A few nights ago, amidst waiting for tiny human to sleep soundly, I made a rash post on Facebook.
I fell asleep (finally) before i could watch the post for first like, so I instead assumed the first like was the person shown, which happened to be my sister. Anyway…
The task did its job, giving me a reason to write, and something to write about. However, it also backfired. What was meant to be a “Very Short Fiction” grew to be a fairly long, currently unfinished fiction. I do plan on completing it, eventually. I have gone back to work, and my time is now divided between tiny human and my place of employment.
I am off work tomorrow, and its also a Saturday, so I’ll try and finish it then! Until then, here’s some reading.
Very Short Fiction: Jennifer and The House
Curiosity. That was the soul reason why she agreed to housesit. She liked scary movies, she kept telling herself, so this should be no big deal. But then those were movies. This, on the other hand, was something else entirely.
The house had stood in the neighborhood for as long as Jennifer Wilson could remember. During her childhood its grounds had been the setting for many nightmares. When she passed by it, she was always afraid to look too long. Now an adult, it was just an interesting, if not foreboding, presence. She had often found herself wondering about it’s past.
For decades it had stood empty. Even the neighborhood strays tended to avoid the property. Children were scared of it, teenaged boys with nothing better to do than make mischief dared each other to enter, despite or in spite of the “NO TRESPASSING signs. But just a few months before, a mysterious stranger came to town bearing proof of ownership of the house and the land it stood on. Within weeks, a ad was placed in the local newspaper for a caretaker.
The ad simply requested that someone stay in the home to discourage trespassers and such. It required that the hired help stay overnight in the house, but come daylight, the individual was free too leave. The contract also stated, “No guests after dark.” Jennifer thought that somehow, there wouldn’t be a problem with that.
She didn’t tell anyone when she inquired about the position, she told only a few when she actually applied. She only told her immediate family that she’d gotten the job. Her mother didn’t like the idea, and made sure her daughter promised to keep her cell on her person and turned on at all times.
This was her first night in the place. Inside it seemed more well kept than she’d imagined, and aside from being a little drafty, it was fine. And, you know, the creepy part.
It wasn’t quite dark yet, the sun was still lingering above the horizon, and the red orange glow of late afternoon oozed in through the dust window panes. The owner’s representative, whom she’d met a few days prior to get the keys, had said she need do nothing to the house but sit inside it. But Jennifer was now wishing she had some glass cleaner and some paper towels. Or maybe some industrial strength cleaner and a scraper.
Giving herself a tour of the massive estate, Jennifer quickly realized that she should have left a trail of bread crumbs to find her way back to the front door. The house was indeed as huge as it appeared, and it seemed to have had additions upon additions when it was still being lived in.
She’d started by heading upstairs, finding massive suites. These bedrooms had sitting rooms in their sitting rooms. Jennifer counted at least four of the suites, and hadn’t reached the back of the house yet.
Turning a corner twenty minutes and what felt like two miles into her tour, she found a second staircase, leading back down and up. Deciding it was time to see what’s downstairs on this branch of the house, she turned toward the steps leading that way, when she heard a creak. She stopped in her tracks, telling herself it had likely been her. Looking behind her, she saw nothing, and went back to her chosen path. But instead of continuing on, she took a deep breath and turned to look up the stairs to the third floor.
As she turned her head, and just as her eyes began to adjust to the darkness that shrouded the top of the stairs she thought she saw something move.
Logic would tell some people to just turn around, go back downstairs where there was light and where your mind would not play tricks on you. Curiosity would tell other people to wonder. Straight up madness tells a few others to actually investigate. Decades of scary movies should have told Jennifer Wilson, “this is where the killer jumps out at you with a machete”.
But decades of scary movies have desensitized Jennifer. She pulled out her handy-dandy cell phone and turned on the flashlight function. Pointing it to the stairs, she shined the light up the staircase and swept it around the area.
“Well, couldn’t have seen anything,” she thought. “It’s just a closed door.” A this point, any other person would have turned around and gone back downstairs. Jennifer is not any other person. Jennifer is curious.
The steps leading up to the door creaked, the same creak she’d heard moments before. Pushing this thought aside, she stepped up to the landing, and reached for the knob of the door, and turned it. The door wouldn’t open. “Must be locked.” Looking at the knob, it seemed to have an old fashioned skeleton key lock. She thought of turning around and heading downstairs, she was beginning to get hungry, and she was sure her mysterious boss wouldn’t appreciate a snooping stranger.
But instead of heading down, she tried the knob once more. “It’s probably just the attic,” she tried to tell herself, tried to convince herself to turn right around and give up. “It’s locked for a reason.” After another try, getting frustrated, she said, “Fine!” aloud, and turned around.
The set of stairs she took led her to another door, this time not locked, that opened into a pantry, servants stairs, she assumed. The pantry led her into the kitchen, which she’d seen earlier. She had placed a bag of food her mother had sent her with in the retro refrigerator earlier that afternoon. This is what she grabbed when she entered the kitchen.
She spread out a cloth on the dusty table and put together her meal, which consisted of vegetables and dip, sandwiches and chips. No way to heat anything in the house yet. As she hate, she contemplated the door. She had a friend who collected skeleton keys for some reason. If she had the right one…
”Don’t be ridiculous,” she told herself. “It’s just a door.” A closed door, closed to her. I a big empty house that hasn’t been lived in for as long as she could remember, at least. She really wanted to know what was up there. She continued to eat, barely registering the food she put in her mouth, thinking about that door.
When she finished she quickly threw her leftovers back in the bag and tossed them in the fridge. Then she began to rifle through the drawers. Trying to ignore how silly it seemed to be that anyone would just throw a key to a locked door in a drawer in the kitchen, she looked though each drawer, coming across cooking utensils, candles and matches, a few rodent droppings and some dried out cockroach carcasses. Before she opened the final drawer, she told herself, “If I don’t find what I’m looking for in here, I’ll stop.” She sighed, as if to psych herself for defeat, and pulled on the drawer handle.
The face of the drawer came with the handle, just not the rest of the drawer, she reached in, slid the rest of the drawer out, and searched though the few objects that had been left in what appeared to have been a junk drawer that had seen better days.
Amidst the old bottle caps, empty glass vials, and what she hoped were lose seeds, there it was, a tiny, tarnished silver skeleton key. She held it up to the fading light from the kitchen window and resisted the urge to do a happy dance.
Moments later she was climbing the stairs once again. At the second floor landing, she turned on the cell phone flashlight, and shined it in the direction of her destination. This time, however, the light from the phone did not land on a door. It seemed to land on nothing. It reached as far as it could and gave up. She looked at the key in her hand and thought not how odd it was that the door had opened on its own, but instead how crazy she must have looked riffling through drawers.
She climbed the stairs once more, this time noticing how the didn’t creak as the had before. Still shining her light into the distance, she reached the landing where the door had once blocked her way.
To Be Continued