Punishment by Curiosity

31 Oct

Two of our Badgerdog summer campers deliver spine-chilling stories just in time for Halloween. In “Beastly,” Cheyenne Walker reimagines the myth of Zeus, Prometheus, and Pandora’s box, utilizes striking imagery to disorient the reader and articulate the narrator’s fear. In this tale, curiosity is a sin that unleashes immeasurable pain. … Then prepare yourself for Sam Holcomb’s story, “Chance,” which delivers classic Halloween horror. Once again, curiosity overcomes the narrator as he tries to uncover the secret behind several mysterious deaths. An unidentified voice, creepy teddy bears, and the threat of evil make the story almost unbearably frightening. Warning: Better read these with the lights on!

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Beastly

I strain my neck, searching for other signs of life within the tight room. The air is humid and moist, making it almost impossible to concentrate. My lungs crave the air-conditioned upstairs, away from the horror-movie scene I live above. Reluctantly, I push myself away from the staircase into the unpredictable depths of the awaiting darkness.

My hands fumble for a switch until I touch something wet. They quickly retreat and find their way to my jeans. I wave my hands
in front of my face, and my fingers thread onto a piece of shaggy string. The light fills only on a small portion of the tiny space but
allows my eyes to examine the mold-covered wall and pipes that are dangerously close to my head.

I squint and strain to make out the rectangular platform pressed against the wall, looking as if it’s trying to avoid the light.
As I walk closer to the table to examine the contents, a wretched smell encompasses my nose—the smell of death. Standing in front of the table, I allow my fingers to brush over the only object on the counter. A box. The box.

Ep, my husband, has told me the tale of his brother’s tragic death, how he left only this box behind, a gift from the great Zeus
himself, that this box is never to be opened. Never. I still remember the sound of urgency and seriousness laced in his voice. All I could do was nod. But I made no real promises.

I pull the slip of paper from my pocket and examine the foreign writing. Glancing between the box and the code, I finally take action. My fingertips grip the cold metal lock as my other hand twists and turns the combination. There’s a click, followed by silence. In something like shock, my hand releases the open lock, and it falls to the ground. I place my shaking hand on the lid. I feel as though the box itself is shaking. With just my thumb, I lift the top slightly. And that’s when it starts.

The lid bounces back on its own. I quickly step away, though nothing happens. I take an unsure step forward. An inhuman sound
erupts from the box. Hand upon hand grips my throat before I have a chance to cover my ears. I begin to choke and scratch automatically at my neck, trying to pry the non-existent force away . When I can take no more, my esophagus is released. My knees fail me, and I fall to the ground, trying to restore oxygen to my lungs. This is the first of many sins, that of cruelty. As hard as I try to move toward the staircase, the room continues to get larger. The air becomes dense and stressful. The weight of a hundred elephants seems laid upon my chest.

I open my eyes to discover a room full of those coughing, gasping, and suffering. My eyes dart back and forth between the rows
and rows of occupied beds filled with the pale and diseased. I look down and realize my attire has been replaced with a white gown. My throat begins to burn, and I feel a sort of pressure. A cruel sound escapes my lips. I cough, and I can’t possibly stop—one after the other making my throat more raw and dry. My head hits the pillow of the cot I am laying on. I turn to my side to feel the gruesome pain of bile escaping my mouth. Red splatter on white tiles next to the bed, a feeling of helplessness. I can’t support my own weight. All I can do is lie down, a prisoner in my own body.

I close my eyes again, hoping I’ll wake from this terrible nightmare. I blink my eyes open, the humidity and moisture changing
around me. I feel the pain of anger, deep anger in my heart. Toward Zeus for giving the box to Prometheus. Toward Hephaestus for giving me this gift of life. And most of all, toward myself. In the end, everything that happens from now on is on my shoulders.

Cheyenne Walker, 8th grade

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Chance

I’ve done it. I’ve completed my journey. I can see its face right there. They said it couldn’t be done.

I started by looking up research about Big Foot, but then the news came on that a family had been killed and there was one survivor. Two days later, all the murderers were found dead. Each one held a teddy bear in his arms.

I went to their houses, and they had been poisoned. On the wall in each of their houses it said, “My teddy bear will watch you and
your dreams as you sleep.”

I went searching and left a note for my parents, saying, “I’ve gone off looking for a mystery, and I will take it to my grave.” First stop: the woods. I bet I can find something, I thought. Then I heard a voice.

“Are you sure you want to give up everything for this? I know where you can look but it will cost you your life.”

“I can handle anything,” I yelled. “No matter the cost.”

“All right. You will find it in the abandoned hotel near here.”

“Do you know where it inside?” I asked.

The voice said nothing. I looked at him, and he had been poisoned. A teddy bear lay in his arms. I wandered in.

“Leave now,” a voice said. “Final warning.”

“Good luck,” I said. Voices spread through my head. Images of my loved ones dead. “Stop it, stop it,” I yelled.

Shrink.

The images and voices stopped.

Poison ran through my veins. I fell down. I was bleeding. The light was very bright.

I felt a teddy bear.

Sam Holcomb, 6th grade

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