Flash Fiction Challenge: Hell-o-Ween

jackolantern 2003 flash fiction writing prompt copyright KS BROOKS
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

The last thing Braxton remembered, he was being strapped to the gurney, awaiting the lethal injection.

With no idea how he got here, Braxton moved slowly up the uneven stone stairs. At every third or fourth step, there was another Jack-o-Lantern. The first seemed rather normal – just a couple of bats.

As he climbed further along, he began to recognize scenes from his life carved into the pumpkins…

Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture and the written prompt above. Do not include the prompt in your entry. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time. No political or religious entries, please. Need help getting started? Read this article on how to write flash fiction.

On Tuesday night, judges will select the strongest entries, and on Wednesday afternoon, we will open voting to the public with an online poll so they may choose the winner. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

On Saturday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature. Then, at year end, the winners will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

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8 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Hell-o-Ween”

  1. ***FINALIST***

    One pumpkin after another reminded Braxton of his sins. The storefront where he’d committed his first burglary. The face of the child he’d stolen from a pink bedroom peered hauntingly from glowing orange flesh. Next, a woman, screaming in terror. He remembered how her eyes widened in horror as he found ways to mutilate and humiliate her. She deserved the stick of every knife blade, the break of every bone. He recalled her whimpering cries as he laid her naked body on the cold, steel table, chaining her wrists and ankles. He sneered soullessly at the memory.

    She was just another whore, like the one who raised him. The woman with cold, gray eyes had selected him out of many at the orphanage. While the other children anxiously waited for a real home, he instinctively knew she was not like most. If given the choice, he wouldn’t have let them send him with her.

    Braxton had suffered a lifetime of mental manipulation with severe physical and sexual abuse. His tortured soul had become evil, cold and heartless.

    The last carving, an even more familiar face, glowed with eyes full of rage and fear. Its mouth frozen in a morbid twist of agony. Just as Braxton recognized himself in the Jack-o-Lantern he felt the stab of a pitchfork push him off of the last stone step.

    The demons of hell didn’t have to wait long for another soul. Braxton was only one of many to climb the stone steps.

  2. Awakening on the old stone landing, lit only by Jack-O-Lanterns, the last thing Braxton remembered was being doped up on the gurney, awaiting the needle for his serial killings.

    He felt violated and sneered “How dare anyone touch me and dump me down here! Well, I am going to find out who and repay the favor, but first I have to get out, to where I stashed my butcher knives and start over again.”

    As he slowly made his way up the stairs, he realized each Jack-O-Lantern had a carved scene from his life. First his birth, then the next ten scenes of his abusive parents beating him. Then there was a landing with a locked wooden door. He repeatedly body slammed it, but could not budge it.

    After this landing the stairwell headed down. He stared at the Jack-O-Lanterns on each step as they depicted one horrific scene after another of all the butcheries he committed: first on small critters and pets, then playmates, and finally on adults. Stepping down the stairwell, he passed six landings with six firmly sealed doors.

    Now trapped on the final landing by the seventh door, he body slammed it and it creaked. He body slammed it again and again. Finally it inched open, he barely squeezed through and fell down as it snapped shut. There in front of his face was the image of his birth carved in a Jack-O-Lantern. He screamed and terrified raced up the stairs again and again forever.

  3. ***FINALIST***

    Goldfish – Eye pierced with pencil.

    Spider – Legs pulled off.

    Gerbil – Suffocated in plastic zip bag.

    Kitten – Strangled with yarn.

    Puppy – Hung by tail.

    The Jack-o-Lanterns grew more detailed and intense as Braxton ascended the strange stone stairs, just like the events they portrayed. Anticipation surged as he neared the top. Soon he’d see his last three murders, the ones that put him on death’s row.

    Behind him, the steps dropped beyond his sight, hidden in an inky mist the pumpkin’s glow couldn’t penetrate. How he got to this place or where it was remained a mystery. But he liked it. His fingers tingled with excitement as he saw the next pumpkin. As detailed as the crime scene photographs they showed at his trial, he could almost smell their blood, hear their screams.

    At the top of the stairs stood the largest flame-filled Jack-o-Lantern he’d ever seen. Creatures undulated over the surface; their orange forms seemed to move with the light. Under the swirling mass lay a figure, its mouth twisted with a half-formed scream, eyes wide.

    Braxton leaned closer, heart racing. This wasn’t one of his victims, but he wanted it to be. He reached a finger toward the face of the tortured man, ready to drive his nails into it.

    With a gut twisting wrench he found himself staring out from the carving’s eyes. Excitement fled as flames seared his back and his victims descended for their eternal revenge.

  4. Braxton thought hazing of freshman was against policy but here he was tied to a gurney on Halloween night. He was told it was safe and the needle in his vein contained only saline but within moments he had blacked out.

    Coming to, he thought he recognized the scenes carved into the flesh of the pumpkins that lit the way up the otherwise dark stairway. Studying the pumpkins, he saw the faces of his mother and father, sister and even his dog Max. Wondering why he was chosen to play victim to someone’s unpleasant yet perplexing idea of a joke, Braxton ascended the stone steps determined to find his way out of the situation.

    Reaching another dead end with no apparent way out, he sat on the step and waited for answers. Looking more closely at the carved pumpkins he realized he had only imagined the images. They were plain old Jack-o-Lanterns after all. The hallucinations faded and his highly evolved consciousness rose to reality.

    Braxton couldn’t help laughing at himself when he realized he was in his dorm. Had he even left it? Maybe it was all a dream. That’s when he scratched a sore on his arm finding a needle prick. Looking around the room he found remnants of pumpkin flesh on his clothing, candles and matches on the nightstand.

    The door opened and in walked his roommate Jack.

    “Hey Brax, I see you survived the party.”

    “I guess. I thought advanced physics students were smarter than this!”

  5. “Took you long enough.”

    “That you, Lloyd?”

    “Who else?”

    “Can’t see you; lotta dark smoke.”

    “Grab a couple of those lanterns and come on in, Brax. Didn’t I tell you I’d see you here? What did they get you for?”

    “My chemist had a little accident, cooking it up, you know. Blew up the school next door.”

    “Shame. Lose the product and the customers.”

    “They got you, too, huh.”

    “Yah. But my boys working, taking care of business. They go downtown to clean out the trash. Old lady be sittin’ on her front porch waitin’ for her great-grandson get home. Kid move so slow, old lady can’t get back in the house.”

    “I hear you. You do your work, mind your business; they get in your face. Lloyd, who’s running this place?”

    “New management. Old Boss moved Upstairs.”

    “You mean the Guy who swore he’d stay here before he’d take a job Upstairs?”

    “That the one.”

    “No. That Guy got fired. He can’t go back.”

    “He back. Same job–they call him a Consultant.”

    “I wouldn’t have thought this place would be so empty. Where are all the lawyers?”

    “All them flags waving over there, big sign over the door. They got their own gate, like always.”

    “True dat. So, when’s dinner?”

    “Those big forks there by the fire pit; you grab them.”

    “And do what?”

    “Hold back the lawyers. We got ribs, hot sauce. You do eat soul food, don’t you?”

    “Ribs? Lloyd, you da Man.”

  6. Braxton felt the sting on his arm the needle had been. He looked and there was nothing there, no puncture wound, no bruise, nothing.

    He climbed the stairs, observing his life on the faces of the pumpkins lining the steps. He saw his mother, her face bruised by his father’s fist, tears running down her eyes.

    He walked up a few more steps, reaching the pumpkin showing his first kill, the family cat.

    That was fun, he thought. Stupid cat deserved it.

    Higher still, a pumpkin displayed his sister, knife in her chest, in a grave in the backyard, and even higher, the body of a hairstylist, then another step, and the dead face of a secretary. Finally, near the top, his most recent kill.
    He looked at the pumpkin, marveling at the details lovingly carved into its orange flesh.

    She was a fun one, he thought, smiling. Put up a bit of a fight.

    He reached the top of the stairs, which opened into a wide hall with a podium at the end. A white-haired man stood behind it, peering at the pages of a large book. As Braxton approached, he looked up, removing his spectacles.

    “You’re late,” he said.

    Braxton said nothing, his face impassive.

    “This is Judgment Day.”

    “Again?” Braxton asked.

    “You have no remorse?”

    “Why would I have remorse? I am a killer, you know that old man.”

    “Such insolence,” the spectacled man said. “Do you know who I am?”

    Braxton spit on the ground, “God?”

    “No, not quite. Merely his servant.”

    “Sending me to hell?”

    “Oh no, no, certainly not.”

    “Then what?”

    “You get to do it again,” the man replied. “And again, and again if necessary. You are our oldest inhabitant, killing since the beginning.”

    “I get to kill again?”

    “If it takes all eternity for you to feel remorse, then that’s what it takes. Go back, live again.”

    Braxton smiled, and the spectacled man felt a chill go down his spine. He waved and Braxton disappeared, sent off to live yet another life. Perhaps this time he’d learn, but probably not.

  7. ***FINALIST***

    A life displayed in pumpkins. Braxton stumbled up the stairwell, though he stopped at certain moments. Here, his first kiss, there his first love, not the same girl. And then his first kill. He had slit her throat with a hunting knife, a gift from his father.

    He could feel her skin, her heartbeat as it sped up when he wrapped his hand over her mouth, and then the blade as it cut into her neck. But it wasn’t right. He felt the blade slice deep into his throat, the bled well up and choke him as his life drained away.

    And then the next pumpkin, another death. This time he had broken the man’s nose, drove a wooden spike through the cartilage into the man’s brain. He felt every inch of the splintering wood as it drove pierced his flesh. Braxton fell to his knees with a scream. The scream his victim had never been able to release.

    He crawled up the next step, another victim, a new pain he had released into the world. As the sledgehammer crushed his knees he felt blackness descend. He could no longer hold his eyes open in the face of the pain he had caused.

    But it wouldn’t end like this, couldn’t end like this. He had done what needed to be done. All of them, every one had deserved what they had gotten. All of them, the other 39 he could see that sat on the steps ahead of him.

  8. ***FINALIST***

    Braxton’s face lit up with a wolfish grin. The sickly stench hit him instantly. It enthralled his weary senses, opening the floodgates for a sudden rush of gruesome memories. The warm wetness of freshly spilled blood coupled with the thrill of inflicting terror, justified his journey to the executioner’s table.

    The soft glow of the Jack-o-Lanterns illuminated the stone stairs. Braxton, unsure of his whereabouts, began to climb the jagged blocks. Each step brought him closer to a growing uncertainty. The carved pumpkins appeared harmless till they began to reveal more than expected.

    The details were carved with precision. Braxton stared in horror as the pumpkins showcased various scenes taken from different stages of his life. An eerie sensation crept up his spine as the orange shells disclosed untold secrets.

    A young girl, confused and crying…
    A teenage girl lying naked…
    A knife slicing through the unwanted flesh…

    Braxton reached the final stair and the last Jack-o-Lantern. The scene showed him strapped to the gurney awaiting death. He turned to face a mirror. His reflection was blurred behind a thin film of dirt. Braxton wiped the dirt, revealing an image that almost sucked the life out of him.

    It was him at the age of nineteen, a beautiful girl with long blonde hair. She smiled at him knowingly. He hated her and never understood her. The operation had liberated him, but the hostility had remained. Braxton raised the pumpkin above his head. She would have to die again.

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