Journal Pulp is offering a $100.00 cash prize for the following:

    Best first sentence for a novel about a clever but silent twelve-year-old girl who’s an only child and who one dark night traveling with her mother and father falls asleep in the backseat of the car — and wakes to find that same car on the side of the road, not wrecked but parked and with all the doors open, her mother and father both dead on the pavement, their throats cut wide open, blood everywhere, a faint trail of footprints in the dust.

    Rules and guidelines:

    No outrageous run-ons. You can submit anonymously or under your real name, it doesn’t matter.

    No minimum length requirement.

    Submit as many separate entries as you’d like.

    Leave your sentence in the comments section below.

    The winner will be selected by the Journal Pulp.

    The contest will be open for two weeks from today: October 17th, 2014, through October 31st, 2014, at midnight on Halloween.

    If your sentence doesn’t appear in the comments after you’ve submitted, it’s almost certainly because of my (overly) aggressive SPAM filter. Please note that I check the SPAM folder carefully and regularly, and that your sentence, if it’s not SPAM, will be approved.

    (Don’t forget to Like the Journal Pulp on Facebook)

    October 17th, 2014 | journalpulp | 189 Comments | Tags: , ,

About The Author

Ray Harvey

I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I've worked as a short-order cook, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, bartender, pedi-cab driver, copyeditor, and more. I've written and ghostwritten several published books and articles, but no matter where I've gone or what I've done to earn my living, there's always been literature and learning at the core of my life.

189 Responses and Counting...

  • doc 10.17.2014

    She was so glad to be rid of her parents, but why had Johnny left her behind?

  • It wasn’t that she had meant to fall asleep, she had only been slightly tired; as she stared at the lifeless shells that used to be her family, the road awash with blood, she felt the pang of incredible guilt blanket her.

  • As (name) looked at the scene before her- the family vehicle abandoned, each door open, and her parents, just hours ago very much alive and well and now quite dead, she suddenly began to realize that this was not a world in which her dreams would all be pleasant; in fact, she had woken from her peaceful, dreamless slumber to an in-the-flesh nightmare.

  • As (name) stared in horror at the lifeless bodies of her mother and father, she immediately began to regret every time she had wished she was an orphan.

  • An eery feeling became her as she watched the rosary, hanging from the rearview mirror, swing back and forth without any intention to stop.

  • Her eyes snapping open was almost like closing them to drift into sleep and dreaming a dream that was stained red with the hopes, dreams, and ambitions of the once living.

  • She fell asleep in the backseat of the family car only to awaken to find the family car on the side of the road, not wrecked but parked and with all the doors open, her parents both dead on the pavement, their throats cut wide open, blood everywhere; she could only wondered why she was she still alive!

  • The desolate road had led her to her own demise, there she gazed out at the pavement that gently caressed her parents bloody, lifeless bodies, with their eyes piercing the moon in an arbitrary shock.

  • She hadn’t slept in months, for fear of what she might find when she woke up; first her sister, now her parents.

  • She dreamt in flashes of red, and when she woke up she thought to herself, “oh, that explains it…” And chuckled.

  • Upon opening her eyes and seeing the gore, she felt something she had never felt before… A slight tingle in a part of her that had never been activated trembled her knees upon standing; something inside of her said “Touch em”

  • One thing she knew right away was that it was a bad idea to follow those footprints.

  • As her parents continued to speak in hushed grave tones on a dark remote highway now hours away from Houston, in the backseat she silently unlocked the seatbelt, pulled out her right ear bud, curled up with her Scooby-Do pillow, and was gently rocked to sleep as a child for the last time.

  • He had the two lawyers out of the car and gently opened the back passenger door to mercifully shoot their sleeping child first, but the Jack-o’-lantern smiles in the throats of her parents display their relief to have negotiated a way to spare her life.

  • waking up the midnight sun, she realized she forgot her costume.

  • My eyes grew heavy as I watched the pavement blurring past at blinding speed.

  • What started out as quality time with my parents turned into the kind of hellish chaos that nightmares were made of.

  • I had no idea my life would be turned upside-down after closing my eyes for what couldn’t have been more than a few minutes.

  • It was the worst Halloween prank her parents ever pulled.

  • Hillary wanted to scream but she didn’t.

  • Mom and Dad were famous for their avant-garde street performances, but this time they had gone too far.

  • For the longest time she stared at her mother staring at the stars.

  • Their blood mingled on the pavement beneath them to join her parents in death as they had been in life.

  • That night someone left a bloody trail across the pavement and across her heart.

  • A cool breeze gently licked Madison’s cheek and batted at her eyelashes until they fluttered open from her hazy, Dramamine-induced slumber.

  • Twas the plum fairy wine what made goblins murderous, she knew, for she was clever and wise about the ways of forest folk and automobiles made them angry.

  • Cold was only thing Madison could feel that night, as she stared unblinking at the lifeless bodies of her mother and father sprawled and bleeding on the deserted highway.

  • Slash and dash was what they called it in the ‘hood.

  • A scream trembled behind her lips like that moment just before a teapot whistles.

  • Moonlight shimmered in the blood puddled beneath her mother and father.

  • From the backseat of the car, the girl could see her parents coated in darkness, the moon casting a light on the pool of blood.

  • She pulled up her pant legs and marched straight across the bloody pool.

  • Young Emma awoke to the very scene she had just dreamed, and, with a snarl on her lips that may have been a tarantula in a different lifetime, whispered to herself, “It worked!”

  • As the dome light faded, darkness inched its way across the pavement, swallowing her parents and the blood, until it was within arm’s reach and she knew it would swallow her next unless she moved.

  • She tumbled over the front seat, and without bothering to shut the doors, threw the idling car into drive and slammed on the gas.

  • Bloody grownups.

  • She knew she must keep very still while she waited for daylight.

  • It was the third set of parents she’d lost in a year and it was time to do something about her little brother; she slipped her pack over one shoulder and followed his footprints.

  • There was a reason why you should keep gremlins in cages while on cross country road trips, no matter how cramped their little legs get.

  • She waited and counted, the knife gripped in her hand and when she reached ten she followed her sister’s footprints.

  • It was her first roadtrip and her worst roadtrip.

  • I am so gonna be traumatized later, she thought, following a set of footprints across the dusty road.

  • Beyond the glow of dome light, blackness engulfed the world, and between the two, a gray dimension where reality and nightmares met and mingled.

  • Be silent, be clever, she told herself.

  • Her cat, Blackie was sitting by the corpses, mouth full of her mother’s chewed hand, and she realized she’d have to gut him to get the diamond back.

  • She smelled the blood before she saw it; metallic like the scent of a coin in her palm.

  • “But I’m an only child!” she screamed as her little brother closed the gap between them, a bloody knife gripped in his hand.

  • She closed her eyes, but her parents were still bloody and still dead when she opened them again.

  • MR

    I slept like a coddled baby that fateful night, foolishly dreaming that I would be ensconced in their love forever, but now, alone in my terror and my grandmother’s musty blanket, my eyes refuse to shut.

  • MR

    Blood had blemished her cherubic face, but it wasn’t her own, and nor was the remorseless hand that now muffled her anguish.

  • She was a quiet girl before that night; now she can’t stop screaming.

  • The car doors were open and her parents bodies lay on the ground like some monstrous steel beast had belched them onto the pavement after it had tried to digest them.

  • I can’t take my parents anywhere, she sighed.

  • A deer stared into her eyes from the side of the road; a witness who’d never tell a soul.

  • It started with sleepwalking and ended with death in the cold blue of night.

  • I knew it impossible for me to have slept naturally through the brutality of the evening’s events, it had to be someone close to the family, but who and why were questions I couldn’t wrap my head around until years later.

  • Her first thoughts were: YouTube.

  • Where is Uber when you need them?

  • As I lifted my head from under my father’s coat, in the back seat of our car, I was glad that I had awoken from such a bad dream, but I wondered why we weren’t home yet, and when I sat up, to my horror, I discovered my worst nightmare ever, and I SCREAMED!!!

  • It was a moment of tranquil confusion, not hysteria nor fear, but those were soon to come.

  • As sleep crept into her small body, Sara watched as the silhouetted heads of her parents floated and faded across the inside of the car like fleeing spirits.

  • She awoke to the sound of the ‘door is ajar’ chiming ‘bing, bing, bing, bing.’ At that moment she realized how close it sounded to her own alarm clock. The one that woke her every morning for school. But this was no alarm clocks warning. She had just awoken to a nightmare that no one could have imagined.

  • The car door was open and she realized that her life would never be the same again.

  • But if those were her parents, dead on the ground, then who were the people in the front seat of the car?

  • The twelve-year-old girl squeezed out a whimper somewhere between pity and affection as she gaped at her parents who now more resembled road kill than the loving mother and father that she once knew.

  • She awoke amidst the carnage that had been her family and with a shock realized the knife was in Her hand.

  • Sarah woke up, but her parents did not.

  • Distantly she recognized that she should be screaming.

  • On this moonless night, Sarah struggled to name a shade of red to properly describe her parent’s blood pooling on the pavement.

  • The thought that something strange had happened was lost in the guttural noises she seemed to be making.

  • My dreams warned me with caves and grinding steel, my Nana sobbing an echoing darkness, but when my eyes snapped open I screamed anyway.

  • A

    She knew no one was home but decided to knock anyway; the floorboards under her feet groaned as the door slowly creaked open…

  • A

    Cold sweat dripped down her neck as she ran through the woods, the moonlight teasing her, leading her to the edge of the cliff.

  • Cecelia’s scream resembled her ringing ears: a muted screech echoing through her skull.

  • (name) wiped the sleep from her eyes just in time to gaze upon the crimson life-juice of her parents pooling beneath the open car doors seeping into boot imprint leading the tree-line.

  • I woke up, dying.

  • “What have I done, again”?

  • I usually try to distance myself from the scene of MY crime, but circumstances wouldn’t allow it.

  • She was certain that this would not be covered by the motor club.

  • Her scream blustered up from the lowest part of her gut, through her stomach, past her racing heart, then whistled up her throat only to rattle and shake her soul — like a wind from within in a locked, shut house — behind her silent, clenched jaw.

  • The blinking monotonous drone of the roads dividing line pulled at her weary eyes and just as soon as she was asleep she awoke staring at the pocket on the back of her mothers front seat wondering when it was that she had dribbled ketchup into the opening and onto her copy of highlights.

  • She fell asleep to the gentle hum of the car’s engine, and woke up to her mothers bloodcurdling screams.

  • I couldn’t pry my eyes away from my mother, the tip of her index finger running up and down the newly sharpened blade of the carving knife — up and down, up and down…

  • I stood there emotionless, like death had taken me too, but only one thing was certain, these footsteps, have led me to you.

  • If it wasn’t for the view in front of my eyes that the footprints that faded away were the only thing that broke the silence.

  • “It worked!” she thought as her thin lips skinned back to reveal teeth she had ground down to points, “And no one else will take me back to the institution again, either!”

  • In a mydriatic state of heightened clarity, running both towards and away she hysterically hurdled down the hillside like a Marionette through an ocean of leaves in the moonlit Virginia forest.

  • Uh, “marionette” – all lower case.

  • Images of mangled hair, sharpened teeth, and saliva snapping through her minds eye jolted her awake only to find the nightmare wasn’t over.

  • The car alarm woke her, and the front seats were empty, keys still in the ignition.

  • Before that night, she’d only ever seen that much blood on TV.

  • My parents never liked driving at night.

  • I awoke in the car, parked at the side of the road, and these things were clear – my parents were dead, which I confirmed with one look out the window, both cell phones were smashed to pieces in the front seat, I was scared and alone in the middle of nowhere, and the all the person responsible left behind were footprints that began at my parents’ bodies, and extended into the forest.

  • Unexpected uncertainty donned in gruesome horror awaited her arousal.

  • Angelica frowned as she surveyed the carnage, knowing Gabriel would deny her promotion once he found out she had let her charges fall prey to the scavenging hordes of DeathBringers.

  • With her “parents” now dead, Elyra peeled off her human flesh to reveal her true, reptilian form and feasted on the carnage around her to fuel her body for her trip home–if they would accept her on the home planet again.

  • She had not spoken for years, not since the green-skinned creatures did this to her real parents, but now the words stumbled from her rusty throat, “Not…my…fault…not…my fault” as she viewed the gore of the hasty murders.

  • Had she dreampt last night’s revelry–no, she still tasted the blood from her gory meal the night before.

  • (Name) always loved frozen grapes.

  • She would only feel this way one more time–too soon–while looking death in the face, filled with every bad feeling there ever was .

  • My parents’ final breaths mixed with the settling mist and escaped, alleviating their bodies of their souls.

  • Perhaps the silence itself woke me from my dreams, because in most moments of my life, I am the only thing that can be this quiet.

  • As her eyelids fluttered open and her senses began to inform her of her present circumstance, her all too sensitive ears were concerned with the one and only noise they could discern; the slow drip, drip, drip, of a falling liquid near by.

  • How odd that in the most gruesome and devastating moment of my life, I am actually somewhat thankful that my body can not verbally elicit the bone chilling scream I feel rising in every fiber of my panicked cells.

  • The horrified lonely humans bred in their sickening assassin farms mean nothing to them as for over the past seventy years they have all originated from a system of orphaned only children where none are ever allowed to exist much beyond the age of thirty, and the reason she was left alive was the same reason her parents were killed: those in the shadows deemed her of the best age to become malleable through trauma in order to serve, mate, and in turn be discarded along this conveyor belt of death.

  • “They weren’t supposed to come for me so soon,” she thought.

  • Amber was new to the isolated Pennsylvania town this summer and the only person on her team bestowed a nickname, The Silent Killer, as she was a reticent clutch line drive hitter who had a gun for an arm that threw strikes to first from 85 feet across the diamond, but with the season ending earlier in the evening she was now looking forward to soon splitting tree trunks with snowballs in the sloping forest behind her house.

    (Later, she nails the guy she chased down the hillside square in the back of his head with a baseball-sized rock just as he reached for the car door handle after she watched him take off bloodied gloves, overalls and shoes and placed them with the knife in a plastic trash bag in the trunk.)

  • “Five more minutes,” she said groggily when she felt the hand on her shoulder.

  • The sight of her parents dead on the pavement was enough to horrify her, but what scared her most was that the person who shook her awake was nowhere to be found.

  • She had just woken up and now all she wanted was to wake up once more.

  • It was a night that would leave “footprints” on her for the rest of her life.

  • Her brother, the living nightmare, the consuming force of evil, long thought to have died in that fire, was back.

  • MR

    When the highway patrol officer knelt down on that godforsaken road and placed her hand on my shoulder, I knew it was the last time I would feel warmth.

  • With closed eyes, she stumbled to the blood-spread of her parents’ bodies and dropped the tiny sugar skull, pulverizing it beneath her heel.

  • The rising growl in her throat was of a black and ancient origin, and knew far more than she did.

  • Confused, she wandered to meet her mother’s grey face, moaning, “Mommy I’m hungry.”

  • Now condemned, the child should hang herself.

  • She hadn’t planned ahead; how would she get home?

  • Unexpected uncertainty donned in abject horror awaited her arousal.

  • It was her twelfth autumn, but the first in New England.

  • “Are we there yet?” She asked without opening her eyes.

  • No matter how they die, they come back, she reminded herself as she waited for her parents to reanimate.

  • They learned long ago that if triggered and sustained by a psychological nuclear bomb, some of the autonomous physiological changes induced by the sympathetic nervous system can be indelible, especially within those isolated at the critical age of development.

  • Long ago they learned that if triggered and sustained by a psychological nuclear bomb, some of the autonomous physiological changes induced by the sympathetic nervous system can be indelible, especially within those isolated at the critical stage of development.

  • Mom had a bet on the milkman but it all went sour.

  • I remember Mom said Toytown would never be as good as it had been, after the lions were set loose.

  • The suddenness of death is a song that bludgeons the unwary.

  • The day my parents died was the day my life drove off a bridge.

  • For years Ying has suspected that her parents aren’t who they claim to be, and as she drifts to sleep in the backseat she finally vows to herself to confront them once they arrive to wherever the Hell they all were going on this latest spontaneous mysterious journey.

  • Killing lawyers is relatively easy as long as you don’t let them say anything; otherwise, it gets messy.

  • It crouched beyond the edge of light, away from the stone path where metallic beasts crawled and where one had died in the throes of belching smoke and heat and the two legged parasites that rode in them.

  • For years Ying suspected her parents are not who they claim to be, and tonight as she drifts asleep in the backseat finally vows to herself to confront them once they arrive to wherever the Hell they were going in this latest spontaneous mysterious escapade.

  • It was her twelfth autumn, but first in New England.

  • If she could scream it would have woken the dead, but as she stared across the road at the limp figures of her murdered parents, the only sound was the unnerving rustle of the surrounding trees.

  • “There’s lint in my pocket,” a voice out of the dark whispered.

  • Holly’s birthday had been earlier this month, and as she reclines sleepily in the backseat looking up through the window of her parents’ speeding car silently muses that she is gazing upon her gross moon.

  • Holly’s birthday had been earlier in the month, and while reclining sleepily in the backseat looking up through the window of her parents’ speeding car she silently muses that she is gazing upon her gross moon.

  • Holly’s birthday had been earlier in the month, and while reclining sleepily in the backseat looking up through the window of her parents’ speeding car she silently muses that she is gazing upon her gross moon.

    (As opposed to my previous entry, I think this one may be a sentence.)

  • The end did not come with fire or ice, like in the poem her mother had read to her right before she fell asleep; it came with a gentle summer breeze that would have lifted her parents’ hair if it had not been matted together with blood.

  • Holly’s birthday had been earlier in the month, and while reclining sleepily in the backseat looking up through the window of her parents’ speeding car she silently muses that this is her gross moon.

  • The sudden breeze from the autumn night carried an ominous feeling that lingered in the air long after its departure.

  • A sudden breeze from the autumn night carried an ominous feeling that lingered in the air long after its departure.

  • MR

    She wept as the blood moon rose and eclipsed her innocence.

  • Plastic and steel and wires – a strange beast that ticked and chimed and hummed and glared and flashed while a pair of flesh creatures simmered in their own juices on the hot pavement beside it, and tucked away in the belly of steel, a flesh-ling child slept.

  • Almost beheaded, almost beheaded, almost beheaded my parents, I said-ed.

  • Sometimes life takes the dangerous curves a little too fast, and you end up with bloody bodies in the middle of nowhere.

  • Too late, she realized she did not know how to drive.

  • When I was twelve I dreamed of marrying the freckled boy next door and my mom and dad fussing over their button-nosed grand babies.

  • Every summer since I learned to drive, I take a road trip back to the year I turned twelve.

  • Not again, she thought.

  • She swam until the shore was out of sight, until the sun overhead sizzled her skull
    and her skin was bloated like the fat lady that’s suppose to sing at the end of
    everything and when she couldn’t swim any more, she bobbed for a bit.

  • Jennifer wondered why was she standing on the side of the road with blood all over her hands and no shoes on.

  • They thought I was dead, too.

  • “Why do I still have to wear a seatbelt? I’m 12 now!” Jordan’s father smiled a sweet smile and said “I’ll tell you later, I promise. Trust me, OK?” “Yeah, yeah.” Jordan’s eyes were already closed as the car sped down the highway to the ocean.

  • At twelve years of age, she knew enough about what her parents did to know everything is done for a reason so the obvious fact that her parents must have stopped for someone they trusted and she was spared to see footprints leading away was enough for her to just grab the spare key from the wheel well, get her father’s backup Glock 19 from the trunk, and simply keep driving to Frank’s, but not before she glared into the night in the direction of the footprints, screamed “Fuck you!” and sprayed a few pills down the hillside.

  • It is all about instilling physical and mental isolation in the child through horror, and they would have been fine with her waking up before or during her parents’ murders, but were aware of the additional benefits derived from the shock of instantaneous discovery so from their perspective it couldn’t have gone any better.

  • The Glock 19 in the trunk proved useless to her parents, but when she grabbed it and in one motion loaded the chamber she heard the sudden rustling of the disappointed sick fuck who had waited to hear her screams.

  • They had been on the run ever since they picked her up from school so as she pushed the trunk button on the spare key from the wheel well to get her father’s backup Glock 19, she was certain of two things and had to presume a third: her parents must have stopped the car here for someone they trusted, she was left alive for a reason, and that she was being watched from the shadows … a very pissed off twelve-year-old with a gun and a car half full of gas still headed to Frank’s, whom she now no longer trusted.

  • That morning, while Daniel stared distantly through the Telegraph, Molly’s mother let a glass of cranberry juice slip from her fingers to shatter at her daughter’s feet.

  • Until I was twelve our family road trips consisted of 20 questions, a cooler of ice and soda and me staring at the back of dad’s head until I was certain he really didn’t have a set of eyes hidden beneath his shaggy hair.

  • The night smelled sweet and it was raining just a little, a soft but steady drizzle too weak to wash away the blood.

  • Mama said don’t worry, the Klan don’t hang little girls, but Papa must have thought different because he mashed on the pedal and that old Ford skidded down the road, coughing dust and gravel behind it.

  • It was the summer I stopped believing in God.

  • DK

    It had happened before. Death seemed to follow her.

  • MR

    She envied their eternal sleep, for waking life held horrors that nightmares could never concoct.

  • Sheila has always contemplated her life from around the corner, as if silently following it from behind – keeping it company.

  • Under the best of circumstances an only child becoming orphaned at twelve is bad enough, but waking up alone on a starless night in the backseat of her parents’ car stopped on a desolate road in the middle of nowhere out of cell range with no GPS to suddenly find just outside on the ground her last two relatives freshly expired by blade made her lost in every way imaginable save for the orientation of the car and initial direction of the executioner’s footprints.

  • Things had changed since she had fallen asleep in the backseat as she and her parents traveled down the highway, and she awoke alone in the car stationary with all the doors agape like a cracked cocoon.

  • She ran him over like a squirrel breaking his back, got out of the car and began the interrogation by repeatedly kicking him in the side and screaming “Why didn’t you kill me, too? You motherfucking asshole!”

    Probably not a first sentence, but it felt good to compose and submit.
    Thank you for another fun contest, JournalPulp!

  • Ann

    Amber awoke, just as she had fallen asleep, unable to understand why her parents had chosen today, on this ominous road to tell her she was adopted, but the answer to that question would be revealed in a manner she would never forgive or forget.

  • Ann

    “Leave the girl!”

  • Sarah was never a talker, but she realized now she was one hell of a screamer.

  • Opening her eyes, she woke from one nightmare into another.

  • Renee was roused awake from the chill in the car, and mumbled for her father to turn off the A/C.

  • If only they had started running sooner.

  • Her parents’ bodies were beginning to stink.

  • Pa said he done ate every kind o’ roadkill there was ’til tonight, but it weren’t polite to scoop human remains off the roadway without informing the police or next of kin first.

  • Jesus, CL.

  • Things had changed since she had fallen asleep in the backseat as she and her parents traveled down the highway, and now she awoke alone in the car stationary with all the doors agape like a violated cocoon.

  • Detective Curtis, weary and slightly nauseous, squatted in the dust next to a set of size 7 footprints.

  • As a 911 operator, I’m supposed to be prepared for those kind of calls.

  • She peeped out through the back door again, but the grisly sight still had not changed.

  • Sleeping through the horrors was not nearly as difficult as getting them to drive all the way out here in the first place.

  • The fog of sleep parted slowly, and her contented smile grew as she mindlessly stretched her arms.

  • The sharp tang of gasoline filling her nostrils, the sweet chill of night air, and the calm stillness of death drew her forth from shadowy dreams.

  • Neither respond to her shouts so Kate confusedly climbs out, and looking into the night begins to walk around the wide open doors towards the front of the darkened car only to briefly notice the jack-o-lantern smile of the waning moon above, which mimics the crescent-slit throats of both parents at her feet.

  • They hurled to slaughter.

  • On a back Texas road, they were hurling to slaughter.

  • In the blink of an eye, her whole world had changed. Within the mere minutes of a innocent nap, a deafening darkness had fallen down around her, and all that could be heard as she stood admist the horror was the pounding beat of her own heart mixed with nighttime sounds and the faint hum of an idling engine.