Despite Stephen A. Roddewig's intention to have this little unofficial challenge end early, I stuck to my original plan. Come for me, Roddewig (lol, that sounded very threatening in my head, but actually looks rather tame on the screen. Loved that post and will provide a link, It Is First of the Month, in which he makes some good points and is very authoritative about it.)
Now that those shenanigans have been addressed, I wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part in my first unofficial challenge thing here on the Vocal. I figured I might get one or two entries...but was pleasantly surprised as they kept coming in...including two very late entries on the last day.
The response to my "Unnerve, Unsettle, And Scare Me" Challenge, was amazing!
You can find out more about the challenge here:
There were a total of 13 entries and a whopping 7 Top Stories, which was fantastic.
I also want to say, and I know this sounds pretty cliched, but I don't bloody care because it's true, everyone did a sterling job. While I'd be lying if I said they all scared me - the stories were all very clever, some were funny, some were an utter bloodbath and there were a few that really did leave me thinking about them days after I read them. So, well done everyone for making my job incredibly difficult.
Before I discuss the winners, I wanted to, without giving any spoilers away, highlight a few things I liked about each story.
Chef's Special by Kristen Balyeat (Awarded Top Story)
Kristen has stated a number of times that she doesn't really do horror, or much fiction, and I really should have known that she would take the opportunity to personally attack me. Dramatic much? But, yes, this was very funny and I enjoyed the references to almond milk and ruined steak. It was very well written and I did enjoy the twist, though.
A Good Read by Celia In Underland
Celia never ceases to amaze me with her creativity. She was another that said she doesn't really do horror, but I was very impressed with how this story played out. I felt very disorientated at points, which made it feel unnerving and unsettling... Very well done, Celia.
Deep underground by Rachel Deeming
I didn't really like tight and confined spaces much before reading this, but Rachel has made me reconsider ever visiting a cave again. Especially if there's a guy called Bob around. This was very unsettling and I loved the way the story developed. Despite such a short word count, the characterisation was great too, which made me feel for Scotty. Very good entry.
You should also check out the sequel, Scotty's Revenge.
Fragments by Rick Henry Christopher (Awarded Top Story)
This was a very unsettling read. Lots of tension...uncertainty and then the dialogue between the characters just made everything feel uneasy. I said before and I'll say it again, that I loved how it was grounded in a lot of reality, which made the otherworldly elements even more terrifying. A superb read and excellent entry.
Once upon a Halloween by Novel Allen
Be careful who is running tests on your blood. That's all I will say. This was a complete and utter bloodbath and I enjoyed it from start to finish. Although I was pretty sure I knew what was going to happen, there was still a nice twist to the tale. Well done, Novel! Loved your entry!
The Giveaway by Dana Crandell (Awarded Top Story)
This one made me crack up a little because of the fun little jibe Dana made to my recent challenge win. He also managed to take one of my favourite stories and favourite snacks and make them both all the more horrific. Well played, sir, well played.
The Fridge by Lamar Wiggins (Awarded Top Story)
I was glad Lamar was able to put forward an entry because I knew he would deliver something interesting and all I can say is I got real Soylent Green vibes from this one (iykyk)! The descriptions in this really brought it to life and given the mess the world is in with, it's a story I could at least envision becoming a scary reality in the future.
They're Coming by Brin J. (Awarded Top Story)
Another creator I was glad entered was Brin because she is very good at writing intense and unsettling horror and this deceptively simple one was a great example of her abilities. I am a big fan of repetition for emphasis and Brin used this masterfully to build an unsettling atmosphere of impending judgement and punishment.
Screen Time by Kendal Defoe
Not going to lie, this one creeped the hell out of me and made me think on it for a number of days. I think because it focused on a writer, I was able to easily identify with the protagonist. It felt like something you might find on The Twlight Zone. Gave me some real chills, well played Kendall!
Familiar Face by Rebekah Conrad
This was the last entry into the challenge and I am so glad Rebekah decided to have a go because this was a subtle, but unsettling little tale. I appreciated how much effort had gone into the characterisation of the main characters, despite the short word count and how there was a gentleness to everything, but the build up of atmosphere and tension, left me feeling uneasy from the very beginning.
RUNNER-UP - Long walk home by JBaz (Awarded Top Story)
Despite Jason's needs to cut down the story he had written to meet the word count (sorry, Jason), he still crafted a compelling, but very unsettling story. I was hooked on this from start to finish. So much space is given to let our imaginations run wild as the tale progresses to it's satisfyingly creepy ending.
Congratulations on a well deserved runner-up spot!
RUNNER-UP - Malevolent Fireflies by Amber Annabelle
I was so glad Amber decided to have a go, because I've always been a big fan of the way she writes. This did not disappoint. This left me feeling very unsettled and uneasy for some time after reading it. I have so many problems with sleeping and have had night terrors and sleep paralysis in the past and Amber cleverely worked these elements into her tale. Even when I thought I knew what was really going on, things took a twist and turn. The writing was full of evocative language too. Beautiful work.
Congratulations on a well-deserved runner-up spot!
WINNER! - Roulette by Hannah Moore (Awarded Top Story)
Though it was incredibly difficult, I have to give the win to Ms Moore. Her story was so grounded in reality and that's what made it so unnerving and left me still pondering it today. Apart from when I was younger and would be scared to walk down certain streets etc., I really can't say I have the same experience as the protagonist in this tale. Women have to keep their wits about them and have that fear running through their minds and Hannah made me feel all that anxiety and dread from start to finish. There were no monsters, there was barely any violence, but the whole thing just felt terrifying.
So congratulations, Hannah! A well-deserved win!
Please take some time to read through the entries, if you haven't done so already and help me offer more congratulations to Hannah, Amber and Jason!
Tips will be given within the next 24 hours!
Thanks again to all those who took part and thanks, as always for reading!
Another challenge, a poetry one, will be coming soon to Vocal from yours truly! No scary stuff, Stephen!