The great thing about horror is you can have it work no matter the length of story. As such: I love short horror stories. It can showcase the talent of an author and their ability to set all the necessary parts to a story up in a paragraph or two.
On the flip side, you get stories like the two we're going to discuss. I call them Jersey 77 and The Woman in the Oven.
Early in the morning of August 19, 2005, the body of a young black man approximately 16 or 17 years old was found on Wolfe Street, in downtown Baltimore.
This is nitpicking, but why say “approximately” if you don't know his approximate age? Also, a murder in Baltimore? Isn't that city notorious for crime? Last I heard, you can get shot if you don't kill carpenter ants quick enough.
The corpse lay in a pool of blood, and was dressed in a pair of loose jean shorts over white cotton boxers, a Baltimore Ravens football jersey bearing the number 77 and the name Ortiz, a pair of white cotton athletic socks and a small gold cross on a chain around the body’s neck.
“around the body's neck”? What, does someone lose their gender when they die? Just say “the man's neck” you dink.
The body wore no shoes, and had no wallet or other identifying possessions.
This was necessary information. Can we move on from describing every single thing about the dead body? This isn't a police report, it's a short story. I don't need to know if the killer sandpapered his finger prints off.
Baltimore City police concluded that the young man had been just another victim of the city’s frequent violent crimes.
Is this story trying to read like a news excerpt? I'm expecting the next paragraph to read, “From CNN, I'm Anderson Cooper”.
Nobody came forth to claim or identify the body, and it was passed on to the coroner’s office for autopsy.
If this story went through an editor, I'm inclined to believe it was Helen Keller. This information is so unnecessary, it feels like I'm actually a real detective. If I wanted that experience, I'd go upstairs and play L.A. Noire.
The coroner’s report concluded that the cause of death was blood loss and trauma caused by three shots to the upper chest, one of which penetrated the heart and the other two the left lung.
Shot through the heart and you're to blame. Darling you give writing a bad name.
So far, so normal, right?
Nothing about this story is normal. For starters: everything above this sentence was one paragraph and was a wall of text that amounted to “stereotypical ghetto teen”. This was compounded by information nobody gave two damns about because the author believes the reader needs to know every minute detail like they're a flipping detective. Newsflash to all aspiring authors: don't do this. Just don't. Capiche?
Here’s the part the official statement left out: There were, indeed, three entry wounds, but there were no exit wounds, and after a thorough search of the body no slugs or fragments were found, nor was there any heat damage.
This is intriguing, but I'll let you guess where this leads. Go on, guess.
The young man had been killed by three shots to the chest, but there were never any bullets. The body was never identified.
This is also intriguing! But this is on this blog, so guess what's gonna happen. C'mon, you can do it.
Postscript: As of this writing, the Baltimore Ravens have never had a player who sported the number 77, or who was named Ortiz.
Yup, the story ends. That's it. Done. Nothing. The story sets up a mystery and ends like it's The Devil Inside. A true masterpiece in the way of how one doesn't write a story, let alone handle the structure of any form of entertainment. This is a staggeringly bad work of literature. It's a story idea that was put onto the internet and now rests here for all eternity.
With that in mind, lemme point out two things for aspiring writers before going onto the next story.
First of all: when you want to write anything, you should always know what is and isn't necessary information. The complete attire someone is or was wearing isn't necessary. The description above of what this nameless guy was wearing isn't necessary. I don't need to know he had socks on. Nobody cares. They're socks. If they were socks with post-it notes on them that had doodles of Franklin D. Roosevelt, then sure, mention them. Maybe they'll offer a new deal on what I can read Otherwise, don't.
Second: “So far, so normal, right?” If you think this is acceptable, you're silly. This is bad, bad, bad writing. It breaks immersion, it decimates tone, and it gives me heartburn. It'll also give you heartburn. The kind that makes your tummy hurt until you go to bed that night. Then you'll wake up with Montezuma's Revenge.
All of that said, let's move onto the… more special of the two. Certainly the one that's more fun to riff.
During the summer of 1983, in a quiet town near Minneapolis, Minnesota, the charred body of a woman was found inside the kitchen stove of a small farmhouse.
Ho-oly crap, this story started off slamming its foot on the gas, GAS, GAS!
A video camera was also found in the kitchen, standing on a tripod, pointing at the oven. No tape was found inside the camera at the time.
It was later found in the microwave. A crime scene investigator mistook it for mac and cheese.
Although the scene was originally labeled as a homicide by police, an unmarked VHS tape was later discovered at the bottom of the farm's well, which had apparently dried up earlier that year.
Wait, investigators didn't bother investigating the well? Did nobody, not even the FBI, think, “Hey, maybe the killer throw the tape into the well”? What, does American law enforcement now get trained by Mister Magoo? Or is this specific small town now equipped with the mental capacity to put two and two together?
Despite its worn condition, and the fact that it contained no audio, police were still able to view the contents of the tape.
What does audio have to do with viewing!? I didn't realize that in this universe, you see sound and hear images. What, are we in a Darren Aronofsky film?
It depicted a woman recording herself in front of a video camera, seemingly using the same camera that the police found in the kitchen.
“seemingly”? Word to the wise: don't use that word. You're in control of the story. Not Old Man Bob next door. JUST SAY IF IT'S THE THING YOU'RE DESCRIBING OR NOT!
After positioning the camera to include both her and her kitchen stove in its view, she turned on the oven, opened the door, crawled inside, and then closed the door behind her.
Tinder profile: Catherine Anderson. Age: 25
“I'm a young, upbeat girl looking for a lifelong partner. I was raised in a Christian household and remain a devout Christian. I go to church every Sunday and work at my local parish. Jesus is, was, and always will be my first priority in life.
“I'm not ashamed to admit though that I do have my kinks in life. For starters, I'm a submissive girl who wishes to have a dominant partner. I love to be called demeaning names in bed and love the feeling of a man who can pin me down. I'm also into being cooked alive inside an oven.”
After eight minutes into the video, the oven could be seen shaking violently. At this point thick, black smoke emanated from it. For the remaining forty-five minutes of video, until the batteries in the camera died, it remained in its stationary position.
It took eight minutes for this woman to realize she was being cooked alive? What, is she heat retardant?
“Mmm, mmm, mmm… I wonder when David is going to be home from scho—OH JESUS, IT BURNS SO MUCH, HELP ME GOD, OH HELP, IT HURTS SO MUCH!”
To avoid disturbing the local community, the police never released any information about the tape, or even the fact that it was found.
Yeah, that worked out well.
Police were also not able to determine who put the tape in the well, or why the height and stature of the woman in the video did not come close to matching the body that they had found in the oven.
Wait, hold up.
“It depicted a woman recording herself in front of a video camera, seemingly using the same camera that the police found in the kitchen.”
Author, did you have a stroke while writing this? Did you rewrite it and give up part way? Or did you cook your brain in an oven with the woman in the video? Or is this the same author who handled Jersey 77 up there? Because THAT GOES AGAINST WHAT YOU SAID YOU MORON!
Welp, I'm done. No closing thoughts, these stories were clearly written by people who idolize M. Night Shyamalan, but have the writing prowess of the genius who wrote Almost Too Late. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to cook myself in an oven.