Paul stands outside the door, frozen in fear. His nightly dreams have held excitement, drama, fulfillment, but never this fear. There has never even been a Halloween which brought such fear. When his friends scoffed at him – “You’ll never last an hour!” “You’ll never even make it through the door!” – Paul had persisted.

The wind outside whips angrily around the building, moaning in solidarity with Paul’s feelings. The sun hides behind clouds, as a frightened child reluctantly disappears behind the back of a glowering parent.

Dark and gloom hold sway over all, the heaviness reflecting the heaviness of Paul’s heart.

His senses begin to overwhelm him. The sounds from behind the door – screeching, high-pitched, unearthly sounds, permeate his brain until his very being is chilled. The odors – not exactly offensive, yet reminiscent of long-buried childhood memories – assail him. Paul can taste fear on his tongue as his eyesight tries unsuccessfully to assure normalcy.

Nothing here is normal.

He knows in his heart that completing this task will not only raise his standing in his friends’ eyes but will bring him one step closer to conquering all other fears. If he can just do this . . .

Taking a deep breath, Paul places his sweaty, trembling hand on the doorknob, opens the door and tentatively enters the room.

“Good morning, students. Welcome to your first day of Middle School.”

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Julie Harris
Julie Harris(@julie-harris)
8 months ago

Susan, I absolutely love this story. The first reading had me shivering and shaking until the last line when I laughed out loud. But on consecutive readings the line that always gives me the giggles is “The sounds from behind the door – screeching, high-pitched, unearthly sounds, permeate his brain until his very being is chilled.”

Years ago, I was composer-in-residence at a Middle School nearby. I worked twice a week for an entire semester with the 7th grade string orchestra, then the 8th grade string orchestra. Each orchestra had a goal of writing a new piece, then playing it. The rehearsals, especially before the students learned to tune their instruments properly, were indescribable. But “screeching, high-pitched, unearthly sounds” comes very close. Thanks so much for reminding me  ? 

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
8 months ago

Your story had me gripped throughout, Susan. The build up in the tension had me on the edge of my seat, all the way through to the immensely fun twist at the end. Nicely done.

Melissa Taggart
Melissa Taggart(@melissa-taggart)
8 months ago

I love the twist at the end, Susan. Heart was racing throughout, I can’t say it stopped at the end for me either. Middle school, and its first day, can be tough. Great work!

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
8 months ago

Wow! The genius of making and creating the story. I was also trembling with fear as I read your story, Susan. Then I suddenly laughed at the twist of the ending. Good job.

Margarida Brei
Margarida Brei(@margarida-brei)
8 months ago

Great play on our perceived image of a horror story. Great and humorous twist in the last line. Really unexpected, well done Miss Susan.
Your flash fiction brought back a horrid memory of when I actually had an anxiety attack teaching ESL to adults. Teaching Middle School must be far more scary, though.

Paul Lewthwaite
Paul Lewthwaite(@paul-lewthwaite)
8 months ago

This Paul was with your Paul every step of the way! Nice build up and then as everyone has said a fun twist that changed perception of everything that had gone on before.

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
8 months ago

As a retired teacher, I should have been prepared for the twist at the end of the story. But just like everybody else, I was totally surprised. When I read the story a second time, I had a big smile on my face, remembering the horror of entering a classroom filled with noisy kids. Terrible! Great job, Susan!

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
8 months ago

P.S. I wanted to ask you about the picture, Susan. Is that meant to illustrate Paul’s failing eye-sight?

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Sandra James
Sandra James(@sandra-james)
8 months ago

Well done, Susan. A great surprise ending and one many can identify with as a very scary experience!

Dipayan Chakrabarti
Dipayan Chakrabarti(@dipayan-chakrabarti)
8 months ago

The fear in the story involves the mind, but the reader can breathe freely and can feel relief at the end. Excellent!

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Dipayan Chakrabarti
Dipayan Chakrabarti(@dipayan-chakrabarti)
8 months ago
Reply to  Susan Giles

You’re welcome.

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