First place - Ghostly Bateau
By Julie Larose
"Have you ever heard of a Ghostly Bateau?" Carl asked, squinting at the faded handwriting on the dry, delicate paper. He was earning volunteer hours at the Grenville Historical Society, and his current task was to read through the papers and journals that were donated just last week. A local resident had found them in the crawl space of the house they were renovating. Carl was looking for interesting facts to add to the collection of local history.
John was working nearby, inputting data on the computer. "Can't say that I have, now. If anyone would know, it would be old William. He never forgets a name or story."
Carl crossed the room to where William sat reading a heavy book. "Mr. William, sir, can I ask you something?"
"You may ask me something," William corrected the teen in a thin, wheezy voice. The 95-year-old man had been a soldier, a teacher, a historian, and was a great source of local lore.
Carl sat and showed him a faded notebook. "I've been reading through this man's journal, and he mentions the Ghostly Bateau. He says one of his friends was talking about it at the pub on a Friday night."
William made a funny sound. "The Ghostly Bateau! I haven't heard that story since I was a boy about your age. It's a bad omen, they say."
"I don't understand. What is it?" Carl asked.
"Well, if I recall, the rumour was that early in the nineteenth century, there was a small gang of American privateers who used to raid passing trading boats and even some of the homes and farms on our side of the river. They often attacked at dusk, as the boats were making camp for the night on the shore or some of the local islands. The locals hated them, and trading ships had to hire armed escorts to travel this stretch of river. It seems that one foggy evening, the privateers tried to attack a merchant boat, but did not see the gunship that was accompanying them until it was too late. The guards fired on the privateers and riddled their bateau with holes. In the mist, the privateers became disoriented, and tried to swim to shore as their ship sank. They called for help, and the townspeople could hear them, but no one moved to aid the thieves. They stood on the pier and listened as their tormentors cried and splashed in vain. Their leader, Buddy Samuels, managed to swim within sight of the dock before succumbing to exhaustion. As he slipped beneath the waves, he locked eyes with the impassive townspeople, and with his last breath, he cursed our town."
Carl sat on the edge of his seat, enthralled. "How did he curse the whole town?"
"He vowed to return and haunt the town, and take some of its lives with him. They say that some people have seen the Ghostly Bateau, but those who do are dead before the end of the day."
Carl sat back in the chair. "That's incredible! Why haven't I heard this story?"
"No one has talked about it for years," William explained. "When I was young, a local man died in his sleep and some people talked about the Ghostly Bateau story. It's nothing more than oral folklore at this point, I guess. There's never been any proof connecting the deaths to the stories."
Carl thanked William and went back to his stack of documents. The journal was dated to 1864. The writer described a man in the pub, going on about the Ghostly Bateau and that he had seen it at dusk that day. Carl wondered how the boat might appear. Carl looked through the rest of the journal, but found no other mention of the Bateau or the man who told the tale.
Over the next few weeks, Carl continued to read and file away the old documents that the Historical Society collected. Though much of the information was mundane, he did find some rare interesting details about local history. The story of the Bateau faded from thought.
Then, one day, he began reading another journal, by Robert Small, this one from 1891. The journal only had writing in the first quarter of the pages. Carl was going through the pages when he found a passage that made his heart skip a beat.
"Tonight, as I was fishing on the shore, I beheld a strange sight. A small boat moved along the water a fair ways from shore. It had no lantern even though the sun was quickly setting. The boat was about the same size as a river skiff but was blunt in the back. It has a small square sail near the back, and two pairs of oars. Six men sat in the boat. I watched it for a while and then it just seemed to fade into nothing. Perhaps I imagined it. I did not catch any fish that evening."
When Carl turned the page, a different handwriting had scrawled a quick note: "My brother Robert Small died last night at the age of 25, when he fell down the stairs and broke his neck."
Carl dropped the book. This was it, this was proof, proof of the Ghostly Bateau and the curse! He was so excited, he needed to tell William. The old man was not there that day, though, he wouldn't be back until Thursday. Carl wanted William to be the first to hear this news, so he tucked away the journal with the other documents and gathered his things to walk home.
Carl walked through the downtown and west along King Street toward Boundary. He looked out over the Heritage Waterfront Trail and froze. There, in the evening mist, was the shape of a small boat, with a square sail, and 6 passengers. He pulled out his phone and took a picture. No one will believe me, he thought. He was still looking at his phone when he stepped to crossed the street, and he never saw the truck.
Second place - I don't want to die
By Anna De Visser
Julia is getting her morning cup of coffee when she notices a book she doesn't recognize on the counter. She picks the book up and inspects the cover. It's plain, with no decoration or title, but the strangest texture she has ever felt. Clammy and warm, it almost feels like human skin. A chill runs down her spine, and she drops the book. Something about it feels off and almost malevolent.
Julia stares at the book for a few minutes, waiting for something to happen. In the end, her curiosity wins out and she picks the book back up. As she opens the book, a horrible odour fills the kitchen. It smells of rotting things, as if the book is about to crumble away in her hands though the only sign of damage is age.
The first pages are blank, and the paper is wrinkly and yellow. She runs her hand over the book, feeling the unnerving softness of the page. She flips the page and finds handwriting. It looks rushed and hard to read. Julia stares at the page in shock. Raising a hand to her forehead, she checks her temperature. She doesn't seem to have a fever and there's no way she could have been drugged. This must just be her imagination. She reads it over and over again. She's never seen this book before, but somehow, her name is written on the page in front of her, clear as day. It's even her full name. It's impossible.
She flips the page and there's her name again. "Hello, Julia May Stevens. Yes, you," it reads.
"Why is this book speaking to me?" she thinks out loud and turns the page.
This page reads, "Please stop. I'm not ready to die." The writing on this page was even messier and looked more desperate, as if this was the writer's last hope.
Flipping again, Julia reads, "I don't want to die. Please stop. Please help me. Please, Julia, I'm begging you."
"Stop flipping. Please stop! If you close this book, I'll die. Just don't keep flipping, please. I'm begging you, Julia. Please help me. Save me! I need you to stop, Julia. I need you. Please, Julia. Please."
Julia tries to put the book down but the moment she does, her mind fills with the screams of a man who is desperate enough to do anything. The screams just won't stop. Her head starts to ache, and she can feel the screams in her ears. They're torturing her. She picks the book back up and there's finally blissful silence.
Once the book is back in Julia's hands, an overwhelming urge to read to the end comes over her and she starts to read at a furious pace. As she reads, the writer's pleas become more and more desperate, but she doesn't stop turning pages. She wouldn't risk hearing those screams again. Even if she tries, she couldn't put the book down.
As she reaches the very last page, Julia slows and absorbs the words, "Please don't close the book. I don't want to die. I'm not ready to die. Please don't close the book, Julia. I'm begging you. Please."
Julia hesitates for a moment, mulling it over, then slams the book shut on the counter. A tortured scream fills her ears then slowly dissipates. She shudders and a chill runs down her spine. It almost feels like she just witnessed a death. But she couldn't have.
"It was just a book. It couldn't have died," she tells herself.
No matter how hard she tries, she can't get the feeling of witnessing a death out of her head. Hoping to put her mind to rest, she opens the book again but now it's blank. Frantic now, she flips through the entire book, but every page is blank. The cover still feels like human skin but now it's icy to the touch, and so are all the pages within. She closes the book and runs upstairs to hide it in her closet, out of sight and out of mind.
That night, Julia tosses and turns but can't fall asleep. She just can't shake the feeling of being watched. Hoping to prove herself wrong, she turns the lights on. At first glance nothing is wrong, but something feels out of place and there's a rotting stench. She wrinkles her nose at it and searches for the source. Everything seems to be exactly as she left it. Her gaze lands on her nightstand, where the book now rests. Her eyes snap to the closet, where the closet door is open a crack.
Julia silently creeps over to the closet door. As she gets closer to the closet the stench grows stronger. She flings the door open and screams. A man with papery and wrinkled skin stands there. He looks like he's about to fade away and is almost transparent. Julia takes a step back. Somehow, she knows this is the writer of the book.
"You killed me, Julia," he growls, his voice raspy and grating. He takes a step out of the closet and towards her.
Julia scurries back, panicked. "But how? It was just a book and if you're dead how are you here?" she asks.
"I was trapped in that book, but I was alive. And now you've killed me and released me."
"Shouldn't you be happy then?"
"No!" he screams. "Yes, I was trapped, but I was safe. Death is the end. Death means moving on. Death means punishment. You brought me to this. This is your fault!"
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to," she says, frantically apologizing. "I didn't know you'd die."
"But I told you," he says menacingly. "And you ignored me. You didn't listen to me. You killed me. And now it's your turn." He advances with a gnarled hand outstretched.
She backs away but she trips and falls into her bed. "Please stop," she pleads. "I don't want to die. Please. I'm not ready to die. Please, help me."
"You should have thought of that earlier," he says, now looming over her. He wraps his hands around Julia's neck and starts to squeeze as he says, "I guess it's too late now."
Julia flails, trying to free herself but he's too strong. Choking, she gasps for air, but nothing reaches her lungs. Her vision starts to black out, and with it the man fades from her view.
Julia's body is found three days later, by the police performing a wellness check. When her body is discovered, she's lying peacefully on her bed, tightly gripping an old book that's still warm, even though it's been there for three days. The officer who found her picks up the book and opens it, looking for writing.
The book is blank, save for the last page, which reads, "Please stop. I don't want to die. Please. I'm not ready to die. Please, help me."
Third place - Deadly proposal
By Victoria Brown
Carter Smith was taking his girlfriend Shelby and her parents, Tony and Beth, on a camping getaway on Dreaded Lake.
After about five and a half hours of driving, Carter proceeded to pull off the highway and they came to a Pump and Grub (gas station with a diner).
"I'll pump the gas, why don't you guys go grab some snacks and use the restroom," Carter told the others.
Tony and Beth headed to the bathrooms; Shelby headed into the gas station to look around for snacks. She passed the station's attendant on his way out to the pumps. When he passed, he gave her the creepiest grin, which made her feel uncomfortable. Once inside Shelby grabbed a shopping basket and proceeded to fill the basket with snacks and drinks. There was one other person in the store and Shelby felt like he was following her.
Outside at the car, Carter was standing with his back against the car. Carter was so deep in his thoughts that he did not see the attendant walk up behind him.
"Regular or high test?!" the attendant said almost yelling, which made Carter jump.
"Uh, regular fill please," Carter answered.
When Carter looked at the attendant, he was just staring at him blankly with no emotion. This made Carter a bit unnerved, so he headed inside to meet up with Shelby.
When Carter stepped inside the station, he saw Shelby looking at the drink coolers. He also noticed that there was a male teenager following Shelby around the station.
"Hey! What do you think you are doing? Why are you following my girlfriend?" Carter asked the teenager.
But the teen just stared at him blankly. Carter got that uneasy feeling again.
"Shelby, let's get going. I want to get to the cabins before dark," Carter told his girlfriend.
They proceeded to the cash, where the attendant had returned, and they paid for their purchases. They then headed to the car where they met up with Beth and Tony, who also looked a bit on edge.
After driving down an old dirt road, they came to the campsite. It was after dark and the four of them decided to have a few drinks around a bonfire to relax.
"Did anyone else get the creeps from those guys at the gas station?" Carter asked the group.
Tony responded as he looked around the group, "I didn't talk to the station guys. But the lady behind the counter at the diner, I think her name was Edna, stared at me without blinking the entire time I was waiting for Beth to come out of the bathroom".
Beth replied, "I think it's just because we are outsiders to the area and that's why they were staring".
After a few hours of drinking, Carter got down on one knee and pulled out a little black box from his coat.
"Will you marry me Shelby?" Carter asked.
Shelby began to cry as she yelled "YES! OF COURSE! YES!"
Beth and Tony looked on with shock and happiness on their faces. After a few more celebratory drinks, the group headed off to bed.
About three in the morning, there came a blood curdling scream from out in the darkness that woke the entire group up.
"What was that?" Shelby asked Carter, just as a knock came to their cabin door.
They went to the door only to find Shelby's father Tony standing in the doorway with fear on his face. "Have you seen Beth? Is she here? Please tell me she's here!" he cried in fear for his wife.
Just then they all heard another scream, and then they heard a menacing laugh come from the outside of the cabin. Shelby pulled her father inside and Carter locked the door. The laughing continued as the cabin walls began to bang.
"What's going on? Where's mom?" Shelby yelled through her tears of fear.
All of a sudden, the laughing and bangs stopped.
"I've got to go and find Beth," Tony said as he unlocked the cabin door.
"We're going with you," Carter replied.
The trio headed out to the woods on the side of the lake in search of Beth. When about a hundred yards from the cabins, they came across a pair of slippers and a few feet away they found the strangled body of Beth Carrigan. Tony ran over to his wife and held her as he wept.
"Who would do this?" Shelby asked.
Just then the menacing laugh began again and was heard all around them.
"Where is that coming from?" Tony asked as he stood up.
"I don't know. It sounds like its surrounding us," Carter stated.
As the laughing got closer, the trio noticed two shadows moving out of the woods towards them.
"Back to the cabin! NOW!" Tony yelled.
They started running back to the cabin as the shadows were getting closer and closer. Carter and Shelby reached the cabin first. About twenty feet from the cabin door, Tony stopped running instantly. Shelby stared with fear.
"Dad! Dad, what are you doing? COME ON, RUN!"
Again came the menacing laugh...from behind Tony. Tony then fell forward and there was an ax sticking out of his back. Behind Tony were the two males from the Pump and Grub. The males were just standing there with widemouthed smiles and they were holding weapons.
"Why didn't you try the food?" Carter and Shelby heard from inside the cabin behind them. It was Edna from the diner at the Pump and Grub. She began to cackle as her boys began to walk towards the cabin.
The four bodies...Beth, Tony, Shelby and Carter, were piled in the middle of the floor of the cabin and a trail of gasoline leading to the outside where the maniacs set it ablaze and stood watch as the cabin burned in the moonlight.
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