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sgwoods's picture


By sgwoods in Scare Us

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A strange little boy gets set on a darker path than he might've taken otherwise, thanks to a pair of sadistic babysitters. 


This story was inspired by a couple of real-life events, though thankfully most of what was real didn't happen to me and the vast majority of the story as a whole is fiction. It also may end up being the opening to a novel that explores one of my favorite horrors: that thin thread of cruelty that can be contagious from person to person. Especially when we're young.

By all means, tear it apart! Thanks for reading, sincerely.


lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 20, 2012 - 3:44pm

I enjoyed this a lot -- the narrator's voice pulls you through effortlessly, especially once the story gets going. I think the opening could use a little bit of cleaning up -- the 8 fingers bit seems to contradict the160 and the fact that he's eight, not 2. You might even consider starting the story with section 2: "I'd been eight fingers old when I was first asked it..."

I love the babysitters -- they're so vivid and sick. Bookending the story with descriptions of them works really well. I was also impressed by the scene in which the narrator beats Bob to a bloody pulp. It escalates very naturally. We couldn't see him, but we could *feel* it. Excellent.

Two questions: Why can the narrator suddenly "talk to pretty girls?" Has he been changed by therapy, or did beating Bob half to death help him break out of his shell? Is he still at above average intelligence? Second, the final lines were vague and undermine the intensity of the story. It might work to end the whole thing on "cinnamon," but you could also expand what you have and make those final lines a little weightier.

Great work!


Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks July 20, 2012 - 6:33pm

I liked the beginning of the story very much. You did a great job of characterizing the boy, and I agree with Lauren,his voice is great-- very well done. About the time the boy is lured into the trailer, though, I start having a bit of trouble with the plot. This might just be me. For example, I think I know why the blond girl starts screaming, but I'm not sure, and I'm also not quite sure how or when Bob beats the main character up. I LOVE the part about Bob's name. Some really good writing here.

Ryan Morrissey-Smith's picture
Ryan Morrissey-Smith July 22, 2012 - 7:26pm

Scary and sickening really. Decent writing, almost seemed like a fever dream, things moving quickly and then as they say in the classics "Shit got real". Intensity is the word I'm looking for and this delivered, for such a black hearted story it could've ended on a more ambigious or darker note...BUT this was good.

sgwoods's picture
sgwoods July 23, 2012 - 10:01am

Thank you everyone for the great feedback so far! This is my first foray into sharing my writing via a forum so I really do appreciate it.

To answer the questions:

Why can the narrator suddenly "talk to pretty girls?" Has he been changed by therapy, or did beating Bob half to death help him break out of his shell?

- A little bit of both. The larger story I have in mind beyond this will probably entail a continuous volley back and forth between the ideas of nature vs. nurture. That is, he's naturally more reserved and kindhearted but receives a lot of conditioning that makes him into a monster of sorts. But that line between which is which is a hazy one. (As is my explanation -- sorry about that!)

Is he still at above average intelligence?

- He is, but related to the nature vs. nurture aspect I'd like to explore the idea of leading by emotion vs. leading by mind. Specifically, how overindulgence in one can cause the other to atrophy from lack of use.

Second, the final lines were vague and undermine the intensity of the story. It might work to end the whole thing on "cinnamon," but you could also expand what you have and make those final lines a little weightier.

- I'm not entirely pleased with the ending myself. Definitely needs some further revision.

Thanks again everyone for reading!

dfresh52x's picture
dfresh52x from New York is reading The Weird July 24, 2012 - 8:59am

this was well structured with good characters, dialogue and a very interesting horror concept. I really enjoyed it.

The kid has synesthesia, but this rarely comes up. Either work it in everywhere to add some interesting emotive element or remove it.

you might want to add a bit more about the kids emotive reaction to the world. It might be good if hes just dumb or complacent, but when angered he throws Hulk-like tantrums.

Wonder Woman's picture
Wonder Woman from RI is reading 20th Century Ghosts July 25, 2012 - 9:35am

This was an intense, gritty story. It flowed well and the writing was great. I have to say that it really was stomach-turning, so well done in the horror aspect!

Pushpaw's picture
Pushpaw from Canada is reading Building Stories by Chris Ware July 29, 2012 - 4:18pm

Dude- you can really write. I'm not completely convinced that this is horror--more like dark drama. Would maybe be horror if you really ramped up the scene with the tied up children, or show a series of scenes. Not that it matters. It's a good story and I enjoyed reading it.

Although I found the writing excellent and engaging, a couple of times I wondered if the writing could be tightened a bit. I'll give three examples:

howling at the moon, dreaming about landing one more blow, craving the killing of him

Could be tightened to something like: "howling, dreaming about landing one more blow, craving the kill."

in the back of my nasal passages tickled the smell of hot asphalt

Sentence structure is backwards: "the smell of hot asphalt ticked the back of my nasal passages"

Hard to see details, but I could see that he was hunched and swollen.

Could be simply: "Hard to see details, but he was hunched and swollen."

The only reason I'm focusing on these details is because I feel like you have something really good here and pretty much all it needs a good, detail-oriented polish.

Thanks for sharing this.


Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland July 29, 2012 - 8:07pm

You can really write. This story is quite engaging. The charachters were very well crafted. I'm not sure where your original monster is. I'm kind of assuming that the boy will someday evolve into a "monster" THis is where the word limit gets tricky. I'd love to read more of the story that takes place ten years in the future. So we can see what long-term effect his experience with the sitters has on him Thank you for sharing this story.



Emma C's picture
Class Facilitator
Emma C from Los Angeles is reading Black Spire by Delilah Dawson August 1, 2012 - 1:41pm

You've got really strong writing skills and the beginning caught my attention immediately.

I had a hard time with your plot. It felt like there was a lot of exposition without there being a solid plot in place, something that could be remedied if the piece could be longer or if some details are cut out and the remaining bits expanded upon. 

I also couldn't identify the monster. Is it the boy? The girls? Something more abstract and elusive? Others pointed out that this is more dark drama than horror, and I'm inclined to agree. 

Now that I've read your introduction I see that this may be an opening to something larger, which I can definitely see. I don't know that I buy it as a short story. 

Your title doesn't do it justice (it refers more to the girls, when I felt it was the narrator's story). What about 160? Just a thought.

sgwoods's picture
sgwoods August 2, 2012 - 7:12am

Thanks everyone for the comments! It'll definitely help me rework things and figure out if I want to go forward with a bigger project.

As far as the monster goes -- I was indeed trying to go for something slightly more abstract and elusive. To me, the unnamed/unseen villain is the most frightening. The way I was envisioning it was almost like a contagion. The attractive babysitter is a purely evil person, who "infected" her friend with similar desires. Their abuse of the two children over time had "infected" Bob, whose resulting abuse of the narrator "infected" him.

The larger story I have in mind would expand on this idea, with the narrator alternately resisting this seed of evil behavior and indulging it, thus continuing the spread. Hopefully I can make the contagion aspect a bit more visible and deepen the darkness. I do want it to be a horror story, but just barely. I've clearly got some work to do to straddle that line and I really appreciate all your help!

Sancho LeStache's picture
Sancho LeStache from El Paso is reading Hunger August 12, 2012 - 11:42am

There's this child killer movie from the 80's called Bloody Birthday that, to me, read like a prequel to this because in that movie, the most manipulative child, and subsequently the only character to get away, is the blonde girl and I could totally see her winding up as a murderous babysitter. I'm pretty sure that's unintentional, but it made the read extra fun for me because of that. Otherwise, I think your idea is a little too ambitious to be a short story, as the idea that you have for the monster is a little too abstract to work in something this short. It needs to be expanded upon, and I think it would work fantastically if it was because you're a very good writer and the skeleton of a great story is there, but it feels like you're skimming an awesome novel when reading this. Not a negative, I just want more. Thumbs up.

ender.che.13's picture
ender.che.13 from Northwestern U.S. living in the southeast peach. is reading Ken Follett January 13, 2013 - 3:10pm

I liked it. I didn't find the Eight-fingers contradictory to the "160", as it and several other narrative factors seem to point aspergers, or some other autism spectrum disorder (i.e. high "ick", and almost crippling social ineptitude.

General tone, pacing, and styler were all excellent.