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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark haunted an entire generation. The combination of spooky folklore and terrifying imagery had a way of getting under your skin. Even today, people are fascinated with them. So, in celebration of the new movie by producer Guillermo del Toro, Quirk has decided to release its own collection of scary stories. But these aren't just any old tales of darkness and woe. These, dear reader, are Scary Stories about books themselves!

 

The Limit

One day, the girl got a mysterious email. It read simply, “You’re almost there…” She thought it was a curious message but didn’t think much more of it. Later that week, she got an anonymous text message. “You’re getting closer…” it said. The words sent a shiver down her spine. Someone was clearly playing a trick on her. A few nights later, she got a phone call but didn’t recognize the number, so she let it go to voicemail. “We’re watching carefully,” said a deep, raspy voice. Scared, the girl ran for help, but it was very late. The only building open was her local library. When she got inside, she felt an immediate sense of relief. She spent the next hour picking lovely books off the shelves. Stories about happy things that would distract her from all these strange messages. When it was closing time, she went to the checkout counter, but the Librarian had a frightening look on her face. “I’m sorry, but haven’t you gotten any of our messages?” 

The girl swallowed a lump in her throat. She recognized the librarian's raspy voice. “What are you talking about?” she croaked.

The librarian printed out a long list of books and handed it to the girl. “I’m afraid you’ve got too many books checked out. You’ve reached…the limit.”

The girl screamed!

 

 

Bloody Cover 

It was finals week at school and Biology was the hardest class there was. Students swarmed the library looking for the last copy of a much-needed textbook. When Jorge got there, the library said there was only one copy left, but most people didn’t like checking it out. “Give it to me,” Jorge said. “I don’t care what other people think." Jorge checked out the book and took it to his dorm. That night, while he was sleeping, he heard the book whispering to him in the dark. “Bloody cover,” it said. “Bloody cover!” Jorge was terrified. He immediately returned the book the next morning.

Later that day, Sophia went to the library looking for a copy. “We’ve only got one left,” the librarian explained. “But no one holds on to it very long.” Sophia ignored the man and checked out the book. But that night, while she was combing her hair, she heard the book whisper. “Bloody cover!” it hissed. “Bloody cover!” Sophia stuffed the book under her mattress and took it straight to the library the next morning.

The next day, Jamal raced into the library looking for a copy. “I’m sorry,” the librarian explained. “We’ve only one copy left, and frankly, it gives people the creeps.” 

Jamal shrugged. “What’s so creepy about a book?” 

That night, while Jamal was practicing guitar, he heard the book whisper. “Bloody cover,” it said. But Jamal ignored it and continued playing. “Bloody cover!” the book whispered. Still, Jamal ignored it. “Bloody cover!” the book hissed one final time.

“Hey!” Jamal shouted, staring at the book coldly. “Cool it and get yourself a dust jacket!"

 

 

I Promise, I Promise! 

"I promise, I promise,” he used to say every time he borrowed a book. “I’ll have it back to you in no time. Guaranteed.” Now an old man, he sat in bed, looking out on his collection of borrowed titles. It’s not that he meant to keep them. Life just got in the way. And all his friends were dead and gone. So why shouldn’t he keep them? Just then, lightning struck, and the man swore he could have seen a figure standing in the window outside. Just your imagination, he told himself, returning to his book. He was on the last chapter and things were getting quite exciting. Suddenly something banged on his bedroom door. Who could that be? At this hour?

“Who’s there?” He asked nervously, hiding behind his covers. “Go away. I’m nearly finished with my book!”

“You promised…” whispered a sticky, shrill voice. “You promised!”

Then something pounded on his bedroom window. “You promised,” said a second voice from outside. “But you never returned our things!”

“Please,” the man begged. “You’re all dead! What use are books to you?!"

Then, from the foot of his bed, a rotten hand appeared and grabbed hold of his leg. “It’s time,” whispered a voice from somewhere below. "Let’s read that last chapter together!”

 

 

Tap…Tap…Tap...

Claire was sitting aboard an airplane bound for Paris. Restless, she loaded a film onto her tablet and settled in for a long ride. But a few minutes into the movie, she noticed the strange man sitting next to her was watching her screen from the corner of his eye. He looked disgruntled. Irritated. She tried to ignore him, but he was growing more agitated by the minute. Suddenly, his long, creeping finger tapped on her tray table. Tap. Tap. Tap. She turned her back to him, but it was no use. He tapped her table a second time. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Scared, Claire pressed her flight attendant call button. The man wouldn’t stop staring at her. She saw the flight attendant making her way toward Clair’s seat, but before she could reach them, the man dug his nail into Clair’s shoulder. Tap. Tap. Tap.

She looked over, terrified. “What do you want?!” she screamed.

The man frowned and pointed at the screen. “The book was better,” he hissed.

“No...” she gasped in horror as the man spent the next nine hours explaining how the movie got it wrong.

 

 

The Crayola Killer 

It was a warm spring evening. Jin and his girlfriend took a drive up to Lover’s Lane. They spent the night listening to music on the radio and reading their favorite novels. Suddenly, an emergency broadcast blasted through Jin’s radio. “This is an emergency bulletin! Earlier this evening, a crazed maniac escaped from a local elementary school. The maniac was put in time-out just last week for drawing inside several books with pen, pencil, and crayons. Local law enforcement has named her The Crayola Killer. She is suspected to be armed with a used box of one hundred and twenty assorted colored crayons, and she has been sighted in the area up by Literary Hill, known by the local teenagers as ‘Lover’s Lane.’ If you see the killer, do not approach her. Keep your doors locked and call the police right away.”

Nervous, the couple locked their doors and return to their novels. But when Jin turned his page, he noticed a small, inky smudge in the corner. He rubbed it with his thumb, but the mark was permanent. He turned another page again, his eyes growing wide. A second line had been carelessly drawn across the text. He turned yet another page and discovered more scribbles. Horrified, Jin flipped through the whole book, slowly realizing that some monster had drawn all over it! But who—

Just then, from his rearview mirror, Jin saw something small shift in the back seat. It giggled. 

 

 

Store Credit  

The man stood in line with a junky pile of books. The woman in front of him was the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen. And she had the most beautiful books! Rare and expensive looking. Leather bound. Exotic titles. First editions! He watched as the clerk rang them up and handed her a receipt with store credit. Beautiful AND rich, the man thought! How could he not ask her on a date? The woman blushed and accepted, and a month later, he proposed. But the woman seemed hesitant.

“Yes, I will marry you, but we can never use my bookstore credit.”

The man thought it strange, but he agreed. Years later, the man and the woman were standing in their home library looking for something new to read. Unfortunately, they had already read every single book in the house. “Perhaps we could use your store credit for something new?” the man suggested, remembering now how expensive-looking his wife's books were.

But the woman frowned angrily and walked out of the room. “We mustn't!” she shouted over her shoulder.

A couple years later, a friend was having a birthday party, but the man and the woman didn’t know what to bring as a gift. “Perhaps we could buy them a book using your store credit?” he suggested to his wife. But again, the woman wouldn’t have it.

Years later, when the woman was on her deathbed, the man held her hand and asked what he could possibly do to make her feel better.

She said, “Something nice to read from our library, I think.” 

The man surveyed all the books in the library but decided none of them would do. His wife deserved something special! He would buy her a new book. The hottest bestseller! She’d be so happy with him. He quickly searched for her bookstore credit and finally found it tucked away in a drawer. But when the man unfolded the receipt, his jaw dropped, and his heart froze in his chest.

 The receipt read: $1.50…


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J. B. Kish's picture

J. B. Kish

J. B. Kish grew up in the American Southwest and spent most of his childhood concocting strange stories with spooky monsters. Now, he lives in the Pacific Northwest and has begun publishing those childhood nightmares for others. He is the author of two novels, including the paranormal thriller A Wall for Teeth and Stingers, which takes place in both Arizona and Oregon. He has the same birthday as Captain Kathryn Janeway, which is a thing he takes very seriously. Probably too seriously.