Editor’s note: Students in Mrs. Muncey’s creative writing class at Stephenville High School submitted their own ghost stories. The E-T will publish one story a day all week leading up to Halloween. Don’t miss Sunday’s Lifestyles section, where the winner of the ghost story contest will be featured on the cover.

It was an eerily silent night, no insects were chirping and the wind was still. Clouds covered the moon’s light, sending the world into a well of inescapable loneliness. A silent chill seeped into the woman’s flesh, carving out a place to forever reside in her bones. The cold never ended; eternal frost covered the ground. Mist hung on the empty air like a silk curtain.

Not many people would have been foolish enough to be outside at night, especially so close to the God-forsaken day so many people ignorantly call a holiday.

The woman muttered incoherently as she made her way through the dark alleyways and poorly lit streets, avoiding the small circles of light cast by streetlamps as though they were pools of fire, pools of pain. She walked and muttered as though it was all she had ever known to do, easily finding the spots where darkness coalesced into veils of shadows that she could walk through unnoticed.

A dog began to howl, shattering the stillness of the night. Her body froze in position as she strained her ears to find the origin of the piercing sound.

“An omen of death…” she whispered silently. She turned her head towards the direction of the howling. The woman had almost chosen to continue on with her mindless stroll, until the howling was cut off abruptly. She began to run.

She breathed easily, simply out of habit, as her legs carried her faster and faster towards the noise that so readily broke the silence of the darkness, and had already paid the price for its mistake. She was a blur, nothing but a gust of wind, among the shadowed bushes and trees that stood out prominently in peoples’ yards. Ever closer she sprinted until she reached her destination.

She stopped as suddenly as she started. The smell of blood filled her nose as she looked through a hole in the nearby fence. The moon broke through the cloud cover and shone brilliantly on the horrendous scene before her.

The remains of a large dog littered the yard on the other side of the fence. Blood had been splashed across the grass and glistened like rubies in the light of the moon. The sliding glass entrance to the back of the house was shattered, the shards reflecting pale white light on the crimson blood. The lights in the house were off, allowing the moonlight to cast frightening shadows on the inside of the house.

The woman easily hoisted herself above and over the fence, landing noiselessly on the blood-stained grass blades.

The scene was so familiar to her. Every year she went through the same thing, wandering through the small towns that dotted the country sides of the world. She always went in the direction that filled her with sheer horror, only waiting for an omen. During her lifetime, she had learned of many superstitions. Foolishly, she had merely dismissed them as old wives’ tales. The woman had learned in more recent years, however, that superstitions were more than just a tale told to small children. Many of them were true; at least the ones about death, anyway.

For seven years, she had been cursed to follow the creature from the shadows. For seven years, she had seen the omens that marked one’s death: torn wedding dresses before the wedding, mirrors falling from a wall, howling dogs breaking the stillness of a night, owls circling a house, and loaves of bread being cut in ways to create holes. Seven years she had watched and been helpless to do anything. People who had the misfortune to come across omens such as these had died horrendously terrible deaths.

For seven years, she had been dead.

She remembered everything with perfect clarity as she walked across the yard to the broken back door, her habitual tip-toeing making slow progress. She knew no one would be able to hear her even if she screamed and shouted bloody murder.

Stepping inside, she found darkness deeper than could be imagined. It was as if the light simply refused to stay anywhere near the house. Streaks of blood trailed across the floor, black stains against the darker blackness of the house.

Straining her ears, she heard a faint sound in the next room. She walked carefully through the darkness and into the adjacent room.

It was there that she saw the monster, so familiar and hideous.

The horrid creature was beyond human description. She had been following it for seven years, and she still couldn’t even begin to fathom the words that would even begin to describe the ugliness and horrific appearance of the creature, the terror, the hopelessness, the loneliness that this creature embedded into a person’s soul.

It was stooped over a small crib, ravenously devouring the small infant that had occupied it.

The baby was still alive.

The woman watched with a well-known horror as she saw it drain the baby’s body of all its blood and begin to snap off the limbs to chew on. In the corner, she noticed the parents lying still in a heap, unconscious but breathing.

A single moment of sorrow filled the woman’s bodiless manifestation as she thought about the poor parents who must have rushed to protect their child when they heard the back door shatter, the horror on their faces when they saw what stood at the side of their baby’s crib, their futile attempts to save their child. How pitiful it must have been when the parents realized how hopeless their fight was, deciding instead to sit together in the corner to await their inevitable fate. She imagined how cold they must have been, their hearts and souls drained of all happiness, of all reason to live.

The moment passed, and she was filled with an incredibly potent malice directed towards the monstrous life form. Too many people have suffered because of this beast; too many people have died… thought. Furiously, she tried to strike out at the being, but to no avail. Her hands passed right through the creature’s slimy skin.

The monstrosity finished off the infant with a single motion, sending the remains of the corpse into its stomach. It turned very slowly, very deliberately, to face the parents in the corner. Its eyes glowed like red hot coals surrounded by a sea of colorlessness and despair. Its tentacle-like arms coiled around the helpless adults, growing and stretching until nothing but their heads were visible. It exerted more and more pressure, breaking bones and rending flesh. Blood gushed forth, pooling underneath the victims until the floor was covered. When no drops remained in the lifeless bodies, the monstrous being quickly ate the corpses. It lay on the floor, savoring the feel of freshly spilled blood on its skin, gathering the red liquid in large bowls using its arms and drinking from it. It cleaned the floor of almost every drop, but still it hungered. The demon’s insatiable appetite was never appeased.

She knew that the creature was aware of her presence. It knew, and it laughed a horrible, disturbing, guttural laugh at her tormented existence.

The same laugh she had heard the night it took her life.

She remembered with terrible clarity how the creature had transformed itself to appear like a helpless little boy, stranded on the side of the road in the middle of an ice-cold winter night. She remembered caring for the boy as though he were her own child. She painfully recalled how, on Halloween of the very same year, the child she had so selflessly rescued transformed himself into the hideous monstrosity that now stood before her.

Sometimes she wished she had never asked what the creature was, what it did and why it devoured humans like it did. Just before she died, however, she had the nerve to ask the beast the very questions that linked her soul to the creature’s, cursing her to witness the murders that have happened since her death. Knowing the truth had condemned her afterlife.

She had asked, and it had answered her.

The woman remembered how frightened she was just to be seeing such a hideous creature, a terror beyond imagining, and how much her horror amplified when it hissed back to her through its fanged beak in a language that spoke directly to a person’s soul, chilled one’s blood, tormented the minds of all who heard the dreaded speech. “You, who have asked to know the secrets of my existence, of my malevolence, will have your wish granted.”it had stated, laughing a maniacal laugh throughout its response.

“I am a creature born of darkness, born of death. I am the monster that was created by mankind when they slaughtered their brethren, when they murdered their friends. I am the demon that was given physical substance when humankind decided to go against the will of their creator, when humankind decided to sin. I am an envoy of destruction, the harbinger of death. I have no end, no demise. I will exist as long as your kind commits misdeeds, as long as they survive. My end will be brought upon me by the extinction of humanity. My strength increases every time a human is born into this world of misery. I grow stronger, and hunger for the blood of all who exist. I eat the flesh and drink the blood of the living, gorging myself with its delicate tastes and deliciousness, the taste of their pain as they struggle against my grasp. My hunger and thirst is never quenched. The more I feast, the more I hunger. Every year I grow hungrier and thirstier, and what better time to feast more actively than during the very holiday your kind invented to fool the evil spirits? What better time to relish in the ignorance of humanity?”

She remembered the warmth receding from her flesh, the cold feeling as her blood began to freeze in her veins.

Still, the creature continued. “I wander this world without a name. No mortal who has seen me in the flesh has ever lived to tell others of my horror. I have been present in the lives of all humans: physically, emotionally, and mentally. I am the temptation that exists at the back of your mind, the doubt and fear that clings to your bones. I am all that is negative and evil in your world. I am the conscious of those who commit genocides, of those who murder innocents for pure selfish greed.”

“I am the purest form of all that is humanity.”

The cold had increased tremendously, gathering in her chest. It became hard to breathe, and she was dizzy. She froze to death. She was thankful she had died before she could feel the pain of being murdered by this monster.

Yes, she remembered it all so perfectly.

She sobbed and screamed at the beast, shouting profanities and curses and condemnations.

It turned its body to glare in her direction.

She felt herself grow colder, colder than the chill of death itself. It felt as if she were reliving her death over again, freezing from the inside out.

She solidified, and fell against the wall with a dull thud.

The creature spoke to her in that accursed language, its eyes aglow with the color of fires that could only come from a place of eternal pain and suffering. “I have grown tired of your company. You shall feel the pain of my grasp that you so luckily evaded long ago, and you shall never walk this earth again.”

She could feel her skin reforming around her frozen soul, the sweet feeling of life flowing through her veins. ?

She could feel the grasping of the monster’s tentacle around her torso, growing tighter on her newly reformed flesh. The woman gasped for breath as her rib cage was slowly compacted, breaking all of her ribs one by one and crushing her lungs. Her flesh was ripped, and her veins hung loosely from her still struggling body.

She screamed in silent agony as she was crushed to death.