Contest #169 shortlist ⭐️


Mystery Fantasy Suspense


From the Journal of Ambrose Sykes, Aspiring Writer & Poet

The Curious Case of Storms in Graveyards – 1849

The graveyard blazes to life in a brief flash of white light, and all at once, the lightning seems to inhabit every space–each imperfection on the silent sentinels keeping watch over the dead. Angelic faces weep. Crosses burn in the heat of it. It is chaos in an instant and no more. When it dies, darkness returns. Layers of the blackest ink spilled–spread across the dotted cemetery, fleeing the long, annoyed groan of thunder as it mutters and curses to have been so inconvenienced by such brightness.

Those who inhabit the graveyard, of course, are immune to all–such is their lot in death. Bones have no care for the rattle of thunder. Skulls with their hollowed out sockets are blind to the startling transformation of night to day and back to night again. What care does the dead have for storms? Seasons change, skin and organs decompose, and the burdens of those beloved lives lost grow lighter as the years gnaw away a life once lived. All regrets, joys, sorrows, fears, wants, and needs soak into the ground like rain during a storm. 

But for the living, a storm in a graveyard has all the right makings for disaster. Not only does one find themselves out in the elements–dangerous to the lowliest pauper as to the richest king–but to be alone in such sacred, solemn space. To find oneself surrounded by so many and yet no one at all. In the daylight, even if during a storm, it would be no issue. The darkness, however–and a curious darkness, one black as pitch if pardon can be given for such a common phrase–creates illusions in the mind. Shadows of a resting oak turn to reaching, skeletal fingers. The hoot of an owl can be confused for the wailing of spirit. Oh!--the cliché of it all! When we find ourselves caught in cliches–is that not the most unfortunate disaster of them all? 

And yet, here I am. Caught in a cliché. Faced with a storm, a graveyard, and the horrifying thought that one day, I will join the rotting corpses beneath my feet. I am crouched in the archway of an ancient mausoleum with only my journal and pen as protection. The rain beats down as if punishing the earth for some wrongdoing while lightning and thunder trade insults above me (lightning the more violent, obviously, and thunder, quite wordy). I am keenly aware that it is high time I take my leave but find all rational thoughts being ignored. My feet are incapable of movement. I am as the statues here in this cemetery. What can I do but write about it? My pen (and, daresay, my mind) is the only thing I have leave to use. 

I shall wait it out. The storm will pass. For what is time to the dead or I, their reluctant guest?


New Harbor Police Department

Detective Bureau

Time: 6:03 P.M.

Date: AUGUST 8, 1849

Nature of Incident: BRAWL DURING FUNERAL



During a funeral, a fight broke out between Mister Mark Dickson, male, 46 years of age, and Mrs. Sarah Nelson, female, 52 years of age. Mrs. Nelson assaulted Mr. Dickson by kicking him in the shin. Another female, Mrs. Janet Dickson, 38 years of age, hit Mrs. Nelson in the eye. Mister Amos Dickson and Mister Cecil Nelson attempted to break up the fight and received hits to their arms and legs as a result. All five persons were arrested and taken in for questioning. The three major offenders (S. Nelson, M. Dickson, and J. Dickson) claimed to be “possessed by something unknown” during the incident with very little memory of what started the brawl. Mr. Amos Dickson and Mr. Cecil Nelson provided positive character statements about the assailants. All made amends and were released shortly thereafter. 

During the arrest, Miss Paula Sampson approached Officer Daniels with a journal. Journal was wet from last night’s storm, but still legible. Blood stains were found on the pages. Several pages have been removed. The journal appears to belong to a Mister Ambrose Sykes. Further investigation is required. 



New Harbor, August 9–Local resident Ambrose Sykes was reported missing by his sister three days prior. A journal of his was recently discovered by mourners in Holy Family Cemetery and handed to the police. Foul play is suspected. Any information the public may have on the whereabouts of Mister Sykes, please contact the police or the Sykes family. Time is of the essence.

New Harbor Times, 1849



Tragic Accident Takes a Life

New Harbor, September 2–Twenty-seven year old Ambrose Sykes, son of prominent business owner Bram Sykes and his wife Beatrice as well as elder brother to Miss Rachel Sykes, is believed to have passed away on August 7, 1849, during one of the worst storms in New Harbor’s history. The time of death is not known, though he is believed to have passed during the pre-dawn hours of the morning. Mister Sykes was announced as missing on August 9, 1849, and his body was later discovered in Holy Family Cemetery on August 30. Mister Sykes’s decomposed body was found by Mrs. Margaret O’Donnell at approximately 11:15 A.M., near the rear plots of the cemetery. Police do not suspect foul play, but rather believe Mister Sykes passed after slipping on the wet ground and making contact with a headstone. An accidental blow to the back of the head was determined as the cause of death. The victim’s blood was found on both a nearby headstone and the journal police discovered weeks earlier. Arrangements for the funeral have not yet been made.

New Harbor Times, 1849


August 7, 1850

Dear Anonymous, 

Please allow me to convey my sincerest gratitude for the statue of my brother you placed in Holy Family Cemetery. As you knew my brother well, you know that he did not have many friends and preferred the company of his journal to that of people. He wrote many fantastical stories and poems and enjoyed visiting the very cemetery where he now rests to gather inspiration. 

I do not know if my note will ever reach you. I will place it on this statue in hopes that you, like I, visit here to remember my brother. You must have known him very well to create such a likeness. When I touch the cheek of your statue, it is as if I am touching the skin of my brother’s cheek, though the coldness of the stone is nothing like the warmness of his laugh. A year without it has made me very cold indeed. 

Perhaps you and I will one day meet, but I fear you, like Ambrose, prefer to make your way in the world without the comfort of others. I pray Ambrose has comfort now amongst the dead in this cemetery. I pray that these eternal friends of his give him rest and peace and show him the way to Heaven. I pray that though, even now as I scribble this message to you, I feel eyes upon my back, wishing me ill.

Perhaps my brother's likeness will ease the malevolence of this place.

Yours in gratitude,

Rachel Sykes

October 27, 2022 03:29

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Philip Ebuluofor
15:51 Nov 07, 2022

Congrats. Two submissions, one mention. The storyline was something else. Captivating. Fine work.


Rose Gresh
23:05 Nov 07, 2022

Thank you so much! I had a lot of fun writing this as it is something outside my comfort zone. I really appreciate the feedback.


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Sultan Rysbek
18:40 Dec 30, 2022



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Amanda Lieser
16:22 Nov 14, 2022

Hi Rose! I loved, loved, loved the way you chose to tell this story. I thought it was so cool the way each of your characters had a single piece of this much larger puzzle. I admired the way you built strong characters in a short piece and the imagery was beautiful. Congratulations on getting shortlisted! It was well deserved.


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Sophia Gavasheli
20:18 Nov 08, 2022

Wow! Your writing is amazing, especially the first paragraph! I read quite a few stories for this prompt and your vivid description of the graveyard was by far the best. I like how you use different pieces of media to explain the story as well. My favorite line: "Layers of the blackest ink spilled–spread across the dotted cemetery, fleeing the long, annoyed groan of thunder as it mutters and curses to have been so inconvenienced by such brightness."


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AnneMarie Miles
03:11 Nov 05, 2022

What a unique and mystifying read! Breaking it up into parts like that made me very curious about what was going to happen! Here are my favorite lines: "To find oneself surrounded by so many and yet no one at all" "When we find ourselves caught in cliches–is that not the most unfortunate disaster of them all?" This last one really hit home. I am a poet and know the dangers of the cliche. You hit the nail on the head with that one. Congratulations on the shortlist this week! 🎉 And on your first submission, how amazing! 🎉🎉 Looking forward...


Rose Gresh
23:03 Nov 07, 2022

Thank you so much! I had a lot of fun writing it. I'm a middle school English teacher, and we are studying Gothic literature, so I definitely had some inspiration to work with. I really appreciate your kind words. I'm very much looking forward to writing more and reading the wonderful stories posted by this talented community.


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Eileen Burke
22:08 Nov 02, 2022

I loved peeling back the layers of this story. When I finished, I re-read it so that I could understand Ambrose a bit better and his unique and poetic talent. I love that each 'chapter' had its own voice. "But for the living, a storm in a graveyard has all the right makings for disaster" - the perfect amount of foreboding!


Rose Gresh
18:40 Nov 04, 2022

Thank you so much! I really appreciate the feedback. Writing the separate chapters in different voices was a lot of fun.


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