Twist Competition - Winner

Damien McKeating

Found Footage
Twist Competition


Damien was born, and shortly after that he developed an unwavering love of fantasy and the supernatural. He has short stories published across numerous anthologies and magazines, and is very grateful to anyone who has read and enjoyed them. He is currently working on self-publishing his first novel. He is fond of corvids and, contrary to rumour, is currently the oldest he has ever been.

Found Footage By Damien McKeating

Michael’s Camera – 20:47
Twigs snap and crack. The camera tilts, looks up into darkness, pans forward again.
“Guys!” Michael shouts.
The pool of light from the camera illuminates a thick woodland, path criss-crossed with branches. There is no depth; the woods eat up the light and create a pool of darkness around the scene.
“Where is everyone?” Michael mutters. “So, I’m in Wayfarer’s Woods.” He speaks up, narrating. “It’s dark. It’s cold. I don’t think you can see it on the screen yet but there’s a low fog settling in.”
He stumbles. The shot bounces around. He gasps, spins around.
“Did you hear that?” he asks.
He lets out a shaky breath, the camera wobbling with the movement.
Silence. Electronic hiss. The shot pans around and then whips back.
There is a blur of light and shadow. The camera focuses on a cabin beyond the tree line. Square windows are lit up, spilling a yellow warmth across the ground. A car is parked outside.
“Well that’s something,” Michael says as he stomps forward.
The cottage comes into view. Dark wood, a low roof, one wall wreathed with climbing ivy. Michael’s footfalls echo as he steps onto the porch.
“Hello?” he calls.
The camera peers through a window. There’s a table, a stone fireplace, the flash of a small but cosy lounge. It moves on. Reaches the front door.
Michael’s hand reaches into shot, pushes the door.

Kim’s Camera – 20:53
The door to the cottage swings open and a young man stumbles inside. He’s holding a camera. Blonde hair sticks from under a beanie hat. His dark clothes are littered with occult sigils and heavy metal imagery.
He looks confused, the light from his camera arcing across the shot in a blinding flash. “Kim?” he asks.
“Michael?” Kim responds.
The shot holds. Kim pans their camera around the cabin. Wooden and rustic; a rug sits in front of a low fire. A single place setting sits at a wooden table in the kitchen area. Two other doors lead away from the room.
“I didn’t know you were filming today,” Kim says as they move around the room.
“Is this place yours?” Michael replies.
“No. You here alone?”
“No, I lost Ginny and Luke out there.”
“I lost Rosa,” Kim says.
“Doing a found footage thing too?” Michael asks.
Kim lingers on a map framed on the wall. An expanse of green highlights the large area of woodland, interlaced with winding brown pathways. A strip of blue river snakes its way across the page.
“Too good not to,” Kim says. “I’m doing a vengeful sixteenth century witch thing. Made corn dollies to hang in the trees.”
“Vengeful ghost,” Michael replies. “Same legend, I think.”
They both laugh. Kim pans around the cottage again, taking in Michael doing the same thing. The shot focuses on the unopened doors.
“Should we look inside?” asks Kim.
“Is it weird that no one is here?” Michael says.
The door moves closer. It looms large in the frame. Kim focuses the camera on the handle; old fashioned, iron, intricate curves in its design.
“Hey!” a woman’s voice calls off camera.
The shot whips around and focuses on the rifle.

Michael’s Camera – 21:02
“What the hell are you doing here?” the woman asks. She’s dressed for hiking. Her ash blonde hair is long and loose. She holds the rifle with casual confidence.
“Woah,” Michael cries out. The shot bounces with the movement. Ceiling. Floor. Wall. The doorway at a forty-five degree angle, the woman off-kilter.
“We were just filming in the woods,” says Kim. “We saw the house. We called out but no one answered. Right?”
“Right,” replies Michael, his voice high and tight.
“When no one answers you don’t come in,” the woman says. “You’re just kids,” she realises.
“We’re making found footage movies for our media course,” says Kim.
“Are your phones working?” the woman asks.
The camera drops down as Michael reaches into his pocket. His phone moves into the shot. The screen blazes into life. No signal.
“Nothing,” Michael says.
“Me neither,” adds Kim. “What’s wrong?”
The camera moves back up. The woman stands in the doorway. “I’m staying here with my boyfriend. He went out for a walk and hasn’t come back. Can’t get a signal on my phone to call for help.”
“Why the gun?” Michael asks.
“Because I’m not an idiot,” the woman replies. She gives him a look, her sneer veering to the camera and then back to Michael.
“We could follow the road out,” says Michael. “Or drive.”
“I don’t have the keys. There’s a shortcut through the woods. Maybe we’re best off sticking together. Are you here on your own?”
At the edge of the shot, Kim shakes their head, and Michael’s camera bounces with his own response.
“Follow me,” the woman says. “We’ll get back to town and call for help from there.”
“You know what you’re doing?” Michael asks, although the shot is already moving as he goes to follow her.
She turns. The camera lurches, drawing up short.
“I know what I’m doing,” she replies, the rifle slung over her shoulder.

Kim’s Camera – 21:10
Michael is in the foreground of the shot. The light from the camera is harsh, blaring against the black of their clothing. At the edge of the light is the woman. She moves along a narrow trail, sweeping aside branches and bracken. Tendrils of fog hang in the air, giving the image a fuzzy quality.
“Ginny! Luke!” Michael shouts.
“Be quiet,” the woman commands.
“My friends are out here,” Michael replies petulantly.
“Don’t go shouting in the woods at night,” the woman says over her shoulder, not slowing at all.
“Why not?” Michael mutters, his voice pitched low.
Kim screams. The camera jerks. Michael is laughing as the shot pulls up and into focus. There is a doll hanging from a tree branch. The figure is woven from corn and branches, a simple and eerie facsimile of a person.
“You got spooked by your own prop,” Michael teases.
Kim laughs, gasping for air. “Forgot it was there.” Kim keeps laughing. The camera drops as they put their hands on their knees. The world is upside down, staring back along the trail. Nothing but darkness shrouded in white fog. “We must be getting close to where we started out,” says Kim.
“Bet everyone is already back in town.”
“Making a movie about how they lost us,” Kim adds.
Kim and Michael laugh together. The camera comes up again, blurs, focuses. Michael turns, the two cameras gazing at each other.
“Where did she go?” Michael asks. “This fog is getting crazy.”
“Hey!” Kim calls.
They stand in their pool of light. The wood creaks and rattles around them. Night birds call to each other. Kim swears under their breath. Michael gives a nervous laugh.
“This way,” the woman calls. She is unseen, off camera, somewhere in the darkness ahead on the trail.
“Let’s catch up,” Michael says.
They speed up, jogging towards the sound, breath coming fast and uneven.
Michael screams.

Michael’s Camera – 21:15
The shot is angled. The camera lies tilted in Michael’s lap. His leg fills the foreground. There is stone beyond it, the camera light casting it in deep shadows and harsh highlights.
Michael breathes fast and ragged. He whimpers.
“Are you okay?” Kim calls off-screen. There is more audio, indecipherable, lost in the poor quality recording.
Michael picks up the camera.
“Okay, okay, okay,” he mumbles to himself.
He pans the camera around. He lies in a pit, the walls lined with soil, stone and roots. Kim is on their hands and knees above him, looking over the lip of the drop. The audio twangs and tings with the steady rippling of water. The shots pans around to show a stream rolling over stones and disappearing into a cave entrance.
“What happened?” the woman asks, unseen.
“The ground just collapsed,” Kim says, voice racing with panic.
“The river has branches underground,” the woman says. “Geez. Listen, we’re close, okay. Stay with him. I’ll go the last bit into town.”
Michael pans the camera up. Kim slides down into the pit. Their face is concerned, skin pale in the light. They sweep their dark hair from their face.
“You don’t have to film anymore,” they say.
“I like it,” Michael replies. “Makes it feel like it’s happening to someone else. I daren’t look at my leg.”
Kim glances to the side. Their lips pull back, teeth clenched, but they don’t say anything.
“Daft idea to come out here at night,” Michael says. His jaw is tight, his teeth chattering.
“You know what, when we get back, we should combine our footage. We could really make this work.”
“Yeah. Sounds good.”
Trickling water in the silence. Ragged breathing. Kim’s worried stare.
“Maybe she’ll find her boyfriend,” Kim says. “He could pull you out.”
“Do you think there really is a boyfriend? There was only one place setting at the table in the cabin; did you notice that?” Michael asks.
“You think she’s on her own? What’s she doing out here?”
“I don’t know. I mean, she led us here.” Michael gasps; grunts with pain.
“Listen,” Kim looks up, urgent, alert. “Hey! We’re here!”
The sound of breaking branches and rustling leaves reaches the mic. Michael sighs with relief.
“Ginny, is that you?” he calls.
“Rosa?” Kim stands up. “Oh God,” they sob.

Kim’s Camera – 21:19
The camera sits on the lip of the collapsed ground. Kim calls to Michael and climbs down.
The woods come alive out of shot.
Branches snap.
Leaves scratch and drag.
“Ginny, is that you?”
The fog draws in. It coalesces around a figure, something of the fog, part of it, shaping it.
It holds the shape of a woman, ethereal, ephemeral, unfocused. Her ashen hair flies long and loose around her. She opens her mouth and the beauty of her face becomes cadaverous, the cheeks hollow, the mouth too big, teeth too long.
The fog and the woman descend into the pit.

Judges Comments

'Found Footage' by Damien McKeating, the winning entry in WM's Twist Short Story Competition, is a homage to The Blair Witch Project that relocates its 'found footage' film technique as a literary device in this sinister, spookily effective folk horror story.

Damien has done a terrific job of evoking in words the tense, jerky, stop-start feel of a horror narrative delivered via a hand-held device. He's deployed present tense, using fragments; short, staccato sentences; constant references to where the device is positioned. Descriptions are restricted to what's in the camera frame, so that's all the reader can 'see'. When the camera wobbles, the phrasing mimics that effect. The use of alternating 'cameras' , Michael's and Kim's, allows for shifts in narrative perspective, filling in information gaps. It's really well done, giving the storytelling a nervy, edgy delivery.

The storyline takes a bunch of classic horror tropes and smushes them into an original new tale: 'lost in the woods', 'never trust a stranger', 'creepy house' etc. There's the apparently helpful entity who is far from what she seems. There are pratfalls and jump-scares that turn into jokes - the creepy doll deliberately hung in the woods as a prop. And all the time, there's there sense that the writer, Damien, is leading the reader into the woods, into the darkness, playing with them, leading them on, right up to the terrifying twist at the end. He lays such a successful trail of spooky breadcrumbs that even if you're aware of where the story might be heading, the final twist is so well done, and so well written, that just for a moment, it takes your breath away.


Runner up and shortlisted

The runner up in WM’s Twist competition is Matt Biggs, Sutton in Ashfield, Nottingham. You can read his story at
Also shortlisted were: Dominic Bell, Hull; Michael Callaghan, Glasgow; Sally Curtis, Poole, Dorset; Alana Beth Davies, Swansea; John Glander, Wickford, Esssex; Kim Gravell, Llanidloes, Powys; Alyson Hilbourne, Aglionby; Sally Lang, Wigan, Greater Manchester; Deborah J. Smith, Maidenhead, Berkshire; Marc Smith, Burley, Leeds; Lisa Williams, Tiverton, Cheshire.