The Room

One day as you were cleaning you noticed air being sucked towards the base of wall near the cupboard. Perplexed you went closer to investigate. The air was going in, slightly yet in. You hold your breath and gingerly peel away at the wallpaper until a huge wrought iron door stands before you. Where does it lead? Did you imagine this? What happens next?

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

writing-prompts

Download from our shop right now!

You might also like:

195 thoughts on “The Room

  1. PizzaHawk

    It was late at night and a bout of insomnia had me cleaning the house.The only reason I noticed the draft is that it had been awhile since I had swept this room and the small cloud of dust I had kicked up seemed to get sucked towards the wall. I swore to myself, that was an external wall. A mouse had probably found a way in or maybe worse yet a leak had worked its way through. I crawled over to find out what the damage to my bank account would be.

    I found the wall paper loose where I felt the draft and gave it a small tug to see what was behind it: rat nest or water spot. I found neither. I was looking at what looked like the corner of a piece of metal. I pulled at the edge of the wall paper to get a better look and it came easily off the wall. There were markings on it and the more I pulled, the more questions I had.

    One answer was obvious. The piece of metal I saw was part of a ancient looking iron door. I was left to wonder why was there a door inside this room but it did not go outside? I had been over every inch of this house in my many years living here. What was more worrisome was the images on the door. Engravings on the door gave me cold chills. I cant even begin to describe what I saw, my mind could only take in small pieces, any more and it felt like talons digging in my brain. A mouth overfull of teeth, an “appendage” wrapped around what may have been a human, and a horrid symbol that left me light headed looking at it.

    I caught myself on the door as I was about to fall. I screamed and threw myself away. I held up my hand in front of me and it was bleeding profusely from what I can only describe as teeth marks. I looked at the door and saw a bloody smear over one of the masses of teeth. Unable to form a coherent thought other than to stop the bleeding, I turned to grab the rag I had been using to clean the furniture and wrap it around my hand.

    I stopped as I heard a click and a rumble behind me. A blast of air as cold as a winter night washed over my back. I slowly turned, rag pressed over my bloody hand. The iron doorway had opened but not to my backyard where my sanity told me it should open. I was looking into a room of great proportions fill with statues and engravings as horrible as those on the doorway and lit only by a terrible green glow emanating from a great archway. Part of me told to run screaming from that archway, but the whispers I heard from it both lured me and had me wanting to tear my ears off.

    I stepped in front of the great archway, blood dripping from my hand, rag forgotten back in my home along with my sanity. Something within the archway moved, a writhing a pulsing motion that pushed against the green lit barrier. What was left of my mind screamed for me to leave. That small part left abandoned me as a colossal eye, filled with menace and unfathomable power, opened and stared directly at me. The last thing I heard was my screams and the door slamming shut behind me.

  2. msmrmyr

    Sunday mornings I rest; no talking, no movies, and no human sound. Once the dogs wake me, I lie on the bed and stare upwards. Last Sunday, I counted 337 holes in the ceiling tile around the light. So far the number hasn’t changed. Over the past few weeks, sounds seem richer. Birds share greetings and I can hear the leaves slapping against each other. Bees hesitate among the flowers and I swear the hedge hides a family of crickets.

    This morning, I heard a slight whistle. Not a loud whistle, but more like your grandma dozing in an overstuffed chair. A light pat-pat interrupted the sound followed by a pause and then a single pat. The pats punctuated the sucking in an infrequent but regular manner and seemed to come from above me. I needed to investigate it.

    Climbing on the mattress, I steadied myself by grabbing the bed post. I ran my fingers along the wall. Finding a small tag, I ripped it off. The sucking noise grew louder and the pat-pat stopped. I reached up and looked through a small hole. I saw nothing through it other than darkness.

    As I started to look away, I saw a flash of light. Something waited on the other side. Hesitant and anxious, I listened. I only heard the swoosh of air sucking through the hole.

    Outside a dog barked and I nearly fell off the bed. I climbed down and pulled the bed away from the wall. I reached up to the hole and barely pushed my finger in. My arm hung down with my finger stuck in the hole. If something planned to jump on the other side, I lacked any leverage. I laid against the wall and listened.

    With my finger in the hole, I no longer heard the sucking noise. I pulled my finger out of the hole and the sucking grew louder. I moved my finger over the hole and away again tapping out a dance beat. As much fun as this was, I realized I really wanted to know what awaited me behind the hole.

    I picked at the hole making it larger. I pulled away more pieces of wallpaper and pieces of the wall fell away. Now the sucking noise was gone and I could feel the air move to the other side. There was a room on the other side of the wall.

    By this time, I could just about reach up to the hole without straining up and I reached through. Not much on the other side. Nails poked through the wall and I could feel their sharp ends. No installation. I stood on my toes and pushed through the air. Nothing met my hand on the other side.

    I looked around for a stool or chair so I could get a better peak. Below the sink, I found the small step stool used by my son to reach the water. I ran over and bought it back to the wall. Standing now on one foot – the stool was too small — I straightened up the hole.

    Tired of balancing on one foot, I shifted my weight to the other foot. The stool skipped and rocked. I managed to keep my balance and not fall off. Clutching the wall, I looked through the opening to the other side.

    A cold, dirty breeze hit my nose as I focused on the other side. It smelled like potting soil and as my eyes adjusted to the light I could see a bassinet. Cobwebs rose up from the child’s bed. A mirror flashed light from a small window. A dirty metal dish, wooden spoon, and a small tin cup were tossed in front of a rocking chair. In the chair sat a small skeleton.

    I found a room I never knew existed and it appeared a lot more.

  3. young.austin.lee

    As I peeled the paper away from the wall, I found a huge door that had been hidden there. There was an old catch holding it closed, but no lock. Curious, I lifted the ring on the catch and pulled. With a great creaking at the hinges, the door opened. A gust of cold, wet air rushed up to meet me.
    Beyond was a staircase that appeared to be hundreds of years older than my house. The house must have been built on top of it. Hesitantly, I started to descend the stairs. Unlit torches lined the walls in sconces. I grabbed one and lit it with the lighter in my pocket. The stairs went on and on. Finally, I reached the bottom. It must have been half a mile under the town.
    I raised my torch in the gloom and saw symbols carved into the walls. I recognised them to be the crest of St Edmund. Where was I? There was a corridor that stretched on farther than my torch would allow me to see. Centuries worth of dust and cobwebs clung to the walls and hung in the air. I decided to press on. The was roughly every ten feet along the wall, carved into the stone.
    Finally, I reached what seemed to be a large circular chamber. I must have been walking for ten minutes. That would put me underneath the Abbey Gardens. In the middle of the chamber lay a stone sarcophagus. Nearing it, I timidly reached out a hand to touch it. ‘Stop!’ the voice came from my right, nearly making me jump out of my skin. I turned to see a man dressed in a brown robe, with a rope tied at the waist as a belt approaching me. ‘Did I frighten you? My apologies.’ He said.
    ‘Who are you?’ I asked, my voice cracking with fear.
    ‘I am Brother Edward. How did you find this place?’ I relayed my story to him.
    ‘You have stumbled onto the shrine of St Edmund.’ He informed me. ‘Nearly 800 years ago, when the Normans assaulted the Abbey, my order moved the remains and relics of St Edmund to this place to protect them from the invaders. We have kept them safe from harm ever since.’

  4. Kingboo

    The door stood taller and wider then the average, made of rusted and beaten iron, as if it had been there for a millennia. It was icy cold to the touch and tiny flakes of the metal stuck to my palm as I pulled it away nervously. A number pad, sleek and modern, was set in the centre, a flashing red light upon it and a keyhole to the right of it.
    I felt uneasy. How had the door gone undiscovered for so long and what could lay behind it? A spark of curiosity burned in my gut and my instincts yelled and me to do something, anything, and not just stand their like a gormless idiot. Hesitantly I reached up and pressed they keys ‘1234’ and jammed by house key into the lock, twisting it.
    There was a high pitched beep and the door started to groan, like a giant beast awaking from its slumber, swinging inwards with the grinding of ancient gears.
    I gasped at the sight before me, a large, open plan room, a bar in the corner with two glasses of whiskey poured, the glass bottle of golden liquid set on the black stone counter. There was a pair plush, leather armchairs facing an empty and silent flat screen television. Crystal chandeliers hung from the wooden paneled ceiling, casting a friendly white light over the room. The floor was covered with maroon carpet and overall, the room was very ornate.
    “Who the bloody hell are you?” My head snapped around in the direction of an upper class English voice, setting my eyes upon a young man strolling towards me with the two glasses of whiskey in his hands. He wore a midnight blue suit with a red, formal, silk scarf tucked into it. He had light brown hair that reached the base of his neck and the most beautiful piercing blue eyes.
    “Clementine”. I murmered, trying not to step back as he invaded my personal bubble, his shoeless feet touching the tips of my toes.
    “Well I’m Viktorai obviously”. He pushed the drink into my hand and downed his own. He caught my confused look and choked on his drink. “Wait – You haven’t heard of me? Viktorai? The supervillain?”
    I shook my head slowly and cautiously, holding the drink stiffly in my hand.
    “Damn. And I thought everybody had heard of me”. He eyed the drink my hand. “Are you going to drink that?”
    I shook my head and offered it to him quickly.
    He swallowed it in one gulp and slammed it onto a small wooden table. “Well, Clem – can I call you that?”
    I gave an affirmative nod.
    “Well, Clem … ” He walked forwards so we were toe to toe again. “Now you know me”. He gently placed his soft lips onto mine and kissed me softly for a second before pushing me out of the room and slamming the door behind him.
    “What the fu – ”

  5. sweeti

    I am sweeti,after post graduation I selected in a phrma company as a quality assurance, the phrma company is at city outside,so I rent a house near to it,and starts going to office and come back to my new home,this daily happening ,I don’t have much time to place things properly,I planed to arrange them in a weekend,finally after working one week ,the weekend came, I wake up early in the morning,after complete my daily workouts yoga ,walking ,bath,breakfast, I start to arrange my things ,cleaning rooms ,arranging books in self,clothes in a wardrobe ,furniture,every thing I arranged according my taste,in middle I order a pizza for my lunch and ate it ,,after completing my work ,I just sit in the sofa and looks around and smiles finally everything is settled ,but I didn’t satisfy completes because the walls are not attractive ,how will they attractive when there is no potriot ,frames etc,so in evening I plan to buy a few protroits and photos ,I lock the main door ,went to mall,I romes around the mall,I buy a few frames,and protriots like ” lord Krishna ,nature photo frames,nature protriots ,and flower wases, ” after I purchase them I start to arrange them according to my taste ,I put flower wases in hall and put lord Krishna near puja mandir,and lastly I took nature photo frames and protriots ,went to my bed room ,I put almost everything around my room ,some in corner ,some in middle,I took last protriot which is a girl carrying a pot ,back ground is filled with trees,birds,and rabbits,I like this potriot very much,so I thought to put this in the place where this protriot is visible to my eyes when ever I wakeups,so when I putting the frame there ,I noticed a small key hole,with curiosity I went near to it,a very small wind is coming from it,I thought may be its due to drilling but how can anyone drill in key hole shape u stupid sweet I,I scolds myself,so with curiosity I search every corner to get key,but I don’t get any key,I disappointed fell in bed ,close my eyes,but suddenly my eyes open wide ” omg,what if there is ghost inside” when that idea came into my mind ,I scared my whole body is shivering ,sweat is forming,I drank whole bottle water,oh god save me ,here I am leaving singly ,and top most that this area is outside of city,none will know about my wearbots other than my parents ,what if the ghost kills me ,no one here to help me(,actually I like this place ,because this house is far to my colleagues houses,it is my uncle house,now he is in USA, so I ask him to rent this house, I didn’t bring my colleagues cum my new friends,I planed to bring them after arranging my things,so they don’t know about my home)so I hurriedly took my phone calls to my mom,after two three rings,finally the call attended by my mom,I talks with her scarringly,told about the new key hole which is discovered by me,I told with fast speed,after blabbering I don’t get any reply,after good two seconds I heard loud laughter ,whole my family are laughing,actually my mom put in speaker mode while I am domenstrating about my scary investigation,I frowned,what mom,here I am scaring like hell,there UA re laughing and top on that u put in speaker mode and making fun of me” immediately my mother stops laughing and scolds me ” u idiot,u growup large but thinking childishly,u are living in the same house from past week ,stupid think with brain ,there is nothing ghost there may be house uncle put his things in that room while going to USA, so stop ur blabbering and eat dinner and just sleep,with that she cuts the call,I bit my tounge ,u stupid sweeti,mom is right,may be uncle put his things there ,but y it is not looking like a room ,may be house designer design like this with that I went to kitchen to prepare my dinner ,while making dinner I found a small box in the corner of the self ,with curiosity I open it ,immediately frowned because there is a small key,I thought who put this key in kitchen and in a special box,suddenly my face lit up what if this key belong to that keyhole in my bed room,so I hurriedly swichoff stove ran to my room,I put the key in the key hole,I surprised because it is open ,I jumped with excitement but frowned because there is no knob to open ,I frustrated keep my head to the wall ,suddenly the door slightly moved back ,I hurridley pushes the wall back ,there is a room behind this wall,I starts searching for thw switches ,lukkly the found the switch and turn on it,the whole room lit up,but I got scared the room is filled with dust and some animated ghost toys,I gulped my saliva to wet my throt which is dried after seeing this room ,I about to turn to went back to my room,but stopped in middle because a small sound is coming from corner ,like someone is crying ,I scared don’t know what to do,immediately my mothers words came in my mind ,I grips my hands tightly and walks to the corner where the sound coming, sweat is forming when going to near the sound ,I frowned by seeing the object before my eyes,and understand that it is prank played by my uncle because there is a doll girl which is giving sounds like a someone is crying,it starts crying when I. iswich the light,I just close my eyes in my hands, and laughs about my stupidity

  6. GhostThane

    A huge door, larger than any I’d actually seen in a house, stood in front of me. It looked and smelled like old iron, with wood inset in some sort of swirling pattern between it. I couldn’t see any handles, or even a lock, and there was nothing on the door that gave any hint of where it could lead. Thinking of the house’s layout, there shouldn’t have even /been/ a door there, as it would have just led outside.

    Curiosity overcame my caution at that point, and I started carefully pushing at the door, testing to see if it would open. After a few shoves, one side gave way with a groan, stopping as soon as I jumped at the noise. When nothing yelled or came rushing out or any other scenario I could think of, I gave it another push, this time staying with it till there was a large enough opening for me to walk into.

    The room on the other side was /massive. It appeared circular, with doors illuminated and spaced around the outside in even spacing, but beyond them all was pure black. If there /was/ more back there, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to find out. The center of the room to the doors was well lit however, so I walked forward, instinctively stopping in the middle so I could look around me. The door I had come through was the largest, and the simplest; very obviously different from the rest of them.

    Each and every one looked to be a single door, of a size I was more accustomed to seeing, but had incredibly ornate detail setting them apart. I could almost feel the differences as I looked at each one, even as I had no idea how any of them existed or where they could possibly lead to. Turning back to the large door, I figured I could start from the next one over, exploring in a clockwise pattern so as not to lose my way.

    As I began walking towards my first door, a noise from further away stopped me, and after a moment, I realized it was coming from the large door, back in the house. I bolted back through, turning to try and pull it shut as much as possible, which was a challenge given there was no handle. The noise came again, and I realized it was someone calling for me from some rooms away. I shouted back, hoping they would wait for me to run out there, and tried to cover the door with whatever tall junk was still laying around.

    My exploration would have to wait for another day, but I certainly didn’t have an issue with cleaning the room anymore.

  7. T.M. Madison

    I glided my hands over the cold, scarred and rusted iron door. The enigmatic metal appeared to have existed here for generations; furtively adorning a room I have occupied my entire life. But how? How could I let something this salient, this endearing, this mysterious go unnoticed for almost 36 years? I slid my hands down the doors frame, timorously searching for a way to open it. On the far right of the doors mid-section I spotted a keyhole, and instantly ran through my home collecting whatever tools I could find to jimmy the lock. I gathered knives, hammers, nails, safety pins, and nail filers, however all of my utensils were futile. I stared at the enigma perplexed and defeated. Maybe this was all a dream, a momentary hallucination that would dissipate with time. When without thinking, I reached down into my pocket and extracted a large set of keys, hesitantly fumbled through them until I came across one that was both foreign and familiar. I inserted it into the lock, turned, cautiously, pushed, and watched as the giant iron door slowly screeched open until it revealed a dark antecedent room, filled with cob webs, dilapidated furniture, and an odor that seemed to steadily progress towards noxious the further I journeyed in to the darkness. With each step I took the more afraid I became. Yet, curiosity trumped all feelings of apprehension. I followed the trail created by the fetid aroma, which led me to a bevy of tall cylindrical containers. There were dozens of them. All neatly lined up at the far end of the room. Who put these here? How long where they here? I carefully peeled the lid off of one of the containers, and recoiled at the sight of a badly decomposed body bobbing around in a thick, dense liquid. I grabbed my cell phone and began to dial nine-one-one as I back peddled out of there, when it hit me: I once knew the corpse that occupied the container. In fact, I put her there.

  8. MoonWillow

    I pushed with out looking, and the broom came to rest in the nearby corner of the kitchen. As I pulled more of the paper off, I could see that the door was secured by means of several metal plates that were half-screwed into the rotting wooden beams, causing the door to lean slightly to one side, creating a draft that flowed through the wall to the other side.” what the f…” I said as I tapped a knuckle, producing a very low ping sound. A jumped back, startled by a loud crack, Then another. the action created a cloud of dust in the air, which was pulled behind it As the door began to fall forward.
    I quickly crossed the span of the room, until I was pressed against firmly against the opposite wall of the kitchen. I impulsively covered my ears and cowered at the thought of what was about to happen. As shocking as the whole thing was, I couldn’t help but think, as the large vault door fell, that Maggie’s uncle was one crazy son of a bitch.
    “FUCK!” i yelled. It landed flat and evenly on the wood floor. The crash was so loud that it wasn’t merely a sound. I could FEEL it resonating throughout my body. It left me unsteady on my feet, with a ringing in my ears.
    She burst into the room. “Baby what ..?” Then she stopped and stared in disbelief at the object that clearly had no place here; in the kitchen of her house. She looked at me, as if I had an explanation. I shook my head, part in response and part in shock. We stared, and said nothing.
    “What was it that he did for a living? your great grand father Jerry””Aside from being mental?” I said. I pointed at it. “well, I think he was a Jack of all trades kind of guy. You know, construction stuff. “Great, she sighed, this floor is ruined, the wall is ruined.” The complaints continued as she walked away into the hallway.
    I looked closer at the door, its front was against the floor, and from the back It appeared to be a safe or vault door. Then I saw it, pressed into the metal, “Bank of..someplace.” It was damaged and I couldn’t make it out.
    I sat at the table and imagined how crazy someone would have to be to….Then it occurred me. what if Uncle Jerry did some work on the construction of the bank, specifically the vault?What If he could have switched the door at some point with one that was rigged in some way? What if this is the real door? I continued to think. why else would he conciel a door like this? maybe he really was crazy, but how else would he get this thing?
    I kept an eye out for any other “home improvements” that may have been made while walking into the living room, where Maggie sat. . “Honey,sweetie, was gram pa J rich by any chance”?

  9. rebekkalynn9800

    Curiosity

    I wish everyday that I never went down there. But what choice did I have? Curiosity is a mysterious aspect of the human mind I feel like I still don’t understand. But still, looking back it was probably stupid. It’s obviously not everyday you discover a metal door behind the wallpaper in your new house. It was thick, probably a few inches at least. Just getting it to move was a struggle. Once opened, I was met with a somewhat familiar darkness and a staircase. I wondered if my dad knew about this when he bought the house. He always said “Curiosity killed the cat” which meant I must have died a thousand times over with how curious I was. I shrugged off that thought and contemplated my options. I could go into the dark scary basement or I could close the door and ask my dad about it later. Just as I was about to go with the latter, I heard it.
    The crying.
    It sounded like a child. I suppose that at that point, instinct kicked in. I don’t think I’ve ever gone down a darkened staircase so fast in my life. I made it to what seemed like a basement. I searched the wall for a light switch. Finally, my hand found a small switch on the left side of the entry.
    If going into that basement was a bad idea, then turning on that light was worse.
    Blood.
    Blood everywhere.
    On the walls…
    On the floor…
    On…
    A little boy lying a metal table.
    He was sobbing and was bleeding out of several stab wounds in his abdomen. I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat. I slowly walked over to him, my steps quiet. His head turned to me and his eyes widened. “W-who… Are y-you?” He tried to speak and he started coughing up blood. Again, instinct took over. I rushed to his side. Now that I was next to him, I could see his situation much more clearly. The stab wounds were deep, blood seeped from them like water from a bowl with many cracks and it looked like fresh blood, meaning that whatever had happened had occurred recently. The boy’s hands were tied to his side by thick ropes which attached to the metal table. He looked to only be about 10 or 11 years old. He was just a kid.
    He looked at me, tears still desperately clinging to the corners of his eyes as if they were his only connection to life. He tried to speak again, but I stopped him. “Shhhh… It’s gonna be okay. Just breathe.” I surprised by the calm my voice had. Internally, I was freaking out. Who wouldn’t? I just found a dying boy in a basement I didn’t know existed.
    “My name is Rebekah. Just try to stay awake, okay? You’re gonna be fine. You’re gonna be just fine.” I spoke clearly and calmly to him. I honestly didn’t know if my words were true, but I had to do something to keep this kid’s hopes up. He coughed up some more blood and smiled sweetly at me. “It’s okay… I k-know it’s over. Thank y-you…” He trailed off and sighed, He breathing becoming less pained and more peaceful. It was then I realized he was right. You don’t just recover from this. It broke my heart just knowing that a ten year old had to accept that he was going to die.
    I began to stroke his hair and his eyes flicked open. “You look like… An angel…” He whispered. “Hey, don’t try to speak. Just breathe and relax.” His body shuddered and he coughed again.
    I suddenly heard a sound on the stairs. More specifically, footsteps. Someone was coming down the stairs. I had connected enough dots to know who it was. I spun around, my eyes frantically trying to find a hiding place. None could be found.
    “Tyler…”
    I heard the boy speak so I turned to face him once more.
    “That’s my name… T-Tyler… Is my…” He was suddenly silent and his breathing ceased. I was sad and furious at the same time. I felt the tears fall, but somehow a smile played at my lips. I knew that Tyler didn’t know who I was. I mean, sure, I had told him my name. But he truly wouldn’t know someone he never got the chance to meet.
    He didn’t know that the girl he just met was murdered in the same room he was.
    I had remembered everything. What’s more, I remembered my murderer: MY FATHER.
    And he just so happened to be coming down those stairs.
    I suddenly realized why I was trapped here: The little boy. He was dying so horribly, so my spirit stayed behind to help him find peace in death. My father had almost reached the basement when I got an idea. I put some of the blood on my hands and left a note for my father.
    Finally, it was over. I could move on.

    ———————————————————————————————————————————————————

    “Well, I suppose he would be dead by now.” Rebekah’s father muttered to himself. He reached the basement and stopped at the foot of the stairs. His eyes rested for a moment on the boy who was no longer moving. “Heh, that didn’t take very long.” He began to clean up a bit when he looked at the wall.
    He froze in his tracks.
    “It- It can’t be! No! No, it’s not possible!” He shrieked and fell backwards. He ran up the stairs and out the iron door. He ran out the front door, covered in blood. A neighbor looking at this scene called the police, to whom Rebekah’s father confessed to killing a little boy and his own daughter. He told the police where the little boy was and where he buried his daughter. The police were astounded, to say the least. They walked into the house, from the living room, to the darkened stairs, and finally to the basement. One officer nudged the other, motioning towards the wall. There was writing in blood.
    “Curiosity killed the cat, Dad.”

    (Sorry for the sad ending, it was just what came to mind when I read the prompt. I hope you enjoyed it anyways.)

  10. Mr.Philip

    After chasing my canary all over the house, and finally getting it back into it’s cage, I collapsed onto the couch, exhausted. I surveyed what had once been my living room.
    The furniture was tipped over, my picture frames were crooked, and worst of all, feathers were everywhere.
    “Well, I guess I’d better make the best of it,” I said, and so I went into the kitchen to grab my broom and dustpan. I noticed that a few feathers had floated in there. After several unsuccessful attempts to keep the feathers in the dustpan, I decided to run to the closet and get my vacuum cleaner. But when I came back into the living room, to my surprise-I heard the droning of my vacuum cleaner in the kitchen.
    I casually stepped in, wondering what the matter was. Then I looked at the floor and noticed that all of the feathers in the kitchen had somehow floated to the wall under the kitchen cabinet.
    “That’s odd,” I thought, and I went through all of the possible explanations I could think of. My vacuum was off, my window was shut, the fan wasn’t on. But I still heard the steady humming of a vacuum cleaner. It was coming from exactly the same spot where the feathers were floating!
    I tapped the wall where I heard the sound. It gave off a metal clanging sound. I tapped the wall on the other side of the room. It sounded like wood.
    “This is very weird!” I exclaimed.
    I nervously peeled away part of the wallpaper. It revealed metal. I put my hand towards the floor. I could feel the air going through the wall. Then I peeled away the rest. Before me stood a beautiful little iron door almost as tall as I was.
    I gazed at it admiringly for a second, what with the intricate curves intertwining together. The whole door was one solid piece, and it must have been extremely heavy, for it was two inches thick. But I couldn’t help wondering what lay on the other side, so I opened it.
    I gazed in astonishment. In front of me was an exact mirror image of my house! Every single thing, from my bed to the vacuum cleaner I had just pulled out, was on the opposite side of the house. But I wasn’t there.
    As soon as I had opened the door, all of the feathers had floated through and out of the open window on the other side. That’s when I realized- my normal window was shut! In fact, all of my appliances that were currently off were on in this room, and all the ones I had on in the correct side of the house were off here. All of the windows were open, my fan was on, my stove was baking, and my radio was off.
    I had myself a good cup of tea before I endeavored to venture into the unknown. Finally I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to explore, so I opened the door again and went into the opposite side of my house.
    Unfortunately, the door clanged shut behind me. Only then did I realize that there was no knob on the other side of the door. I also realized that it shut so fast because air was flowing out my window. That’s why all the feathers went out.
    “Well, now I’m in a fix,” I said to myself, but then I remembered that I had a screwdriver over in my garage somewhere-
    BANG! I had opened the door and ran straight into my closet. I guess I needed to get used to the house being reversed.
    Once I clumsily made my way into the garage, and managed to find a screwdriver, I attempted to unscrew the doorknob. The screws appeared to be stripped or jammed somehow. I couldn’t unscrew the hinges because the door was shut. I tried pulling out the hinge axles, but they were stuck in.
    “Well, maybe I’ll just be reversed forever,” I said to myself, half jokingly. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how hard it would be. I would have to drive in the left lane of the road, relearn all of the directions to get anywhere, learn how to read backwards text, and so on. It would be so hard to get used to that I might as well not get used to it at all, so I pondered over how to get back through the door with redoubled effort.
    The door was metal, so I couldn’t axe through it. The hinges seemed to be the weakest part, so I needed something that cut metal. The only thing I had that might work was a hacksaw, so I got to work.
    The hinges were very thick, and it would take forever to cut through them that way. So after running into the closet again, I went to the garage to get my gas-powered chainsaw. When I tried to cut the hinge, sparks and metal shavings flew across the room. That wouldn’t work. I might burn my backwards house down.
    “Maybe I can hack the hinges off!” I said, much impatient by this time.
    I ran to get my axe, and turned off my stove on the way there.
    WHAM! My axe hit the first hinge. I succeeded in bending the metal a little bit. WHAM!
    The screws started to pull through the wall. WHAM! I broke the hinge off!
    I did the same thing for the second and third hinge. Finally I was ready to get back into my real house! But when the door fell down- the mirror image room disappeared.
    I quickly reached for the doorway, and grabbed it just before I fell into the darkness below. I managed to climb up and get back into my kitchen. I heaved a sigh of relief.
    But when I looked back toward the empty doorway, it was gone! Nothing was there save the wall under my kitchen cabinet.
    That’s when I realized that the axe was still in my hand. I walked over to my garage to put it back into it’s place, and there was my real axe still sitting there.
    So that’s the end of my story. I don’t know why all this strange stuff happens to me. It’s happened before. One time I shrunk to the size of an ant. Nobody ever believes me when I tell them my stories, and the only proof I have for this one is my two (almost) identical axes.

  11. loudwords94

    After a slow and meticulous process of gradually peeling the wallpaper I was finally able to reveal a wrought iron door. The door was towered over my five feet seven inch body. The door was so massive and heavy that the knob was a wheel, like the ones you see on pirate ships or the doors to a bank vault. The rusted metal made it seem like it was the oldest thing in the entire house.

    I immediately grabbed the knob and turned it with all of my strength. After a few seconds I was able to distinguish every vein that lined my arm. The salt of my tears stung my eyes, but I was able to push on and get the knob to turn. I let go to wipe the sweat from my forehead and recollect myself. I was a bit excited. I didn’t know what lay beyond this old door.

    I grabbed the knob again only this time I pulled. I was expecting a plain room with bags of cash or stacks of gold. Perhaps a room with a bunch of old-valuable antiques. No, it led to an ornate dining room. There was gold oval-shaped table that had nine chairs. An ornate golden chandelier shadowed over the table. I looked up at it and saw minute reflections of myself looking up over a million times. There was large chair towards the middle of the table. I walked to where the chair was and it had “ONE” etched on a small placard. I wondered to myself.

    Then there was another door. It was a wooden door that looked like it belonged at the Versailles palace. It was nice and polished and painted white, with ornate designs etched in gold. I was puzzled at first. If Guillermo Del Toro was God then I would’ve ran into some weird faun-man or some creepy anorexic man who feeds on children, but I didn’t. Nor did I encounter some sort of booby trap where my severed head was the final result. But my curiosity remained intact so I grabbed the golden knob of the door and slowly pulled the door open.

    I was greeted with a bright ultraviolet light. I shielded my eyes with my right hand and then walked slowly further. I emerged from the light and noticed that that the sky wasn’t blue, but purple. What happened was beyond logic. I wasn’t on the ground, but well above looking down at a million eyes that were looking up at me. There were colorful banners with my own self-portrait embroidered on them and a tall marble statue of myself, butt naked doing a David-type pose.

    “All hail the One!” Several voices among the crowd yelled out in unison. Then everyone except myself cheered. Never would I see myself being a president of a country or a pope of a religion, but I happened to be so in this world that existed behind the walls of my own home. My palms became moist.

    1. Observer Tim

      Some are born great, and others have greatness thrust upon them. This is a lovely and fascinating take, LoudWords. The big question, of course, is what he’s going to do about it: will he take advantage, will he be magnanimous, will he use it to further himself, or will he just grab some gold and run? The possibilities are endless. 🙂

  12. sudhiriyer

    Old bus tickets – lots of them – from my days of college travel when I would collect them for making a mosaic of sorts. Back then, the transport council issued tickets which when arranged over a large surface area revealed patterns, designs and objects. I collected them all but never got down to placing them together. Now, they all lay abandoned in a corner of my drawer after all these years. I clenched them all in one hand because I did not want to make another round to the trash can after an arduous two hour clean-up of my room. That had to be the last I said to myself and started walking hurriedly back to the door where the overflowing trash can stood.

    One flew out of the paper ball I had made out of the tickets. It landed on the floor and I saw it getting sucked towards the wall against which my cupboard stood. I looked around to see if the windows were closed – there were no windows, I corrected myself. The door to my room was ajar but there was no wind entering in or exiting from there either. Curiosity had me drop another ticket, and then a few more, subsequently – the base of the wall seemed to devour all the tickets!

    That had to be something worth examination I thought and then discarded the ball of tickets on the floor, and all of them jettisoned towards the base of the wall. I peered down at the base of the wall and saw the wall paper had started peeling. I kneeled down and started peeling it further up, cautiously. Inch by inch, I covered an area that was about an arm’s length wide and upto four feet in height. The exposed wall now showed a slight difference in its make from the rest of wall surface in the room. It hinted at hollowness and an uninspired work in plastering.

    I knocked. The plaster gave up at the spot where my knuckles met the wall. It was just a thin sheet of plaster I understood. With a fist, I tore out the thin layer of plaster covering the exposed area.
    An old, rusted iron door stood before me!

    I pinched myself to rule out any chances of dreaming. I wasn’t. It was all there in real: the base of the wall seeming to suckle a litter of paper tickets, the dust from the extracted plaster scattered around my feet, the bizarre door leading to an unknown place behind my wall…

    I pushed open the door. It made a screeching sound. There was a hidden room behind. The silk strands of a large cobweb hinged on the inside of the door stretched almost to the point of breaking as I opened the door.

    The light from my room where I stood shone the insides of the hidden room. I saw a silhouette of someone sitting inside. I gathered courage and walked gingerly towards it. I felt goosebumps levitating me.

    That someone seemed to move to-and fro; it was sitting on a – rocking chair?; it was old rocking chair we had 10 years ago, which we had discarded. I noticed that that someone was also facing me as I walked closer all the while ensuring that door is still open for a breakout. A little closer and a shocking, hair-raising sight presented. That someone was me!

    Me? I almost threw myself back but I couldn’t see a door anymore to my back.

    It – I mean, I, the other me – woke up from the chair and moved closer to an empty canvass that stood for some fresh work to begin. He started sticking small paper tickets in a predetermined order. I stood there watching him for a while in the hope of not being harmed or disturbing whoever he was. I could the see the image of a flower-vase shaping up from the aggregation of paper tickets. It was something I had always wanted to do, few years ago.

    I looked around – a plethora of exhibits was laid out. Each one was something I had taken up in my childhood but never came close to finishing it either due to lack of resources or waning interest. But now it all existed in a finished form, so to say!

    A telescreen showed me swimming effortlessly in free-style. But I remember I had reneged from the Learn-To-Swim course in Class 5 after I almost drowned in the pool and lived with a burning desire to have learned to swim and with the fear of drowning, even more.

    A violin was hung up on the wall and its bow rested on the table below it. The remnants of rosin powder on the hair of the bow indicated that the violin was just played. Rested against the wall were notes of “The Godfather’s” soundtrack. I had joined Violin tuition five years ago and had discontinued due to the time demands of work. To this date, I still fall in love with the tunes this instrument can produce and always wish that I could play one.

    A cricket kit was spread out on the floor – it showed a pair of sweaty pads, a bat that showed marks of impact from red leather all over on it, a pair of cricket shoes with spikes still on, and whites that almost looked green. It must belong to someone who has hit many a strokes with the bat and has covered every ground possible while fielding. I then recollected how I had reneged from the club cricket I was a part of because I thought I lacked stamina and was an underdog in the team!

    A type-written manuscript with editor’s notes on it was kept on the table. It looked like a novel-to-be! I always wanted to write to be read but never went beyond writing a few short stories for some websites and only managed to deserve a small number of readers.

    There were lots of other things – each one trying to showcase that which I stopped short of achieving.
    It was surreal and I seemed to like the musings in this bizarre, hidden room.

    I closed my eyes and made a wish to make this side of the room, my world! I prayed. I opened my eyes but I found myself on the other side, the paper tickets were in my hand – obeying the force of my fingers. I dropped one on the floor. It flew. Not to the base of the wall but it sailed towards the glue box on my table. I resolved to make a mosaic of them.

    1. Observer Tim

      I love the metaphysical bent to this, Sudhiriyer. Opening the door and finding the closet of things abandoned is a nice touch. I’m glad he was able to learn enough from the experience to start refining his life.

      Technically, there are a few idioms that need cleaning up, but that’s probably a cultural thing on my part. It’s important to remember that even the same language can be used differently in other places.

      1. sudhiriyer

        Thanks Observer Tim. I will be most obliged if you can point out what needs clean up; I am most happy to learn from others.If this isn’t the right forum for that then may I ask that you email me on iyersudh@gmail.com ? I appreciate that you realise cultural variations in usage of English, but if something I write is not a standard then I’d be glad to know that and this website can really help to achieve e that end.

        1. Observer Tim

          Gladly. Regional variae are often a sign of fluency in another language. You’ll find these are all quite minor.

          “…collecting them for making…” – the general guideline is to use “to make” for a verb or “for lunch” for an adverb, noun, or adjective. However, there are lots of exceptions.

          “That had to be the last, I said …” – note the comma between the thought and the tag; this is mainly a clarity thing.

          “…in its make…” – the word “makeup” is more appropriate here, referring to way the wall was made (not cosmetics, another meaning of the word makeup).

          “of dreaming” is more commonly phrased as; “that I was dreaming”.

          Either “shone on the insides” or “shone inside” – this may be a typo.

          The canvas “stood ready for…”; this construction needs the extra word.

          Those are the bits I spotted in my read. They’re not errors, but they are places where command of the language (as spoken in the West) can be improved.

        2. Observer Tim

          On the other side of the coin, I will tell you I particularly loved this turn of phrase:

          “the wall seeming to suckle a litter of paper tickets”

          The simile creates a clear and vibrant image that is perfect (at least in my eyes).

          1. sudhiriyer

            Observer Tim, thank you very much for taking time to read my work again and suggesting the corrections.This is invaluable.Much appreciated. Will go through each one again and look forward to avoiding the errors!

    2. regisundertow

      There’s a certain sweetness to this piece, from the concept of the ticket stubs to the Dickensian ghost of a future that may never be. It definitely stands out for its unique sensibility. Tim is right, the language needs tightening, but this will come with exposure and experience. As someone for whom English is not the first language, copywork improved my prose overnight.

  13. Witt.Stanton

    “My house is conspiring against me,” Warren shouted down to the mailman. He lay back onto the tiled roof with a sigh and closed his eyes. The roof was warm, pleasantly so. Maybe he was onto something.

    The mailman, a man nearing his late seventies, seemed skeptical. “I don’t know,” he said. “Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, now.”

    “Well, how often does your cupboard decide to open up a portal to the netherworld? I kid you not: it’s a fucking uprising.”

    “An uprising, you say?” The mailman looked taken aback. He ventured closer to the house and peered up at Carter, whose legs dangled off the edge. “I’ve never heard of that one before.”

    “Well, there’s a first for everything.”

    “So it seems, indeed,” the old man agreed, shielding his eyes from the sun.”You planning on coming down any time soon?”

    With a groan, Warren stood himself up and dusted the dirt off back. “Sure. You got a name, old man?”

    “Friends call me Sam.” The mailman grinned. “Why?”

    “Well, Sam,” he shouted, “If you can prove to me that my house hasn’t yet sold it’s voluminous soul to the devil, I’ll get down.”

    The mailman considered the request. “Would me opening your door and poking my head in do well enough to convince you?”

    Warren noncommittally gestured down towards the front door. “If this goes wrong, it’s not my fault.”

    The mailman squinted up at him. He looked vaguely insulted. “Now, see here, sonny. While I don’t plan on facing the devil incarnate tonight, I’m not unprepared.” He hobbled back over to his truck and pulled out a shot gun.

    Warren laughed. “By all means, don’t let me stop you, old man. Teach my house a lesson.”

    Using the gun as a cane, the mailman headed back up the driveway. Warren heard him pound on the door, and shout, “This here is a warning. You have five seconds before I break this door in and bust your sorry socks off. Five. . .”

    From his position above the door, Warren got the distinct impression that the old mailman was enjoying himself. He took a step back from the edge of the roof, not trusting his house to take the threat lightly.

    “One!” the mailman shouted gleefully, as if he were playing a game of hide-and-seek. Warren heard his door slam open, and all hell broke loose.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is delightfully strange, Witt. I’m not sure if it’s really a portal to Hell; maybe the house is just alive – and a tad carnivorous. Did anyone check for a uvula? This could be treated in any number of ways, but I’d argue for comedy.

      Great story. 🙂

      1. regisundertow

        I’m inclined to think Warren is the one feeding the house, Little Shop of Horrors-style. Sam wouldn’t have set foot inside it, had it not been for Warren’s yapping.
        Witt, I love the element of black humor you’ve injected the story with.

  14. regisundertow

    As with the rest of my muscles, my creativity suffered over the holidays.
    Still, I hope you enjoy this. Part II is directly below it. Happy New Year everyone!

    *******************************
    THE HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN – PART I

    Harry wrapped himself tighter in his camel hair coat, trying to protect himself from the wind that howled and bit and clawed at him. The empty lot created a corridor, he had explained to Margaret as they stepped out of the car. The air moving between the grey apartment buildings around the lot found an empty space and rushed in to fill it out. The girl had puzzled over that explanation, but found the concept of nature hating empty spaces intrinsically gratifying. She imagined cartoon winds reacting with horror upon discovering an unoccupied area and scrambling to restore order. She giggled at the pictures in her head.

    Stay close, warned Harry in a distracted manner. He looked around him and saw raw earth, irreverent weeds growing in tufts on top of dirt mounds, bits of plastic bags caught on shrubbery, the rusty skeleton of a bicycle without wheels. A cheap jacket whose threads had melted and fused with the ground lay at his feet, it’s original color bleached away. Harry shouted a warning at Margaret, her exploratory mood having taken over, to be careful of broken glass. At least there’s no syringes, he thought.

    How had this place changed. Gone were the cypresses lining the lot’s boundaries in tight ranks, their untouched branches interlocking to form a barrier as good as any wall. Gone was the wrought iron gate with its tarnished filigree of oak leaves and vines. Gone was the house that had formed his sanctum. Only thorn bushes and memories remained.

    It was Dolores who had discovered it all those years ago. The old mansion wasn’t really a secret, but none of the neighborhood kids -back when a neighborhood still existed- knew it was abandoned. It was the popular understanding that a very rich, very reclusive person lived in the 3-floor stick style colonial and no one had any reason to question it. Despite its size and prominence, no one paid it any mind.

    During that period of time between high school and college when people feel immortal and invincible, she had dragged Harry to its wrought iron gate and dared him to climb over it with her.

    They had found the front door unlocked. It gave way with a protest and a groan on hinges that hadn’t been used in years, but it eventually opened. Harry still remembers being attacked by the smell of that house, history mixed with summer grit. Years later, he’d swear the walls seemed to sigh.

    Dolores took Harry by the hand and they explored each room. The furniture was moth-eaten and the walls were mouldy, but that didn’t matter. There was no electricity, but at least the plumbing worked, if barely. Dolores had overheard the adults discuss there being nothing of value left in it. Uncle Ceasar -not really an uncle, but he insisted on being called that- always knew which houses had something of value in them, it seemed. Still, they treated each door knob and every creaking chair as a treasure. Dolores opened the closets in the master bedroom, inhaling the deep wood smell of lavender and varnish, getting drunk on musky scents, leather and pepper. In what must have been the study, Harry ran his fingers across the empty bookshelves, tasting by touch the ghosts of leather-bound tomes etched into the grain and the dust. Outside the window, thorn bushes that seemed to thrive on the oppressive heat threatened to choke the light out, their shadows decorating the study walls with scenes of battles and symposia. Even back in those ancient times, the house felt like it belonged to mythology.

    They met in the kitchen, looked at each other, him with his lopsided grin, her with her sparkly eyes, and they hugged laughing.

    Soon, they spent every waking moment in the house. His parents worked long hours and he’d often go for days without interacting with them, they were used in each other’s absence. As for her…One day, as he was reading a book on one of the naphthalene-smelling couches, she marched in through the front door with tears in her eyes and a khaki deployment bag over her shoulder. She didn’t acknowledge him, only dragged the bag to the second floor to the master bedroom -their bedroom. Her face was harsh and she pursed her lips like she always did when she was fighting imaginary arguments. He knew her well enough not to ask questions.

    The house was too big for the two of them. Once the novelty of playing a couple had worn off and they realized most rooms were not suited to have sex in anyway, other people were invited in. First was Dolores’ little sister, Marilag -who insisted everyone called her Marie-, then Harry’s buddies would hang out with them. They’d bring beer, their guitars, and more of their friends. Candles became the price of entry, the only source of light available, lighting the sweaty grimy July nights. The house became a sanctuary for their own crowd, a bubble suspended between teenagehood and adult life. They were vaguely aware none of that would last forever and they channelled that realization into playing music and drinking, with the sounds of cicadas filling the scorching stale air.

    It was there they got their first tattoos by one of those friends of friends, an apprentice at the studio in the local mall who came to visit with a tattoo gun and a battery pack. Harry got a wolf-head profile in silhouette under his right collarbone. The fur on the back of its head was shaped like the eyes and nose and mouth of a man so that you couldn’t be sure if the man wore a wolf-head or the wolf wore a man-head. Dolores got a galaxy of crumpled paper stars over her shoulder blade. They paid the artist with a bottle of Jack Daniels Dolores had stolen from Uncle Ceasar. While Dolores was getting tattooed, someone picked the House of the Rising Sun on a six-string. The name stuck and the house was christened.

    It was Marie that first noticed the door during one of their night gatherings. She was sitting on the floor, leaning against a wall and absent-mindedly picking at the wallpaper while listening to the guitar music, when her fingers went from touching plaster to touching iron. She removed more and more to reveal the frame of an iron door and soon everyone’s attention was on it. After much tearing and pulling and jimmying the lock with a knife, the door was opened. In the following years, Harry would replay the scene in his head to make sure its absurdity didn’t fade from his mind. As the door opened, smells of sweat and paraffin singed his nose. Inside, there was a bedroom, a lit candle on a nightstand, tussled bedsheets on a single bed. They went inside. Dolores ran a finger along the nightstand, which came up dust-free. Harry spotted long strands of auburn hair on the pillow. The oddest thing about the room, though, was pointed out by Marie.

    They all stood outside the house, observing the external wall. There’s no way that room fits in there, Marie said. She had walked 10 paces from the iron door to the far wall. From a window, they could see where the room started. 3 paces should had brought them outside the external wall. 10 paces would had taken them into the thorn bushes. They brought out a tape measure they had found in a tool box in the basement and verified what Marie suggested.

    That night, Harry propped a dresser against the door.

    1. regisundertow

      THE HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN – PART II

      Marie moved in permanently. She appeared one day with a deployment bag matching her sister’s and a black eye. No one questioned her, but over a cocktail sausage dinner she announced she had moved in to explore the house more thoroughly. Who knows how many more doors there are in here, she mumbled almost to herself. Who knows where they lead. Dolores only nodded and said, I never liked the wallpaper in this dump anyway.

      Marie and Dolores combed the house walls inch by inch, peeling wallpaper off for days. The house filled with dust particles and flakes of plaster caught in the harsh sun rays. Harry had moved outside to a lawn chair, preferring to brave the thorn bushes than the maniacal energy of the two sisters. College acceptance letters were coming in often now, and he hid them from Dolores, wondering where September would find him.

      The girls found several more doors in every corner of the house. The ground floor had two more. There were three on the second floor, with one right in their bedroom -they moved out of there immediately. There was a single door in the second floor and one in the attic. Five doors existed in the basement, after which they decided to seal it.

      None of the secret rooms made sense to them. They all had dimensions that didn’t conform to how the Rising Sun looked on the outside. Like the original room they discovered, some would have walls that went on far beyond what the structure of the house allowed. Others had windows overlooking the thorn bushes outside, windows they couldn’t locate from the yard or the road. Marie would open one and pop her head out, shouting at Harry and Dolores as they walked below her, but they seemed unable to see or hear her. What shook Dolores almost to the point of making her leave the Rising Sun -almost- was the feeling that someone had been in those rooms before them and they had just missed them. Lit cigarettes lying in ashtrays, their velvety smoke rising to the ceiling. Plates of hot food, untouched by insects. Once they found a potted plant with water dripping from its leaves and pooling around its base. Other rooms had a thick layer of dust covering them. Others still looked like they were still under construction, all naked wooden beams and unplastered walls and sawdust in corners. Yet, none of those unnerved them as much as the feeling of being a moment too late at catching…at catching whom?

      As the sun spent less time on the sky, so did Harry stayed less at the Rising Sun. His paperwork was done and he had begun looking for dorms in campus. His mind was already away from the town. He had grown distant towards Dolores, half in anticipation of leaving her behind, half in reluctance to get involved with the paradox of the rooms. He remembered sitting on the chair in the yard, thinking about his courses, drowning in humidity, when Dolores came wailing out of the house. Marie is gone! She gasped. She went into one of those goddamned rooms! Harry, I can’t find her!

      They searched for hours. They called their friends and went over the entire house. They even unsealed the basement. No trace. A couple of sledgehammers were brought in and they started demolishing the walls, taking the Rising Sun apart from the inside throughout the night. Dawn found them exhausted and heart-broken. After the police wasted hours questioning and threatening them for squatting, they conducted their own search. When that failed, given the house had been declared abandoned decades ago, workers were brought in. The house was stripped of its walls, its beams torn, and its rooms exposed.

      Marie was never found.

      In the weeks following the demolition, those whose summer revolved around the Rising Sun dispersed into the four winds. Dolores returned to her house, from which she was kicked out again a week later. Harry received threatening mail, which escalated into phone calls in the middle of the night. No word ever came from the other side, only heavy breathing followed by a dial tone. Leaving for college came as a relief to both him and his parents, who had to call the police several times after seeing shadows peering into their house from the backyard. A few months after starting his first semester, he received a message from his parents about Uncle Ceasar’s DUI arrest, his third strike. The threats stopped immediately.

      Harry and Dolores never lost contact, but something in them had broken and changed. They wrote to each other infrequently, Marie always on the periphery of their words, written in invisible ink next to their trite stock inquiries of health and well-being. They saw each other in person twice after he left town. The first was at a common friend’s restaurant opening, one who had often joined them in their evening parties. By that point, he was newly divorced and devastated, while she had become bitter at having become a walking cliché, never having left the town and being married to a man who used her money to knock himself unconscious at every opportunity. The second and last time they met, she was dying from a beast gnawing at her brain. The beast couldn’t be killed by radiation or drugs and she had asked him for one last favor; adopting her girl, a fierce little thing with her sparkly eyes and his lopsided grin.

      ***

      Harry was deep in thought, his fingers touching the spot below his right collarbone where his wolf-head man-head tattoo was. There had been a hole shaped like Dolores inside of him for years that had never stopped throbbing. Now that he was back, he felt consumed by it.

      The way he had heard it from those friends he still kept in contact with, the lot had become taboo for the locals. A couple of brave kids would edge each other to cross its boundaries every so often and go looking for bragging rights. They were invariably left feeling bored and cheated. The lot itself had switched hands a couple of times, from the municipality to a couple of construction companies, but the area had been devalued in recent years and there was no profit in it. Then, Katrina had come.

      He nudged the destroyed jacket with his foot, at first oblivious at Margaret’s yell. It was the reflection that halted the descent into his own mind, the reflection of dull sunlight off an iron door on the ground. Margaret was standing over it, calling out to him. Dad, someone’s knocking on that door.

      Harry felt violently pulled by invisible chains in a hundred different directions. Icy tendrils stabbed his gut and gripped his heart. Get away from there! He yelled, willing his feet to move. Don’t touch that door! Don’t touch it!

      ***

      I’ve been writing this narrative almost every single night since Harry, my adopted father, disappeared in that lot years ago. I lie in my bed recreating his memories, echoing his thoughts, adding pieces to a puzzle I don’t know how is supposed to even look like. Most important of all, I need to recreate what happened to ensure I haven’t lost my mind or my imagination is bleeding into my memories. I need to hold onto the truth, or it will slip away.

      Tomorrow, I’m going back to that lot and I’m going to find that door. I’m going to get Harry back.

      1. Observer Tim

        This is dark and spooky and atmospheric; Lovecraftian horror at its finest with the not-quite answered riddles and the horrifying quiet of the abandoned house. I don’t think your writing has suffered at all for the absence.

        Happy New Year, Regis, and thank you for giving me a peak to work towards. 🙂

          1. Observer Tim

            I’m published because I’m lucky and I chose an “easy” publishing house. Horrified Press and its imprints cater to new authors. Check them out. They mostly do horror, but I keep my eyes open for their Rogue Planet Press imprint, which is more up my alley. They also don’t object to cleaned up and expanded versions of stories like this one. 🙂

            The high praise is because you deserve it. I’m here to learn too; this story teaches a good lesson in how to develop suspense and atmosphere with an economy of words.

      2. ReathaThomasOakley

        regis, I always enjoy your use of details, and this is such a great example. I could see, and smell, the house and Delores became a fully realized person. The story was so very thought provoking and layered. I’m still wondering about the others trapped (or safe) through the walls.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          regis, I wish the story had been longer, being wrapped in your descriptive prose. Abandoned homes take upon themselves to have the identical charms or perhaps dangers you describe. It’s a rich story alright and entirely enjoyable to read. Part 3?

        2. regisundertow

          Thank you, Reatha. I have some ideas about what happened to the people trapped in the rooms based on a leftfield theory on ghosts I once read. Let’s see if I get enough time to explore it.

      3. suavevictor

        Your narrative power is compelling. And the attention to detail is super, I can almost smell the must and dust in the house. Well done Regis. Happy new year.

      4. jhowe

        Well, this was certainly a welcome investment in reading pleasure. You pulled me along right from the start and kept me glued to my screen. Like Tim, I have some experience with Horrified Press and this is exactly what the editors are looking for in many of the anthologies that they publish. You really created a winner here and with a little polishing, you could easily get one like this published. Of course, it can’t be this particular story because they consider these shared stories to be previously published. You can though, change things and re-name the characters and use the concept; at least I think that’s kosher. Good job with this one.

        1. regisundertow

          Why not? Why not, indeed?
          Thank you for your comments, suggestions, and for the vote of confidence. I’ll definitely work on this story further, get it into publishable shape.

      5. JosephFazzone

        Fantastic! It’s so wonderful how you bring the details in one by one to paint each character. It’s always a pleasure reading your work. So much suspense is here, and so much left untouched. I could totally see this story growing and growing and growing. Awesome read!

  15. Observer Tim

    THE KITCHEN MONSTER

    Syd dug the broom into the matted clot of dust and scraped. Why was this one part of the kitchen cleaned so poorly all the time? Probably just so Mother could punish a daughter who’d accidentally smashed up the nursery during spear practice.

    Jenny got to go to college; Jenny got a human boyfriend; why did Jenny get to play Princess while big sister Syd had to be a Guardian? For so-called fair folk it was totally unfair!

    A piece of straw rolled toward the place she’d just scooped out and was sucked through a gap under the wall. What was this? She cast a quick spell of revealing.

    The wallpaper split neatly up the center and rolled to either side. Behind it was an iron gate, as tall as she could reach and wider than her wingspan. Through the latticework she could see a tunnel stretching away, with some kind of shadow moving inside it.

    Syd pointed the broom handle-first toward the door. I wish this were sharpened, she thought, but she was way behind in wood-shaping spells. And mother would kill her if she snapped the end off.

    She took out her LED flashlight, a Christmas gift from Jenny’s human boyfriend, and shone it on the creature. It was still a shadow; that must be its natural form.

    A tentacle reached through the lattice and grabbed her arm. She screamed, but nobody heard her. Not even the kitchen-gnomes would be anywhere near someone who’d incurred Mother’s ire.

    A second tentacle grabbed her leg; its strength was incredible. She was bodily lifted and pulled toward the gate. Only by putting her feet against the metal did she prevent being dragged into it. Even so her leaf slippers started smoldering where they touched the cold-wrought iron.

    She stabbed the broom-handle through the gate like a lance, piercing the shadow’s body several times, but she might as well have been stabbing a pool of ink. A third tentacle reached through and grabbed her other leg. This was so not working.

    This was a creature of darkness; creatures of darkness were defeated by light. The flashlight was useless; whatever made it glow wasn’t natural. The nearest sunbeam was coming down the vertical shaft on the far side of the room, and there were no mirrors anywhere around. How else do I produce light?

    The thing shot a tentacle up one leg of her breeches. Why did every monster lust after fairy girls; what twisted fires of passion drove these things?

    Fire! That’s it! She stuffed the straw end of the broom into the coals under the oven; they instantly burst into flame. She heaved the broom around and rammed its firebrand end into the metal grating.

    The creature lit up like it was made of tar, which it very possibly was. It backed away quickly, leaving trails of burning oil on her skin. As she snuffed the flames she wondered, Why is this gate here? I have to know.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Tim, your brain must be…..oh, my, words fail. I’ll try again. Tim, your imagination must be…I’ll get back to you, but I am smiling.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Perhaps the shadow is reality trying to capture a fairy. One side of the gate ir real, the fairy side imaginary. Maybe you’ve been skimming the holiday booze but I doubt it. I don’t think there is any end to your imaginaion of your mind. Do you have trouble operating in the real world, with all these thought trying to get on paper to awe us?

        1. Observer Tim

          I already know Inky’s motivation; that part came early. 🙂

          I don’t know about thoughts trying to get onto paper, but my world does have pretty ragged edges and always has. In my pre-teen years I used to sneak down the streets from cover to cover trying to avoid imaginary snipers on the rooftops.

    2. regisundertow

      Tim, I got a soft spot for utility magic universes, stories where magic is a tool and an immaterial creature of the dark lives behind the kitchen walls as opposed to mice. I like how you propelled us through the story without wasting time to build the world’s background; you trust the reader and it shows.

      1. Observer Tim

        I agree, Regis. The first question that would spring to mind once I got over the “gosh wow” phase about magic would be “What can I do with it?” Never underestimate the human drive to make something convenient.

        Jenny and her human boyfriend have had their turn in the spotlight, as has their friend Steve (see 2013, starting with “The Formula”). Time for some of Jenny’s 85 sisters (and one brother) to get some.

  16. Carora

    Gabriela gingerly swept the greyish layers of who-knows-what from the edges of the hardwood in the foyer into her dustpan. Who knows how long it had been since this had been done. From what she had been told, Mrs. Holiday had lived in this house alone for nearly forty years after her husband had died, and the woman had grown decrepit and senile long before joining him in the plot behind the church. A distant relative then inherited the house, and through some proxy had hired Gabriela to clean the place out before it could be sold.
    Gabby was not normally a professional cleaner, but her student debts weren’t diminishing as quickly as she or her miserably overdrawn chequing account would have liked, and the money they offered her had seemed absurdly high. That was before she saw the dump. The stately late-Victorian mansion was piled with dusty antique furniture in various states of disrepair. Outdated newspapers and fading handwritten manuscripts covered every available surface, and long-since dried ink spills glued them to the tops of desks, the seats of chairs, and the floor.

    The entrance way was the least daunting room, so Gabby had started there, sloughing years of caked dirt off the oak floors. As she bent to tackle a particularly grisly corner behind the foot of the spiraling staircase, a a few loose curls of hair blew across her face. Looking around for the source of the draft, Gabby noticed a wooden door hidden beneath the stairs. Coughing in the cloud of dust that arose when she wrenched it open, Gabby peered inside. A shallow cupboard, empty, except for a large skeleton key. Kneeling to feel gingerly around the bottom, she ascertained that the air was certainly not moving through there. But as she braced herself to rise with one hand against the wall further back, a breeze tickled past her fingers. A flap of loose wallpaper fluttered. Gabby, without thinking, took hold of the corner and peeled it back. The entire panel of wallpaper came off in one piece. Behind it was a gothic style iron door, the origin of the mysterious air current. Gabby tried the handle. Locked. She plucked the key out of the cupboard and slid it into the keyhole. The lock groaned but she was able to turn the key. The hinges whined but the door swung open, and Gabby found herself staring into what appeared to be a dark stone tunnel. Perplexing, because from the shape of the house this ought to be an outside wall. With more curiosity than prudence, Gabby took a few steps into the tunnel.

    The door swung shut behind her, leaving her in total darkness. Disoriented, Gabby took a few steps and bumped into a wall. She figured if she followed the wall for a while she ought to find the door again. She stepped forwards cautiously, but soon deduced that she was going the wrong way. Turning around, she began to retrace her steps, panic slowly setting in as she realized that she ought to have reached the door by now. She was just wishing desperately to be out in the sunshine in front of the house, when her eyes detected a faint light up ahead. It was the outline of the door. Sighing with relief, she yanked it open and found herself blinking in the sunshine. The tunnel came out near the front steps of the house.
    As Gabby’s heart stopped pounding, she gazed appraisingly at the house. She could have sworn that there hadn’t been a door there before. The imposing iron was somewhat out of step with the genteel Victorian mansion, and she thought it odd that she had never noticed it before. Gabby shook her head. What a silly thought. She went back inside and resumed her chores.

    1. Observer Tim

      Very nice tale of panic, Carora. I like the way you portrayed the sensations so vividly. Of course, now I’m wondering where the tunnel really went, and where Gabby is now. That could easily be a story in itself. Very well done.

      My only issue is that Gabby seems to me to be a bit over-tagged in the middle paragraph. If you decide it needs fixing, replacing a couple more instances of her name with “she” or “her” would make it a bit easier for me.

    2. regisundertow

      I really enjoyed the descriptions and I was with Gabby all the way. I do think though that the story isn’t complete. Something’s not right at the end, Gabby can’t possibly be right back where she started character-wise and she seems way too blase about the whole ordeal. I hope there’s a sequel to this story.

  17. cosi van tutte

    This is a continuation from the Choose Your Own Story prompt. I think it will eventually connect to the current prompt. Somehow. 🙂

    Lord Eina pressed the red button on the dashboard. “Emergency Interstellar Helper activate.”

    A woman’s flat voice droned, “Hello. What is your interstellar emergency?”

    “I need you to take me to Earth’s Restoration Center.”

    “Oh, Lord Eina. What a pleasant surprise to hear your charming voice. Gee. Where are my pom-poms?”

    “The Earth’s Restoration Center. Please.”

    “I wouldn’t go there if I were you, but you said please so nicely. Soo, yeah. Whatever. Take your hands off the wheel and let me drive.”

    Zahn looked out the window and watched the passing scenery. “My lord, may I speak?”

    “Always.”

    “I am still troubled by your decision not to kill Lord Deama when you had the chance. When you meet up with him again, will you make the same decision?”

    He didn’t reply.

    She looked at him. “Lord Eina. Will you make the same decision?”

    “I am a lord.” His voice was calm and soft. “I will make the decision I believe is right. If you do not agree with that decision…”

    “My lord! Believe me. Trust me. I’m not disagreeing with you. I don’t want to disagree.”

    “But you are.”

    She thought about just leaving it at that. But she couldn’t. “I remember the crimes he committed. I remember how you let him off easy last time.”

    He shot a sharp look at her. “You think that I was wrong.” His expression softened into disappointment. “You think that I am wrong.”

    “I remember that Lord Deama tried to kill you. Tell me, my lord. What is right? What is wrong?”

    “That is for me to decide.” He turned his face away from her. “Not you.”

    The silence that fell in between them was sullen and grave.

    ***

    The wind howled a dirge as Jack walked through a neighborhood that had degenerated into ruins. Their yards were no longer civilized. They had grown wild and tangled with weeds and brambles. Their trees no longer possessed petite, demure shapes. They had become shade trees, wild trees, forest trees. Their offspring staked their claims on the sidewalks and on the streets, rupturing the pavements and hiding them well.

    Jack clenched and unclenched his hands and tried to will his heartbeat into a calmer rhythm. This world of overcome ruins reminded him of something, of somewhere.

    “Home.” he whispered. “But not my home. But my home.” He curled his hands into his hair. “What’s wrong with me? Why is this happening to me? What am I thinking? What am I trying to remember? Why can’t I remember? What is it? What?” He tripped over a tree root and landed on his elbows and knees. “Auugh!” He bashed his fists on the ground. “I am Jack Jilhouse. I belong here. Here…” A wave of dizziness came over him.

    Jack splayed his hands on the roots and the leaves and the dirt and the broken street. He bowed his head. “Asree. Deama. That madman on the highway. Separate pieces. How do they connect? And what about Callie?”

    He raised his head. “Callie! My engagement ring!” He stumbled up to his feet and almost fell again. “I left on the front seat. Did I cover it up? Or is it in plain sight?” He closed his eyes and tried to visualize it.

    An abandoned office building.

    A green door.

    An orange door.

    A choice to be made.

    “Lord Deama.”

    “Lord Deama.”

    “Lord Deama.”

    “Come here.”

    “We can help you.”

    “We can lead you home.”

    His chest hurt. “Home.”

    “My lord.”

    Asree.

    “I am here. Come to me. I’ll lead you home.”

    “I’m not Deama. I’m not. I’m not.” The words burned his throat.

    For a split second, he saw her eyes. Large. Glossy. Cat-like.

    He opened his eyes and ran forward. He wasn’t even sure where he was running to.

    But it didn’t matter.

    ***to be continued***

    1. cosi van tutte

      continuation….

      Lord Eina clutched the steering wheel as the Bonneville soared over the forest.

      The Emergency Interstellar Helper’s voice rose half a note from its bored monotone, “Do I have to remind you, Lord Eina, that I am driving? Get your hands off the steering wheel or I will zap you.”

      “Shut up.” He clutched the wheel even tighter. “I hate flying.”

      “Whatever.”

      “But I am not afraid. I am a lord. Lords fear nothing.”

      “Double whatever.”

      Zahn glanced at him. “My lord?”

      “I’m fine.”

      She laid her hand on his arm. “We’ll be landing soon.”

      “I’m fine.”

      Her long fingers curled into the folds of his sleeve. “Lord Eina.”

      “I’m fine. Not afraid.”

      “Lord Eina. Please look at me.”

      He looked at her.

      “When we land…If he’s there…”

      A frown creased his forehead. “Zahn, please. Let it—”

      “If he has a weapon…If he is Lord Deama…Don’t be stupid and miss.”

      He took her hand and held it.

      “Promise me you won’t miss.”

      His gray color blanched to beige. “If he is Lord Deama, I won’t miss.”

      ***

      Jack stopped and his world tilted off balance.

      He stood in an empty parking lot.

      No.

      Not empty.

      Deserted.

      A lonely office building with darkened windows lurked before him.

      The whole building was perfectly intact.

      “No. No. No! This isn’t real. This isn’t…This isn’t…” His heart raced too hard. He wanted to run. Run as fast as his heart was beating.

      Jack backed up, but he was all off kilter. He stepped to the right instead of straight back. “What do I do? What should I do? If I go in there…” He frowned. “No. I’m not going in there. It isn’t safe.”

      Something ticked wrong in his head. His frown deepened. “But I am not a coward.”

      He held his head high and walked with slow determination to the building.

      ***

      “Oh. Look.” said the Emergency Interstellar Helper. “There it is. Earth’s very own Restoration Center. I am just so thrilled. Yay.”

      The Bonneville dropped into a descent like a rock dropping into the ocean.

      Lord Eina clutched the steering wheel so hard his knuckles turned a darker shade of gray. “I’m fine. I am not afraid. I’m fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. Not afraid.”

      Zahn looked out her window and double blinked. “He’s here. He’s here! Lord Eina! Deama is here!”

      He released his hold on the steering wheel. “Give me my mask.”

      ***to be continued****

      1. Observer Tim

        Aaaaugh! You keep doing this! Cliffhangers are so frustrating, especially when the story is so engaging. Will she continue this week or next? Soon, please!

        P.S. Great job on the dialogues (in Jack’s case monologue) driving the story.

        1. cosi van tutte

          And here’s the continuation….

          The screech of a car braking too fast and too hard came from right above Jack’s head.

          He stopped and looked straight up.

          A car plummeted out of the sky, heavy and fast.

          His mouth dropped open. I’m going to get squashed.

          He ran the rest of the way to the building. The car landed with a heavy clunk. Wood smoke fumed up the air. But Jack did not look back. He pulled the front door open and bolted inside.

          The door drifted close in a leisurely fashion.

          He shoved the door shut and searched for a way to lock it.

          The door did not have any locks.

          No bolts.

          No latches.

          Nothing.

          He looked out the glass door.

          A hooded figure with a gas mask strode towards the building.

          Jack frantically glanced around for either a weapon or an escape route. At this point, he would have gladly taken both.

          The room was empty.

          No furniture.

          No potted plants.

          Not even a mop.

          Just three doors set into the white marble wall straight ahead of him.

          One was orange wood with tulips and roses etched into it.

          One was green plastic with acorns and pinecones glued to it.

          One was black metal with red blood trim painted around it. “That wasn’t in my visions of this place.” He walked up to the door to examine it.

          ***

          Lord Eina focused on his breathing as he strode towards the abandoned building. It sounded too loud, too rushed.

          Maybe it’s just the mask amplifying things. he thought. I’m sure it is. I am not afraid. I am calm. I will face Lord Deama and…And everything will be fine. If I have to kill him…I will kill him if I have no other choice. If he gives me no other choice. If he has reverted to Lord Deama.

          If he hasn’t…

          Lord Eina stopped. What should I do if he hasn’t? Kill him? Lord Deama wouldn’t hesitate. But I am not Lord Deama. I am Lord Eina and I am nothing like him. I don’t want to be anything like him.

          He pushed the door open.

          ***

          Jack found subtle patterns hiding inside the darkness: thrones and thorns, daggers and blasters. Burning buildings.

          Something ticked wrong, wrong, wrong in his head. “It’s beautiful.” He touched the door.

          He flinched as warring memories assaulted his mind. Ten fingers. Eight fingers. Normal skin color. Gray skin color. Home. Not home. Human. Not human.

          Jack Jilhouse.

          Lord Deama.

          Human.

          Alien.

          Callie.

          “Asree.”

          He heard her voice inside his head. “My lord. Open the door. Callie isn’t here to stop you. Open it. Return to me. Never leave me again.”

          The front door whooshed open. An oddly mechanical voice rang out, “Back away from there!”

          Jack turned around and fixed a cold look on the hooded, masked man. “You rammed my car and tried to kill me. Why should I listen to you?”

          “Because I know who you truly are.”

          Ten fingers. Eight fingers. “I don’t know what you’re talking about and neither do you. I am Jack Jilhouse.” Normal skin color. Gray skin color.

          “Ahh.” He sounded pleased by that answer. “Then, you don’t think of yourself as Lord Deama.”

          Home. Not home. “Why would I?” Human. Not human.

          “Could you please move away from that door?”

          Jack Jilhouse. Lord Deama.”Why? Are you afraid that—-”

          “I am not afraid.”

          The words “I am a lord. Lords fear nothing.” filled his mind and almost left his mouth. “I am not a lord.” He said it softly so only he could hear it. “I am Jack Jilhouse.” He glared at the other man and raised his voice. “And I am not afraid of anything.”

          “Wonderful. Please step away from the door or I will come over there and drag you away from it.”

          Jack looked back at the door’s dark beauty. “Why should I?” He traced the hidden outline of flames consuming a house. Smooth and hard and cold. “Why shouldn’t I open this door and see where it leads?”

          He heard the hooded man’s approach, but his footsteps sounded like they were coming from a far away place. “Why shouldn’t I open it?”

          Callie. If she were here, I know what she’d tell me to do. But she isn’t here. She didn’t want me. She rejected me.

          Asree. If she were here, I know what she’d tell me to do. But she isn’t here. “I know what I want to do.” He laid his hands on the door. “I know.”

          He pushed the door open.

          The darkness inside grabbed him and pulled him in.

          The door slammed shut.

          ***to be continued***

        2. Observer Tim

          This is continuing brilliant, Cosi. The short sentences of internal impressions do a great job of showing Jack’s confusion. Having him choose the third (a third) door was a nice touch. I wonder what effect this is going to have on his mind and personality, and on Asree and Callie? Hopefully it works out, though I sense more of the confusion that defines his life coming. 🙂

          1. cosi van tutte

            Thanks, OT! Believe it or not, I’m coming close to the end.

            And here’s the continuation….

            Lord Eina stopped and stood there, stunned with shock. I can’t believe he did that. I thought he’d feel that door’s dark pull and want to get away from it.

            “If he wasn’t Lord Deama before, he certainly is now.” His stomach hurt all the way into his backbone. “I know what I must do.” He pulled out his blaster and approached the black metal door.

            ***

            The darkness sank into his skin, filling him and stretching him, opening his eyes wider to thoughts and memories and beliefs that he did not want to claim as his own. But they were his own. And he knew it.

            “I’m Jack Jilhouse.” The conviction was no longer there. He knew that name now as just a lie, a discarded skin that no longer fit. Yet, like an overweight person suffering from delusions of grandeur, he tried to make it fit. He said it over and over. Sometimes in a whisper. Other times in a yell.

            It remained a lie.

            He sank down to his knees and whispered the truth, “I’m Lord Deama.” And it was true. He could feel it in his fingers and in his toes, in his mind and in his gut.

            He couldn’t make it a lie.

            Jack looked up into the darkness, only to find that it had softened into a starlit sky. But the moon was nowhere to be seen.

            “My lord?”

            He startled and rose to his feet. It was the instinctive reaction of a fearful prey animal or a serf and he hated himself for doing it.

            Then, he saw her: large cat-like eyes that glowed in the dark, a broad flat nose, a slender body with long limbs and sharp claws, gray skin mottled with black spots and soft stripes. A very small part of his mind rejected her appearance as frightening and alien. But he saw only beauty. “Asree.”

            She smiled, baring powerful fangs. “My lord.”

            “Where are we?”

            “You don’t remember?”

            He shook his head.

            “We’re standing on the hill that overlooks the Hishal Yuon fiefdom.”

            Something clicked into place inside his head. “My home.”

            “Yes. But do you remember? This is where you and I first met. It was a night just like this. Our three moons had gone into their dark phase.”

            Click. Click. Click. Memories flashed before his eyes. “You had run away from your lord.”

            “You stood alone on this hill overlooking the city.”

            He walked up to her. “Everything was going wrong. I felt frustrated and alone.”

            “And I saw you.”

            He touched her face. “And I saw you.”

            “And here we are now.”

            “Asree, is this real? Am I really back home with you?”

            “No.” Regret spoiled her smile. “Even in our world, things aren’t that simple.”

            “Then, where are we?”

            “We are still inside the Earth’s Restoration Center.”

            “Restoration Center…I don’t understand what that means.”

            “It is a secret base where one who is exiled from our planet can go to restore their memories.”

            He shook his head. “This place shouldn’t exist. There shouldn’t be any second chances for one who has merited exile.”

            “Lady Defren of the Hishal Ghen fiefdom didn’t feel that way. She was like Lord Eina: soft and weak-hearted. She built a Restoration Center on every planet where we had exiles. For she believed that even the worst person deserved a second chance.”

            Jack walked to the edge of the hill and looked down at the glowing city far below. He remembered his life as Lord Deama. Murders. Intrigues. Heartless. Cruel. “What about me?” He remembered burning villages and feeling cold-hearted joy. “What do I deserve?”

            “My lord?”

            “I know what I have done, the crimes that I have committed.”

            “You have been banished for far too long. And I am not the only one who thinks so. There are others, my lord, who await your return.”

            “My people.” Something hurt inside. “My rightful home.”

            “Will you return, my lord?”

            The easy answer was there, waiting for the breath to say it. He frowned. “What about Callie? If I leave without saying good-bye…”

            “Don’t think about her. She belongs to this planet. You do not. You belong to that world down there.” Asree walked up to him and laid her long fingers on his back. “You belong with me.”

            He closed his eyes and let her sirenic words spin throughout his mind. It would be the easiest thing to give in and go home to his true home. “It’s what I’ve wanted for so long and I didn’t know. I’ve felt a nagging dissatisfaction with my life and I never understood why.”

            She laid the side of her face against his back.

            “Now I do.”

            A firework-like scream ruined the moment.

            Asree gasped, a quick, soft sound, and fell to the ground.

            Jack spun around. “Asree!”

            Lord Eina stood unmasked behind them. Thin smoke trails drifted from his blaster’s barrel.

            Jack dropped down to his knees. “Asree! ” He touched her face, her neck, her chest. “Look at me. Open your eyes and look at me.”

            But she remained unresponsive.

            He shot a sharp glare at Lord Eina. “If you’ve killed her—”

            “Don’t insult me. I don’t believe in killing innocent bystanders, unlike another lord I could name. I merely knocked her unconscious.”

            Jack stood. “So, now what? Will you shoot me too?”

            Lord Eina blanched. “Maybe. Tell me your name.”

            “Jack Jilhouse.” It felt like a lie no matter how many times he said it.

            “Is it? Who are your parents? Where did you go to school? Who was your best friend? What is your address? Who was the first woman you truly loved? What is your phone number?”

            Every question rat-a-tatted inside his head. It frightened him to realize that he no longer had an answer for any of them. “Stop it! Stop!”

            “Why? If you are Jack Jilhouse, these should be easy questions with easy answers.”

            “I don’t have to tell you anything, Eina.”

            There was a moment of silence between the two men. “I never told you my name, Jack Jilhouse.”

            ***

            So. This is it.

            Lord Eina’s stomach pain increased. “Or should I call you by your correct name, Lord Deama?”

            I’ll have to kill him.

            Jack smirked. “So, you’re going to shoot an unarmed man. Pretty bold, Eina, and very much out of character. I know you, Eina. I know that you are weak. You are nothing like me and you never will be.”

            If Zahn were here, she’d tell me to ignore his petty insults and kill him. “You’re right. I am not you. I am not a monster.” I should kill him. I have to. I must.

            “Monster? Out of the great variety of insults, you choose monster? Pathetic.”

            “You’re a murderer.”

            Jack shrugged. “Simple truth.”

            “You deserve exile on this planet of forgetfulness. You, Deama, deserve to live and die alone.”

            Jack winced and turned to face the town below. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe you should kill me.”

            Lord Eina swallowed hard. I have him right where I want him. He is unarmed. I have the advantage. I’d be a fool not to grasp this opportunity. I know it will not come again. But…

            “Well?” His voice was soft and sad. “What are you waiting for? If you’re going to kill me, kill me.”

            This is wrong. This is wrong! I can’t do it. I can’t! But if I don’t, he will find a way to escape. He will return. He must never return.

            He pressed the barrel of his gun into Jack’s back. “I’m sorry, Lord Deama.”

            And he fired.

            ***

            Zahn felt her memories slipping away. She quickly pressed a couple of buttons on the console and breathed a sigh of relief as their planet’s air filled the car. Her memories rushed back into place.

            Lord Eina opened the door, dropped into his seat, and slammed the door shut. He touched his forehead against the steering wheel.

            “Is he dead?”

            “Not yet.” He raised his head and looked at the building before them for a long, long moment. “I wish I didn’t have to do this. I wish we could just let things be.”

            “You know you can’t.”

            His large eyes filled with tears. “I know.” He pressed a white button under the fuel gauge.

            A missile shot out from the Bonneville’s grill.

            Earth’s Restoration Center exploded.

            They sat still for a silent moment and watched it burn.

            “My lord. Let’s go home.”

            He started the car and shifted it to lift.

            The Bonneville rose up into the sky and flew away.

            ***to be continued***

          2. Observer Tim

            Now this is a nice pseudo-conclusion (i.e. chapter break). I still want to know if Jack is alive (I hope and suspect he is) and what has happened, but it’s not in the middle of the dramatic tension. Which, by the way, you did a great job of holding with the lightly-augmented dialogue. 🙂

  18. Diana

    I gasped and stepped back. My first thought was that this must be some sort of dream, but knowing that I was awake only served to make the experience all that more surreal. I remembered thinking that there was a closet in the wall on that room, but I also realized that the space between the two rooms was larger than the closet could account for.

    I tried to calm my fear of the unknown and gather my courage as I pushed on the door. Of course, it wouldn’t budge. There was no knob or handle, so I had no way of pulling on the door. It was difficult to push because it was very cold, hard and heavy. I tried sitting on the floor with my back against the center cupboards and pushing with my feet, to no avail.

    Finally, I grabbed a crowbar, intending to pry the door open from the drafty bottom. Just before inserting my tool, that eerie sound of air whooshing out caused me to fall back against the cupboard, the crowbar bashing against my knee as I fell.

    As I grabbed my knee in agony, I wished I had never seen the door in the first place. But this had the happy side effect of removing my fear of the door. I just wanted to know what was back there. I picked up the crowbar, shoved it under the door, pushed down until it was as tightly wedged under the door as possible, then pulled as I continued to push down.

    I finally got the door open a crack, and etched my linoleum floor in the process. I kept at it until I could fit my hand into the opening and pull the door open. It was dark. As I poked my head in, I heard a loud slam that caused me to jump slightly and lose my footing. I fell into a small space that appeared to be a tunnel. I could barely breath in the mustiness, but I was determined to figure out was was going on.

    There was no longer a rush of air, as the sound had come from the back door slamming shut when I opened the door to the tunnel. But it also meant that there was an opening at the other end somewhere. The tunnel was very small, so I had to crawl. I kept cursing my curiosity each time I pushed myself along with my sore knee. I knew it was going to hurt even worse the next day, but I didn’t care. I just had to know.

    I crawled for about ten minutes until I saw a slight glimmer of light ahead. I kept going until I reached a dead end, and realized the light was above me. It was gorgeous. There were leaves rustling, and the sky was bright and clear. I had never seen the sky so clear before, devoid of smog or clouds.

    I reached for the ground above the tunnel and shimmied up to a sitting position. Then I was in an awkward spot where I couldn’t reach my elbows to the top, but there wasn’t enough room to get my feet under me either. I had to dig out some of the dirt around the curve so I could bend my legs enough to stand up and get out. This process took longer than the process of crawling to this magical place.

    I stood up and stepped out. It was darker now; the sun was setting. It was so beautiful, but there was also something familiar about the place. As I walked around a bit, I realized where I was: my own back yard! I was so surprised at my own silliness that I stumbled as I walked back to the house, and fell on a rock. It looks like my 10-year bout of amnesia wasn’t such a great mystery after all.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a lovely story of self-discovery, Diana. I love the sensual description of the surroundings where it seemed not a word was wasted; it left me with the impression even before the reveal of someone being born or emerging from a cocoon. 🙂

  19. Dana Cariola

    I’d been waiting for this moment for nearly an hour. Escape!…Release from this 2-dimensional world, and a reptile brain in which to perceive it. It’s a wonder mankind lasted as long as it has without tearing each other apart, limb from limb. That’s where we came in. Our scientists were able to isolate a frequency, emitted by Earth’s natural rotation around the Sun, at intervals of every 24 hours. Interfering with mankind’s ability to evolve beyond a reptilian mind. Centrifugal forces caused fixed objects, like Earth, to remain in a constant state. Nothing gets in…Nothing gets out! In a world that cherished a sunrise, I wonder if they’d still feel the same if they knew how nefarious the Sun’s influence had.on their chances of becoming more than human.

    We were not their creators, nor were we their saviors. The Milky Way Galaxy behaved like a ravenous Black Hole in the known universe. A planet in distress calling out to any one who would join her in her demise. No matter how hard our scientists tried to calculate around this galaxy, it was of no use. All exploration begins here.

    1. Observer Tim

      This reads like the introduction to a deeply psychological SF story from the 1950’s or earlier. From here it would continue with the sometimes tragic, sometimes wondrous consequences of opening the door. I love how eternity was expressed as “nearly an hour”, a sign that memories are like those of mayflies in this allegorical world. 🙂

    2. regisundertow

      Indeed, there are echoes of A Wrinkle in Time and a Sound of Thunder, even Vonnegut’s work, all those seminal SF stories that set the template for everything that came after. Loved how retro it felt, with its alien POV reflecting on how humanity doesn’t make sense.

      1. Observer Tim

        What came to my mind was a short story called “Unwelcome Tenants” about a race of parasites that live inside human minds and one man escaping from them. I wish I could remember where I read it. (It’s not the Chthulhu Mythos book.)

  20. Ross

    Little inch by little inch. Like peeling off a label you intended to adjust and re-stick. You don’t want anyone to notice you’ve just torn loose a quarter of the wallpaper in the room. That’s probably why you were holding your breath, not because you expected to find something behind it. Although you hoped, I think, because there was more to your slow peeling than just worry you’d get caught, to find something.
    You always hated that wallpaper anyway.
    You wonder why you never noticed it before. It wasn’t the right time, likely. The air wisps inward, away from you, like a brook sucking water in small gulps through the crooks between rocks. The wall isn’t firm or solid like you thought it used to be, it’s lumpy and cold; a poorly wrapped gift, hidden spectacularly.
    It could be your excitement. You just didn’t see until all the paper was torn free, I guess anyone could have missed it. Now that it’s gone all that’s there to see is the door. Right? And of course whatever is behind it.
    You can admire the door itself, first. Go ahead, I know you like that kind of thing. It was made with you in mind, after all. It loops and winds a fluid dance around sturdy bars; it tells a story from the bottom up, an arpeggiated progression, obvious once you find it. You see, now, why it was so cold on this side of the room. The door pulls the winter from the other side; lets it wrap, like ice spreading its spider legs and multiplying across a pond. Jump in.
    You lift the latch up and slide it to the right. You see the emblem now. The intricate etching brings life to the flightless bird burnt into the knob. Turn it. You feel it icy on your clammy palm. You saw, before you opened the door, what waited behind it. But you feel it now. You feel the air pulsing as you step through. Behind you, it doesn’t quite melt away, you just don’t care that your room is still there, or that it ever had been. You’re here now.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a beautifully detailed self-examination of the MC while he or she is preparing to open that door. The door itself could be real or metaphorical and it barely matters to the story. I wonder what the MC is running away from, or running towards…

    2. regisundertow

      This is right up my alley, style-wise. Beautiful descriptions, florid prose, introspection, I love it all. Many choice turns of phrases here without appearing to try too hard.

  21. onlythismuchnofurther

    Every word which left my mouth seemed to peel the paper away more. I’ve always hated conversations. I’m even more angry with my own betrayal of self. The words leap from my heart as if they were held against their will. I see the face of my colleague changing before me. He looks menacing. Soon he will see the entire door. This iron door, my remaining I. It is branded with “TRUST”. This door opens for no one.

    There’s been the girl or two over the years, I never spoke with either of them. I only saw them from afar, but I knew somehow they were already behind my door. Those rare exceptions, where the eyes cut somewhere no one else could go. I’ve identified many a species in man, on countenance alone. Pretty soon, I’ll have seen them all.

    And here I go again. The secrets are coming out. This guy is just a casual acquaintance. Why can’t I achieve idle talk yet in all my years? I’m self-destructing before him. He can’t tell. It’s all beyond the door. But he is seeing the door. The breeze beneath it. The one paradise reserved for no mere man, but those rare prophetesses — they are but a handful of gorgeous beacons over time.

    I would stare at her in the library for as long as time would allow. Somehow her minding me never came up. We already knew one another. I still imagine her voice when I feel lonely. I never heard it, but I hear my version of it. It has to match dark eyes which live within me now. I felt the little girl twirling in circles, her dress swings outward. We danced as children in each other’s eyes.

    I walk away from the conversation.

    I hate how this job requires I talk with the group. There are many untrustworthy pharisees among them. They stare hard at me and seek to implant their fears on me, make me the object of their self-hatred. Better to cast it upon the innocent than burn with the coals of their own ignorance sizzling upon such darkened minds. I am no dump. The iron door. They may have seen it. Yet, they will never enter. I am too sly and they are too ignorant. No, matter the crowd set before me, a nation and I like a deceptive ruler, I will keep my secret from them all. The door. It keeps the ones who want a Hitler away. It keeps the sooth-sayers at bay. It proves the wise to be wrong. The other side of this door, it changes everything man has proudly held so close to his chest.

    I remain behind this door, though frail paper gives way and a slight breeze intrigues the curious beast, I will forever be held safe. My refuge where pain only goes so far. The crafty Jezebel found a way close, but she knows not what she’s amidst and is lost in the outer rim of my walls. What does the door wait for? It waits for the ones who are already inside before they know they have the key. And together we will drink love…it’s been such a long wait for what sustains us. Love. Inside my door. I know you’re here. Come back so I can see your form.

    1. Observer Tim

      A few years ago, or in a bout of severe depression, I might have screamed “Get out of my head!” to this story. It’s a clear description of someone who is trapped by shyness within the castle of their own mind. It’s a very powerful scene, OnlyThis.

    2. regisundertow

      About time someone took the door allegorically.
      Where do I start? I think this piece is more poetry than fiction, as it concentrates more on prose than story. I could definitely see it being performed as a powerful slice of spoken word. There’s a certain cadence to it and several impactful turns of phrases and Biblical undertones that beg for a powerful performance.

  22. Kerry Charlton

    THE FINAL EDGE

    Being the chair of psychiatry at The University of Texas Medical Center in Dallas did not lessen my pain of being locked in by a massive iron door created by my own mind. I had caused the accidental death of my only brother as a child of eight. The reason was simple, I could swim easily, he couldn’t at the age of six.

    It was my doing, leading him to the sandbar off the shore at Avalon, our summer home. I mis-judged the oncoming tide that engulfed the sand bar just as we reached it. I should have realized but didn’t. I held his head above water, he screamed at me, as I struggled toward the beach.

    The life guard had noticed and launched the dinghy and rowed across the breakwater toward us. Rip tides were moving me toward the channel cut, I could not fight the power of the waves and we moved as fast as the dinghy could row toward us. My grasp on my brother started to slip, I felt the exhaustion in my left arm as I tried to hold him, while thrashing to swim with my right.

    A brooding nor’easter off shore had pushed the waves to three feet, I saw one approaching from the sea. The lifeguard was only sixty feet from me and threw the float toward me just as the waved crashed and buried both of us under the sea. I tried to hold on and fight to the surface, but couldn’t.

    My brother slipped from my grasp and floated downward. I followed him, well knowing I might drown also. I started to black out from lack of air when I felt the strong arm of the lifeguard encircle me and pull me to the surface. The sea claimed my brother that day and it made no sense to me that I survived and my brother died under the ocean. I wish every day of my life, it could have been me instead of Bill.

    So I dedicated my life to him to try to honor him. But the lock on the iron door never leaves my consciousness. It’s dead weight upon my soul as I awaken each morning, wanting to see him one more time. Bill trusted me, I failed his believing in me and now I’m trying to live with it for the last fifty years. I’m no longer of use to the university, I know it, the university knows it but I have tenure, so the honor me.

    And that’s why I’m at Avalon today swimming out to sea. It’s s the week after Easter, the beach is deserted, water temperature is 71. I have become a superb swimmer, even at my age and cut through the surf with determination. . I look back over my shoulder, the shore line has disappeared, I grow weary now, my arms feel the stress and hang like limbs of iron, but somehow, I manage to swim seaward still. Waves continue to grow in intensity and engulf my strength. I smile, the first time in over fifty years, as I sink below the surface. I am not afraid, I know the angels watch in silent obedience to my wishes.
    Soon I will see him, my brother, Bill.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a fitting but depressing way to end the year. I can see the MC’s flawed human reasoning and how regret is driving him, but I would more likely think to live life as well as I can since I’d have to do the living for two. It shows how much perspective can play in our decisions and fates. Powerful tale, Kerry.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Tim, for the review. You and I both know, he had all the intelligence to work his way through life and the tragedy. A little back story showing his parents never forgave him and celebrated their dead son’s birthday and forced the older son to attend as punishment would have explained the mind set he struggled with his entire life until it drove him to the sea. Dang the word limit.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Reatha, I think I may have been depressed myself, thinking about my brother’s loss in October last year. I seldom write ‘downers’ but you are right, it’s disturbing to read.

    2. regisundertow

      Ditto for the sadness emanating from the piece, but that’s art. If the reader doesn’t feel something, the story didn’t work.
      It feels redundant talking about the technical aspects, being aware of the background feeding the narrative, but I’ll try. This feels like a conversation with an old friend. The prose is unobtrusive, yet, on my second read I had to admire a few choice phrases (“brooding nor’ester”, “the lock on the iron door”). The pacing is flawless. I appreciate it when a story makes me recede from my surroundings and sucks me in.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you regis for your reflections. I was in a melancoly mood when I wrote this. When I get in that mood, I always pick up memories of our summer home at the shore and how much fun it was. My last summer there, I was 10, but the memories are so acute, I can smell the bay on one side and feel the hot summer sand on the ocean side. Thanks for stopping by.

  23. jhowe

    I was sitting on the day bed in the spare room when my wife walked in. Wallpaper shards littered the carpeting. An iron door with rusted ornate moldings loomed and contrasted sharply with the modern décor of our suburban duplex.

    “What in the name of hell are you doing?” she said, her eyes fixated on the door.

    “I felt a breeze.”

    “A breeze?”

    “Yeah,” I said. “I felt a cool breeze coming through the wall and I checked it out.”

    “So, you just ripped down the wallpaper?”

    “You hated the shit anyway. We’ll paint.”

    “What’s the door doing here?” she said. She moved closer and reached for it.

    “Don’t!” I grabbed her arm. “I touched the knob and it was ice cold. I still have a tingle.”

    “Where do you think it goes?” she said. We both sat on the bed. It seemed almost like a painting of a door the more I looked at it. Maybe a Monet, with lots of texture and swirling colors of oranges and deep reds. The elongated knob looked real, but how we never noticed a protruding knob under the wallpaper didn’t escape my thoughts.

    “I bet it leads to the neighbors half of the duplex,” I said. “Where else could it go?”

    “I hate those guys,” my wife said and folded her arms across her chest. “They’re both lecherous bastards.” She was silent for a bit, and then, “Why don’t you knock?”

    I nodded, repeatedly, too many nods, but I really didn’t want to knock. But I had to admit, it was a good idea. “Ok, I’ll do it.” I left the room and came back with a paintball gun.

    “Smooth,” she said. “Is it loaded?”

    “Of course it’s loaded. Do you think I’m crazy?”

    She looked at me and said nothing. She opened her mouth and closed it. Finally she spoke. “Just knock on the goddamn door.”

    I approached the door. There was no seam around its edges, just a dark line. Up close I could see the brush strokes, definitely a painted image with a knob attached. I shook my head and turned to my wife. She had backed up a few feet. “A little nervous are we?” I said with little of the bravado I attempted.

    She straightened her shoulders and said with equally wishy-washy timbre, “Do you want me to do it?”

    Of course I wanted her to do it. “No, I’ll do it.” I readied my weapon, raised my hand and rapped three quick ones. There was a scuffle sound from the other side. I heard muffled murmurs.

    “Who’s there,” a voice said.

    I looked at my wife and she shrugged. I said, “It’s the neighbors, Phil and Kathy Kerwin.”

    A pause. “What do you want?”

    That was a good question. “What’s the deal with this door?”

    “What does it look like, this door?” the voice said, a hint of concern in the reply.

    “Like an iron door, red, but a fake one.” I looked back at Kathy and she nodded in agreement.

    “Does it have a knob?”

    “Yes,” I said.

    “Don’t touch it!”

    I flexed my hand and still felt the numbness. No need to repeat that. “What do we do?”

    “Ignore it. It will go away. And when it does, buy some wallpaper and cover the door.”

    “There was wallpaper,” I said. “I removed it.”

    “That, my friend, was a poor choice of action.” The voice became clearer, a little louder. “Can you be trusted not to mention this door?”

    Kathy and I nodded to each other. “You have our word.”

    “I accept your word. I suggest you keep it.” As if he needed to exemplify the warning, the door pulsed and seemed to come alive. The knob turned, rattled and then disintegrated into dust that fell to the carpet. Then all was still and the knobless painting of a door remained.

    Kathy started to pick up the wallpaper pieces. “What the hell are you waiting for?” she said. “Get your ass to Home Depot.”

  24. BlueJay91

    Almost 500 words, (543)

    My mission was to search the abandoned houses and report back whether they were salvageable or should be set for demolition. So, when I found the door leading to a secret fucking beach, I thought I hit the jackpot. The government was going to make my dreams come true for what I had found, or so I thought.

    I hadn’t walked far on the beach before I came to a shack. I thought what the hell, the government could wait. So, I reached over and grabbed a drink. I let my eyes close. After the wars, so many people would give anything to be on a warm peaceful beach like this.

    “Hey lady, you can’t just go around drinking people’s drinks.”

    My eyes snapped open to find a good looking guy in his 30’s. He had tan skin and light green eyes. The beach comes with hotties. Good to know.

    “How does this place exist? Is it science or magic?” I asked.

    “That’s a long story, so I’ll give you the shortest one I can think of.” He grabbed my drink, took a swig and said, “It was a cold winter night and I had woke to a noise. I can’t remember how it sounded, but I remember a blue glow coming from my kitchen. My feet were cold on the hardwood floor. When I rounded the corner, I saw a tiny glowing man sitting on my counter eating. He was no bigger than my hand, so I have no idea how he even opened the fridge. I sneaked up behind him. He was smacking his lips and mumbling to himself. “I loves me some pizza and after I’m done here I shall just slip away into the night and the stupid human shall wonder if he got up in the middle of the night to eat the pizza. That’s when I snatched him off the counter and threw him into the cookie jar. I still remember his eyes bugging out of his head. He banged his tiny fists against the glass and eventually sat down to munch on the cookies. “I’m going to be famous when I turn you in.” I said. He jumped to his feet and said, “No, I will give you one wish if you let me go.” A wish… well it was the middle of winter and so I asked for this beach with an endless snack shack filled with any kind of food or drink I could think of.”

    “That was the shortest story you could think of?” I asked.

    “I forgot the most important part. There are two things about this door and island. Never close the door because it only opens from the outside and the time frame here doesn’t move.”

    “Well I left the door open.”

    “And I closed it.”

    My stomach dropped. “What! Why?”

    “Weren’t you listening? I’m young her, but it’s been many years since that door closed on me… I shouldn’t have left the kitchen window open on a stormy night. So, if I were to go back know I’d be on my death bed or maybe my body would just turn to ash.”

    “I could have still gone back.”

    “Yeah, but then I would have been alone for all eternity.”

    1. jhowe

      I liked this a lot. You said just enough and left just enough out to make the story intriguing. I liked the man’s reasoning about not wanting to go back, even though he had a chance, because he’d be so old. Thanks for a fun read.

    2. Observer Tim

      The last line of this really makes the story; it sums up the human condition so perfectly. I love the matter-of-fact style in which he explains the situation, and the lovely description of the beach. Well done, BlueJay.

  25. Kinterralynn

    The Door

    When I fell back against the wall in my rental house, after gracefully tripping over my own shoe lace, I thought it seemed a bit hard for drywall. Expensive wallpaper with an intricate floral design gave no hint that anything was hidden and I laughed to myself as I ran my hands over it looking for some hidden seam that would open up a secret door. For good measure, I rapped my knuckles against it.
    The wall felt solid, a bit too substantial for drywall and studs. I have to admit, my curiosity was piqued. My left foot banged up against the base board and the board popped out sending out a puff of black sand across the carpeting. I’ve never been one to just walk away from an intriguing mystery, I did what only seemed logical. I reached down and pulled on the baseboard. It had been secured with heavy 16d sinker nails and the odds of one coming loose were not very good. I managed to slip a couple fingers around the loosened board and tugged. It moved only a fraction and I pulled harder. The sound of cracking and splintering filled the room and I suddenly found myself falling hard on my butt with a broken piece of baseboard in my hand, a single sinker nail still dangling out the backside. Laughing at myself and how ridiculous I must appear, I looked back to the wall and saw the wallpaper had torn and there was something behind it. You would think the first thought in my head would be that of how to hide the damage so my new landlord would not freak out. At one time, I might have had that as a first thought, but the desire to know the mystery pushed that thought away and I crawled back over to the wall and carefully lifted the torn paper. Whatever was there, it was metal and old. It looked like wrought iron but not the fancy detailed stuff with whirls and loops. It appeared to be, rusty and impenetrable and ancient in appearance. It was an odd thing to find in a townhouse that couldn’t be more than twenty years old. Logic at this point was still hanging in the balance and so I started pulling away more wallpaper, enjoying the sound of the tearing and marveling at how much it was hiding. Eventually I had to stand and kick away the piles of shredded flowery paper, my fingers stretched full trying to reach the last bits up near the ceiling. I stepped back and surveyed my handiwork. It was a door. A solid wrought iron door with a single looped handle on the right side. It was flush with the rest of the wall which meant it could only open by pushing in. I pushed. It was like pushing on the side of a freight-liner, not that I had ever done that, but it was what I imagined it would feel like. Hard, cold and unyielding. I lunged at it, hoping my excess 280 lbs would budge it. A dull pain exploded in my shoulder the moment I made contact and a slid to the floor clutching my arm and whimpering like a scolded puppy.
    I leaned my back up against it and tilted my head so I could peer up at the smoothed rounded loop that served as a handle. I looked away and down at the nest of torn wallpaper I was sitting in and silently resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to explain myself and somehow come up with the money to fix the damages I had just caused. With a grunt, I reached up for the handle with the mindset of pulling myself to my feet. Instead of the desired effect, the handle pulled down and the door gave a screeching sound of metal upon metal as it opened up and a gust of stale dusty air whooshed past me. I scrambled to my feet, and poked my head inside, not really sure what to expect but my heart was thundering in my chest and tingles were running down my spine. I did a quick spider scan around the door to ensure no sudden drop downs that would cause me to go into one of my infamous spider dances that were reminiscent of a spastic windmill, and I took my first step inside. Sunlight from my front windows splashed through the door and covered a table laden with thick dust and an empty flower vase in the center. I ventured further in, pulling out my smartphone and clicking on the flashlight application so that bright artificial light blanketed the room. It was disappointingly empty. I let out a pent up breath and turned back to the living room. The debris from the wallpaper was gone and sitting at the kitchen table was a small man dressed like a garden gnome, impatiently drumming his fingers, and glaring at me. “Why have you opened the Forbidden Passage?!”
    I did the only thing I could think of. I laughed. He did not.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a beautiful beginning to a story that could go nearly anywhere: fantasy, horror-romance, whimsical comedy, or – well, anywhere. Unless you’ve got a twist coming, I’m not sure comedy is high on the list.

      In any case, you created a fairly clear sense of the character’s personality and of the background against which the story will play. Good one, KinterraLynn. 🙂

      1. Kinterralynn

        I appreciate the feedback! Character personality is one of my biggest struggles. I know the character very well in my head but getting it on paper doesn’t always translate well. I’m pleased to see that this one did come through.

    2. jhowe

      I agree with OT that this is a nice way to set up a longer story about the adventures that await with this gnome-like guy. I think this is the first story I’ve read where the MC uses the flashlight app on his phone. I like little details like that. I noticed that you didn’t mention the gender of the MC, but I feel he was male because of his large size, but that’s not necessarily always the case. I think I’d rather know for sure, but maybe you wanted us to decide. Either way, I liked the story. Thanks.

      1. Kinterralynn

        I’m so glad you liked the detail of the flashlight app! I was picturing the scene in my head and asked myself what I personally would do in such a situation. I’m actually surprised more people don’t integrate it into their works. The smartphones have become such a part of our everyday world that it just makes sense to use them in our stories as well. Of course, decades from now people may struggle to remember using smartphones!
        As for the gender – yes, I did leave that out, but it was an oversight not a plan. I think I’ll leave you guessing though, seems more intriguing that way 🙂

    3. JosephFazzone

      This sets the stage nicely. I loved the line ” I did a quick spider scan around the door to ensure no sudden drop downs that would cause me to go into one of my infamous spider dances that were reminiscent of a spastic windmill really sets the comedic edge to what I assume is a guy. I could be wrong, and that would be fine. =) Either way, I really enjoyed the amazing details, and the action.

  26. RyxxO

    Delphine set her broom against the edge of the counter, catching it a moment later just before it slipped to the ground. She righted it in the same spot as before, trusting that this time it would stay put. Sinking to her knees, she felt the floor with outstretched hands. First near the door, she felt nothing. Then by the stove, the air was stagnant. Finally, she felt along the wall where she thought it had come from in the first place. A draft, pulling towards what should have been solid wall. She leveled her cheek with the half swept floor, staring beneath the cupboard. Her mouth knit into a rigid bud of a flower, concerned.

    She couldn’t afford drafty walls, she could barely afford the pitiful heat coughing from the vents. The cupboard was nearly empty, which made it easy to edge to the side, exposing the wall that moved in time with her own shallow breath. Near the floor, hung a thin strip of wallpaper, the source of the leak, flapping like a small blade of grass. She felt beneath it and found a hole.

    She pulled, expecting to find a hole no bigger than her fist, but the paper came off, in a long sheet the size of a tarp.

    A door in her wall, her rented wall, that had never been disclosed. She thought it warranted a discount on at least that months rent, or hoped it would. It wasn’t simply a door in the wall, it was old, wrought iron, massive, and uninviting. Maybe she imagined it, but as the wall paper tore away, she swore she heard whispers. It did not belong in the middle of her kitchen-living room, it was not right.

    Despite the worried tingle seizing her spine, she grabbed the handle and pulled, opening her house to what lay beyond. Again the whispers, louder now so that she knew she wasn’t imagining them. Counting down, “104,103,102,” they said.

    Her scream drowned out the number, 100. There was a man on the other side of the door, counting. Delphine fell backwards, scrambling for her broom, the closest weapon available.

    “You’re cutting it close, aren’t you?” The man said, ignoring Delphine’s attempt to defend herself, and staring at a watch pulled up to his elbow. He tapped his foot to the countdown.

    “WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY HOUSE?” Delphine bellowed, thrusting the end of the broom towards him, from her spot on the floor!

    The man leaned in, giving the room a judge mental glance. “House? Bit of an embellishment, don’t you think?” He asked leaving Delphine stammering. “You better come inside, there isn’t much time. 84, 83, 82.”

    She picked up her phone, which wasn’t on, threatening to call the police. He smiled a very sad smile. “That won’t matter, they’re running out of time!” He shuffled nervously saying, “76, 75, 74.”

    “Time for what?”

    “Time to get out. Time to save yourself. You better come quick, it’s almost too late! 56, 55, 54,” he announced tapping the face of the watch. “I’m afraid there’s just not enough time to explain, you’ll just have to trust me.”

    “I will not,” she said stamping the broom into the floor. “Why are you here, and how?”

    “To save you! It’s all over in 38, 37, 36,” he said mechanically. “I’ve tried telling you for days, but it’s hard to be heard from behind an iron door. Who thought it was wise to wallpaper me over? Besides the point, you have to decide if you’ll come with me. 19, 18, 17.”

    “I won’t,” she screamed!

    “Suit yourself. 14, 13, 12, 11.” The man grabbed the edge of the door. “9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4.” He looked at her remorsefully. “I’m sorry,” he yelled!

    She heard him say, “one,” just beyond the closed door. Then came the noise, and in an instant everything left outside of the iron door, Delphine included, became nothing at all. Beyond the door, the man started counting, “One, two, three.”

    1. Observer Tim

      The implication of this story is truly mind-bending; I wonder how long it’s been going on. This reminds me of the strange tales of the late 50’s, where just underneath reality where nobody can see it there is something truly astonishing going on. Those are classics, and this could easily be added to them. Great job, RyxxO. 🙂

    2. JosephFazzone

      I love the mind scrambling. It’s great, how could she trust him, how could she not, are we in a loop…the list goes on. What I really love is the count down, it really impressed this amazing sense of urgency. I believe I read faster and faster as it went down. Awesome story!

    3. regisundertow

      Echoing Tim, this reminded me of the Twilight Zone. Something horribly unreal takes place amidst daily routine, then a horrible twist that implies infinite depth and backstory, leaving the reader wondering. Good stuff.

  27. Pete

    I don’t know what I’ve got here….

    I was cleaning up the kitchen, trying to get between that hard to reach spot where the stove meets the cabinets, thinking that I might find an old roach when again I noticed something funny going on with the wall paper.

    Just the other night I’d told Julia how it looked like it was spinning when she’d gone into that whole spiel about how I needed to stop smoking weed and to get a job which then got her pitching a bitch about me eating all her food and drinking the last Corona, which I hadn’t. At least not that I could remember.

    But now, behind the stove, the wallpaper–at least a patch of it, is like pulsing. Breathing even. So I edge up closer and start peeling it back, then a little more. The next thing I know I’m staring at this freaking medieval iron gate that looks like it could have been on an old Motorhead album cover. And looky there, my joint.

    After a few tokes I get the courage to pull the door back but then I change my mind. I go to grab a hoodie and get the hell out of the apartment when I’m yanked inside and the door slams shut. Something cold presses down against my temple.

    My hands go up and it’s only then that I realize I’m wearing jogging pants and no boxers. Kinda funny, because Julia’s always telling me that she’s tired of washing my clothes, so there I am, freefalling while this big cockroach bouncer dude has a shotgun to my head and is asking what the hell I’m doing.

    Pointing to the kitchen, I tell roach dude that I was cleaning and he gives me a nasty grin and lowers the gun. By then my eyes have adjusted, and I look on as an army of ants–like foot long suckers–scamper in from a roll-up door hauling rolled up carpets, bottled water, even rims and tires. They come and go without paying me any attention, which is good because I can hardly feel my face.

    Bouncer dude waves me back. His tentacles drag behind him. I’m tripping balls by then, amazed by this whole operation. A rowdy gathering of stink bugs are sitting around watching Spanish soap opera on the television, complaining about the cold weather and I shit you not one of them is drinking a Corona. He belches and waves as I’m shoved into the back room.

    “Corey, have seat.”

    I look around. Julia’s vomit colored quilt is thrown over a plaid couch. The quilt her grandmother made and to this day she blames me for it missing. I start to explain this when I realize that I’m talking to the biggest effing rat I’ve ever seen.

    “So it would appear that we have a problem,” he says, all whisker stroking. If he’s going for the Marlon Brando voice, he’s nailing it. I shake my head.

    “Nope, I don’t…problem…there’s no problem.”

    I’m not sure how to address a giant rat living in your girlfriend’s apartment building, but “sir” kind of seems a little much. He nods. Another stroke of the chin. I offer him my roach, cracking myself up. The roach bouncer dude rolls his eyes all the way around his head. The rat declines.

    The office decor is limited. They do have a cat in a cage. Big fat thing that keeps hissing at me while the boss man continues, “But it seems you found us, while you were,” he pauses here to look me up and down with his beady eyes. “Cleaning?”

    I chuckle, but my tongue catches because it’s then that I realize I’m staring at Old Miss Oglesby’s missing cat, plus I’m hella thirsty. “Look,” I say, not sure if I’m talking out loud or not. “Am I talking out loud?” The rat assures me that I am. “Cool, look, I know it sounds like a stretch, but it’s the truth. Julia’s been on me about not working and being a slob.”

    The rat and the roach find this to be hysterical. Nevertheless I proceed on, out loud, I think. “I’ll get back to the apartment, patch up the wall, and you never have to see me again.”

    The rat clicks his teeth. It’s disgusting. “You will do no such thing Corey. You will continue on, slobbing about, loafing around. As a matter of fact you are our biggest asset.”

    I must look confused.

    “You are never to ‘clean’ behind the stove. You are not to sweep, vacuum, dust, or even put away dishes after you use them. Am I clear?”

    “Yeah. Don’t clean.”

    More laughter. “Okay, go back, to your girlfriend,” Boss Rat says, using claw quotes. “Take care of business. If we find out that you are motivated to clean or otherwise impede our operation, then we will come for you. Remember that Corey.”

    I nod. The rat snaps his eyes to the roach who then jerks me from my chair. We start for the door and the rat calls out.

    “Oh, and Corey,” he says, motioning for the quilt. “Take that thing with you, it’s hideous.”

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a good slacker fairy tail, Pete. And what are the odds his girlfriend will believe he actually did some cleaning? I’m thinking about nil. So much for “cleaning up his act”. And the bit about the quilt is precious. 🙂

    2. regisundertow

      “And that is why I haven’t cleaned!”
      I can definitely see Corey using the story as an excuse before getting his ass thrown out of the flat 😀

  28. thejim

    I pulled away the wallpaper like dead skin off sunburned flesh. Behind the wallpaper there were thick metal bars like a jail cell in an old western.

    I could not resist trying to open it. As the door opened, almost by itself, I was drawn in, my body lifted from the ground. I began to float down a cavernous hallway, small rocks rolled around below me and sang “Do not go in, do not go in, you don’t know where you’re going and you don’t know where you’ve been.”

    They repeated this sing song phrase as I floated down the cave.

    As I hovered in I could hear voices getting closer, once I turned a corner and the room opened up to a huge cave with a large fire that bounced light across the rocky walls. I was gradually set down in a wooden chair atop of a large bolder in the middle of a crowd of animals, plants and things.

    “Quite… Quite please”, came a booming voice from amongst the crowd.

    A freakishly large gopher in a vest, with a NY Yankees cap on, hopped up to the rock and stood in front of me.

    “Welcome” His voice bounced off of the ceiling. With a sweeping motion of his cane he motioned to the entire crowd.

    The crowd responded with a “HelooOOOooOOoo” in unison.

    “I am Thomas T. Merryweather the 12th Leader slash Ruler, making a slash movement with his cane for emphasis. “Who might you be?”
    “Kevin.”
    “Ahh… good…. Kevin. You did not by chance bring any Peeeeecan Pie with you?”
    “No, I did not.”
    “OOooh… my insides have been asking for some, as of late, so I just hoped.”
    “Well, let’s get on with the ceremony. Bring me the goblet!”

    In came four monkeys holding an ornate box with gold and maroon writing on it. They held it above their heads they danced and whooped, like monkeys do, all the way in from the middle of the crowd
    As they came closer the room got quite. They pulled out from the box a large glass goblet.

    “Please to have you close your peepers now.”

    I slowly closed my eyes. I promptly felt the goblet smack me on my head and I went limp.

    When I woke the smell of apricots filled the air and a loud knocking on my front door.

    The room seamed to sway as I made my way to the door. As I opened the door my good friend Bob barged it.
    “Are you deaf? I’ve been knocking for 5 minutes!” I groggily followed him back into the living room and plopped myself down on the couch.

    “Do you smell Apricots? I really have a taste for some pie. ”

    As I rubbed my head, Bob’s slowly turned, his eyes fixated on me with a look of amazement.
    Without changing his gaze he gestured toward the goblet that was sitting atop the mantel.

    “Have you been there?”

    I stared at the large glass, “Well, if you mean a crazy dream I just had, then yes I have.”

    Bob reached up under his chin and unzipped his neck and the human skin around him fell to the floor and standing in front of me was a 6 foot kangaroo with his arms outstretched like he just performed a magic trick.

    The last thing I remember was hitting my head on the coffee table and muttering, “Peeeeecan Pie”.

  29. cosi van tutte

    There I was sweeping the Kentucky Hall Museum’s lobby. It was ten o’clock at night. Cloudless sky. Full moon. Not that the sky’s appearance mattered all that much. I was inside and I was busy doing my work. No time for stargazing, I’m afraid.

    I don’t remember what drew my attention to the wall. I’m sure it was something good, but nope. Can’t remember. Anyway, I looked at the wall (for fill-in-the-blank reason) and I noticed that one of the Stellar Observations pamphlets was sticking to the base of the wall.

    And I don’t mean glued on, taped on kind of sticking. I mean, it was just there. Sticking to the wall. It was weird.

    So, obviously I had to check it out.

    I pulled the navy blue pamphlet off the wall. It came away easier than I’d expected.

    So, nope. Not taped on. Not glued on. Just sticking.

    I touched the wall. There was a cold spot. Not like freezing your teeth out of your head kind of cold. No, it was more like a drafty spot cold (if that makes any sense). I ran my hand over the spot and found that the cold was coming out of a round indentation. You know. Like a hole.

    I sat on the floor with my feet tucked under me and thought it over.

    This was just weird.

    I could ignore it and forget all about it and get myself back to work, but it was just so weird.
    But what could I do about it? I mean, really? The hole was covered up by wallpaper. What was I supposed to do? Tear the wallpaper off just to satisfy my curiosity?

    Yep. I tore the wallpaper off just to satisfy my curiosity.

    If it’s any consolation, I felt perfectly awful about it. I mean, it wasn’t even my own wallpaper in my own house. In all honesty, though, I just wanted to uncover the hole. Just one small insignificant tear.

    Well.

    That tear took on a life of its own and, next thing I knew, the whole wallpaper panel had fallen down on top of my head.

    I was going to be fired. I was sure of it. I mean, my boss is nice and forgiving and lovey-dovey la-di-da blah blah blah, but come on! Everyone has their limits. Me tearing up their wallpaper was sure to be my boss’ limits.

    I was on the brink of throwing a full scale panic attack, but then I noticed the door. Half of it was still covered by the next wallpaper panel, but I marveled at what was revealed: A wrought iron door with hammered curlicues and twirley things. It was awesome and I wanted to open it.

    So, yep. I tore down the panel covering the other side of the door.

    The door was beautiful. And very heavy looking. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to open it by myself, but I figured ehh! I’d give it a good try.

    I turned the doorknob.

    So far so good.

    And I pushed the door open.

    Oh, it was heavy all right, but I pushed it open. All by myself.

    The inside room was dark and smelled of oil and metal and Johnny 5 Hotshot cologne.

    I hesitated for a moment, turned around, grabbed my broom, and entered the room.

    A calm British voice stated, “Please identify yourself.”

    I startled. “I’m…uhhh…the cleaning crew.”

    “Cleaning crew? Master Tony does his own cleaning. I’m afraid you must leave the premises before I resort to regrettable measures.”

    I had no idea what where how what what WHAT? was going on, but I didn’t want to find out what he meant by “regrettable measures.” “Okay, I’ll go. But can you at least tell me one thing: What is this place?”

    “I will tell you only if you promise never to return.”

    “Okay. I promise.”

    It sounded like a very hasty promise even to me, but calm British guy bought the whole farm house and half the silo. “This is Master Tony’s secret developmental lab.”

    “What does he develop?”

    “I am sorry, but I am not at liberty to answer that question.”

    “Who is he?”

    “I am sorry, but I am not at liberty to answer that question.”

    “Is he a good person or—”

    “I am sorry, but my programming does not permit me to pass judgment on my creator. You may go now.”

    “Your programming? Your creator? What? What?” I paused. “What?”

    “I am Jarvis. I am Master Tony’s greatest creation. I am his assistant and his guide. Please leave.”

    “So, what? Are you a robot?”

    “My very first iteration was a robot, but my present iteration has far surpassed that first form. I am formless. I am bodiless. I am—”

    The overhead lights came to life. A middle-aged guy with a goatee entered the room from the far right. “Hey, Jarvis! You chatting yourself up again? You know, sometimes I think you need a girlfriend.” He stopped walking when he noticed me.

    “Uhh, hi?”

    He did a lazy look-up look-down. “So. What’s the scoop? What’s the deal? Why is there a random chick in my secret construction lab?” He frowned. “And what the flying leap is with the broom?”

    “I’m a cleaning crew person.”

    “Uh-hmnn. Well. As you can see, my floors are all spic span shiny tap dancing fine. So, I suggest that you take your broom and take a hike.”

    “I do beg your pardon, miss. Master Tony has always lacked in interpersonal skills.”

    “Didn’t I program you not to criticize me?”

    “No. Master Tony. You programmed me not to judge you. Criticizing is not judging.”

    “Hmm. Remind me to fix that programming later.”

    “Who are you?” I asked.

    “Me? Wait. You don’t know who I am? Where’d you come from? Alaska?”

    “No.” I had no idea why he felt the need to single out that particular state.

    “Not from Alaska, huh? Maybe you’re from Oregon. That could explain a lot.”

    “Never mind where I’m from. Who are you?”

    “See? I just don’t understand that question. I don’t think it even qualifies as a real question. Not knowing who I am.” He shook his head in disbelief. “What do they teach the urchins nowadays?”

    “I am not an urchin.”

    “I mean, how could you not know who I am? I’m famous. More famous than the Mona Lisa. Except in Alaska and Oregon. The people there…I don’t know about them. They must have bad upbringing or something. As for you…Well. I don’t get you at all and I don’t want to waste my time figuring you out. Why don’t you go trip on out that door and never ever come on back?”

    “What? You’re not even going to tell me who you are?”

    “See? I don’t see any point in telling you that information. You wouldn’t even be impressed, which would just depress me. And I don’t like being depressed.” He limp-wristed waved his hand at me. “So, go away. Shoo. Go back to your cave in Oregon.”

    “I’m not from Ore—”

    “Nope. Not interested. Just go.”

    I wanted to argue some sense into his scruffy head, but I knew it was hopeless. I turned around and left.

    I’d have to find some way to fix that wallpaper before the end of my shift.

    ***

    “You could have handled that better, Master Tony.”

    “Ehh, maybe, maybe not. I’m gonna go get me some biscotti. Be back in twelve.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Ah, she’s broken through to an alternate Earth; one where Tony’s ego-dream has taken over the planet. This is brilliantly irreverent and fun, Cosi, especially given the very realistic way in which the arrogant genius handled it. Major fun! 🙂

      1. cosivantutte

        Thanks, OT!

        I had a lot of fun writing it. Initially, I was going to have it be a portal to RDJ’s basement, but I thought that this would be a lot more fun. 🙂

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Cosi, what a fun read today, it smacks of ‘Alice In Wonderland.’ I loved the casual, non-threatening conversations and the assitant with impeccable manners. That goes a long way with me. This story is worth a continuation.

  30. Reaper

    Alright, part 42, and maybe this chapter does go after the one from last week, not sure yet. No matter what… next week I step away from this, proud of myself for meeting the challenge I set for myself. Still have a lot more of this story to tell but it’s taken on a life of its own and demands to be free. 🙂 Thanks for indulging me, and we’ll see if I can remember how to do normal prompts next week.

    In the Beginning – Knocking on Heaven’s Door

    The apartment was a tomb. The grave of his happy life, his former world. The first son knew what one did with places of eternal rest and desecrated souls. One kept such shrines clean. So he set about the task of polishing the home he once shared with his adopted father.

    Some of the dust he swept free wafted towards one wall. Walls were funny things, one did not really notice them in the standard course of events. It was only when they behaved oddly that one paid attention to the mundane aspects of one’s life. The first son moved to wall to investigate this disturbing occurrence.

    Kneeling down he felt air being drawn in at the base. Very faintly. Sucked in like the breath of a stillborn child. He held his own breath to be sure and gently peeled away the wallpaper. At first it was gentle anyway. Within seconds he was tearing into it like he was unwrapping a gift.

    When he was done a giant double door stood where the wall had been. The Thomas he was thought of it as wrought iron, the first son knew it for cold iron instead. It stood unadorned, a passage to a new world.

    The son though that was wrong. It should be marked with some passage of brilliance grown stale and clichéd with overuse by hacks attempting to prove their brilliance through well disguised plagiarism. The son hoped for something like ‘Abandon all hope…’ or ‘While I pondered…’ This door though, it did not even bear a ‘Nevermore’ or a ‘Plymouth Rock’ to mark his passage into a brave new world. Hell, he might have even settled for a ‘This is Sparta’ but he got nothing.

    He touched it and heard the hum of a choir behind it and knew this was it. This was the portal to his army. He heard the door behind him, the normal one, swing open and knew his sister had joined him. With a gentle tug the doors in front of him swung silently open.

    He stood back, expecting a host of angels to fly out, flaming swords in hand, ready to do his bidding. Life did not work like that though. Not even a prophetic life. Not yet. Instead, a leather bound tome fell at his feet.

    “That is your army, or the names of them. The ones the mad Peter collected for you. Mine is ready, so I will give you five years to gather yours.”

    “Five years?”

    “It was a sacred number, according to our grandfather.”

    “Five years to gather a group of killers, psychopaths, degenerates, and madmen.”

    “It worked for Manson.”

    “He got women in his though. Five years, then we battle each other.”

    “You had a choice. You could have left the box unopened, you could have let the traitor live. You could have denied God’s plan.”

    “I don’t feel like I had a choice.”

    “Men rarely do when they follow a true path. People of faith put aside free will for the greater good, and yet they have it.”

    “Is there no other way?”

    “Many.”

    “But you deny them.”

    “I will follow the path of faith, even if you shun it.”

    “So this is it.”

    “The last time we come together as a family.”

    “Love you, big sister.”

    “And I love you, little brother, but I love my duty more.”

    The doors closed, both before and behind him. Leaving him alone in the tomb of his former world. His only company the book of maniacs recruited for his cause. And the tears. Always the tears.

    They fell for everything he had lost.

    Even more for all he stood to gain.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is almost enough to make me feel sorry for Thomas. Almost. You’ve built an evil character, and then created a sense of sympathy for him. But the tragedy of life is that, even when you can see the oncoming train, sometimes it’s harder to step off the tracks than to face it. 🙂

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Reaper!

      It’s totally awesome that you’ve gotten this story up to Part 42. It’s going to be weird when you have it all finished, but I can’t wait to see how you’ll end it. I have a feeling that it is going to be epic. 😀

      Oh, and Just so you know, I loved this whole paragraph: “The son though that was wrong. It should be marked with some passage of brilliance grown stale and clichéd with overuse by hacks attempting to prove their brilliance through well disguised plagiarism. The son hoped for something like ‘Abandon all hope…’ or ‘While I pondered…’ This door though, it did not even bear a ‘Nevermore’ or a ‘Plymouth Rock’ to mark his passage into a brave new world. Hell, he might have even settled for a ‘This is Sparta’ but he got nothing.” More mystic doors should be marked “This is Sparta!” 😆

      And this line totally sums up their messed up family: “And I love you, little brother, but I love my duty more.”

      Great job, Reaper!

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Congratulations on sticking with this and for creating a fantastic story. I’m planning on setting some time aside next week to read everything.

    4. regisundertow

      This feels like a story of two halves; while the first is very representative of your style with careful choice of words to create a certain vibe (especially “stillborn” and “brave new world”), it’s the dialogue that pulled me in. This meditation on inevitability is something that permeates most of your work, but I don’t think it’s stated so explicitly. To me, this is the point and culmination of everything that has happened during your narrative to this point, both story-wise and character-wise. As Thomas said, this is it.

      Some nitpicking; I didn’t care much about the Sparta reference to be honest. Others did, so take it as a personal thing. Pop culture references tend to pull me out of stories and this is definitely a story I like becoming lost in.

  31. JosephFazzone

    Aaron was amazed as the wall paper pulled with the ease of an exhale. The door was revealed. Every piece of iron had been heated to a white hot, and masterfully twisted, coiled, and turned to depict an image of waves crashing into themselves from the center of a spider’s web. At the very center, he saw the Claddagh; an iron heart with two iron hands holding it protectively, lovingly. The gaps between the iron revealed only utter darkness exuding an ominous feel, but he was reinforced with the need to protect, and love overrode his caution. He continued. There were no handles or locks that he could find, and further probing found no hinges either. He ran his hands over the heart, and traced his fingers around the smooth edges. It pricked his finger, and a single drop of blood covered the heart.

    A loud click was heard. The heart sank inward, and a deep grinding sound of stone and stone could be heard. The door began to sink through a hole that opened below it. The darkness did not dissipate, in fact in only intensified now that the door was no longer in view. Cora’s image flashed into his mind. He looked into her bright blue eyes, and saw only fear and doubt.

    “What do you seek?” he heard her ask in a trembling whisper that grazed his ear.

    He stopped mid step, and turned towards the sound, but could not see her.

    He turned toward the door and answered, “I want to know.”

    The silence a given acquiescence, he stepped forward and was swallowed in darkness.

    Then he saw a baby bruised and whimpering on a filthy towel in a trash littered room, and at a small fold out table sat her father and some other guy with dark brown hair. They were playing dominoes. Suddenly the dark haired guy slaps his hand down on the table and yells, “BONES!”

    The baby cries.

    “Oh, that does it”, her dad exclaims in frustration, “I’m going to kill that brat. Shut up or I’ll give ya reason to cry again…”

    Darkness returns, and then he sees.

    Her mother is talking on the phone at the kitchen table. In her hand is a crack pipe.

    “Her teeth are rotted”, she states takes a deep hit of the pipe with her blowtorch. She held her breath, and spoke in a strained voice. “Never even brushed her teeth.”

    Darkness comes, and then he sees the dark haired man grinning knowingly at her. His hands are all over her, caressing her, and she is fighting back, but too timidly to be effective. It only causes him to do it more frantically.

    “This is just something between you and me. Your dad don’t need to know this.”

    Darkness.

    “Your dad isn’t coming today”, her mom says. “Now shut up or you’ll get the spoon. He’s been arrested. Go, go and do something. Get out of here!” She goes back to smoking her pipe.

    Darkness, and then he sees Cora lying on the floor holding her eye.

    “There is no love, idiot!” her boyfriend was saying, “There is only sex. I know you do it, everyone told me. Why do you think we hooked up? Your personality or your boobs? That’s better. No come over here and stay. I wanna look at you.”

    Darkness, and then he sees Cora arguing with her boyfriend. He slammed his fist into her jaw. She fell back, and was crying hysterically. Meanwhile he stood over her with his fists clenched screaming, “What do you mean you’re pregnant?”

    Darkness.

    Aaron closed his eyes. Even with his eyes shut he could hear voices from Cora’s past fly by him, antagonizing him, and it was wearing him down to the ground.

    “You’re ugly, but you’re also stupid, and that’s what makes you even uglier.”

    “Yeah, I slept with Heidi. She’s hot, and you’re boring. Maybe we should see other people.”

    “Well, you’ve always been a bit fat.”

    “Why do you always cry so much? Your father died in prison, like the douche he was. You should be happy you don’t have to see him anymore.”

    “Why do you always hide when Uncle Dan is here? Go and give him a hug.”

    “Yeah, well I’m not ready to help you raise your brat, so get out. You can keep your clothes. That’s it.”

    “I’m sorry we were not able to save your child. Your fainting spell was brought on by malnutrition. Do you have anyone we can call to come pick you up?”

    Darkness.

    Aaron fell to the floor crying. He’d never cried so hard in his life. “I didn’t know, Cora. I didn’t know.”

    He opened his eyes, and looked around. He was in a small room, white, pristine, and in one corner was a small all white crib. He stood up shakily, walked to the crib, and looked inside. Laying there was the baby, all smiles and coos, staring back at him with bright blue eyes. He stared into the baby’s eyes and said through his tears. “I’m here, my love. I’m here.”

    He was transported in a flash back into their living room. He stared at her in a perplexed manner. He looked at his arms which were no longer bearing the weight of the small infant. He blinked, and could feel the cool moist tears that had been shed.

    “What happened?” He asked her.

    Cora sat at the edge of the couch. Her incantations stopped. She had been crying too, but now she was smiling at him gently. “You saw it all.”

    “I did” he said wiping his eyes.

    “You asked me how I managed to always find a smile”, she said softly, “Truth is, I fought everyday to find a reason after I hit rock bottom. When I found my calling, and entered the coven I found one way, but then I met you, and now…

    He attempted to interrupt him, but she interrupted him back.

    “…I’ve been smiling ever since “, she explained, “I can’t say it doesn’t hurt me still, but I can say that I am grateful for surviving it.”

    “It was madness”, Aaron said haunted. “Thank you for sharing it.”

    She beamed brightly. Her heart was full. “Thank you for wanting to see it.”

    He laughed, “Now I won’t give you crap about not wanting to see your mom.”

    “Well, we have yours, and she’s awesome”, Cora laughed lightly. It was a beautiful sound.

    Aaron smiled. This was the love of his life, and now she had revealed the haunting of her past. Had he never seen this side of her, he wouldn’t believe it existed, or that people could be so mean. She was a lesson to him. There are very few things in this world that are worth bitching about, and most if not all of it, is not worth remembering with any regret or anger. Cora lived her life for the happiness that she worked tirelessly for, embracing every day as a gift. Showing this side of her was the best anniversary gift he could ever have asked for.

    He walked up to her, and held her close. “Happy Anniversary, my love!”

    She put her finger on his lips and giggled merrily, “It’s not yet next year. Ready? In ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, and…”

    1. Observer Tim

      This is heart-wrenching and inspiring, Joseph. It’s disturbing to read, but the overall effect is uplifting. I’m glad not to have lived Cora’s life, but my own has had its share of “surprises”, and it’s good to see she made it through to this point. Beautiful. 🙂

    2. regisundertow

      This is relentless and unyielding, I was thankful you countered the barrage of darkness with hope. I liked how the fantastical elements receded into the background to let the true heart of the story step forth.

  32. ReathaThomasOakley

    The attic 1908
    (Story jumps ahead, perhaps will be filled in later)

    “Horace? You up here again?”

    Horace Hightower quickly stood and brushed the dust from his trouser knees.

    “Ah, Sue Ann, what you doin’ outta bed? You know what Doctor…” He stopped as his blonde, heavily pregnant wife pulled herself up the last few steps into the attic. “Them stairs ain’t good for you to be climbin’.” He guided her to a steamer trunk. “Set yoreself down, I’ll be done d’rectly.”

    “I woke up, you were gone. Why on earth do you keep coming up here, ever since we got home from Atlanta.” She sighed, then gave a little gasp and struggled to stand. “Horace, the wallpaper, it’s torn off. Did you do that?”

    “I tole you, something’s wrong with that wall yore Daddy put up. Way I built this house, ain’t no way wind’s gettin’ in, but I feel a draft.”

    “Oh, Horace,” Sue Ann sobbed. “You’ve never appreciated all daddy’s done for us. He paid for us to take a real honeymoon, had my beautiful furniture brought in, even kept your groves going, but all you do is find fault.” She wiped her nose on her sleeve. “If he hadn’t done all those things for you, where would you be?”

    “Sue Ann,” he handed her his handkerchief, “please, please don’t cry. I’m jest sayin’ we don’t want no open places in the house. You don’t want rats, do you?” Sue Ann gave a little squeal.

    “Rats? We’ve got rats? I’ll tell Daddy…”

    “No, no, I ain’t seen none, don’t want to.” Horace turned back to the wall between the dormer windows, the wall that wasn’t there before he and Sue Ann went on their extended honeymoon. John Palmer took it upon himself to build the wall and paper the attic, and now Horace could swear there was a draft along the baseboards. He didn’t want to tell her what he thought he saw just before he’d heard her. There couldn’t be iron bars in the plaster behind the paper.

    Sue Ann was still crying and talking.

    “If it hadn’t been for Daddy you’d be married to that woman that everyone knows ran off with a railroad man…,” Horace felt his shoulders tighten, but he didn’t turn around. The days after Sarah disappeared were the worse of his life, more terrible than when his folks died, but John Palmer found several witnesses who swore they’d seen her at the Jacksonville train station.

    “…you’d be saddled with that baby.” He could understand Sarah leaving him the way he’d acted after the baby came, but for her to abandon her child…

    “Horace?” Sue Ann stopped crying. “We need to get to bed.”

    “But…” She was right, this was his life now. Sue Ann was his wife, soon he’d have another child, he could forget the little girl growing up out at Sarah’s aunts. He did sometimes wonder if she’d have extra teeth like Sarah, the ones he’d loved seeing when she’d throw back her head and laugh out loud at the joy of just being alive.

    1. Observer Tim

      Once again, wow. This ending is fantastic just as it is, but I could easily see you writing a chapter about Horace’s futile attempt to chase Sarah’s train. Of course, the subtle ending says everything about what really happened. This is a masterwork, Reatha. It is definitely worthy of a clean-up, expansion, and publication. And the 1960’s section isn’t even done yet! 🙂

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you, Tim, for your very kind and encouraging words. I couldn’t resist jumping ahead when I saw the prompt. In my mind I can see the time right after Sarah disappears when he’s frantic and when he takes the baby to the aunts. I think I’ll now return to the scene in the attic, 1970, when the bones are found, maybe work some past incidents into that narrative, but it all depends on the next few prompts.. I plan on working on the whole in January.

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Reatha!

      Wow. That John Palmer is something. It makes me wonder how much Sue Ann knows or suspects. Poor Horace and Sarah. 🙁

      And, just so you know, I love the regret in that last line. 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Reatha, there is so much yet to come, the story line becomes more powerful wth each segment. I can’t wait for you to put it all togethr. You are giving a microscopic picture of real life that is immensely intriguing to read. Bend the prompts a little if you need to.

    3. regisundertow

      Every time I read a story here, the critical part of my brain switches on and I take the entry apart in terms of structure, prose, etc, etc. Just a good way of figuring out how good writers do what they do. What I found myself doing while reading this story was being absorbed into it to the point where I told the critical part of my brain to take a break. I found the flow and pace amazing in how effortless they make the story feel. It reads like running water.

  33. jhowe

    The bald man stared at the door and barked sharply. He shredded the wallpaper that had covered the door and threw it into the air and kicked at the pieces as they fell. A low, continuous growl sounded from the side of his mouth and he attacked. He slammed into the door several times. The door was iron and didn’t move. He kicked it three times with his right foot and then twice with his left. He limped backwards and charged again, this time with much less force. Both feet were badly damaged and his hands were bloody from the blows. He reassessed, turned the knob and shouldered the door with all his strength. There was not a twinge of movement. He cried out and pounded with his fists, over and over, leaving trails of blood flowing down the wrought iron slab.

    A small dark haired woman in a white lab coat appeared with a clipboard followed by two attendants. The bald man did not resist as the attendants applied the straight jacket and laced it tight.

    “You’re getting better, Henry,” the woman said. “Your anger has diminished significantly. It’s now hovering just below uncontainable.

    The bald man beamed. “You should have gave me one more chance,” he said. “I was going to head butt it.”

    “Well, maybe next time.” She removed a handkerchief from a pocket, turned the knob easily and pulled the door open. She handed the bloodied cloth to one of the attendants who took it gingerly by the corner. “You see, doors can either be pushed or pulled.”

    “Dang,” the bald man said.

    “Yes, I agree,” she said. “Dang.”

    1. Observer Tim

      I had thought he was pushing on a door marked pull and I thought, “John would never do that” but you did. You have an absolute gift for taking old chestnuts and turning them into diamonds. This brought a smile to my face. 🙂

    2. Kerry Charlton

      Reminds me of embarassing moments I have brought upon myself, shoving and pushing and cursing at doors with the pull sign in plain view and having a small woman opening the door for me, mouthing ‘idiot.’ quite a fun romp here, dang!

  34. Trevor

    Word Count: 730

    Door of Secrets

    The door stood ominously before me. The wrought iron was partially rusted, marking the door with blotches of dark orange. A large handle was in the middle of the door, almost beckoning me to grasp it. For some reason, I felt compelled to open the door, to see what lay behind it.

    Spring cleaning had brought me to this discovery. I was vacuuming the office when I bumped into the desk. My glasses flew off my face and skidded across the floor to the wall. As I bent over to retrieve my notoriously loose glasses, I felt a sudden blast of chill against my hand. When I moved my arm away, I saw the hole in the base of the wall.

    It was miniscule, small enough for an ant to crawl into. But the breeze being expelled through that hole felt like it was coming out of a hair dryer. I tried to look inside the hole, but the only thing I saw was solid black. Now, a normal person would probably just grow bored with such a seemingly insignificant wall blemish. But I was intrigued by this strange hole and I wanted to investigate it further. Using my thickest fingernail, I began to scrap away at the wallpaper surrounding the hole.

    After several minutes of peeling back the pale white paper, I finally uncovered the iron door.

    Now, my stomach churning in anticipation, I finally grabbed the handle and pushed the door open. The room beyond the door felt like a meat locker, the cold air puncturing through my thin sweater and jeans. I stepped inside and found that the room was cavernous, practically doubled the size of my living room.

    And lying in the back of the room, having stiffened from years of decay, were two dead bodies. The dead bodies of my mother and father.

    It had been years since I’d thought about that night. For years afterwards, I did everything I could to forget about it. Hell, I’d spent most of my life trying to forget my entire childhood. All the insults my father threw at me on a daily basis. All the punches. All the slaps. All the bruises and blackeyes. Despite all the time that had passed, I still remember the pain, both physical and emotional.

    One night, after my father had slapped me for failing a test and banished me to my room without supper, I finally decided I’d had enough abuse. Sneaking out of my bedroom, I went into my parents’ room and collected the gun my father kept hidden in his sock drawer. I knew where it was because he’d threatened me with it several times. Then, I went downstairs to the kitchen, where my parents were busy with their latest screaming match.

    They never saw it coming. My father hadn’t even hit the floor when I turned the gun on my mother and shot her in the back of her head. As soon as their lifeless bodies fell limp to the floor, I felt like a weight on my shoulders had been lifted. But soon, my relief morphed into fear. What was I going to do now? How would I get rid of their bodies? Panicked, I called the only person I could trust: my Uncle Rodney.

    Rodney was the only person I confided in about the abuse. But, living in a trailer park on a low income, no one would’ve believed him if he tried to help me. But now, he could finally help me clean up my mess. He showed me the vault in my father’s office and helped me carry their bodies into the old empty space. No one would ever find them there.

    And that’s just what happened. The police tried to find out what happened to my parents, but Rodney and I had covered our tracks. We cleaned up the crime scene and he had an architect friend that owed him a favor wall up the vault to forever protect our secret.

    But now that I had once again remembered my secret and all the painful memories of this house, I have to destroy it. I can’t live knowing the place of my childhood nightmares still stood tall. I won’t be able to live in peace if this God-foresaken house remains standing.

    My mother and father will burn, just like they are down in Hell.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is darkly psychological and more than a bit disturbing, Trevor. Great job. I like the way we discover along the MC what he’s done. This one made me shudder.

      If you want a constructive suggestion, I think the last line could be tightened up by saying that the parents’ bodies will burn, just like their souls in Hell. But it wouldn’t add that much.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        It’s a sad tale of extreme abuse a child has suffered. One tiny suggestion, the reader understands what the father has done to deserve his death but a line or two explaining the mother’s evil to her son’s hell might help in determining the shooting.

    2. regisundertow

      There’s some redundant phrasing, especially in the beginning, but that can be fixed with some editing.

      I like the curveballs you introduced into this story, especially the benevolent trailer-trash uncle and the killer completely forgetting about his own crime. They helped differentiate the piece and made it more memorable.

  35. Kerry Charlton

    THE LEGEND OF MARY CATHERINE COBB

    Part Six

    When John stepped over the threshold of Sarah Louise Arnold’s house, a
    different world greeted him.. An image of Victorian era fell before his eyes, not a thing
    was out of place as Sarah led him through the main house to a sunroom connected by a
    loggia She motioned for John to sit across from her, and yet her gaze remained filled
    with suspicion.

    “Tell me what my great aunt looked like.”

    He started to refute her question but her eyes insisted he answer.

    “She was delicate, long auburn hair draped over her shoulder, dressed in the
    fashion of the day. Her eyes radiated mystery and were Irish green. A color so intense, it
    hypnotized my soul as I looked upon her face. Do you think I would put you through
    anything like this if I had any other choice?”

    “I’ve heard a lot of nonsense revolving around the legends at Nottoway, why on
    earth should I believe you?”

    “Frankly, I can’t think of any reason why you should.?”

    “That is a refreshing answer young man. Why are you so interested?”

    John hesitated a moment,

    “It has nothing to do with my job there.”

    “I realize that, they asked me to approve your application, I’m not over the fence

    yet.”

    “Miss Sarah, it’s personal.”

    “Obviously, you’re not going to get out of here until you tell me.”

    “Tell me about your wedding at Nottoway, first.”

    “After, are you in love with a ghost?”

    “What makes you think so, Miss Sarah?”

    “It’s written all over your face. You asked about my wedding, It was two nights
    before my ceremony. All our family and friends had arrived at Nottoway, there was much
    merriment about, too much drinking and then someone mentioned ghosts“
    ,
    “What did you say?”

    “Bosh or something like it. I tried to belittle it but my cousin Aubrey insisted I
    show her the basement, so the two of us went down there alone.”

    “Did you see Mary?“

    “No, Chester Cobb himself, ranting and raving from the rafters.“

    “What did you cousin say?”

    “She swore me to secrecy, she was scared stiff, so was I.. He moved all over the

    basement, ranting how Mary had abandoned him.. But I stood my ground and confronted
    him.”

    “Why would you try to make him mad?”

    “Because I had heard rumors about him and Mary. I knew he was an evil man.“

    “What happened?”

    “He stood before me and cursed me. He said I looked just like Mary and knew she
    had sent me.”

    “You knew about his yearning for her?”

    “Only rumors of it, he was a nasty, intimidating scoundrel.”

    “How did you handle him?’

    “It got edgy and then I got mad and told him off, so to speak“

    “You‘ve got me on the rim of my seat.”

    “I told him to quit being a nuisance and if he didn’t I’d have his coffin dug up and feed what was left of him to the wild hogs.”

    “You really said that?”

    “I did, it’s the Irish in me.”

    “Did he bother you any more.?“

    “No but I’m curious, how do you know about Mary and her father?”

    “I found his personal journal. I’m certain it was one sided and probably never
    realized.”

    “Did you destroy it?”

    “Not yet, it’s back in it’s hiding place.”

    John noticed how tired Sarah had become and suggested they meet the next day.

    “John, you hold our family’s honor in your hands. Destroy the journal. Let the

    ghosts of the past rest, it will be better for all of us, including you.”

    “I will do it tonight when I return.”

    “Your love for Mary is also safe with me.”

    “You know things most people never see, don’t you?”

    “Wait ‘till you’re ninety, you’ll understand. Will you have lunch with us
    tomorrow? I have someone I’d like you to meet, one o’clock?”

    “Yes Miss Sarah, I’ll be here.”

    .

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks John, I sat across from the two of them and listened as they talked to each other, let it cool a day and then tweaked it. This stuff doesn’t come out of my brain as it does other writers. When I wrote it, I didn’r realize there were no tags to it, I was concentrating on the conversation. It doesn’t happen often like this, sometimes I butcher dialogue. Look for part seven later on next prompt. Thank you for stopping by. [ HINT] there’s going to be a duel.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Joseph, tag the next chapter, ‘Joseph’s.’ I am going to run with your thought. I love getting hints and ideas from all of you, it’s fun to use them.

    1. regisundertow

      Just a thought; have you tried your hand at writing theater? This whole dialogue read like a play in my head. It could have been the setting which reminded me of Tennessee Williams or the fact that the dialogue wasn’t reliant on descriptions. Either way, it has a certain quality about it that makes me feel it would be perfectly at home on stage.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        What a wonderful compliment regis, I never entertained the idea about writing stage plays, I think it might be difficult to even try it. As far as a comparison to Tennessee Williams, I appreciate your compliment but I have no delusions, my writing needs a lot of work and remember I am fighting the clock. I should have started to write at least fifty years before I did, no one to blame but myself. But better late then never.

  36. Observer Tim

    A MYSTERIOUS DOOR

    The result of my work is an oak door with wrought iron fittings. Somebody covered it over with wallpaper, which is now split and rolled up on either side of it. Now all I have to do is figure out why it’s in my bedroom. And why haven’t I noticed it before? This has been my room since I was nine.

    I wonder what’s behind it: Narnia? Monster-land? Part of me is dying of curiosity; the other part is focused on the ‘dying’ part. I don’t want to be torn apart by monsters when I’m only fifteen. But there’s only one way to find out where it goes; monsters or no, I have to open it. I grab the big iron handle, give it a twist, and pull.

    The misty gray courtyard is almost an anticlimax. Visibility is about thirty feet, but at least there’s no tombstones. I step through.

    My slippers squelch on the wet grass. My brain tells me pyjamas are not exactly optimal exploring gear and I turn back, but the door isn’t there any more. I say a word that would make Mom scowl.

    Well, nothing for it but to explore; please let this be Narnia. This place could really use some colour; it would be a lot less creepy.

    Somewhere in the distance I hear a door. Somehow that makes it worse; it was bad enough when I thought the place was empty. Especially when I hear claws clicking on stone.

    Do I run? If so, which way? Everything’s echoing and I have no way to even tell where the sound is coming from.

    I gulp.

    “Harf! Ar-farf! Fuff! Ar-farf!”

    I scream and fall backwards. As my heart thumping slows I realize it’s a normal dog, no higher than my knees, barking like a mad thing and staring at me with tail wagging. It rushes me tongue-first.

    “Wells! Wells!” It’s a woman’s voice. “Where are you, girl?”

    The dog stops licking and barks some more. A woman emerges from the mist. She’s tall and athletic, wearing a skin-tight leather bodysuit and a trench coat. She slaps her thigh and the dog runs over to her. The weird thing is I remember her; she taught Science when I was in seventh grade.

    “Miss Allen?”

    “Call me Delilah. How did you get here, Shawnessy?”

    “There was this door in my room…”

    “Big, heavy, iron handle? Wasn’t there before?”

    “How’d you know?”

    “Because I’ve seen it before; it leads to my home. I’m afraid you’re not in the normal world anymore.”

    “Why am I here?”

    “You’re what my father calls ‘time-sensitive’. Only a few people have the gift; it means that with the right equipment and a good dog you can be a time traveler.”

    “A time traveler? Wait, a dog?”

    “It’s complicated. The main thing is we have to get you trained.”

    “Why?”

    “Otherwise there’s no way to get you back home.”

    Gulp.

    1. jhowe

      This started off strong and just improved from there. The characters are wonderful and the story just moves around so well. I can see this being expanded with perhaps a sequel or two.

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks, John. That was (is) my intent. I’m still trying to figure out what breed of dog she’ll get. Delilah’s father had a Newfoundland and Delilah has a beagle; Delilah’s mother (in backstory) has a German Shepherd.

    2. JosephFazzone

      I love the idea of time travel as a gift, as long as they have a faithful hound by their side. It leads itself to two stories, how she learns more about her talent, and finding the right dog to make the journey. Great concept!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I like it Tim, it has the feeling of a book I read as a young boy, “The Magic Shoes.” Ii’s a great start and the description of the former teacher gives it a curious bite. A perfect start for a children’s book.

      2. Observer Tim

        Thanks Joseph; This story arose from one of the comments made to my prompt on an ancient post (The Face Outside, Aug 27, 2013), that Delilah would make an excellent moderator for a YA story about time travel. That’s the advantage of going back and revisiting old stuff…

    3. regisundertow

      This is deliciously aware without descending into parody, which is a tricky thing to do with a YA story such as this. It also reminds me of some of Terry Pratchett’s work, which I know you’re a fan of. Lots of possibilities to spin this into any direction you please. You got a very catchy concept with the time travelling and the dog. Really interested to see what fruits this bears.

  37. Teff

    Excitement washed over Sara again, even though her knees and hands screamed from scrubbing floors for the past hour. Her brand new house; well, not brand new, but brand new to her. Even though the place was a wreck and the previous owner didn’t bother taking any of his things or cleaning his filth, Sara beamed as she thought of all the fun she and her husband, Jack, would have making it their own.
    “Finally done,” Sara said aloud to her sparkling floor. She threw the sponge into the water pail and sloshed dirty, soapy water all over the side of the built-in cupboard. “Damn.”
    Sara slowly stood and stretched out her back which gave a satisfying pop. As she hobbled over and bent to pick up the sponge, she noticed some dirt and dust in the corner where the cupboard and the wall met.
    “You thought you were going to get away, didn’t you?” she taunted. A few of the dust bunnies scurried out of the way as she reached to scoop them up. At first she thought it was her movement that sent the dust flying, but then she noticed that all the dirt moved away from her toward the wall.
    “Odd,” she breathed. She leaned closer and saw that the wallpaper was pulling away under the lip of the cupboard.
    “Honey, we’re pulling this wallpaper out of the dining room, right?” she yelled back at Jack who was busy cleaning the bathroom down the hall.
    At Jack’s quick ‘Yea,’ Sara grabbed the bit of wallpaper and pulled it away from the wall. She expected drywall or plaster or faux wood paneling. What she found looked like a door frame, albeit a small door frame. She continued to pull the paper back further and further away from the cupboard.
    “The bathroom is immaculate,” Jack boasted from the dining room doorway behind Sara. “What is that?”
    Sara looked over her shoulder at Jack and stepped back to reveal a doorway.
    “It was behind the wallpaper,” she stated the obvious.
    “Why is it there?” Jack walked across the room, and knelt with Sara in front of the door.
    The door was about 3 feet by 3 feet. Too small for any real use but large enough that it implied it was used for something. There was a small notch in the wood intended for a door handle.
    “I don’t know. I haven’t opened it.”
    “Well, let’s see what’s inside.” Jack reached forward, hooked his finger into the notch, and slowly pulled the door open.
    Sara and Jack looked at each other as they felt a light wind sucking the air into the darkness beyond.
    “Close the door,” whispered a gruff voice from inside. “Hurry! They know you’ve opened it. They’re coming!”

    1. Observer Tim

      Ooh, way to tease, Teff. I like the way you built the tension with the MC’s speech, at first monologue and then dialogue. Now I’m wondering who or what is behind that door and what kind of chaos is going to break loose because they opened it. 🙂

COMMENT