Here at TAD, we take Halloween very seriously. Going to the pumpkin patch, participating in Trick-or-Treat on the Row, keeping spare costume pieces in the office: we’ve got it all. However, we’ve never truly delved into the spooky side of Halloween. This year is going to change that.
We’ve tasked the Writing Team to put their creativity to work and write scary stories. Not just any scary stories, but scary stories to tell in TAD. In order to create truly ghastly tales, the Writing Team went around the office and asked everyone what their biggest fear was. After receiving some odd looks and a lot of questions about why we would ever need to know that, the crew was able to create a list of the most common fears among Taddies. Below is an anthology of stories based on those fears in order to truly scare our coworkers.
Warning: The stories below may put you in the Halloween spirit.
Worked to Death
Written By: Peter Friesen
Biggest Fears Used in This Story: Ghosts, Chick-fil-a Employees, Failure, Immortality, Aggressive frat guys
John pushed through the door to the Honors College and walked in just before the clock struck midnight. It was not a long walk from Carrier Library, but it was long enough for the torrential downpour to soak him, his clothes, and his backpack. John went to an office, set his backpack down at the desk, and pulled out his laptop.
He didn’t have time to dry himself off. John had two papers and an exam the next day that needed to be prepared for. Both papers were written, but they were not nearly good enough and needed more sources. John hadn’t even started studying for the exam that night because the papers were taking so long. He opened his laptop and turned it on. John always turned off his computer before putting it away in his backpack. The computer began to boot up. The screen began to flicker.
“No,” John muttered, “No, no, no, no.” The computer shut off. John hit the power button. Nothing happened. John frantically pressed the power button over and over again. Still, the computer would not turn on.
“No,” John began to say loudly to himself, “No, I’m going to lose the progress on my papers, and I will fail them both. Then I will fail this test, three classes this semester, flunk out of the Honors College and probably college in general. I’ll get a job in a trade, live comfortably, never achieve anything of note, and die surrounded by my family at an old age. Oh, no, no, no, no. All this effort for nothing.”
John began to feel his chest tighten and his limbs grow weak. He breathed in deeply and sat down, trying to calm himself. “Just… go back to the library and use a computer, John. You may have lost your progress, but you can stay up all night and finish them by 8 am.” John’s left arm began to hurt, and he sat on a sofa. He pulled out his phone and set an alarm for an hour. “I just need some sleep, and I will feel better.” John closed his eyes and let the cold take hold of him.
John woke up without his alarm, but instead to the sound of loud music from downstairs. Was that The Chainsmokers? It was still dark outside; people hardly blast music here when it was light outside. John was no longer panicked or short of breath, and his clothes were dry as if they had never been wet. He moved toward the stairs to find the source of the music. There was no one upstairs, but a crowd of people could be heard downstairs. John crept down the hallway, past the closed office doors. Honors College. There were red Solo cups covering the entire floor and Chick-Fil-A bags and wrappers were scattered.
“Who are you people,” John yelled in a shaky voice. The crowd seemed unphased. Only one party member seemed to notice and came over to where John was.
“Brooooo, try this juice, it’s some of the best in yeeeaaars.” The man had on a nautical captain’s hat and an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt. Now that John got a closer look at him, he noticed his skin was blue, but also translucent. This only made John worry more.
“Who are you people and why are you in the Honor’s College?”
“Uh hah, this isn’t a place where people study anymore, new-bro, this has been our house for years. Never die, never stop partying. Am I right?” He yelled back at the crowd as he slung his arm around John’s shoulders.
“Never die?” John backed away from the embrace.
“Ya can’t die if you’re not alive, my dude. Wow you really are new. Bros,” he yelled at the party, “this dude is actually new.”
The crowd of specters screamed back in return and began to close in on John. “Try the juice,” they all said, “it’s the best we’ve had in years.”
John screamed as the ghosts pushed into and through him. He sprinted to the back of the house. When he got to the back door in tears, instead of opening it, he went through it and tumbled down the steep hill, through the handrail and onto concrete. He stood up and looked up at the Honors College. Ghosts of frats past were flying in and out of the walls and lights flickered inside.
“Am I dead?” John asked himself. He looked down, and he didn’t look translucent, so maybe he wasn’t. But why could he see ghosts? And why could he go through walls? He was dead. The ghost frat bro had said he could die if he wasn’t alive. So, he was immortal.
“Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.” John chanted. He began to quickly walk to D-hall, somewhere he could hide. The only thing worse than living a long, uneventful life was living a never-ending life. Eternity is a long time.
John walked into the downstairs doors by the staircase and hurried to the back; past Steak-and Shake, and past Market-64. He decided to see if he could sleep in a booth, or if he could sleep at all for that matter. John laid down on the booth and closed his eyes, but sleep would not take him. Maybe he was too nervous. He took a deep breath and tried again.
The word seemed to float through his head. John bolted upright. He wasn’t here alone. He looked around the cafeteria and saw no one. As he was about to sit down again, a blue girl in a red uniform appeared behind the Chick-Fil-A counter.
“Hi, I can take your order right here,” she said with a smile.
John continued to stand by the booth.
She raised her hand and repeated, “I can take your order right here.”
She seemed more friendly than the frat-bros, so John decided to ask her his pressing questions. He strangely had no interest in Chick-Fil-A.
“Uh, hi, what’s going on?”
“Well, you can pick one of the combos on the menu or get any single item you see. You’ll have to go to D-hub if you want to punch, but we do accept dining dollars, flex, or the donation of your everlasting soul to Christ,” She said without losing her smile.
“I don’t want food,” John said, “How do I get out of here?”
“Any wall or ceiling would do.”
“No, whatever this is. Purgatory, or the spirit realm or something.”
“Oh, that,” she laughed, “Everyone here has unfinished business and you have to finish it before you can be sent anywhere else. Or, you can never finish it and stay here forever like Alpha Omega Omega.”
“Oh, I just have to finish my papers and study, then I will be free.” John began to hastily walk away.
“Oh,” the Chick-Fil-A employee said as he walked away, “I think you forgot something.”
She looked on expectantly.
“Uh, thank you.”
“My pleasure.” Her face contorted into a ghoul’s and her spirit expanded, rose upward, and out of D-hall.
“Alright,” John said and walked out.
He walked back up the hill to the honors college. He walked through a wall and snuck upstairs, into the office he woke up in, and sat down in front of his now blue and translucent laptop. The computer turned on and John found his papers, dead and safe. The sources were cited and two more pages were written. John then studied for his exam, and as he flipped over his final flashcard, all became light.
A Long, Gruesome Evening Rush
Written By: Sam Couslon
Biggest Fears Used in This Story: Clowns, Intruders, Being Followed
As she entered the lecture hall, she wandered to her usual seat: fourth row on the left side, all the way against the wall. She set down her belongings and sat, taking out her notebook. Usually, she had a full seat buffer between her and the other people in her row. She’d always pretend to be saving the seat next to her by planting her bookbag in front of it. However, as she played on her phone waiting for class to begin, a shadow loomed over her.
She looked up, annoyed, but that annoyance quickly turned to fear. Standing over her was a man in a black trench coat wearing clown makeup. She was stunned, unsure of what to do. Why was this clown here? Why was he targeting her? Suddenly, she remembered it was, in fact, Halloween. A wave of relief came over her as she pieced together that he was just in costume, but her anxiety returned when he gestured to the empty seat beside her, not saying a word, but seeming to ask if he could sit there. She nodded, slowly moving her bag to make room for him.
He abruptly sat, failing to produce any notebook or laptop for note-taking. He sat perfectly still, staring straight forward for the duration of the class. She found her mind unable to focus during class as she could only bring herself to focus on the threat at hand: this weirdo sitting next to her.
As class ended, she shot up, hoping to slide by this clown and avoid contact. He stood in front of her, making intense eye contact and breathing in her face. Her classmates didn’t seem to notice, most likely because they were near the wall of the auditorium. She felt threatened by his intensity and bolted by him as fast as she could, leaving her belongings behind. She was in survival mode now, so her material possessions were the least of her concerns.
She raced out of class, walking briskly rather than running, so as to not garner attention. She neared her campus’s quad and looked around her in all directions. Several students were in costume, but none looked as threatening or aggressive as that clown. She felt that she had lost him, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being followed. Terrified, she hurried to her car to return home. In her car, she rounded down the parking deck as fast as she safely could. As she exited the deck, she noticed, on a nearby street corner, the clown. He was standing there, as still as a statue, but his eyes were locked on her car. Her heart sank. She wasn’t just being paranoid, but he was actually after her for some reason. She slammed her foot on the gas pedal, speeding away from him as fast as she could.
That night was a sleepless night. She laid awake in bed with her doors locked. All she could think about was how the clown locked his eyes on her, holding her gaze when she saw him. Images of him flashed every time she closed her eyes. Her roommates were out for the night at some Halloween party, so her terror was only elevated by her being alone.
She began to relax after hours of tossing and turning, though right as she neared the sweet relief of a night’s sleep, she heard a loud bang from her closet. Her blood began pumping with fear as she shot awake. She held her covers close, watching the closet door slowly slide open. She knew he’d be back there. She watched the clown step out of her closet, smiling at her. She gasped, unable to scream. She was frozen with fear. He reached behind his back and produced her backpack. He raised it to her before gently setting it on the ground. He eyed her for a minute more before grabbing a bath towel that was hanging off her door. He wiped the makeup off of his face and revealed his true identity. She found her voice when she realized who he was. She’d only ever seen him in contexts of interviews, brochures, or his rousing speeches at university events. Standing in front of her in a black trench coat, having just wiped off clown makeup, was the president of her university. She was terrified and confused. He said no words but shushed her screams with a smile. He stepped out of his trench coat revealing a full professional suit underneath. He gave her a wink, leaving her room after running his fingers through his grey hair.
She laid her head back on the pillow, trying to sort out exactly how she was feeling. What had originally been fear had transformed. She found herself overwhelmed with comfort, and as she lay awake, she looked at her ceiling and smiled.
Surviving the End of the World
Written By: Andrew Garison
Biggest Fears Used in This Story: Zombies, Surviving the apocalypse
The sun slowly emerged from behind the tallest peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Carter shielded his eyes from the rays of light coming through the windshield. He needed just a few more minutes of sleep. He’d been on the move for so long, and all he wanted to do was rest. He thought back to where he was just over a month ago and all the good things he used to have: a comfortable bed in his dorm room, all-you-can-eat food at the dining hall, access to a shower. The only thing Carter didn’t miss from his school days was all the homework, but dodging hordes of the undead wasn’t much of an improvement.
The sunlight became too strong block out and Carter forced himself to wake up. He sat upright in the driver’s seat of his stolen Prius and surveyed his surroundings. Not much had changed since last night. The run-down cars were still in the street and no zombies had wandered out of the surrounding woods. He took one last look around before turning the key and starting the car. The advantage of the Prius, aside from the great gas mileage, was its quiet engine. It attracted less attention from the wandering zombies. First, Carter checked his fuel levels: half a tank left. That should be more than enough to get me home, he thought to himself.
Next, he turned on the radio. The last time he heard any kind of broadcast was two weeks ago. Or was it three? He couldn’t remember. He still checked regularly, hoping he might hear something, anything to let him know there were other people out there. He hadn’t seen another living person since he left the quarantine zone around campus. He didn’t know if anyone he knew had made it out. He didn’t even know if his family was okay. Cell service cut out shortly after it happened. But he’d find out soon enough. He’d been slowly making his way North since he left quarantine and was only two hours away from his hometown of Germantown, Maryland.
Over the sound of static, Carter heard a low growl and the rustling of leaves. He quickly turned off the car and slouched low in his seat. He didn’t want to be seen by whatever was coming out of the woods. The growling got louder, and Carter curled up on the floor near the pedals, hoping the creature would pass by his car. He looked up through the passenger side window and saw a large, shadowy figure lumber out of the tree line. The second the figure stepped into the light, and he knew he was in trouble. The zombie looked like he was once a construction worker. He wore a bright orange vest and a matching hard hat. It was broad and burly with arms like pythons. What scared Carter most was the rusty sledgehammer it had in its hand. Since when could zombies use tools? He thought.
The thing strode up to the car but didn’t pay it much attention. Carter could hear the head of the sledgehammer scraping the pavement as it walked around the Prius. Carefully, Carter slipped the key back into the ignition and started sliding up into his seat. He checked his rearview mirror and saw that the zombie was still preoccupied with crossing the street. He reached up for his seat belt, drew it across his chest, and clicked it into place. The scraping sound stopped. Carter’s blood went cold. In the rearview mirror, he saw the zombie’s bulging, yellow eyes focused on his car. It took one large stride forward, closing the distance between it and the car. Carter sat and watched as the zombie swung the sledgehammer right at his back windshield.
The sound of glass shattering brought Carter out of his fear–fuel trance. He had to act fast. He tried to turn around and reach the second row, but his seat belt stopped him. He wasted precious seconds unbuckling and by the time he was free the zombie was at the driver’s side door, winding up for another swing. He dove in the passenger seat and threw the door open just as the hammer made impact with the car. He had to find a tool of some kind to defend himself. His backpack of supplies was still in the car. There was no way to get to it with the zombie this close. He decided to improvise.
He picked up some heavy rocks and threw them straight at the zombie’s head, but they didn’t do much damage. The zombie’s hardhat deflected them all. The creature was now moving around the front of the car towards him. He waited until the last second to dodge the creature’s next blow, dashing around the car and into the middle of the street. He had to find something. He ran to one of the other cars in the street, an old Jeep, hoping to find some form of weapon. The trunk was unlocked, and he began searching for anything useful. He found a small toolkit consisting of basic supplies: screwdrivers, a wrench, a car jack, matches, a tire iron. Yes! He could use this!
He grabbed the tire iron and turned to see the zombie was close behind him and had raised his hammer one again. This time Carter was ready. He ducked and stabbed the chisel end of the tire iron into the zombie’s knee. It howled in pain and swung its hammer wildly. Carter tried to roll out of the way, but the way the zombie was quicker. The sledgehammer caught him in the chest and sent him flying into the street. The pain was incredible. His vision started to go blurry. Carter crawled back toward his car and made it just in time. He pulled himself up using the door handle and saw the zombie making its way toward him. “He just won’t quit, will he?” he said to himself. The zombie swung, and he dodged again. He heard the sound of metal scraping and the frustrated roar of the zombie.
He looked over his shoulder and saw the creature yanking on the handle. The hammer had sunk deep into the side of the Prius. A stream of liquid was pouring out from the side of the car. The gas tank! The big oaf must have punched a hole in it. Carter had an idea. He rushed back to the Jeep and rummaged through the trunk, trying to find that tool kit again. He founded it pushed up against the back row of seats. He grabbed the book of matches and left to face the zombie.
It was still struggling to pry its hammer from the side of the car. Carter held his matches at the ready. “Hey ugly!” he shouted. The creature turned its bloated face toward him. Its eyes narrowed. A low growl came from its throat. It lumbered toward him taking heavy, labored steps. Carter took the first match from the book and ran it across the striker strip. A small flame appeared at the end of the stick. He flicked it from his hand and watched as the match landed in a nearby pool of gas. It instantly went up in flames. The zombie was engulfed in a hot orange glow and roared out in pain. Carter backed up from the scene, but he was not quick enough. The flames had reached the Prius and the gas tank exploded with a deafening BOOM. The force of the explosion threw Carter up against the Jeep. For a second, everything was black.
He opened his eyes and saw the carnage he’d left. Small fires were burning across the street along the tree line. The charred body of the Prius sent a trial of smoke high above the trees. The zombie was nowhere in sight. It must have been incinerated. Carter tried to stand but collapsed immediately. He’d hurt his shoulder more and he noticed his right leg was facing the wrong way. No fixing that right away, he thought. He started planning his next move when he heard the familiar sound of rustling leaves, and a whole chorus of undead groans coming from the woods in front of him.