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Solemnly Swear

Best friends will do anything for each other. But Vanessa will do *anything* for Stephanie. CW: body horror

By Alivia VarvelPublished about a month ago 3 min read
Top Story - October 2023
Solemnly Swear
Photo by Womanizer Toys on Unsplash

I recently wrote this for NYC Midnight's 500-word Fiction Challenge. This was my first round submission, and I placed in the top 10 in my group to move on to the second round! This was definitely a good exercise for me. For anyone who isn't familiar, the challenge divides participants into different groups where you're assigned a genre, an action, and an object that you must incorporate into a story that is no more than 500 words. My genre was horror, action was breathing in second hand smoke, and object was a glass jar. There's definitely a lot of things I'd like to change about this little story, but I'm leaving it as is because I'm pretty proud of the fact that I placed with it.


“Has there ever been anything that would lead you to believe Vanessa would hurt someone?”

The overhead fluorescent lights hum. It’s too bright in here.

Stephanie focuses on a stain on the carpet.

“Steph! Check these guys out.”

Stephanie looks up from her glass jar of lightning bugs. Vanessa is jogging towards her with her own jar, but instead of lightning bugs, it holds two large, strange looking insects. Stephanie has to strain her eyes in the dark to make them out. She thinks one of them is a grasshopper. The other she’s never seen before.

“What the heck is that?” Stephanie asks, something about it making her shiver.

“A praying mantis, duh.”

Before Stephanie can ask where she even found it, the so-called praying mantis corners its companion.

“Watch. Watch.” Vanessa is staring at her jar, green eyes glimmering. Somehow, the praying mantis gets its jaws around the grasshopper’s head. Stephanie jolts back. Though the lid is on the jar, she can still hear a crunch. She looks to her best friend again.

Vanessa is grinning, almost…pleased.

Stephanie shakes her head. “No.”

The detective sighs and slides a couple pictures on the table. “You sure? ‘Cause this is what we found in her basement.”

“You’re crazy! You know that?! I didn’t do anything to her! All I said was-” He cuts off with a scream as Vanessa yanks off another fingernail.

“We know what you said. And it wasn’t nice. Was it, Steph?”

Not taking her eyes off David, she shakes her head.

“Steph,” David begs in a whisper.

“Tell her you’re sorry.”

He whimpers.

“Couldn’t hear you,” Vanessa teases.

“I’m sorry, okay?”


“I’m sorry! I’m sorryyyyyy-” The end of his last sorry drags out as Vanessa sticks a vice in his mouth and starts viciously cranking. His jaw creaks and cracks before snapping louder than anything Stephanie has heard. David’s cheeks stretch inhumanly far, and now that the cracking has stopped, there’s only the sound of ripping and tearing. The muscle and tendons shred into pink strips like silly putty.

His jaw is nearly touching his chest, and blood won’t stop pouring down his neck. It’s almost silent in the basement now. Stephanie’s not sure when the screaming stopped.

She stares at the photos.

Vanessa tosses her gloves into the trash as Stephanie watches blood drip onto the floor. “Hey, don’t worry. I’ll clean it up.”

Stephanie finally looks away when she hears a quick flick and puff from behind her. Vanessa takes a drag of her cigarette and blows in her direction. Breathing it in makes Stephanie want to choke and vomit.

“Ness, you know I hate it when you smoke.”

Vanessa just winks and chuckles. She holds out her pinky, and Stephanie hooks her own around it.

“I’ll ask again: has Vanessa ever done anything that would lead you to believe she would ever hurt someone?”

Stephanie looks the detective in the eyes. “She’s my best friend. And we look out for each other.”


About the Creator

Alivia Varvel

time is the most precious commodity


Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

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Comments (12)

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  • ThatWriterWomanabout a month ago

    This is the first thing this October to truly CHILL me to the BONE! Nice!

  • Basil Fabout a month ago

    What a transition! A wonderfully chilling story that had me on the edge of my seat. Congratulations on both the challenge and top story!

  • Hannah Mooreabout a month ago

    What an image!

  • Cyrusabout a month ago

    Love the transition from a seemingly normal setting to the unsettling background in a matter of seconds. Good work!

  • Adrian Wordsmithabout a month ago

    Your narrative is intense and filled with suspense, gradually revealing a dark and unsettling story. The dialogue and imagery create a sense of unease, making it a gripping read. The friendship between Stephanie and Vanessa seems to be at the core of this mysterious and disturbing tale, leaving the reader with many questions and a desire to learn more about the characters and their secrets. This story draws the audience in with its intrigue and leaves them pondering the depths of the characters' relationships. Well done! 📜🌟😨

  • Kenny Pennabout a month ago

    Wow! Great piece! Any imagery that can make me wince is well worth reading, and you’ve got plenty of it here. Wonderful job crafting such an amazing story in under 500 words. I entered the Flash Fiction competition as well but only received an honorable mention. Congrats on top story and making it to the second round, and good luck! Are you going to enter the short story competition in January?

  • Bryn T.about a month ago

    Oh man the imagery in this one--truly horrific! I love the challenge of the prompts in the NYC midnight competitions. I think you did really well with them here. Best of luck in the second round!

  • Naveedabout a month ago

    Congratulations on achieving top story status! ❤️

  • Congratulations on your Top Story🎉💯♥️

  • Suze Kayabout a month ago

    I can see why this story went so far! Congrats on placing in the contest. This story gave me such body horror elements and I love it!

  • Philip Canterburyabout a month ago

    So many creeped out, wriggling bodily sensations from the words in that one paragraph. Yeesh. This reminds me somewhat of "The Verb To Kill" by Luisa Valenzuela in the relationship between the two friends. 👏

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    From your subtitle, I thought Vanessa was twisted and Stephanie was innocent. But after reading the story, I realised that they're both twisted! I loved it! Congratulations on getting placed in Top 10!

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