Day 5- Tell a scary story by Nathan Ballingrud

StoryADay prompt cover
Nathan Ballingrud sets up the scene for a horror story (perhaps?)

The Prompt

Molly heard her mother’s car pull into the driveway. She closed her math book and ran to the front door. The two hours she spent between the end of school and the time her mom came back home from work were always lonely.

She met her mother at the front door.

“Hi Mom!” She gave her a hug.

“Hey sweetie.” She set down her purse and her keys. “What are you doing?”


“Well go finish it up and we’ll watch a movie when you’re done, okay?”

Molly was about to head back to her room when the door opened again. Her mother came in, again. “Hi, Molly!” She joined the first in the kitchen — two carbon copies of each other. They didn’t see each other or seem to know the other was there, but they kept talking cheerfully to her. And then a third came in. And a fourth.

Molly crept slowly back to her room. The kitchen was full of their happy talk, all their words running over each other. She hated nights when this happened. She slid under her bed and put her hands over her ears. She hated what came next.

Nathan Ballingrud

Nathan Ballingrud is the author of The Strange, Wounds, and North American Lake Monsters
Find him on Twitter at @NBallingrud

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33 thoughts on “Day 5- Tell a scary story by Nathan Ballingrud”

  1. I guess that the intent is that we write a conclusion for the story.

    Anyway, that’s what I did. Like many others who have posted, I don’t read or write horror or supernatural stories. However, I came up with an idea I was pretty pleased with and generated a conclusion that I’m pretty pleased with.

    Onward toward Day 6!

  2. (Doing these late, but like, fashionably so, because May has been A Month and we’re not even halfway yet.)

    I finally got to writing this one and, y’know, it’s come out much more sad and superpowers-y, with a hint of the way medicine fails women than I would have thought originally. Wild.

  3. This prompt led me to write two short stories. I do like the “otherness” in what we call “ordinary” life.

  4. I don’t write or read horror stories either. But I decided to try something. What came through my fingers is an approach that the young girl has multiple personalities and these mothers are how each personality wants her mother to be. Kind of freaky. It could be an interesting read, if I finished it, but it’s a long stretch from the children’s book I write.

  5. This went really scary and dark inside my head as well…. 🙂 So I took a step back and changed the name to my mc characters name, and boom I was back in fantasy land…. Great promp, when I had digested what it brought up in me.

  6. Like some of the others, horror isn’t my genre, and honestly, I found it too creepy for me. So I skipped that prompt. The others I can use for different kinds of things, even if they won’t turn into a stand-alone story – maybe a scene in the novel I am currently writing? But this one goes against my writer’s manifesto … remember when you sent out the post about writing those, Julie? So part of my manifesto is that I don’t write dark stories. I use irony and sarcasm and even a touch of dystopia, of course bad or sad things can happen, but I don’t go into that really dark place.

    1. I love it. Standing ovation!
      I (obviously) really do believe you shouldn’t write anything that doesn’t align with your manifesto. I’m with you on the horror front, but I wrote more of a creepy situation and called it done 😉

  7. Okay, color me weird. After a little prewriting I found a flow. Then, as per usual, I revised a little. I finally made myself stop. And I wrote today!

  8. This could use a lot of work, but I wrote today!

    She had only seen him once. A dark figure, yet faceless and not quite opaque. But she knew when he would arrive and what he would do. She just didn’t know why. Why were there all these copies of her mom? How come Mom didn’t seem to notice the others or the dark figure? Mostly, why could Molly see any of it? She wished she couldn’t.

    The slicing and squealing was no match for her hands as the figure executed each of the copies of Mom. Molly knew his ritual. She was never able to forget it. He was able to control their movement somehow, whispering strange words in a language she’d never heard anywhere else. Then, once they were essentially paralyzed, the figure took his machete and sliced them apart. It was a bloody massacre. Once some time had passed, Molly headed back downstairs to check on Mom.

    “Molly, didn’t you hear me calling you for dinner?” she said to her as she arrived at her spot in the kitchen.

    “Sorry,” Molly said, “I must have dozed off.”

    She looked around at the beautiful dinner her mother had been working on during all the ruckus. Blood and bits covered the counter, floor, ceiling, contaminated all of the food and there was some spatter on Mom’s left side of her face and torso. Mom didn’t seem to notice any of it.

    “That’s okay, sweetie,” Mom said. “Let’s eat.”

    She pulled out a chair for Molly to sit down and placed a white and bloody plate in front of her. She picked up the carving knife and began to slice the pork loin on the table. Molly did not have an appetite, but she knew Mom would never understand.

    “I’ll be right back,” Molly said. She rushed over to the bathroom. She didn’t have to fake anything; she vomited into the toilet, sweating and shaken. She would never get used to the smell on nights like this.

    When she returned to the table, Mom looked concerned.

    “Honey, I know you keep saying everything is okay,” she said. “But don’t you think you should see the doctor about this stomach issue of yours?”

    “No, I’m okay, Mom,” Molly replied. “I’m just going to go lay down.”

    “Okay,” her mother said, feeling a bit defeated. “Well, I’ll pack some of this for your lunch tomorrow. You get some rest.”

    Yippee, Molly thought.

    On nights like this, she didn’t mind the loneliness before Mom came home. She was even more lonely now with her mother downstairs, oblivious to the warfare that had happened right in front of her, and in a way, to her.

    She was deep in thought when she noticed movement from the corner of her eye. Her bedroom window was slightly open. Probably just the wind, she thought.

    Molly got up and shut the window. She tried to scream, but before she could, a hand gripped her mouth shut and whoever it was seemed to have the strength of 50 men.

    “Shhhh,” they said to her. “You need to stop screaming.”

    She turned around and came face to face with the dark figure with the machete. But this time, he had a face, and it was one she recognized. It was actually not a “he” at all. It was Molly, staring right back at herself.

  9. This was different for me. I never write horror or sci-fi. Hope my story sequel makes sense.

    Still cowering under her bed, Molly could hear the front door slam and her father’s loud voice in the kitchen. He wasn’t supposed to be here, Mom had a restraining order against him. She heard her mother arguing with him, “You aren’t allowed to be in here!” Then there was a crash and her mother cried in pain. Lots of her mom’s voices chimed in, and quickly Molly could hear that there were several voices like her dad’s downstairs too.

    Things were getting crazier. When she saw her father three weeks ago, there was only one of him, whereas she and her mother had already gained three more of themselves. Even though the extra bodies looked, talked, and acted the same, Molly couldn’t tell what her other clones were thinking. They seemed to have the same mind, though, because all their reactions were alike. They must have been programmed to be that way.

    Knowing from past experience her dad would never hurt her, Molly shakily got out from beneath her bed and went downstairs to assess how her mother was. She found all of her mothers lying in various positions and places in the kitchen and living room. The coffee table in the living room had been tipped over and plates had been broken in the kitchen. The fish that had been in its bowl on the coffee table lie dead and water from the bowl had dampened the carpet.

    “Hello, Daddy, Daddies,” Molly said. “I haven’t seen you for a while.” She was trying to stay calm while she went around helping her mothers up.

    “They can get up themselves,” he said. “We hardly touched them.”

    “I wish you and Mom wouldn’t argue anymore,” Molly pleaded. “It makes me feel so bad.”

    “Maybe you should move in with me,” her dad said.

    “I would but my school is too far away from your place,” she lied. Molly didn’t want to live with such an angry person (especially with more than one of him), but she was trying not to cause any more waves. “I’m worried about the police putting you in jail for coming over here.”

    “We were on our way out anyway,” her dads said in unison, all of them giving her a hug before they left. “Tell your mom she’d better not report us.”

    Looking out the big window in front, the Mollys and her mothers witnessed an awful sight: suddenly there were several more clones of her father. She and her and her mother’s clones looked around at each other and saw that there were still only four of them. Her mom had already called the police and they arrived as her dads were leaving. There were six clones of the male officer and three clones of the female officer.

    “Well, at least there are more police officers than Dads,” Molly and her mother and her clones agreed. They opened the window to hear what the cops were saying as they walked toward Molly’s fathers.

    “This is getting out of hand,” the male officers said.

    “You’re right about that,” the female officers said. “They should have stopped at just cloning women, and not begun cloning men. Now things really aren’t making sense.” They winked. “Of course, male police officers are different, clone as many as you want, because we need them sometimes like today. It might be difficult if my sidekick today had been a woman. They might not have given in so easily,” she said, helping to handcuff the seven men who were now Molly’s dads.

  10. Completed Day 5! Yay! A bit difficult finishing someone else’s beginning but I stretched. Grateful I tried it. Horror stories definitely out of my comfort zone but I gained some writing muscle (maybe so teeny, tiny muscles but a gain!)

  11. At first, I wasn’t too sure about the prompt, but a few hundred words later, I ended up enjoying what I was writing pretty well! I added in clones of Molly’s dad too and used the idea of these many copies of her parents all talking and eventually yelling at the same time to set up a theme for a failing marriage and how a child might feel being essentially silenced in the middle of that. Despite being someone who likes horror a lot and writes it fairly often, I wasn’t feeling it today so this story never got very dark.

  12. Tough one today. I’ve never written anything scary. I tried to continue the story by adding four fathers. Didn’t get very far.

  13. Well! What I took from this prompt was the inspiration to try and make something as short be as scary. What I wrote wasn’t quite scary, maybe not even unsettling, but I think in future drafts it might could get there, and the attempt was fun. It was my first attempt at making something scary, and I have more respect for horror writers as a result– it’s not an easy lift!

  14. I’ve been writing a lot of horror recently, so this prompt was actually perfect! I wrote a scary story yesterday, and today I wrote another. Something about scary stories comes easily to me right now – I’m riding the wave while it’s still here, and maybe soon I’ll find myself shifting to another genre.

    Great prompt – and spooky snippet!

  15. I must admit, I didn’t feel like putting effort in writing horror, which is totally not my genre (although I loved the creepy idea and even had a short thought about the mother being schizophrenic…)
    But instead, I worked on my novel today. I went through the whole story step by step, and wrote a detailed plot description in the form of “This happened… but then … and because of that…”
    So, I did not write a story today, but felt inspired to work on my novel and even had some sort of a flow feeling. So I guess, I don’t have to feel too bad about it, or should I?

  16. That was different! I added about 250 words to complete the story as a flash fiction piece. The goal I came up with was to set the story up as a repetitive cycle, leaving one unsure as to if this was a dream, a hallucination, or a horrible reality.

  17. Like others who have posted so far, I found this harder to get started on than the more open-ended prompts, but I finally managed a half-decent piece of flash that was not at all scary and much more sentimental than anything I would normally write. Strange, but I had to let what wanted to happen come out, or it wouldn’t have gotten done today.

  18. I took a few minutes and wrote a short continuation.

    She climbed the stairs slowly to her room, dreading the voices she would hear. For the sound of her own voice filling her room with copies of herself was even worse than the loneliness that permeated the space most days.
    Mommyandme, mommyandme, mommyandme. She could not take another day of life with just the two of them. Of course she loved her mother. Of course she did. But SO MUCH mother. Every. Single. Day. Her head was about to explode.

    1. Gina, your main character’s distaste for multiple-copied people is very clear here. I am writing my story about multiple copies of people too, and hadn’t even thought about the annoyance that could cause. You make it clear how annoying that is. I’m not sure what you mean when you write “two people,” though, since there are more than two. I enjoyed your story!

  19. I am uncertain about this prompt too. Like someone else mentioned, I might take the carbon copy idea and use it somehow, someday. But for today, my story is done. Day 5 – Win 5.

  20. Do what you want … some prompts are ideas, some are openings. You may prefer one over the other. I find both valid, and sometimes come up with the most interesting stories from the prompts I resist the most.

  21. I am all so confused. What exactly are we supposed to do? Model a sinister, horror story on this? Write a sequel? Or, conclude the story from where the promoter left it?
    Dear Julie, please help.

    1. Agreed. Lol. More…open ended prompts are definitely more fun and helpful. Though this is a most interesting setup and well written!

      Generally what I do when something isn’t working for me, as is, is to mine it for anything I find promising. I don’t want to finish someone else’s story or write horror or scary stuff. But the idea of carbon copies of one person…intriguing. How can I play with that in my own way? It’ll be fun to find out!

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