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lspieller's picture


By lspieller in Scare Us

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Jenny lives a privileged life in Beverly Hills until a tragedy strikes that she's itching to forget...


Lisa Milton's picture
Lisa Milton from Eugene, Oregon is reading The Dreamers July 1, 2012 - 10:45pm

Can't get this story to download. Can you check the link? I'll try again later.

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 2, 2012 - 7:57am

i don't know how that happened, but it should be fixed now! please let me know if it's still not working! Thanks!

WesFord's picture
WesFord from America (CO, NE, NC, AK, NY, WA) is reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, Portable Atheist by Hitchens, 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill July 2, 2012 - 10:41am

This story makes my skin crawl, which makes me nervous about what's crawling under my skin. Thanks for the nightmares!

You tied everything up nicely and there's even some ambiguity that leaves your piece open for discussion, which is something I love. People can speculate about this story for hours and come up with tons of different angles, none of which are wrong or right.

On your second page there's some formatting that got away from you, but beyond that I didn't see any technical issues.

Now I'm off to check the mirror about this annoyance in my cheek...

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 2, 2012 - 10:59am

thanks! It's been really fascinating hearing feedback from friends and family. Turns out I'm a little grosser than I realized..

sean of the dead's picture
sean of the dead from Madisonville, KY is reading Peckerwood, by Jed Ayres July 4, 2012 - 6:09pm

This story is fantastic!  It's original, very descriptive in all the right places, and I felt completely drawn in to the lives of the characters.  The suspense was great, and the end just grabs you and shakes you.  I don't want to get into too many specifics because I don't want to ruin anyone's experience with this story, but it was really really good!

I totally agree with AssholeAmerican, this is easily a story that could be discussed for a good long while after reading.  I just keep thinking, this much emotion and detail was all packed into such a short piece.  Well done, over and over again!

And I don't know how gross you did or didn't think you were, but you definitely are!

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 4, 2012 - 6:55pm

I am beyond thrilled that you liked it so much! Thank you so much for the feedback. :)

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks July 5, 2012 - 10:13am

Wow, this is wonderful, Lauren! It works so well, and it does such great things with paranoia. There's a real psychological syndrome involving people who imagine bugs are crawling on them. Woody Allen famously said, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not really out to get you," and I guess that goes for worms too. Just great!

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 5, 2012 - 10:31am

Delusional parasitosis was actually the inspiration for this story!

Margogo's picture
Margogo from Albuquerque, NM is reading Imensee by Theador Storm July 5, 2012 - 10:38am

It reminds me of the play, "Bug," only there really are things crawling under her skin! So great.

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 8, 2012 - 5:54pm

Im glad i wrote it, bc it would gross me out to read it.

hilbertspaces's picture
hilbertspaces July 5, 2012 - 11:05am

First off, I really enjoyed this story even though it left me feeling uneasy about whether that random muscle twitch you get sometimes is a bug or nothing. It sort of Reminds me of the Twilight Zone. The way the story evolves over time requires the reader to piece some of the story together, which is a great way to get them involved in the story. I loved the placement of open-ended questions throughout.

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 5, 2012 - 12:28pm

thank you! I thought it had a Twilight Zone feeling as well!

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. July 20, 2012 - 12:11pm

Delsory Parasitosis.  Only not such a delusion.  Very well written!

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 8, 2012 - 1:39pm

Thank you so much!

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch July 11, 2012 - 3:31pm

Wow, I just now got to read your story and it's very creepy! The situation starts as seemingly normal and then little things pop up, that are completely weird and off. Then the explanation is very satisfying in a creepy way. Yuck... I mean, great story!

Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne July 20, 2012 - 11:40am

Wow... The scene with the worms... Incredibly well written. Pacing, tone, dialogue, and those descriptions. Crazy good.

I loved the overall structure. It felt fragmented and pulled together at the same time. And the ending is so fuzzy and unsettling. I think it works really well.

Fantastic stuff.

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 20, 2012 - 12:13pm

thank you both!!

Emma C's picture
Class Facilitator
Emma C from Los Angeles is reading Black Spire by Delilah Dawson July 28, 2012 - 6:02pm

Well written, you do a great job spinning a story of paranoia-horror here. Your main character is elaborately crafted and nicely despicable. 

Here are my problems: I love the coda at the end, but I don't like that it's at the end. I don't know where it belongs, but it's a lovely bit of information. Maybe I'm a bit daft but I felt like there was a disconnect between the itching/worms and the daughter drowning; they felt like two different, competing stories. I also felt like when it got gory, the tone was off. The gore was startling in contrast to the rest of the story, which is good, but it felt maybe a bit forced. I was left wishing it really had been psychological (more Hitchcock, less splatter).

But let me say again: I think you did a great job with the paranoia, and you're a talented writer. I'm excited to read more from you and this is getting a thumbs-up from me. 

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 28, 2012 - 7:58pm

Thanks so much for the feedback!

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce July 29, 2012 - 9:05pm

Hey Lauren,

Such a gruesome read, and thoroughly entertaining. I copied it into a word doc and added feedback into the body of it. I hope this helps with later submissions! If you have any questions about it, please let me know.


lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 30, 2012 - 8:51am

Thank you so much, Jess! Your comments are extremely helpful! I'm know exactly what you mean abount connecting to the characters on an emotional level -- I'm on it!

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce July 30, 2012 - 12:19pm

No worries at all. Getting an audience connection with characters is something I find I struggle with in a short story. It can feel like time spent on how a character works is at the expense of the story line.


Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland August 2, 2012 - 9:18pm

Creepy and well done. I think i had the same feeling as Emma though. The paranoia(very well executed) seemed to have been triggered by the drowning. Or atleast that is the direction you were leading us in. But it turns out(unless i missd something) that the worms were real. So it does leave me wondering if one thing has to do with the other. I could go back and forth with many scenarios and i will definately give it another read later. Could be that she died in the accident(in some kind of hell now?), we are so deep in the paranoia(in her head) it is hard to know what is real. Which is good! But if the worms are real I would like to know how they are connected. Maybe the worms killed Beckey too?  Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading Itch.

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles August 2, 2012 - 10:35pm

thanks, Jonathan! I wish i could say that I had some master reading, but I really prefer seeing what everyone else comes up with.

Sancho LeStache's picture
Sancho LeStache from El Paso is reading Hunger August 9, 2012 - 12:33pm

Excellent story! A head scratcher for sure. I'm kind of going with Jonathan's theory I think. It sounds about right. The hospital scene in particular was just god damn perfect. Hi fives and thumbs up for you.

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles August 9, 2012 - 1:24pm

thank you!

Craig Clevenger's picture
Craig Clevenger from Joshua Tree, CA September 26, 2012 - 1:46am

“A light blue blouse would complement her eyes, she thought, and maybe he’d even notice how they picked up the color of the vase!”

Good so far, but I’m confused about this; you mention in the first graph that the flowers would be in a “blue mason jar.” Are mason jars anything other than clear? I glossed over that bit until I got to the line I cited, where you mention the blue vase.

Is it a mason jar or vase? Mason jars are awefully short, so the flower stems would have to be cut likewise to fit. And again, I don’t know that mason jars can have colored glass, short of some artsy-crafty mod being done to them. Nitpicking, I know, but I thought it was worth pointing out. And as for why I know so much (or think I do) about mason jars, that’s for another discussion.

“On the way downstairs she pinched her cheeks, knowing that Peter would appreciate it if there was a faint blush there.” Will that blush still be visible in the next half hour, when he arrives?

“…cursing Carla in her head for being so frustratingly unavailable.” Adverb alert. No, I’m not one of those who think all adverbs are evil, by default. It’s just that “frustratingly” is not only awkward, it adds no real meaning to this sentence, as her frustration is implicit.  Consider: “…silently cursing Carla for being unavailable.”

“She’d have to have a talk with Carla about this later, she told herself. It was simply unreasonable for her to be expected to throw this dinner party without her maid’s help.” All clear but, as with “frustratingly” above, the “she told herself” doesn’t add any real meaning to this; the story is told in the the third person from her limited perspective, so it’s implicit that she’s talking to herself with the above sentiments. Consider: “She’d have to have a talk with Carla about this later. It was simply unreasonable for her to be expected to throw this dinner party without her maid’s help.”

“Once she had managed to arrange all of the furniture…” Okay, if we parse this clause, we’ve got the subject “she” and the verb “manage,” with the rest of the predicates being a pair of prepositional phrases. But the key, meaningful action here is the arrangement of the furniture; saying she “managed” the arrangement is verbal packing foam that adds no meaning to this. You could just as easily say, “Once she had arranged all of the furniture…” You could say that the “managed” is implying there was some difficulty in doing so, which is implied by the maid’s absence, but it doesn’t seem to make that much difference.

“Just where the water shone the brightest, floated Becky, face down in the water, leaves stuck to the back of her pretty little head.”

And BAM. Nice… no telegraphing, no foreshadowing. Sure, the reader knows something is up, given how Carla and Becky are both out of the scene, but you don’t beat the reader over the head with it. Aside from Jenny’s mild annoyance, your prose betrays nothing foreboding, so the closing line there hits the reader hard. Really nicely done.

“Her beautiful, lovely, beautiful dress is all ruined.” Nice way to convey Jenny’s state of shock.

The jump forward after Becky’s death… now you’re in territory I’m quite fond of. Bugs, paranoia, hallucinations… oh yeah. Have you read “Bug” by Tracie Letts? Give it a go, if you haven’t.

The graph with their car wreck has two clauses, “but it was too late” and “but there was no time.” Neither of these adds any meaning, and rob the accident of the immediacy you’re trying to convey. Try reading the graph without them and see what you think.

And that's really it for my nitpicking. And yes, I did try to come up with some brilliant joke about nitpicking and worm-picking, but I'm just not channeling any hilairity, tonight. I like your portrayal of Jenny's shock and denial, the foundation of which was likely laid years before her daughter's death, courtesy of her husband's shallow and demanding personality. That shock, of course, dovetails nicely into the hallucinations about the bugs/worms in her skin, and the final twist being, of course, that she wasn't hallucinating at all. I have some gut suspicion about Carla's involvement, which makes the story feel not so much incomplete as much as perhaps a piece of something larger in progress. Is that the case?

In any event, this one's right up my alley. Bravo.

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles September 26, 2012 - 8:52am

Thank you, Craig! All your suggestions are right on point. 

I hadn't planned on this being a piece of something larger, but I suppose it could be. My thought was just to leave the reader wondering..."was it Carla?"

Oh, and see here, Mr. Mason Jar Expert:


Thank you again!


Emma C's picture
Class Facilitator
Emma C from Los Angeles is reading Black Spire by Delilah Dawson September 28, 2012 - 6:24pm

I read this the other day and was going to comment back re: the Mason jars, too! They come in a ton of different sizes, and there's a girl in Minneapolis who makes these really cool painted Mason jar vases:

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles September 30, 2012 - 5:55pm

those are awesome.