You won’t find today’s story vanishing from your memory.
After I Looked Up, The Stars Had Gone Away
[Horror] • 6,738 words
There is no such thing as a gut feeling, not really. If you suddenly start to feel afraid for no apparent reason, it’s very unlikely to be anything serious. But it doesn’t make it feel any better does it?
Twilight is up burning the midnight oil again, when suddenly every sense she has tells her that something is terribly wrong. There can’t be anything really wrong though, not in reality.
FROM THE CURATORS: “Gentlemen, I give you one of the best horror stories on this website,” Present Perfect said in his nomination. Soge quickly assigned it a top score and responded, “That is not hyperbole. When a horror story makes me feel uneasy after just reading the description, I know there is something special here — and somehow, the story delivers on that promise and more. I am glad I read this during the day, as I had to go walk outside for a bit. It is that effective.”
The premise behind that acclaim was simple — and it was that simplicity which first turned our heads. “This is a horror story about what it’s like to feel fear, and that’s really all you need for one,” Present Perfect said. But there was nothing simple about the careful construction which sold that tension. “The thick atmosphere; Twilight’s thought process; the subtle changes that never let you feel comfortable; the feeling of utter isolation that permeates the whole story,” Soge said. “It is not a single thing that makes this fic work this well, it is all those combined and more.” Horizon agreed, adding, “This walks a masterful tightrope between the fantastic and the mundane. It’s a heck of a balancing act keeping the reader so consistently off-balance.”
Several of us thought it was that exemplary execution which sealed the deal. “It needs an editing pass — however, it does enough right that I don’t have any reservations about a feature,” RBDash47 said. “The author does an excellent job of slowly building tension as Twilight’s anxiety sends her spinning in mental circles, and the tension is built on something completely relatable. Even better, they didn’t fumble their beautiful setup — the story ended exactly where it should have. The author stuck to their guns and didn’t give us the barest hint of catharsis.” That combined with powerful framing and character work to make this memorable beyond its short length. “The great thing about this is that, taking place in Twilight’s mind, we’re given a full analysis of the spectrum of feelings she’s experiencing at any given time,” Present Perfect said. “And that includes the highly rational conclusion that none of this is happening, despite the fact that she’s terrified. The reader is thus left to ponder whether any of this is real, despite having all evidence to the contrary, and that tiny bit of doubt is all that’s necessary for a pulse-pounding thriller.”
Read on for our author interview, in which The Seer discusses dip-pen rips, catastrophic bois, and two-sentence horror.