Tag Archives: house

Free to Park, Free to Die – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Roger Bultot

copyright Roger Bultot

Free to Park, Free to Die

“No parking? What does that even mean? It’s space, your Honor. Space. You can’t own or regulate that. You can’t own anything. Matter was free out in outer space for billions of years and suddenly we put a fence around it? Mine! Don’t touch! Bullshit.

“Of course I entered the yard. I took the vegetables—I made the fire. I’m free, you know. That’s my right. I’m sorry it spread but they didn’t own that house. It’s part of the universe.

“I’m sorry they died. Really. I’m not a monster. But they were free too. They were free to die.”


The Re-Genesis Hour – Sunday Photo Fiction

copyright Al Forbes

copyright Al Forbes

The Re-Genesis Hour

There was still half an hour before dawn when Gina, the serving maid, slipped open the door. The boy pulled himself down the steps, scuttling sideways on his misshapen stumps and keeping a hand on the railing for support. Once outside, he pulled himself through the dewy, cold-shock grass. The world was fresh and alive in its daily re-genesis.

A rabbit ducked out of a thicket to his left and he gave chase for the sheer fun of it. The rabbit won, escaping back to its hole just before the boy reached it. He laughed and stood there for a moment, palms flat on the ground, cold and wet.

He continued on, farther and farther until he reached a road he had never seen before, going down to a high iron gate. A car was coming down from the house, its powerful headlights sweeping over him as he ducked back into the bushes. Not fast enough. The car stopped and a man and woman got out.

“What in Heaven’s name is that? It’s hideous.”

“George, please. I—”

“What is it!”

“It’s your son, George.”

.

.

.

.

.

“I have a son?”


Home, Sweet Home – Friday Fictioneers

Today I have a double feature for you. I only wrote one though: the other story is by a guest blogger, author Sheila Stewart, who is also my sister. She wrote a Friday Fictioneer story but doesn’t have a blog so I said I would post it for her. Our two stories go together but could also be taken separately.

copyright Bjorn Rudberg

copyright Bjorn Rudberg

Home, Sweet Home (Part 1)

by Sheila Stewart

I found a body on my back deck today. It wasn’t the oddest thing I’d found back there, but it was a bit annoying. Bodies stink and leak. At least I could use the old clothes and blankets people tossed down. I could mend the broken furniture and decorate with sculptures made from various odds and ends I couldn’t figure out what else to do with.

I’m not sure how people got the idea that my house was a garbage dump, but I’m not complaining.

Not usually anyway.

Except now I need to go bury the body with the others.

Home, Sweet Home (Part 2)

by David Stewart

“I just love this to death,” Alice gushed at the hot real estate agent. “The view, the veranda: it’s perfect.”

Chris rolled his eyes. “It’s a bit pricey and this slope looks prone to avalanches. Plus, what’s this MCMG at the bottom of the paperwork?”

“Legal mumbo-jumbo,” the agent said quickly, flashing a grin. “You wanna see the jacuzzi?”

Alice was slightly concerned three months later when she dug up a tibia in the garden, but after she found two skulls, Chris studied the title. On the last page, in 4-point font was the note:

MCMG: May Contain Mass Grave.

 

 


The Silverware Man

This is the result of an Open Prompts challenge that I issued on Monday. I like what I came up with, although the hardest part to incorporate was the length, i.e. cutting it down to this size. Here are the elements that were suggested:

– a red leaf clinging to a tree, trying not to fall (submitted by Anja)

-the title, The Silverware Man (submitted by Chris De Voss)

-a character named Bartleby “Bud” Hobdringer VII (submitted by Miles Rost)

-a length of 555 words (submitted by Catherine)

-lots of water (submitted by Amy at The Bumble Files)

silverware 2

The Silverware Man

After ringing the funereal doorbell for five minutes, the door was finally opened by an old man in a shabby bathrobe.

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” he said. “I’m temporarily without a butler. How can I help you?”

“I came about the job,” I said.

He took the newspaper from my hand. “Ah, the silverware man. Come in. We have a very extensive silver collection. We used to have a very large staff, but I am afraid we are suffering a personnel shortage currently.”

He didn’t interview me, just offered to show me around. “Great,” I said, sticking out my hand. “Your name’s Bud, right? I asked in town.”

He shot me a look of disdain. “My name is Bartley Hobdringer VII. Please address me as Mr. Hobdringer, or sir.”

“Yes . . . sir.”

Our footsteps echoed off the dark walls of the entranceway and the smell of mold was strong in the air. A single bulb dangled from a dust-covered chandelier. The house looked deserted.

Most of the silverware was kept in the basement, which I found to be flooded. After wading through hip-deep water, I managed to carry out the warped and moldy boxes and clean them up. By the end of the day, the silverware gleamed and my hands were black with tarnish. I set the table in the palatial dining room: four forks, two knives and two spoons and waited while Mr. Hobdringer sat down with a can of sardines and an apple and fastidiously picked out a fork.

dining room

“I’m currently without a cook,” he said, almost apologetically.

“If you’d like, I could—”

He cut me off. “No, your job is just the silverware. We must do things right.”

He did not dismiss me or invite me to join him and I continued to stand there awkwardly while he ate.

“You must consider me a fool to live like this,” he said after a while. “How far I have fallen from the days of my grandfather, when this house was full of life.”

“I know I am fighting the inevitable, but still, I feel like I must fight,” he continued, speaking out into the gloomy expanse of the room. “I cannot sell this house, but I cannot keep it going either. I’m like the last dying leaf of autumn, fighting to stay on the tree, fighting against every icy blast for just another moment of being attached to everything I’ve always known. I fear falling.”

Life soon became very relaxed. My job was only to wash and polish the silver and set it out for meals—a job that occupied half an hour at most. A week later, Mr. Hobdringer gave me a vase in place of my salary. When the antique shop owner in town heard where I had gotten it, he nodded knowingly and gave me a good price.

Two weeks later, Mr. Hodringer did not come down for breakfast. I finally went looking for him and found him in bed, his body already cold. His leaf had finally fallen. On the desk was a note to me.

Nigel,

Your service, although brief, was much appreciated. Please take the silverware as your final payment. It will repay you well for your efforts. Thank you for bringing a gleam of the past back into my life.

Cordially,

Bartleby Hobdringer VII

silverware


Xerxes’ House

Xerxes stumbled out of gargantuan bed and took the elevator down to the floor. He never made the bed; it was too hard to wrestle half an acre of down comforter into place and he was totally alone anyway.

He wandered in a groggy early morning haze down the hallway, with its towering black walls of nothingness going up and up out of sight.

dark hallway

“Why don’t you love me?” the left-hand wall asked him in a whiny whisper. “You haven’t been down this hall for hours. “Are you avoiding me?”

Xerxes sighed and patted the wall absentmindedly. “I was sleeping, Fretty. It means I don’t move for a few hours at a time. If I’m lucky.”

“I knew you were sleeping,” the right-hand wall said. “You always sleep from 11pm to 7:15am sharp. It’s 7:18 now,” it added proudly.

“I’ll take your word for it,” Xerxes said. “Good job, Yes’m.” He went into the kitchen to forage for breakfast.

“You need more milk,” the wall above the sink said in a silky whisper. “Milk…”

“Fine, I’ll get some more milk.” A second later, there was a rapping at the window and Xerxes opened it to see a pigeon gasping for air as it clutched frantically onto a gallon jug of milk.

“Ah, Prescient Pigeon. Impeccable timing, as always,” Xerxes said. He took the jug and opened the fridge, only to see that it was filled with jugs of milk, most unopened, many past their expiration date. A few were crusted with green and had even passed their Exorcise with Fire date.

Xerxes sighed. “Seriously, Mr. Pettyevil. Why do you keep doing that to me? At least tell me I’m out of cereal once in a while so I can get some breakfast.” The wall in front of him sniggered softly but didn’t reply.

Of course, he didn’t have any cereal either. Every time he got some, the Cereal Python snuck in and ate it all during the night. And on top of everything, it was lactose intolerant, so it never used up any of the milk in the fridge.

“I could sure go for some cereal right about now,” Xerxes said, casting a sidelong glance at the window. It didn’t work. Prescient Pigeon was lying on the windowsill, apparently unconscious from its struggle with the gallon of milk and not in any condition to go anywhere for a while.

Xerxes poured himself a glass of milk from the new jug and stood in the kitchen, drinking.

“It’s laundry day today,” the wall whispered. “Laundry…”

“Shut up, Mr. Pettyevil. I’m not falling for your tricks again, at least for another hour.” He glanced at the calendar. Dang, it really was laundry day. He hated laundry day.

For one thing, the clothes he washed weren’t even his. He didn’t know whose they were; they just appeared in baskets in the laundry room every Monday and he washed them. It was part of his lease agreement. He never went out so his own clothes usually took up half a load. But what was worse than the laundry was the laundry room.

“What’s wrong?” Fretty asked as he walked back towards the bedroom. “You’re looking wan.”

“I’m not wan. I’m just hungry and—”

“Today is Monday, so that means it’s laundry day,” Yes’m interjected.

“Oh, laundry day,” Fretty said. “That worries me.”

Xerxes opened the third door from the bedroom and came into a small round room with a washer and dryer sitting in the middle. Hampers of laundry stood off to one side. As with the other rooms, there was no ceiling and the black walls towered up into obscurity.

“Well, you’re back, I see,” a sarcastic voice said from the walls. “Come to gloat, have you?”

“It’s just laundry day, Penelope. Just like every week.”

“Why don’t you come in here and talk to me more. I’m your girlfriend, after all.”

“Yeah, I know, it’s just that I get busy, and, you know…” The day before, Xerxes had spent the entire day trying to build a house of cards that resembled a jaguar.

“I still don’t know how you ever tricked me into this,” the wall said.

Xerxes walked to the hampers and started picking up the items in disgust with a pair of tongs and flinging them into the machine. The one on top was a set of bloodied chainmail, followed by a filthy leopard skin and a set of tribble-fur underwear.

“I never once tricked you,” he said, “The real estate agent said I needed to find another wall for the house and you said: ‘If there’s anything I can do to help…’”

“I was hinting for you to move in with me!” the wall snapped. “Not that it matters now, I suppose. I’m seeing someone new, you know.”

Xerxes looked around the laundry in an exaggerated fashion. “Seeing someone? Who?”

“Well, another house, actually.”

“That’s impossible! There aren’t any other houses here. I’m the only one in this dimension. The real estate agent guaranteed it.”

“Well, all I know is that there’s a house near here with a nice wall named Bumble. We talked last night. He’s a dining room wall, with a china hutch pushed up against him and everything. Real posh.”

Xerxes didn’t respond. He turned on the machine and left to call his real estate agent.

Xerxes had a ShyPhone 4, which was always running away and hiding under the bed and high up in the corridors. Usually this was fine with Xerxes since he didn’t want to talk to anyone anyway, but now he needed to find it. He had gotten it cheap because it ran on eccentricity instead of electricity. In his house, it was always fully charged.

“Where are you, ShyPhone? Hello?” It liked to be serenaded with Metallica songs, sung in a slow, mellow tone. “Exit light, enter night, Xerxes crooned, “take my hand, off to never never land.”

There was some movement up by the top of his bed. “So tear me open, but beware,” Xerxes sang softly and tenderly. “There’s things inside without a care. And the dirt still stains me, so wash me until I’m clean.”

The ShyPhone fluttered down to the bed and Xerxes grabbed it. Its screen blushed as he dialed the number for the real estate agent.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Conrad, this is Xerxes. Listen, what’s this I hear about other houses being in this dimension?”

“Who said that?”

“Penelope.”

“Ah, yeah, Penelope. How’s she doing these days?”

“Still furious. But listen, she said she met another house nearby. You promised me a place where I could get away from it all. From it all. I paid extra for it. In the ad, it describes this house as ‘a house of unpredictable eccentricity, floating in an abyss of viscous ether. Total isolation guaranteed.”

“You’re still isolated,” Conrad said. The ShyPhone was sweating heavily in Xerxes’ hand and he had to switch sides. “I admit, we had to push a few other houses into that dimension, but you’ll never know they’re there. I promise you. By the way, good job with the laundry. I’m hearing a lot of good things.”

“Thanks, but can they stop with the chainmail already? Some of that stuff weighs fifty pounds and there’s more than just blood on some of it.”

“Hey, chainmail needs to get washed too, you know. Anywho, gotta run. Say hi to Prescient Pigeon for me.”

Xerxes hung up and let the ShyPhone scamper away. He didn’t like the idea of neighbors, even if he couldn’t see or visit them. Hopefully nothing bad would come of it.

(to be continued, at some point)


Brent Thomas: World Scout

Read the first part of this story, See the World Through a Cardboard Tube! or read the other stories about Klista here.

 

A gust of wind blew down the street, knocking a battered circle of cardboard out from behind Brent’s glasses. He dove for it and managed to grab it before it blew into the gutter.

“What is that, like a monocle?” a voice said. Brent turned around to a young woman standing behind him. She was holding a stack of books, evidently on her way to class.

“It’s nothing,” Brent said, closing his fingers gently over the cardboard circle.

“I’ve seen you around before, with that thing propped up behind your glasses. You always seem to be walking around in your own little world. You look happy.”

Brent nodded awkwardly, just hoping she would leave. Instead, she stuck out her hand. “I’m Desiree, by the way.”

“Brent Thomas,” he said, shaking her hand. “You probably think I’m weird. Is it really obvious? The cardboard?” He indicated the circle in his hand.

“Not unless someone looks at you closely,” she said with a smile. “Are you busy? Can I buy you some coffee?”

“Um, sure,” Brent said. “That’d be great.”

They started walking down the leaf-scattered path towards the university coffee shop. “So,” Desiree said, “why do you wear that circle under your glasses? Is it just to be weird?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Brent said.

“Try me.” He just smiled and shook his head.

Desiree dropped the subject and they chatted over their coffee about their majors and school life. Brent liked her and he asked her out the next weekend. They started seeing each other regularly. A month after the windy day when they had met, the two of them were curled up on the couch in Brent’s townhouse, watching TV.

“Do you trust me?” Desiree asked suddenly.

“Of course,” Brent said. “What’s up?”

“Tell me, why do you wear that cardboard circle under your glasses? You don’t do it when you’re with me, but when I’ve run into you, I’ve seen it. You always take it out as soon as you can. What is it?”

“I’ll tell you, but you still won’t believe me,” Brent said. “It lets me see into other worlds.” He saw her expression and preempted her next question. “Look, I can’t explain it—it’s like magic or something. When I was in middle school, this van came to my school and a man and woman said they had a cardboard tube that let you see into other worlds. A few other people tried it and swore they saw strange and amazing things through the tube. Later, I found out that the woman had paid them to say that. The thing is, when I looked inside, I really saw into another world. The woman let me keep the tube. I used to spend hours looking through it—you could not imagine the things I’ve seen. Anyway, I tried cutting a thin slice off the end of the tube and that still worked. That’s what it is.”

Desiree was frowning slightly, as if thinking. “You’re kind of scaring me,” she said at last. Then, “Can I see?”

“Yeah, I guess, as long as you promise not to tell anyone else. Be careful with it.” Brent pulled out a small metal case and gingerly handed the cardboard circle to Desiree. She put it up to her eye and then hit him on the arm.

“You are so full of it.”

“Why? What do you see?” he asked.
“I see you and the rest of the room, of course.” She flipped it around. “Still just you.”

“Give it to me.” Brent put it up to his eye. Desiree and the living room disappeared. In front of him was a dark sky with stark mountains looming up as far as he could see. Fountains of glittering white shot up thousands of feet in the air. In the sky above him wheeled a disc of fiery color unlike anything he had seen before.

He took the circle down from his eye and gave a small laugh. “Well, I guess it’s broken.” She laughed too, gently mocking his weirdness, and turned back towards the TV.

That night, Brent was awakened by his cell phone ringing. When he answered a female voice said, without preamble, “Open your door. Your bell’s broken.”

“Who is this?”

“Just open the door.”

Brent went downstairs and opened the front door. A tall woman with long black hair and a red cloak stood in front of him. She stepped inside before he could react.

“Well, Brent, you’re looking well. How are you?”

Brent stared at her. “Who are you?”

The woman made a noise of irritation. “Didn’t I tell you to remember my name?”

He thought back, trying to remember that name. “Klista? You gave me the cardboard tube, back in middle school. That was five years ago. How did you find me?”

“How could I have lost you? You’re important to my plans, Brent. I see you have been using the tube quite a bit. That’s good. You need the experience.”

“What do you want from me?” Brent said. “You didn’t say back then that there was any catch.” He was about to offer her the tube back, but he stopped himself.

“I see you showed it to someone else recently,” Klista said. “A girl. It didn’t work for her, did it?” She waited for him to nod. “It doesn’t work for anyone, except you. That’s why I need you, Brent. You’re special. Almost no one can see between worlds like you can. It took me a very, very long time to find you back then. You were too young, though, so I thought I’d give you a few years to get used to the extra sight.”

“It shifts from time to time,” Brent said. “The view inside, I mean. It doesn’t always show the same place.”

“The one I gave you was just a passive Gazer,” Klista said. “Dimensions shift in relation to one another over time. The tube just shows what’s closes to you at that moment. But with training, you can see what you want to see, across multiple dimensions. That’s why I want you to come work for me. I need you, Brent, to be my scout. To look across the worlds and see what no one else can see.”

Thoughts rose and fell in Brent’s sleep drugged mind, but all he could say was, “I don’t understand.”

Klista reached over and tapped him on the cheek with her gloved hand. “Wake up, Brent. I’m offering you a job. You will never get an opportunity like this again. You can come back before long, but for right now, come with me and I’ll show you.”

“If is far?” Brent asked. He was wondering what Desiree would think if he suddenly disappeared. Then there were missed classes, angry professors, worried friends…

“Brent,” Klista said, reproach in her voice. “What is distance? Look through the tube. Another world right there in front of you. At least come and see what I have to show you. Then, you if want, come back and keep studying creative writing, making up stories about all the places you weren’t up to visiting yourself.”

“Okay, fine,” Brent said. A thrill of fear and excitement went through him at the idea of actually going to the worlds that he had seen. “Let me go get dressed, at least.”

“I’ll wait here,” she said. “Also, if you have clothes for cold weather, I’d bring those too.”

“Sure.” Brent ran upstairs, his heart pounding.


Wine and Spirits

The third in the Open Prompts series. The story prompts are:

    1. 200 words ( my suggestion but I cheated: it’s actually about 570 words)
    2. a (possibly) haunted house (suggested by Tessa Sheppard)
    3. someone with an OCD problem (suggested by Amy at The Bumble Files)
    4. a rare bottle of wine (suggested by Christopher De Voss)
    5. the mention of an alien/terminator (suggested by Ripley Connor)
    6. a shift in tone from funny to sinister (suggested by Sharmishtha Basu)

It was Halloween and the mansion of Lord Fufflington was crowded with party-goers. The sommelier, Roderick, was busy in the private dining room of the lord.

“Oh, Roderick, can you recommend a good wine?” Lord Fufflington asked. “Maybe something white.”

Roderick sighed inwardly at hearing his entire profession boiled down to one of two colors.

“Sir, I recommend a 2001 Chateau d’Yquem.” The lord waved his approval and Roderick headed for the wine cellar.

He passed a female Terminator and a smaller alien on the stairs and shooed aside a decapitated Spongebob, who was smoking in front of the wine cellar door. Inside, he found Sailor Moon making out with Captain Jack Sparrow. After kicking these out, he found the right bottle of wine and was about to leave when he noticed something that made him gasp. It was the rarest bottle in the cellar, a bottle of 1953 Domaine de la Romanee . . . on the wrong rack.

It was a travesty. He had only been the sommelier of the manor for a month, but he had totally reorganized the wine cellar in that time. The old system had been some jumble of arcane nonsense instead of his new way: reverse alphabetic order by the last name of the vineyard’s original owner. Some party-goer must have moved the bottle. He carefully restored it to its correct place, aligned the label correctly, and brought the Chateau d’Yquem upstairs, locking the door behind him.

As soon as he reached the dining room, Lord Fufflington called him over. “We’ll need another bottle, it seems, Roderick. Lord Kigglistump has just arrived.” He motioned to an obese man whose body was straining against the neoprene rabbit costume he was wearing.

Roderick returned to the cellar and got another bottle of Chateau d’Yquem. On his way out, he saw that two other bottles had been moved. On the side of one dusty magnum was a note rubbed in the dust: Wine must be arranged by phenolic content only! – Diogenes, the butler.

So the butler did it! It was obvious. Roderick stormed upstairs, intent on informing Lord Fufflington. However, the wine requests kept pouring in and he was kept busy running to and from the wine cellar all night. Every time he entered, more bottles were moved and more notes were left in dust, in the dirt, or scratched in wood. They demanded that he return to the old system and threatened him grievous harm if he didn’t. The last even threatened to stab him in the throat in his sleep if he didn’t stop arranging the bottles in his own way.

That was the last straw. Roderick stormed upstairs and into the dining room, interrupting Lord Fufflington in the middle of a bawdy anecdote involving a hang glider and the constellation Andromeda.

“Sir, I must insist that the butler stop interfering with my organization of the wine cellar. He has been rearranging wine bottles all night.”

“That’s impossible, man,” Fufflington said. “The butler has been away all night at a private function.”

“He must have returned early then,” Roderick said. “In any case, tell Diogenes to stay away from my wine cellar.”

“Diogenes?” Lord Fufflington said. “The butler’s name is Ramses. Diogenes was the old butler. He died ten years ago tonight. Why, Ramses is at his memorial right now. I saw, Roderick, you’ve turned all pale and—I say! You just dropped that expensive bottle of wine on the floor. Are you sure you’re really cut out to be a sommelier?”


The Right Turn

This is a story prompt by my good friend, Sharmishtha Basu. Read the original post and her story here, and many others on her great blogs. This story is a bit darker than some of my other work, just as a note of caution.

The lightning crashed again, blinding him for a few seconds. It lit up the old building behind the trees. He noted that the road has forked to two obscure paths a few feet away from him, the right turn led him to an old, dilapidated mansion, which perhaps had some intact rooms and a caretaker. The left one disappeared in the shrubs and bushes.

Someone has been stalking him ever since his car broke down. He could hear him or it but had not been able to catch a single glimpse even after turning back dozens of times…

artwork by Sharmishtha Basu

Philip took the turn on the right. He wanted to get to the house before the rain started. He came out onto an overgrown lawn and saw a small door partially open on the first floor. Welcoming light was spilling out from the crack. With a final glance behind him, he hurried across the lawn and through the door.

He found himself in a corridor of whitewashed stone that immediately made him feel uneasy. There was a faint, chemical smell in the air that reminded him of morgues and taxidermists. The door creaked behind him. He leapt for it, but it was too late: the door slammed and a lock clicked.

Philip ran back and pushed on the door but it did not budge. With a sense of apprehension, he turned and continued along the corridor. It ran for fifty feet until it turned a corner and opened into a glass-walled room that looked out onto a stark-white laboratory lined with machines and microscopes. The glass room he was in occupied a quarter of the room. In the center of the room were two large, clear cylinders that reached from floor to ceiling. The further one was empty. Inside the nearer one, curled and immobile, stood a nightmare.

Imp was the word that came to Philip’s mind when he saw it, then hag. It was humanoid, with spindly limbs and a face that was pulled forward with a long protuberant jaw and exposed fangs. It was female, he saw, with withered breasts that hung limply down on its stomach. Long claws grew out of its hands and feet.

A metal door slid down across the entrance to the corridor, jerking Philip’s attention away from the monstrosity in the cylinder. A moment later, a man walked into lab from another door. He was dressed in all black so that in the purely white lab, he seemed like a hole in space, a negative of reality.

“It was you, wasn’t it?” Philip said. “Who followed me from my car? What do you want with me?”

“You can undress and pile your clothes in the corner,” the man said. “You’ll have no need of them anymore. If you don’t, I’ll have to gas you and do it myself, but I’d rather not. Don’t think about trying to call for help—cell phones don’t work in here.”

“What are you going to do with me?” Philip, as a feeling of dread went through him.

“I’m sure you have noticed Hecate,” the man said, indicating the cylinder. “This is the crowning achievement of my work. I developed her with specific goals: to be ruthless, agile, cunning, and fertile. She is almost ready now, just a little more and she will be ready to wait for someone—for you, in fact.”

Philip started to ask a question and then decided he did not want to know the answer. The man saw and laughed.

“Hecate was once like you or me, just a normal girl that got lost on her way home from a party. She came to the fork in the road and turned right, ending up where you are now. It will take more than a year, I warn you, but someday, you will be like her. Then the two of you will come together, the mother and father of a new race. Now please, remove your clothing.”

“I’m more comfortable this way,” Philip said.

The man sighed. “Have it your way.” He turned away and turned on a machine on the side table. As soon as his back was turned, Philip drew the pistol that was tucked in the back of his pants and pointed it at the man’s head.

The glass was thick, but no match for a .44 bullet. The shot shattered one of the panels of glass that made up the containing room, missing the man’s head by inches. He threw himself to the floor as Philip shot again, smashing another panel of the wall.

Philip climbed out the glass room, sending more bullets smashing through lab equipment and glass partitions. The man in black kept dodging and weaving, trying to get to the door. Philip’s last bullet smashed through the nearest glass cylinder and light blue fluid poured out onto the floor.

“No! She’s not ready yet!” the man screamed. He ran to a computer terminal and started typing in commands. Behind him, the thing in the cylinder moved.

It started with a slow unfolding of its limbs, as if it were just waking up. Then it lifted its head and Philip caught a glance of its watery yellow eyes before it turned them on the back of the man in black. It took one long, delicate step out of the shattered tube and then a flying leap, silently and with claws extended.

The man screamed and the two figures fell to the floor, locked together in a frenzy of limbs and fangs and blood. Philip ran for the door that the man had entered by and ran up the stairs. He came out into a dark, musty main hall and found the front door. Just before he left, he opened his Zippo lighter, lit it and dropped it on the carpet. Then he fled out into the night.

The next day, Philip read how the old mansion on the edge of town had mysterious burned down. The damage was further increased by the explosion of several large tanks of chemicals that had been stored in the basement. The eminent but reclusive Dr. Hasgrove was found in the basement, dead from unspecified wounds. No other people or creatures were found.

Philip moved to another city a month later. He kept his eyes open for news of strange attacks or disappearances. There were none that he could find, but still, when he was out at night, he thought he could feel something behind him, stalking him.

Waiting.


Saturday, 4am

This is the second story in the Open Prompts series. Because of the length constraint, it is not a full story, on the beginning. More will come, I promise. Here were the story elements suggested:

1. Title: “Saturday, 4am” (suggested by me)
2. Length: about 700 words (suggested by Reality of Christ)
3. vinyl records (suggested by Alastair)
4. A character named Edward “the Squid” Morrison (suggested by Christopher De Voss)
5. Genre: post-apocalyptic sci-fi (suggested by jomiddleton)
6. an android sidekick (suggested by Exit Fresh)

Edward Morrison was the unofficial king of the decaying residential area known as Free Frall. He worked alone, by night, collecting and gathering and making his influence felt among the ragged collection of survivors that haunted the rotting suburb. They would pay him a share of what they found by virtue of what he called “personality”. They called him the Squid, and he liked it.

Free Frall was in the wrong place for revival. It was too close to the bomb-blasted epicenter that had been London, but too far from the enclave of Cambridge, where a determined remnant tried to piece a civilization back together.

Edward checked his device screen. It was Saturday, 4 am. It was funny—five billion people dead and most of the rest living like trolls, but they still knew the day and the time, thanks to Cambridge. Technology galore, but no food.

He was in an area he rarely went to—the rusted sign named the cul-de-sac Brighton Circle. The last stop of the night. There was a house he had his eye on.

***

It was 4am and Joseph Watson was just getting ready to go to bed when he heard a creak from the stairs leading down to his cellar home. Droog, a dwarf-sized robot, whirred over to the door and did a scan. The light on his shoulder went red. Joseph was just reaching for his gun when the door flew open and Edward “the Squid” Morrison stepped in.

“What do you want, Squid?” Joseph said, trying to sound unconcerned.

“Joseph, so this is where you’ve been hiding!” Edward said, with a big smile. “I heard you were dead, but then I kept hearing rumors. I’m glad to see you.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet you are. You always took whatever you wanted from me,” Joseph said. “What—what can I get for you?” he added quickly, as Edward started to walk around the cluttered room with an appraising eye.

“Just seeing what you’ve found—you always did get the best junk. Where did you find this thing?” He toed Droog, who was following him around, still scanning him.

“It’s a ‘Munculus Bot. A guy in Cambridge found a bunch and is fixing them up and trading them. His name is Droog. He doesn’t know English.”

“I wouldn’t think you’d be too attached to it then,” Edward said. “Hey, what do you got here?” He picked up a thin, black disc and was rewarded when Joseph jumped up, fear plain on his face.

“You don’t want that, Squid. Here, take Droog if you’d like. Please, just—put it down.” Edward raised his eyebrows and started to twirl the disc in his fingers.

“Okay, I’ll tell you,” Joseph said. “Just—be careful. It’s music.”

“Music? Like hum-tunes? Why would I want that?”

“This is music from Before. There are tiny grooves that hold the music. No, not like that,” he said quickly as Edward held up the vinyl record to his ear. “I wrote an instruct for the scanner on my device to read them. Here.”

Joseph set the record down on the desk and placed his E-device in a wire frame that suspended it above the record. Then he turned it on and a tiny laser flashed rapidly around the black disc.

A sound unlike anything Edward had ever heard started to pour from the device’s speaker. It was a woman singing strong and clear in a strange language. It had such tragic and haunting tones that Edward involuntarily closed his eyes. It was as if a window had been opened out onto another world, but it was too dark to see more than an inch beyond the frame. And he so desperately wanted to see. The music soared and dipped and finally, faded away.

“What is she saying, in the music?” Edward asked.

“It’s another language,” Joseph said, with a shrug. “They say there were hundreds of them, Before. Maybe there still are, somewhere.”

“Where did you get this?” Edward asked. “Tell me, please.”

“I traded the four I have from a wanderer named Ryan. He makes runs from here to Cambridge and around. I’ve asked for more, but he hasn’t gotten me any. Please, take Droog if you want, but not the discs.”

“Fine, I’ll take Droog instead, but only if you give me the instruct for playing the music.”

“Okay, I guess. You’re going to go find more?”

Edward was, but that wasn’t all. Hearing that song at 4 am on Saturday was like uncovering a pearl in a mound of filth. It was something that for years had remained unsullied by the decay around it. There must be more, and he was going to find it.

(Mireille Mathieu – “Exodus”)


The Book of Time

A man built a house on a plot of land. He lived through good and bad and when he died, his house stood empty. People soon forgot him, but the house remembered.

It remembered his first night there, when he woke, alone, in the middle of the night and almost cried from loneliness. It remembered the joy of his wedding, the trials and worries, the accumulated pain and blood of scraped knees and new babies. The faces that came, and changed, and passed on through its rooms, it remembered.

The house was sold, and sold again, and then finally abandoned, until its windows were empty and vacant and its roof settled slowly into the floor. The years passed until the house was gone but its memories passed to the land. Even when that was built over and paved and excavated for basements and sewers, the land remembered the stories of those that had lived on it.

It remembered until the land sank into the oceans and water covered the area where the man had built his house and lived through good and bad. Its history was eventually forgotten by everyone, but it still remains, written forever in the book of time that only One can read.


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