Don't Be Late! a Short Story Challenge by Ann Carr - LetterPile - Writing and Literature
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Don't Be Late! a Short Story Challenge by Ann Carr

John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.

The Challenge and Introduction

A wonderful fellow writer named Ann Carr recently wrote an article "How to Edit and Sustain a Good Level of Writing..." Therein, Ann issued a challenge for others to write a short fiction story based on the following opening sentence and photo provided :

‘Jemma walked up to the door of the house and rang the bell. There was no answer. She went round the back. In the back garden was a figure……..’

"Keeping to the same theme, your task is to make that introduction more interesting, have more impact, and then finish the story in the same fashion. It should be between 500 and 1000 words. You can change the character's name if you wish, male or female." ~ Ann Carr

I admit to straying a little from this guideline as my story is only around 410 words so is definitely flash fiction. Hopefully, it is still effective and meets the challenge.


Don't Be Late!

Jemma didn't look around but focused only on the path in front of her as she strode directly to the door of the small brick house. Without hesitating, she rapped three times before she noticed the small button marked "Please Ring." Impatiently, she pressed it and waited.

A few minutes passed and, becoming a little agitated, Jemma looked at her watch. Sure, she was a little early but that's much better than being late for an appointment she assured herself.

He raised a shovel and tossed another load of soil onto the garden bed

She contemplated ringing the bell again but instead decided to walk around to the back of the house. Perhaps the occupant was busy outside and didn't hear the bell.

Jemma carefully skirted a small red trailer full of junk as she passed the side of the house, but on rounding the rear corner she stopped in her tracks...

A figure stood chest high in a hole in the garden. The hole was large, at least as long as the man must have been tall, and still growing. He raised the shovel and tossed out another load of soil onto the garden bed.

The note in her mailbox had simply given this address and "3.00 pm. Formal attire. Don't be late!"

"Hello!" Jemma called, more curious than nervous, and hearing her voice the figure turned to face her. Laying down the shovel, the man proceeded to hoist himself out of the hole, wiped his grimy hands on his overalls, and grinned. "You're early!" he said in a somewhat surprised tone.

Jemma started to give her usual spiel, "It's better to be on time.." but stopped herself. It suddenly dawned on her that she had no idea why she was here, at this house in a neighborhood she had never visited before.

The note in her mailbox had simply given this address and "3.00 pm. Formal attire. Don't be late!"

The fact it had been written on what appeared to be old parchment paper and in immaculate calligraphy had spurred her interest.

"Oh well, I guess a foot or two doesn't really matter," the craggy-faced man grumbled solemnly.

Jemma looked at his cold eyes, puzzled. "Why am I here?" she began to ask but her words became garbled as his gnarled fingers suddenly tightened around her throat in a crushing grip.

"It isn't often someone arrives early for their own funeral. But it's better than being late."

dont-be-late-a-short-story-challenge-by-ann-carr

© 2018 John Hansen

Comments

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 12, 2019:

Hi Jaye, great to see you. Yes, I am still here. Just got notification I had passed the ten year mark. Thank you for the generous comment.

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on October 12, 2019:

Hi, John - I'm glad to see you're still writing on HubPages and very prolific by what I see. This is a terrific short-short that tells the story in less than 500 words.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on November 04, 2018:

Hey Li Jen. Glad you enjoyed this and thinks for the kimd words. I,like writing scary stories.

Li-Jen Hew on November 04, 2018:

Hahah Jodah. Surprising ending! You are good in making up scary stories. Formal attire, some dark humour. A good story to share. Raises awareness about mysterious notes in mail boxes.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 13, 2018:

Haha Sean my brother, yes I sometimes enjoy the challenge of writing a darker piece of fiction as well. As this short story proves. Thanks for reading. Peace to you.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on October 13, 2018:

Wow! You can be cruel too! Ha! Ha! Excellent work, my brother! Thrilling and surprise in such a short text! I admire you!

Εἰρήνη πᾶσι - eirene pasi - "peace to all"!

Sean

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 13, 2018:

Thank you for reading Peg, and I appreciate the encouraging comment. It was a fun challenge as Ann's always are.

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on October 13, 2018:

Looks like you dug in and filled this challenge quite effectively, John. Loved the surprise twist at the end and your quick build-up to the gist of the story. Nicely done.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 13, 2018:

Firstly Genna, thank you for the encouraging comment. I don't write a lot of fiction prose but I love it when there is a challenge and I can try my hand, especially flash fiction. Wow, and I mean WOW!!! that sure is some coincidence that you are currently in the process of using "Arrival of the Birds.." video with a poem you are writing. That is quite freaky.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on October 13, 2018:

What a great flash fiction, John. I just read Verlie's response as well. Thank you for including the link to Ann's challenge. What a chilling twist in the ending of your story. I never saw that coming. And I'm having a serious moment of OMG, déjà vue: The Cinematic Orchestra, Arrival of the Birds and Transformation video is the very same video with which I am currently writing a poem about a different topic/theme. Now THAT is spooky, my friend. :-)

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 10, 2018:

This was a fun challenge, Venkat. I am glad you enjoyed the twist.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on October 10, 2018:

A thrilling and chilly ending. John, you twisted the story extremely well. I appreciate your creativity.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 09, 2018:

I am glad the ending was a chilling surprise Rajan. Thank you for reading.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on October 09, 2018:

The house did look sinister and I expected something scary as the girl went around to the back but not the chilling end. Well done, John!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 09, 2018:

Haha Nell, you have no sympathy. Glad you enjoy this though. Thanks for reading.

Nell Rose from England on October 09, 2018:

I say 'serves her right for being nosy!' lol! chilling stuff John! great story!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 09, 2018:

You are too kind, Devika. Thank you so much.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 09, 2018:

Hi Jodah you have a great imagination in this work of art.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 08, 2018:

Haha MizB, I'll take "ghastly" as a compliment, shall I? Thanks for reading, much appreciated.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on October 08, 2018:

Gosh, John, you certainly nailed that one. I love twists, but I don't think I can top you. Ghastly!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 08, 2018:

Thanks for reading this Mike, and for the great comment. I am so glad was was able to convey feelings of fear and create some chills with this piece. It is good to step away from poetry occasionally and try my hand at a little fiction.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 08, 2018:

Hey, Verlie. I’m glad my intent for this tale worked. Thanks for reading and finding it scary.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 08, 2018:

Manatita, sometimes naive and brave can be confused lol. I think this girl was the former though. Glad you found the ending satisfying.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on October 08, 2018:

Hello John - There is fear by the shovel load in this piece. Such vivid images. I sensed a smiling death. This is the second response to the challenge, both are equally chilling.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 08, 2018:

That is so true Dana. How many tragedies have been caused through curiosity. Better safe than sorry I say, and in this instance it would have been advisable to be late.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 08, 2018:

Thanks Diana, I like to try to throw in a twist if possible. I always appreciate your comments.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on October 08, 2018:

Whoa! John! What a macabre tale! Frightening! Really good, scary!

manatita44 from london on October 08, 2018:

A naive girl and a brutal ending John, but done well. Extremely cool ending!

Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on October 08, 2018:

Well, I guess this is one time she wished she was late. Very, very, late. You know the saying, curiosity killed the cat. Good job.

Diana L Pierce from Potter County, Pa. on October 08, 2018:

Talk about a cliff hanger, I was baffled. Good job. I always enjoy your clever twist on things.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 08, 2018:

Awww Linda, thank you. You were right that I couldn’t resist this challenge, but it is a shame you aren’t going to write a response. I appreciate your kind comment though and that you think I “nailed it.”

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 08, 2018:

John, I had a hunch that you would take up this challenge, and boy did you ever! I am almost certain that I will not and now that I see the competition I would be up against...well, let's just say that you nailed this one for sure.

Good job!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 08, 2018:

Thank you Bill. I have trouble passing up any of these challenges especially if from Ann.It gives me a prompt to write to without wracking my own brain for the inspiration lol.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 08, 2018:

Thank you, Shauna. To tell you the truth I wouldn't have either.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 08, 2018:

I remember the good old days when I took part in challenges. Thankfully writers like you, John,carry on with the challenges. Well done, buddy!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 08, 2018:

Spooky, John! Your imagination ran with this challenge. I wonder why our victim so readily accepted such a vague invitation. I sure as hell wouldn't have!

Great story, John!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 08, 2018:

Hi, Rodric. Thanks for the generous comment. Glad it was spooky. Yes, you are right, when I wrote about the parchment and calligraphy I was thinking of the villain as Death/The Grim Reaper. but I thought I'd leave that open to the reader's interpretation. Thanks for pointing out that typo too..it was meant to be 'garden bed'.

Rodric Anthony from Peoria, Arizona on October 08, 2018:

Oh my word! This is like a Tales from the Crypt or Twilight Zone episode. I started taking the hint on the man-sized pit that it might be something to do with burying someone.

My imagination has run rampant with as I read to the close added details to the story making it more spooky in my mind. The old parchment and calligraphy made me think the gnarly old man was Death, the Grime Reper, a serial killer and more. Nice. Very nice John.

At the end of the fifth paragraph, is that supposed to be garden bed?

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 08, 2018:

Thank you, Louise. I appreciate you reading this and enjoying.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 08, 2018:

Don't worry about the typo in the comment, Ann. I know it is annoying when you realise you have made a mistake and can't change it. I am often embarrassed by some of the comments I leave. I don't always proofread them at the time and when I realise it is often too late.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on October 08, 2018:

That was a very interesting story to read. I enjoyed it!

Ann Carr from SW England on October 08, 2018:

Well, I thought it was a good idea to leave it open. We can let our imaginations run riot then!

BTW, I can't edit my last comment unfortunately, as I've just seen I put 'it's makes..' instead of 'it'! So much for proof-reading, eh?!

Ann

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 08, 2018:

Thank you for reading my response, Ann. I thought about expanding the story but sometimes it's better to leave some questions hanging for the suspense. Glad you enjoyed it. Your challenges are always hard to resist.

Ann Carr from SW England on October 08, 2018:

Wow! Fancy turning up well-dressed ready for one's own funeral! Scary. Great flash fiction as it's makes us think of many possible reasons and scenarios. She obviously didn't recognise him so maybe he makes a habit of such things?...

Well done, John, and thanks for a wonderful response to my challenge. Will add the link to my hub.

Ann

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 07, 2018:

Glad you enjoyed the twist, Fourish. I want to be late for mine too.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 07, 2018:

Thank you Rinita, both for reading and pointing out that mistake. I had noticed I had used Genna in a couple of other places as well...missed that one though. Much appreciated. I prefer readers to point out any mistakes early so I can rectify them before lots of other people see them.

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 07, 2018:

I like the twist although I want to be late for mine!

Rinita Sen on October 07, 2018:

Oh gosh! John!! This was too scary. Just one friendly suggestion, though. You might have edited in a hurry, for Jemma becomes Genna in the 4th para. Hope you don't mind me pointing it out.