10 Haunting Short Stories That Will Leave Your Mind In Pieces

“A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage.”
-Lorrie Moore

There’s a certain charm to short stories. A good short story can leave you spell bound, and can get you as involved as an epic series of books would. Fewer words, an equally powerful impact. And over time, I’ve learned to love a good short story as much as a I can love a ginormous book that keeps me engrossed through hundreds of pages. And so many of them have stuck with me. These 10 short stories are ones that have affected me the most:

‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

“There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.”

This is a story that will shake your roots. Simply put, it’s about a woman and her relationship with the yellow wallpaper in her room. In a hauntingly realistic approach to mental illness, Perkins pulls you in with her narrative.

When I finished reading this story, I sat in silence for a really long time, trying to process what I had just read. It has been 6 years, and I still haven’t gotten over it.

‘2BR02B’ by Kurt Vonnegut

“And then he shot himself, making room for all three of his children.”

This story is set in a futuristic world where population numbers are stabilized. This means, you cannot give birth unless somebody dies and there is a vacancy. The impact will leave you reeling. 2BR02B is a story unparalleled in its appeal to me.

‘Christina Rosenthal’ by Jeffrey Archer

“We worked together, we studied together, we played together, but we slept alone.”

This is nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. From the childhood to the maturity of the protagonist, he takes us through his tumultuous relationship with Christina. By the end of the long-ish story, you have your heart in your mouth. Archer has been known for his cunning twists, and he lives up to his name!

‘The Lady Or The Tiger’ by Frank Stockton

“Now, the point of the story is this: Did the tiger come out of that door, or did the lady ?The more we reflect upon this question, the harder it is to answer. It involves a study of the human heart which leads us through devious mazes of passion, out of which it is difficult to find our way.”

Oh dear God. This story poses a serious question about what you know about humanity. It revolves around a barbaric king who held the reigns of justice in his hands. He’d put the culprit in an arena and make him choose either of two doors. One leads to a ferocious tiger, and the other to a beautiful lady. It will make you reconsider your assumptions and persevere to solve this riddle.

Once you have read it, let me know what your answer is!

‘The Thing About Cassandra’ by Neil Gaiman

“The thing about Cassandra is this: I’d made her up.”

Gaiman is a master storyteller. In his anthology Trigger Warning, he has experimented with different perspectives. This short story in particular left my heart wanting to explode. It begins with Stuart’s scribbling Cassandra’s name over his notebooks, trying to pass her off as his girlfriend. But what happens when somebody from your imagination follows you into real life? Read this story to find out.

‘The Postmaster’ by Rabindranath Tagore

“O poor, unthinking human heart! Error will not go away, logic and reason are slow to penetrate. We cling with both arms to false hope, refusing to believe the weightiest proofs against it, embracing it with all our strength.”

There is hardly anything one needs to say about Tagore. Most things he wrote are saturated with deep insight about the human psyche. In this short story, translated from Bengali, we read about Ratan-a villiage girl- and her ‘dadababu’. It teaches you something very important about the cycle of life, and leaves your heart heavy with the sheer honesty.

‘Those Who Walk Away From Omelas’ by Ursula K. Le Guin

“Night falls; the traveler must pass down village streets, between the houses with yellow- lit windows, and on out into the darkness of the fields. Each alone, they go west or north, towards the mountains. They go on. They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back. The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.”

As much as I try, there is nothing I can say about this story. The only testament to its brilliance is how it makes you feel. The narrator speaks about a city of joy, where there is immense mirth. However, the dark story behind it will leave you gasping. ‘Those Who Walk Away From Omelas’ is less of a story, and more of an experience- one you should definitely have.

‘The Pendulum’ by O. Henry

“When he touched her clothes a thrill of something like terror went through him. He had never thought what existence would be without Katy. She had become so thoroughly annealed into his life that she was like the air he breathed—necessary but scarcely noticed.”

Often, we realize the worth of somebody long after they have left our lives. We believe that we would make all the amends and treat them right if we had the chance. But would we really?

O. Henry, the magician, has always explained human emotions very fluently in his stories. This one is no exception. You discover love, regret, and the in the end, you probably discover something about yourself.

‘The Night Train At Deoli’ by Ruskin Bond

“I have to go to Delhi”, I said.
She nodded, “I do not have to go anywhere.”

Bond subtly tugs at the strings of your soul when you least expect it. This short story is one of longing, separation, love, and the ideal that human beings chase all through their lives. In the tale of a passenger on a train and a blanket-seller, Bond upholds the craving for attachments that we subdue in our rash lives.

‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ by Edgar Allan Poe

“He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees –very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.”

Poe wrote about darkness like it is the most beautiful thing this world has seen. In this short story, we see a murderer who tries to justify the killing and claim sanity. It will make you very uncomfortable, but equally interested.

Happy reading!

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