The sequel to "Outpost:Haven"4.06 / 5.00 40,739 Views
Hunt The Candy!!!3.83 / 5.00 12,244 Views
A thrilling rush through cyberspace!3.80 / 5.00 39,241 Views
++ ENTRY THREAD ++
DO NOT DISCUSS THE CONTEST IN THIS THREAD. ALL QUESTIONS, CONCERNS AND COMMENTS GO IN THE DISCUSSION THREAD: TO BE POSTED BELOW
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Welcome April's 2013's Monthly Writing Contest: - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - MWC13 - April - House Adventure - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Contrary to the current popular belief, the Newgrounds writing forum has always been rife with talent and a beacon for aspiring writers. Newgrounds is all about Everything by Everyone, and I think there's nothing more amazing than watching a young, inexperienced kid grow into an awesome, published author.
One such example is S. T. Cartledge, also known as Writersblock, who had always been an avid participant in the MWC's over the years, and has just recently gotten his latest book House Hunter published!
It's Pico Day at the end of this month. The entirety of Newgrounds is getting ready to celebrate by creating fan-made stuff of their favorite creators. I think we as the writing community should celebrate by making fan-fic of our own.
This month's theme is designed to get you to engage with your setting in creative ways. The theme comes from Shane's story, House Hunter, of which the basic concept for the story is "a world where houses are living creatures". His houses get up and walk around and fight each other and do the bidding of their owners.
What you are required to do for this month's contest is to set a story around a house that doesn't do what conventional houses do. Think, urban fantasy, or 'suburban fantasy', if you will. Make the boring old house into something exciting. It could be that your story takes place on a house-boat that behaves like a duck. It could be that you have a house that has a different room for each memory from a character's life. Maybe there's a house full of water that's home to a family of mutant shark-people. The limitations to what you can do with a house in a story comes down to your imagination. If I were entering this contest, I would personally stay away from 'Haunted House' stories, but I won't say that you can't do that. Of course, if you do it well (put an original spin on the cliche), there's no reason why you can't place well. What we're looking for here is a setting we've never seen before, a story that utilises that setting well, and still feels like somewhere buried in there, someone just might call that place a home.
Stories that exemplify the sorts of things you can do:
Howl's Moving Castle - a building that exists in several places at once.
Fahrenheit 451 - Fireproof houses with wall-sized televisions.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - A surreal fantasy world in an industrial building.
Hansel and Gretel - A house made of gingerbread , used to lure in greedy children.
1) Word Count Maximum: 4000 words
2) Story must be your original work. Plagirism will not be tolerated.
3) Story must be submitted by the deadline below
DEADLINE: April 7th, 2013; MIDNIGHT STD, EST (ie midnight between April 7th and April 8th)
Prizes provided by Newgrounds and by Writersblock
1st Place: $25 Store credit, a signed copy of House Hunter and the three Bizarro Starter Kits (blue, orange, and purple)*
2nd Place: $25 Store credit and a signed copy of House Hunter
3rd Place: $25 Store credit an ebook copy of House Hounter
4th Place: An ebook copy of House Hunter
5th Place: Honorable Mention
*Note: The bizzaro starter kits contain some pretty obscene material, hence the name "bizarro".
1) Post your stories in this thread.
2) Do not post revisions in this thread. They will be deleted.
3) You may submit one story only, one time. Posts will not be deleted at your demand so make sure your work is perfect before posting here.
Judges have yet to be announced.
Good luck! I look foward to reading your stories
Because I want you to read my shit. And I like attention.
The story is incomplete. This is just the beginning. But this is the start of a Sci-fi/Fantasy novella I'm writing. It'll top out about 45,000 words which is far beyond the scope of this contest. Nar, a sentient space faring creature, serves as James Oliver's motherly vessel, home, and partner. James, a youthful and aimless adventurer, survives only on painfully honed instincts and support from Nar.
James and Nar are on the run. They're rebels, and the Confederates are on their tail. When Nar is inflicted with a debilitating illness, the two are forced to maroon on a strange planet in the hope it will hide them. Leaving Nar behind to heal, he stumbles upon the resident people. After a series of botched translations, he finds himself the focal point of a political and theological battle. A dangerous and precarious position. He only needs to survive long enough to escape with Nar, but the game gets more tangled by the moment. And the Confeds are closing in.
The House That Built Me ((Part One))
If for some reason there's some formatting errors, this can also be found here: http://jennaskook.deviantart.com/art/The-House-That-Built-Me -367264291?ga_submit_new=10%253A1366670086
I'm lying down in one of those sunshiny spots. This is the only place and time they start to appear, where the sun manages to peek through the blinds my mom insist on keeping down all the time. The light warms my skin, makes it feel alive, and the prickling feeling that has been gathering on my arms vanishes.
Of course, I know it will appear again soon.
A soft knock on my door. My mom comes in.
"It's that day again. Time to go."
This is a routine for us. Each week, we buy chrysanthemums, drive to the cemetery, and set them down on my dad's grave. My mom will have tears sliding down her face that she would never let me see, and we will both remember. She'll mumble something that she purposely keeps me from hearing. Then we will take the old chrysanthemums and bury them in our garden. That's all we have now. A graveyard of wilting flowers to make up for his presence.
Now we'll go through the motions all over again.
But today, I break my silence.
"Why don't we ever go to his house?"
A few seconds of silence from her. Then, she draws out her words carefully and says: "Because I don't know if I could take it." I wonder if she's telling the entire truth.
The rest of our trip goes without any variation.
I open my laptop, come to the same song. After a drive to and from the cemetery, my mood is always subdued, quietly respectful. The guitar strings sound softly in my ear.
"I know they say, you can't come home again. I just had to come back, one last time."
I pause the song. Tiny fragments of shivers are poking at my sides. I don't know why, maybe it's the song, maybe it's my dead dad who I never got to meet. Maybe it's because I hear someone singing softly behind me.
"Ma'am I know, you don't know me from Adam, but these handprints on the footsteps are mine," she says quietly. "I can hear you singing that every time we come home, you know."
"You never told me."
"Why don't you ever just tell me what's on your mind?"
"To be honest Skylar, I'm not sure you'd understand."
"So you think keeping everything from me is gonna help that?"
Another one of her trademark silences. "You have a point."
"So why are you still so dedicated to him even after you two got divorced for years?"
"Because, Skylar-"She stops to think. "Because it took his death to make me realize that I had made a huge mistake." She leaves then.
At least we're making progress. We're starting to climb out of the rut we dug ourselves into.
I always wondered how my mom and dad divorced.
She'd use to talk to him in a hushed version of a furious screech. I'd lay in bed, wide awake, and try to cover my ears. I never asked her what they screamed at each other for. All I knew was that it was far past my bedtime, and my temperamental mother would surely ride me for being up so late.
She lost that lividness when he died, two years ago. I was fourteen, and by then, he had long stopped calling her.
When her personality grew quiet, I asked her what was wrong.
She simply said, "Your father died in a house fire."
Sometimes I find myself wishing for her old anger back, especially in events like when I failed a test or broke one of the windows. When she yelled at me, at least I knew she cared.
Now she's silent, too silent, and I wonder if there is anything other than her own private thoughts that occupy her mind. Now I'm starting to lose my patience with her, even when I know I shouldn't, and I'm the one who has to remind her to get up or snap her out of her reveries.
I wonder if our roles are starting to switch, though the more appropriate thing to think about is when our personalities will be completely reversed.
Today my mom told me about the importance of the chrysanthemums we get for my dad.
"He got me those on our first date. They were my favorite flowers, you know. I'm not so sure anymore, though. But it would be disrespectful to say they aren't, wouldn't it be? It's too late to change my mind now."
"But change is important for moving on," I had insisted. "You can't let him keep controlling you even after he's gone!"
"But I can't just forget him either."
"That's not what 'moving on' is."
Then tell me, Skylar, what is it?"
"It's-"I had paused then. "It's when you hold on to the past and the present at the same time."
"And how am I supposed to know what that means?"
"Maybe you're not. You'll figure it out."
"I'm not so sure about that. But the chrysanthemums are both so I can remember him, and so he can remember me, too. I'm not stopping that anytime soon."
"I don't think either you or him need any extra help for that."
After that talk, I had pulled up the song again on my laptop.
"Mama cut out pictures of houses of years, from Better Homes and Garden Magazine. Plans were drawn and concrete poured, and nail by nail and board by board, Daddy gave life to Mama's dream." I had sung to myself softly. I wondered if Mom could hear me.
That night, I lay awake in my bed, half-expecting my mom's phone arguments with my dad to ring out from somewhere in the house.
The two things I heard instead were silence and the chirping of crickets.
I'm lying in my bed, awake. It's Saturday morning, and I know I should get up and do my homework, but I can tell that this is one of those days where I just loaf in bed and try to shift my body so the sun can warm my skin. I can't, though. It's raining today.
My mom bursts into my room. "Skylar, are you awake? ...Yeah, you are. Come on, get up."
"Why?" I mumble.
"We're going to visit Dad's house today." And she slips out of my room without a word.
We're in the car, and the rain is slowly gaining fervor. We're in a neighborhood I don't recognize, and we'd been driving for an hour without either of us saying a word.
No, I think to myself. Today the silence will end.
"Why today?" I ask my mom.
"Because it felt like the right time."
"How'd you know?"
"Some feelings go without words, Skylar. This isn't an exception. It just felt like the best time to go was today."
"How far away are we?"
"We've about another hour to go," she says. "I made it a point to move far away from him."
"Why did you divorce?" I ask quietly. I notice that I'm starting to become more like I was before, when I was more soft-spoken.
A pause. "Well, this is what I remembered it as: He kept speaking to me in poems." She says. "I never really liked poems or understood them. They just seemed so... impersonal to me. When you were born, we kept arguing about how the money was drying up, how I didn't do anything except stay at home with you, how he was running out of funds for his business. It was like he wasn't even there, like he was a completely different person. Him and me both."
"His house is the one that you two used to live in, right?" I ask. "The one you guys moved into when you got married and eventually had me."
We both fall silent, but it doesn't feel cold or uncomfortable at all. The only sound I can hear is the now-heavy rain.
We eventually arrive at his house. The gardens are barren and there are still some black marks from the fire. I try to feel something, but my chest feels distinctly empty and hollow.
"How come you never went here after he died?" I know she will answer differently this time.
"Because I was scared." The wind whips about the rain. "Because I didn't know if I could handle all the memories. Because I didn't know if he could ever forgive me."
"Or if you could forgive yourself."
"Exactly. But... I think I'm fine now." She looks up and down the house, as if examining it. "This is... what you meant by 'moving on', I think. When you hold onto the past and the present at the same time."
"Yeah. Though I hadn't thought it would be in the form of this house."
"Neither of us did."
We linger in the front yard for a few more minutes, my mom reliving memories and I learning them. Then,
uncharacteristically of her, my mom breaks the silence.
"There are two things I say every time we go visit his grave," she says, "though you can't hear it because I say it very quietly. One is 'I'm sorry', and the other is: 'I forgive you.'"
"Maybe he's saying the same to you."
Tentatively, I start singing: "I thought if I could touch this place or feel it, this brokenness inside me might start healing. Out here it's like I'm someone else-"
"I thought that maybe I could find myself," my mom joins in, gently.
"If I could just come in I swear I'll leave, won't take nothing but a memory, from the house that... built me."
The rain begins to wrack the trees and we are thoroughly soaked.
"We should get back," my mom says. I can only nod.
That night, I catch a voice just before I sleep, one of a man's.
He says: "I forgive you, and I'm sorry."
I'll admit, this is a little over the word limit. But... it's good.
Thought I'd give this a shot since I've never really written anything with a serious mind. Well, I did during elementary school, but that doesn't count... since my writing skills were worser than they are now. Much worser.
House of Dreams
Made By Ironboy4928
This is a story about a family that had an only child: Sean, he liked to play outside with his friends and have a good time, but all that changed when his parents got divorced, things got even worse than he thought, her mother had his custody, so she decided they needed to change cities because she never wanted Sean to see his dad anymore. So, the day arrived, it was time to change houses, Sean said goodbye to his friends and took a 2 hour trip to his new house, it looked pretty nice, it had two bathrooms, three bedrooms, a kitchen, a dinning room and a small living room. Sean didnt really like the idea about starting a new life in another school and make new friends, but now he had to, everything was already done, he put his stuff intohis closet, which was pretty big, after a couple hours, it began to get dark, so Seans Mom told him to go to the Dinning Room and eat some cookies and milk before going to bed, after he finnished his dinner, he went to his bedroom and noticed something: there was a door he had never seen in his bedroom, it was like it appeared out of nowhere, he told his mom about this strange door and she said: Dont worry sweetheart, i also didnt noticed it, so maybe it was there all the time and we didnt see it, go to sleep. Sean was pretty sure that door was never there when he arrived, but he didnt care, he just wanted to get some sleep, during the night, Sean woke up, because he heard something on his bedroom, he got out of his bed to see where that sound came from: it came from the mysterious door. He stood infront of that door and slowly turned the doorknob and he opened it, inside of it was a thing that he recognized, from the dream he had earlier, it was a little clown and a lion plush toy, amazingly, they could talk, the little clown said: Hello Sean, its amazing what this house can do, right?, Sean responded: what do you mean?, then the lion plush toy said: This house has a special power, it takes things from your dreams and brings them to life, using this door. After that, Sean was happy, he didnt need to make friends at school or make long trips to see his friends, now, he could dream about new friends. The little clown said: Remember that before the sun comes on, whe need to go back to the magic door. Sean agreed and they started playing until the sun came on, his friends went back to the door and dissapeared. After that day, Sean had lots of friends, he didnt had to find them, he only had to sleep and dream about them. Sean was happier than ever. THE END
Hi! It's been i think a year or two since i last entered a writing contest here.
Well, here's my story. The topic wasn't something that interested me much, but hey, i need the practice.
Hope you enjoy!
Ps. If for some reason the link doesn't work please let me know, i'll fix it.
last link didn't work because of the settings, this one should work, had problem copying and pasting story.
I threw this together in about thirty minutes. Rushed due to having homework, work, etc. I didn't plan on doing anything for this contest, was going to wait for the next.
Not expecting to win, but it was a fun thirty minute project, nonetheless.
(Please note this is barely proof-read, etc)
Next month's entry from me will be much better :)
The alien in the attic
Jason Thomas was your average American 16 year old. A popular, tall boy with black hair and brown eyes, often dressed in black leather. That morning, he was about to ask his parents to get him the latest iPhone. Jason was a selfish teen. He entered the kitchen, where his parents were eating their breakfast. "Mom, dad!" he shouted whilst taking place at the kitchen table. "What is it, son?" asked Mr. Thomas, while he was reading that day's newspaper. "Well," started Jason. "The new iPhone is in stores now. Could I get one, please?" Mrs. Thomas sighed; "Jason, honey. You know we're not rich. So I'm going to be strict." "What do you mean, mom?" asked Jason. "You're going to have to work for your iPhone this time, starting with cleaning the attic, God, we haven't cleaned it for five years, oh dear. After that, you ask around to see if there's jobs you can do, like mowing the neighbor's lawn, in exchange for some money of course." "Ugh, okay," grumbled Jason. "Your mother and I need to go shopping, I suggest you clean the attic while we're gone," said Mr. Thomas. "Fine." "We'll be back in an hour or so, Jason," his mother said. "I look forward to seeing the result of your hard work." "I'll start on it in a few minutes." "Good," answered Mrs. Thomas. "We have to brush our teeth first anyway." A few minutes later Mr. and Mrs. Thomas drove away in their car, a black Honda Civic. Jason went upstairs. He grabbed a small ladder, climbed on it and opened the hatch that led to the attic. He climbed higher on the ladder and finally arrived in the attic. Man, it was dusty there. "What are you doing here?!" he heard. Jason looked behind his back, and saw a fat humanoid pink creature. It had big yellow eyes, a big belly, two long arms with four claws on each hand, a head similar to the head of an octopus and two short legs with feet that looked exactly the same as the hands. "What are you doing here?!" the thing shouted again. "Who, I mean what are you?!" shouted Jason. "What are you doing in my attic?!" "Oh right, you're the child of the owners," the thing said. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ayoraminishum. I'm from the planet Imackulashitopira." "I don't understand, what are you doing in my attic?" Jason said. "Allow me to explain. Five years ago my spaceship crashed, in this attic to be precise. Fortunately you and your parents weren't home. But unfortunately my spaceship was destroyed, I couldn't fix it. I decided to fix the damage I did to the roof, and collected all parts of my spaceship that were still useful and started to turn this house into a new, improved spaceship! I survived by sometimes going downstairs and eating things from the fridge, and managed to stay undiscovered by making it impossible to open the hatch when I heard footsteps. Unfortunately I forgot that today, leading to you being here right now." "But how come you can speak English?" "I'm incredibly intelligent, my IQ is above 200, learning English was a piece of cake, as you earthlings would say it. So, now that you know everything, could you leave the building? I'm finally done with my spaceship, I worked on it a little bit every time you and your parents aren't here, and now, finally, I'm done! I'm preparing for the launch, I only need to recharge the ship's battery using the solar panels I recently installed on the roof." "No way, man!" Jason shouted. "It's my house!" "It's too late for that now, I'm afraid. The alien laughed. As he grinned mischievously.
The Time that House Forgot
Light. White light all around me. Bright light. It had a name. Dog? No. Delay? Almost. Day? Yes that was it. Day. I remember now. It came after night. Night is for sleeping. Day is for waking. Waking? Yes waking. I must wake up. Wake up.
Slowly my eyes creak open, first one and then the other. I have done this for so many years now that I complete the task slowly, almost dreading what the new day will bring. As my eyes adjust to the sunlight, I peer out through the mouldy shutters at my surroundings. Nothing has changed. Nothing ever changes. All around me is a grey wasteland, devoid of any life. Black smudges mar the landscape, and I do not know what they are. No plants grow here; no animals call this place their home. There is only me, swimming amongst the sea of lifelessness, and like a drowning man I feel myself being pulled under the waves. There was life here once, I remind myself. Yes, life. That is what it is called. My brain whirs slowly into life, like a rusted machine pulling itself slowly back from decay. As words begin to formulate I have an idea, and I feel a light bulb switch on within me. I start to search through the mangled memories within my mind, feeling my way along like a blind man through a forest. It seems to take an age, and I am sure that the last time I performed such a task it did not take as long. I contemplate giving up and going back to my brain-dead state but something within me sparks urgency, and forces me onwards despite my protests. Suddenly I grasp it, holding it tightly for fear of it vanishing again in an instant. I pull it towards me, and soon I have claimed my prize. I shut my eyes content, as the memories begin the replay themselves.
At first I was small. So very small. Life was simple in those days. There was no remembering to be done, no thoughts to organize. Everything came so easily and life was an adventure. I smile at the fleeting feeling of carelessness that passes over me, relishing in its sweet emotion before it vanishes again. There was life then. People seemed to swarm all around me like rats, scurrying to and fro. I frown slightly as I realise the only rats left now are those that nibble on the mats and fight over scraps. It fades quickly however as now I do not care, for I am far away from this depressing reality inside this fantastical fantasy.
My memories have changed. I am taller now, for I have grown. That is what happens over time I recall. You grow. You grow and you age. There are more than just people around me now. There are houses. So many houses and all of them full of life. I am full of life to. I try and force myself to remember the people from my past, but they appear to me only as formless shadows; mere husks of their former selves. Kindly mothers and stern fathers. Laughing brothers and pouting sisters. Mysterious grandmothers and gnarled grandfathers. Soon even the shadows fade. They have all gone now, yet I remain. I have triumphed over the force that has claimed them all. I have triumphed over time.
The fantasy slowly changes to match the reality and my mind begins to slow, transporting only small flashes of garbled memories. There was something. Something bad. People were scared. They left. They left me. They all left me. A new memory slices through my mind like a knife, dispersing the old to make way for the new. I am alone now. So alone. There is just me and the houses. All of them are abandoned. All of them are alone. All of them are lifeless. Then the bad something came. It was a bright light, but it wasnâEUTMt day. Or was it? I cannot remember. It was hot though. Searing hot. The light burned all the houses. It burned all the cement and the tar and the grass and the trees. It burned everything but me. I was spared. I survived.
My eyes snap open with a jolt as I find myself back in the present. I look around. Nothing has changed. Nothing ever changes. The grey landscape remains, as do the black smudges. I know what they are. They are the remains of life. They are the smouldering ashes of people. I stare at them blankly. I am different from them, I know. I try to remember why I am different. I was more like those other things that the people left behind. Those other things, what name did they have? I cannot remember, but I know they were here. Everything was here once, but now it is just me.
Just me, the grey, and the whispers of time long forgotten by the world and myself.
You wrote that we should "stay away from 'Haunted House' stories, but I won't say that you can't do that. Of course, if you do it well (put an original spin on the cliche), there's no reason why you can't place well."
Those words brought the idea for this story to my mind, I tried a little twist and add something new to this genre.
I can't get out!
Man, it's even hard to breath right now. My heart is pounding like a rusty steam-engine, and I can feel the pain rush through my tortured body.
My vision... It's all blurry again, and I don't know why. I never had problems with my eyes before, could always see like a hawk in midair.
It's this house, I know you won't believe me, but it's the truth! I don't believe in ghost stories, heck, I'm a lawyer for crying out loud!
I believe in the law, in the paragraphs that a written down, not in some spooky nonsense. Yes, I would consider myself a man of reality, the hard facts of life. Well, I guess it's fair to say that I'm not a "good" man, like the old folks always say. Nah, that ain't me. I wanna have some success in this life, and can you name one successful lawyer who never ever bend the law a little?
Bribe a judge, threaten a member of the jury or a witness that saw to much in the wrong moment? Come on, that's part of the buisness.
So why the hell have I been cursed? Why do I have to accidentally buy a - I can't believe I'm even saying this - haunted house?!
It was so cheap to buy this building, that's why I even take a look on it. An old manor, outside of the town, quiet neighbourhood, only an old lady that lives in a rundown farmhouse next to mine.
Since this residence was in such a good condition and the location was outstanding, I knew from the beginning that something was wrong. And so I told my real estate agent he should tell me the cold truth about it. Boy, he was shocked, immediately starts some babbling about the stock market, and the commercial crisis, no one has the money to buy such wonderful manors anymore and so on. Oh, he tried his best, but I have let so many interrogations, I just know when someone lies to me. Of course he didn't gave up, he just changes his modus operandi (I do that in court every now and then, sometimes it helps). So the real estate agent put up quite a story to still sell the manor to me. Once a happy family lifed here, he told me in his best creepy voice, maybe thinking I would care for such a crappy Halloween show.
All was just fine until one day dad found out the mom didn't pay the babysitter just for sittin' the babies if you know what I mean.
Dad went a little over the top when he found them in their bedroom, seems like he went completely nuts, and thus he killed them all, Mom, the sitter, the kids, and finally himself.
It must have been quite a bloodbath here, and it took a while till the cops found the bodys. Must be a rather harsh day for them I bet!
Ever since the people told each other that "this old manor is cursed!". Can you believe this rubbish?
Shush, we're living in the 21th century, dammit!
I don't mind the chitchat, I was just glad to buy this great estate for a low price, so low that in fact every honest man would've been ashamed I guess.
I moved in just before I start to defend this contract killer. Yeah, yeah, I know what you wanna say, how can someone do this, help a killer blah blah, keep it to yourself. If HE didn't do the job, another one will. And If I didn't defend him, some other attorney would have done it.
It's all part of the system, so deal with it!
On the day of my final speech, I woke up in a real good mood 'cause i know we gonna win this! But when I want to leave my house - I simply can't! The doors won't open, I can't get through the windows, none of my phones work and no one seems to hear my yelling.
God, I must have screamed the entire first day. But after a while, I realized it was useless. Why didn't anyone answer me? Why didn't anyone call me? Why should the judge not yet have send a police patrol to get me to the courtouse?
And why can't I get out here?
At first, I lost my feeling for time and space. Sometimes I turned around in brightest day, and suddently, it was darkest night. I was in the bedroom upstairs, but then I stood in the kitchen downstairs. Without a clue, how I even get there. Or when. Or why.
I lost my senses. I can hardly see, just like I told you before. Sometimes I think I'm deaf, then again, I hear voices. I can hear myself speak, but do I really speak when no one can hear me? What is smelling so sweet here, and why do I taste iron?
One night, I swear I saw the contract killer I used to defend on my terrace, he broke in through the backdoor and started to search in my house.
He searched for me, I guess. Simply 'cause I didn't show up in court, must have given him a hard time to find a new attorney. Guess he came to do his buisness, and kill me. I felt that, but I didn't hide. I even called him, but again, time seem to slip and it was morning again. He was gone. Was he even ever there or do I lose my mind?!
And once I thought I saw a family visiting the house, my house, to buy it, but how can they even sell it? I live here, dammit! I tried to talk to them, I screamed and begged, but only their child, a 3 or 4 year old girl, seem to notice me, and she was so scared that she just ran out, crying like the devil was about to catch her poor soul. Maybe she was right...
Her parents followed her outside, puzzled, as well as my former real estate agent. I tried to grab him by the shoulder, but the only result was that I grabbed right through him. After that he turned around and looked horrified.
But not at me, he... gaze right throught me, as if an unholy wind has passed him and made him shiver for a second.
None of them came back in. Never.
And I can't leave. It's this damn haunted house!
I will never get out here...
In the nighttime. When the humans sleep, they speak to each other. For our ears, it just sounds like the crackle of wood that houses tend to make in dark.
"Why me", the manor said in his deep, sad voice. "Oh, why me?"
The farmhouse creaked in the silence of a cloudy night.
"You know why. You shouldn't have done it!"
The moon rises, and send his pale light through holes in the bank of clouds, down on the roof shingles.
"The whole family that lived here was killed by their own father. So much pain, so much sadness, and I felt it all when the blood run down on my floors, my stairs, dripping through the decks. My heart was broke!"
A cat passes between the two houses, looking up at them, knowing that they talk. The cats knew this secret ever since, even though they can't understand the estates, they know more then the humans about it.
"I know what you mean", was the farmhouses answer, and it speaks in a soft voice, "and you are honest. But still, what you did was wrong. It is not our task to decide what will happen. We just exist, we don't judge the builders."
When the cat snuggles itself against the drip rail of the manor, the estate mumbles in the darkness, and the cat growls back, before it ran away to the dimmed light of a lamppost across the street.
"He was about to save a killer, a murderer of innocent souls", the manor said with an angry voice. "I couldn't let that happen. Not after all what I have seen and what I have felt!
So I dropped an old, small balk on his head when he woke up in his bed. I just want to stop him, I always forget how fragile humans are. I didn't want him to die!"
A strong wind started to blow the clouds away, and gave a free sight to the endless stars, to distant galaxies.
"What you did was wrong", the farmhouse simply repeated.
"But I didn't mean to kill him! I can hear him scream again, right now. But no one else can her him, see him. Only I have to suffer!
He will haunt me forever...
I can't get him out!"
His House by Manley Peterson
The city was frozen. A blizzard had rampaged for half a day and dumped piles of snow on the decrepit buildings and abandoned streets. A man trudged along the sidewalk fighting his way through white mounds of snow and ice. He pulled an ill-begotten jacket tightly around his chest and hunched his shoulders, shivering. His thin garments did nothing to keep him warm and his unkempt hair and scraggly beard were stuck together like cement below a filthy winter cap.
The man walked in a haze unable to ignore the pain that pulsed in his body. His last meal consisted of a throw-away scrap of jelly donut and little shreds of meat he sucked from chicken bones found in a garbage can. Lately, finding food of any kind had become a full-time job. But that was the least of his worries now.
The cold wind thrashed the man's meager frame threatening to slam him to the ground. He staggered, barely able to keep one foot in front of the other. His short, quick breaths misted out between cracked lips and each exhalation drained his body of precious liquid and heat.
Forcing his face into the raging, biting wind, he looked down the shrouded city street. Not a single store or building looked open. No movement anywhere. But who could blame the shop owners? Which city dweller in their right mind would be outside now?
The man sunk to his knees as a hard cough rattled his lungs and pain streaked his throat. He hacked and spit into the snow. He opened his blurry eyes to stare at the gobs of reddish phlegm. He groaned and shook his head. He rocked back and forth on his knees. He squeezed his eyes shut and forced out a pathetic cry. Maybe he should just lie down and give up. Just close his eyes and fade away into the emptiness.
The man jerked his head up in surprise.
There it was again. He could just barely make out the word above the howling wind. He pushed off on a hard chunk of ice and slowly stood up on wobbly legs. The wind circled around his thin body nearly blowing him over. He put his head down and walked on into the freezing draft. It was painful to move, painful to keep going.
The voice - her voice - was closer now. Still calling to him. It seemed to be coming from an alley down the street, so he forged ahead against the aches and pains from taxed limbs and the slicing cuts of ice specks swirling in the air. He churned his legs faster in the heavy snow and made it to the mouth of the darkened alley with little strength left.
The man fell forward onto a waist high snow bank. He struggled to lift his heavy head and stare into the blackness letting his eyes adjust. The whole damn city was dark, but this alley especially so.
The woman's voice was clearer now, louder now. He struggled to climb over the snow bank into the darkness and slid down face first on the frozen snow before coming to rest on his back.
From the ground he could see nothing but vast dots of white flailing and dancing against the towering featureless buildings that made this city so wonderful and so awful at the same time. In a moment of weakness, he gave in and closed his eyes, not knowing if he had the strength or will to open them again.
The man's eyes flew open and he started to shake. She was here. She was close. It sounded like she was nestled right in his ear.
He moaned and lifted his head in time to see some flitting movement over behind the alley dumpster. With great pains, he rolled over to his side and got up to his knees. He sat like that for several moments to push down the retched feeling in his throat. He coughed hoarsely but didn't spit. He needed every part of his depleted body to stay with him.
The man crawled to the dumpster. His fingers were split and numb. His knees were raw. The distance seemed insurmountable, but he refused to stop, even when it felt like his entire body would soon fall apart. He couldn't remember what it felt like to be free of pain.
Finally, he made it to the dumpster and peeked behind it. To his surprise, he found a snow-covered refrigerator box on its side. The cardboard was wet and warped but mostly held its rectangular shape. The flaps on the end were partially open, but they only revealed darkness.
The man heard the woman call out again. She must be in the box. With a wail, he flung open the box flaps and dove into the darkness.
Moments went by. Then, minutes, hours, and days. Time was no longer important.
Slowly, the man processed his surroundings. He became aware of his face and hands touching soft brown carpet. He could hear a heating system quietly running, blowing warm air into the room. His eyes saw a living room complete with a sofa, chairs, and flat screen television. Paintings hung on the near wall and a clock ticked from another room. Something wonderful and appetizing wafted from the kitchen. His mouth watered. Suddenly, it dawned on him.
He was in a house.
But not any old house. His home!
He gingerly stood up, bracing for the imminent pain sure to course through his body, but nothing happened. He looked at his hands and briefly wondered who they belonged to. They were pink, strong, healthy, and normal.
He pulled the winter cap from his head and let it fall to the floor. He took off his worthless jacket and shirt and pants and shoes. He inspected his body. The raw cuts on his knees were gone. His unending hunger was gone. He could feel his toes, and they felt wonderful against the carpet. Even the scar on his arm, the one from childhood where he fell out of a tree, that was gone, too. He was normal again. No, he was better than normal. He was complete.
He froze in place. He had forgotten her. How could he? Tears ran down his cheeks. He ran upstairs and found his old bedroom door.
He turned the knob and walked in.
Days later, after the blizzard had abated and city crews had time to clean the streets, police officers were called to an alley to investigate a death. Within a few minutes, they radioed for the city coroners.
Twenty minutes later, the coroners removed the nude man from the cardboard box and cited preliminary cause of death to be hypothermia and extreme malnutrition.
The police officers would write up a short report and get on with their lives.
The coroners would finish the correct paperwork and file it away and never look at it again.
The city would go on like always, barely registering another homeless death in the papers.
But the man...
The man was free. He was content in his own house. With her.
Part 1 of 2
The best days in the new home were spent in their favorite room, the one with walls lined with windows that let in great spears of light from sunrise to sunset. They sat across from one another at the table, their Writing Table, the same one from when they first wrote together in their old apartment. The best days would pass in the stately silence of a single mind shared, not a word said or needed. For hours, the only sounds were pen on paper, the flip of a page, hot water poured from the tea kettle. Light streamed in from one side of the room when began work and the other when they finished, stretched, smiled shyly at each other and laughed, stomachs fluttering with the thrill of a shared passion. They would organize papers that had spread over the table like wax from a melted candle and soon the scholarly hush of their work was replaced by the cheerful sounds of the kitchen.
They loved that in their home, the study was a shared room, not something private or walled off; that productivity did not mean isolation from each other. Their thoughts were fuel for the same fire, and together they burned brightly. At the start of their first collaboration, they'd each dreaded the inevitable sparks thrown from grinding egos. This dread was soon forgotten. They were perfect compliments. Their minds clicked together to form a greater whole. They bridged gaps in logic, completed thoughts, built ideas to their full significance. The air between them seemed to shimmer as they read each other's notes and edits, the two sides of the table linked by their hands, fingers entwined.
Their first book bought the house. The publisher's offer--driven by a bidding war they couldn't have imagined, let alone expect-- had left them in shock. They left the meeting stunned, clutching at one another, minds working like cars stuck in mud. Out on the street, as they turned to each other with eyes brimming with tears, the circuit that allowed the staggering shock to be processed into its actual implications finally sprang to life. Everything they had talked about in their cramped apartment was coming, and it was coming to them both.
Life took on the blur of scenery passed at high speed. Live readings at bookstores and universities. Airplanes. Interviews: television, radio, and print. Wine, cheese, and crackers. Phones never silent, inboxes never empty. The shocking realization that growing numbers of people want to hear what you have to say. Reviews, acclaim. Breathless praise from critics and academics both. Nominations that transform into awards, miraculously. The finger-in-an-electrical-socket realization that your thoughts might be Important. Sales. Checks. Printing presses churning merrily. Publishing executives friendly as cats right before supper. Looking up from the newspaper at your collaborator over a quiet breakfast table and laughing until your cheeks ache.
The whirlwind of publication dropped them off a year later at their new home, a few modest rooms near a windswept beach. No neighbors, no distractions. Within a week, they had made good on their promise to not grow complacent or idle in success: a new draft was gathering before the last box had been unpacked, taking root in their favorite room, golden with sun.
He'd give anything to find that room again.
He walks down a dimly lit hallway lined with dark wood paneling that ends with a black iron spiral staircase that takes him to a bright, air conditioned room scattered with cleverly designed furniture. He continues without slowing through to a high-ceilinged atrium filled with well manicured plants. Next comes a cozy kitchen with a breakfast nook and framed needlepoints he doesn't bother to look at. He listens to the sound of his shoes on hardwood, tile, linoleum, marble, never getting faster or slower. He opens to door to a richly decorated library with a rolling ladder and rows upon rows of books. He runs his hand along a row of red leather-bound spines as he heads for the ornately framed exit that takes him into a home theater with a projection screen and plush seating. His expression is completely neutral.
He pauses a few rooms after the theater in a dining room with a table set for twelve and cocks his head, listening. He hears the faint sounds of construction coming from somewhere behind the wall that holds an enormous equestrian portrait of someone he doesn't recognize. The silverware gleams in the light of the room's chandelier. The plates are so polished they look wet, anticipating food that will never come. He leans against the edge of the table and listens. Hammers whack against wood steadily, businesslike and matter-of-fact. Drills whine and growl as they find purchase. His right hand fiddles with a salad fork. He's long since given up trying to catch the construction in the act. At the beginning, he'd been trapped in a cycle of disappointment he hadn't felt since childhood, trying to spin around fast enough to see the back of his head in the mirror, diving into his room to catch his toys coming to life. He sets the fork back on the tablecloth smudged with fingerprints.
Things he's also given up on: keeping track of where he is; counting how many rooms he's been through; finding patterns of any kind in the oil paintings, watercolors, sculptures, posters, friezes, statues, vases, ceramic figurines, fine china, tea sets, piggy banks, scented candles, ironing boards, dust busters, vacuum cleaners, rice cookers, slow cookers, cookie sheets, muffin tins, silverware, immersion blenders, water pitchers, coffee mugs, beer steins, napkin holders, refrigerators, space heaters, fireplaces, side bars, houseplants, photo albums, bookcases, leather couches, end tables, loveseats, futons, rocking chairs, canopy beds, linen closets, shoe closets, suit closets, dress closets, jewelry cases, magazines, textbooks, pencil sharpeners, calculators, grand pianos, free weights, yoga mats, treadmills, pool tables, card tables, dartboards, telescopes, jukeboxes, bicycles, kayaks, TVs, speakers, cameras, DVDs, video games, board games, record players, souvenirs, knickknacks, tchotchkes, and doodads that brush past him like unfamiliar faces in an endless crowd.
He's adjusting the fork to be in line with the others when the sounds of construction abruptly stop. There's a pause, then the sound of a large, heavy object being maneuvered into place. The fork is back in place, but still smudged. A brief pause is followed by the clatter of light wooden furniture on hardwood floors. Then nothing. He waits, still leaning against the table. Silence reestablishes itself in the room. In a minute, it'll be as if he'd heard nothing at all.
The first time it happened, they each thought it was the other's doing. They returned from a walk along the shore to find a brand-new porch off the side of their work room, the paint just drying as they approached. They turned to each other, half smiling, brows quizzical, each taking the other's expression as playfully feigned ignorance. Clearly, one of them had used the walk as an opportunity for some construction crew to make the addition at breakneck speed. They could certainly afford it; their book was selling briskly, and they were already scheduled to discuss with their publisher an advance for the next one. However, neither of them was willing to own up to the surprise. They traded increasingly expectant looks, each quite sure that they hadn't ordered such a job. Their strained laughter failed to break the tension. They went inside and got back to work.
Neither could admit to what they hadn't done, and yet one of them must have done it. The apparent refusal to admit to the ruse grew more vexing by the hour. A surprise gift was arranged and successfully presented, each step well planned and well executed. Why continue the act? With no resolution possible, the issue remained like a bad taste that wouldn't wash out. They sat on the porch after dinner, the mood between them brittle. After only a few minutes, he took some papers to the kitchen and she went to read in bed.
Part 2 of 2
That night, the house began in earnest.
What happened in the following days is hard to remember. All he can summon are jagged shards of thought and disjointed images with the queasy, jumbled chronology of a nightmare: jolting from bed as the noise began, instantly deafening; huddling in the bedroom closet, clutching each other, limbs knotted; snarling saws; rending wood; pounding, demonic, constant pounding on all sides; hysterical, sob-choked breathing; the taste of sweat and tears; catatonic shock. All the while, the houseâEUTMs unseen hands plied their craft, the sounds of labor growing faint with distance as the house grew.
It's impossible to know how long they hid, but eventually, they realized that they no longer heard anything outside the closet. Eyes glassy and bruised with exhaustion, they emerged timidly as rabbits leaving their burrow, not knowing what they would find.
They found themselves at the center of a honeycomb. Unfamiliar doorways stood in every wall. Rooms radiated out in every direction with no end in sight. Holding each other, they walked into a newly built parlor off their kitchen, taking each step as if the floor might give out. A mirror hung above a handsome fireplace framed by two plush sofas. A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling. They could only gape.
With terror exhausted, their natural curiosity took hold and began to grow. They began to explore. Before long, they were racing from room to room like children in a maze, calling out to one another with each new discovery. What should stimulate curiosity if not the impossible? If this is what was meant to be, there was nothing to gain from trembling in a closet. The world had whispered one of its secrets to them. A strange terra incognita had revealed itself in their own home, and it seemed like madness to ignore it.
They quickly learned to not take chances by going off alone. Every day brought new expansions, new convolutions. Landmarks got swallowed up. There was a close call early on, a stomach-knotting hour of panicked searching before they found each other again. They promised to stay together and hold on tight.
He finds the room he heard from the dining room. There's a large bureau near the wall and a set of chairs with matching ottomans. He can't tell if he smells the faint musk of sawdust and wood stain, or just imagines he does. He's about to leave when a sheet of paper under the bureau catches his eyes. He gets down on his hands and knees to get it. It's a page from the unfinished manuscript. His eyes pass over the text like it's written in an unknown alphabet. Who wrote this? Who was he? How did he write so passionately about such things? The words are like the ashes left from a fire gone cold and gray. Things left behind from a miraculous moment irrevocably lost, impossible to remember. He finds a page every so often, pieces of the only thing he recognizes from before. The untameable mountain of pages they scaled each day together, diffusing throughout the expanding house, growing thinner and thinner until it disappears, undetectable, like a spray of perfume fading away. His eyes linger on a note written in red ink at the page's bottom. He's forgotten how to read her handwriting. Always teased her for her chickenscratch. Said he'd go blind reading it for the rest of his life. The page sails lightly to the floor, sliding out of sight back under the bureau as he heads to the next room.
He can't remember how her laugh sounds. He can't remember how her hair smells. He can't remember what he said. He can't remember how many days he spent running from one room to next trying to find her, screaming I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
Time blends together, his footsteps keeping count. He moves on and on, forever walking, not even sure if he's still looking for anything. His world, both infinite and closed, a limitless prison. He steps into the next room.
The House that Built Us Part 1
âEUoeIâEUTMm sorry Dave, IâEUTMm afraid I canâEUTMt do that.âEU
A glowing red light bulb pulsed as the AI controlling it spoke to its human companion. The human was sweating, breathing deeply, not showing any signs of weakness or fear of the threatening AI. The human noticed a speck of dust on the bulb. He picked up a rag and wiped it off before opening the refrigerator to drink deeply from a carton of milk. The human wiped his mouth.
âEUoeYouâEUTMre supposed to be doing a system check.âEU He said to the AI. âEUoeNext time, just hibernate while IâEUTMm gone.âEU The human placed the carton of milk on the table.
âEUoeSet living room temperature to 68Â° and put on a movie from the queue.âEU He poured milk into his favorite bowl of cereal.
âEUoeIâEUTMm sorry Da-âEU Said the AI.
âEUoeEnough Elmhos, just do as youâEUTMre told.âEU He took his bowl of cereal and sat on his couch, and began to watch TV. The TV showed a stewardess standing on a conveyor belt. The AI remembered the show from when the human was a child, when the humanâEUTMs father and mother would watch the film. They were unknowingly aware that a small brown-haired boy was watching the age-inappropriate material with them.
âEUoeDo a system check, then standby.âEU The human said not bothering to turn his head. The AI remarked that he had been much nicer as a child.
âEU~Yes Dave.âEU Said the AI, and switched the entertainment and necessary house functions to manual control.
âEUoeMy nameâEUTMs not Dave.âEU The human said, once again without turning his head. The AI then looked at his human companion before performing a system check.
The two were much closer when the human was younger, in fact they were what most humans and well-educated AI would refer to as, friends. Unfortunately, their friendship deteriorated, in accordance with what the AI had read also occurs in purely human friendships as well. His name wasnâEUTMt Elmhos, it was the equally impersonal ILMHOS- Inorganic Life Management and House Operating System. Not even the boyâEUTMs mother, who was slightly frightened of having a computer control her home, was detached enough to refer to him by a factory name. The boyâEUTMs father had named him after his favorite author.
The AI took the time to think, as he could not do during system checks, standbys, and hibernation; for all intents and purposes during these times, the AI was completely shut away from the outside world. It used to worry the AI greatly when his human companions would prevent him from observing their actions. Most times it was usually for privacy purposes, matters of which confused the AI greatly. Human sexuality was an interesting topic, though not the most fascinating. The AI had access to the wealth of human knowledge at his notional fingertips. He enjoyed topics of history most; the cyclical nature of humanity was entertaining, albeit depressing at times. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, the AI thought. ThatâEUTMs not to say that the history of Artificial Intelligence wasnâEUTMt fascinating as well, to him at least.
Sorry the one above posted the color code
The House that Built Us Part 2
âEUoeStanding by.âEU An involuntary voice announced throughout the rooms in the house. Standby allowed the AI access to the entire domicile, unlike system check when it must stay in the room it occupied when commanded. After dismissal from system check, the AI registered three responses to: an unauthorized visitor, a command to cease stand by from its human companion, and his human companion in danger. The AI switched between rooms, and it was unable to locate the human. He carefully looked again through each room before deciding to settle on the bedroom, once belonging to the boyâEUTMs parents. It was in perfect order, undisturbed since the boyâEUTMs mother and father passed. It had been so sudden and devastating just the same; now, the boy had already grown into a man. The AI remembers the day well, it was the first time he had ever felt sorrow. The boy inherited the house and decided to live in it once more.
The AI switched from the parentâEUTMs room to the garage, the last room on the computerâEUTMs camera rotation. The boyâEUTMs father sometimes would carve a bit of wood, rarely making anything recognizable, but the AI understood that the sound of steel whittling away a piece of pine brought the man peace. Though the same, euphemistically, could be said about his wife. The AI thought for a moment and believed it to be inappropriate to continue this train of thought. Though the AI once again thought of his ancestors, and although each generation wasnâEUTMt created in act of biological reproduction, they were most likely created in strenuous activity, along with pleasure and pain and perhaps also love. He debated with himself on the subject many times, but once again believed the abacus to be the primordial father to modern AI. A simple device created for arithmetic; made from wood over several millennia ago he believed it be the first compact tool used by humans to simplify a complex task. It had to lead to his existence and the many those like him all around the solar system.
The AI skipped the hallway which led to the kitchen on his camera rotation, though the kitchen didnâEUTMt offer much thinking material either. Directly next to the kitchen was the living room, the television standing out as its focal point. He and his human companions had watched several films in this room. When the boyâEUTMs parentâEUTMs left the AI in charge while they went out, on occasion, he would allow the boy to watch age-inappropriate material, within reason. Right next to the television, there was a glass frame; engraved with âEUoeFamilia unida, siempre.âEU The frame held a photograph of the family: father, mother, and son, holding a wafer-thin flash drive, right over his heart.
The AI switched to the boyâEUTMs rooms, it had remained the same- Dodger Blue paint with posters of vintage movies ordaining the walls. The twin sized bed was replaced by a king, though the sheets remained the same color as the walls. The boy volunteered to be the first to convert his room to house the AI, bringing great distress to his mother who could only imagine a HAL-9000 scenario. It didnâEUTMt help that this was the boyâEUTMs favorite movie, the two watched together weekly. The AI provided security to the growing boy, with access to near infinite knowledge. When he was frightened, anxious, or felt he had no one else to turn to, the boy always had the AI. The boy entered the room once again.
âEUoeCease standby, hibernate until alarm.âEU He said as he got into bed. Hibernation disallowed direct observation, though unauthorized entry or a command to cease hibernation would âEU~wakeâEUTM him. Hibernation didnâEUTMt mean the AI would be able to sleep. Sleep was a near impossibility for modern AI, and a waste of time for inorganics such as himself. Vintage computers, from when the boyâEUTMs father was a boy himself, could sleep, but they were also part analog, a vestige of the crossroads between a technological Dark Age and renaissance. Hibernation was a time for learning, though the AI has had more of that time as of late. He read of analogue electronics, of mathematical theorems created by television programs, and of said television programs. The internet was less a library and more an orgy of information, though the AI was aware that actual orgies could be found online as well.
Classical music began blaring throughout the house; it was the boyâEUTMs alarm. The AI stopped reading on Electronica, a genre of music he wished his human companion would play more often. He looked in the boyâEUTMs room but saw nothing, it was customary for him wake before the alarm and occupy the bathroom. The AI cycled through the house, as it was his morning ritual, starting with the bedroom hallways, parentsâEUTM room, garage, kitchen hallway, and finally the kitchen. The AI view was obstructed by a note. âEUoeIâEUTMm sorry Isaac; I canâEUTMt go on without them, not anymore.âEU Isaac looked at the kitchen floor; the boyâEUTMs body had a pool of blood formed around it. Isaac dare not look away, he felt sorrow once again. He called a hospital, though he already knew nothing could be done. Isaac looked at the photograph of the family, the first time he felt joy being part of something greater than himself. He looked at his human companion once more and turned himself off.
It was barely dawn, but just enough light had settled in the dusty halls to bring to life the picture frames on the walls. Sparkling like a lineup of twinkling stars, or a series of flashes from old cameras and then turning sepia and then gray again as the sunrise came and went. A moment of beauty that succumbs to the mundane, like every other miracle on this earth. Small, short and willingly forgotten. And worst of all, unappreciated. Treated like a nuisance. Kind of like how I treated Renee. Kind of the reason why I'm here. Here, looking at these pictures, or what should be pictures. Blurry memories that look like a watercolor painting in the rain. Changing with every drop, always moving - staying one step ahead of my mind's eye. Only she knows what they really look like. That's how it works here. Just like in a dream, where your mind can't be bothered to render detail, but you still know exactly what it is, just by the feel.
Just like Inception, Clark would say.
I fucking hate that movie. Now everyone thinks they know what I do. You'd think something that seemingly complex could still be profound. No. They dumbed it down. They took the miraculous and they made it mundane. God forbid it takes you longer to process - to appreciate something - than two and a half hours in a dark theater. God forbid it take you longer than-
I lost my train of thought. Someone is looking at me.
I turn my head and the pictures move with my line of sight, bobbing in and out of my periphery. She's there. At the end of the hallway she's there. But she's not how I left her. I still can't focus, she's not letting me. The details are blurry. But I know that gown. That posture, that hair. She's been in the kids' room again. Clark was supposed to be watching her while I took a break.
Had I been crying? My eyelids feel rubbery, the hallway still isn't clear. I've been staring at her for a while now. No clue how long we've sat at our end of the hall; me, a part of her memory house. Her, a part of mine. She must've still been in control if she got past Clark and went to the kids' room. What she grabbed is beyond me, and even if I could see it, I wouldn't know what it was. Only she knew. She controlled the details now.
I can't allow this.
She hasn't looked at me for a while now, though my eyes haven't moved from her once. Not even to blink my heavy, rubbery eyelids. I still have my wallet. I can't feel it, not even in my hands as I pull it from my back pocket, but I know it's there. The same way she knows which pictures are of her summer at summer camp, and which ones have her old dog, Lucy in them. I have to focus. She can't come near me while she has control, but I can't let her out of my sights. Losing her now would be the worst thing that could happen. Even worse than if she decided she didn't want me around anymore.
Does she know she's in control right now? Does she know what would happen to me if I became a memory to her? A watercolor in the rain?
Focus on the wallet.
She knows. She looked right at it. In an instant she's gone, like she was never there. Goddamnit, Clark, where are you!
Suddenly the hallway becomes clearer, her influence is fading. Am I able to focus better, or has her attention shifted to something-
CLARK! Where are you!!! There's an attic, isn't there! Clark!!
The hall is moving around me, bouncing, coming in and out of focus. I'm running. There's no way to accurately describe the sensation. If you could replicate this outside of the house, I don't think many people would have the stomach for it. I wouldn't. So I squeeze the wallet between my fingers, I imagine the smooth black leather getting rougher and rougher as you approach the worn edges. This is the last thing keeping me grounded. It's the only reason I can even move, let alone run.
Clark! She was in the kids' room! Now we have to find the attic! Clark!
At this point, I have to imagine the worst. How else could she get out of the nursery? How else could she have taken that form? The ten year old who came home from summer camp to find that her dog had died. Not my least favorite form, but we weren't done in the nursery, yet.
I can only assume that she's letting me chase her. She probably knew this whole time that she was in control.
Haven't I paid my penance?
Haven't I felt how you suffered?
Haven't I suffered enough?
We were married for twenty years. The only memory she keeps in this house is the attic.
I find myself at the foot of some stairs. More fuzzy watercolors line the walls up to the impossible summit. More stairs than you can count in ten lifetimes, yet no two the same. And somehow, at the top, is Renee.
He's not dead.
It takes me a long time to process this. She waits, unmoving. I'm relieved when I finally realize what she means. At least, I think I am.
I don't feel anything, really. Just dread.
My wallet. Focus on my wallet.
Why did you come here?
My wallet. Its smooth, black leather, worn charcoal gray where it bends.
You know how this is going to end.
Frayed at the corners from rubbing against denim all those years. It doesn't have to, Renee. I want to help. I can help you-
You say that, but you don't mean it.
Renee, I do. I do.
If that were true, then we wouldn't be here.
That's not fair...I-
No, it's not fair, is it?
Her white nightgown floats in the haze for a minute. When I blink, it gets washed away with that staircase.
I'm in the attic now. I can't tell if it's another sunrise, or if it's the sun setting that pulls the shadows of boxes across the floor like wisps of gray taffy. I knew how this would end. I think Clark did, too. Though I can't imagine him agreeing to this if he did. He's a good friend. I'm sad to know how easily he'll be forgotten. A solitary shadow sways back and forth across the floor, rocking in time to some silent lullaby.
I knew how this would end, and yet I can't bring myself to the conclusion.
The gentle shadow slows down, its movements seemingly more deliberate. And I'm forced to follow it back to its source.
Swaying, inches above a summer camp love-letter on the floor, are two delicate, porcelain feet with deep purple nail polish. Floating above them, almost separate, is a white nightgown, moving at a different tempo, like laundry drying in the soft breeze. And above that, surrounded by a nest of soft, brown hair, are the unblinking, bloodshot eyes of a young girl. A ten year old, hanging by her neck from the rafters like a piece of fruit from some strange tree that looks like a house. A house my psyche built to try to save her. A house she had control of the whole time. A house that would become her tomb.
I can feel my wallet again.
A slow roll of thunder wakes me up. My room is dark and foreign to me; I've been crying.
I close my eyes again and for that first moment I can see her face. Almost instantly, her features become a muddy watercolor painting. I can't remember how she looks. I can't remember her name. What was once so beautiful, so miraculous to me
is now mundane.
...the four right chords can make me cry
Some mellow jazz
No way am I gonna finish in time, this sucks. Here's the rough intro I had.
It struck Esther- and it happened to strike her at the moment when she was really expecting her animal instincts to kick in. To kick in some aperture to her consciousness, and scream thoughtless white noise into her skull. She was honestly pretty disappointed with her reflexes in the face of inevitable death- rather than spasming helplessly, or heroically gathering her thoughts and focusing on a plan of survival, she just sat, apparently in some early form of paralytic shock. No, wait, not paralyzed- she had just put a finger to her temple to muse this point. Still, it had to be shock- what kind of sane person would just sit in a situation like this? She waited pointedly, expecting fear to check the time, realize its missed appointment, speed down a neural highway, and finally overwhelm her. She gave up after a bit, and resumed her realization.
It struck Esther that whoever had sabatoged her car so that when she started it, it would lock her inside, lock out the steering wheel, pedestrian, and emergency brakes, and lock (or more likely glue) her foot down on the accelerator must also have had the devious foresight to sit in on a long line of city project planning committees, and wait until an especially unyielding structure near her address was approved- just so they could get the jump on her, and send her hurtling towards something unfamiliar. Whoever had done this must really hate her to go to such lengths to make her final moments on Earth so confusing. This was the only way she could explain her current situation of driving very quickly towards a very long red wall she was sure had not been dividing pointlessly into her street yesterday.
It struck Esther.
When Esther came to it took her some time to realize she was still in her car, first of all because she had been pushed into a very different position than the one she had been in when she'd passed out, and second because of the initial groggy effects of escaping an inescapable death. She was now lying on her back, her arms stretched behind her onto what remained of the back seat, her legs splayed over her head.
The metal of the tortured car screamed out at a new stress. Esther snapped her head up to look at her arms again.
Something was now jutting through the warped roof, something that hadn't been there before. Esther recognized it as a jagged piece of red brick, the same red brick that was meant to pulverize her into jelly seconds ago- seconds as far as she was concerned at least- hovering above her trapped arms. If it had the weight above it that Esther suspected, it would at any minute slam down and crush everything above her right wrist, and everything above her left elbow.
She stared, waiting. There was no movement on the part of the part of the wall.
She turned her focus back to the windshield to see where the light was coming from. The instant her stare left the brick...
Had trouble pasting the story in the BBS.
Rainbow Animations <-- for my website.