Two Truths and one lie

October 2021 (Round One)
Genre: Horror
Word: Wine
Action: Taking a Lie Detector Test
Time Constraint: 24 hours
Length: 250 words

Matthew squirmed in the unforgiving metal chair, his chest heaving against the instrumentation strapped tightly across it and his fingers twitching under the galvanometer bands. Behind the desk, Agent Carlson studied the polygraph’s steadily scratching needles.

Wiping his clammy forehead, Matthew worked his rough tongue in his desert-like mouth, trying to find words as thirst raked his thoughts. “Could I please get some water?”

Carlson leaned forward across the polished desk, his midnight gaze intent beneath his bushy brows. “First, I’ll need you to tell that story of how your wife died. For the machine.”

Matthew flinched, the memory knifing into him as he recounted Ana’s murder for the twelfth time. The dark figure approaching their campfire. The wrongness of it—no nose, no hair, no eyelids—just a white, serrated smile beneath glinting eyes. How quickly it had grabbed Ana… and how slowly it had sunk its teeth into her. How it had stood, unwavering, as Matthew tried to pry the screaming Ana from its immutable grasp, until, at last, she fell silent. And how the creature had smiled as it chewed each chunk of flesh, meeting Matthew’s horrified gaze as it sipped the blood from his wife’s wounds like a fine wine.

“And it didn’t bite you?” Carlson asked, just as he had the first eleven times.

Matthew paused, the thirst drowning everything else out as the pain and fear and frustration hardened into something wholly new. “No.”

The needles jumped, and Agent Carlson’s bushy brows rose one last time.

JUDGe’s Feedback

This one placed in second in my group of 45ish and I got to move forward to the second round. The feedback is below!


{2144}  I really loved the artful storytelling here. I like the tension of the interrogation and the horror of this mystical-seeming beast. But I especially like the ambiguity of the end and some of the other horrible possibilities it also suggests.  

{1998}  There’s some good tension and anticipation that builds through this story. I expect some big reveal. 

{1772}  The story has a strong voice that engages the reader and helps create an effective atmosphere to chill the reader. Matthew has a clear motivation and conflict. Tension builds as the details of the plot unfold and Carlson realizes the reality of the situation.


{2144}  I would love if there was a line somewhere in the description of the attack that implied that Matthew could be implicated in the incident, like that he went to comfort his wife and got blood on him. It would add to the ambiguity at the end. I would also like to know what happened to the creature after it feasted on Ana; did it try to attack Matthew at all, or did it just leave? It does seem mysterious that he might’ve gotten away completely unscathed.

{1998}  The ending isn’t as clear as I hoped as a reader. I find myself contemplating what might have happened in that room, but it’s not obvious. Did he become the creature and turn on the agent? Or what was the consequence of the lie?

{1772}  One way to develop character might be to focus on Matthew’s journey in this line of questioning. In the end, the reader might be left unsure if Matthew has been hiding his emerging identity or just fighting it, so crafting his final words to reflect the real conflict he has been facing could be one way to leave the reader with the right intention.

2 thoughts on “NYC Midnight Challenge Entry: Two Truths and One Lie

Comments are now closed.