Identify story where ending leaves reader with creeping sense of horror.
March 3, 2009 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Heard about a (short?) story that ends with a certain word that causes the reader to experience a creeping sense of horror as the rest of the story fits into place. Any ideas what story it could be?
posted by maryrosecook to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
There's one I read in school where two leaders of warring tribes in Russia or Eastern Europe find themselves trapped under a log or somesuch and manage to work out their differences and the story ends with one of them saying "what's that sound" and the other one says "wolves."
posted by AJaffe at 10:35 AM on March 3, 2009

posted by infinitewindow at 10:39 AM on March 3, 2009

I think AJaffe is talking about "The Interlopers"
posted by katie at 10:40 AM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

If it's a sci-fi story, then maybe you mean To Serve Man, by Damon Knight?
posted by steveminutillo at 10:44 AM on March 3, 2009

Response by poster: @infinitewindow I have read that story, and I know what you mean. It might be it. But I was thinking of something more along the lines of Angel Heart - something happens and a lot of other stuff falls into horrifying place.
posted by maryrosecook at 10:46 AM on March 3, 2009

I don't think it's the Chiang story mentioned in the other thread, but without more details it would be difficult to narrow down the options. I think most modern horror stories attempt to leave the reader with "a creeping sense of horror" after they finish.
posted by muddgirl at 10:46 AM on March 3, 2009

That's it, Katie. Thanks!
posted by AJaffe at 10:47 AM on March 3, 2009

Related, but probably not it, a story ending with this line: 'Then they were upon her.' It's called 'The Lottery' by Shirley Jackson and is available as a podcast from The New Yorker.
posted by harnharn at 11:10 AM on March 3, 2009

I think it is very likely you ask for The Lottery. The first time I read it I got that feeling exactly.
posted by ilike at 11:17 AM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Lottery doesn't end with a certain word though. I think it evokes the feeling but isn't the story the OP is talking about because you pretty much see the ending coming all along.
posted by whitetigereyes at 12:10 PM on March 3, 2009

Not a short story, but the last few words of Iain M. Banks' "Walking on Glass" completely changes your view of everything that happened in the book.
posted by metaBugs at 12:21 PM on March 3, 2009

Could it be Roald Dahl's 'The Landlady'? About a man who checks in to a B&B and feels a bit funny after drinking tea?
posted by NekulturnY at 1:00 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Michael Marshall Smith's "More Tomorrow" would fit your description. The full text used to be online, but I can't find it now.
posted by Flannery Culp at 1:00 PM on March 3, 2009

It's probably not it, but I just thought of Joyce Carol Oates' Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
posted by trotter at 1:15 PM on March 3, 2009

It's not "Soylent Green" is it?
posted by peep at 1:30 PM on March 3, 2009

Was it an invented word? If sliche rings a bell, it sounds like "Little Stones, Little Pistols, Little Clash" by Jacob Rubin.
posted by booksandlibretti at 1:56 PM on March 3, 2009

It might be Raspberry Jam - a short-story by Angus Wilson (if memory serves me). The story is about a small boy who finds a dead bird in the woods and the ending words makes the events pretty scaring (in a nausious way).

Great reading-tips in the other answers!
posted by Rabarberofficer at 4:58 PM on March 3, 2009

How about Ian Banks The Wasp Factory? At the end of the story you find out something about Frank that changes the way you think about everything that happened before. (Don't read that wikipedia article if you don't want to spoil it.)
posted by MsMolly at 5:10 PM on March 3, 2009

Every time I read "Mirror" by Sylvia Plath, those last two words, ordinarily something that wouldn't sound particularly affective, always give me the chills.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 6:39 PM on March 3, 2009

What came to my mind was Stephen King's story "Survivor Type."
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:48 PM on March 3, 2009

Clarke's "The 9 Billion Names of God gives me this feeling in the last sentence, but I doubt it's what you're looking for.
posted by mmoncur at 9:08 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sidhedevil: What came to my mind was Stephen King's story "Survivor Type."

Actually, a bunch of King's short stories came to my mind, too. We really need more info from the poster. Where did you hear about this? How will you know if any of these answers are "correct"? Do you know if the story is a mass fiction or mainstream one, or something obscure?
posted by peep at 10:38 PM on March 3, 2009

David Foster Wallace's "On His Deathbed, Holding Your Hand, the Acclaimed New Young Off-Broadway Playwright's Father Begs a Boon" (from Brief Interviews with Hideous Men) is like this, though the word is not the last, just very close to the end, and you might miss the word entirely if you're not paying attention, and the exact meaning of the word is suspect even if you pick up on it. (That's DFW for you.)
posted by speicus at 11:01 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

A few stories from Twitlit Zone fit this.
posted by divabat at 11:13 PM on March 3, 2009

How about Shirley Jackson's classic short story, "The Lottery"?
posted by ragtimepiano at 11:35 PM on March 3, 2009

I can't believe no one has mentioned The Last Question, by Issac Asimov.

I still remember the chills this story gave me on first reading it over twenty years ago. In a strange way, it's one of the reasons I'm an atheist.
posted by Mephisto at 12:20 AM on March 4, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, it seems like this thread has turned into one about great stories that leave you with the chills - that's fantastic.

Thanks very much for all the suggestions. Obviously, since I've never read the story in question, I can't judge which answer is correct.

@MsMolly and @metaBugs those are both great stories. You can't beat early Iain Banks.
posted by maryrosecook at 6:23 AM on March 4, 2009

the end of The Rats In The Walls. by H.P. Lovecraft gave me that impression but not from one word. last paragraph or so maybe
posted by Redhush at 1:07 PM on March 4, 2009

I can't believe no one has mentioned The Last Question, by Issac Asimov.
Oh, man, it's like the Asimov version of Ask Metafilter!

Settle-a-Bet-Filter: Will mankind one day without the net expenditure of energy be able to restore the sun to its full youthfulness even after it had died of old age? [more inside] I've got five bucks riding on this! Hope me, askme!

posted by jschu at 9:15 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Man who liked Dickens by Evelyn Waugh is a classic in this genre.
posted by dhruva at 11:57 AM on March 5, 2009

I surprised no one has mentioned "The Two Bottles of Relish," by Lord Dunsany. The final word definitely reveals everything.
posted by barjo at 11:52 AM on March 10, 2009

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