Flash Fiction Challenge: Curiosity…

I apologise for the late post today. I have been busy with flash fiction and short stories over the past week. My short story is destined for submission to an Australian anthology, the flash fiction (in this case under 1000 words) was a challenge issued by Chuck Wendig on his blog, Terrible Minds . This week’s theme was to ‘Roll randomly on the three tables below, and you will select three things that must be contained within your story.’ 

Why not? I rolled the dice. The result –

  • Table 1: A strange bird
  • Table 2: A vampire
  • Table 3: A shoebox of full of photographs.

Challenge accepted. Needs more work but a good start for a quick challenge. 967 words in all. Just made the limit. Phew.

Curiosity…
by Karen J Carlisle (c) 2015

Fixer-upper? That was an understatement. No wonder the old house had been so cheap! If Sam had known the place needed so much work, she wouldn’t have bought it.

She glanced at the plastic bags piled up in the corner of the lounge room. It had taken all day but order was finally being restored. Maybe the old house had some life left in it yet?

She let out a long sigh and leaned on the wall next to the fireplace. The panel moved under her shoulder.

Click.

A secret door? These old houses are full of surprises.

Sam opened the panel to reveal a hidden cupboard, reaching all the way to the ceiling. She craned her neck to scan each dust-caked shelf.

Nothing.  She reached for the top shelf. Too high.

Sam returned to the dim hallway to fetch the small step ladder. Daylight was fading; she should return tomorrow, when the electrician had reconnected the power. She glanced up into the mirrors that ran along the wall. The cupboard beckoned. Sam checked her watch and bit her lip.

Just enough time to check that last shelf.

She grabbed her old camping lantern, flicked it on, and returned to the lounge room. She climbed the ladder and slid the lantern on the top shelf, above her.

Still too short. Next time I bring the full-sized ladder.

Sam raised herself on the balls of her feet and stretched her fingers toward the back of the deep shelf. Her fingertips brushed against something.

A box?

She leaned forward, edging her finger around the box until her fingernail hooked into a thin slit at the corner.

Caw, Caw!

Something flapped around her head.

Sam sucked in her breath. Her entire body tensed. She threw her hands up for protection, as her head jerked forward, smashing her forehead into the edge of the shelf. The ladder toppled. The light faded.

 ***

Sam sat up slowly and cursed under her breath. The room floated around her. Muffled sounds broke though the silence. She shook her head, trying to halt the spinning.

Big mistake!

The room warped around her. Every one of her internal organs somersaulted. In unison. A chill crept along her limbs. She swallowed the vomit that ascended in her throat.

Remain calm.

A few drops of blood dripped onto her apricot blouse.

She wiped her forehead.

Not much blood. Probably from hitting the shelf. Check for other damage. A torn sleeve,  jeans covered in dust. It could have been worse.

Sam scanned the room. The ladder lay beside her – an old shoebox crumpled under one bent leg.  Photographs were strewn over the floor. Some were very old hand-tinted, sepia photos. There were family portraits – a father, a mother and a boy in Victorian clothing; a few photos of just the mother and the boy, dressed in black; and several photos of the child and a strange bird. They documented the boy growing into a man – always accompanied by the strange, black bird sitting mid-air beside him.

Caw!

A large black bird sat watching her. It cocked its head and blinked. It shimmered for a moment before solidifying. Sam rubbed her eyes. The bird remained. Watching.

I must have hit my head harder than I thought.

The photos swirled around her and plopped back onto the floor.

I didn’t feel a breeze. Sam rested her head in her hands. Definitely concussion.

She scanned the photos around her. Thin handwriting covered the back of one: Donovan – aged 16. Sam reached for the photograph.

“I am sorry to intrude.”

Sam spun around to face the hall. A few seconds later her head caught up. A shadowy figure stood in the doorway, silhouetted by the reflections of the fading sunset in the mirrors behind him.

“The door was open. The agent said you would be here.” An English accent.

The man stepped into the light of the fallen lantern. He glanced past her. His eyes widened.

“Oh, can I help?”

Sam pulled herself to her feet, leaning on the fireplace to keep her balance.

“Yes, sorry about the mess. I am still cleaning up, Mr…?”

“Just call me Vinnie.”

The man took a step closer. He looked familiar. He was tall, dark and well-dressed, like he had just come from a wedding – or a funeral.  Sam glanced back at the photos.

“Oh dear, are you a relative?”

“Yes, my family lived here for a long time.”

“I am so sorry. The funeral was today, wasn’t it?”

The man nodded.

“Your grandfather?” she asked.

” Son, actually.”

Now Sam’s hearing was playing tricks on her too. She rubbed her temples and slowly shook her head. The light-headedness had returned. She felt queasy. Vinnie’s face blurred.

“You look like you need some help,” said Vinnie.

“I fell off the ladder. I think I have concussion.”

“I think you need to rest for a while, to adjust.”

Sam stumbled into the hall. Vinnie followed.

Caw!

There was a flutter of wings in the corner of her eye. The bird landed on Vinnie’s shoulder. He didn’t flinch.

Obviously a figment of my imagination.

They walked down the hall towards the bedroom. Sam glanced into the mirrors. The bird followed her, sitting stately on … Nothing. It bobbed mid-air, just behind her. Sam turned to Vinnie. He smiled. The strange bird blinked back at her, from his shoulder. She checked the mirror again. No Vinnie.

“You’re a…”

“Don’t worry, Miss Samantha. We will look after you.”

Sam felt cold. The light-headedness returned. She searched the mirror and saw nothing but the bird bobbing beside her. She squinted, trying to focus on the fading lantern in the other room. A body lay on the floor, dressed in an apricot blouse and dusty jeans.

 THE END.

 


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