Oh, the horror! An afternoon with H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King

On a gloomy late October afternoon some of our network members gathered for a fun Halloween-themed online writing workshop.

The attendees were divided into two groups and each group received an assignment: they first analysed a sample of a well-known horror author’s writing with the help of some prompts and then they set out to write their own piece in that author’s style.

One of the teams worked on a Victorian story in H. P. Lovecraft’s style, while the other one had to imitate the contemporary American writer, Stephen King.

And… Here are the results!

King impersonators

Written by Fiona Gray, Holly-Anne Whyte, Alanah Reynor and Afra Madkhana

It was 15 minutes after midnight and Burt Fitzgerald had just dozed off when a loud crash had awoken him from a fitful dream, the kind you have when you’re sleeping in a bed that’s not your own. It was the old bed in the attic room that creaked and groaned in harmony with the wind outside. It was the last week of October, the run up to Halloween, and houses along the street were decked with dollar-store cobwebs and jack-o’-lanterns, their flames flickering and sputtering out as the storm picked up. I’d just gone out for the third time to relight the candles purchased for the occasion, yet more paraphernalia, a tribute to the Gods of the consumer season that my wife had worshiped as a devoted disciple. Each year she had filled her cart with Walmart’s finest from mid-September through to the new year like a magpie gathering shiny trinkets for his mate.

Love-crafted lines

Written by David Stockings, Laura Elvin and Anikó Pető-Mordovski

There is no arrogance greater than keeping a journal of the mundane and workaday thoughts of the average man; the compulsion to capture the most trivial detail of human existence against the grand significance of the cosmic cycle is pitiable. And yet, when one happens to chance upon the diary of a truly transcendent mind, one cannot help but be enmarvelled. Such was the case when I opened the mysterious brown package delivered by persons unseen and with no postmark to my office at the College. I was amazed to recognise the singular handwriting of my late colleague, Professor Emeritus Archibald Homer Augustus III.

The journal contained oracular but alarming statements about the universe and human existence; at least those parts that had not been scratched out with frenzied penstrokes, which grew greater in number as the journal progressed. These unnerving revelations – which I shall not burden you with – were still weighing heavily on my mind as I drifted off to sleep. I found no rest in my slumber, plagued as my dreams were by shapes that my mind could not interpret and echoes of the esteemed professor’s words ringing out in the dark.

Jolted awake by a sudden rapping at my chamber window, I hastily sprang out of bed and flung open the windows, struggling against the gales that battered the walls of my abode. Spying nothing amiss, I battled to close the casements, and attempted to return to my fitful rest; futile, of course. The rapping came again, more insistent than before, but seemingly at the tradesmen’s door this time.

Arming myself with the third volume of Dictionary of the Semitic Languages in one hand and a brass candlestick in the other, I hastened down the stairs, not even pausing to throw on my house coat. Once in the kitchen, I gathered my resolve and prepared to throw open the door and catch the miscreant off-guard. But the heavy oak portal swung open to reveal…nothing; no sign of a living being, neither animal nor human. Feeling somewhat foolish, I was about to turn to fasten the door, when all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed a dark anthropic ectoplasm lingering beneath the skeleton of a lightning-stricken apple tree. As I narrowed my eyes to focus on the figure in the stormy gloom, my blood ran cold in my veins as the realisation struck me: the shadowy figure was, beyond a doubt, none other than the journal’s author, Archibald Homer Augustus III!

You can read more about the workshop in the January-February 2023 issue of the ITI Bulletin.