10 Short, Scary Stories You Can Finish In A Single Sitting — If You're Brave Enough
Short, scary reads are deceptive. Sure, you can read through them in just one sitting. Yes, most of these stories and novellas can be finished in just a few morning commutes, or on a single lazy weekend afternoon. You'll move on with your life, afterwards: you'll talk to your friends, or watch pleasant television programs, or even read non-horror books. But then, when you're lying in your bed at night, that creepy story you read all those hours ago is going to sneak up out of nowhere and pounce on your subconscious, leaving you a weeping puddle of fear. If that sounds like fun to you, then check out these short, terrifying reads for a scare that'll stay with you long past the final page.
Books, after all, can't rely on cheap jump-scare tactics or excessive gore the way that horror movies can. Books have to crawl up into your brain and make you feel really weird about yourself and the world around you, and these creepy reads do just that. From boogeymen to doppelgängers, serial killers to good ol' fashioned ghosts, these stories know how to take the ordinary world and make ever so slightly wrong. So enjoy these short scares... if you dare.
'The Evening And The Morning And The Night' by Octavia E. Butler
Humanity finds a cure for cancer. That doesn't sound so scary... right? Unfortunately for humanity, though, this "cure" has unforeseen side effects: the children of patients turn out to be horribly ill themselves. At first they disassociate from their own bodies, but soon they begin to lash out at the people around them in this skin-crawling story from a genre master. You can find the story in several anthologies, including Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora.
'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' by Shirley Jackson
Merricat Blackwood lives in a big house with her sister and her uncle. Everyone else in their family is dead. Ever since her sister was acquitted of the Blackwood murders, the trio have lived in happy isolation... until cousin Charles comes to town. Shirley Jackson brings us one of the most unsettling narrators of all time in this sinister, twisted little novel about "family."
'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?' by Joyce Carol Oates
A man convinces a young girl to get into a car with him. That's the entire plot of Joyce Carol Oates' Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? But this simple premise makes for one of the most harrowing stories ever written. Even if you don't know that it's based on a real serial killer, it's a story that will stay in your gut for a long, long time.
'His Face All Red' by Emily Carroll
If you're in the mood for twisted fairy tales and gorgeous illustration, Emily Carroll is the only way to go. His Face All Red is a horror comic guaranteed to turn your stomach. It follows one man faced with an impossible occurrence: his brother has arrived in town... even though he killed his brother just last week.
'The Veldt' by Ray Bradbury
Before there was 'Black Mirror,' there was Ray Bradbury. In The Veldt, a family of four lives in a completely automated house, with a nursery that can produce any holographic environment the children could ever wish for. The parents begin to mistrust this high-tech nursery, though, when they realize that it's stuck on an African veldt setting, with lions a little too close for comfort.
'Patient Zero' by Tananarive Due
Tananarive Due's Patient Zero starts off innocently enough. It's written as a series of diary entries from a little boy who's stuck in the hospital. He doesn't quite know what he's sick with. As his diary progresses, though, we begin to piece together the truth of his illness. It's a charming, terrifying, slow burn of a story (so definitely don't read this one when you're home sick).
'The Grown Up' by Gillian Flynn
Susan has just moved in to Carterhook Manor with her husband and her stepson, and she knows that something's not right. With the help of a cut-rate psychic (who doesn't especially believe in the supernatural), Susan is determined to rid her house of whatever evil spirits might lurk there. Gillian Flynn's take on the classic haunted house story is a tense, fast-paced thriller that'll keep you guessing until the end.
'The Yellow Wallpaper' by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Who says a story needs monsters or mayhem to keep you up at night? The Yellow Wallpaper manages to spin a deeply disturbing tale of psychological torture out of wallpaper... perhaps one of the most innocuous elements of home decor. But in Gilman's hands, wallpaper becomes a torment for one poor, trapped soul forced to look at it all day.
'The Boogeyman' by Stephen King
The Boogeyman is a story about the regular old boogeyman, the one who lives in closets and haunts little children as they sleep. Leave it to Stephen King, though, to take a harmless closet monster and turn him into a genuinely horrifying manifestation of all your deepest, darkest fears. You can find it in King's Night Shift story collection.
'Click-Clack the Rattlebag' by Neil Gaiman
This is a very short story that you must not, under any circumstances, read alone before bed. Because the Click-clacks don't seem to be all that scary, with their silly name and their childish monster appearance. The more you read, though, the more you will fear the Click-clacks... and start to worry that there's one standing behind you right this very moment. Find it in Gaiman's Trigger Warning collection.