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Spiders in the dark. Sibling rivalry. Mysterious campgrounds. Horrifying things are happening around us, all the time, and we keep moving along I'm Still Scared of the Dark is an anthology collection of original horror stories inspired by my own fears - fears that many of us share. No matter how old you are, there's always something that goes bump in the night.

Horror / Thriller
Elle Rose
4.0 3 reviews
Age Rating:


The year is 2027. Or, I think it is. At some point I lost track of the year; without a job to go to, there was little point in tracking the day, the month, or really anything but the season. It is summer in California - or what used to be California, I think. It’s hard to say exactly where I am. I know I used to live in the desert in the western United States, and I know I haven’t gone far, but beyond that, I don’t know where anything is anymore. I don’t know that it matters, either.

I probably won’t live much longer out here now that I’ve been found and taken, walked through the desert on aching feet, hands chained by the tallest man I’ve ever seen. The sun is beating down on me, my scalp is burning, and my fair skin will be peeling soon. I wonder for a moment how long it will be until I get sun poisoning.

“Where are you taking me?” I ask him, not for the first time. In response he grunts and pulls the chain to get me to walk a little faster, causing them to rattle. I stumble and catch up, wishing he’d taken me when I was awake and wearing shoes.

We walk until nightfall and I’m thankful we’ve stopped walking at last. He stops and looks around himself, searching his surroundings for something. A landmark, maybe, something to tell him where his camp is.

“Sit.” He instructs.

I pause a second, surprised that he’s finally spoken to me, and sit down. My body aches. I almost thank him but stop short; he could have carried me, after all. Or he could have brought a wagon for me to sit in.

I watch as he finally sits down next to me, giving the chains and cuffs around my wrists a small tug as he pulls the clip around his waist down with him. I eye the clip as I have so many times, biting my cheek, trying to think of a way to get to it before he could stop me. It seems that it’s tightly secured to his pants. He has the chain not just for dragging me along, but also wrapped around his thinning waist, acting as some kind of perverse belt. I stare at it, wondering what he intends to use me for.

For several minutes I sit there popping my knuckles and trying to scratch the skin under my handcuffs as he gets supplies out of his backpack, little bits of bread and water. He hands me a piece of bread and his canteen. I take the canteen and ignore the bread, pouring water into my dry throat so quickly I cough when it goes down the wrong pipe. The stars are bright and the moon is clear above us, giving us some illumination. Once our eyes adjust I can see his beard clearly and take note of his silhouette. In another life, I would have considered him quite handsome. I notice some scratches around his hands and arms along with pink scars. Some of the scratches are deep, but none are bleeding. They’re fresh, though, and this makes me curious.

“Where did you get those scratches?”

“You should sleep.” He says quietly.

I look down at my handcuffs and the chain that leads from my body to his and shake my head.

“I’m afraid of you,” I say quietly.

“That makes sense.” He chuckles. “My name is.. Matt. Call me Matt.”

He grins. It’s as if he’s just made up his name right then and there and is proud of himself for thinking of one. I watch as he holds out his hand as if expecting me to shake. This surprises me, and confusion must show on my face because he drops his hand. We look away from each other, pausing to let the desert wind breathe almost cool air onto our faces.

“Am I safe with you?” My voice is low, scared. I look at him and wait, not expecting an answer to such an obvious question. He surprises me again by nodding, but he looks uncomfortable.

“I’ll make sure nothing gets you. I’m not going to go to the trouble of getting you just to let some dog or something run off with you in the night. Okay?” He tilts his head, indicating I should lay down. Slowly, I lean back, my hands on my stomach as much as I can get them with the chains around me. Tears prick my eyes and I blink hard, terrified to let myself cry in front of him.

“Here.” I look up, surprised as he drapes a small blanket over my body, tucking it around me. “It’s not much, but… the desert can get pretty cold.”

I swallow. “Why are you doing this?”

Matt doesn’t answer. Instead, he draws his knees to his chest and looks away from me, feeling a link of the chain between his fingers.

I cannot sleep. I am too anxious.

I am weak, helpless, and very much afraid. I roll over, leaning away from my kidnapper, and weep.

“Wake up.”

I look up groggily to see the large man, Matt, standing over me and shaking me gently. He looks sad – sadder than most of the people I’d glimpsed from my cave when scavenging for supplies. I wonder where I am for a moment, but then I shift and hear the chain clinking, and I remember.

We return to our journey across the desert, walking without speaking, watching the sun travel across the sky. I shuffle awkwardly and curse my flat feet and the heat of long hair as I wish for a breeze. When one does come, it’s never long enough, and I feel sweatier than I did before it passed by. I am trying my best not to limp but my ankles are getting more and more swollen. He has surprised me with water and food, but I am still in chains and do not trust him to be kind if I fall.

“Please tell me where you’re taking me,” I ask again, at about midday, when we stop to rest.

Matt looks away from me as if I’ve asked him something very personal, face flushed not just from the heat and sun. The tree he has chosen to sit us under may have once had leaves but it died long ago, leaving us exposed. My head and shoulders ache terribly. I feel like the one thing I need that could relieve this is an answer to my question, some idea of where he’s taking me, what he intends to do with me when we get there.

After several minutes he looks at me and asks, “What’s your name?”

“Jezebel.” I am surprised by my quickness to answer. It comes out of my mouth before I can think about whether I even want to answer.

Matt nods and looks away from me again. He picks at the dirt and curses under his breath.

I remember when I was younger and the world was in order reading about sociopaths and serial killers. I remember reading that it was smart to use your name and try to appear human, as human as possible, as personable as possible. This was to appeal to some humanity that might be left in them if there was any. I take a deep breath.

“I have a sister named Samantha.”

Matt ignores me, picking at the dirt.

“My mother’s name is Clarice. My father died when I was three.”

Matt begins to dig at the dirt more aggressively.

“Before my cat died -”

“Don’t!” Matt snaps. “Don’t.” This is the first time he’s been angry with me, and it turns my stomach. He turns to me with a look of impatience before his face softens again, seeing my expression.

“Don’t… what?” Playing stupid, feigning ignorance.

“Just… can you not make this harder than it has to be?” Matt sounds defeated, guilty. He stands up and pulled on the chain to signal to me that it’s time to start walking. I curse myself for trying to find sympathy in him and stand up.

Our feet make little crunching sounds against the dirt. Beyond that, there is the sound of the chain and the heat of the desert, the kind of heat that makes insects sing and creates a haze over everything you can see. The pain in my ankles is more intense than it is in my sunburned shoulders, my flat feet unused to walking like this without support. I try not to whimper but it’s been almost two days and I can’t help but let out a gasp as a sharp pain shoots from the sole of my right foot up my leg.

Matt turns and looks at me as I reach down and grasp my foot, trying to massage out the cramp. I look up at him, embarrassed.

“I have flat feet,” I explain.

He nods. He walks over to me and bends down, taking off the backpack as he does so and transferring it to his front.

I look at him, unsure what to do, what he wants me to do.

“Hop on my back.” He instructs, looking back at me.

I shake my head, still holding my foot.

“I can carry you.” He explains. “Come on.”

Carefully I step towards him, put the backpack on as best I can, and climb onto his back. He supports my legs and I wrap my arms around his neck, grateful to rest for a little while.

We are silent for a while, the only sounds coming from the heat of the desert, his feet, and the clink of the chain. I look to try to find the clip that holds everything together, but I cannot reach it from behind him. Even if I did somehow manage to reach it and unhook it I would need to take the chain off of his middle without him noticing and this seems quite simply impossible. I quickly resigned myself to being carried. I listen to his breathing, his pulse. I adjust myself and do my best to not slip off of him, my handcuffs making it difficult to find my grip, knocking against my wrists.

“My mother was a writer,” I say softly. I wait. No response, negative or positive. So I continue.

“She wrote memoirs and travel guides, that kind of thing. She would travel to all these different places and write down what they were like so that other people could decide if they wanted to go there. If tourism went up, she got paid more.” I look out across the sand at the different bushes and cacti that have managed to thrive in this harsh environment. “Sometimes, my sister and I got to go with her. I don’t know what my favorite trip was, though.” I bite my lip and try not to cry. “I don’t have the pictures anymore. Burnt up for warmth.”

Matt grunts.

“My mother told me that my father was an electrician. He got caught in an accident and it electrocuted him. I never got to know him. My sister was six. I was two.” I catch the sadness in my throat and swallow before it climbs out of my mouth. “I don’t remember him much.”

He shifts his arms and lets out a long breath before continuing to walk.

“Will you please tell me where we’re going?” I ask as calmly as I can manage.

Matt does not respond. He instead keeps walking, steadfast as ever.

“Will you… at least let me out of these handcuffs?” I implore, desperate for some sign that Matt has mercy on me.

“You’d run away.” He says bluntly, puffing slightly. “Can’t have that.”

I say nothing, but I agree with him and he knows that I do. I feel sticky and uncomfortable. I look at the profile of his face, what I can see, and wonder if I seem more like a human than a victim to him, what someone who heard my story would think of my willingness to be carried. I wonder if they would take into account the exhaustion I feel after being forced to walk through the desert in chains. I am constantly reminded of how strange a place the desert has always seemed to me, how foreign. I miss my cave and before that, my city, my pets, my internet, my home. It seemed we were all human once, in another life.

“I’m human, you know.” I protest weakly.

“Yes.” Matt nods. He sighs as he adjusts his grip on me and continues forward. “I know.”

“I love people. I have people who love me.”

“I’m sure you do,” Matt says, exasperated.

“Do you love someone?” The question surprises me as it comes out of my mouth. My heart jumps. I wait.


I am speechless, stunned. There is silence for another moment as I navigate what might be the right thing to say.

“Are they still alive?” It’s an important question.

Matt doesn’t answer. I wait a moment, then move on, figuring that he doesn’t want to tell me details of his personal life. To fill the silence, I tell him details of my own.

“I used to watch a lot of television. I read a lot of books, too.” I frown and lean on the back of Matt’s neck, the closest thing to human touch I’ve gotten in over a year. It feels strange to feel close to him, even for a second, but I don’t dwell on it. “All my books are in my cave though.”

“Did you have a favorite?”

I look up at this, wondering if he can feel my shock at being asked a question by him. “Yes… a book of poems by a friend.”

“That sounds nice.” Matt shifts his arms again. He sounds hollow inside, the kind of hollow you become when the world takes everything out of you. “Do you remember any of the poems?”

I lean back onto the back of his neck and wonder if I can recall a verse. I take a deep breath, stop myself. "I don't think I know any now."

We are quiet again, my heart thumping as I wait for him to respond. He speaks briefly. “Shouldn't be too much longer now.”

I lower my head onto the back of his neck and allow myself silent tears, my energy for conversation spent.

A while later I find my eyes opening; it seems I cried myself to sleep, or perhaps just gave in to the exhaustion I felt after walking for so long on flat feet and bad ankles. I look around and take a deep breath, noticing that Matt is still carrying me off to some mysterious place, some strange destination that he won’t tell me about.

“Can we eat something?” My stomach hurts badly, and we haven’t eaten in a while. I don’t even remember if I ate yesterday.

“There’s nothing left,” Matt says apologetically. “I gave you the last of the bread.”

“Oh.” I feel conflicted. We continue for a way longer until the sun goes down again and Matt stops to let me down.

“Is your ankle okay?” He seems genuinely concerned. This frightens me somehow more than his anger earlier did.

“It feels a bit better, yes.” I look at my feet and notice that they are a bit swollen still. “I’m not used to walking around without arch supports.”

Matt nods.

“Or at least ankle braces.”

Matt nods again, takes the backpack off his front, and lays down. I watch him as he puts his hand to his brow and rubs the bridge of his nose, as if frustrated.

“I have to do this, you know.” He states this as if it’s a matter of fact that I should be well aware of. “I don’t have a choice.”

“I don’t know, actually.” I hold up my handcuffs and shake them, making the chain rattle. “You haven’t told me anything. I don’t know what’s going on.”

“It’s not much farther. I just need to rest.” He dodges the question, hands crossed on his stomach.

“Not much farther until what?”

Matt doesn’t respond. He simply rolls over onto his side, stretching his body out on the sand. There’s a small sound, and I notice that he’s crying, as quietly as he can, just as I did earlier. I sit and listen, thoughtful, staring at the chains and the handcuffs around my wrists, listening to him. After some time, his breathing slows, and he slips into unconsciousness, the first time I’ve seen him sleep since he took me.

I cannot sleep. I cannot let myself sleep. I realize this is my chance - I have to try to escape. I look down at my hands and my thumbs - they are the key. I have to figure out how to get the handcuffs off. I swallow hard and look around me for a stick. Behind me, a few feet away, is a nice one. I stand up as slowly as I can, so that the chain will not make much noise, and watch Matt the entire time I do so. He doesn’t stir, but continues to sleep, breathing softly. I reach my leg out and inch the stick towards me. Once it is in front of me, I pick it up and put it in my mouth, between my teeth. I bite hard. The stick is tough. I won’t break it easily.

I look down at my hands, wondering how exactly I am going to go about this. I wonder if I can stop myself from screaming- if there’s a way to stop myself from crying out. The idea of what I’m about to do to my own body disgusts me, but I don’t feel I have any other choice.

I decide to do my left hand first. Maybe I wouldn’t need to do my right hand. Maybe my right hand could remain unbroken.

Unlikely. Optimistic, but unlikely.

I reach over for the backpack, which is still next to me, and began to unzip it quietly, as quietly and slowly as I can. I just needed some tools, I kept telling myself. Just some tools. This is normal. Everything is going to be fine. My racing heart says otherwise, but I continue to say it to myself, silently - everything will be alright.
I look over at Matt expectantly, wondering when he is going to wake up and catch me. Instead, he mumbles something from a dream and shivers in his sleep. I reached into the backpack, feeling the empty canteen and the blanket, unable to quite see what I’m doing, unable to properly hold the backpack open, even. Buried at the bottom underneath the small blanket I feel something heavy and cold and solid under my hands. I pull it out, snagging it on the blanket and the edge of the pack more than once before I can finally examine the object. It’s a wrench – a heavy one, something that might be used for large bolts. There’s some residue on it, but I’m unsure what it is. I squint at it, trying to make out its detail in the near darkness of the cloudy desert night. I weigh it in my hands. It’s good. A solid wrench, a useful tool, and quite heavy in my weak hands. It might work. I set it down and think, breathing now as quietly as I can, afraid to make any sounds that I don’t have to.

Nerves are beginning to get to me now. I realize that this is the moment, the now or never. If I am going to do it, I have to do it. I take the stick more firmly in my mouth as I lean down and pick up the wrench in my cuffed hands, wondering how exactly I’m going to go about it. Biting down on the stick again, I take a deep breath and try to situate the wrench in some kind of way that I can use to break my thumb joints. I can’t very well swing the wrench into my hand with the other as the cuffs are not loose enough to allow it. I can’t put it in the ground and slam my hands into it, as I probably wouldn’t produce enough force. Frustrated tears begin to crawl down my cheeks and I curse at myself for having so little fortitude.

Then I had another idea: I could put the wrench in my mouth and swing from there, or maybe just let it drop. That could do it.

I spit out the stick and gently place the wrench in my mouth, unsure of how hard I can bite down without breaking teeth. It is cold and feels funny, and it keeps slipping as if it’s about to fall out of my mouth before I’m ready. There’s another taste I can’t quite identify and I find myself biting it about halfway in my mouth, looking up as much as I have to to keep it from falling from my mouth. I look at my hands. My eyes had adjusted a while ago to the darkness and I can see that they are shaking horribly. My breathing is rapid and I have never felt more afraid of pain than I do at this moment. I swing my head back and, with as much force as I can muster, slam my head forward, knocking the wrench into my right hand and onto the ground.

There is pain searing through my head and mouth, a cracking sound, some strange crunch I can’t identify the source of. I am doing my best not to scream as pain shoots down my arm, sharp, intense pain, and I feel my mouth fill with blood. What comes out instead are gasps and whimpers - I can’t help myself, I have to let it out somehow. The wrench has fallen to the side. In the moonlight I can see little bits of my teeth on the ground with it, mixed with dirt, blood, and saliva. I am gasping, sucking blood through broken teeth, and the new holes in my gums. I want to bite down on something to keep from whimpering more loudly, but the pain shooting through my head and jaw are so intense that the thought of putting something else in my mouth is unbearable. I look at my hand and see that, while I did hear the crunch of my teeth, my thumb joint is pushed inward to the middle of my palm. I wonder if when daylight breaks I will be able to see bone. I don’t care to think about it.

Still trying to grasp the pain I’m in, still reeling, I gently slide my hand out of the cuff. Skin catches but I keep pulling, the blood helping me slip it off. Tears are falling down my face, but I was successful: my right hand is free. I want to cry out for joy but don’t dare to make a sound that I can stop myself from making. I can’t help whimpering though. I am crying freely as I realize in horror I have to do it again, I have to break my other hand, I am going to have to either ruin the other side of my mouth or somehow grip the wrench in my now broken hand and go through this pain again. I put my good hand over my mouth and bite my finger, close my eyes, and do my best not to scream.

I swallow blood as I try to grip the wrench with my broken hand, but the pain is too intense. For a moment I sit there and allow myself to cry, blood and tears dripping down my face onto my skirt. I realize I have no idea where I’ll go if I do escape - there’s nowhere to go and I have no idea where my little cave home is anymore. The only thing keeping me going is the idea that any danger I could encounter out in the world is bound to be less frightening than the dangers he’s leading me to, whatever they might be.

I take a slow, shuddering breath, the pain still shooting through my jaw and my skull, and realize I cannot wait any longer. I must break my other thumb. Gingerly, I take the wrench back into my working hand and then put it in my mouth. I nearly gag, as my mouth continues to fill with blood, but the solution seems so obvious I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before: let gravity do the work.

I do not dare look at Matt. I am too afraid of what I am about to do to myself to think about what a man of his size could do to me if he found me trying to escape. He might seem nice but this is still the man who took me from safety and chained me and is taking me who knows where to do who knows what, and I have no intention of finding out how valuable keeping me is to him unless I have to.

I take a deep breath and position the wrench over my hand before I let it fall. The first time it slips out of my mouth again and hits my arm, causing a new pain that I have to resist reacting loudly too. I bend down and using my wrist and good hand, I put it in the other side of my mouth, trying to ignore the metal feeling in my mouth, and let go again. This time I feel a now-familiar pain; I hear the crunch of metal on bone and can’t stop myself from letting out a small scream. It comes out muffled, as my mouth is full of blood, saliva, and broken bits of teeth, so it’s not as loud as it could be, but it’s loud. I look at Matt for the first time since I’ve started this, horrified, frozen, my right hand already over my mouth to cover the sound. My left hand is moving on its own out of the cuff, painfully, some skin being torn along the way. I feel cold blood move down my wrist and look down to see exposed flesh, my skin hanging loosely, torn. I stand up and begin to hobble away, unsure where to go. The only thing I know is that I can’t stop moving, I can’t stop moving - no matter what I must not stop moving.

My feet scream when I put pressure on them, so I begin to walk awkwardly, putting all my weight on the sides. I feel the blood pool in my mouth and begin to breathe through my mouth, not caring if blood goes down my chin and onto my clothes. I spit every now and then on the ground, leaving a trail of saliva and red matter in my wake. I see the sky began to shift into dawn at some point during my ordeal – the sun is rising. I look behind me and let out a yell, then cough as I choke on blood and spittle; Matt is walking towards me, his silhouette huge and intimidating in the shadow of the day. I let out a small scream and limp, faster, as fast as I can stand to move. In the distance, I see what looks like a farmhouse and a barn, or maybe a shed - shelter and something I can barricade, a way to get away from him. Safety.

I can only pray it’s unoccupied.

I turn behind me again and see that he isn’t running. Just walking. He’s keeping a steady pace behind me, and my speeding up doesn’t seem to be having any effect on getting away from the situation. I fall to my knees, gasping, the pain in my feet so intense I can no longer put any weight on them, and begin to crawl, tripping over my long cotton skirt. It tears underneath me and I try to pull it up with my wrists, the fire in my hands so intense I gasp every time something accidentally touches them. I am getting close to the barn, whimpering and crying. I turn back towards Matt and see that he is still not running, simply walking at a leisurely pace towards me. He is not afraid that I can get away.

I am feet away from the barn and decide I must try the door here - the house will be too far away and I can’t read it in time. I cry out as I hoist myself to my feet, the pressure on my arches intense, my ankles collapsing and righting themselves again and again. I take my elbow and try to use it to open the door, but it only scratches and falls back into place. I try it again and swing my leg in the way of the opening; it is enough. I nudge my thigh into the opening of the door and feel the splinters of wood tearing at my skirt and skin, but I don’t care.

A stench of rot hits me and I try not to gag as I inch my way inwards and fall into the floor, shouting as my hands hit the straw and liquid on the ground. I am in too much pain to think about what to do or what is going to happen, but I can’t ignore the stench – it’s far too powerful to ignore. The smell is almost overwhelming, like rotten meat and feces combined. I take a deep breath and nearly vomit, choking on it. The combination of pain, the smell, and blood loss make stars dance in the corners of my eyes, and I find it difficult to focus. All around me are little bites of what looks like bone, hair, and flesh. There are flies and I find myself looking out into the barn, backing up against a wall as much as I can – but then something catches my eye. Something breathing.

I get up to my knees, still letting out little cries of pain, holding my hands in front of me awkwardly, and urge myself to get to my feet, but I feel so strange about what I’m seeing that I’ve forgotten how to stand.

There’s a man in the hay.

Or... no, not a man. Not anymore.

His hair is black and matted against his head. His bones protrude from his skin; it is clear he has not eaten anything in a long time. He looks to be asleep, but as I shuffle away from him and disturb some more of the hay, he perks up. Bright, brilliant blue eyes look at me. And then I see it - there’s a collar around his neck, and a chain holding him to a post, like a dog left outside.

Whatever he is, he hasn’t been human for a long time.

I looked behind him to see bigger piles of bones, but it’s not just bones and flesh. There are bits of clothes, pieces of meat, and what look like half-eaten organs and intestines pulled open, torn to get to the middle.

He looks at me for a second, his bright eyes confused, before snarling, charging forward, only to be caught by the chain. He claws at me, trying to get forward as I lean against the wall, no longer thinking about the smell surrounding me. I’ve never seen anything so hungry.

“I was bringing you here for him.”

I look over at the door to see Matt standing there. I don’t remember hearing him come in. He walks behind a wooden wall over to the fence post where the man’s chain is secured. I watch in horror as the black-haired man struggles against his chain, repeatedly slipping and being snapped backward, clawing as he desperately tries to reach me. I feel like my muscles have stopped working.

“He’s very hungry. We both are.” Matt looks at me as I tried to grasp at what he’s saying, tried to understand. It can’t mean what it sounds like - it can’t mean what I think it means. To my horror, he looks down at the ground and begins to loosen the chain that was around the post. Before he loosens the last wrung that holds the snarling, snapping man back, he looks me directly in the eye.

He is still holding the chain, letting the world pause for me one last time. “I’m sorry. I don’t have a choice.”

He lets go.

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