In October 2015, the STL Scribblers held their first Ghost Story Contest, challenging participants to write a ghost-themed piece of under 1000 words. Three winners were chosen by democratic vote at the group's November meeting. We are pleased to present the third-place winner, Melissa Logsdon's "The Shoe," which unfolds on a classically dark and stormy night and ends with a terrifying discovery.
The trees swayed in the moonlight, darkened by the half moon in the pitch-black sky. Not a single star shone through the thickness. Rain pattered against the window of the living room. Alice, curled up on the couch next to her dog Tilly, stared out the window. She dreaded nights like these. They left her feeling like the only soul in the world. Alice had been living alone in the small trailer in the woods since Todd, her husband, had been electrocuted while swimming in the pond near the trailer six months before. Since his death, she had been haunted by the images the local news station had shared. “Local man dies in freak accident,” read the headline. Underneath, an image of the frothy pond, Todd’s limp body blurry in the distance and a single navy blue loafer with a green sole in the foreground. Alice had begged Todd not to spend $100 on those loafers—just a fad, she thought—on a weekend shopping trip to Burlington the week before the accident. Now a single overpriced loafer with a green sole lay next to Todd’s body, a remnant of their last trip together.
She yawned deeply and glanced at the clock. Almost midnight. “Tilly, let’s go outside.” Tilly reluctantly lifted herself from sleep and jumped off the couch. Alice walked to the door, Tilly following behind, and opened it. Tilly slinked down the stairs and sniffed around a bit. The rain was pelting down in sheets. “Tilly, hurry up!” Alice shouted. Tilly continued to sniff and, finally finding the perfect spot, peed and started back up the stairs.
The sky grumbled with the sound of deafening thunder and, suddenly, a lightning bolt lit up the angry sky. Tilly, halfway up the stairs by this time, turned around and bolted down the stairs into the dark mouth of the woods.
“TILLY!” Alice screamed. Tilly had never run off before and, looking into the vast depth of what lied before her, Alice’s mind raced at the possibilities of where she might have run. Alice stood on the porch panicked for a few minutes, convinced Tilly would return. When she didn’t, she ran inside and put on a raincoat and a pair of ragged tennis shoes before bolting into the dark, dense forest.
The ground was swollen with water. Each footstep filled the bottom of her tattered shoes with water. She looked around hoping for direction but, when she saw nothing, she took off to the east. Todd had once told her there was a small opening in the woods not too far east of the trailer. Maybe Tilly had gone there and found shelter in the openness of the suffocating woods. She darted through the trees, each step becoming heavier with mud. “TILLY!” she screamed. Her voice was normally strong and easily heard but was now dampened by the rain and thunder overhead. The rain picked up so she ran faster, panting for air. “TILLLLLLLLY!” She stopped for a moment and leaned against a tree to catch her breath. The tree canopies dripped ice cold water onto her, amplifying the freeze that had already spread across her body. She had been running through the woods for an hour she guessed and still hadn’t come upon the opening Todd had told her existed.
She closed her eyes, pushed each of her heels against the base of the tree to squish out the mud from her shoes and, suddenly, felt a tap on her left shoulder. Her eyelids shot open but she was careful not to move any other part of her body. Another light tap. She turned her head slowly. “Who’s there?” she whispered over her shoulder. She felt the tap again but this time it was firm and more urgent. “Tell me, is there someone there?” She slowly turned her body to face the frightening silence behind her. “Hello?” she quivered as she peered around the tree trunk. She took a few steps out from behind the tree and shouted, “Who is out there?” Her heart was thrashing inside her chest. Another tap. She spun around to face nothingness. She felt a warm mist on her cheek and the quiet whisper of breath. The mist smelled of rot and mold and caused her to empty her insides next to the tree. She felt the mist again and, this time, the trickle of fingertips on her wet cheek. Her heart fell to her stomach. She could see nothing but she sensed someone, or something, around her. She forgot why she was in the woods, forgot about Tilly and raced as quickly as she could through the woods, pushing thorny branches away from her face as she retreated to the safety of the trailer. When she saw the porch light in the distance, she stopped to catch her breath and screamed, “TILLY!” She waited on the porch for a moment but Tilly did not return. She will be back in the morning, Alice hoped, as she flung open the trailer door. She flipped on the light and, sitting on the couch, was Tilly. “What are you doing here, girl? How did you get back into the trailer?” She rushed to the couch to touch Tilly and ensure she was not dreaming. She placed her hand on Tilly’s head and noticed something in her mouth. She pulled a shredded piece of leather from Tilly’s mouth. It smelled of rot and mold, the same smell that had made her stomach turn in the woods. Alice’s mouth gaped open in horror when she looked down at the floor below and saw the tattered blue loafer with the green heel.
You can read more of Melissa Logsdon's writing at her blog, Rambling Woman, Plus Dog.