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  • Writer's picturePortland Jones

Nail-Biter: A Short Horror Story

Giuseppe Gillespie

The narrator tells us of his recurring nightmare. Strange symbols are scrawled in blood on the wall. From the opening sentences we know that we are in for something scary and unpleasant. The nightmare gets worse, a chained door is covered in sickly, blood-coloured rust. There is a demonic, bone-shattering growl. Something is chasing the narrator who falls down a flight of stairs and is left helpless at the bottom. His dream ends when he raises his hands to fend off the thing as it claws him. This brilliant opening sets the scene making you want to know what happens next.

The scene switches to a visit to the doctor, the bandages on the narrator’s hand dripping blood. The injury appears to be real, but the doctor scribbles notes on his pad – psychotic, delusions. What is going on?

The story gets stranger as the narrator goes to a restaurant and ends up in the bathroom, bleeding and scared, escaping through a window. He is chased back to his apartment where he thinks he is safe. He is wrong. We know that his reflection in the bathroom mirror is that of the monster from his dreams. And that’s where the story ends.

This weird tale leaves us with many questions. What happened? Are these psychotic delusions as hinted at earlier in the story? Was there a monster at all? Was it the narrator all along? Has the narrator been the perpetrator, not the victim?

The author gives us an afterword to help us understand the origins of the story and its execution. It was prompted by reading Macbeth. They have used allusions throughout to guide the reader’s experience of the story, starting with the hints that all is not well at the doctor’s office. The restaurant is named ‘Reverie’, referencing the dream like quality.

They continue by repeating elements from the initial dream sequence. It all adds to the sense of unreality. The apartment becomes a crime scene. We are left very much to our own devices to determine – or not – what had happened. They acknowledge that ‘it leaves everything unanswered (sorry)’, adding that it was a spur of the moment change to the planned ending. They say they may continue with this concept in future. I’m not so sure – the vague and unsettling ending sets your imagination into overdrive.

This horror short, just fifteen pages in print length, is written in the first person present tense taking you right into the action. We feel the narrator’s fear and incomprehension. The tearing off of nails made me squirm. From the offset, our senses are heightened, creating anticipation for what is to come. This short story packs a lot yet all this just adds to the feeling of unfinished business. I think I would like to know a little more, not pages more but hints as to what underlines the story to help me make a decision as to what the hell has just happened.

I asked the author to tell me a little about themself and their writing journey.

I started writing/self-publishing around two years ago. I had little to no experience in writing up until that point, creative or otherwise. I got the itch one day and started writing stories and poetry and so far I’ve managed to stick with it. Being a relatively young writer (early 20s) I’ve still a long way to go and much to learn about the industry and I hope to one day be able to make some sort of career out of it, if I were so lucky.

I am self-published and do my own editing. I make my covers myself with Canva & GIMP using a mix of public domain and paid graphics (Canva subscription).

The KDP publishing experience is pretty straightforward once you get cleared for tax info and have a cover made for your work. The Kindle Create app is a nightmare to use for formatting!

In terms of marketing, I’d say starting out it’s the most difficult aspect of establishing yourself as an author. I’ve tried my website, socials, word-of-mouth, Facebook groups, and recently Facebook Ads although I feel I would need more material out there to fully invest into marketing. Most successful has probably been engaging with people directly via Facebook if they’re interested in a particular genre.

Instagram: @giugillespie

Linktree might be more convenient for all my writer links, it has them all on a single page:

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