Winning Stories from MC Halloween Short Story Contest


A TPSS Student Life event, held just before Halloween, saw many students submit original ghost stories. The winners were announced and read in an online zoom session on the evening of October 28th. Below, the Excalibur is delighted to publish the winning story and the first and second runners-up.

Pumpkin Face, by Asha Azariah-Kribbs (Winner)

I held the pumpkin face between my hands and tried to see more than a vegetable. It was orange, round, and lumpish, with a few irregular bumps and a very twisty, short stem. It was round on one side and flat on the other, which might have explained why it was one of the last available pumpkins at the grocery store.

Now, sitting with my scooper and my carving knife, I was trying to remember why I’d chosen it apart from the rest.

“Are you looking for something?”

I’d forgotten the ghost. Sammy wavered in the shade of maple leaves and the red-gold light of an autumn afternoon, just as he had every afternoon since I could remember. A too-pale, weak young face, chin tucked in decaying lace, his fingers thin enough to be raw bone.

“I’m trying to find a face for my pumpkin,” I said, frowning. “They’re supposed to scare away ghosts, you know. Jack-o’-lanterns.”

“Are they?” he said, and smiled. It was a wide, wide smile, a little too open and clever.

“Wait! Hold that.”

He froze, uncertain. His smile was crooked, but still there.

“Perfect,” I said, and began to carve.

A Misguided Gift, by Moriah Amani (First runner-up)

Mr. and Mrs. Mantle bought a doll for their daughter so someone could look after her when they were gone. They were gone all the time, so Sally and her pretty new friend, in her daisy-patterned dress and bright red bow, had time enough to get acquainted. And the doll did watch. It watched from the hearth over the fireplace, from atop the fridge, from across her bed at night, always the same piercing blue stare, the same glittering blue eyes. Sally thought they might hold gemstones, though if they did her parents hadn’t noticed, nor had the clerk at the secondhand store, who seemed glad to be rid of it.

Occasionally the doll would disappear, and reappear in strange places, like in a tree or on the roof, gazing off into space. The lonelier Sally became, the more often this happened. One day it vanished for a week. Sally’s parents joked that she was “reporting to headquarters.” But the next day they didn’t come back either. The following morning, a panicked Sally entered her parents’ room and found her doll smiling back at her, eyes alight, gift in hand: a little Mantle-doll and his Mantle-wife, never to leave again.

The Operation, by Yimin Tang (Second runner-up)

In the darkness of the room, the smell of burning flesh suffused the air as it sizzled and popped, echoing against the room’s walls.

The accompaniment of the sound of a knife cutting through semi-solid material crescendos as with a resounding ‘snikt,’ red liquid could be seen creeping along the floor into the flicking light of the moon.

A pale hand reached out of the darkness and grasped the bone-white material, before retreating into the darkness. A moment passed with only the sizzling of the flesh to fill the void before the deafening sound of ‘crack, crack, — crack’ could be heard.

A hunched figure stepped into the moonlight; its curved back highlighted by the silver beams as materials were placed gently onto the surface of a table. Piece by piece the figure assembled its treasure: first, a slice of spongy material smelling faintly of mold, next, the burning hot flesh, a red semi-solid material, and sprinkled on top the bone-white material, before the final touch of another slice of sponge.

Suddenly light suffused the room driving the darkness away, revealing a young teen with a BLT sandwich on the table surrounded by a mess of a kitchen.