Written in 5th/6th grade, this fictional short story is a chilling tale of unashamed info-dumps, family dynamic stereotypes, and predictable…holy mother of Martin THAT’s the ending?!
The assignment was to write a scary story, I believe. Hyperdetailed prologue notwithstanding, there was no part of the prompt that required us to name every single one of our extraneous secondary characters.
THE GHOST SHIP
Pete was the sixth child in a family of seven children. The three oldest kids, Matthew, Rob, and Katie were in high school and they were much too proud of it. They were very arrogant, and they would often pick on their younger siblings. The only one of his siblings that was actually nice to him was the fourth child in the family, Mark. His younger brother Teddy looked up to him, and Mary, the fifth child in the family, was completely indifferent to his existence. They would all often make fun of him.
Pete had an odd birthmark on the back of his left hand. It was pale and it almost seemed to shimmer at night, but in the morning, he was hardly able to see it. Sometimes it would seem large and perfectly round, sometimes it would seem rather thin and curved, and sometimes, even late at night, he wouldn’t be able to see it at all. His older brothers teased him about it a lot, and he felt very resentful towards them.
Pete and his family had a tradition that each year, on midwinters day, they would drive to a lonely place to go camping. This year they were going to a redwood forest on the coast. They chose a site about half a mile from the beach. At dusk, they gathered around the fire and began to tell scary stories. Their mother went first. She told a story about a phantom tribe which played lyres to lure people into their snares. The oldest child yawned. Almost everyone found it very boring, and the youngest actually fell asleep.
Then their father told his story. “My story is about the legendary Ghost Ship which haunts these shores,” he said. “Every night, when the moon is full, the Ghost Ship appears. Its sails are nothing but shreds of black cloth hanging from the half-rotten mast, but it glides through the black waters of the night as if pushed by a host of spirits. Green flames lick the sides like moss. Its crew is of the living dead.” He paused. Everyone looked up at the sky. The moon was full. A wolf howled in the distance. Pete shuddered.
His father continued, “ The crew comes in small boats to the beach. Many people who live near it claim to have woken to the sound of the oars creaking as they row. When the crew reach the shore, they seize anyone on it and bring them back to the Ship. No one knows what happens to them. There is another legend regarding the Ship. They say that there is a Chosen One who will kill the captain and free the earth of the accursed Ghost Ship.”
Everyone was silent for a while. The story made Pete feel cold inside; it chilled him to the marrow of his bones. He crawled into the tent and into his sleeping bag. His brothers jeered and said that he was afraid of a little fairy tale, but he didn’t care. In fact, he didn’t pay any attention to them, contrary to his usual behavior.
He woke up in the middle of the night. His left hand was tingling strangely. He looked at it and saw that the mark on it was shining brighter than he had ever seen. It was also at its largest point. Its largest point? Pete was confused. How could an ordinary birthmark get bigger and smaller? Then Pete realized that it followed the patterns of the moon. Why or how, he didn’t know. Then his thoughts gritted to a halt. He felt someone calling him! Like someone in a dream, he got up and began walking towards the beach. When he reached it, he froze in horror. There, on the bay, was the Ghost Ship! Everything was as his father had described— the ship, the small boats, the sails, its ghostly movement, everything was the same, except that it was more horrible than he had imagined.
Suddenly, he felt nets flung onto him. He thrashed around, trying to get loose. He felt the cold, clammy hand of a man tighten around his arm like a vice. He knew, or rather felt, that it was the vile captain of the ship. He was filled with terror, more than he had ever felt in his life.
The captain said with a voice like cold steel, “This is the One. You can see the Mark on his hand. Kill him. “ Pete tried to get away, but it was too late. The captain swung an evil looking scimitar towards him; he felt searing pain on his forehead……then, he knew no more.
Guess not all heroes can be Harry Potters. I went through a long phase during which all of my protagonists died, and I still have to fight off the urge to kill them off. Notice, though, that at a young age I had already perfected the George R. R. Martin technique: kill ’em off ambiguously, because hey, maybe you’ll want to bring them back after all.