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The Tavern on the Borderlands



Estimated reading time — 20 minutes

This pasta was the third place winner of our Ghost Stories Creepypasta Writing Challenge. Congratulations!

The second and first place winners will be posted across the next two days. Look forward to it!

Cage didn’t know if Richie was serious, but then again he thought it didn’t matter. They’d been running down this thin country road for nearly one and a half hour, pushing sixty ever since the state line was out of sight. With a speed like that there wouldn’t even be jelly left if they crashed, but Cage didn’t really think that mattered either. He almost welcomed the thought. Just get me out of this nightmare, he thought, just get me the fuck out of this hell.

“Fuck are you thinking about, Cage?” Richie asked him, throwing him a scant smile and a naked look of contempt. A cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth, bopping up and down with the irregularities of the road. The stink of tobacco and tar was almost unbearable, but none of the others seemed to mind.
“Just shut the fuck up and keep your eyes on the road.” Cage said. His head felt as if it was splitting in half. The side where that cop had socked him was sticky with dried blood. He was in a bad mood. In his lap he had a bottle of whiskey concealed in a brown paper bag, old school bum style. He took a gulp and felt the carousel in his head slow down a bit. He then passed it to Richie, the driver, who took a large swig himself before passing it to the backseat. Jimmy Cats, at least that’s what everybody called him, took his arm off one of the girls he was groping to grab the paper bag. He took a swill and coughed before he passed it to Anne, the redhead to his left. They were all high on something, but Cage didn’t know what. Jenna looked like she was seconds away from passing out, or as if she already had. Her head rested on Jimmy’s shoulder and her lips were parted in a rather unattractive way. It was how retards looked just before they started drooling.

“Where the fuck are we even going?” Cage exclaimed, making no attempt to conceal his frustration. Jimmy cackled and passed him the bottle, the women grinning at him from whatever drug haze they currently inhabited.
“Who the fuck cares, man?” He said, and Cage could see his pupils were as large as industrial plates.
“Yeah!” Jenna agreed as she flung her arms around Jimmy’s neck. “Who the fuck cares, right?” Cage gave her a short look of disgust before he peered back out the window. The woods flung by as the car sped forth. Its headlights illuminated the trees briefly before giving way to the dark, and the effect created a soothing optical illusion. Cage felt his eyes lull shut, and as his mind started to drift onto the oceans of sleep, he remembered the cop.

He remembered her stopping them just a few miles from the Texas state line. She’d seen the booze, ordered Richie to step out of the car. They had all followed, even the girls, and before anyone even knew what was happening, they’d been beating her half to death. Cage had been socked once with a black heavy duty flashlight, the kind cops wore when they wanted to feel important. No one else had been hurt, and after Cage took his revenge with a crowbar, they got back in the truck and raced off, leaving the hillbilly hick state behind with a trooper dying in the dirt. Cage thought of her face, how it had somehow caved in as he beat down on it with the iron. He’d been in a lot of fights. They all had, but he most of all. The first man he’d fought was his father, who’d been rather keen on fighting as well, but only five to ten year old boys. When Cage turned fifteen he’d broken the old fucker’s arms in three places and had him running out of the house like a squealing pig.

After that the fighting just sort of came naturally. He beat people up for everything. He didn’t get the right amount of change at the local diner; a sock on the jaw. A stranger bumped him on the street; a kick in the ass, one in the face too if he was stupid enough to protest. He fought anyone for everything, didn’t matter how big or tough they were, you just didn’t fuck with Cage Reynolds. Despite this however, he’d never killed anyone before. Sure, the cop was breathing when they left, but with a head injury like that, not for long. She was dead alright. The thought formed a thick lump of dread in his chest. Dread that he was responsible for the death of… someone, anyone. Most likely she was just a deadbeat bitch with two fatherless kids and too much of a taste for the booze, but so what? She was just doing her job. A bribe could have done the trick, maybe, unless she was one of the naïve the-law-is-everything whores.
Well, it was too late to be sorry anyway. It had happened and – a sudden sound, like an explosion, and the car span out of control. The wheels shrieked as Richie stood on the breaks, the car turning sideways across the road and coming to halt just moments before it would have turned over. Cage hit his sore head and the pain was immeasurable. It no longer felt as if it was splitting in two, but as if it already had. He felt as if in the next second he would be sitting with the two halves of his brain resting in his lap.

“Holy shit!” Richie exclaimed, and Cage was furious to hear a giggle just underneath his words. What the fuck did that stupid prick have to laugh about?
“What the fuck happened?” He asked, and the pain was so bad he couldn’t even bring himself to shout.
“Flat tire,” Richie said. “We hit a nail or something, I don’t know.” He opened the door and got out. Cage followed on trembling legs, feeling as if he’d stepped out of the car and into the sea. Nausea set in as soon as his maiden steps were over, and the wretched stink of burnt rubber didn’t precisely liven up the day. He struggled to reach the ditch, but it was already too late. He bent over and left the steaming remains of his lunch on the worn road, adding another glorious smell to bless the area.
“What the fuck, man!?” Richie yelled, and as in cue, there was another retching of sick bowels from behind them. Jenna was on her knees on the other side of the car, pale like bleak moonlight and in the process of spewing scrambled eggs and coffee on the road.
“Jesus fucking Christ….” Richie said, and the tired exasperation in his voice was thick enough to win awards.
“Guys… I don’t feel too good…” Jenna moaned, falling on her side next to her mess and curling up into a shivering ball. Cage didn’t have time for them. As soon as his legs stopped trembling he went around to the back of the car. He flung the trunk open, removed the hatch to the spare wheel compartment and blinked at what he saw. There was a white plastic bag splotched with blood. The crowbar was inside; the chosen murder weapon used to escape a charge of drunk driving. There was nothing else however.

He slammed the trunk shut and turned his ever rising fury on Richie.
“How the fuck can you drive around without a spare?! Now we’re stuck here in the ass end of nowhere, you piece of shit!” His face had flushed with a bright red and spittle was flying from his lips as he yelled. He wanted to take it all out on Richie, blame him for the cop and for this entire fucking nightmare. Yet he knew he couldn’t, it really wasn’t Richie’s fault. Even the spare tire wasn’t his fault. How could he have known they were going to get a flat out here? His reasoning didn’t catch up to him just yet however. He was half a second away from using his fists to relieve himself of all that shit clogging up his brain pipes when Jimmy said;

“Shut up a moment.” He’d gotten out of the car and was still holding Anne. “You guys hear that?” Cage was just about to tell him off, but then he too heard it. There was something moving around in the woods. Leaves were scuffled by heavy feet, branches snapped and bushes were rattled. It sounded like a very large man who didn’t mind announcing himself was tumbling around in the underbrush.
“Who goes there?!” Richie yelled, and even the rebounding echo carried his trembling anxiety back with it. The darkness was too thick to reveal anything, and if it wasn’t for the glaring headlights of the car, they would have been engulfed by the unsettling blackness.
“It’s just a fucking animal or something.” Cage said, the explanation more for his own sake than theirs. The relief in his voice was palpable, but then Richie shot off the newest, lovely idea.
“What if it’s a bear or something?” He asked, and if Cage didn’t know better, he’d bet the guy was close to tears.

He was just about to open his mouth and tell him to get his fucking act together when a shrill shriek echoed between the trees. It sounded like the voice of a young woman, screaming to the point where her throat was just about to burst. Cage felt his heart grow tired of its original place and move somewhere up his throat. The blood drained from his face and he actually thought he’d pissed himself a bit.
“Get in the fucking car!” Jimmy screamed, abandoning Anne to force himself into the back seat. The others came after, Cage throwing himself in the passenger seat and Richie putting the pedal to the metal. The car screeched as it turned, leaning heavily on the flat tire and making a thunderous rumbling sound as it went. No one cared. Richie stood on the gas, barely having the time to switch gears which sent the engine into a roar of disapproval.

After a while, maybe after five minutes of rushing down the narrow road, Richie calmed down. He brought the car down to a slow roll and eventually stopped entirely. They just sat there, in silence, and eventually Cage started laughing. Richie stared at him as if struck by thunder. Then he first smiled, and was soon laughing as well. A moment later they were all cackling like loons. They didn’t stop until their eyes were teary red, their chests numb and hysteria leaked dry.
“That fucking animal scared the shit out of me.” Cage said, still smiling, and Richie answered it.
“You’re preaching to the coir, son.” He said and leaned back in his seat, panting. That’s when Cage spotted the sign on the left side of the road. The text was faded and tested by hard weather, but still possible to make out.
“Crawford Home; Bed & Breakfast,” Cage read out loud, his eyes squinting to make out the text. There was nothing odd about the sign, but as he read it they all shared a brief chill of superstitious dread.
“They may have a spare tire to sell, or give away. If anything, they’ll have a phone.” Richie said, trying to sound nonchalant without fooling anybody. His voice quaked with unsettled nerves. Neglecting the opportunity of civilization was a stupid decision, but Cage had no wish to go there, as a matter of fact his entire being told him to get out of the car and run for his god damn life. Inhaling, shakily and not knowing why, he said;
“Yeah. Let’s go.” Richie nodded and put his foot on the gas. The car moved unevenly and seemed to rock rather than roll, but they made progress. During all of this, no one saw the six shadowy shapes staring at them from the woods.

The house itself was a convincing sight. It was a cozy deep wood version of a Cape Cod, complete with an outdoor garage and a country style porch. A white wooden fence surrounded the building and a faint, oily light shone inside its tall windows. There were no other cars on the gravel driveway, and Cage figured the Crawfords must keep their own car in the garage. The alien feeling of wrongness had subsided, but it still lingered in the background. Cage brought it down to nothing but the rather fast paced events of the last few hours. His memory flashed to the cop dying in the road, her pale grey eyes staring up at him with a sort of accusing bewilderment. What happened, did you just strike me? If so, why would you do that?

He shook the thought and opened the passenger side door. He was immediately struck by the rather misplaced smell of newly cut grass. It was a grotesque mix of childhood harmony invading on his sinister sense of danger, making him almost lightheaded. Behind him he heard the other doors open, then the crusty protest of feet on the gravel. Jimmy came up to him and put an arm around his shoulders, smiling at him scantly with that pompadour greaseball haircut ruffled by the cool breeze. Something about that wind unsettled Cage further. It was like a breath of something large, cruel and dead.
“Fuck are you smiling about?” He said and shrugged him off. “I’m not one of your whores.” Jimmy rolled his eyes and shot back;
“You’re on your period or something, prick?” Cage ignored him and started walking towards the house, the others following closely behind. He wondered who’d build a place like this, surrounded by forest on both sides and situated deep in the middle of nowhere. Even the road, which was likely the closest thing this place ever got to a highway, was likely to go on forever into the uncharted wilds of nowhere land. He was glad to have found the place though, already forgetting about his earlier sense of foreboding. He strode up to the door and knocked like a fool before he noticed the doorbell. He rang it, and the chime from inside was also somehow strange. It rang with the metallic whine of something which was old and had stood unused for decades, like striking the key on an old piano.

There was no answer, and after some time Cage rang it again. The sleepy chime returned, wrapping them in a thick atmosphere of cold unease.
“I don’t like this…” Anne said and no one missed the fear in her voice.
“There is nothing to be fucking afraid of.” Cage said, speaking more to himself than to anyone else. After a while he beat the door in frustration, not very hard, but it swung open on whining hinges. Cage took a cautious step inside even though his heart pounded in his chest.
It was a narrow hallway with a staircase on the left. What looked like a century old lamp stood on a dresser just inside the door, emitting the oily light they’d seen from outside.
“Hello?” Cage said, taking another step inside. The floorboards creaked underneath his feet and Jimmy said;
“Well done, Gage. They didn’t hear the doorbell, but they’ll most likely hear your whispers.”
“Shut the fuck up, and don’t call me Gage, you know I hate it!” Cage roared at him, his cheeks flushed with anger. Jimmy threw up his hands in a I-give-up gesture and didn’t say anything more. Cage took another step inside and looked around, haunted now by a fresh bout of misgiving anxiety.
“Hello?!” He yelled, and this time there was no doubt that if no one heard, the place was either empty or all the residents were dead. There was no answer. Cage forced the chills away and said determinedly;
“Alright. The place is dead, let’s spend the night. Tomorrow we can look through the garage for something to use.” No one spoke up but Jenna, who held Anne’s hand tightly in hers and seemed to sway on her feet somewhat.
“Can’t we… Just go?” Her eyes pleaded to the group, but Cage knew the decision was up to him. Whether he or anyone else liked it didn’t matter; he was the leader. It was one of those things that just sort of happened. He was a take-charge-and-run personality, which made others just fall in line.

He ignored Jenna and stepped deeper into the narrow hallway. There was a musty smell about it, something which reminisced of old timber and dusty attics. Still, the place looked fresh. The floorboards were of a dark oak, elegantly veined and looking pleasantly antique. Them and the vintage appearance of the furniture made him sure this was the home of an elderly couple. Made sense he supposed. Old people living out here in the bushes must lack for company, so why not find it in strangers and get paid while you’re at it? While Cage, Jimmy and Richie went upstairs, Anne took Jenna by the hand and led her to a door on the far end of the hallway. It opened upon a medium sized living room, complete with a fireplace and old leather couches.
A gramophone stood on a desk in the left corner along with a neat collection of old photos. Jenna stepped inside first, looking like a girl in a dream. She moved slowly, as if sleepwalking, her fingers coming up to trail along the pictures on the walls, humming softly to herself. Anne wondered just how much X she’d been doing, for the moment neglecting to remember she’d been pretty shitfaced herself.
She strode cautiously across the room, reaching the fireplace and taking up one of the photos placed on the mantelpiece.
“Mom and Benny,” the picture said, and it showed a black and white photograph of a young woman in her thirties petting a large, black dog. The picture looked as if it had been taken sometimes in the late forties or the early fifties, and to Anne’s surprise, she noticed there was a rather thick sheen of dust covering the display.

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“Jen, I don’t think anyone’s been here for some time…” She said thoughtfully, but when she spun around she was alone in the room. Opposite to the hallway and next to the desk with the gramophone, a door stood ajar. She couldn’t make out what was inside, the darkness was just too thick, but the sight of that wall of blackness made her more than just uneasy. It lit a panicked flame of cold dread somewhere inside her chest, and she felt a longing for the bleak light in the hallway. She swallowed, tried to gather her courage by thinking she might just be a little too old to be afraid of the dark. Then again, this didn’t feel like something that simple. It was not like being haunted by that anxious notion that someone, or something, may be waiting beyond the borders of what you could see. This was the heart curdling terror you felt when you were walking around the woods and saw a bear approaching in the distance. It was the sheer and simple instinct of preservation telling her to put her fucking legs on her back and get the fuck away, just away, wherever and never come back.
Of course, like in most such instances, two natural forces collided, fought and one prevailed. In this case it was human curiosity, mixed with the simple pattern of the taught knowledge that the darkness couldn’t hurt you. Anne proceeded forward. The open door loomed in front of her, silent and ominous like the gaping mouth of a hungry beast. As she came closer to the door, she became aware of a rank smell. It was not unbearable, but it was not very pleasant either. It reminded her of when she’d been a child, those golden days in her home town, where she and the other kids on the block used to catch bugs and place them in little jars. Like all kids, as soon as the game was over, they dropped the jar somewhere and forget about it. One time she’d found one of those jars, almost covered in dirt and concealed behind the shed in the backyard.
At the bottom of the jar, magnitudes of dead insects had gathered in some sort goo; a yellow liquid of some stuff she didn’t want to think about, not even then when she was six or seven years old. Then too her curiosity had prevailed, and she had opened the jar. The stink which had come out was exactly like that which emanated from the inside of that ominous door. Still, it was faded and not at all as strong. Her throat was too dry to let her make any sounds, but even if she could she didn’t think she would’ve. She stepped through the door, and she immediately became aware of a cool chill creeping up her back. It was like stepping into a cellar, but the room was so dark she couldn’t make out anything inside.

Her eyes did adjust however, and she could suddenly make out something in the distance. It was the human shape of someone standing against the far wall. She couldn’t make out any features, but then again she didn’t think she’d need to. She knew who it was. As she approached it, the smell became heavier. It seemed to surround her now, thick like a blanket of dead things, and she put a hand in front of her mouth and clamped down on her nose. She eventually reached what had been standing against the wall, but she never found Jenna.
The building had six bedrooms. This was something Cage, Jimmy and Richie had investigated thoroughly on the second floor. Each room was just what you would expect, situated on rows of threes on each side of a narrow hallway. It was neat, cozy and old. Everything was old. The three talked about it later, and all agreed that not a single piece of furniture could have been younger than the forties, some around the early fifties, but it was all vintage and worn in a loving way.
Cage got into one of the rooms and closed the door. He felt his day of exploration was over; all he really wanted to do was take something for his head and sleep. His muscles ached, or rather everything ached. The room was small, just large enough to fit a bed and a dresser, upon which an old mirror was situated. He trailed his hand over the wall on the side of the door, searching for the light switch, but there was none. So far they’d used their phones to navigate the area, but he wondered about the lack of electric lights. He spotted a candle on a nightstand next to bed and walked over to light it. Sure, a brilliant flash of modern ceiling lights would have been preferable, but you took what you could get. Small as the room was the candle managed it fine. Just when he’d lit it however, his peripheral vision caught a glance of something which shoved his heart right down his stomach before filling it with ice.

There was a shape on the bed, or at least he thought so. The shape of someone or something sitting on the other side, their back turned towards him and gaze staring endlessly into the wall. Cage spun around, a mask of fear contorting his face and a scream being born in his throat. There was nothing there, the room was empty and he exhaled deeply. His heart was still racing in his chest but he paid it no mind. Just a trick of the shadows, just his imagination, that was all. He sighed and fell backwards, feeling his muscles melt away as they relaxed. He groaned and allowed himself to close his eyes for a moment. It was heaven, absolutely heaven, and before his mind had even had the time to slow down, he was sleeping.
Jimmy didn’t hear what Richie said, but he honestly didn’t care. He found the old place neat, actually kind of awesome. It reminded him of his grandparents’ place back in New York, it even smelled the same. Old geezers such as they always saved all their stuff, never threw shit away and as such their place was always littered with vintage stuff. Like the others, he used the flashlight in his phone to navigate the dark rooms, opened drawers and even pocketed something nice here and there. What did it matter? The owners seemed to have gone awol anyway, they might not even be back in the morning, or even this week. He smiled his scant smile as he went from room to room, pocketed a nice looking porcelain figure here, a silver spoon there or something else which caught his eye. He stopped once to check his face in one of the mirrors and ran a hand through his jet black hair. He winked at his reflection. What a good looking guy he was, honestly. He was going to bring both Jenna and Anne up here together and let them tell him that as he fucked them. He hoped Cage would hear them moan, he always got pissed. Well, in truth he got jealous, but he got pissed because he knew it.
When Jimmy was about to leave for the first floor again, he noticed something odd. The wall panel was slightly ajar, and a cold breeze came through it. He put his finger in the crack and opened it, realized it was not the wall panel at all, but a door. A dusty staircase dwelt behind it, and he realized it was the way to the attic.

“Neat!” He exclaimed, smiling the way he always did and traversed the stairs. He didn’t hear the door close behind him. On top of the stairs was another door, or well, rather like a thin board of wood attached to a pair of hinges. He pushed it open with one hand and it whined quite forlornly, the rusty hinges almost screeching.
The walls were thin here, and he could hear the wind whining outside. It was an eerie tune, as if the world had gained a spooky voice. Jimmy didn’t mind though, he liked spooky, liked feeling a bit creeped out.
As he shone his light around the room, he wasn’t disappointed. It was full of old toys, and not just toys which had been put in neat boxes or scattered around the area. No, the room was set up as if someone was ready to play, but a silky sheet of cobweb covered them. It was a child sized table with four small chairs around it. In each chair a doll had been put, presumably to serve as guests, and the scene sure did a number on Jimmy. The thought that they had all been sitting here for twenty or even thirty years, left exactly the way some kid abandoned them decades ago, was a thought which sent chills down his spine.

“Just a fucking kid getup, Jimmy…” He said, trying to swallow his unsettled dread. He strode past the toys to explore deeper in the attic. As he passed the little table, a sense of real terror seeped into his heart. It was impossible to explain just how he felt it, but he got the notion as if he’d been invited to look at something, but he had disobeyed the rules. He’d walked right onto enemy territory. He tried to smile and shake the feeling, telling himself he was a tough son of a bitch and he sure as hell wasn’t afraid of nothing.
As if in defiance to the creeps, he put his phone down on the floor and started going through an old box. He uncovered an old diary which immediately caught his attention. He was just about to look through it when the light vanished. His heart stopped in his chest, and he sat there in the pitch blackness, unable to see even his hand in front of his face. He took a deep breath and reached for the phone. His fingers trailed over the floor, but they found nothing but dust.

“What the fuck…” He said, feeling tears welling up in his throat. He’d never been so scared in his whole life. That’s when the sound came. It was something from the deepest pit of his nightmares, born from the hell of his subconscious and manifested in the physical world. It was the sound of something very heavy being dragged across the floor, or in this case, up the stairs. It slammed against each step, creating a heart curdling “Thump” every time. It came closer, approached the attic, and soon he heard the thin wooden door creak open. It did so slowly, as if whatever was on the other side was in no particular rush. Jimmy felt a warm wetness within his pants and he realized he’d soiled himself. He was shaking, each breath strained and escaping him in short gasps.

The heavy dragging began again, this time inside the attic. There was a heavy, pounding step, and then came the sound of something slipping across the floor. Jimmy couldn’t make out what it was, just that it was heavy.
“Richie….?” He whispered, but his throat was so clogged up he only managed a thin wheeze. The dragging came closer, and the pounding step had vanished. Now there was only the drag and the slip. Drag – slip. Drag – slip. Drag – slip. Soon he could feel the vibrations from whatever was approaching in the floor, that’s how close it was. This is where his mind gave in however, where it decided to have mercy on his straining sanity. He managed to make out the faintest shape of something moving in the pitch black darkness, and then he fainted.

Cage awoke to the rumble of thunder. He had no idea how long he’d been asleep, not even where he was. He took a deep breath, and the air felt stale and wrong on his tongue. He sat up, the bedsprings creaking lightly, and suddenly he was aware that something was very off. When lightning cracked, he saw what. The room which lit up was not the same he’d fallen asleep in. Or rather, it was not the same version. Thick cobwebs hung in the corners, uncomfortably heavy with black spiders. The window looked as if it had first been bashed to pieces and then rotted apart. It was cracked inwards, the glass broken and scattered over the bedroom floor. A heavy blanket of dust covered it, dust which seemed to have been undisturbed for at least five decades. Confused and out of his mind with bewildered fear, he made the mistake of looking to his right. The lightning cracked again, and the pale, leering face of an old woman stared into his. Her eyes were wide and round, insane and hollow. Her wrinkled skin seemed as if it was just about to snap, stretched to its limit as the smile seemed to make up at least half of her face. She was there for a very brief moment before the lighting left him in the dark.

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Somewhere, as the seconds passed by in a slow, tumbling motion, he became aware that he was screaming. He couldn’t even hear it at first, couldn’t even hear the window crack as he backed into it, the rotten wood give way and the air rushing past his ears as he fell. He was aware of the chill, but all other sensations had been lost on his way to hell. He crashed onto the muddy gravel, hard, a numbing pain shooting through his entire body. He was aware something had snapped, but only far away in the back of his mind. He stared at the house, and that was then the final strings let go and his sanity plummeted into the void.

The neat little Cape Cod, which indeed might have been just that once, was a miserable wreck. The paint had peeled off almost completely, leaving tiny flakes behind on the ground. The front door had been boarded up completely, so long ago that even the boards were rotting. Part of the roof had caved in and every window was either smashed or on its way to fall apart. The sign which had been saying “Crawford Home; Bed & Breakfast,” now said;

“BUILDING HAS BEEN CONDEMNED. STRUCTURE IS DEEMED UNSAFE.”

Weeping and laughing at the same time, he realized he couldn’t feel his toes. He couldn’t feel his legs either for that matter. He could still move them though, which was the weird part. If he’d snapped his spine, he should have been basically just a head on a stick, not much more. He realized his arms were numbing off as well, but before they did, he managed to feel his way down his body. He grabbed at the sharp piece of fence which had impaled him, not feeling any pain at all until that precise moment. Even then however, it was just an aching throb somewhere far away.

“Oh…” He managed, weeping a little more now, even sobbing. Something about this was just so fucked up. It couldn’t be real, it just couldn’t, it was one fucking tripped out ride of X alright. Thinking this, he saw pieces of his guts on the bloody fencepost, coating it like sausages filled with jelly. Something about this struck him as funny, and he died smiling.
A couple of days later, there was an article in the newspapers about a Jenna Caulfield, who were found wandering aimlessly on a corn field. Her feet were bleeding, clothes torn and face riddled with a magnitude of tiny scars. Nothing she said was intelligible, at least not then, and she was taken first to the hospital and then to the mental ward. She didn’t speak for nearly a month after she’d been found, but once she did, police officers investigated her testimony. The house, deteriorated, old and condemned, was found, but no bodies.

Richie Stewarts, Gage C Reynolds, Jim L Bridger and Anne Mores were all listed as missing.

Credit To: Catcid

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22 thoughts on “The Tavern on the Borderlands”

  1. I feel like the story had more to offer like what happened to richie, or why that girl made out alive… it was a good read.

  2. Not bad, for a non-professional writer… until the last paragraph. Oof, what happened? I don’t know if it landed with a thud or more of a splat, kind of like sausages filled with jelly. It seems like the writer ran out of story, but needed that paragraph to meet a word count requirement or something.

  3. Not a bad story at all. Some grammar errors, but when the telling is as good as this it doesn’t really matter much. The only issue I had was telling the characters apart as they don’t seem well differentiated.
    Congrats on taking third place!

  4. I think some commenters should appreciate that we’re on an AMATEUR writing site; where there maybe be mistakes as far as specific word use, spelling and grammatical errors (I mean things that have been overlooked, not pieces that are disjointed or un-proofed), if you’ve constructed a decent plotline and worked on your characters and have conveyed the atmosphere well then surely you can be forgiven your slight mistakes?! It’s not as if we’ve paid 5.99 for the piece and gotten a bum deal.
    As for my opinion on the story, I loved it! More so than the one that won second place. Extrememly well written, fantastic characters and the descriptions in the attic were great, so much so that I was wondering if I could hear a thumping drag coming up my stairs >< Saying that, I would have loved to have met a ghost and discovered the back story to the house and why it appears the way it does (or is that the drugs and I'm missing the point?!). Thanks very much for your story, it's been fab :)

    1. Thank you very very much! Your comment is very flattering and it brought me much joy,

      I am very glad you enjoyed it!

  5. bowels give shits and diarrhea, not vomit
    wet his pants, not soiled himself
    went looking for a phone in the old B&B, but had cellphones originally
    ‘X’ doesn’t cause trippy or hallucinations

    Not too bad, but surely gave Blair Witch kind of ending. Implications but no explanation.
    Classic ‘cabin in the woods’, but with all the characters ‘gonna get whats comin to them’, no sympathetic characters.

    Good for a level one type scary story, few twists or ironies.

    1. Thank you!

      I mostly blame the fact I am not a native English speaker, and as such got the wrong understanding of some words. Like ” to soil oneself.” I thought this was a simply loose term which could mean both wetting your pants or some other form of soiling, but I have now looked it up and realized I was indeed in the wrong. Thank you for pointing that out.

      The cellphones didn’t have reception, either because it was in the middle of nowhere or because something was freaking with it the signals. Either way, I didn’t put it out there in the piece and that was stupid of me. It was one of those cases when something feels so obvious you don’t realize it’s not as obvious for the non-writers. Thank you again.

      You pointed out some great things and you really helped. I wish you a great evening, and I am very grateful you took the time to read this and point out what you liked and didn’t.

      Have a great evening!

  6. This was a joy to read! Sure, there were a few typos and minor grammar mistakes, but nobody is perfect. I found they did not detract from the fantastic story. I was really impressd at your ability to make me involved in the story given how awful and unlikeable the characters were. That is tough! I was not necessarily sad at their fates, but I was so engaged with what was coming next. I also like the way you told it as semi-snapshots of action. To me, it felt like something that would translate really well into a short film, just based on how it was set up and your ability to pinpoint really clever details. The only real negative for me was the lack of continuity between the intro and conclusion. I had trouble seeing how the two stories were connected, though I could make a tenuous leap to the second act being punishment for their deeds, perhaps suggesting they died when the car spun out. But there is not a lot here to tie that together. Still, I think you created a great cast of characters, led us through a spooky and deadly haunted house, and peppered it all with some unique descriptions. Thanks for the spooky tale, and happy writing!

    1. Katherine, you flatter me and you truly honor me with this great insight. It makes me very happy that you enjoyed it, but what makes me even happier is your insight in its flaws and the way you pointed them out.

      I fully agree with you on how the intro and the actual story is hard to connect. I wish I had done a better job and used it to something a bit more clever. My idol, Stephen King, offers some great insight in the difficulty of making short stories. He states that writing them is in itself a skill, because it requires you to be able to narrow your field of view, and compress character development, introduction, events and everything else which makes a tale, into a much narrower format. A short story -wants- to be longer, and I feel that, even if I didn’t make a mess of the whole thing, I still only managed clumsily.

      I took something which wanted to be a long tale, perhaps even a novel, and I compressed it, but it didn’t entirely fit, and as such some parts of the story are left on the outside. I thank you for all the valuable criticism you have given me, and I thank you for taking the time to write me these lines.

      Have a great evening!

  7. I’m sorry but I don’t understand how this won even third place in any kind of writing competition. I totally love this site but this offering is practically unreadable. Truly. I couldn’t get halfway through it. This is awful.

    It’s poorly constructed with little regard for simple PARAGRAPHS and clumsily written with incomplete character definition, voice or just really, really basic and consistent scene description.

    V
    V
    V
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………..
    “It had happened and – a sudden sound, like an explosion, and the car span out of control. The wheels shrieked as Richie stood on the breaks, the car turning sideways across the road and coming to halt just moments before it would have turned over.”
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………..

    Jeeziss that first sentence alone…plus “span”?? That was a word back in the 1800s I think…try “spun” maybe? And also they’re driving on “a thin country road” (implying dirt) yet the wheels “shrieked” when he hit the brakes? …BRAKES not “breaks” as is written. Then the car is first ‘spinning out of control’ on said “THIN country road”…spinning… then “turning sideways” but somehow almost flipping over??? Brutal.

    V
    V
    V
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………..
    “He remembered her stopping them just a few miles from the Texas state line. She’d seen the booze, ordered Richie to step out of the car. They had all followed, even the girls, and before anyone even knew what was happening, they’d been beating her half to death. Cage had been socked once with a black heavy duty flashlight, the kind cops wore when they wanted to feel important. No one else had been hurt, and after Cage took his revenge with a crowbar, they got back in the truck and raced off, leaving the hillbilly hick state behind with a trooper dying in the dirt.”
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………..

    So the trooper stopped them after ‘seeing the booze’ but they had been drinking from a paper bag?? Plus jumping all over the place in describing this odd assault with redundancies of “all” following out of the car “even the girls” and “hillbilly hick”?? #1 When cops pull you over they call for backup when stopping a carload of 6 people before asking ANYBODY to get out of the car…and #2 if for some reason a cop orders the driver out then they don’t increase their own risk going from 1:1 to 6:1 by ordering the 5 other passengers to get out too!! And if these drunk/drugged passengers decide to pour out of the car on their own while trooper is screening driver for DUI then somebody is quickly about to get shot. Lastly, just sentences earlier these characters were driving a car but now their climbing back in and racing off in a TRUCK?!? Lastly again, why does this guy get “socked” (used at least twice) when struck with a flashlight?? Who gets “socked”??

    This is terrible. I stopped halfway through and could STILL give you another dozen examples of why this is terrible.

    “You’re on your period or something, prick?”

    “Cage felt his heart grow tired of its original place and move somewhere up his throat.”

    “It was the sheer and simple instinct of preservation telling her to put her fucking legs on her back and get the fuck away, just away, wherever and never come back.”

    Ooffaahh!!

    1. I find it hilarious how you point out everything being terrible, but you are completely incapable of giving any constructive feedback as to how it could be made better in the future. “This is bad” doesn’t help shit, and I find your entire comment to be unnecessary and a pitiful result of your own attitude. Did this piece offend you in some way?

      First off; I am not a native English speaker, so indeed a word here and there might be used out of context or seem a bit outdated. Some words can also simply be mind bumps where you didn’t think about it. Then you might say, and if I am to add in a bit of your attitude here; “Well, then have someone proofread it, you fucking moron!” And yes, I can tell you that I have. Several times by myself AND others. These faults were missed, and no one, not even God, does shit perfect the first time.

      Now, as the country road, I was not at all imagining it to be dirt. A country road ONLY implies it’s a smaller road, usually by the countryside, NOT that it has to be dirt, that’s your own imagination making that scene wrong. If you don’t believe me, google is your friend.

      As for the scene with the officer you seemed to have misunderstood everything which was written, or really I don’t think you thought about it too deeply. First off, bottles inside paper bags aren’t really a new thing, now is it? So just cause it was in a paper bag she would have been completely clueless as to what it contained? Nor does a cop at all call for backup EVERY TIME they stop someone. So if she’d stop someone for a routine control. she’d call in four other cars to stand by? Yeah, sounds logical. It is never implied -what- she stopped them for. She ordered the driver out AFTER she saw the booze. She didn’t see the booze and then stop them, how would that even be possible? That is simply your own misunderstanding.
      Then she was overwhelmed. She wanted -only- the driver to step out, and I sincerely doubt she would have expected them all to follow. Maybe she did pull her gun? It’s never specified exactly what happened. And even if she did call for backup before she stopped them, I sincerely doubt they would have been there in time to really do anything. Their car might indeed be wanted? There are so many things which are not specified because they didn’t add to the story. Use your own mind to fill in the blanks….

      As for “Socked” I am bewildered by your confusion with this word? It’s a slang term used for being struck. Why don’t you google that too, you seem to need a lot of that.

      I can’t take you comment seriously because it simply didn’t offer me any help and was just full of meaningless spewing of negative energy. I am sorry for whatever has happened to you to make you like this.

      I do definitely accept that I wrote some words wrong. “Spun” would have been much better than “Span”, and “Breaks” was simply a spelling error. No one is perfect. I have seen much more faults in this text after posting which I wish I had seen earlier. At one place I use: “Completely” almost immediately after each other which totally ruins the flow of the text. It’s too late to correct now, however. If you had brought me actual criticism instead of just hate, I think it could have been valuable. But this is you simply venting stupidity, which makes it pointless and meaningless.

      You take care now.

  8. Nicola Marie Jackson

    If this was third place then we’ve got a real treat over next two days because this is marvellous. I like that we haven’t got a clue what happened while at the same time I want details. The attic bit was really well written and had me honestly feeling sick, it was wonderful!

  9. This is magnificent. It may well be the best story I’ve read on this site. You have a real knack for descriptions and wording. Here are a few of my favorites: “…the crusty protest of feet on the gravel,” “It was not like being haunted by that anxious notion that someone or something may be waiting beyond the boards of what you could see,” “He sighed and fell backwards, feeling his muscles melt away,” and “…he saw pieces of his guts on the bloody fencepost coating it like sausages filled with jelly.” Great. Writing-wise, you totally nailed it.
    You leave a lot to the imagination in this one, which is good to an extent. The person by the wall, the old woman by the bedside, the dragging sound in the attic. You give us no explanations for any of these are and, in a way, I kind of like that. One part that I did feel to be a loose end was your not returning to the maybe-dead cop from the beginning of the story. That’s a huge plot point but you basically discard it in the last half of the story. I thought to myself while reading, “These could just be a bunch of drugged out kids who’ve just held up a convenience store.” I don’t think you needed so serious a crime as a cop-killing unless you were going to do something else with it. A lesser crime would have moved the story along just as well.
    All in all, though, I thought this was stupendous. It got my heart pumping especially for Jimmy in the attic. What a great scene! I look forward to reading more of your writing. Later.

    1. Wow man, I am honestly lacking words. This is so flattering beyond anything I can describe, and I am so very happy you enjoyed it.

      I also immensely appreciate your criticism. I sincerely thank you. It’s very seldom I get this kind of critique which really helps me grow. I chose not to give any explanations, because usually a reveal kills the horror. It can still exciting, but the creepiness is gone. Terror and horror comes from our fear of the unknown, and that’s what I tried to create here.

      I am not saying I succeeded, it might just have turned out anticlimactic, but it’s what I was going for. Your comment is immensely appreciated and I thank you very much for the feedback!

      Have a great evening!.

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