What’s Left Unsaid – Writing Horror and Another #FlashForFriday

“Mother, I’m home…”

One aspect of good writing, particularly horror writing, is that which is not said. Our imaginations can produce scenarios far more unnerving and thrilling than any words on a page can prescribe, so, when writing, especially horror, thrillers or ghost stories, don’t just think about what you’re putting in, but strongly consider everything that you can leave out. 

Someone I know (with a rather awesome surname. High five, Collier) posted this link to a series of ‘Old Mysterious Pictures’ earlier this week. I always check out lists like these because I often find them to be story-telling goldmines and this was no different.

These pictures had the added advantage of being toe-

He's behind you

He’s behind you

curlingly creepy, always fun for me and not least because there are no explanations. 

Do have a look at the whole list: they’re really intriguing, as well as wonderfully weird and demonstrate how what is most scary is that which is left unexplained.

Further to this notion, here’s this week’s #FlashForFriday. I’m not going to provide and set up or explination, I’m just letting it stand on it’s own.



Even when I still cared about such things, I wasn’t able to decide whether getting some time in the dark was cruelty or mercy. The light always goes just before I end up flinging myself at the walls and pummelling them with my fists and feet until they’re bloody, so I can smear the red across the white, just to break the unrelenting sameness.

Similarly, the light always comes back just before I’ve been in the dark long enough to start to believe the walls aren’t there or were never there, and that I’m alone in the neverending blackness. 

I remember a time, long ago, when I shouted until my throat was raw. Even when it was evident no one would ever answer, I shouted just to fill the air. But now I prefer the silence unbroken. Seamless and unsullied. Like the white walls.

My ineffectual flesh makes barely any noise against them, whether I use knuckles, knees or teeth. They’re not cold or warm. Just unbroken, smooth and hard.

And white.

I found the corners and the edges with my fingers the first day…I remember this even though I’m not sure what a ‘day’ is anymore. I know I can stand up straight and lay my palm flat on the ceiling. I can walk three paces forward only to turn to have to walk three paces back. I know I can reach every last square inch of the walls with my fingertips and there is not so much as a crack.

I’ve long since given up trying to understand how I got in here, or for what reason. I can’t even be certain that this isn’t just how it’s always been. Feelings ghost about my gut whenever I concentrate and think that once there were things such as hunger, thirst, hot and cold. Pain and comfort. Rough and smooth. Things used to be broken up, or have the capacity to change.

But not any more.

Now, there is just the walls. 

Faithful. Solid. Real.

Until now.

Sometimes I’m awake when the light comes back but not this time. I blink and it’s bright and blinding but something’s different. 

I force my breathing to calm but something thunders in my ears. Heat followed by chill rides over my skin. My eyes ache from not blinking.

I stand and back up until my heels and back are flat against the nearest wall, feeling my skin stick and unstick from it as my breath heaves in my chest. I tell myself to walk forward, to go to the far corner and take a closer look. 

Maybe it’s just my eyes.

This thought fogged up from somewhere deep inside and gives me the courage to cross the floor and stand directly below the far corner and look closer.

It’s not my eyes. A corner of the white really is peeling away. It curls towards me like something from a ghost of a dream of a memory…other walls from another life that used to be covered in paper that sometimes peeled.

It’s not much…a tear the size of my thumbnail, if that. I can’t even really see what it’s peeling from, apart from that it’s black.

My arm reaches up but then panic stiffens my limbs and I stagger back and slide down the wall to wrap my arms around my knees and bury my face until the dark comes again. 

I don’t sleep. I sit and blink into the dark, telling myself it will be gone when the light comes back. The white will be smooth and unbroken again.

But it isn’t. The light comes up and the little peel with the hint of blackness behind is still there. 

I drift over and stand until my fists ache from clenching and my eyes ache from staring.

If I take a hold and pull…if I claw the white down until it crumples to the ground like dead skin…if I finally see what’s behind… will I be able to answer what I had given up asking?

Is there a way out? A way in?

Is there something, anything, that can explain it all?

Something lurches in my chest. I watch my arm reach up and as my forefinger and thumb take the lightest grip of the little flap of white. It’s rubbery to the touch and thick. I give it a tentative tug and when it gives and peels from the wall I scream.

I haven’t heard my own voice in so long it rips through me and makes me scream loader. It fills everything and breaks the air. I fling myself in the opposite corner and turn my face into the floor, clutching my ears until the flesh stings and scrunching my eyes closed tight enough to see sparks. 

I have lain here trembling ever since. I will never turn back or pull at the rip again,. The only thing that frightens me more than finding out what is behind the white…is finding that there is nothing beyond but black.

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16 Responses to What’s Left Unsaid – Writing Horror and Another #FlashForFriday

  1. D. James Fortescue says:

    Wow! Great work yet again =)

  2. Helena Hann-Basquiat says:

    Amazing — seems to me this must be what a baby bird hatching from an egg must feel like. The first person present tense was a good choice for this story — it often isn’t, but it was perfect to suck the reader in and experience the confusion alongside your narrator.
    Well done.

  3. Existential nightmare. Thanks for making me question my own reality. 😜

    You’re so right about leaving things unsaid. One thing I love to use in fiction is the implied narrative, allowing the reader to fill in the blanks.

    Great pics too!

  4. Great ending and so creepy! Unsettling… in a good way:)

  5. M. C. Dulac says:

    Awesome! Pure psychological horror – one character, one mysterious location, perfect tension throughout. Edgar Allen Poe would be proud!!

  6. Dave says:

    Great creepy pictures, and an intense piece of flash fiction. Great story, and it had an awesome last line. Nice!

  7. 1WriteWay says:

    Wow, Jex! A feeling of claustrophobia stole over me as I was reading your story. My imagination runs wild without an explanation as to how the narrator got to where he/she is, a delicious aspect of the story. In a distance way, it also reminded me of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper … enough to make me afraid for the narrator (and the reader) if that piece of the wall should be pulled back 🙂

    • Oh wow yes the Yellow Wallpaper! That’s an intense story. Not thought about that in years! You’re right, yeah: the fear and the uncertainty become real things and yet not. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, as well as reminding me of that short 🙂

  8. Pingback: Flash in a Flash – Super-Weeny #FlashForFriday | The Path – J. S. Collyer's Writing Blog

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