Frightful Nights Teen Writing Winning Entries

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Winner Medal

Favorite Poem

Into the House by Isabel Y.

A gust of wind caresses my face
As if a ghost and I embraced
My breath is shaky as I open the door
It creaks and quivers like its hinges are sore
I take a deep breath and say it’s all fake
And make sure to control any movements I make
The dark room sends cold shivers down my spine
As I creep in slow just like a spy
I feel my heart beat loud and true
Wishing the spirits hadn’t heard it too

Winner Medal

Favorite Story

The Swan Song by Anna S.

The room told tales of now elusive finery. Curtains hung drably, their velvet thinly coated in dust so that the royal maroon was lightened to a poor man’s red. A chandelier hung thinly from the center of the ornate peeling ceiling. Its brassy tone reflected its resentment towards its no longer frequent cleanings, and the remains of its coveted glittering glass pendants where smashed on the scuffed floor. In the middle of the room proudly crouched the heart of the house. It was the prized possession of street and town: for everyone knew the piano man’s house.
The piano itself was blackened by a luxurious inky stain and was the only element of the room that had not yet begun to decay. This was perhaps strange, as one might consider an animal made of wood and rust to fall predator to those who feast on the dead. But still, the piano soundly existed, loved by anyone who did not understand its secret. No one had lasted long enough to hate the creature. The man who played the piano the town knew quite well. He was a kind, never married comfort to every lonesome being. The town always rumored that he had played in New York City and in every beautiful concert hall the small town could fathom. Although they never sought any truth about him, and he was too modest and had shuffled his rich tuxedos far back into his wardrobe, masking past success humbly.
It seemed that the man had moved into the town already young, with only a shiny suitcase and a piano that was costly to ship, and wondering over how could someone so young have such a long career plagued the town for many years after. As decades passed, the piano man stayed in his castle of a dwelling, presiding like a handsome prince over the townspeople’s hearts.
Perhaps it was merely the benefits of luxury that allowed that man to continue to retain his youthful status, but nevertheless, the man’s hair kept its romantic darkness and his skin was too finely polished to be ridden with wrinkles. It was not the sort of youth that was told about fifty-year-olds by seventy-five-year-olds. It was only the sort of oldness that six year olds said about twenty-five-year-olds.
But even if the town did not know his age, they knew his calling to music was indescribable. He smiled gratefully when someone introduced him with a mention of his loving instrumental partner, and the man himself kept the piano well tuned and gave it residence in the finest room in his home.
In the quiet town, the only a few streets wide town, people looked forward to the little events. The piano man began a little tradition by giving personal concerts in his castle home. He’d invite a person into his home respectfully, and the average town folk dressed up to spend an evening in luxury, surprised by their own luck.
He was not a stranger, and he was a gentleman. He’d bring them into the gold brushed room where the piano lived and settle them on a single silken chair. The man made anyone feel special when he asked if he could play for them.
The first guest of honor was a little girl who hadn’t been feeling well. She was too weak to go outside and play or walk to school, and the town, small and all knowing, was grateful that she was given a special evening. Later, the townspeople would talk about her and the piano man with a damp eye as the little girl died only two short weeks after the personal performance.
Her mother later reflected that she wasn’t the same in those last few weeks. She had hid under her plush covers and refused visitors.
“I think she knew she was dying.” her mother admitted tearfully.
“Oh, how horrible; the poor thing.” the townspeople crooned even more grateful for the piano man’s choice.
Over the years, the town settled in its wrinkled skin. People aged and children occasionally left too early. Each month the piano man would choose a new person to play for, and everyone waited their turn and seemed content with their lives after.
Strangely, the piano man always saw his guests again after two exact weeks, although only the audience member had been counting the days. But they never exchanged greetings or pleasantries, for one of them was always in a box to be lowered into the ground.
It was bothersome for the town to dwindle, but unsurprising as people were old or unhealthy. The piano man continued to play what he heard as concerto after concerto, but each audience member heard not such music. They always left shaking, startled by the piano’s voice.
"Who was this man? What was he playing at? What do I do now?"
But the piano man and the slumbering town were blissfully unaware. The company were led out, and the piano man was always sure that he would speak to them again.
Because he was humble and a gentleman, for years and years he only invited others to hear him play: his music shouldn’t be kept to himself. So, it was rather unusual on the rainy afternoon, when he felt the teeth of the piano nip at his fingers, begging him to play without company.
The silken audience chair was empty when the man sat at the bench. As he looked down at the keys he noticed for the first time that his hands were shaking. They were stiff and harsh feeling against the cold white and black.
When his fingers pressed into the beast, the instrument’s mouth gaped open with horrid sound and began to swallow him whole. The whisper from the hammers and strings was not from Bach or Gershwin.
He wanted to tear his hands away, to stop learning about what could come, the muttering "soon...soon" persisted with his fingertips glued to the keys. Above him the rising lid of the piano stretched as a hooded figure, and the poor man gaped in fear. Never before had he heard the piano in this way.
There were no notes being played.
The man heard sound only from the mouth of the cloaked figure, as if the piano was truly only an instrument of fate. He wanted to stop, to not hear is own swan song.
He tore his eyes away from the keys that were fangs and searched the room for some escape. The single silken chair caught his eye, and his eyes widened in guilty terror.
“I think she knew she was dying.”
The words rang in his ears echoing over and over. Why had he never noticed it before? Not a single audience member he had played for was still breathing, still smiling, still listening. “Oh, what a poor fool.” Death whispered softly from his harnessed strings before smiling through the black and white keys to take one more soul with him.
The crescendo of sound was so terribly great, and the instrument of Death prepared for the final chord. Eyes clenched shut, the piano man reached the double barred ending of the music.

Everyone knows the disintegrating royalty of the only mansion in the town. Children say it’s haunted, teens say the owner of the house killed half the town, the elderly say the man who played the piano lived there.
Those who still remember hush the disrespectful screams of children when they pass by the house. They remember the day when the piano player stopped asking audience members to listen. They remember the day when the music died, and the piano man pulled the hooded lid of the glorious instrument down on his mind. They remember the day when the house stank of rusted talent and crushed hope. They remember finding only one dark stain on the pristine instrument; one that was settled under a gentleman’s head.