We invited area students to concoct a Halloween story of 700 words or less that started with this spooky introduction: “‘That has to be the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen,’ I thought when I arrived at the Kendricks’ home to baby-sit their new infant ...”
We received more than 100 entries from participants, grouped in three divisions: elementary, junior high and high school.
Here are the winning entries:
‘The Kidnapping on Halloween Eve’
By Sabrea Platz
“That has to be the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen,” I thought when I arrived at the Kendricks’ home to baby-sit their new infant. I was forced to baby-sit to make up for the antique lawn gnome I broke last summer. It was Halloween Eve when the terrible event occurred.
Everybody in Melloville heard the horrendous screech from Mrs. Kendricks. She ran out of her mansion screaming, “He’s gone, Joe is gone.”
Hearing the screech, Sheriff Jones ran out of his office and asked, “What is the commotion, Mrs. Kendricks?”
“My baby boy Joe is gone. He’s been kidnapped,” howled Mrs. Kendricks.
“Don’t panic, I’m sure he just crawled away,” replied Jones.
“Right, a newborn crawled away,” fumed Mrs. Kendricks as she scurried back into the mansion.
“I need to go and check the scene,” groaned Jones.
I tagged along with Sheriff Jones. I was the sheriff’s daughter and the town’s best sleuth. Arriving at the scene we found a white feather and a long, thick, plastic-coated piece of string.
“I don’t know why a feather and string would be here,” I questioned.
“Maybe the kidnappers left them. They might be our first clues,” exclaimed Dad. “Just got paged on my beeper, gotta run. You stay and look for more clues.”
“OK” I answered. I excitedly started combing the scene again.
I was unsuccessful locating more clues. At dinner that night I explained the entire case to my Mom. She responded with, “My gosh, how could someone do such an unfathomable thing, kidnapping a newborn. I bet they want ransom, because the Kendricks are so rich.”
“Mom, that is brilliant. Dad you should check the alibis of all the people in financial trouble,” I announced.
“That’s amazing you figured out the next step. Hey Sam, look at this,” dad muttered. I scurried over and read the newly opened e-mail.
Dear Sheriff Jones,
I finished your request, there are four with criminal records:
John McCarty — armed robbery
Jordan Weaver — thief and kidnapping
Brandon Hogsdail — robbery
Jade Smith — robbery and DUI
“Dad, let’s go and check out the four people.”
“Let’s start with Hogsdail’s dry-cleaning business,” my Dad responded.
Upon entering the dry-cleaning business, I spotted a white fur coat and a string they hang their delicates on that matched the string found at the crime scene. It was not looking good for Brandon.
Second, we checked out John McCarty’s house. It was a one-room apartment; unfortunately, we did not find anything of value. Jordan Weaver’s house was the third stop we made. The only thing of interest was a baby blanket, but Mrs. Kendricks didn’t recognize it, and Jordan said it belonged to his baby boy. Finally, the last place we visited was Jade Smith’s boa shop. Once inside the shop, I noticed white feathers and strings, both used to make boas. They were exactly like those found at the crime scene.
I whispered to Dad, “If Jade can’t explain how feathers and string got to the Kendricks’ home; I think we can arrest her for the kidnapping.”
“Now lets not jump to conclusions” replied Sheriff Jones.
Dad and I had a long discussion after returning home. We decided to go back and check out the dry cleaning and boa shop again. We returned to Hogsdail’s and Brandon said nothing more. Returning to the boa shop we found nothing else to help us. When we were leaving we heard a rattle and a baby crying. Since we couldn’t do anything without a search warrant, we left and went to the courthouse. After obtaining the required document we returned to the boa shop and searched the back. To our amazement we found Joe and the undelivered ransom note, which read:
Give me 1 million dollars and I won’t hurt the boy.
Drop off the money at the bus station at 9 a.m.
“Well we were right about the ransom,” stated the sheriff. We arrested Jade, the town boa maker for the kidnapping of baby Joe Kendricks. The Kendricks family was so happy they donated $500,000 dollars to Melloville, making it nationally recognized for its crime-solving expertise.
— Sabrea Platz is a fifth-grader at Langston Hughes School.
By Katie Guyot
Junior High Division
“That has to be the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen,” I thought when I arrived at the Kendricks’ home to baby-sit their new infant. “And how the heck is it standing?”
I had just reached the house numbered 1309 on lonely, old Cork Street, with cobwebs still stuck to the walls from last night and an un-carved pumpkin sitting on the steps. I was just about to ring the doorbell when a shadow descended over the front stoop, so naturally, my eyes shot up to look in the window, only to find a sight that made my jaw drop nearly to the floor.
“Is that even a baby?”
Babies, in my opinion, were not very attractive to begin with, but this one had hit a whole new level of hideousness. Its pale, bald head was wrinkled and held two beady black eyes that seemed to regard me as if I was prey waiting to be captured, and its pink tongue (was it forked? No, impossible) hung strangely out of its mouth. If I hadn’t known any better, I would have said it was half-snake, but it was at that moment that the door in front of me was thrown open and I was left to blink dazedly at a sparkling, bouncing woman decked out in blinding pink.
“Hello! You must be Maralyn,” she chimed, rocking back onto her heels.
“Marcelyn,” I corrected, “and are you Mrs. Kendricks?”
“I am, I am, and I’m sorry, Marcelyn. That’s such a pretty name — I’m sure I’ll remember now. Why don’t you come in and we can talk about money matters and whatnot?”
“Of course,” I replied kindly, but before stepping into the lavishly furnished home, I took one last peek up in the window. The baby was not there.
Inside, I was introduced to a perfectly normal, even cute, infant named Carson. He smiled and giggled, and there was simply no way he had been upstairs just a minute ago. As I explained my qualifications to the Kendricks — CPR courses, years of experience, blah blah blah — I slowly convinced myself that I had imagined the disgusting face in the window, and I was in complete denial by the time Mrs. Kendricks called, “Thank you! We’ll see you in an hour, Maralyn!” I decided it would be best not to correct her.
I entertained both Carson and myself with a game of peek-a-boo for maybe 10 minutes before he began to sniffle and smack his tiny lips together in a plea for milk, so I set him in his crib and embarked on a search for the bottle and formula.
“Let’s see … it should be in here,” I muttered as I scored the kitchen shelves. “Aha!” I prepared the milk in no time and raced up the stairs, but when I entered Carson’s room, I felt my pulse quicken and a wave of nausea roll over me. But why?
Firstly, no excited squeals greeted my arrival. That was a strange sign, but there was also a weird, coppery scent in the air that had not been there before.
Dropping the bottle, I jumped over to the crib, and then promptly fell to my knees at the sight that met my eyes. Where before Carson had been sleeping soundly, there was now a single, fragile bone resting in a puddle of blood.
I was shaking too hard to form a coherent thought, my vision blurry with tears and my stomach heaving violently. What had I just seen? Where was Carson? What was going on?
A squeaking footstep made me jump, and I gulped back bile before turning my wide eyes on a face that I recognized but did not like one bit. The pale, bald creature from the window was grinning-smirking-at me with its black eyes narrowed and its mouth displaying a circle of fangs, like a leech. Its teeth were already stained red with Carson’s blood, and I knew without a doubt that mine would be next.
— Katie Guyot is a freshman at West Junior High School.
‘Hush Little Baby’
By Peter Bray
High School Division
“That has to be the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen,” I thought when I arrived at the Kendricks’ home to baby-sit their new infant. They were babbling in that new-parent way about keep-his-formula-warm and please-remember-not-to-shake-him-too-hard, their bubbly smiles hiding a deathly fear of placing their little Jamie in the care of a ... teenager, of all things. Whatever. I had been nodding along, but all I could look at through their briefing was that kid. It had a face like someone had run the label on a Gerber bottle under a tap for a few minutes. The nose was too long, the ears too straight, and its eyes were disturbingly asymmetrical. I didn’t like looking at him. Trying to process his features gave me nothing more than a dull, throbbing ache behind my eyeballs.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Mrs. K said, softly rubbing his relatively enormous forehead. “Isn’t he the cutest thing?”
He’s not. Jamie is well-behaved, but I try not to look at him. And he cries weird.
I mention this because it’s late at night now, I’m done for tonight, just waiting for the Kendricks to get home and cut me a check, and Jamie is crying again. No, not crying. Screeching. I can hear the sound drifting out from his nursery, like an oil slick floating down the river. I’m going to leave him alone, do the family a favor — that’s what they say, let your babies cry, so they don’t develop too much of an attachment to you.
I flinch and force out a painful cough. The thought of Jamie developing any kind of “attachment” to me makes hot acid rise in the back of my throat.
My best efforts to buckle down and finish my homework keep his crying from bothering me for a few minutes. Then it starts pushing back, prodding impatiently at the edges of my sphere of calm. I put my book down to glance down the darkened hallway to his nursery. Now that I’m listening, the crying is louder than I thought.
“Kid must have lungs as big as his nose,” I joke to myself, but my voice falters. I can barely hear the TV I turned on for background noise — no, I can’t hear it at all. I lazily drift my eyes over to the TV just in time to see it clicking off on its own.
There’s a tight pull underneath my ribcage, like I’m about to have a heart attack. The TV was off the whole time. That didn’t just happen. Doctor said this would happen if I didn’t take my Ritalin. My hands fidget and my homework clatters to the floor, barely audible. Jamie hasn’t stopped screaming since I first heard him. I can’t hear cars going by outside anymore. I have to look.
Warily, I tread down the hallway toward the source of that screech. The sound is different now, a wrong sound with skittering insects and irregular wooden pounding thrown in alongside Jamie’s demonic howling. The door to the nursery is so close, so very close, but the unlit hallway gets longer with every step. I slam my eyes shut and plunge forward. I want courage, but all I can summon is hot, wet tears that only make me more terrified.
My eyes finally open. The door, the solid, wooden door with JAMIE’S ROOM arranged in rainbow letters, is convulsing. Something is pressing on the other side, a gale-force wind driving the scream I would drink with painkillers and wring necks to silence forever. That sound. I need to kill that sound.
My fists fly out unthinking against the wooden barrier, slamming with splintering force as my skin tears, the scent of blood and sawdust driving me to tear into the yielding door and drive deeper with every nerve-burning strike until a final crunch rips through the wood and immediately explodes back with a deafening wall of sound. My ears are exposed to madness for a single second before popping, and blood streams down from my eardrums as I collapse to the floor with that godawful face swimming before my mind. The infant screams. I am silent.
— Peter Bray is a senior at Free State High School.