Kelsey opened her eyes as a rush of relief whooshed through her body. Tom was standing over her with an amused look on his face. Kelsey shifted all her weight on to her arm as she pulled herself from the floor.
"I had a nightmare..." said Kelsey, looking embarrassed. Tom raised one eyebrow as he sat down on the bed waiting for a better explanation. "...And then the lightning started and I heard noises in the corridor" continued Kelsey. Tom reached out and placed his hand on her shoulder to comfort her. There was a small silence as they both listened to the distant grumble of thunder from far away. Tom finally stood up and took a small flashlight out of his pocket. Kelsey looked him up and down as she noticed the strange clothing he was wearing. "Why are you dressed like that?" asked Kelsey as she tugged at the material on Tom's jacket.
"It's time to investigate" said Tom as he threw his torch up in to the air and caught it in the other hand.
"Tom, have you failed to notice that it is pitch black outside, the weather is crap and it is now 3 o' clock in the morning!' grumbled Kelsey as she slipped in to her bed. Tom pulled the covers off her and grabbed her ankles, pulling her out of bed again.
"Mum said she wont let me go in the woods. She says it is too dangerous" explained Tom.
"I'm not exactly surprised" said Kelsey as she folded her arms around her shivering body.
"The only way we can investigate is to do it at night when Mum is asleep" explained Tom. He made his way over to Kelsey's wardrobe and pulled out a pair of thick socks and a jumper. He threw them across the room to where she was sitting. Kelsey sighed. She looked up at Tom's pleading eyes and gave in. She began to pull on her socks as she stared down Tom with an evil expression on her face. Tom gleamed back at her.
"Let me just ask you one thing" said Kelsey, as she continued to pull on her clothes. Tom folded his arms and waited for her question. "Why are you so keen to visit these damn woods?" said Kelsey. Tom thought for a moment and then answered.
"All the boys at school tease me, because they think I am a coward. They do all these brave things that I could never do!" explained Tom angrily.
"So...?" said Kelsey shrugging her shoulders. Tom glanced at her in confusion.
"Well, how would you feel if people were calling you a coward and making fun of you every day?" said Tom shakily.
"Simple" said Kelsey, pulling on her jumper. She walked over to Tom and placed one hand on his shoulder. "I'd stop acting like a pussy, and get over it" whispered Kelsey, amused by her answer. She made her way to the door, glanced quickly at the mirror and made a disgusted face. She pulled her hood over her forehead, clearly embarrassed by her half asleep appearance. They both made their way out in to the hallway and creeped along like mice towards the door at the end. They carefully opened the door to outside, cringing every time it creaked. They finally made it outside where a cold, blistery wind was ready to meet them. They made their way over to the florescent yellow police tape that they could see at the other side of the road. They ducked under the tape and made their way into the trees. The woods were intimidating. The branches from the trees swung in the wind like moving limbs, reaching out to grab a victim. Kelsey paced quickly, turning her head sharply if she heard a leaf crunch or a twig snap. Tom walked behind her, more slowly and calm, streaming the bright yellow light from the torch through the shrubbery.
"Slow down!" yelled Tom, as he and Kelsey started to drift further apart. Kelsey couldn't hear him over the frantic noise of her breathing. Panic began to fill her mind as every monster from every horror movie she had ever seen jumped into her mind and played tricks on her. Tom started to chase her deeper into the forest while trying to snap her out of the scary hallucination she was having. Eventually he grabbed her by the waist and dragged her to the ground. He restrained her arms as she struggled and squirmed across the filthy forest floor. He fought her as she cried out with fright. He grabbed her head and placed it on his lap, staring straight in to her eyes. She began to calm down but her body was still shaking in shock. Tom wasn't exactly sure why Kelsey had worked herself into such a state. He waited for her to explain what had happened to her. Had she seen something? Kelsey finally explained. "I had such an adrenaline rush, to get out here and explore, but I am just so frightened. What if something bad happens?" explained Kelsey.
"Nothing is going to happen Kelsey. Just slow down...relax. We are supposed to be having a bit of fun" replied Tom. Kelsey stared into space with a troubled look on her face.
"Nope, sorry Tom, I'm going home." said Kelsey as she struggled free from Tom's arms. Kelsey stood up quickly and brushed herself down. She looked at Tom and waited to see what he would say, although in the end it wouldn't matter what he said, she was the oldest, and she wanted to go home! She couldn't exactly see but she could just make out his face turning redder and redder. Tom stood up and puffed out his chest like a gorilla. He grabbed Kelsey's arm and lead her further into the forest. She tried to struggle but the more she resisted, the deeper Tom plunged his nails into her skin, restraining her from squirming away. Eventually Tom let go. They were too deep in the forest for Kelsey to turn around and go back home on her own. They walked slower. The peaceful light of the moon and the bright light from the torch guiding them safely through the trees. After a while, Tom and Kelsey took a rest under a large tree. They huddled together to keep warm. They leaned against each other and began to fall softly to sleep. A few minutes later, while both of them still had their eyes closed, something soft and fluffy brushed against Kelsey's cheek. She twinged as it tickled her face. "Tom, stop" giggled Kelsey. Tom replied with a small snore. Kelsey opened her eyes and found Tom asleep. She looked around her. Her heart began to beat faster as she tried to work out what it has been. Suddenly a meowing noise grabbed Kelsey's attention. Kelsey looked round the tree where the meowing noise had started, and found a small black cat sitting neatly on a pile of leaves. Kelsey reached out to stroke the fluffy black fur. The cat purred happily, and got up to wind itself around her legs. Tom woke up with a fright as he noticed Kelsey was gone.
"Kelsey!" he shouted, as the panic rose in his voice.
"I'm here" said Kelsey, as she popped out from behind the tree. "Look at this cat, he was cuddling up to me when we were asleep" said Kelsey. She pointed to where the cat had been sitting but it was gone. They looked around, trying to spot the florescent green eyes of the cat. They spotted it in the distance, peering out shyly from some shrubs. They walked towards it. It turned around and slowly began to walk the other way, every so often turning round to see if they were following. Tom and Kelsey began to walk behind. The cat lead them onto what was once, a neat, little path leading you through the forest. It now was covered in a blanket of in-twining weeds and thick, brown mud. The cat finally stopped when it got to a little wooden house. It sat and licked itself clean while Kelsey and Tom took a clearer look into the dusty windows. The house sat in a clearing in the trees, as if everything around it had died. The only life was the thick creepers that swamped the floor of the forest and twined up the house, as if it was trying to swallow the whole house. Kelsey could just make out a small kitchen like area through the windows. Broken plates scattered like glass across the floor. Kelsey could make out more rooms in the house but couldn't make out what was in them. It was too dark.
"Does anyone live there do you think?" asked Tom, as he peered over Kelsey's shoulder to try and get a look inside.
"Nah, you'd have to be a nutcase to live in a place like this" explained Kelsey. Kelsey looked down again to find the cat brushing itself against her legs again. She bent down to stroke it again as Tom took a clearer look into the house.
"Lets have a look inside" suggested Tom. Kelsey looked up and listened. "The only problem is, we cant get through the door" said Tom, pointing towards the boarded up door. The black cat suddenly moved urgently towards the side of the house, it lead them to another door on the side of the house. Tom and Kelsey kicked away the fallen leaves and soggy moss. They pushed the rotting door open and made their way cautiously into the house. It was dark. They could tell they were in a hallway, but there were no windows to let in any light. The small torch wasnt bright enough to get a proper veiw of the house they were walking through. Kelsey leaned on the wall as she walked, making sure she didnt trip. They came to another door. They opened it without difficulty. A musty smell of rotting carpets and damp walls filled the room with its unpleasent scent. It was the room they had seen from through the window, which could now clearly be recognised as some sort of kitchen/worshop area. Cabinets and shelves plastered the walls. Odd pickling jars were stacked up on top of each other on the floor. The wooden table in the middle of the room was splattered with reddish brown paint, and hanging from the walls were saws and hammers, also covered in the rusty coloured paint. Tom made his way over to the table and pulled his finger along it, like he was trying to test for dust. He looked at his finger curiously, and picked out the strange red substance from under his nail. He sniffed at it, trying to work out what it was. It smelt metally and tangy. His face dropped. "Its blood" said Tom shakily. Kelsey took a step back. She looked around the room. A stream of warm, yellow light streamed through the window. The sun was rising. It lit up the cold, dark room like a hot fire. She could now see that blood was all over the walls and furniture. She kneeled down to take a look at the jars that were on the floor. She blew off the dust and read the labels that were slightly peeling from the jar.
"Human brains" she read allowed. Tom looked round in shock. She gulped loudly before peering into the jar. A murky pink water filled the jar. At the bottom were two mangled up brains. Tom came down to have a look. He seemed more fascinated at the brains than disturbed. Kelsey took another jar out of the box. The label was damp, and the writing was smudgy and unreadable. The contents of the jar was completely black. Kelsey cautiously screwed off the cap of the jar. It made a loud popping sound. A blast of pickle and rotten flesh smelling air blew into Kelsey's face like a gust of wind. Kelsey slapped her hand across her mouth as she gagged. She shook the jar lightly. A human eyeball surfaced to the top. Kelsey gasped and put down the jar as quickly as she could without spilling it all over the floor. She stood up, still covering her mouth as if she was about to be sick. They looked around the room once more before they continued their way to the next room. They were now in another hallway. It was quite wide, almost like a small room. The peeling wallpaper was a yellowy, white colour but was coloured with splotches of dark green mould. There was one giant picture on the wall. Kelsey and Tom both went over to study it.
"Photographs" Tom said. The picture was actually a giant canviss with around 50 pictures of terrified looking people. Men and women. The photos were small and blurry, as if they had been taken by the victoms mobile phone. The photos had smeared, bloody fingerprints on them. All the photos were stuck neatly in rows till they filled up the whole canviss. Some of the people in the photos were covered in blood, probably their own. After a frightened silence, Tom and Kelsey looked at each other with shocked faces as if they had just seen a ghost. Kelsey grabbed Tom's arm and pulled him towards the way they had just come from.
"We are getting out of here!" she screamed.
"Im afraid that wont be possible" croaked an old voice from upstairs. Kelsey swung round with shock, her dark chocolate hair wipping Tom in the face as she did so. They both looked up. A slighty bent over figure stood silently on the landing. He was holding something in his hand. It was long and blunt. A baseball bat maybe? Kelsey and Tom didn't wait to find out. In a flurry, Kelsey tried to open the door into the kitchen. Her hands were to sweaty. She pulled her sleeves over her hands, trying to get a bit more grip on the handle but it was no use. The door was locked. She grabbed Tom's arm once again, and ran for her life. She didn't know where she was going. She just needed to escape. The shadowy figure started making his way slowly down the stairs. Hitting the palm of his hand gently with the baseball bat. He was threatening them. Letting them know they were about to be killed. They managed to find a door. It was a staircase, going down.
"Don't go down!" screamed Tom. They both swung round to check where the murderer was. He was near the bottom of the stairs. They had no choice. They were trapped. So they bolted down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs was an old fashioned light switch. Frayed red and blue wires stuck out in all directions from the lightswitch like a crazy mess of hair. Kelsey flicked the switch repeatedly. Nothing happened. Tom pulled the torch from his pocket and shone the torch through the room. It was a basement. There was a window at the other side of the room. Kelsey darted towards it and ripped open the mouldy blue curtains. A bright stream of white light shone through the curtains like a spot light. Kelsey covered her sensitive eyes with her hand. She sighed. There was no way they could fit through this tiny window. Kelsey's brain was buzzing now like a bustling city. Her brain zapped ideas through her head like lightning bolts, trying to figure out how to escape. And then suddenly, she was interupted by a small croaky voice from the corner of the room.
"Um...Kelsey" whispered Tom.
"What?!" shouted Kelsey. She turned round angrily to find Tom pointing up to the ceiling. His eyes locked on something. Kelsey gulped, and then swung her head back to look up. Hanging from the wooden beams on the ceiling were rotting corpses. he could tell that these were the people from the pictures on the canvis. She shivered, and stepped away from the window. She dashed over to Tom and held him close. They both shivered as they stared up at the innocent people dangling from the roof. Some of the people hanging had no limbs, some of them maybe just an arm or a leg. Some of them didnt even have faces! Tom ripped away from Kelsey's grip and fell onto his knees on the floor. His face went white. Almost as pale as some of the people hanging on the ceiling. And then, he threw up. Kelsey looked away as he choked up the vomit. Tom was sitting in a pool of someone elses blood. He stood up again and wiped the blood onto the white wall. The floor boards creeked from upstairs. Kelsey and Tom froze. They were paralized as they listened to the footsteps slowly getting closer. "Come on, we have to get out of here" said Tom. He pulled on Kelsey's jumper, trying to tug her away from the stairs. Kelsey was still looking up at the ceiling. Her face looked puzzled. Sitting up on top of the beams, above the hanging bodies, was a pigeon. It looked calm and innocent, it had obviously been trapped down here. But how? "How did it get in?" gasped Kelsey. Tom spotted the pigeon sitting up in its little nest. Tom did wonder how it had gotten in, but he didnt know what Kelsey was getting at.
"Why does it matter?" yelped Tom, angrily.
"Because if that pigeon can get in, then we must be able to get out" answered Kelsey.
"The window Kelsey, he got in through the window" explained Tom. Kelsey shook her head.
"The window was jammed" she said. They both looked at each other confused. Suddenly, the dim light from upstairs disappeared. A figure from the top of the stairs cast a long dark shadow across Kesley and Tom. The both looked up. The old shadowy man was standing at the top of the stairs. Tom shone his torch up onto the murderes face. He had yellow, leathery skin. Like an old crinkled boot. His thin lips stretched out in to an evil smile, showing the remains of two or three brownish teeth. A few long, limp grey hairs lay pathetic and lifeless on top of the old man's head. The man stood silent as Tom and Kelsey gasped in shock.
"Did you kill all these people?!" asked Tom. His voice shuddered and cracked. He wondered if this was going to be his last few moments alive. The old man started to laugh. He spluttered and choked. His laugh sounded like a smokers cough. It was almost like he was having a fit. He hung on to the unstable banister for support. Kelsey slipped away quietly and looked for a way out while the old man was distracted. Tom started to follow her but she pushed him back.
"Keep him talking" she mouthed. Tom gulped and stood solid like a statue at the bottom of the stairs. He puffed his chest and flexed his puny muscles.
"This is my life's work" announced the murdered. He stretched his arm out towards the hanging bodies and smiled.
"Y-y-your proud of this?!" screamed Tom. Anger began to well up inside him like a bomb that was about to explode. The old man looked shocked. His pale yellowy skin turned red and he began to make his first step down the stairs. Tom suddenly realised he had gone too far. He stepped back and braced himself for what was about to happen. The old man raised his bat. Tom gasped. The bat was covered in sharp, rusty nails and and crusty, old blood, as was his moth eaten clothes.
"TOM!" yelped Kelsey. Tom looked over. Kelsey stood in the corner of the room in front of a mountain of wooden crates and cardboard boxes. She gestured for him to come over. He sprinted over. Panic was showing in his eyes. "Help me" pleaded Kelsey. "There's a door behind these boxes" she explained. There was another croaky laugh from the stairs.
"The door is locked sweetie pie" giggled the old man. She ignored him and began kicking the boxes out of the way. As Tom cleared the last of the boxes he threw some of the lighter ones at the murdered who was now at the bottom of the stairs. He batted them away with his weapon like they were playing a game of baseball. Kelsey began rattling the door knob, twisting it this way and that to try and open the door. The door was covered in blood. It frightened her to think that so many people had died the same fate that she was about to.
Feedback for Froghurt
Froghurt provides us with a riveting horror story that begins with a nightmare and the ‘grumble’ of distant thunder. Excellent suggestions of the real nightmare to follow are planted in her readers’ minds here. Bravo! Brother and sister, Tom and Kelsey, enter woods in the dead of night so that Tom can prove he is not the coward his friends say he is. The story is slow in starting but as soon as Froghurt warms to her story, she entertains us royally with her interesting language. As soon as Tom and Kelsey are in the woods, Froghurt has us on the edge of our seats by creating a very creepy atmosphere:
‘The woods were intimidating. The branches from the trees swung in the wind like moving limbs, reaching out to grab a victim.’
I loved this not only for the personification of the trees but because Froghurt cleverly suggests to us in advance the horror that Tom and Kelsey will see when they enter the basement of the creepy house. The similarity (in the threat from above) between the lifelike branches and the limbless corpses they later see swinging from the ceiling is fantastic. This is excellent writing.
Anyway after Tom and Kelsey recover from their fear of the forest, they follow a small black cat that leads them further into the wood until they see a little wooden house. Her atmospheric description suggests immediately to us that this is not a place to linger:
‘The house sat in a clearing in the trees, as if everything around it had died. The only life was the thick creepers that swamped the floor of the forest and twined up the house, as if it was trying to swallow the whole house. ‘
Froghurt suggests to us in her word choice that this house is a place of evil; so evil in fact that even the creepers in the forest are trying to destroy it.
We readers are beside ourselves now, screaming in our minds at Tom and Kelsey to backtrack. But like all intrepid victims in horror stories they enter the creepy house.
‘A musty smell of rotting carpets and damp walls filled the room with its unpleasent scent. It was the room they had seen from through the window, which could now clearly be recognised as some sort of kitchen/workshop area. Cabinets and shelves plastered the walls. Odd pickling jars were stacked up on top of each other on the floor. The wooden table in the middle of the room was splattered with reddish brown paint, and hanging from the walls were saws and hammers, also covered in the rusty coloured paint.’
I love how Froghurt builds tension here by not telling us these tools are covered in blood. It is as if we are seeing through the eyes of Tom and Kelsey. Although the unpleasant odour is extremely off-putting, Tom and Kelsey are deceived by the appearance of the room as a workshop and immediately associate the colour with paint.
Froghurt could have written : Tom and Kelsey did not realise at first that the rusty brown substance on the tools was blood.
But that would have been TELLING not SHOWING and does not allow us to gradually discover the horrible truth at the same time as Tom and Kelsey. It is because Froghurt picks her words carefully to SUGGEST that we are so gripped by her story.
Tom made his way over to the table and pulled his finger along it, like he was trying to test for dust. He looked at his finger curiously, and picked out the strange red substance from under his nail. He sniffed at it, trying to work out what it was. It smelt metally and tangy. His face dropped. "Its blood" said Tom shakily. Kelsey took a step back. She looked around the room. A stream of warm, yellow light streamed through the window. The sun was rising. It lit up the cold, dark room like a hot fire. She could now see that blood was all over the walls and furniture. She kneeled down to take a look at the jars that were on the floor. She blew off the dust and read the labels that were slightly peeling from the jar.
ऀ"Human brains" she read aloud.
You can see here that this works because Froghurt tells her story slowly, using the five senses of her characters. This is why we are so involved and terrified for Kelsey and Tom. And we become even more so when Froghurt describes the murderer:
‘A figure from the top of the stairs cast a long dark shadow across Kesley and Tom. The both looked up. The old shadowy man was standing at the top of the stairs. Tom shone his torch up onto the murderes face. He had yellow, leathery skin. Like an old crinkled boot. His thin lips stretched out in to an evil smile, showing the remains of two or three brownish teeth. A few long, limp grey hairs lay pathetic and lifeless on top of the old man's head.’
Froghurt not only uses the creepy idea of shadows when the murderer enters the story but she also does not fall into the trap of providing a police identikit description: ‘He was five feet two, eyes of blue’. No. In stead Froghurt chooses to concentrate on 3 areas of the face to describe – skin, mouth and hair. And she does this beautifully. The fact that the hairs on his head are ‘pathetic and lifeless’ makes us remember his poor victims who are also pathetic and lifeless. This is an excellent way to suggest his evil actions by swapping the qualities of the victim onto the description of his hair. Bravo!
Tips for next time –
I loved this atmospheric horror story. If you haven’t already read it – you are missing yourself! You can learn a lot about writing from Froghurt. I imagine if there had been more time she would have gone back over this story and taken out the unnecessary detail and given us an extremely chilling ending.