Holiday Horrors Winner: Stringy1 min read


Carlie St. George
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It’s easier, thinking of pumpkins.

You and Finn used to carve them together, back when you were kids. He did all the actual carving. Finn had visions for his jack-o’-lanterns. You just liked getting your hands slime-gooey and chasing him around the house.

It’s easier, thinking of long-ago afternoons than how your brother is missing. How he’s been gone for 24 hours. How no one takes it seriously but you.

You’re retracing his steps, trying to. You’re checking out that new haunted house, seeing if there’s anyone around who recognizes his picture. They give you a free ticket, say you can ask the actors inside. But the first actor only shakes his head, handing you a blindfold—and now you’re here, feeling inside a bucket with pale and trembling hands.

Cold things. Congealed. Chunky. Slick and wrong between your palms. It’s easier, imagining your fingers dripping with orange guts and large white seeds. Never mind there are no seeds. Never mind this bucket isn’t bucket-shaped, the sides too long and low and made of meat. Never mind how it smells.

It’s impossible to admit what you’re really digging through, who. Impossible to accept there’s no need to search for Finn anymore. Footsteps behind you, the actor. A little knife shivering up your spine—but it’s just a Halloween prop. Death is theoretical, a far-flung someday.

It’s easier to make-believe, to wait for the fake-out, the laughter, the fooled you. It’s easier to start giggling. It’s so impossible to scream.


  • Carlie St. George

    Carlie St. George is a Clarion West graduate from Northern California with short fiction in Nightmare, Strange Horizons, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and multiple other anthologies and magazines. Her debut short story collection, You Fed Us to the Roses,will be out in October 2022. Find her endlessly discussing Star Trek, horror movies, fanfiction, and other nonsense at her blog or on Twitter @MyGeekBlasphemy.

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