Secret Passageway

You’ve just moved into a new house and are fixing it up. In the process of painting you find an odd crack in the wall. As you explore further, you find out it’s a secret passageway—and you have no idea where it leads. You decide to grab a flashlight and go exploring.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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287 thoughts on “Secret Passageway

  1. wtw4

    Exhaustion was setting in. I spent most of the day moving boxes from the Ryder truck to various empty rooms in my new house. Most of the utilities had not yet been set up, so my face was sweaty and burning due to the salty sweat stinging the skin drying out in the arid Arizona air. One more box, I promised myself. Then I’ll shower, collapse into bed, and pass out for as long as I can manage. I turned 180 degrees, walked into the hall which was lit by a single exposed light bulb dangling from the ceiling, crossed into the living room, and stepped outside. The truck’s back was ajar and I could see at least 10 medium to small sized boxes left mixed in with the large pieces of furniture I’d need help unloading. I picked the heaviest box I thought I could carry with my current fatigue level, leaned back and used my legs to pull the box off the ground.
    I crossed the living room in four long strides and stood in the doorway to my bedroom. There was nowhere to put the box without risking crushing another box that may be filled with glass. “Not going to risk it,” I said aloud to myself. With a sigh and a heave I walked a few steps to the right into the second and smaller bedroom. As I crossed the threshold, I felt my grasp on the box begin to slip. The sweat on my hands was causing the box – laden with slick packing tape – to slowly slide. I increased speed towards the wall and just managed to reach it and bent over when the box clunked to the floor. I stood there, bent over, basking in my luck and relief. I was focusing on my muscles which felt like Jell-O, then my hair which was engaged in a battle with sweat and a breeze, causing the top of my bangs to change direction in the cool air, while the bottom half remained plastered to my forehead. What a second. A breeze? I stood up. There was no window open, and besides, the breeze would be coming from that direction. No. This breeze was coming from the wall. I stretched my palm forward, trying to find the exact source. I pushed the box aside with my left foot and saw it. A small tear in the wallpaper, and from it was a pulsating breeze.
    I don’t know what compelled me to do it. 99 times out of 100 I’d probably mutter to myself that it was something I’d need to fix the next day. Maybe it was my exhaustion, maybe it was how good the breeze felt on my face – who knows? I stuck my finger in the whole and pulled upwards in a motion that’s normally reserved for opening bills. The tear went upwards a foot, then two, then four. I was now stretched to my full height, arms raised before I felt the crease turn right. I stepped back to take in the odd picture. It was a door. It had to be. I took the corner of what I had already ripped and pulled it southeast. The tear removed the entire rectangular shape of wallpaper covering an unmistakably ornate looking door.
    I pulled the handle and heard the screech of the ancient door echo. I couldn’t see anything through the opaque blackness that wasn’t reached by the single light bulb in the hall. I ran to my bedroom and ripped a box open that read “Bathroom stuff”. I pulled a roll of toilet paper and a plunger and brought them into the kitchen. I put the toilet paper roll ontop of the plunger end and poured a small amount of vodka over the paper. Next, I set it on fire. Pleased with my Mcguyver moment, I walked back to the spare room and toward the doorway. I aimed it into the abyss before me and saw wooden stairs descending into more blackness. I hoped the torch wouldn’t burn up all the oxygen down there, but I supposed with the breeze there had to be some source of air bleeding into this place. I put one foot on the first step when I stopped and withdrew it. “This isn’t right,” I thought. If I was going to explore…whatever it was down there, I needed to be safe about it. I pulled my cellphone out of my pocket sent the most honest and concise message to my girlfriend as I could:
    Found a secret doorway in the second bedroom, going exploring, if you don’t hear from me in a few days you should probably send a search team. Love you!
    I took the stairs one at a time, fearful of falling through a rotted plank. I went down about two floors before I reached the ground – a cold and dry earth. A narrow corridor with ancient-looking bricks on either side led to another door fifty feet ahead. It had to be 70 to 100 feet I’ve moved in that direction already. It must be a neighbor’s house two houses over. I reached the door, which was far different than the previous. I tried to push it open but something was blocking it. I rapped on the door and heard a dull thud, indicating that the door was several inches thick and made of metal. I stood there silently, letting disappointment and curiosity consume me. Then, through the silence I heard a soft smacking of rubber on stone. It was footsteps. Someone was walking towards the door. A clack echoed and a piece of metal slided to the side, exposing a brilliant hazel eye. “Who are you?” he asked.

  2. lalah74

    We found our dream home, an old Victorian gem on a cul-de-sac. It needed an extensive amount of work but we were up for the challenge. I was preparing to paint the room that would be my “mom cave”. All that remained in the room was an antique oak wardrobe that rest against the far wall. It was a beautiful piece of furniture that added a bit of charm to the space so I decided that it could stay but for now it did need to move so that I could paint. I pushed on it with will my weight to no avail.

    “Jeff!” I yelled down to my husband

    “Yeah” he yelled back

    “Can you come give me hand?” I yell in response.

    “With what?”

    “I need to move this thing.”

    “What thing?”

    “Get your ass up here please!” I yell louder because I’m thoroughly annoyed.

    Jeff appears in the doorway.

    “I need to move the wardrobe so I can start painting.”

    Together we push and the massive piece slowly slides out from against the wall and reveals a door that had been nailed shut. Perplexed we just stood there staring at the door not sure what to do next.

    “I wonder who nailed it shut and why?” I questioned.

    “I don’t want to know why.” Jeff says matter-of-factly and begins to push the wardrobe back in place.

    I stop him. “That’s ridiculous I’ll open it myself, where’s the hammer?”

    Jeff gets the hammer from downstairs. I proceed to use the claw end to pry the nails loose from the door frame. Once the last nail dropped to the wood floor with a thud I turned the handle; the hinges creaked as the door slowly swung open. Jeff took a step closer, we peered into the darkness. We could make out some stairs that appeared to travel upwards.

    I picked up a flashlight and turned it on. The beam of light illuminated the silky cobwebs that had formed over time. I swatted through them with my free hand and began to slowly ascend the staircase. The stairs led to a storage space that was filled with crates and boxes that held dolls and doll parts, there were legs, arms, heads, and torsos. As I turned to leave I had the uneasy feeling of being watched. I half ran half walked back to the stairs. Just as I put my foot on the first step I heard a noise when I turned to see what it was a girl of about three years old was standing before me. She had pigtails and wore a gingham dress. Stunned I shined the flashlight on her to get a better look. This was no little girl! Its face was grotesque, its head was misshapen and its eyes were lizard-like.

    “MOMMY!” it growled in a deep raspy voice.

    I screamed; it lunged at me and began to claw at my back. I yelled for Jeff and then I woke up.

  3. laurentravian

    I hate liars.
    My ex-husband was one.
    He sort of…forced me to marry him. As in, he told me to tell my parents that I was leaving with him, to be married. He spent the next 2 months drinking booze and knocking me up before we finally bounded down to a church.
    He took everything when I filed for a divorce. The house, the kids, the dog, even my clothes. My lawyer was no help at all. She saw to it that I didn’t get anything at all. So he got my lawyer too. They are now both working in a strip club/casino. So, my boss let me make a fresh start, open a new branch of the company here in Aphroditeville. Seriously, that’s the town’s real name. Everybody over 18 (you can’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend until then here) is paired up (except me). This town is sick. There is no law against public lewdness, and so people just use the street. I had to call in some favors to get my boss to let me transfer at all. My low blouse has never been the same since. Anyway, I found a beautiful old property, where I can even run the company branch. But it needed work. So, as I started to paint my walls, I noticed that part of the wall was hollower than the rest. How very Nancy Drew-ish! I purchased a sledgehammer, and with one blow, I was through. On the other side of the wall, the land sparkled like Edward Cullen, at noon, wearing body glitter. As I stepped through the ruins of the wall, my hair changed, my clothes changed and suddenly two little birds dropped a full length mirror in front of me. I felt like Giselle in Enchanted, but I had bottle blond hair, blue eyes, HUGE curves in the RIGHT places, and a pink, flirty dress that hugged them. As I twirled, three really, really handsome guys showed up on horseback. A tree gnome thingy popped up out of nowhere and held a sort of dating show. They were elves, and their names were : Melodios, Harmonios and Carlisle. Mel was a millionaire, who loves dancing and pursuing women in his fabulous mansion. Harmo was a prince, and he enjoys reading and gemstone finding. Carlisle was a sorcerer, and liked helping people and watching the worlds beyond this one . They all proposed marriage to me on the spot. I thought for a minute, then took Carlisle’s hand. He is a much more considerate husband. He cares about me, and other people, and we already have twin daughters that have his beauty. I told him about myself, the things I’ve done, the things that happened to me. He does not care. When I told him, he just kissed my ear a bit, and then we made out. We are expecting a son now.

  4. JulieJ.

    Squeezing my shoulders into the tiny hole, I crawled on hands and knees through the opening of the plaster. The wall proving thinner than I thought, only a half an inch thin, I couldn’t imagine the aggravation I would have if the neighbors would have an all out party. But, hey, the town house was huge. And who was to say that the silent neighbors so far would prove to actually be alive or not.
    White light shone back and forth from my flashlight, but that didn’t do justice to the blinding illumination before me. Almost silver-blue, the bright light stayed positioned center in my vision as I passed forward through what seemed to be a tunnel somehow dug in a mysterious cave between the condos that seemed to have not so much of sheet rock between them.
    Truthfully, I should be in the neighbors master bedroom by now.
    Ironically, I was somewhere between the two, with sharp black granite on either side of me, being drawn forward by that one blinding light that seemed to call my name.
    Damn, and just when I thought the floor was beneath my knees, I was falling forward.
    With a scream, I cursed gravity. Einstein, and all the gods I could think of. Waiting for an impact that would shatter my soul out of my body, I landed on my hands and knees in the soft lightening of the empty bedroom, a laughter ringing in my ears from my sister-in-law from somewhere down below in another part of the house.
    Shaking my head, I dropped the paintbrush and ran from the room. Slamming the door behind me to the darkness of the hallway of the attic, I ran down the spiraling staircase to the sitting room down below where the sounds of life were echoing through the house and met life in the early afternoon’s light.

  5. chris

    “Wow!” Jack surveyed the broken floorboards while tattered quilts hung over the banister. “So this is the house Charles surprised you with?”

    “It was in our family a few hundred years ago but was sold off.” Sharon wrung her hands. “Charles bought it back . . . as a wedding gift.”

    “With your money.” Jack added.
    “It’s um . .a fixer-upper.” Sharon eyed the hole in the ceiling.
    “More like a tear-her-downer.” Jack’s grin dissipated as an elbow struck his ribs.

    “Behave.” Julie warned her husband. “I think it’s romantic. Hey, it’s gonna be fine.”
    “I hope so.” Sharon forced a smile.
    “Are you guys talking yet?”

    “You mean, other than yelling at him because he spent our savings on a house in the middle of nowhere, um . . . no.”

    In the living room, white dust clung to the air while craters littered the horsehair plaster walls.

    “Welcome!” Charles boomed covered in white dust. “Don’t worry guys, Sharon was nervous too at first, but she’s comin around. Right babe?”
    “Yes dear. I’m comin around to the idea that my husband’s lost his mind.”

    Charles embraced and kissed her; dust exploding from his clothes. “You love the craziness!”
    “I do love you.” Sharon laughed expelling the nervous air from her lungs. “Even the crazy parts.”
    “Right back at-cha, babe. I’m glad you’re all here. I want to show you something.”

    “What?” Sharon watched Charles, pull at a crack in the plaster. Within seconds, the wall collapsed in a cloud of dust, revealing a corridor.
    “The reason I bought this place.” Charles grabbed a flashlight and disappeared into the corridor.
    “What?” Sharon followed. “Charles!”

    The corridor opened to a small room. Carvings graffitied the wood paneled walls.

    “Charles, please . . . what’s going on?”
    “It’s gotta be here.” His finger tips traced the wood. “Guys look for the letters, RJ.”

    “Babe, I know it’s crazy but this was my plan.”
    “Plan?” Sharon’s voice cracked. “More like disaster! We never should have bought this dump! And by we; I mean, YOU! What are you looking for?”
    “Pepi – your great-great-grandfather.”

    “Oh, God!” Julie backed towards the exit. “Is there a dead body in here!”
    Charles ignored her. “Babe, remember the stories about Pepi? – how this place was a train depot?”
    “How do you. .”
    “You’re father told me. Sharon, there was never a train. This house was part of the Underground Railroad. The quilts we found, were hung outside to signal slaves that it was a safe place – a station.”
    “Pepi was a slave?” Sharon’s eyes welled up.
    “Yeah babe. He hid in this room and after he bought his freedom, he bought the house.”

    “RJ . . . 1842!” Julie shouted from the corner.
    The room fell silent.

    “Charles . . .” Sharon stood motionless.
    “Yeah babe?”
    “I could never love someone more than I love you, right now.”

    Charles pulled Sharon to him, embracing her, both fixated on Pepi’s initials.

    “Right back at-cha, babe.”

    1. DRoberts

      Chris,

      I really liked this story. Well-written. Good job making the reader think it was going to turn out to be a disastrous purchase to find out that Charles really did know what he was doing. Well-done.

  6. DRoberts

    BLOOD BATH
    by Darlene Roberts

    A bright light burst through Lexy Croft’s pupil. Pain stabbed her head. She flailed her hand and hit human flesh. A loud clatter jolted her awake. Through a foggy gaze she saw a man leaning over her. She flinched and jerked back.

    “It’s okay. I’m Dr. Hamilton. You’re in the hospital.”

    Lexy’s vision started to clear.

    Dr. Hamilton smiled. “It’s a pen light to check your eyes. See?” He held it in front of her face and clicked the light on and off. “We’re glad you’re awake. There’s someone here to see you.”

    Lexy shifted her attention to the man standing in the doorway. She offered him a slight, shy smile.

    FBI agents surrounded a log cabin nestled in dense woods thirty miles outside of the city limits. Agents Byron Heller and Ned Carlton stood in the center of the one room cabin. It was rustic with few amenities. A twin bed with a pillow and a faded patchwork quilt was tucked in one corner of the room. A worn gold velour couch, with a brown and orange striped afghan folded neatly along the back of it, set in front of a stone fireplace. A small kitchen was on the opposite side of the room. The bare wood floor showed signs of rot.

    “I don’t get it. Where’s the crime scene?” Ned asked.

    Byron turned slowly in a circle scrutinizing the entire room. He stepped over to the wall near the fireplace and cocked his head. “What does this look like to you?”

    Ned walked over to Byron. “It looks like a botched up plaster job. It’s cracking.”

    Byron hit the crack with his fist and punched a hole in the thin plaster. In silence, they tore apart the wall with their bare hands until there was an opening large enough to enter. Armed with flashlights, they squeezed through the dark aperture and were immediately accosted by a strong coppery odor.

    Byron found a light switch and flipped it on. A bulb in the ceiling illuminated what appeared to be another room to the cabin. Crime scene photos of women murdered by a serial killer, they’d been hunting for two years, hung on stark white walls that had been used as a painter’s canvas. Blood was smeared and spattered over the walls and photos. Byron recognized every victim and knew all twelve by name. Lexy would have been the thirteenth…

    Byron turned the siren on in the car and sped down the highway back to the hospital.

    “Talk to me, man,” Ned said.

    “Lexy’s photo wasn’t on the wall.”

    “Because she lived.”

    “Because she’s the serial killer. She staged this whole thing. I got set up.”

    “What?”

    “I met her in a bar two months ago.”

    Lexy was gone. They found Dr. Hamilton dead on the floor in a pool of blood with his pen light stuck in his jugular vein. Byron stared at his name smeared in blood on the walls. “It’s a new game now.”

    1. hillsworth

      Darlene,
      Your story is great. I didn’t see that coming in the end. My only stumbling point was the transition from Lexi being in the hospital to the FBI agents being in the cabin. I know how hard it is sometimes to make a transition like that, that’s where I’m at on a piece I’m currently working on and I’ve wrote and rewrote it many times, but can’t seem to get it right. Other than that, it’s a good , solid write.

      1. DRoberts

        Hillsworth,

        Thank you for the comments. I should have placed three asterisks between the hospital and cabin scenes to indicate the change in scenes. If I had done that, the transition wouldn’t have felt out of joint. But, your comment regarding that is duly noted. Thanks again for the positive feedback.

    2. chris

      cool story; nice twist ending. i thought you transitioned well; esp. given the 500 word limt. It’s always hard when jumping locations each scene. Thought the last paragraph was great; you almost don’t need the line where the agent says she’s the serial killer – you could just jump to that last paragraph, describing the body being discovered. overall- much better than most crime stories on tv today . .

    3. Icabu

      Love it. Game on!
      Wonderful twists, with the good guys one step behind.
      The bad guys (gals) know to keep the enemy closer.
      Love to find out how this resolves, as well as how it got started.

  7. hillsworth

    “Sheryl, did we buy a crack house?”

    “What?”

    “A crack house!” Eddie blurts, disgustedly. “Did we buy a crack house?”

    Removing her roller from the wall in one fluid mid-stroke motion so as not to leave any stopping marks, Sheryl turns to face Eddie. “What the hell are you talking about?”

    “Right here,” he points to the corner. “There’s a crack from floor to ceiling. It’s gotta be half an inch wide.”

    “Can’t you just paint over it?” She turns back to her wall and dips the roller back in the pan, coating it with fresh paint.

    “You can’t paint over a crack that big. Anyway, simply painting over it isn’t going to tell me why it’s cracked. There has to be a reason why.”

    “Whatever, Sherlock. Do your investigation, but don’t take too long. I’m gonna be done with this wall in no time, and you’re the one that chose the trimming, so….”

    A soft ‘pop’, like a muffled cap gun sounds behind her, accompanied by Eddie’s voice. “Sher…”

    When she turns around, he’s gone. “Eddie?”

    As if from a great distance, she hears his voice, small and metallic. “Sheryl. Sheryl. In here.”

    “In where, Eddie? Where are you?” She starts toward the corner where he was just at a moment ago.

    “Sheryl, stop. Don’t come any closer.”

    Stopping in the middle of the room, she lays her roller right on the drop cloth, paint flowing out, forming a puddle. “You’re starting to scare me, Eddie.” She doesn’t take her eyes from the crack. She notices movement there and takes another step, bending over, squinting to see better. She crosses the last four or five feet in this bent over, duck walk and nears the crack, getting her face right up next to it, head tilted far to the right in an inquisitive manner. “Eddie?”

    All of a sudden, an eyeball slides into focus just two inches away from her own, and a blood curdling scream rolls out of the crack. She jumps back and starts to scream herself. “Eddie!”

    “Sheryl. Help. Dark. Pain. Hel…” The eyeball disappears and another painful scream.

    Sheryl stands in the middle of the room with her hands held over her ears, eyes wide, breathing rapidly, shaking her head back and forth. “No. No.” Over and over until she clears her mind and starts thinking of what to do. She gets her feet moving.

    Armed with a flashlight and Eddies pistol that he kept in the night stand in their old house, she steps up to the crack and says, “Here I come, Eddie. God help us.” She reaches a shaky finger out and touches the crack. Nothing. She places her hand over it. Nothing. She slides it up as high as she can reach and back down to the floor. Still nothing.

    Frantically, she pats the wall. “Eddie!” The patting turns into pounding, her fists balled up. “Eddie!” Tears slide off her cheeks and splat on the plastic drop cloth. “Help, Eddie. I can’t get in.”

    1. JJerome

      Strong imagery that build a tense, disturbing story. I wasn’t sure about the drops of paint on the dropcloth, but you tied it in nicely with the tears on the drop cloth. The image of the eyeball was effective as well, as was the “Hel…” hint that he was in a very unpleasant place. Good work!

      1. hillsworth

        Thanks for the positive reinforcement. My wife didn’t like it because she said it sounds unfinished. I could have went on with a bigger word limit, and finished it to her satisfaction, but I kinda like the cliff-hangers. The good guys dont always have to win.

    2. DRoberts

      Hillsworth,

      Good story. I like how you ended it. I agree with your comment “the good guys don’t always have to win.” I agree with JJerome. There was a lot of tension that continued to build up to the end and then left us hanging and wondering what happened to poor Eddie! Nice job.

  8. SBWriter

    My family warned me about small towns. We’re city people, and I’ve lived in an apartment community for most of my life.
    So when I decided to move to the country to get away from it all and start really focusing on my writing, my family was my biggest opponent.
    “You can’t go out there,” said my mom. “They eat pretty girls like you. Haven’t you seen ‘The Hill Have Eyes’?” My dad, of course, concurred, and they even got my little brother to beg me away from country life, but I was resolute. I packed my things, and purchased a nice little cottage from a little old widow who’d just won the lottery and was going to see the world. Lucky me.

    And now, here I am, staring at a hole in my brand new bedroom wall. Oh, it started as a spidery little crack that decided to grow under the pressure of my wallpapering, and so, I decided to try plaster, but that didn’t work. Curious minds and senses of adventure mix well, and I put a hammer to the crack, which crackled even more, and after splintering in half, became the hole, that I am not peering inside.

    The hole, wan’t just a hole. There was a musty smell wafting through, and a faint light. A light….inside my wall. My common sense kicked in and shouted that I probably shouldn’t go further, but I figured the hammer would offer some protection. After all, what kind of killer could be lurking inside my plastered up wall for all these years, right? Right?

    After I grabbed a flashlight, I made hammered a little more so I could squeeze through. The musty smell was on some phantom breeze, and my hair blew back a little. I shuddered with chill and a little fear. The dusty floors made me cough, but I creeped further inside, past the plumbing fixtures, and what looked like a stone wall. I was in some sort of hallway, and I could see the light growing brighter at the end. I gripped the flashlight closer, just in case I had to hammer someone to death today.

    As I continued to walk, a door appeared at the end of the hallway. A weird doorknob seemed to appear out of the dust and cobwebs. I paused and decided to knock first. Hey, what if this door led to my neighbor’s house or something. It would be crazy for me to just pop in unannounced. So, I knocked, and I saw a shadow pass under the light of the door.

    My heart gathered speed like a racehorse, as the doorknob turned quickly in my hand. As the door flung open, I jumped back with the hammer raised, just in case. On the other side of the door, was me.

    Not just any me, this was me about twenty years ago. The kid me looked at the grown me and screamed. I guess I must have been screaming too. Then my dad rushed to the door. Except, he had more hair and less stomach. He grabbed my, her, shoulders and pulled the kid me back from the door, before looking at me and slamming it shut.

    That was weird. Biting my lip, I raised my hand to knock again. I saw the shadows under the door, but the doorknob didn’t turn. I gave the knob a twist and it clicked open. Taking a breath, I fully turned the knob and pushed. I could see the kitchen of our old apartment. Suddenly, the lights went out, and I heard my dad say, “I’m sorry, sweetheart,” and everything went eerily quiet and dark. I turned around in the darkness for my dad’s voice, and just as I went to cry out to him, the lights popped back on and I was standing in my new bedroom, in my country cottage.

    The wallpaper was evenly covering the walls. I looked around the room and everything was unpacked and organized. In fact, my room looked pretty lived in. The hammer was still in my hand, as was the flashlight. I thought about tearing through the paper and the wall, but instead, I went to my kitchen. There was someting going in the microwave. I hadn’t even plugged that thing in yet.

    I wandered through my house, to the room that I was going to use as my office. And there I was. The present day me. Or I guess the me that exists in the pretty soon future. She, I, was typing furiously on a new laptop. I didn’t want to startle her, but I was curious about what I was writing. I quietly eased behind myself (giving new meaning to the phrase ‘watch your back’) and peered at the laptop.

    I was on writersdigests.com, responding to a writing prompt about finding a crack in a wall. As I typed the last words, I turned around and looked at myself. I smiled. Then turned and finished the story.

    -SBWriter

    1. Icabu

      Interesting story. There’s something about finding her young self and her father’s statement…
      Really liked the ending, should be creepy, but it isn’t.

      1. SBWriter

        Thank you. I didn’t know exactly where I was going to go with it, but I wanted to imply that there’s more to her family than she knows. And I wanted it to be more mysterious than creepy, so I’m glad you liked it.

  9. demigirl12345

    Our new house would definately need some work. From what I could see, we were going to need some serious painting done. I sighed and got to work. I had been looking for houses now for a long time, ever since my last one had burned down in a terrible fire. This one had been the least expensive but most fixable one I had found so far. As I painted my brush suddenly hit something that was bumpy and not like the rest of the wall. I puzzled over what it might be. I thought maybe the wall was uneven so I continued to paint. Later that night, I tried to hammer a nail there to hang a photo. When I hit it with the hammer though, it was completely hollow! I, being the curious woman I am, chipped away at the paint to reveal a door! I looked at the time. It was a quarter to nine. I had about an hour before I had to go back to my parent’s house. I opened the door and decided to explore some. I crawled through. It was very dark, but not gross and full of spider webs like I had thought it would be. I crawled a little farther and suddenly a light came on. I looked around in confusion. I hadn’t seen a light switch. There was no one behind me or in front of me. I kept crawling out of curiosity and came to a large curtain hung over an entry way. I was afraid there might be someone behind it so I pulled only a small corner back to look inside. Instead of a person, I found a small, extremely malnourished puppy! He was laying next to a note. The note said, Please help my dog! I was forced to leave him here. His name is Samson. I took the note and the dog and started to crawl back out, when I heard a voice calling my name. It was my husband! I crawled back to the opening. I gazed at him in amazement.
    “How did you find me in here?” I asked in astonishment.
    “How did you not find the light switch!” he laughed pointing to a small switch.
    I grinned sheppishly back at him and asked inthe most innocent voice I could muster, “Honey, how do you feel about a dog?”

  10. annefreemanimages

    I ended up telling the story from after the passageway’s discovery. That’s how it came out.

    “History’s Regrets”
    A Rett Bonneville Story
    By Anne M. Freeman©

    The old man was angry. He’d kept his composure for as long as he could, and now his emotions charged his body as he sat in the chair across from me in my living room, hands grasping bony knees, eyes staring at mine, jaw set in a grimace. We’d been debating the likelihood that the apparent “secret passageway” found behind a wall in my mudroom led to a passageway where loyalists hid royal representatives from the rebel army, as Mr. Swanson purported, or simply led to an old root cellar, as I argued.

    Mr. Swanson was not swayed by my arguments, which I hadn’t suspected he would; he was, after all, a noted researcher and Revolutionary War expert and knew what he was talking about. That a loyalist hiding place existed in central Western New Jersey wouldn’t be surprising considering the role this area played in the war, especially considering how close my cottage is to the famed Washington’s Crossing. It was actually finding one that would be thrill the likes of Mr. Swanson.

    “But there may be artifacts down there, Ms. Bonneville, which would provide invaluable information regarding conditions during the War. How can you refuse discovery of such an important find that would enrich our understanding of the activities of local loyalists during the last days of the War that led to the unfolding of our nation’s cherished history!”

    I felt terrible about it, but I stood my ground.

    “Mr. Swanson, I do, in fact, understand what you’re saying and why it is important. But I also understand that there are four other houses on our tiny, hidden, one car dead-end lane. There are children here, and there is an elderly man living next to my house, as well as another single woman. We all live back here because it is secluded and we want it to stay that way. An excavation – especially if it uncovers historically significant artifacts – will end the wonderful, private lives we live here and love. People from all over the country will trek here, and as you well know, some historians can be fanatical. I will not impose that on my neighbors or myself. The answer is no, I will not permit an excavation of my property. I am sorry to disappoint you and the historical society.”

    Mr. Swanson face turned dangerously red for his old age, and his lips trembled.

    “Well, if that is your last word, I shall take my leave,” he said with distraught dignity. He turned and walked out my door, closing it behind him. He stood outside my window for a moment; I saw his body shake – he was sobbing. I felt terrible, because it wasn’t just for my neighbors that I said no. I had too many crazy fans out there and I couldn’t risk any of them finding out where I lived.

    I heard Mr. Swanson’s car drive away, and I sat, regretting my own history, wondering if the price I’ve paid to be a musician was too high.

    1. JJerome

      Anne – I like the suggestion that Rett may be hiding something, which adds mystery to her already complex character.

      suggestion – I think most of the second paragraph is unnecessary since the dialogue that follows tells that story.

    2. JR MacBeth

      I liked the fact that the incident itself, finding the passageway, faded in importance when it came to the reality that her life might change drastically. I also tend to like introspective endings. I can imagine Rett having those feelings, some regrets, as she contemplates her fame, weighing it against a “normal” life that she might have lived instead, a life she may never know again. Not sure how I felt about the Swanson character though, I was having a hard time really picturing him, he didn’t quite come alive for me for some reason.

    3. Egg

      I like the parallel conflict – not easy with the word limit. I think you should drop the line: “I had too many crazy fans…,” so the reader is left wondering about her ‘real’ fears, or else allude to something more sinister, e.g., one particular nutter that’s stalking her, otherwise, why doesn’t she just say to Swanson, “I have too many crazy fans and I don’t want them to know where I live?” Sounds like a reasonable argument to me. (Just a thought).
      As always, your writing is smooth and so easy to read. Go Rett, go!

    4. chris

      Loved the historical reference and the swanson character; he sounded like a loyalist 🙂 I might be reading into it; but it was like swanson might have had an alterior motive – like he knew something about the passageway that Rett didn’t know.

    5. DRoberts

      Anne,

      I liked your take on the prompt. I thought this was a well-thought out and well-written story that leads to more peeling of layers of your character Rett. I feel like we’re getting to know her little by little. That’s the way to do it. Well-done. I agree with Joe on his blog that you should go for it and start writing a novel with this character. You’re ready.

      P.S. This short story would make a good conflict issue to put in your novel when you start writing it.

  11. kristof-journo

    (ran rather long… forgive me)

    Sam hated painting, but he hated even more that horror-movie color on his new bedroom walls. He couldn’t figure out what the shade could possibly be called, something between fuschia and blood red. It was not the dried up, brownish-red blood, which would be a delightful color for a bedroom as compared with this bright red, the color of blood gushing from a fresh, deep wrist wound. This was the image in Sam’s mind when he first saw the room with the lights on, and he feared he might self-inflict such a wound if he did not get rid of this color soon.

    He slopped the roller around in the paint tray at 2:45 in the morning, reassuring himself, “I’m working through the night to make sure I don’t murder myself in my sleep.”

    He was starting to feel pretty thick-headed, thanks to paint fumes, lack of sleep and three beers. When a section of wall caved to the pressure of the roller, he assumed he’d just stumbled and leaned into the roller handle with too much force. “Fuck,” he said, trailing off into a sigh. Sam was not prepared to patch sheetrock tonight, so he just went on painting the wall, broken parts and all.

    A one-bedroom bachelor pad is allowed a few holes in the wall, right? Maybe he would hang artwork to cover it. Better yet, maybe he’d hang a fancy frame around the spot, with the broken wall showing through. He smiled at that last idea.

    He had not taken a bathroom break since opening the first beer two hours ago, but he was too close to being finished to stop now. He was also too tired to be concerned about getting the paint job perfect, and so Sam finished the rest of the wall in ten minutes. As he squatted low to close up the paint can, he heard a quiet, rhythmic squeaking. “Is that bed springs?” he said out loud and looked around the room to be sure he was alone. He had planned to sleep on a sleeping bag tonight and hadn’t even moved his furniture into the apartment yet. “Too late,” he said to the newly painted gray walls. “I’ve already lost my mind.”

    Turning his head to face the wall clarified the sound, and he realized it was coming through the hole in the wall. He used a wooden paint-stirring stick and pried away more broken sheetrock until he saw a deep wall cavity. The squeaking had gotten slightly louder and now was getting faster. “The hell? Is that…? It is! That’s some lady moaning!” he said loudly as if commenting on a football game to friends at a sports bar.

    The need to whisper occurred to Sam too late – way too late – approximately the exact nanosecond that he saw the peephole opening onto the barely lit bedroom of his neighbors’ apartment. The squeaking stopped, and the moaning was suddenly replaced with a woman’s gasp. “Oh my God. Bruce, someone’s watching us.”

    Sam gasped, “Oh shit,” and tried in vain to replace the broken pieces of sheetrock. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” he muttered, as each piece of wall he tried to shove back in place crumbled into smaller pieces.

    He suddenly felt the overdue urgency in his bladder and began to panic. Not only was the neighbor going to come over and kill him, but he would also be soaked in his own beer-scented urine when the coroner found him. Not knowing what else to do, he ran to the bathroom and unzipped his pants. Just as he started to piss, someone began pounding on his apartment door.

    “Open this door, you dirty old perv,” a woman’s voice called. “NOW!” a man’s voice added, with a few more demanding thuds against the door. Sam glanced at his bathroom window, seven floors up from the street. It was a cold night, and Sam found himself debating between braving an icy fire escape ladder or taking his chances on being beaten unconscious (at best) by his new neighbors.

    “OK, that’s it, dickhead, we’re coming in,” the woman’s voice shouted. Then Sam heard muffled laughing and his doorknob jiggling. He had just begun to wrestle with the bathroom window, which seemed to be stuck, when he noticed the laughing. He stopped and listened.

    The doorknob jiggled again, but he had locked it behind him earlier. Sam heard another burst of laughter. “Oka-ay,” the woman said, in a softer, playful voice. “We can’t very well stand in the hall all night naked, can we?”

    The man spoke a few seconds later. “Juan Carlos? Is everything OK in there?”

    “What in the bloody hell are they talking about?” Sam said, whispering to himself this time. He debated for another second whether to try the fire escape, but he was too overcome with curiosity now. He walked backed through his bedroom and flung open the front door. As promised, there were two naked people in the hall, a red-haired woman and a rather hairy, Greek-looking man.

    “Oh,” the woman said, startled, and made a half-hearted attempt to cover up with her hands.

    “Where’s Juan Carlos?” the man said.

    “I don’t know Juan Carlos. Why the hell are you knocking on my door naked?” Sam snapped back. Under the circumstances, it seemed fair to get right to the point.

    “Oh, so you weren’t trying to …?” the woman trailed off, while pointing vaguely back and forth at the three of them.

    “OK, we’ll be going. Sorry to bother you,” the man said, being far too polite for someone who just knocked on his neighbor’s door naked.

    “Um, right,” the woman said and smirked. “Goodnight then.”

  12. theSkilled

    Before Jeb, my father, died, he left the house to my eldest sister, Wendy. He left half of his money to my brother, Riley, and the other half to Riley’s twin, Wells. All of the jewelry was neatly and fairly divided amongst my next three older sisters Hollyn, Clancy and Trina. My half-sisters from his second wife, Caja and Nyssa, were given the family heirlooms and the triplets from his third wife, Pilar, Rumor and Moss, inherited just about anything else. I was the youngest of his first wife and thought I was the favorite child until I found the only damn thing I inherited was a necklace with a silver key on a cheap string of ebony rope. On top of that key was a heart, cute, yes, but not enough to pay rent.
    The only one of my siblings with a heart was Riley and he aided me in finding a house along with my fiancé, Timothy. After several grueling weeks of searching we finally settled on an old abandoned house Riley and I used to sneak in to as children and eat candy and do things we were not allowed to do at home. Riley flashed me a small smile as he rode away in his truck kicking up dirt behind him. Timothy carried in boxes and I went upstairs to unpack.
    The wallpaper, I must add, was hideous. From my long childhood with Wendy and her snobbish ways was I knew that the wallpaper was not blue but in fact azure and the grey pattern swirling over it was not grey but actually a shiny silver hue. I called for Timothy to come and make fun of it with me but his headphones were in and I supposed he couldn’t hear me.
    I scratched at the wall to try and flake it, giving myself some sort of excuse to eventually replace its hideousness but the fringe of the design would not budge and my nail is quite long. I pressed on the firm wall and ran my arm along it, pushing gently. That was when I pressed on one part and my arm went through the paper.
    I gasped, drew my arm back and then studied the hole. There was nothing behind this part of the wall. I then feverishly pulled at the wallpaper until it exposed a tiny dim passageway of which I grabbed a flashlight and followed.
    Memories flooded back of Riley and I and how we never knew this existed. The path took forever to walk down and I was starting to get worried if it never ended. But that was preposterous.
    Then I reached the end and saw a small white door. It was only up to my waist so I crouched down to try the knob. It was locked.
    Had my father ever known about this house? He must have because the lock was inside a heart impression.
    And my silver key fit.

    1. JR MacBeth

      Lots of possibilities with this excellent story idea. The emotions that could be explored, the pain, the betrayal. If only more words were allowed! No doubt Riley was in on it, and I preferred to imagine that the youngest girl did indeed remain the favorite. Why her father would put her through such a thing remains a mystery (perhaps a test?), but I would guess he had very good reasons for doing what he did considering the family circus described. Behind that door lay not just the answer, but a flood of emotion too, as the poor girl realizes just how special she was to her father. Well, I have no idea if this is where things were headed, but I really liked the concept, and would have gladly read the rest of this story. Good job!

  13. bakerbarre2011

    When we arrived the house, it was a real eye sore. It was a later 1950s home that was in bad shape. My mom looked at it and saw “opportunity”. I looked at it and saw… a grey blob. We hurried in anyway, grateful to be out of the wrath of the summer sun, and into some shade. Luckily, the air conditioning was working. The house on the inside was bigger than it looked. It had a grand living room with a good size kitchen off the side. A staircase set off to the side by the door.

    I hurried up the steps trying to claim a room as my own. My little sister,Amy, came busting up behind me, nearly knocking me down searching for a room of her own. Her excitement made me laugh, and I raced after her.

    After we had found our respective rooms, we had dinner. Pepperoni pizza was always a favorite of mine. I loved how my parents knew just how to make us feel better about a bad situation with just a little food.

    The next day, Dad went to the local hardware store to get some paint. He thrust a paintbrush in not only my hand, but little Amy’s too.

    “Today, is the day… that we shall prepare… to PAINT THIS HOUSE!” My father always tried to impersonate great American war movies. Amy and I giggled at him.

    Dad poured the five gallon paint can into a tray for each of us. It had the look of a mellow yellow, and I knew Mom had picked a great color for the living room. I walked over to the wall, and started to run the paintbrush along the edges of the corners. Paint ebbed around the brush, dripping, and ebbing into a hole. I ran my finger over it, and I noticed it was a small crack.

    I follow the crack, I become the crack. I push. The wall crumbles. Dad and Amy run over to see what happened. The wall has opened up to reviel an old passageway. Amy squeals and runs over to get a flashlight. Dad tells me to step back as he enters first with the flashlight.

    I feel like he has gotten lost in this small space, and I begin to call for him.

    He reappeared with a smile.

    “Nothing down there. It just stops, back against a brick wall.”

    That’s when I notice them. There was on on his shoulder, then his hair. A cockroach. I brushed them off him. Amy screamed and ran into the kitchen. Swarms of cockroaches, similar to the locust in the bible were oozing from the passageway. Dad squirmed and flung a few off. I stood in Awe. They spread all over the floor coving it.

    I finally took control of myself and tugged Dad out of the house into the yard to meet my mother and Amy. We stood there in awe as the whole house was being devoured by cockroaches.

    1. annefreemanimages

      Surprising ending – felt like the old Twiglight zone. Didn’t expect that ending at all. I wonder what created the house-eating cockroaches? Maybe there was a walled-up lab and a scientist worked there – he created some wierd stuff using materials from the secret federal lab where he worked by day … Your story really gets the imagination going!

      ~Anne

  14. rich-jolii

    My brother was helping me move into my new apartment. It was at the largest apartment complex in the city. I was in the laundry room, putting some supplies up on an overhead shelf, when the shelf suddenly fell from the wall. I covered my head with my arms, it hit me and caused me to fall back into the wall. I went right through the wall and found myself, on the top landing, of a winding staircase.

    I stood up and tried to gather my wits. I looked at the hole in the wall and noticed it had only been covered by wall paper and not sheet rock like the rest of the wall. My apartment was on the first floor so the stairway must lead to a basement. I turned my cell phone on for light and made my way down the stairs. I proceeded slowly watching out for trip hazards and or creepy crawlies. I came to a door slightly ajar which let the light behind it shine through. Never being one to use good judgment in situations like this, I pushed the door open and said hello. After no response, I walked into the room and couldn’t believe what I had found.

    The room was so large, you couldn’t see the end of it. There were numerous mounds, of various items, that went from the floor all the way up to the ceiling. The room had to be ten feet high. There were mounds of socks, shoes, buttons, eye glasses, sun glasses, toys, toy accessories, chap sticks, lipsticks, book bags, lunch boxes, and there was even a pile of retainers, from their size, they must have belonged to children. I saw a pile of coins, paper money, cigarette lighters, keys, school books, and combs of all sizes, shapes and colors even a few that looked like switchblades. I couldn’t believe I was seeing all of these items. I looked at the shoes closer and noticed none of them matched. It was the same with the socks. It occurred to me, these items are things we always seem to lose. How many times have you folded laundry to have an odd sock left over? How many pairs of sunglasses have you had to buy in your life? I must have somehow fallen into the land of lost and found.

    From behind a pile of pens and pencils a strange looking creature peaked out. I raised my cell to take a picture of it but suddenly I felt my body shaking and I heard my brother as he called out my name several times. I realized I was lying on the floor and my head was aching. My brother told me to stay still the bump on my head was bigger than a goose egg. The shelf must have landed on me and knocked me out. I looked at my wrist to see what time it was. My watch was gone. I never forget to put my watch on. Then I noticed a large hole in the wall.

      1. rich-jolii

        I had intended to describe the creature but was already at 500 words. It was going to take too many extra words to do it justice. I was going to go with a mixture of gnomish features and something you would see in a starwars movie.

  15. dsjackson221

    It was exactly as I remembered. Next to the scum covered pond and underneath a canopy of sweet gum and pine stood the old house. Now officially mine. It had crumbled a bit since the summers spent here with my brothers, but in my mind, it was still a wilderness fort or a mighty castle for three knights fighting to rescue their fair maidens. It had been our world to conquer.

    Eventually, my older brothers found their maidens and conquered their worlds. Me? I’m still looking for my place in life. Fast girls… fast traffic… the fast paced work force. It’s not for me. Maybe I was born after my time. In the wrong era. Whatever the problem, I needed a slower tempo and this dilapidated cabin in the woods would give me that.

    A breeze, smelling of jasmine and honeysuckle, scattered white fluffs across the sapphire sky. Leaves rustled. A red-tailed hawk circled high above and blue jays called out in the trees. Juggling a can of paint, a roller and tray, and my ever present CD player, I walked up the steps of the distressed porch.

    “I’m home,” I said aloud to no one… and yet to everyone.

    Five hours later and “A World Without Love” blasting from my player, I stepped back, admiring the completed living room. The kitchen was next, but not before moving a couple of pieces of furniture out of the way.

    “Now,” I grunted while shoving on an old bookcase, “move… this out… of the way… so… I… can…”

    I stopped.

    Behind the shelves was a crack. Not a jagged crack, mind you, but a straight line running from the floor to above my head. Overtaken with curiosity, and a bit on edge, I pushed. A door swung open to a rickety staircase leading into what appeared to be a basement. I reached for my flashlight, flicked it on and started down, pushing cobwebs out of the way. At the bottom, were shelves lined with canned goods, candles, blankets, a lantern.

    Expelling the breath I’d been holding, I muttered to myself, “Of course. A storm shelter.”

    But, there. Over in the corner. Shining my light in that direction, I could see a vanity and chair, like the ones I’d seen in antique stores. On the small table lay a gold locket, a journal, and a miniature chest.

    The gold chain I immediately pocketed, then flipped through the journal. It was the words of a woman, scorned by the man she loved and hopeful for another lover to come her way.

    “Wow. The last entry was over fifty years ago,” I breathed.

    Propping my flashlight in order to see, I picked up the chest. It wasn’t locked. My heart beat with anticipation as I slowly lifted the lid.

    Nothing.

    Nothing but the scent of a woman’s perfume.

    The hairs on my arm stood as my skin began to prickle. I froze. The warmth of someone’s breath brushed across the back of my neck.

    1. JR MacBeth

      Unexpected ending, or rather, better than expected. The reader goes down the path, encouraged to see, and smell, and feel what is going on, and then, the hairs on the back of the neck respond accordingly! The magic is there. Good job!

  16. TroutAngler

    A noxious cloud rolls up out of the passageway and I’m glad I’m wearing the goggles and respirator mask recommended for use when operating a paint sprayer. The dust clears as I shut of the air compressor and grab a flashlight from my toolbox. I lift the respirator off of my nose and wince at the acrid dusty odor coming from the tunnel.
    I yell up to my wife, “I’ll be right back Mandi!”
    “Where are you going?” she asks as I start towards the opening.
    “Down the rabbit hole,” I holler back as I duck into the tunnel, “If I’m not back in 10 minutes, call a search party!”
    “WHAT!?” I hear her yell as I investigate the passage.
    The flashlight doesn’t illuminate the tunnel very far ahead of me but I easily see the walls and floor in front of me. The tunnel floor is smooth natural stone with a heavy coating of dust. The walls look like the same stone and I think I see tool marks like it was carved by hand. There are no cobwebs or other evidence that anything living has been here in ages. The passageway slopes sharply downward, levels off, and abruptly stops at an arched wooden door.
    The ancient door is iron banded with intricately carved decorations of what looks like the moon in its different phases in a circle with the earth in the center. Other symbols are carved deeply into the wood around the edges of the door. I grab the iron ring handle and tug on the door. It swings open easily like the hinges have been recently greased. Behind the door is a stone wall…the passage goes no further.
    “Well, that’s stupid!” I mutter to myself.
    “What’s stupid?” I hear directly behind me. I nearly vault out of my skin. I didn’t hear her walking up behind me.
    She can’t see me glaring at her as I let my heart return to a normal rhythm.
    “Greg, what’s stupid?” she asks again, giggling.
    “This tunnel goes nowhere; there is a door behind the wall.” I open the door to show her and feel the door hit something on the floor.
    I bend over and pick it up. It’s an old bronze door-knocker with two short thick pins sticking out the back. I examine the door again and notice that in the center of the earth carving there are two small holes spaced about two inches apart. I hold the knocker up to the door and ‘line up the pins with the holes. The knocker is sucked out of my hands and I hear an audible “pop” as it connects with the door.
    I open the door again, and still, just a stone wall behind it. I close it and knock on the door with the knocker. Light shines out from under and around the edges of the door. I open the door slightly and peer around the edge.
    “Hey…Honey…You ready for a real adventure?”

  17. Delilah2011

    Cobwebs hung on every inch of the secret passageway like worn out lace curtains, and stuck to my skin as I made my way along the narrow corridor. Every now and then a rat scurried by. It was getting warmer the further in I walked. I felt like I was walking forever, and was ready to give up when the sound beneath my feet changed. I wasn’t walking on dirt anymore. I pointed my flashlight down and saw that I was walking on a very narrow wooden footbridge over a deep chasm. I was in a cave. At the end of the bridge, stairs were chiseled into the rock face. I made my way down carefully. I could hear water trickling somewhere. At the bottom of the steps there was a pool of water, and on the other side of that pool was a door. I had to know what was on the other side of that door.

    I put the tip of my finger hesitantly into the water. It was warm like a sauna. If nothing else, I’d swim across. So I stepped in. As I made my way to the other side I could feel the water getting deeper, but it only reached my waist. Finally I stood in front of the door. As I turned the brass door knob, the lock clicked open, and the sound echoed through the cavern. Bats flew around seemingly annoyed at the intrusion.

    I slowly opened the door. The room was lit from high above, and it was empty. No art, no gold, no nothing, just another door at the other end. The second door opened easily, but this time I found myself in total darkness. The flashlight batteries had died. That was not a good sign.

    I heard sounds above me. I held my breath trying to hear more clearly. What was that sound? Hammering? Digging? I couldn’t make it out. I wanted to turn back, not wanting to get caught in this place, when suddenly the room was flooded with light. I had to close my eyes against the sudden brightness. As I slowly opened them again I saw my husband and his brother standing in front of me.

    “Angela, what are you doing in the basement all soak and wet? Where have you been?”

  18. JR MacBeth

    “Don’t forget what I said!  The place is haunted.  Keep yer wits about ya, and stay together, for God’s sake, stay together!”

    “Oh my God!  Tip the man already Jason!  I’m sure he has other people to scare!”

    The cab disappeared behind an overgrown hedge, leaving the couple alone in front of an enormous old house.

    “Tomorrow, we’ll get started, and before long, this depressing 500 year-old corpse-of-a-mansion will come back to life!”

    Inside the house, the couple slowly climb the stairs.  The candlelight is dim, but they can see that on every wall hangs dark old portraits of the man’s long-dead ancestors.

    “Looks like this is the ‘bed chamber’ Mr. Eddelston mentioned.  I guess it’s good enough for tonight.  Maybe tomorrow we can get the power turned on.  Good night dear.”    
    ————————

    “Good morning!”

    “Screw you!  This place IS haunted!  I can’t believe we made it through the night.”

    “You let that old cab driver plant the seed, and then every little noise is a ‘ghost’ or some damn thing.”

    “Bullshit!  What about all that creepy chanting?  It sounded like we were in an old monastery!  It went on, and on!”

    “Yeah, it sort of sounded like that, but think about it, the wind was blowing, the boards were creaking, it all came together and yeah, I’ll admit, it sounded weird for a while.”

    “Sell the place.  Sell it!  Want me to chant it for you? I don’t want to live in the UK anyway!”

    “Hey, Mr. Eddelson was right!  Lots of paint supplies right here.  You know what I think?  I think that this light blue color is going to give this place a whole new feel. Whatcha think?”

    “OK, OK.  At least the power is on now.  Give me some paint.”

    “Let’s do this!”

    Several hours go by.

    “Damn, I’m getting hungry.  Not used to physical labor.”

    “Physical?  Oh baby, that’s exactly what I was thinking!”

    “Shhh!  Did you hear that?”

    “No.”

    “Look over there!”

    A crack in the ancient wall formed before their eyes, and then another crack, and another, together forming a small door-like rectangle.

    “Holy shit!”

    “You hear that? Chanting!”

    “Oh my God, you’re not going to…”

    “Ha yah! Karate kick baby! Let’s check it out!”

    “Hell no!”

    “Remember what crazy fuck said, ‘Stay together…’”

    “Damn you!”

    Using their cell phones for light, both allow their eyes to adjust.

    “Holy crap!”

    “Damn!”

    Seated in front of them is a man, dressed in a robe. Around his neck an old-fashioned Roman collar.

    “A priest?”

    The man’s voice suddenly sounded reverent. “This is a priest-hole honey.”

    “A what?”

    “500 years ago, they had to hide. Catholics. The old religion was outlawed. This guy must have been forgotten in his hiding place.”

    “He looks almost alive!”

    “Yeah. I’m guessing this could be what they call an ‘Incorruptible’. I’ve seen them in chapels. They’re saints. They are supposedly miraculously preserved. You were Catholic. What would your uncle Father Mike say?”

    The woman said nothing, but tears were forming in her eyes as she stared at the seated figure. She grasped the small crucifix that hung from her neck tightly.

    1. Egg

      It’s interesting that you use ‘the woman’ and ‘the man’ when your dialogue is so dynamic and personalized. Good on you for experimenting with contrasts – I liked it.

    2. JJerome

      I like the dialogue experimentation as well, and I’m always in favor of the writer challenging the reader to pay attention dammit! Must be the teacher in me.

      But my favorite part was the religious/mystical/fantastical element in the end. This would be a very cool prologue to some killer fiction.

      1. chris

        Great story! loved the historical reference to religion/saints. i also like how it ended w/out dialogue; her grasping the crucifix- very powerful. i could feel a chill from the imagery at the end.

  19. Nicola Higgins

    This can’t be happening!

    I struggled in the manacles, but the cold hard steel was solid against my wrists.  A dark shadow detached itself from the wall opposite and resolved into a man.  He laughed chillingly.

    ———-

    When I found the secret passage that day, I hadn’t been expecting an adventure.  I thought the hidden staircase would lead to an abandoned cellar.  Probably there would be cardboard boxes full of mouldy clothes from the sixties.

    I swept a feather duster in front of me as I descended, but couldn’t help the little scream that escaped when a spider dropped on my face.  I laughed, feeling a little silly.  There was obviously nothing down here.

    At the bottom of the stairs the room opened out into a large empty cavern.  I could see more dark corridors through the simple arches on each wall.   

    The first arch led to a room full of boxes.  They weren’t cardboard boxes, though, they were wooden crates, like you see on films at the docks.  I pulled at the lid of one.  It was firmly attached, and I gave up when a huge splinter lodged in my finger.

    “Ouch!”  I put it in my mouth to suck, then realised how dirty the room was and took it out again.  I was bleeding, but it wasn’t too bad.  Probably stop in a few minutes.  I’ll keep looking.

    The second arch revealed more boxes.  It was at the third arch that things began to get interesting.  There was a dungeon in my house.  An honest to goodness dungeon.  There were chains and whips on the walls, and a cage in the corner.  I shuddered.  The most curious thing in the room was the table, right in the centre, with a brass bowl and two candles on it.

    The bowl was plain polished bronze, apart from two small runes in the very bottom.  I leaned in closer to try and read them.  Suddenly the runes were covered in blood.  I muttered, irritated at myself.  I should have gone back upstairs and put a plaster on that finger.

    There was a gust of wind.  Another gust.  The candles burst into flame.  I jumped backwards.  What the…?  The chains on the walls began to rattle.  The wind was howling now, swirling around me, kicking up dust and cobwebs from the dungeon floor.  A shape began to form, a man’s shape.  A terrible laugh rang in my ears.
     
    “Cower, puny mortal, before the might of the Great Enchanter!”

    He flicked his fingers at me and I flew backwards.  The chains from the walls reached out to grab me and fastened themselves about my wrists.  It was only then that I began to struggle.

    “No!  What are you doing?  Let me go!”

    The Great Enchanter smiled mockingly.  “Now where would be the fun in that?  No, I think I will keep you for now.”

    He faded back into the darkness, seeming to become one with the wall, and I was alone.  For now.

  20. JJerome

    A CRACK IN THE DARK

    I see everything. From a penny on the floor from the upstairs balcony, to a wondrously fabricated bosom, to the lie hiding behind the eyes, no detail escapes my scrutiny. Especially the lies from my beloved.

    When I ask her if she’s been unfaithful, she replies “Don’t you trust me?”

    When I tell her to look me in the eyes, she says, looking downward, her lips barely quivering, “My marriage is based on trust.” I see all her lies.

    I even see the crack in the wall of my study, forming a tall narrow rectangle in the plaster. It was not there yesterday as I would have noticed it when I sat down with a smoke and a brandy. I push against the rectangle and the wall gives way to reveal a dark, narrow corridor. The air feels stale, cool, and deadly, for once I step into the passageway, dampness engulfs me like a wet shroud. My breathing quickens, my heart curses violently – stay away from noxious air in tight spaces, but logic tells me to step inside the corridor, all the way to the end, where you will find the lurid truth. With candle in hand, I step into the darkness.

    It leads to an intersection, so I quickly turn left, knowing immediately where the hallway will end – her sewing room. I reach the end and peer into peephole lighting the darkness in a warm glow. When my eyes adjust, I see her, at her table, spooling thread on her sewing machine. It seems harmless so far, but I will find lurid detail of my search. The air threatens to choke me, but I hang on for the proof, and there it is, barely recognizable for most men, but not this man. Her blouse, unbuttoned thrice from her neck to reveal the supple flesh of her fruit. I can barely breathe now, confronted with undeniable evidence of a wicked dalliance with the butler. The door to the room is cracked open, more proof of their affair. I repeatedly cough into the handkerchief, the one embroidered with the letter of her name. I barely escape the corridor with my life.

    When I see her that evening, I ask her if she was alone. She answers with a question – “Aren’t lonely people alone?”

    Ha! Exactly what an adulterer would say, but I hide my suspicion, no, my certainty, behind a mask of concern and I kiss her goodnight.

    On the very next evening, I turn right at the intersection and quickly follow the corridor until it ends at the peephole to the music room, where she and her cousin play the devil’s notes. I attempt to silence a cough. The boy lustily gropes at the violin, while she strokes the ivory keys with the tenderness and passion one would expect from an eager harlot. I place the barrel of the flintlock pistol through the peephole. Another cough, then another cough erupts until I fall to the floor of the corridor.

    I pray that I make it out alive.

      1. rob akers

        Big Joe,

        As always great job with the descriptions. Not sure what all the coughing was about though.

        INFO NOTE: If you are a writer and want to see what a real blog looks like, click on Joe’s name and check out his blog.

      1. Egg

        Hi Anne, I interpreted “stay away from noxious air in tight spaces” as a hint to the dangers of confined spaces, hence, the fatal coughing. Do tell, Joe… (leaving it as a mystery is good, too).

    1. Egg

      A fantastic example of how perspective can ‘be’ the story, and how tailored language can enhance it. Also, I love how you say so much through what you haven’t said.
      Other thoughts? The guy is so obsessed with his wife that perhaps the final note could be about her, e.g. “I pray that I make it out alive, for I must avenge her bedswerving ways,” (or whatever). Just an idea (and a personal thing, afterall). It’s all good stuff.

    2. JJerome

      catbr – thanks for the compliments.

      Rob – thanks for visiting Magicellus and all your support!

      Rob, Rich, Anne – I see the confusion now. I was going for a deadly poisonous claustrophobic feel, probably resulting from reading too much Edgar Allen Poe.

      Egg – Yes! Great suggestion. His dying words must be about his wife. Thanks for your kind words.

      Everybody – join us at Magicellus. A new post will be …uh…posted tomorrow.

    3. JR MacBeth

      A revealing crack, into a dark mind. Not sure I got the end, whether shots were fired (“cough erupts”), or not. A flintlock would “erupt” only once of course. A very nice portrayal of paranoia, perhaps itself a symptom of the condition that causes the coughing? The language was what one might expect 150 or more years ago, liked it. The pathetic replies from the poor wife also well done. As if it wasn’t enough that she had to endure a husband with tuberculosis or whatever it was, she had to also endure constant suspicion. Even her seemingly innocent recreation with her cousin highlighted the extremes of paranoia that might have finally resulted in murder. Although perhaps showing his intent was enough. I almost prefer the idea that he failed in his attempt, and that his final prayer was not granted. Justice served. (Perhaps as the writer intended?) Suggestive, not obvious, and if more words were allowed, maybe we would have seen justice done, his body discovered, flintlock in-hand, still cocked, the peephole, etc. Could have been quite an ending!

    4. Icabu

      Very descriptive, obsessive, intriguing.
      So, is the wife (or butler, or cousin) responsible for the noxious fumes in the hidden corridor that his obsession can’t keep him away from ?

    5. DRoberts

      Hi Joe,

      I think I get the ending. He attempts to kill his wife and her (in his mind) lover and never gets the chance to fire the pistol because he’s overcome by the noxious air and falls to the floor. Now he prays he can crawl out alive. The hints you wrote into the story ties in beautifully with the ending if readers catch on to it and remember. “The air feels stale, cool, and deadly…”…noxious air in tight spaces…” It could be interpreted that maybe he’s also claustrophobic.

      I really liked this story. The pacing and setting was exquisite and well-written. Your descriptions painted a wonderful picture. Well done.

  21. moiradane

    “So, Mr. Kyle, what brings you to Johnston Real Estate this morning?”

    I bought my first house last summer. It wasn’t my dream home, but it wasn’t a crap hole either. It was…decent. It was a place to start the new chapter of my responsible adult life. But first, I had to fix it up a little. I started with the walls in the master bedroom. I figured if that’s where I was going to be spending the majority of my time, that’s where I should start. I mean…I am single.

    I started tearing off the wallpaper when I noticed a crack in the sheetrock. I’m a pretty handy guy so I started taking down the old sheetrock so I could replace it, only I didn’t find studs behind the wall. I found a door. A rather plain, boring, non-descript door. I turned the knob and opened it to reveal absolute darkness. There was a faint clean smell, but not the good kind of clean. It was the industrial kind of clean that gives you an instant headache and makes you want to dump your trash can on the floor to “freshen it up a bit.” Being the newly responsible type, I figured it was my duty to investigate. Also, if I didn’t, my buddies would never let me hear the end of it.

    “Hey, Lou! Tell everyone the story about how you were too much of a pussy to check out that weird door you found in your wall!” I’ll take my chances with the creepy door, thank you.

    I grab a flashlight and make my way towards certain death. After a few minutes of exploring, I suddenly find myself in a life or death fight with something that keeps smacking me in the face with its long, damp hair. I drop my flashlight during the struggle, stepping in a puddle of some kind. Before I know it, I’m tangled up in vines hanging down from the ceiling. They feel like the cotton “webs” you get at Halloween, only stronger. I scream, hoping my sudden battle cry will scare off whatever’s attacking me. I stumble against the wall and fall through another door. I’m blinded by the light but manage to stand up and face my attacker.

    “Uh…hi Lou.” I quickly turn around to find my entire office staring at me with wide eyes and open mouths.

    “How long have you been in there?” I look back and forth between my bewildered coworkers and the dark tunnel I found in my bedroom that has now transformed into the supply closet I sit fifteen feet from everyday.

    “Find what you were looking for?” someone else snickers as I try to untangle the mess of toilet paper wrapped around my extremities. The mop used to clean up our bathrooms sits in pieces on the floor while one of my sneakers soaks up the gray water sitting in the portable yellow bucket. I examine the wall in the back of the closet. It’s solid.

  22. Kae Lee

    I barely made it ten feet inside the secret passageway when I realized there was a hole big enough to fit my entire body in the wooden floor. I crept to the edge of the hole, pointed my flashlight into the darkness and gasped with surprise at what I was seeing. Plants and flowers only seen in tropical rainforests rested below while the sounds of birds found its way to my ears.
    My heart raced with excitement at the discovery of this foreign place. I suddenly noticed a rope coiled beside me and I smiled in the darkness. I placed the slender flashlight in my mouth, gripped it with my teeth and tugged at the rope to see what it was attached to. After enough yanks to satisfy myself that it was strong enough to support my weight, I began climbing down into the hole.
    Just as I reached the ground, I heard soft singing coming from the brush in front of me. I clicked the flashlight off and made my way through the thick vegetation that surrounded me. Before I knew it, I stepped out into a small clearing where a woman sat on the grassy edge of a pond singing a song I had never heard before. The language she sang in was beautiful but was unfamiliar to me.
    I stood there frozen watching her sing, eyes closed, soaking in the moonlight that shined brighter than ever. The scene before me was confusing. I couldn’t determine if I was dead or just dreaming. It seemed real but where the hell was I? The singing ended suddenly and I realized she had spotted me. She didn’t seem surprised or afraid. Instead she sat there smiling at me with the most amazing smile. She beckoned me closer so I did as she wished.
    The closer I got, the more I was able to see her beauty. Her eyes were mesmerizing and dangerous. They looked like the eyes of a lioness. I shivered. Her long black locks were pinned atop her head with silver clips in the shape of crescents. Her skin seemed to softly glow like the moon itself. Her beauty was nothing I had seen before. She was absolutely perfect. She smiled at me once more and that’s when I caught something move out the corner of my eye. I quickly turned my head and nearly had a heart attack. I was staring into the eyes of a killer and I was completely defenseless against it.
    “Who the hell are you?” I asked trying not to sound scared. I couldn’t take my eyes off the panther that was now creeping forward a bit.
    “Bow before me mortal, for you stand in the presence of a Goddess. I am the one known amongst your kind as Nyx.”

  23. Amy

    The up and down strokes of my paintbrush have lulled me into a stupor. It is mindless work, this painting of walls, and it feels endless. Four walls to a room, nine rooms to paint. That’s thirty-six walls. I am on number two.

    Turquoise. It’s my favorite color. In it I see the ocean caressing Caribbean shores; the fading blue of the sky consumed by a flaming sunset; glacial ice, its ancient layers colored subtly. I give myself a mental hug, excited by my new house. Already, it feels like home.

    Something’s not right. A draft brushes my skin, and it’s an inside wall I’m working on. Wide awake now, I beat my fist against the wall. A hollow sound echoes. The drywall isn’t anchored to anything. Shuddering, I wonder what’s behind wall number two. I hit it one last time and my fist goes through, my fingers touching empty air.

    Punching another hole, I realize the opening is a fairly sizable one, large enough for me to slip through. I take a deep breath and a moment to regroup. I retrieve a flashlight.

    With a feeling I imagine to be much like Alice’s as she stepped into the rabbit hole, I ease inside. I don’t fall, however, and no locked doors await me. Instead, I am in a small chamber. The beam of the flashlight reveals walls covered in flocked wallpaper of an indiscernible shade. The floor is of splintery wooden boards, creaking ominously as I tread further inside. The air smells musty and feels over-warm. Cobwebs hang from the ceiling like stalactites, some almost reaching the floor. Dust motes float in the narrow flashlight beam. I sneeze, scaring myself.

    My heart is in my throat, choking me, and every little hair on the back of my neck stands at attention. Is that an altar over there? Numerous candles litter the surface of a tiny table and an unrecognizable religious icon takes pride of place.

    Backing away, I turn to a large wooden chest, quickly lifting up its lid. Squeaking hinges protest and dust swirls. Once again, I sneeze. This time a voice says “God bless you Claire.”

    I scream. Who was that? How did they know my name? I shine the light, trembling with fear.

    “Who’s there?” I croak.

    “Come and see,” the voice taunts.

    I take a shaking breath, bracing myself. If I’m going to live here, I’ll have to come to terms with this.
    I turn back to the chest and shine the light inside. My eyes widen in surprise. Inside are family portraits, toys and whatnots. Not just anyone’s old junk. My old junk. Things I’d thought were long gone. I bend over to get a closer look.

    As I do, I am pulled inside. My flashlight clatters to the floor as I scream, but there is no one to hear. I join the remains of my old life, forsaking the new life I was trying to create for myself. I cannot escape the past.

  24. Alex

    “Maggie!” I cried, “Come look look at what I found!”.
    “You know Momma wants us to finish painting this weekend Charlie.” My sister yelled from the hallway.
    “Yea, but I found something you got to see!” I said.
    I stood there with the paint brush dripping white dribbles on the floor with my left hand while my right hand held open a hidden door to a dark passageway.
    Maggie came in sweating and flustered “What is it Charlie, I was up on the ladder?” Maggie stopped just short at “ladder” when she saw the open door.
    “No wonder Grandpa never let us in here.” Maggie whispered.
    I put the brush down and pulled the door open. The old pine paneling hid the piano hinge for the door and small brass button used to unlock it.

    I grabbed my LED flashlight and Maggie and I peered into the opening.
    Narrow stairs spiraled up into the old Victorian house that had belonged to my Grandparents for years.. I held Maggie’s hand as we tentatively climbed up the steps At the top was a narrow room, not much more than an alcove. It was part of the attic that was cleverly walled off from the rest of the space.

    Maggie and I grinned as we both said “Wow!” at the same time. The white light from the LED lit up an old trunk with Air Force insignias painted onto it.
    “Grandpa’s.” I said.
    “Why would he hide this up here?” Maggie asked.
    “He never did lie to talk about the war.” I said, blowing dust off the top of the trunk.
    “Well, open it Maggie said”, trying to lean in over me to see the trunk.

    I opened the trunk and inside was one lone item, another box with Air Force insignias on it. The second box wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t small either, It was about the size of Dad’s humidor he kept his “occasional” stogies in.
    I was suddenly afraid of the second box and suddenly felt ice cold. I couldn’t explain it, but my hands were shaking.

    “What is it?” Maggie asked, trying to peer over my shoulder in the tiny space.
    “Not sure yet.” I murmured. I could barely get the words out past my dry lips. I licked them wet again, flipped the little latch open and lifted the lid.
    My stomach dropped. The most unusual piece of white metal lay in the box. It was crescent shaped, and was the size of a Robin’s wing. It had strange writing all over it that was not English.

    I picked it up and crumpled it in my hand and dropped it back in the box. All the writing glowed blue and the metal uncrumpled itself to a completely flat state and lay in the bottom of the box again.

    “Where was Grandpa stationed?” I asked Maggie.
    “Kansas.” She said. “Why?”
    “Anywhere else?” I asked.
    Maggie paused for few seconds. “New Mexico, I think.” She said. “Why Charlie, what is in that box?”.

    I took a deep breath.
    “Roswell” I said.

  25. mariagavila

    Comments appreciated and very much valued! Thanks

    My mother and I had never really gotten along. And after the reading of the will, I knew she truly had hated me. The old house, that had been in the family for years and abandoned for half that time was now mine. Free and clear mine. Adding injury to insult, I was unemployed and homeless, so I guess she had thought it would “help me along… get me going again”. Ha! What a joke. I stood there in the middle of the living room looking at all the work that lay ahead of me and I wanted to scream and run away, never looking back. But my lack of anything better, kept me within those walls and made me pick up the paintbrush.
    Now don’t go making assumptions, I didn’t buy the paint. They had been holding down the floor in my mother’s garage. I hadn’t even looked at the color. I didn’t care. Anything was better than the mold spots on the wall. The cans were rusted and I wondered if that had seeped into the color. Oh well, I opened the can.

    Just my luck, orange. Why did she have a can of orange paint, I wondered? She hated the color, as did I. Another, “oh well,” and a resigned sigh. Stroke one, went right through the wall. Stroke two, went right through my pride. Stroke three, hit a crack. Great! What else could go wrong? I inherited a house that was falling apart. I looked closer and wondered if I could just push the crack back into the wall, maybe put some duct tape over it and paint over it. Quick thinking! Quick fix! I was actually quite proud of myself. “Dyana, you are such a creative woman,” I told myself.

    So I pushed, and something moved. I jumped back and held my breath. The wall gave way and a tunnel appeared. I moved towards it, without a second thought. Once inside I noticed that there was a pleasant floral smell, although the passageway was humid and dark. There was a faint light up ahead, it seemed far, far away. I kept walking entranced by it. Once I reached it, I realized it was coming through the gap of another door. By now I had my heart in my throat and my rushing blood in my ears. I found the knob and turned.

    I was immediately flooded by a shower of light and the sound of running water. It looked like I had walked into a rain forest with a giant water fountain in the middle. Inching my way forward I reached the edge of the fountain and looking over it, into the water I saw the face of my youth staring back at me.

    I gasped. I had found the fountain of youth!

    1. Egg

      You invested a lot of effort into describing the mother/daughter conflict, and the character’s ‘down-and-outness’, which I thought you did really well. But I was expecting it to add purpose to the ending, eg. finding the fountain is great, but having a reason for finding it (so that she could say something to mom, or because her biggest fear was aging, or whatever?) would be better. Just my thoughts. What do you think?

      (I’ve had problems getting comments through, so I hope this works).

      1. mariagavila

        Thank you all for your comments…
        catbr: Thank you!
        Egg & JJerome: Actually the fountain was what first popped into my mind when I read the prompt, but I guess I needed to work more on the finding of it. I did think of adding a final sentence of thanks to the mother, but I deleted it upon re-reading, thinking it didn’t fit. I wanted to revel in finding the fountain and the surroundings.
        rich-jolii: Lol! You can never go wrong with duct tape. Even Mythbusters, say so… lol! Thanks!

  26. catbr

    “Why don’t we start painting in here Willy? This looks like it would be a nice little dining area.” said Wendy. After 7 years of scrimping and saving William and Wendy finally purchased their first house, but it needed a little work.

    “Whatever you say, you’re the boss. The whole place needs to be painted eventually anyway.” William grabbed the paint cans and brushes and went to the dining room. Wendy was looking out the glass sliding doors at the deck.

    “We can have us some nice barbeques out here. We’ll have to invite everyone over once the painting is finished. What do you think?” Wendy turned around but could not see her husband.

    “I’m in here Wendy.” William was in the pantry examining an odd looking shape in the wall. “What do you think this weird shape is? I’m going to scrape away the paint and plaster to see what it is.” After some scraping and hammering a door unfolded before their eyes.

    “Oh my God…what in the world?” Wendy gasped as the rickety old door opened up to reveal a hallway.

    “I’m going in. I have to find out where this leads to. You stay here in case something happens.” William fumbled in his toolbox and grabbed the flashlight.

    “Be careful William.”

    The old hallway was not very long and led to a stairway that went down to an underground tunnel. The dark, dank tunnel had a very disagreeable odour that overwhelmed William’s nostrils making him cough. The tunnel went along for a while and ended at a locked door. After 10 minutes of trying to pick the lock, he gave up and decided to go back. Suddenly the faint sound of muffled laughter was heard from behind the walls. He started to run but he was scared and tripped. The flashlight flew out of his hand. Blindly feeling around in the dark he found the flashlight. The maniacal, hellish laughter was getting louder. He ran through the tunnel, up the stairs and out the door in in seconds. Panting, his heart banging wildly in his chest, he quickly slammed the door shut and bolted it.

    “You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Are you alright?” said Wendy.

    “There’s some scary shit down there. Do you have that real estate woman’s card?”

    “It’s in my purse. I’ll go get it. What did you see in there anyway?” After telling Wendy about it she hurried upstairs and got the card. William phoned Dora the real estate woman and asked her to give him some details about the property. She explained to him that for quite some time there was an asylum for the criminally insane next door but it was torn down a few years back. The house they bought was where the warden and a few of the workers stayed. She never knew anything about any underground tunnel.

    “I think we’re going to have to pack up in the morning and stay in a motel until we can figure out what we’re going to do.” William said.

    “Maybe it was just you’re imagination. You don’t really believe in all that bullshit about ghosts do you?” Wendy chuckled.

    “I don’t know, it sounded pretty real to me Wendy.”

    It was well after midnight before they had fallen asleep. Shortly after, the noises started up again. Quietly at first…scratching and clawing. And then, the loud inhuman banging in the walls. That’s what woke them up.

    “William, did you hear that loud noise? Why are you laughing?”

    1. Egg

      The story flowed well and I liked your idea. A couple of comments that I hope are helpful: sentences like, “very disagreeable odour that overwhelmed William’s nostrils making him cough,” can be more economically stated (e.g., “it stunk and he coughed.”). You ‘show’ his fear through panting and banging heart so, if you wanted to, you could drop the statement, “He was scared.”
      Just a couple of ideas. Good work.

  27. Knight

    I have never been able to resist peeling paint. I just have to get my fingernails in the little scab and worry at it until I can peel it off. I try to refrain from doing so, because eventually I get to an area where the paint does not peel anymore, and then I have to find a way to cover the blight I just made. But now it’s different. Today I can peel to my heart’s content because I have to spackle the area and repaint the whole wall anyway. I look around contemplating the room, wondering, with the enormous amount of work I have to do, why am I spending time peeling this little section with my fingernail. Mike! Trust my husband –or rather ex-husband–to leave me a blessing and a curse.
    The house has been in my ex-husband’s family for generations. It has many “this is great, except that…”, just like Mike did. The house is located on top of a cliff, so you’d think the view is excellent. Except that it is surrounded by tall pines that obscure the house from the outside, and the view from inside. It is large, but disproportionate. The kitchen is sunny, but antiquated. It has a huge sunken tub, but it only has one bathroom.
    A few months before, Mike had gone sailing, and never returned. To my surprise, he left me the family house. So it is mine. Which is great, except… For now, I can only afford to clean it and paint it. So here I am, doing some active procrastination by peeling a little section of the wall with my nail.
    I chide myself, and get a scraper. Surely it should provide the same kind of satisfaction. As I apply the scraper, a piece of the wall caves in. I feel a breeze coming from the crack. I peel and scrape some more until the crack gets larger. I grab my flashlight and peer through the hole. The light dissipates at a distance. After much hammering I carve an opening large enough to step through. I go in far enough to see that the passage goes on. I go back into the house for some batteries (in the movies the flashlight always goes out at an inconvenient time) and my jacket, and I set out to explore.
    The walls are smooth and cool. Surprisingly, I do not see cobwebs or any critter scurrying around the floor. After about 20 steps there is a sharp left, and then another door by the wall. Locked. The passage way descends in a series of ramps, like a mine. I can taste the salty water in the air and I know the passageway will end near the beach. The passage levels off. A huge cavern opens up, and there are boxes strewn about. I can see the ocean through a small opening on the other side of the cavern. And close to the opening, looking shipshape there’s Mike’s sailboat.

    1. DRoberts

      Knight,

      I thought your descriptions were well-written. Here are a few thoughts that ran through my mind as I read your story. I wasn’t sure what the relationship was between the main character and her ex-husband Mike. Did their marriage end on friendly terms? I’m not sure why he left her a house that belonged to his family. The ending was a surprise. And yet it didn’t quite make sense to me because I wasn’t sure of their relationship. I’m guessing he’s still alive. And if he is, what was his motivation to fake his death and give the house to his ex-wife if he was going to show up alive? Was it a trick to get her back?

      One other note. The sentence that reads: “I can taste the salty water in the air and I know the passageway will end near the beach”; I think if you deleted the part “and I know the passageway will end near the beach”, that you will maintain the suspense of what she will find at the end of it. You don’t need to give it away so soon. Take the suspense right up to the end.

      Overall, I liked your story. And the writing was good. I think if you tweaked the beginning and established the relationship between the main character and her ex-husband that the ending might have a bigger impact of surprise.

      Keep writing.

      1. Knight

        DRobert:
        Thanks for your critique: it made my day. This is the first time I had written anything, and I entered the prompt on an impulse. I did not think about 500 words as the completed story. I ithought of the piece as the beginning of something longer, so there’s a lot of backstory left for later. I should have read what had been done before to understand the expectations. However, I am glad I did not read the other stories before I posted, or I would not have done so. Mine does not compare. Still, thanks to your kind and dead-on words, I am now very encouraged to continue writing.

  28. Chilo

    The one thing I hate most of all is moving. There’s always something that needs fixing or other. I don’t know how I let myself get talked into moving. Oh, yeah, one being I’m a glutton with my wife, and second, we were going to be far FAR away from her mother.
    Now, let’s see. I think Honey said to use one coat of paint for the beams and two coats for the wall. I forget. If only this crack would paint itself, I would be in the home stretch. Wait a minute. This painting is just seeping through this crack. What’s going on? There’s a light emanating from the crack.
    “Unbelievable.”
    I’ll need a flashlight to explore further. It seems to be a secret passageway or just my doom. Just kidding. I have no idea where it could lead. Sure enough, spider webs and the smell of ancient wood are doing a flip flop on my nose.
    Just when I sneezed my last, the light grew brighter and my arms felt the sting of its rays. I reach for the wall closest to me on my left and fall into a manhole.
    “What are you doing Noe?”
    I felt the poke from the end of a mop and opened my eyes.
    “Welcome back to earth, dear.”

  29. JonCallot

    Wretched Vermin

    Scott painted over the wall paper when he noticed the crack. He tapped it with the edge of his roller knocking on what sounded like wood instead of sheetrock. He squeezed his fingers into the slit and pulled. He grunted, putting more tension on his muscles. The sound of the wooden floors being scraped at his feet made him shudder because of all the work he did on his children’s room.

    With the door ajar, he peered inside at the terrible black corridor and heard something scurry. The thought of having rodents in a secret passageway, sneaking in his children’s bedroom at night led him to grab his flashlight.

    Scott stepped inside, aiming his light around the sinister looking cobwebs and disgusting insects that called the corridor home. Knowing that they were not the culprits of the accursed sounds, he continued down the darkened black corridor in his search.

    The acrid smell of feces and urine hit him hard, indicating what he logically assumed was a colony of horrid vermin. The thought of those things getting to his children at night made him grip the flashlight tighter. A squeak in the distance drew attention and he showed the light to the sound. A creaky floorboard popped up. He squatted down, grabbing it when an accursed rat jumped on his arm.

    Scott jumped back in hysterical uncertainty brushing the foul thing off. While the hairy rodent scrambled down the terrible black corridor, Scott followed it into a room. He found a dirtied blanket and several wrappings of candy. In the corner, a hunched figure sat, rocking back and forth.

    He kept the light on the figure and approached with caution. He felt the foul rat scurry across his foot, and then heard desperate squeaking as the figure trapped it. Once he saw the figure’s mouth opening and closing on moistened fur, Scott leered away, praying he wouldn’t be noticed.

    He fell over the dirtied blanket dispersing brownish flakes that were caked on the fabric into the air. After getting a hold of his flashlight, Scott locked into those horrific eyes of the abominable thing that feasted in this diabolical room. Scott hurried to his feet and ran.

    He ran for the ominous door he wished he’d hadn’t open. Footsteps and moaning echoed behind him, telling him of the ghastly teeth that had solved his vermin problem.

    After emerging from the terrible black corridor, the deafening sounds of the horrible thing in the secret passageway came closer. Scott shoved his body against the door and propped a chair against it.

    While the figure banged on the wood from the other side, Scott took his children away from that place. Even at five years later, new sounds of scurrying inside the walls kept him awake at night, but he did not dare to look. He dare not take the chance.

  30. Egg

    The shack stood on ten acres of wilderness, pristine and untouched by the Khmer Rouge. Although the floorboards were still damp from the last wet season, my wife and I insisted on moving in right away.

    Earlier that day, Munney, my favourite tuk-tuk driver, dodged through the streets of Phnom Penh, stopping at the markets and shops which provided me with an aboveground cistern, an electric hot water system, and three tins of paint.

    Penny and I set about immediately installing our new luxury items. The flush-toilet was of the highest priority, and it was late by the time I connected the plumbing, sealed the joints, and left the room so that my wife could rejoice in not having to squat to the floor to urinate.

    At one-thirty in the morning, with the generator rattling, and Penny and I still high on the idea of living the philanthropist’s life, we began to paint the bathroom. We chose a sky-blue shade that Penny said matched the silk scarf she had purchased at the Russian Market the night before. The room was tiny, the toilet now conspicuous in the space under the pipe-end that served as the showerhead, and the basin jammed behind the door like an afterthought.

    “That’s strange.” When I turned to her voice, Penny was staring intently at a line that ran down the wall between the basin and the toilet. “It looks like someone’s sealed a door or something.”

    I huddled beside my wife and ran a hand down what was clearly a fresh application of wood sealant. “Maybe the wall was falling down.” Penny smiled and the smell of chilly crab wafted into my face.

    I pushed gently on each side of the seal and stepped back when a portion of the wall yielded, then swung open with a soft groan. Cold, stale air seeped around my arms and neck and cheeks, and I shivered, goose bumps rising like a rash.

    Penny squeezed behind me, disappeared into the other room, and returned seconds later with a flashlight.

    “Surely this could wait till morning?”

    “Don’t be such a baby, let’s go.” Penny stepped into the darkness. The flashlight revealed earthen walls to the sides, a rocky floor and blackness ahead.

    “This is crazy,” but I was behind her, shuffling through the stones, peering over her shoulder, one hand on her back and the other over my nose.

    We saw the first skull before we realized we had reached the end. And then they were everywhere; femurs, vertebrate, ribs strewn across the floor and heaped against the back wall. “Jesus.”

    Penny held the light on a tower of skulls. “The Khmer Rouge hasn’t been around since the 70’s. How could this have gone undiscovered for so long?”

    As I thought about the fresh seal in our bathroom, I stepped closer to the pile of bones; tufts of white flesh shone like diamonds in the dim light.

    “We need to get out of here, Penny. Now.” I grabbed her arm and spun her around, but I could already hear the crunch of boots on gravel.

    1. Fran

      What made William think of the fresh seal in the bathroom? Was it to take his mind off of his fear? Also with all the dead bones, I would have liked to know how it smelled. The fact that his wife punked him into going in was believable LOL. Great story.

      1. Egg

        Cheers for the comments. I thought, “How could this have gone undiscovered..?” was enough to prompt him to think, ‘Good question, especially considering the freshly sealed door,’ but perhaps it wasn’t. Smell is another good one. I don’t recall being overwhelmed by stench when I visited the Killing Fields, and I figured fresh, clean bones wouldn’t reek either so I opted to understate with the ‘hand over the nose’ trick. (Why they were largely free of flesh is another story for another day). Thanks for highlighting the iffy aspects, and I love how you’ve given him a name.

    2. Dean Kutzler

      Love it! Gripping and chilling! I love how you took the measly 500 words and wrote the hell out of them. The imagery, the action, the personal ticks, the dialogue! It’s all there! Fantastic job!!! Right now, I’m looking up “The Khmer Rouge!”

      1. danmcgrath

        Nicely done, the ending makes you think a bit as the character quickly fits the pieces together in the space of a couple sentences that something bad is about to happen…

    3. JJerome

      Egg – Speaking of smell…this story smells of terrific writing for a number of reasons, too numerous to count. One of my favorite aspects of your work is the way you waste no words. Every. Word. Counts.

    4. JR MacBeth

      The hand over the nose trick was well played. Not sure about what the “tufts of white flesh” was meant to convey, but considering that typically darker Cambodians were the victims of the original horror, I imagined that perhaps now a new, and secret version of the Killing Fields was taking place with white/American/European visitors being the target. Could be lots of things of course, but enough nuance to get the imagination going, that’s for sure. “Boots on gravel” was an excellent archetypal image that pulled it all together nicely right at the end, with the “fresh seal” coming back to mind, bow now neatly tied. Well done!

      1. Egg

        Hi JR. I believe Pol Pot’s whole point was to rid the country of the fair-skinned Cambodians (educated and professional) in pursuit of a national working (rural, dark-skinned) culture. Nothing to do with the story, of course, since flesh is flesh, regardless of race or skin-colour… Thanks for taking the time to read and post such insightful as well as encouraging comments.

    5. Icabu

      Chillingly wonderful.
      ‘What is rotten must be removed.’ So few were brought to justice – apparently some were still carrying out Pol Pot’s ideals.
      The descriptions are … killer.

    6. laurentravian

      OK, you obviously did your research, probably lived in PP. BUT, if you were a foreigner, chances are, you wouldn’t have had to fix up your house. Foreigners are mainly expats, who all are very important, and then they track down apartments or at least nice houses. All foreigners have nice houses or apartments, simple fact.

      Good story though. But creepy.

  31. TCormier

    I started peeling the gaudy wallpaper off the wall while Joey started mixing paint. Once the first piece lifted off I noticed a crack in the wall. It was just big enough for my chisel to fit. “I wonder,” I thought as I looked at it. My father used to always call me kitten and well…you know about curiosity and cats. So I stuck the thin end of the chisel into the crack, some of the plaster gave way. I pushed again, this time; the chisel went in right up to the handle.

    “Joey, look at this.” He stopped mixing the paint and watched. As I pulled the chisel out, a burst of foul air blew past us.

    “Oh, wow,” Joey mumbled as he quickly covered his nose with his sleeve, “what is that awful smell?”

    “I don’t know,” I said. “More importantly what’s behind this wall?”

    While Joey got a sledgehammer, I stuck my fingers into the hole in the wall and started to pull on the plaster. Chunks fell to the floor. Joey moved me aside, “Watch out,” he said raising the sledgehammer. Whack! A big huge chunk of wall came down. Whack! More fell. Whack! Finally it was big enough for us to go through. The other side was dark and dank. The air was stale from lack of circulation. Joey got flashlights for him and I then proceeded to walk through.

    There was a short hallway with one door at the end. Joey who went first turned to me and said. “Well here goes nothing.” He quickly opened the door and to our surprise we were greeted by dim light. There were no windows, just lamps that were softly lit about the room. Shelves upon shelves lined the walls of this tiny space. I noticed books filled most of them and some were dotted with jars filled with strange things floating in a gel-like substance. “It’s a library?” asked Joey.

    I proceeded to open one of the books on the desk; dust went flying as I lifted the cover. What are these symbols? These aren’t just normal library books. Joey who had gone to examine some of the jars, made a gruesome discovery. There floating in one of the jars was a head. Shocked by this, he lost his balance and fell over a chair. When he landed he broke one of the floorboards. Under the board was a wooden box with a strange symbol on the cover. Joey showed me the box and said “I don’t know what that could mean.”

    I shook his arm with excitement at the possibility of treasure, “oh, just open it!”

    As he lifted the lid, all the lamps seemed to get brighter and a surge of electrical energy passed through our bodies. We both looked; inside was a simple piece of paper. On it was written

    “Welcome, You have now entered the world of Magic. Be it dark or light…that is up to you.”

  32. Fran

    Moving into a new place always forced me into acrobatics. The obstacle course that led to the coffee pot didn’t discourage me though. I staggered to the kitchen window to see that my husband’s car was gone. I couldn’t believe he went to work today. Garrett worked so hard all weekend to get us moved in and still managed to make his way to his average paying job. He loved it but of course I knew he deserved better. Now to get the kids together.

    “Tara, Shawn and JR, you guys get up, the bus will be here soon!”

    With the kids out of the way and coffee coursing through my veins, I was able to start painting fairly early. Looking at the progress of the kitchen and living room, I decided to tackle the dining area. We had chosen a soft olive green to bring balance to the pecan colored wood that would be placed there.

    Painting to the rhythm of the music on the radio, I noticed a long crack in the wall. Every time I painted over it, a seam would appear like a tear in a pair of stockings. Leaning closer, I pushed on the wall and it crumbled. As I peeled the layers of soft plaster, it formed a pile on the floor. Curious, I began to push and pull until the wall opened up to a dark musty cave. I grabbed a flashlight from one of the boxes in the kitchen and shined the light into what opened to a hallway. I was scared but something kept pulling me forward. I stepped through; my heart beat so loudly I could hear the blood swooshing in my ears. Channeling bravery, I said aloud, “Carrie, there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of”. Then I did what I hate to hear people do in times of trouble, I prayed the twenty-third Psalm.

    As I continued, I heard a thump. Sweat formed on my brow and my armpits. I wanted to run but had come too far. Midway the hall, there was something hanging from the ceiling that brushed my face. I screamed, dropped the light and fought with the air; swatting my head to get whatever it was off of me. After the panic, I realized it was a cord for a light switch. Relieved, I pulled the string and the space was filled with a soft glow revealing a door. As I crept down the hall, the noise became a steady, familiar thump. Music, I thought. I reached for the knob and swung the door open. There was a collective scream, which included my voice and another I recognized. I looked up and there were eight teen-aged girls standing in formation. Tara stepped out from among them. “Sorry mom”, she yelled over the music. “We ditched school because we want to audition for the new show, Dance Til You Drop. Please don’t call their parents.”

    1. danmcgrath

      Imagine their surprise… dancing away and then mum comes right out of the wall. Liked the starting sentence as well, “Moving into a new place forced me into acrobatics.” Really gives me the impression the house is in a bit of a state from the move without actually having to say it. Leaves a bit to the imagination of the reader without holding their hands too much.

  33. penney

    So, did you ever hear about what happened at Disneyland and why it go shut down? Accidents, they started happening all over the place. First at the Matterhorn the bobsleds derailed. The media had a hay day. Then some sick pervert strapped a kid to the railroad tracks. It didn’t stop there; live bodies replaced the animatronics on Tom Sawyers Island, the Cowboy and Indian scenes made everyone in the canoes and the huge pirate ship vomit. After that, quest started missing and more animatronics were mysteriously replaced with real people. They were never explained and no one to this day has been brought to justice. The park was deemed unsafe, shut down and locked up. Odd noises can be heard from the park and it lights up most every night even though the power was cut off.

    You can imagine how my heart skipped a beat when I heard through the grapevine that the property was going up for auction to a select few that had an inside track. I pulled most of my winnings from the Mega Millions I won and contacted the appropriate agent. It was like getting something for nothing. It took half of my 265 million but I got it.

    The reporter asked me what I was going to do, because the city was hoping an investor would come in and spread the wealth while solving a huge problem. I did. You see, the hotels didn’t seem to get touched by “The Curse” apparently and the surrounding properties owned by Disney were okay. Oh sure, I made money but I got what I wanted.

    The Haunted House. When you leave the exit, there is a graveyard and posted on the main tombstone is listed the wives of the owner. At the top, is me, Penelope died 1454.

    I made my nest there and charged up all the go-carts once the power was strategically turned on, that way I’d get around while I explored. But, one night while remodeling the ballroom, I noticed a crack in the wall. I thought I had checked all the blue prints to this place but there was an unmarked door behind the wallpaper and paint.

    “Hey stewy, did you hear about the chick that bought the old Disney park,” Ned asked his buddy?

    “Yah, she disappeared like the rest of them,” he replied, “to this day all that’s left is that tombstone from the old haunted house.”

    They both glanced at the tombstone and quietly speed away as fast as possible.

  34. Zoey

    The realtor was hesitant to show me the farmhouse. We had been to see house after house in the sweltering Tennessee heat. The pretty houses made me think too much about the “would haves.” We would have been looking for a house with 2 extra bedrooms, for the two children we would have had. We would have needed a big kitchen for me to bake cakes in, and you would have needed a room with just the right light for your painting. We would have needed a yard for the hypothetical dog, and a good school district. Those pretty houses were for people with a future, not a lonely single woman.
    The farmhouse was different. It was lonely standing there in the middle of overgrown weeds. The paint was peeling and the porch sagged. But inside were real hardwood floors. The attic bedroom had a window seat. I interrupted the agent in her half hearted speech about the house to tell her I would take it. Her mood, which had wilted as the afternoon had progressed, instantly improved.
    I moved in a week later.
    Right away I started making small changes. A nail here, sandpaper there, and I started painting everything with soft colors. I started to feel something like peace. It seemed the more I fixed the house, the more the house fixed me.
    One morning I was working in the attic, painting the room a warm yellow. My brush got caught in a crack in the wall. On closer investigation, I realized there is a door. Against all my instincts, I pushed the door open. I grabbed a flashlight and crawled through the cramped space, pushing cobwebs out of my face. I swore under my breath. I am not the adventurous type. I am not the type to get dirty. Then again, I am not the type to buy an old farmhouse on an impulse, either. I guess becoming a widow at the age of 33 changes a girl.
    At the end of the passageway there was another door. The door was stuck, and before I could open it, my flashlight went out and I was plunged into darkness. This is the point where, if I were watching me in a horror movie, I would be yelling at myself to run. Instead, curiosity seized me, and I threw my weight against the door. It opened, and I fell into a small room. It took a moment to realize I could see, that there was light in this space. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I realized I was not alone in the room. Someone was sitting in a chair against the far wall.
    My heart stops. It is my husband. His smile, his eyes. I cried out, and reached for him. He silently shook his head. We couldn’t touch. My cheeks were wet and I realized I was crying.
    He looked at me, in the way he always did, and I knew why I bought this house.

  35. penney

    I cut and ran, no tie downs no excess baggage, this was a new beginning. I told myself that when I was old an grey, and all my children were grown that I would run far away. It would be somewhere that had friendly old people that minded their business and you got everywhere by bicycle, maybe a pub, phones, internet, and a quiet Sunday service. I never thought I would inherit my Great Aunt Betty’s house.

    The old fishermen’s house overlooking Port Clyde in Maine, was over a century old, the family history creaked and moaned from every orifice. I had been here only three times, once that I could remember. I never forgot the stories told about my ancestors. Lobster fishermen, all of them.

    I had been painting all afternoon, the tea had whistled and the light from the old lighthouse could be seen from the kitchen window. It was time to shut down for the night. The electric wasn’t on yet so I had a collection of candles and my flashlight.
    I went to the closet to fetch a quilt, the house had everything I needed. The closet was filled to the gills with odd and ends, the quilts up high and hard to reach. Suddenly something fell. Not forward, but back behind, but these were shelves, there shouldn’t be a “back behind.” I reached to feel around, went down a shelf and all I could feel was an odd space and cold air.

    There was a space behind the shelves that lead to a pathway. All else didn’t matter, she pulled down the shelves and all the stuff stored in the closet to find a little door. Cold, dark and dank she raced in where no one dare go. At least that’s how she felt. Feeling her way through the darkness, only her small light to guide her, she followed the cold air, almost knowing she’d be outside soon. Hands reaching out in front of her, she felt her way until another door blocked her. A little glass knob, she twisted it, moonlight filtering through, she was in the boathouse. Like a baby taking its first breath, she realized she had been holding hers, she took in a deep cleansing breath, ahhhh.

    Sitting there among the collection of trash, tools and other curiosities, was an obvious coffin. What? She knew from that moment on, she would stay, she loved it. It was perfect. The stories she would write, the inspiration from the past that would fill her, she wasn’t going anywhere.

      1. penney

        My son just read it and says this one is better then the Disney one further down. He suggested this be called “The Lighthouse” with a picture a lighthouse beaming into the sea with ships around.
        He is only twelve and likes to read these but the weirdest things come out of kids. He says that other chapters would be good about exploring the lighthouse and finding out about the coffin. As I said its interesting to see what kids think about.

  36. Smiley182011

    “The place is nice, definitely a fixer upper though.” I told my husband as I surveyed our new living room. It’s our first house so I can’t expect it to be fancy. I just wish he would have let me see it before he paid the down payment. My husband gets overly excited and doesn’t look at the important details sometimes. Things like the foundation of the property and whether or not there are leaks in the ceiling more than likely got overlooked.
    “It’s got personality!” Jim replies, “We can make it our own.”
    I nod and smile. Jim always sees the silver lining. This house obviously means a lot to him, I don’t want to hurt his pride. He wouldn’t have considered it if he didn’t think it was right for us. I look around, envisioning pastel yellow walls in place of the lime green floral wallpaper and plush white carpet between my toes instead of the cold hardwood floors residing here now. As I look for the cable hook-up so I can plan the living room layout, I notice where some of the wallpaper is peeling off. I decide that since I’m going to paint the room anyway, it won’t hurt to start removing the 70’s styled paper. I rip the first big piece off the wall when I notice a rather large crack in the running all the way from the floor to the ceiling.
    “Jim?” I call out to him, not getting a reply I look out the window and see him talking with the moving company. I turn back to the crack noting how wide it is, at least three inches, if not more. This concerns me a great deal. I prod the crack trying to determine if the sheet rock is loose when I quickly find out it is more than loose. Dodging a huge chunk of the wall I jump back and give a little scream. This is bad, very bad. Jim’s going to be so disappointed! What have I done? As the dust settles I notice there is a tunnel where the crack was.
    “What in the world?” I muttered to myself.
    I glance at Jim, he’s still busy with the moving company, I take out my phone and use the flashlight app I downloaded, laughing to myself as I thought “Find a secret tunnel in your new house? I’ve got an app for that.” If only I could fix this wall with my phone, that’d be way more impressive than a flashlight.
    I take a couple of nervous steps wary, of the spider webs that cling to my legs and face. I hate spiders. A few feet in I’m wondering if this was a good idea. Just when I’m about to turn back something catches my eye.
    “What the hell happened?”
    I know Jim has discovered my fumble.
    “I’m in here!” I shout
    “Babe? Are you hurt? Babe please come out of there.”
    “I’m coming” I back slowly out of the tunnel and from the look on Jim’s face I know I don’t look okay. I’m trembling and I have to sit down.
    “Call the police.” I stammer, “And the moving company, because I’m not living in this house.”

  37. Jaybo

    “Youra key, Monsignore!”
    Thank you very much for speaking in American. Forgive me; My Italian isn’t very good.
    Ah, Hisa Eminenza willa no come tonight, eh? I willa no maka hisa bedda, but for a you, I willa maka a bed.
    Thank you, again.
    No, Thanka You! Arrivederci! Buona Notte, Ahm, Gooda night.
    So much for being the interim agent in this deal! What Am I doing here? I am supposed to be working on my Theologate, not helping the local Cardinal cozy up to the Italian’s landed Gentry. Why in Heaven, excuse Me, Lord, Why did he ask me to look over this place? “My Son,” he says, “this house once belonged to one of the elder patriarchies in Solerno. Supposedly goes back before the Medici; the Borgia cardinals used to hold some clandestine councils there, No proof a Pope ever set foot here. I was during the Great War. See what you can dig up for me. I want a full account of every pence this place is costing me”. Costing the Church, you mean, your Eminence. Still, he says I will be paid well for aiding his obtaining clear title, and this is already secured, So, all I have to do is make sure the walls are as sound as the floors and the roof will withstand another air-raid. I will make my rounds after supper, beginning in the chapel….
    What a beautiful chapel upstairs! I wonder how they got all that Carrara marble up on the third floor. Those stones were as big as an American Packard. There was not a seam I could find on any of the sanctuary pieces; must have built the house around them. Let’s see,…this room goes East; it would get the morning sun, which would be good for the day’s first warmth and coolness in the day’s ebb. And … this room…What a great place for a library! Right under the chapel judging from the pillars… holding up the high altar. Good Lord, what massive pylons eight feet thick! One, two, three, four, five…five, that is strange, this one is not under the altar at all if my bearings are good, Must be for an ancient sumpter beam for the chapel floor. But out here, to the side of the room? Well, all this wood paneling, only a high up cleric would be able to afford this. Wait and minute! This pylon’s wooden panel is damaged and… loose. A passage…What’s this… an electric switch… someone knew about this long before this building was leased. OK, small Spiral stairs with a central pole going some sixty feet straight down… like a fireman’s pole. Musty, damp, floor is stone, good thing this lamp is recent, still… a tunnel going under the building! Old door; still works. Place smells like sewer. Well, I’ll be… I wonder if His Eminence knows about this! Sign says, “Gli…ebrei, …Questa maniera… per …la libertà. Juden,… auf diese Weise…. für Freiheit. Jews, This way for freedom!”
    Copyright: 2012, John C. Fox

  38. Dean Kutzler

    OUT TO SEA

    “I can’t believe you got this house dirt cheap Allie. Totally jealous. I guess that pushup bra worked!” Colleen said wiping sweat from her brow from painting the small closet off the guest bedroom.

    “Here, use this.” Allison smirked and tossed her a towel. “If it weren’t for you, I’d never have found it in the first place.” Colleen was a real estate appraiser and Allison needed a house with enough land for her horse training business. She’d found this seaside listing at work.

    “Hey Allie?”

    “Yah-huh?” Allison was finishing up the molding, the paint stick in her mouth.

    “I think you should take a look at this.”

    She spit the stick out. “Don’t tell me it’s another spider—just squash it with the towel. I have more clean ones downstairs.”

    “No it’s not that!” She laughed. “There’s a strange crack in here.”

    “I know—I know and I love you dearly for helping me.”

    “Ha—Ha. Real funny, no, but come look at this. It’s really weird. It’s not like any other cracks I’ve seen.”

    “Does it look like the baby Jesus? The title agent said if I got a permit I could rope it off and charge admission. Just paint over it! We’re not doing major construction here.”

    “Kidding aside Allie, it doesn’t look right. This could be a mold problem. Do you know how many places I’ve appraised where the owners try to paint over a mold problem?”

    “No, I don’t—but I’m sure you’d love to tell me. Let’s have peek.” Colleen stepped out so she could look closer. “Huh—that is weird. I think—close it a sec Coll.” She closed the door. “What da yah know? Light!”

    “Huh? What did you say in there? What are doing? You better not be putting your face near it! Do you know what mold can—“ Allison threw the door open. Colleen jumped back. “Geez! Watch it—B! You almost scuffed my pedi.”

    “I nee a crowbar and the flashlight!” Allison ran downstairs and got what she needed. About twenty minutes later and some elbow grease, they had the sheet rock off.

    “Where do you think it goes?” Colleen said, staring at the door they unearthed.

    “You know that pretty platform on top of the house outside? With the railing and big window? I thought it was a fake—just for decoration. But I’ve read about them. Back in the nineteenth century they were called Widow’s Walk.”

    “Charming.” Colleen made a gag—me gesture.

    “The wives of seamen used to stand on them, looking out to sea for their husband’s ships to come home.”

    “Let me guess.” Colleen said. “The pirates never came home, hence the name?”

    “Nail on the head Coll-o, nail on the head.”

    With a flick of the flashlight they opened the door and crept along the secret passage way. It led them to an old dusty room. The full moon was shining in from the big window, casting an eerie shadow from the rocking chair.

    “Creepy—is that a trunk?” Colleen said as she shone the light on it.

    Together with a hefty heave, they flung the trunk open.

    “Oh my god! Is—is that a skeleton?” Colleen shrieked as she shone the light on the old bones.

    “I guess it wasn’t the pushup bra.” Allison said.

          1. Dean Kutzler

            Oh, thank goodness. Thank you. Lol.. I was really struggling this time with the 500 word limit. Very frustrating, even though it does force you to craft a better story. Thanks for the comments. 😉

    1. JJerome

      Deanoreano – I agree with my friends regarding the dialogue and I will add this…I appreciate the authority with which you write. Pirates, Widow’s Walk to name a few. Do you like to research? Something tells me you would be good at it.

  39. Bumblebee83959

    “Back and forth.” I muttered, swiping my free hand across my brow as I worked the paint roller along the wall. I didn’t think the house had needed so much work. A paint job here and there, but not a full blown-out renovation. Guess that’s my punishment for being a lazy butt for the past few years in college, paying a few kids here and there to do some homework for me. I graduated, but just barely. I didn’t have a job quite yet, and this renovation stuff was definitely costing quite a bit of cash. I’d be broke soon enough.

    Just as I was dipping the roller back into the paint, I noticed a crack in the wall. Panic began to set in as I studied it, already guessing the amount of money it would cost to plaster it back up. It didn’t look too serious. Maybe I could just run a few layers over it, more than the others, and cover it up. No one would notice and it would save me the cash.

    I rolled the paint roller along the crack. I didn’t notice that it was getting bigger until the entire section of the wall gave away, making an arch that led into a dark passage beyond. I grabbed my flashlight, one of many tools for my renovation, and cautiously inched my way inside. When I was well in, I turned around to look back at the exit and saw that it had been covered up by the wall again, as if it had never crumbled away. Odd, but I kept going forward. Perhaps the house was trying to tell me something.

    My flashlight gave little light in the darkness. It made sure that I could see where I placed my feet, but that was about it. I ran my fingers along the wall, strong but weathered by the touch by, this was my guess, a couple of people that had made the adventure along this route. Just thinking about what lay at the end filled me with adrenaline and kept pushing me forward until I saw the tiniest speck of light at the very end.

    Soon, I was engulfed in the brilliant white. My flashlight crashed to the floor as I stared at what greeted me. The man smiled at me, flashing the whitest teeth I have ever seen. His muscular, lean body was draped in a smooth black t-shirt and a pair of jeans with beat-up Converse on his feet. I didn’t focus on the drab, but on his face. It was like a sculpture of a Greek man.

    “Hello.” I gasped. That single word was enough to freeze me on the spot. He continued, “Who I am remains a secret. Come, my darling.” He grabbed my hand, and I was filled with a golden warmth that spread through my entire body until I was glowing. “Let’s go dance.” A faint outline appeared on the wall, and we disappeared into a sea of darkness.

    1. laurentravian

      O-O. Whoa…I am like the world’s biggest romanticist, and even I didn’t see that coming… Excellent job, but now you have me hooked. Was it some time of ancient Greek god? Some weirdo neighbor who moved into her attic? Her sou-mate who…okay, I got stuck on the ‘moved into her attic’ thing. Great job!

  40. Leond

    Obviously, I didn’t expect to find a secret passageway built into the wall of my basement. But I think I could have dealt with my excitement if it had led to another basement, or a prohibition-era brewery. This, however, was unsettling. The door led to a tunnel. And the tunnel led to… more tunnels. More tunnels than I could ever have thought possible. And they just kept going down and down, further and further, always the same on either side. So when it finally did get around to being something but more tunnels, I couldn’t have been more glad. It could have been a two hundred foot drop, and I would have been happier about it than that labyrinth.
    But that wasn’t how it turned out. Instead, to my shock, I found that I was facing someone. He was a small man, with a rather reserved look about him, standing behind a computer as if he belonged there. Behind him was a large and very imposing gate. For a second, I thought he looked fairly ordinary. But then I noticed something. He had a tail. And a very long one at that.
    “Excuse me,” I said, waking up to him. “I seem to have gotten lost.”
    The man sighed. “Yes, that’s more or less what they all say.”
    “They?”
    “What? You think you’re the first? That’s optimistic.”
    “Where am I?”
    “The gates of Hell. My name is Minos. Tell me about your sins. Our computer system froze, so I’m back to doing things by making an appropriate number of rings in my tails. And before you make a joke about Hell freezing over, keep in mind that I control your immortal destiny.”
    All of a sudden, I realized that I could hear, for one moment the screams of the damned coming from behind the wall. But just as suddenly as it came, it left.
    “Sorry,” Minos said. “The gate is supposed to be noise-canceling. But it messes up sometimes.”
    “I’m not dead,” I protested. “I just found a secret passage in my basement. It led here.”
    “Are you sure you weren’t hit by any falling rocks while in this passageway? Perhaps a heart attack?”
    “I’m pretty sure!”
    “Give me your hand.”
    I held out my arm to him. He whipped his tail around it and held it for a few seconds. Then he pulled it away.
    “Yes,” he admitted, “you do have something more of a pulse than most shades do. And you’re rather lacking in deathly pallor. I suppose there may very well have been a mistake. That’s rather inconvenient.”
    “A little. Could you help me get back? I have to go live my life virtuously from now on.”
    “I’m afraid I’m not allowed to do that…”
    “Sorry?”
    “Look. We kind of have a policy here about abandoning hope all ye who enter here. If we let you go, it would sort of mess with that a little… Is there any chance that we could just pretend that you’re dead? Take the appropriate circle of damnation a few years early?”
    “I could spend the rest of my life repenting, you know!”
    “Yeah, but will you? Come on. How about we just say the circle of lustful? Everyone’s a little bit lustful.”
    I blushed. “Can I talk to your boss?”
    “That would be Satan. He’s chewing on Cassius, Brutus, and Judas Iscariot at the moment.”
    “And when will he be done with that?”
    “You don’t really get ‘done’ with things in Hell. It’s not our philosophy.”
    “I’m sorry! I’m not going to settle down and just accept eternal damnation that I haven’t deserved!”
    Minos covered his face with his hand. “Are you baptized?”
    “Yeah.”
    “Bless it. I could have stuck you in with them. I wish I had the computers running. I could look up some info on you…”
    “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?”
    And that is how I became the systems administrator of Hell.

    1. Imaginalchemy

      No need to apologize, that was a very fun story even if one hasn’t read Dante’s Inferno. I love the dialogue, and I can’t help but laugh at how even computers in Hell freeze up 😀

  41. jincomt

    Her shoulders ached from painting all day. But it didn’t look half-bad. She liked the bright orange- he would have hated it. The fumes were making her head spin though. She opened the window to let in a little fresh, night air. Time to wash up and have a little wine.

    She was glad to be divorced. Good riddance. She’d had enough of him calling her a psycho. The fights had grown more and more intense, screaming at each other. He was a worthless excuse of a man. She’d started leaving at night. Let him look after the kids! Slamming the door behind her, she’d escape and find relief—men who truly appreciated her, booze to ease this hate she felt– his hateful “go to hell!” echoing behind her. She’d been surprised when he’d actually helped her find this house. Or maybe she shouldn’t have been.

    She studied the freshly painted wall, admiring her handiwork, taking long drinks of wine. That’s when she noticed the little crack above the outlet. Damn. She walked over to it, pushing a finger against it, leaving a mark in the still wet paint. She blinked wine-woozy eyes. The crack seemed to be growing larger. Walking to the coffee table, she opened the drawer and pulled out a flashlight. She also grabbed the bottle of wine. Just in case.

    Stumbling back over to the crack in the wall, which was now like a black, gaping hole, she shined her flashlight into it.

    Another long drink of the cabernet to shore her up and she stepped into the opening. Something that felt like cobwebs brushed her face. It was cold and damp. She shivered and took another swig, just to keep herself warm.

    “What’s this?” she whispered. A secret passage! She knew this house was unique when she bought it! Maybe there was a secret room even the previous owners didn’t know about.

    The flashlight didn’t give her much light. Stepping gingerly she moved slowly ahead, almost losing her footing when she found a step and then another leading down. She took a final swig of wine before placing the empty bottle down. The steps seemed to spiral down and down forever.

    Funny, the lower she went, the warmer it got. She thought she heard faint echoes of music from below. Yes, music and laughter. It sounded like a great party. She wished she had dressed lighter. She was really sweating now. She turned a corner and saw a faint, red glow—like a cozy fire.

    “Come on in,” someone shouted. She looked around. Hey, this looked fun. She smiled and headed towards the sound. A party!

    From somewhere behind her a door slammed shut with a bang and echo. She could have sworn she heard his familiar laugh and “go to hell” just before the door closed. The heat grew more intense, the laughter turned maniacal, the music sounded like crunching metal. She swiped a hand across her forehead. Man, It was hot as….

  42. Imaginalchemy

    “Unusual Neighbors”

    “Oh, bloody ‘ell.”

    That was my reaction as my arm went straight through the wall like wet paper. Only a few days in this house, and already I ruined it. What would Sicily say when she found out? She had reserved this house especially for me, even though I was new to this neighborhood. It was the most gorgeous array of Victorian-era rooms, accented by velvet couches, marble tables, and glass cabinets holding delicate china sets. In fact, the only thing I had found fault with it was the wallpaper on the south side of the kitchen, a rather dreary brown with buttery yellow flowers, so I had thought to paint over it with a handsome green. The slightest pressure of the paintbrush and through the wall my hand went, as if the wall were saying, “How dare you think you could improve on perfection! You spoiled the magic of this house!”

    I stared in disbelief for a minute, my mind racing. Sicily was out shopping with her mother—I still had a good hour or so before she would come by to visit me—but there was no manner in which I could disguise this hole. Pulling my arm back, more of the wall crumbled away, leaving a hole as large as a window. Looking past the hole, I noticed there was something out the other side. Having not inspected behind the house—so far I had only come in and out from the front—I cautiously leaned forwards and poked my head out.

    A fish swam past my face.

    I jumped back, shocked. When I regained my composure, I looked through the hole again, seeing the massive orange fish swimming lazily in front of me. I warily reached my hand forwards, and it hit an invisible convex wall—glass. Peering into the strange sphere, I spotted a small castle, with a garden of brightly colored plants, which the fish now hid behind, having realized I was there. Relieved there was a barrier between me and the couch-sized fish, I squeezed out through the hole, scooting carefully along the glass wall until I was in a wider space in which I could step back and get a better look.

    “What a curious place this is,” I mused. “But it will be nice to have a quiet, clean neighbor…”

    Not to be said of my other neighbor, who made us aware of his presence by pouncing at the glass sphere and driving his giant white paw into the water of the fish’s domain. I nearly fainted, as this creature was twenty times bigger than I, leviathan tail swishing side to side, wickedly pointed ears perked forwards, and devilish golden eyes locked on intently as it thrashed to get its prey.

    Then it spotted me, twitching its whiskers curiously.

    Running is not a good option for a doll with porcelain legs, nor is jumping off the edge of a table. Bloody ‘ell, I should have just stayed in the house…

    1. JJerome

      Imaginalchemy – among all the clever surprises you show is a real skill at telling stories in a variety of ways, sometimes whimsical, sometimes madcap, but all funny as you-know-what. Humor is a rare gift, and you are blessed with it.

      1. Imaginalchemy

        Wow, I hadn’t checked here in the last few days, I didn’t realize folks were still commenting…But I cannot tell you how much I truly appreciate everyone’s supportive compliments, and what an honor it is to be in the company (digitally, anyway) of so many talented writers. Thank you!

  43. slayerdan

    You’ve just moved into a new house and are fixing it up. In the process of painting you find an odd crack in the wall. As you explore further, you find out it’s a secret passageway—and you have no idea where it leads. You decide to grab a flashlight and go exploring.

    “I knew it!”I screamed as the wallpapered wall gave way to my probing fingers. I knew this old house would have a secret room. A secret passage. Secrets galore!! And they were mine. Good or bad, whatever was down those stairs behind the wall belonged to me.
    “TO ME!” I screamed even louder before throwing my hand over my mouth in some faux gesture of restraint. Peering out the window, it appeared that no one had heard my outbursts about treasure yet to be found. Grabbing my flashlight, the beacon that shall lead me to my findings, I head to the stairs, that lower themselves quietly into the unknown below.
    I love these houses from the 20th century. They always have something of interest. Such a decadent time they used to have. The stairs seem fairly sturdy, with the remnants of mildewy and moldy carpet in spots, offering me a stale aired offense to my nose.
    But it had to be worth it. Hidden behind a wall, stairs! Why were they hidden? Treasure? Monsters? Aliens? Gasoline? The thought of any provided me with excitement.

    As I reached the last step, I pointed my mystery finding light around the room. There were several chairs. Cheap, plastic looking chairs, standing their ground, refusing to die. The walls were bare. There was a small table against one wall with an older entertainment device on it, and a smaller itemconnected to it.

    A television! An old model flatscreen! Not worth anything, as it is well known that they were made by the millions. The other item is hooked up to it with wires and cables. Some sort of playing device. The room smells of mold and mildew, and I do notice a few broken glass bottles in the corner.

    On top of the playing device, probably a dvd playback machine, there is some sort of plastic container. I move toward it scanning the room, feeling somewhat deflated. This wasn a treasure. There were no aliens. No monsters. No gasoline. Cheap chairs. An out of date television. A dvd player. Glad my screams did not illicit a response, i would have been the laughing stock of the neighborhood. A mockery, as surely my enthusiasm would have made me seem the idiot once this room was found.

    Could anyone relate to that feeling? The great explorer discovers….a room with chairs and bottles!! I pick up the plastic container on the dvd machine, and it appears to be a dvd itself.

    It is titled GERALDO RIVERAS GREATEST TV MOMENTS–OPENING ALCAPONES LOST ROOM. No clue what its about. I will see if I can look it up on day, but doubt I can relate to whats on it.

    ” Yeah, I knew it alright,” I mumbled as I reached the top, not even looking back as I was done for the day.

    1. Imaginalchemy

      I like your take on the prompt, that the narrator was purposefully looking for some hidden secret when he bought the house rather than just stumbling upon something. Also, interesting how the past inevitably repeats itself if we don’t learn from it…Good story!

      1. slayerdan

        Thanks. I ahd a couple of other ideas—stairway to Hell after death, all a dream after passing out from paint fumes….nothing seemed to work for me. Not overly happy w the one i went with, but I appreciate the prompts so try to participate as time allows.

        I also do not like how I cant pull in italics into the submissions….sometimes makes a flashback, thought, or other not fit well as it is not immediately certain that its not normal dialogue.

  44. thesaturnbull

    “Oh, fuck me, really?” I asked, peering over my husband’s shoulder. “A passageway?”

    “But you love dark, scary hallways that aren’t supposed to exist,” he returned, standing up. His left knee popped. For a second, I half-expected him to tumble apart, like an incomplete scarecrow made of tree branches. He was pretty skinny, more than usual. Moving has been a tough and time-consuming process.

    “No, I don’t,” I argued, pissed about the unexpected passageway and his weight loss. I certainty hadn’t lost any weight moving. Gained, more like. “And I thought we had this place checked out?”

    “We did,” he said. “You picked the inspectors.”

    “They came highly referred!” I yelled, stamping my foot. Childish, I know, but the situation was so abnormal I didn’t feel too bad about the lack of restraint. “Five fucking stars.”

    “Hey,” he said, reaching out for my shoulders. “Calm it down, a bit. All right? Let’s get some flashlights.”

    “Oh, hell no.” I shook my head, but didn’t pull away from him. His touch had always been soothing. “When we started looking, I said, in no uncertain terms, no: ghosts, graveyards, creepy neighborhood children, or nearby parks. No houses with murders or unexplained deaths. And no hidden hallways!”

    “It is very HOUSE OF LEAVES,” he murmured, evidently unimpressed with my list of ultimatums.

    “Only if there’s a minotaur in there,” I replied, sighing.

    “Oooh, ooh let’s hope!” His blue eyes lit up, cooling my anger.

    “Fine, whatever. Let’s go explore. But I’m bringing my bat.”

    A few minutes later, equipped with two flashlights, the aforementioned bat, shoes, and a couple of granola bars (always good to have around), we slid in past the unfinished drywall. The hall, thankfully, did not exceed normal expectations of length, and followed a rather obvious path around the left side of the house.

    “I thought this was part of the garage,” I whispered.

    “Maybe it is,” my husband replied, brushing a massive spider web out of the way. As we walked, the temperature changed. It was cooler, the air stale.

    We reached a staircase, leading up to a closed door. A chorus of groans rose from the old wood as we ascended. The cobwebs grew denser, stickier. We passed a window. Dirt and grime covered the glass, yet I could still see through to the setting sun.

    “Perfect timing,” I muttered.

    My husband opened the door. Soft lamplight poured over our faces, welcoming us.

    “Oh.”

    “Oh,” he agreed. “Our guest room.”

    “I guess it’s just an old servant’s access?”

    “Yeah, supposes so.”

    “Thank goodness,” I sighed, completely and utterly relieved.

    1. Dean Kutzler

      I loved the banter between the two and the reference to ‘House of Leaves’ by Mark Z. Danielewski. Have you read it? I tried a few times but was so off put by the crazy print. I’m curious as to the content of that book.

      Any who… I feel that, as with my story for this prompt, it needs more of a story line. I find it a great challenge, coming up with a full story in such little wordage that we’re allowed. All in all, I enjoyed and if you were to ask me, that is all that counts! Thank you!

  45. JRSimmang

    Don’t Step on the Crack
    J.R. Simmang

    My new neighbors (the Williams’s was it?) are an odd bunch. Neville, the man of the house, has this nasty habit of mowing his lawn at the butt crack of dawn before any of the birds even wake. His wife, Celeste, watches the sun and moon, charts it, then publishes her “findings” in her website, Luna y Sol. The kid, Wazz (I think I’m spelling it right) stays up until 3 playing Backgammon with the old guys down the street. Atypical, right? So, when they told me the previous owners of my house disappeared never to return, I didn’t think too much on it.
    The walls were left this drab grey. I’m sure the realtor told the previous owners it was the best color to sell the house, neutral so that the prospecting buyers can “imagine their lives in the walls” or some shit like that. Well, I guess it worked on me.
    I chose to repaint just a few months back. My living room was going to be a light blue, dining a yellow, reds in the kitchen, dark grey in the bedrooms, greens in the bath, and orange in my study. Ah, my study. I bought the house because of the study. 180 square feet, two massive windows, a loft, and ample space for my bookshelves. It feeds directly into the yard, so I could have client meetings there.
    The first day I brought paint home, my neighbors tried to butt themselves into my project. Who was I to say no? I needed the help. Wazz came over first thing the next day.
    Interesting kid, Wazz. He wants to be a poet. He read some of his stuff to me, and you know what, he’s not that bad. Well, I let himi into my office to see the books I have. He must have been in there a good hour, just browsing before he set to work about painting. I started in the kitchen.
    Wazz was quiet while the music played. I payed no mind. When I was finished with the cabinets, I snuck in a peek to see how he was doing.
    The office was partially painted, looking like a half-peeled moldy orange. The room smelled of silence. Wazz was gone, and in his place was a gigantic crack running the height of the wall.
    “Stupid kid,” was all I could manage to get out.
    I scuffled over to the crack and ran my finger along it as far as I could reach. Then, it clicked. In one swift moment, I was sucked straight through the crack. My body twisted and turned. When I tried to scream, all that came out was a plunging darkness. Then, when I thought my body could stand no more torment, it stopped.
    “What a ride, right?” Wazz was next to me, holding on to a flashlight. “Here.” He handed me another. “We go this way.”
    He led me through a thin tunnel, then out into an open field covered with green grass, tall trees, and the air smelled of petunias. “Where the hell are we?” I gasped.
    “The moon. Wave. My mom is watching.”
    There were at least another few hundred people there.
    Wazz climbed atop a hillock and held out his hands. “Ladies and gentlemen. Prepare for the destruction of Earth!”
    We all turned and watched as the sun sent out a massive bright arm, licking the surface of the Earth.
    “Welcome to New Haven!” Cheers resounded through the field. I suppose I was lucky.

    1. JR MacBeth

      Great story, awesome character name choices. And a “moral” too? Something like, a little kindness and encouragement for young poets can…save your life!

  46. punkrockster

    The move was a lot easier than I expected and I’m a well-known pessimist.
    If one concludes that having to pay a month’s rent at two different locations, plus buying a full tank of oil and a $1,000 dollar damage deposit overshadows the fact that we had a whole month to move in.
    Easier on my back anyway, Hey, I can be a realist too.
    My friends had just finished leaving, the U-Haul was parked out in the driveway and me and my wife had just finished cleaning up the pizza boxes from our first supper at home. The house had that new weird house smell, I bought some plug in’s to try and mask it but it still smelled like an old women’s house.
    We had to paint the kids room and the dining room. Something we should have done earlier before the rooms were filled with boxes, the realist in me told me it would make it harder this way. Or would that be the pessimist in me.
    Hard to tell sometimes.
    My wife Jenn started on the upstairs dining room and I started on the kid’s room. Luckily all three of them passed out on the couch and the baby was sleeping for once so we had the time now to get it done.
    I cracked the paint can, the smell was oddly comforting. Took away from the smell of the house.
    My landlord told me his mother had moved to a home, and he wanted to rent the place to get some money to pay for it.
    I looked up and realized there was wallpaper, I hate wallpaper. I thought it was just a bland yellow paint.
    But there was the crack of peeled wallpaper, staring at me like an extra two hours of work would stare at someone who had been going since dawn.
    I grabbed at the rip and pulled, a section the size of my torso pulled off fairly easily.
    The optimist in me stirred.
    The side of the door made itself apparent, it had been wallpapered over. A dark reddish brown wooden door. The smell of musk and mildew crept at my nostrils as they flared in disgust.
    And I thought that mothballs and comet was bad.
    It took me but a few minutes to uncover it completely. I grabbed the old brass handle and with a tug pulled it open.
    The smell was twice as bad with the door wide open, but there in front of me were stairs.
    I was already in the basement.
    I walked over to one of my kids boxes and pulled out this little flashlight shaped like a tiger. Whenever you pushed the button it roared and the light turned on.
    Cute right? Oh did I mention it roared EVERYTIME you pushed the button?
    I digress.
    I slowly made my way down the stairs. They went down quite a ways actually and turned twice. As I went farther down I started to hear what sounded like a old film reel turning and muffled speaking.
    Another door was at the bottom of the stairs, a sliver of light shone at the bottom.
    The pessimist in me reeled in terror, the realist laughed at the absurdity of the situation and my little bit of optimism thought, Hey this could be my man cave.
    I opened the door and saw an old projector, like really old, aimed at a white sheet on the wall.
    In front sat an old rickety looking wheelchair, like something out of the 20’s same as the projector.
    I looked up at the screen; it showed what look like children running around wearing bonnets and old style clothing. The reel suddenly stopped, the screech of the audio tape ending startled me into dropping the flashlight.
    The projector shut off.
    I cursed under my breath and reached down to look for the flashlight.
    I crashed into something hard and fell to the ground.
    I heard the roar. The roar of the tiger flashlight.
    “Dearie! You’ve come back again! HEHEHE! I won’t let you leave this time! No! You and mother will stay down here forever! You couldn’t have just locked me away! Now come gives your mama a kiss!”
    As the light shone at my face, the pessimist in me took over.
    I was inclined to agree.

    1. Alex

      It certainly got creepy at the end. Very nice juxtaposition of the kids happy, roaring tiger flashlight and the possibly murderous-old-woman/ghost thing. I just wanted to yell “RUN”!

    2. JJerome

      prockster – The element that makes this story pop are the sensory details, the smells, the sounds. Plus the tiger flashlight is a great touch. And I agree with Egg about the realist/pessimst idea that creates a funny understatement.

  47. Icabu

    Sliding the paint roller over the basement wall seemed like another small miracle to Allison. Signing all the mortgage paperwork was a major miracle. Constantly belittled by her ex-husband, every decision and completed task brought her closer to the thriving woman she had been. She was extremely proud of acquiring this charming house. The friendly realtor told her it was so cheap because the previous owner had skipped out on the mortgage. Someone’s bad decision was her coup de grâce.

    Doubt clouded Allison’s good feelings when a crack appeared in the wall under her roller. Maybe the other owner had left because the house was about to fall down on his head. Under closer inspection, the crack seemed odd – arrow straight, not jagged like a stress or age crack. Running her hand along it, Allison felt coolness at her fingertips. With very little pressure, the wall swung inward, hinging at the corner. Allison gasped, looking into a dark tunnel leading out from the basement. She shivered in the chill, stale air wafting through the wall opening. This certainly wasn’t on the plats she’d been given.

    Gathering her resolve, Allison grabbed her jacket from the upstairs closet and a flashlight from the kitchen drawer. She slipped spare batteries in her pocket, just in case. Back in the basement, she stood at the tunnel entrance, shining the light into the darkness. Was she mad for even thinking of going in there? Her ex would certainly think so. She was sure he’d think she was too weak and frightened to explore an unknown passageway secreted behind a hidden moveable basement wall. Blinking into the darkness ahead, she knew he was right.

    Her flashlight highlighted footprints in the light dust covering the tunnel floor. They drew her in; she followed them into the blackness. The chill remained constant, but Allison noted smells – musty, dusty, and something else. Her steps faltered, but didn’t stop.

    ################################################################################

    “The reason we can offer this super-low price is because the previous owner skipped out on the mortgage.” The realtor beamed at the prospective buyer. “She had started fixing up the basement, then just left.”

    “This second bedroom is perfect for an office,” Estelle said, walking through the thoroughly charming house. She needed to get away from her parents and this house seemed to beg for her to buy it.

    “Yes,” the realtor nodded agreement. “It’s the perfect house.”

    1. Egg

      It’s a very believeable story because of the little details you add, eg. the ex., which makes the ending especially eerie, I think. Nice work as always.

  48. danmcgrath

    I poked my finger into the crack and as I pushed into it I felt something give way. A loud click was followed by a groaning noise and before I could jump back a secret door smacked me right in my face and knocked me over. Once I dusted myself off and fetched a flashlight and shined it into the corridor that seemed to stretch off into the distance.

    “Honey? I think we have a secret corridor,” I shouted to my wife.

    “That’s nice dear, can you keep it down? I’m trying to talk to my mother on the phone,” my wife shouted back.

    “Sorry dear,” I replied as I stared into the passage.

    “My mother says if you go inside the corridor and get lost I should seal it up behind you,” my wife shouted as she laughed along with the tiny voice on the other end of the telephone.

    “Tell your mother she can kiss my… tell your mother I love her too,” I muttered as I moved into the corridor and promptly banged my head on a low hanging beam. After a few grunting complaints ripped out of my lips with a few choice swear words I kept moving forward. Before long I noticed that the passageway was getting shorter and shorter. “Damn it.”

    “Dear?”

    “Sorry, this passageway is getting shorter!” I shouted back.

    “Stop fooling around in there and get this stuff unpacked, I’m going down for some things from the store,” my wife shouted behind me as she stomped out of the house. Clearly the fascination of finding a secret passage in our new, well new old house, was all mine. She’s a practical sort though, which is why I love her, always keeping me well ground and normally out of secret passageways that could have all manner of bothersome surprises.

    Surprises like the one I found as I rounded a sharp corner and fell straight through a false panel into a subterranean vault that clearly belonged to an underground race of mole people. Just kidding, it was someone’s stash of porn left over from the seventies. You know, back when the women didn’t believe in shaving, and well before photoshop ruined pornography for those of us who appreciated for the articles. The time to browse the articles just wasn’t there because I noticed a slight bulge in the wall in front of me.

    My flashlight was just heavy enough to serve as a hammer and I used it to batter my way through a thin wall. If the old dirty magazines was a surprise, the gas main that I hit was even more of a surprise. But probably not nearly quite the surprise that was waiting for my wife when she returned home to find the fire department putting out the fire as flaming pieces of nineteen seventies pornography rained down on most of the neighborhood. The laughter of the neighborhood children at the sight of so many unshaven naughty bits was nothing compared to the laughter I endured.

    While they bayed hysterically with hoots of laughter, the paramedics loaded me into their ambulance as my wife gave me a rather extensive piece of her mind. I’m lucky though, it seems that landing in the neighbor’s swimming pool spared me a grimmer fate, though I suspect the neighbor will need a few years of therapy to resolve the issues of having a man, who was on fire, fall into his pool while he was swimming his afternoon laps.

    1. moiradane

      I think I would be moving immediately! Nice story. I wasn’t expecting the old stash of porn let alone an ending fit for just another day in “The ‘Burbs.”

    2. Eliza

      This was very good. It brought to mind the startling suburbia of ‘Beetlejuice’. I like the way you’ve contrasted the every day and the absurd. My favourite line was “Honey? I think we have a secret corridor”, I love that it takes away any remnants of fantasy and plunks us firmly in the surreal world that is reality. Thank you for a great read.

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