At the Just Buffalo Writing Center, October is “spooky season.” Whether interviewing the community about fear for the first installation of This Buffalonian Life, the JBWC’s ongoing podcast; composing poems and stories from the perspective of monsters; or celebrating Halloween Eve with a literary-themed, in-character open mic; the young writers of the JBWC delight in channeling all that is scary through their pens and voices.
Read, if you dare, a few of their terrifying creations below and make sure to check out the Just Buffalo Writing Center Tumblr to see all the mystifying work these young writers are producing each week at this wonderful, free, creative writing center for teens.
They Wondered Where They Were by Cass B. (11th grade)
Written in response to a “Scary Sounds” writing prompt by JBWC Coordinator Robin Jordan.
As they awoke, they realized they
were on a strange island with a visible
hill due north about a mile.
They began to walk. At the top
of the hill they found an old radio.
They turned it on but all they could
hear was clicking and crackling static.
It seemed to be swarming,
getting closer—then blackout,
thousands of spiders devoured them.
A Knife in the Dark by Lucy H. (10th grade)
Written during “Band of Writers/Collaborative Writing,” a workshop by poet Joe Hall.
I stuffed my items into my bag, trembling. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears…I grabbed a baseball bat and was about to leave when I noticed my dagger. I tucked the bat into my bag and picked up the knife. I tested its weight, flipped it around in my hands a bit, then shouldered the duffel bag.
“THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO EXIT YOUR HOUSES. ALL STRAGGLERS WILL BE HUNTED DOWN AND KILLED WITHOUT DISCRIMINATION.”
“Well, at least they’re not racist,” I muttered under my breath. I unlocked the door and stepped cautiously outside, holding the dagger’s blade in front of me.
It was almost pitch black, the only light coming from the stars and the half moon hung low in the sky. I paused, titling my head up to gaze in wonder at them, and that’s when I saw it.
A heavy, coal-black ship floated in the sky, its massive size dwarfing the moon and blotting out many of the stars. All around, just below the belly of the ship, suspended capsules bobbed and glowed a weird green light. Upon closer inspection, I realized with a shock that there were people in them. I searched for my parents, but there were too many of them and they were too high up for me to see anything through the darkness.
I looked around me and saw the other kids on my street emerging from their houses, their attention, likewise, captivated by the black ship in the sky. “Look! There’s our mom!” one boy wailed, standing protectively next to his sister. Another girl began to cry.
“You guys! Over here!” I called out. They looked in the direction of my voice. Some moved towards me, but most remained motionless, either paralyzed by shock or fear.
“YES,” came the booming voice again, “WE HAVE YOUR PARENTS. GIVE US WHAT WE WANT. LEAVE BUFFALO. WE WILL FIND WHAT WE ARE LOOKING FOR!”
At that, the children came running.
“What do we do?”
“Should we leave?”
“What about our parents?”
An older girl I’d never really liked stepped forward, “Simple. We stay.”
“But what will happen—”
Suddenly a gunshot fired. Everyone went silent. The little boy who was about to ask the question whimpered. A dark figure stepped from the dark.
“You will leave,” he stated calmly. His icy voice cut through the warm night air, leaving a chill running down our spines. “Or your parents will die.” He trained a gun on us.
I stepped forward, “No.”
“No?” He cocked his gun.
I dropped my duffel bag and lunged. He fired. The shot shattered my living room window. Quick as lightening, I knocked the gun from his hand and held my knife to his throat. But my hand was unsteady.
“You won’t,” he said. I gritted my teeth but couldn’t say anything. My mouth was dry. I pressed harder. A pearl of blood leaked from under my knife and rolled down the side of his neck. I couldn’t bring myself to finish the job.
“Look out!” the other girl yelled. I felt the cold tip of the gun press against my head.
I closed my eyes, rolled to the side, and buried my dagger into his throat.
His shot glanced off of his sunglasses, spinning them from his face.
The High Scholar of the Planet 3 Orbital Responds to the Lawsuit Against Remaining Pure Humans by Sam (10th grade)
Written during “From the Perspective of Monsters,” a workshop by JBWC Coordinator Robin Jordan.
Humans too often are weak.
They are tiny.
I do not criticize for that they cannot control.
Their ignorant, miniature frames attempt
to collect and mold ideas like an art form
founded on substances that are yet unknown to them.
They see things different and consider it their task,
no, divine duty, to squash it out.
They saw the unintelligible vastness of our shared universe,
and once they learned of the diversity it held, they decided they understood it.
They spew poison from their lips
yet insist we are toxic.
They stuck an unmoving fabric in the air
and claimed our land as their own.
They claimed our land because they destroyed theirs
and the ones that survived dared call us monsters.
A Re-Telling of the Ending of Frankenstein by Jace L. (10th grade)
Written during “From the Perspective of Monsters,” a workshop by JBWC Coordinator Robin Jordan.
“Hello,” Victor breathed, voice just carrying to the creature’s oversized ears.
The massive thing stepped closer to the dying man, making it to his bedside in two long strides. Then he stood, looking down at his creator, eyes unreadable but never inhuman. Victor made no attempt to move, or struggle; perhaps he didn’t have the strength, or perhaps he didn’t want to—his eyes were clear and he felt no fear for this abomination now.
“You finally escaped me,” the monster rasped, the ghost of a ghastly grin on its pale face.
Victor shook his head. “Only for a while,” he gasped.
He reached out a bone-thin hand and gave a sickly smile. “Creature…I have been…such a fool,” he started. He paused to cough hard and then stared up into his creation’s face without apprehension. “This is all my fault. If only…I’d be been able to face you…to live with what I’d created…then maybe we wouldn’t be here.”
The creature put a hand on the bedspread, just touching his creator’s flesh. “After all this time, you choose to right your wrong on your deathbed?” the monster asked.
Victor listened for the indignation in his voice, but found none. “I suppose death creates a certain profoundness that…that you never discover until you are dying.” Tears pooled at Victor’s eyes. “I was a blind fool, and…and it’s given me nothing but heartbreak. I…I wasn’t brave enough,” he said.
He leaned over and coughed violently, settling back into the bed sheets and looking somewhere far off into the distance. He took a shuddering breath and said something quietly. He beckoned with a shaking finger and the monster bent over, sheer size dwarfing the already frail man.
“You once called me father and I spurned you for it. Now…I beg your forgiveness and ask that you allow me to name you as my child.”
The creature stood straight up again and stared with coal black eyes at the man. For a long moment it seemed as if the monster would reject Victor’s last wish, but at last the creature grumbled, “If there is one thing I have learned, it is to take any kindness you may find.” He gave a grotesque rendition of a smile. “I would be honored to call you father.”
And from its eyes, teardrops formed and dripped onto the dying doctor’s chest as the creature leaned over once again at his father’s beckoning.
And there, in that captain’s cabin, smelling of decay and fear, the monster was given a name and a blessing.
Original Ghost by Enderton (9th grade)
Written during “Ghost Poems,” a workshop by Just Buffalo Education Director Noah Falck.
I think she was sad to be alone.
To be the first.
Confused. The original.
I wonder if she walked over her abyss
hanging by a thread
wondering if she would still break if she fell
or if she’d even bend at all.
And all the souls
they made up everything.
They filled the world’s holes
with more holes.
But that was later
and this had been now.
Maybe she was unsure.
What happened next?
Maybe the starry thread broke.
An Excerpt from “Uncertain Rage” by Sol E. (11th grade)
Workshopped at the JBWC, this excerpt is from Sol’s novel, Nightmares.
I’m in a dark room again, silence filling the air. I don’t know where I am. “Hello?!” I yell, “Is anybody here? Somebody please help me!”
“Alone,” the whispers echo, coming back to torment me with their soft voices. They murmur gently in my ear, thousands of them whispering, and whispering, and whispering. “Afraid….Confused,” I hear them say, their voices getting louder and louder by the second.
“Stop it! Go away!” I shout, covering my ears.
“Worthless child! Misfit!!!” the whispers scream hoarsely. As I fall to my knees, the voices laugh hysterically at my immediate surrender. That’s when my body freezes completely. I can’t move at all. My body is lifted high in the air to meet the black eyes that stare at me, again forced to look into their empty abyss. The whispers continue to get louder, as if their volume knob is broken. I close my eyes and try to block out the whispers, not looking at the eyes, struggling to break free, my hands forming into fists, when everything stops.
The absence of the whispers corrodes the atmosphere and, for a few seconds, the darkness turns into a calming night, you can almost feel the moonlight shimmering on the tip of your nose.
A sudden pressure coils around my body, wrapping around me like a snake. It builds gradually until the whispers return. The pressure vibrates up my body until it’s concentrated on my neck, quickly intensifying, tightening around my throat. I lose my breath, my eyes growing wide with pain. My heart starts racing as I try to escape, clawing and tearing at my neck, even though there is nothing there. Everything becomes blurry and my strength begins to fade. The whispers switch to an unbearable scream, my ears ringing loudly. I try to let out my own scream to relieve my agony, but not a sound comes out.
The pressure continues and a massive, uncontrollable force sinks deep into my bones until ripples of bone-cracking screeches pierce me beneath my flesh. When I feel like I can’t withstand it any longer, the pressure releases me into a sea of water. My eyes shoot open as the freezing water soaks into my skin. Glancing up, it seems like there’s a light shining through the surface. I try to reach out for the light, struggling to try to swim away, but my broken bones and weak body refrain me. I let myself sink as my heart begins to pound more slowly, playing a piano crescendo until it hits its last note.
Excerpt from Johnny McSportskiller: The Infamous Sports-Themed Killer Who’s Been Terrorizing Our Town by Carson F. (10th grade)
Written during “Playwriting Made Easy,” a workshop by playwright Bella Poynton
(At rise: an apartment. Johnny speaks with someone on the phone.)
JOHNNY: Look! Mom! Mom! Listen! I’m very offended that you would even accuse me of such a thing! I’ve never killed anyone in my life! What do you mean, “there’s evidence?” Evidence, schmevidence!
(There’s a knock on the door.)
JOHNNY: Okay, there’s someone at the door. I have to go. Yeah, I’ll talk to you tomorrow. You’re the worst.
(He puts down the phone, gets up, and answers the door. Detective Wilson enters.)
WILSON: Hi. I’m Detective Wilson, from the police department of the city that we both live in. Are you Johnny McSportskiller?
JOHNNY: I am.
WILSON: Can I talk to you for a few minutes?
JOHNNY: Sure. Sit down.
(They both sit.)
JOHNNY: Hey, do you want to hear a poem I wrote?
WILSON: Oh, no. I just need to ask you some things.
JOHNNY: Oh, I insist. Listen to it or I’ll kill you!
(Johnny laughs like it’s a joke, then looks very serious for a moment. He pulls a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket and begins to read.)
Listen to Carson sing a hilarious song adaptation of the poem that Johnny reads to Detective Wilson on our SoundCloud here.
(Wilson looks stunned for a moment.)
JOHNNY: Yeah. So, anyway, what did you want to ask me about?
WILSON: Oh, I was gonna ask if you’re the infamous sports-themed killer who’s been terrorizing the city.
JOHNNY: Uh…No, can’t say I am.
WILSON: Right. Okay. Can I have a copy of that poem, you think?
JOHNNY: Oh, you can just have this one. I have, like, fifty copies.
(Wilson looks down at the paper.)
WILSON: Wait, no. This says,
“I love life
the world is great
I have forgotten
about sadness and hate.”
JOHNNY: Isn’t that what I said?
JOHNNY: Huh. Well, sometimes I improvise without even realizing it. I’m a natural born poet, that’s what my mom always says.
WILSON: Huh. Well, that’s great. Do you think you’d be willing to read some more poetry down at the police station?
JOHNNY: Sure. Just give me a minute.
(Johnny moves over to a pile of objects and roots through it. After a moment, he turns around dramatically, his arms positioned as if he’s holding a bat.)
JOHNNY: Don’t move. Just let me kill you.
JOHNNY: I’m brandishing a baseball bat in a threatening manner.
WILSON: You’re not.
JOHNNY: Yes I am!
JOHHNY: Want me to prove it to you?
JOHNNY: You asked for this! I mean, I also was going to do it before you asked for it but I’m glad you did. Most of my victims aren’t this agreeable. But, then again, most of my victims are fans of sports teams I hate…You know what? Please don’t make me kill you; I want all my killings to be totally consistent and you just don’t fit. Do you think you could kill yourself, maybe?
(Johnny hands the imaginary bat to Wilson.)
To learn more about the Just Buffalo Writing Center, visit justbuffalo.org.