I'm not a fan of horror stories, but I remember the first story that scared me. I don't remember the title, or the author, or even the book cover. It was the last story in a collection of scary stories, and the others had been interesting but not overly spine-tingling.
And then the final one.
The short story was about someone reading a ghost story. It was written from a first-person perspective. An odd choice, I had thought, but I understand now why the author chose to write from that point of view.
As the reader got into the ghost story, the things that occurred in the story began to happen around them. In the story, the wind started to howl; outside their window, the wind began to wail. In the story, a storm knocked out the power; the reader's lights suddenly failed. The story describes shadowy figures creeping towards the oblivious protagonist; the reader thought they heard soft scraping sounds outside their window.
I remember being engrossed. Every sound in that quiet afternoon made me tense up. Every movement made my nerves jump.
I remember slowly becoming more and more terrified, and reading on anyway.
And then, a single line on a single page:
They are here.
The next page of the book was a blank page.
There were no more pages after that.
I honestly have no recollection of the prose. It wasn't the quality of the writing, but the story found something in me that resonated so strongly, I still feel chills creeping down my back when I think about it. If the writer had ever described the shadowy figures, or the setting, or even the reader, I wouldn't have felt as strongly as I did. The writer left space for my imagination to inhabit the story, and now I carry that story with me. Occasionally, I wonder if I did read that collection of short stories or if I imagined it. Yet, the memory of having read it is so vivid, I cannot doubt that it happened.
Then again, speaking as a writer, a blank page is certainly terrifying!