met in case of an emergency, so that’s where I started to head towards that end.

I launched out of the door full speed towards the basketball court, which was about a one-minute run when on as much adrenaline as I was at the time. I hadn’t checked my phone, but I imagined there were multiple texts from friends who, if they hadn’t remembered to get back to me probably at least sent me a warning text. But I didn’t have time to check; I was in a panic, after all!

I made it down in record time, but after I caught my breath, I realized that there was something wrong. There was no one at the basketball court. Literally, there was no one, not even a trace of anyone’s existence.

I checked my phone with shaking hands. There were multiple texts from Nick.

GET OUT HERE! Sent an hour ago.

GET OUT HERE NOW! Sent an hour ago. A lot of texts like that up until the tone changed twenty minutes later.

Nvm don’t get out here its hell! Stay in! Sent forty minutes ago.

Stay wher u r bro don’t come out! Sent forty minutes ago.

Prayn I c u l8r but plz wake up! Sent twenty minutes ago.

That was the last text. I looked around me, blood pumping fast. The air was so still you could hear a pin drop. My body shook, partially due to the fact that I hadn’t grabbed a sweater and partially due to the realization that I was alone. I was completely alone. What had happened? Where was everyone? I dropped the phone, then scrambled to pick it up. I dialed the three numbers anyone would dial in this situation. The phone rang for a bit, every ring feeling like an eternity. Suddenly I heard a voice:

“911, please state your emergency,” it said.

“Yes, please, there’s no one here, they’ve all just disappeared…”

I heard a human voice and my shaking hands dropped the phone again. I turned around. Maybe I wasn’t so alone after all. My face lit up quickly, hoping I could get an answer.

From the phone, I heard the “911” lady trying to talk to me, but I didn’t go for it. 

I was stupid.

“Hey!” I yelled to the person, who I now saw as a silhouette in the doorway of one of the large dorm buildings next to mine. He walked, stumbling a little, closer towards me, and once he got out from under the door.

It was Jeff’s roommate. He looked tired as anything, but he was probably sick, too. He had a doctor’s mask on, the kind they were handing out during that whole swine flu thing, so all I could see on his face were his eyes. I ran up close to see him.

“Rick!” I yelled. “Hey, where is everyone?”

He was silent, he lifted his head toward me real slow like, and I saw his eyes. His eyes! They continue to haunt me even here in this asylum! They were glazed over, like a film covered them. He looked straight into my eyes, but there was nothing. There was nothing in those eyes! There wasn’t a soul at all. I shuddered. I’m not crazy, I’m just telling you it was. But I still tried to pretend I wasn’t seeing what I was seeing.

“Rick!” I snapped my fingers in front of his face. “I know you’re still sad, but I need you to talk to…”

He was munching something hard underneath the mask. It sounded like a gumball… or something. Probably hard candy, I thought.

“Hey,” I asked, “You got candy? I could use some.”

Red spurted on the front of the mask.

Gross, I thought. But what I was about to see would not only be gross, but stay in my memories – the eyes, and this.

A bit of something slipped from underneath the mask. It hung loosely from his bottom lip. At first, I thought it was gum, and then I saw what it really was.

Skin. It was skin.

I shuddered, backing up. His eyes! They were following me. Now I knew what was wrong with his eyes!

Rick’s body stared straight at me, and suddenly I fell to the ground while backing up. It let out a groan, and I rushed around the building, desperately trying to get my backpack back on my back. I was trying not to make so much noise, as there might be more of them, but there was no other noise but mine. It groaned louder, moving faster than I was expecting toward my location.

I had to kill it. Those eyes! They were burning into my mind with every second. His eyes, his eyes! I had to kill him, and fast. I searched my backpack ferociously.

I could hear the sound getting louder. How close was it? I looked around. Not here, not here, but close!

I tried my best to unzip my backpack as he came around the corner. Footprints heard in the grass, and then a groan. I rushed around the building, quiet as I could, to where I knew it couldn’t get fast.

I scurried through the backpack. A bible? No. It was all books! What was I thinking?

The groans were getting louder. I wasn’t sure if it was just Rick’s body anymore.

That was when I saw was a garbage dump! Now wasn’t the time to worry about how I smelled, I thought, you know, with life being on the line. I hopped in there, watching to make sure it couldn’t see.

I kept searching, as the groans got closer. I stayed as quiet as I could, hiding behind the garbage can. What else was in this stupid backpack? I couldn’t dig through the trash; it would be able to see me.

My hands grew sweaty, my blood pumping so hard I was sure it could hear me now! There was no hope. I kissed the bible quickly. Now I just prayed for a fast death.

The thing heard my prayers and came closer, excited groans coming from its throat.

I squealed with delight. I saw the one thing I had kept missing in the backpack due to its black color and the fact that it was in the shadowy part of the backpack. It was my large, thick laptop!

I waited for it to come close.

All was still but my beating heart.

The groans stopped. I heard footsteps coming closer and closer.

My heart throbbed through my ears, and no attempt to stop breathing so loudly as I was could stop me from doing so.

I saw its eye peek over the wooden fence that guarded the garbage cans. My inside shuddered.

I smashed it in the face with my laptop. It screamed and fell to the ground. I kept on smashing it into its face as it gurgled blood, its fingernails scratching into my skin. During a quick break between hits, it grabbed onto my arm and bit deeply. I howled in pain and punched its face back down, smashing its face until it stopped screaming.

Once it had stopped, I looked at its mangled face. I had literally beaten it to the point that its head had caved in. That was impressive to me, but all I could do was laugh at this point, soaked in blood.

That was when they found me. An armored car came around the building, which was already odd, and then, even stranger, out stepped two men in bomb suits, pointing guns at me.

“I’m alive!” I screamed. “I’m alive!”

One put his hand over my mouth and threw me into the car.

“Stay in there!” he yelled. “Don’t try to get out!”

The other one got in the car and slammed on the gas pedal as the other one just barely hopped inside in time, slamming the door behind him. The one in the passenger seat ripped his helmet off. It was a police officer; his cap had been hidden underneath the helmet.

“You’re the last one,” the driver said. “You’re lucky. It’s a pandemic out there.”

“My brothers!” I yelled. I tried to open the door. The cop shoved me back in my seat as I tried to resist.

“Your friends are dead!” he yelled back. “They’re all dead! We searched everywhere, kid, and you were the only one we found alive. I’m sorry.”

I sat back in my seat, mouth agape. I put my head in my hands and began to sob. It would be the last time I ever did.

After a long time of driving, the cops began to tell me all about it. The dead rising had started there, at the institute. They were going to bomb the town, blame it on a Korean missile that got lucky. I was in too much shock to argue.

I’m not crazy, you see. They put me here, gave me a different name. I overheard them saying I would start talking if I was let out to see my parents, and nobody wanted a panic right then. So I’m legally dead. But I’m not crazy, I still have all my wits about me, and I’m not going full psycho and always trying to escape like everyone else. I understand. But it’s hard to stay sane in this place.

They don’t normally allow mirrors and stuff in here, but I saw myself today. I’m sick, they’re saying, but it should be nothing. My shivers don’t feel like “nothing”. But for a brief instance, I saw myself in a reflective surface. I saw my eyes.

My eyes… dear God, my eyes!

Short Story: The Machine

Entry for not-so-classicallytrainedwriter’s “Hook in 100″ contest.

Word Count: 430 words

“Get me out of here!”

He could hear the turning gears around him as a little boy looked on, grinning. The floor was moving further and further up. He looked around frantically for an exit. He cursed like a sailor, but it did nothing for him.

He shouldn’t have followed the boy. He should’ve done the right thing and left him alone. He shouldn’t have given in to lust, but it was too late for that now.

The ceiling came down as the floor rushed up. The sound of whirring machinery rang in his ears. The boy giggled.

“You psychopath!” the man yelled.

He was losing legroom. He moved his head left. There was a lever, but it was far away. He lay as flat as he could between the ceiling and floor and edged towards it.

He was getting close. He could win!

He stretched out his hand. It was getting hard to breathe. The walls came close. He was inches from the lever now. It was just a handsbreadth away. The boy had been outsmarted.

His hand hit glass. The “lever” was a painting.

He swore with the filthiest language he could muster. Sweat and tears poured down his face.

“Who are you?” he yelled to the boy.

The boy giggled again.

“Your executioner.”

He felt the walls crushing his bones as he howled with the pain of death.

The boy waited as he heard the machine’s crunching and whirring stop suddenly. He followed the machine’s progress as a flurry of dolls flew through a glass tube that took up most of the room. The dolls eventually filled up a small box on the floor. He picked one up and inspected it. The doll looked like a man’s man, muscular and handsome – the perfect prince for a young girl. What a wonderful thing these magical machines were, he thought.

Once he had his quota, he switched out the boxes and walked up the stairs with a little spring to his step. At the top of the stairs, an older man with a curled moustache smiled at him. The boy plopped the box behind counter and grinned at the old man.

“You’ve gotten lots of business today!” the old man encouraged.

The boy grinned a toothy grin. “Yes, sir.”

The man nodded and looked out the window upon which was printed the words “Toy Shoppe” in fancy script. He sighed happily.

“What irony,” the man muttered to himself, “that the ones who wish to make toys of children would instead become toys themselves.”

The boy giggled. “Yes, sir.”

The full version of the story will be available soon. It is currently a work in progress. Follow me for updates, writing tips, and eventually, the full version of this story!