Yesterday we finally revealed Cuckoo by Sophie Draper, then spent the day eating Halloween treats and asking all of our colleagues to help us create a spooky story by contributing just one line. The first line was supplied by author Sophie Draper, but the story took a while to really gain some momentum. Why? Well, despite being a team full of editors and other creatives we were a little bit scared to send the narrative in the wrong direction. What if we revealed too much? What if the story became really silly?
Then Charlotte from our international sales team gave our creepy tale a boost by not only giving our leading lady a name, but also introducing some dialogue. It all went downhill – or should we say ‘gruesome’ – from there, just as you’d want from a Halloween story. Read it below!
The bedroom is deathly quiet, the kind of silence that plucks the air from your lungs, eyes wide open listening for a creak in the walls, the switch of sneakers climbing on the stairs.
But no-one is coming. No-one has come for a very long time…
I hold my breath and reach down to craps the box hidden underneath the bed, the cobwebs brushing my fingers.
I pull the box up onto the bed and fold my legs into myself. Slowly, I peel off the lid, careful not to damage what lurks inside. As my trembling hands take the brown envelope from inside, my heart beats hard in my chest. I trace the delicate handwriting on the front with my index finger.
I stop. The rustling I was sure I heard earlier is getting louder. Quickly, I shove the envelope under my pillow and pull the duvet over myself.
As I tremble beneath the covers, small beads of sweat begin to form on my forehead. My heart is racing. Suddenly, there’s a knock at the door.
I hold my breath and close my eyes, hoping that if I stay still long enough he’ll leave.
‘Jessica,’ he says, ‘it’s time. They’re ready for you…’
I peep out from my sanctuary to glimpse that ominous figure bathed in the light from the hallway. Scraps of flesh dangle from his disfigured face, his single bloodshot eye meeting mine. I’m doomed.
He licks his lips, drawing his long forked tongue across his face. A small droplet of saliva drops from his protruding, left fang.
‘… and they are very hungry!’
I want to stay. I want to hide. But as he stares at me I start to move from the bed, helpless.
I try not to think of the sound of my flesh will make, the awful wet tearing noise of muscle wrenched from snapping bone, as I am led into the dark where they wait.
My hand reaches out to grasp my heavy lamp, raising it above my head, wanting to strike out and save myself.
But then, a skeleton hand wraps around my wrist.
My brother Andrew storms down the hallway brandishing a blood knife.
‘Get away from her!’
He stabs the demon’s rib cage, shattering bone.
I stumble backwards, frozen in terror as I watch Andrew and the demon fight each other.
Suddenly it’s over…