39 stories terrorize judges

By Keira Silver

The Gilroy Library echoed with screams of delight as the Teen Advisory Board crowned young horror scribe Olivia Graeber the spooky winner of the spine-tingling Flash Fiction Frights contest.

Making the judges’ skin crawl and bones chill, the ghostly tales of the macabre (in 100 words or less) were submitted by clever writers aged 12 to 18 from Gilroy and Morgan Hill.

Graeber’s goosebump-inducing story claimed the title of top horror honcho, earning devilishly delightful rewards.

With creepy creativity flowing, the inaugural contest conjured up a cauldron of community and showcased the town’s talent for the terrifying.

Following were Clare Patzoldt, Adysen Asclipiadis, and Stephanie Chen from the Gilroy Library, earning first, second, and third place, respectively.

The Morgan Hill Library’s winners also crafted some horrific stories. Each winner received a Barnes and Nobles or BookSmart gift card, from $15 to $50.

A member of the Teen Advisory Board, Aasma Dhawan, said the contest was a fun way teens could share their passion for ghoulish storytelling.

“It’s exciting to see the different ideas and perspectives,” she said.

Board member Crystal Garcia believes the contest demonstrates teens’ interest in twisted tales.

“We all share a love of Halloween and wondered how we could use literature to celebrate the holiday,” she said.


Overall Winner

Olivia Graeber (Grade 9, Gilroy High School):

Darkness envelops me in its cold embrace, placing a quiet blindfold over my eyes.

Yet I still scream into the night despite the cold steel pressed to my forehead.

They promise the pain will end if I just hold still.

A needle slides into my arm, and within three minutes I can’t think straight.

Eventually, my cries subside, and my mind falls silent as they draw on my skin with a blade, slowly peeling off the flesh to reveal crimson.

The pain falls to numbness,

And his hands grip my neck, squeezing

Until everything . . . fades . . .away.


Gilroy Winners

1st Place (Clare Patzoldt, Grade 12):

Day 1: You don’t know how you ended up here. You’ve been calling out for hours, but the only response has been the echo of your words. This place, with seemingly endless rows of shelves filled with books, seems familiar, but it’s empty. Have you been here before?

Day 2: You heard whispers coming from behind a shelf, but there was no one there. Is this place supposed to have people? There’s something off about the echo of your voice.

Day 3: Your voice hasn’t been echoing. There’s something there.

Day 4: The whispers are back. It found you.


2nd Place (Adysen Asclipiadis, Grade 11, Gilroy High School)

She supposes she didn’t think there would be warning signs. Supposes she didn’t think the creeping cold that had made its home on her skin was really a hidden hospice. Supposes she didn’t think the uncharacteristic feeling of dread in her bones with her partner away was anything but longing. Supposes she didn’t think, not until she was staring her unmoving body in the face without a mirror.

She supposes, as she watches her horrified partner return to a house full of rot, attends her own funeral, grieves at that of her partner, that memento mori fancies giving reminders.


3rd Place (Stephanie Chen, Grade 10, Oakwood School)

Desperately resorting to superstition for a quick bit of luck, you somewhat jokingly knock three times on the wooden table before you. Your blood runs cold as you hear three distinct, resounding knocks respond from beneath the table.

The wood knocked back.


Morgan Hill Winners

1st Place: (Raechel Dinesh, Grade 8)

Tick-Tock. 11:59. The walls creaked, and water dripped from some neglected pipe. June shivered, the chill seeping into her bones. Why did I think spending the night in an abandoned mansion was a good idea? I can’t do this. She turned to leave. And stopped short.

Blood dripped from the walls, thick and viscous. The wind shrieked through the halls. The floor rippled. And the shadows came to collect their next victim. June ran, heart pounding. But she wasn’t fast enough. They never were. A final scream, a sigh, and it was done.

Tick-Tock. The clock struck midnight.


2nd Place: Bryce Hensley, Grade 8, Oakwood School):

I used to like night diving, but not anymore. It happened in 2020. I was diving in the Bahamas when a bright light appeared in the water. As I swam over to it, it seemed to be growing. It turned out to be a large bioluminescent lure on a massive fish. When I touched it, the angler-fish rose to the surface. Over a mile wide, the fish swallowed me. The digestion is slow. It’s been three years. I hope someone gets this message. Kill this dang fish.


3rd Place: Isabella Gregory, Grade 10, Oakwood School):

My parents got me a doll for my 12th birthday. It wasn’t just any doll, though. It looked like me! As the weeks went by, I noticed that the doll’s features were changing. Each day it looked eerily more like me. Disturbed, I threw it out and locked it in the basement.

When I got home from school the next day, the door was locked. I knocked, and no one answered. I made my way through the back door and peered through the window.

The doll was smiling and talking to my family about how her day at school went.