Flash Fiction Friday Story: Day of Ashes

Burned out Building by Chisatowatanabe via www.DeviantArt.com

Burned out Building by Chisatowatanabe via www.DeviantArt.com

Annika peeked through the curtain. She opened it a quarter inch, no one could know she was still in the house. Food was running low so a supply run had to be made before she starved to death. Water was a problem, too, but going outside was hazardous.

Nothing moved in the street, but that didn’t mean it was safe. A week ago a pack of dogs gone feral had roamed the neighborhood, barking and snarling at each other. More terrifying was the baying they’d made when they cornered a half-starved squirrel. Annika had run to the bathroom and shut the door, then huddled in the corner, hands over her ears. She didn’t know squirrels screamed. Even now the memory made her stomach churn.

Moving from room to room Annika peeked out of all the windows. It seemed safe enough but still she hesitated, pacing from one window to the next. It would only take one mistake to kill her. Three months ago she’d watched as her neighbor, Ben Morse, had left his house. Until then she hadn’t known that anyone in the neighborhood was still alive. He’d had a shotgun with him but it hadn’t helped. He’d run out of shells and died, right there in the street, four houses down. Now, even the bones were gone. The dogs had seen to that.

The backpack was on the kitchen table and her biggest kitchen knife. Who knew a year ago that she’d want a gun? She’d always thought guns were a scourge on society. Now, the thought of a nice Army machine gun sounded like a good idea. Annika checked the street again. Maybe there were other people in the neighborhood, hiding, like her. It would be nice to have someone to talk to. The leaves were starting to fall. That meant winter was coming, and her food and water nearly gone.

Before the power went out she’d watched scenes of people leaving the cities on television. There were camps, somewhere, but she hadn’t wanted to evacuate. Annika chewed her lower lip. Big mistake. She should have gone then. Now she was alone and winter was coming. She dropped the curtain and strode to the kitchen. She put on the pack and picked up the knife. At the door to the garage she stopped, hand on the door knob. The garage door would have to be opened by hand, the car pulled out, and then she’d have to get out of the car to close the door so nothing would get into the house. Her mouth was dry. It was tempting to stop and get a sip of water, but she opened the door and went into the garage.

The door made a racket as she pulled the rope that opened it. She checked the street again then hurried to the car. It sputtered but on the third try, started. Annika backed out of the garage then leapt from the car, pulled the garage door down and got back in the car. She locked the doors and backed into the street. The grocery store was two miles away. With luck there would still be food, maybe even bottled water.

Annika studied the windows of the houses she passed. It would be good to find other people. She would be able to sleep at night. The car sounded loud. Would it draw the creatures? She didn’t know. At the grocery store she found the plate glass windows smashed, abandoned cars littering the parking lot, some burned out. She pulled up onto the sidewalk as close to the store as she could get, nudging a shopping cart out of the way with her front bumper.

Please have food, please have food. She grabbed her pack and got out of the car, knife in hand. Annika hurried to the dry goods aisle, hoping for bags of rice, beans or pasta. She found all of them but scattered across the floor. They crunched underfoot as she searched the shelves for anything left whole. A couple of boxes of rice dinners hid on the bottom shelf, out of sight. She put them in her pack. Maybe canned goods?

That aisle had only exotic stuff, anchovies and capers and the like. Beggars can’t be choosers, she thought and put them in her pack. She hurried up and down the rest of the aisles picking up random things left behind in whatever fury had happened here. Broken cases of water were in the drinks aisle. Annika grabbed an overturned cart and loaded it with the individual bottles. She opened one and drank it down. She’d been rationing her water and was thirsty all the time now. The water tasted wonderful.

A noise startled her. She pushed the cart at a run to the front of the store. She clicked the unlock button on the car key and leapt through the broken store window. After opening the back door, she began tossing her spoils into the car. Wait, was that another sound? She worked faster. She didn’t want to be caught here in the open. After grabbing the last bottle of water, she slammed the car door shut and ran to the driver’s side.

No! The creatures were coming around the corner of the store. She jumped into the car and tried to start it. The engine cranked and cranked but wouldn’t start. Annika locked the doors. The creatures surrounded the car, banging on the windows inches from her face. She tried the engine again. It still wouldn’t start. Tears flowed down her face as she sobbed with fright.

It took a month for her to die of thirst, still surrounded by the zombies.

 

The End

952 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: Bind Wicked

Pool in Glade by Connie Cockrell

Pool in Glade by Connie Cockrell

Travis sat up and dug the sleep from his eyes. Today was his last test before he could be declared a full mage. He stumbled to the basin to splash his face. I’ve been here since I was seven. He was graduating a full year before most did. Some never graduated and remained apprentices for the rest of their lives. He didn’t want that for himself.

After breakfast he stood in front of Master Kanno’s desk. “Good morning.”

“Travis.” He put down his quill and looked at the young man through bushy eyebrows. “Are you ready?”

Travis felt anything but ready but nodded. “I am, Master.”

Kanno snorted. “That’s what they all say, every year. Very well, let’s go to the grove.”

The sacred grove was a mile from the castle where the mages trained their apprentices. “Tell me, Travis,” Kanno said as they walked through the gates, “what is the meaning of wicked?”

“It’s evil, Master, morally bad in principle or practice, iniquitous, even. Some people use wicked to describe the weather or even a spiteful, malevolent gossip. But for us, we mean evil.”

“A fair assessment, lad. How are you approaching today’s exam?”

Travis wanted to wipe his hands on his robe. “I’ve thought about several approaches, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“It is.”

“It depends upon what you summon. Evil comes in many forms. I’ve studied the binding spells for many creatures, demons to imps, dragons to dark elves.”

Kanno nodded. “Good. But what if what appears seems harmless?”

Panic washed through Travis. What if the creature that appeared was a pixie or a unicorn? “We’ve learned that not all is as it appears, Master. In that case, it would be my task to divine the true nature of the creature and take the appropriate measures.”

“What if what appears seems evil, yet is not?”

Travis was ready for that question. “Better to be safe than sorry you taught us. I would secure the creature and then determine its character.”

“Have you wondered why some apprentices never graduate?”

Travis thought about Willem, Master Kanno’s apprentice. He was a smart man, indispensible to Master Kanno. “I’ve made assumptions, but I don’t know.”

“Hmm.” Kanno studied his apprentice. “For some, you may have guessed, it was because they couldn’t master the knowledge and magic. We don’t hold those men and women though if they leave, we put a binding on them so they cannot use what little magic they do have. Some do not want the responsibility. The power is overwhelming and they choose to work with us but not to be responsible for the decisions that come with being a full mage. They decline to take the test you are about to take.

Travis wondered how they could study all those years and refuse. It’d never occurred to him.

“Then there are the very few. Like Willem. He took the test but it blasted him and he failed.”

Travis nodded his stomach clenching. His whole life was at stake.

At the clearing and after cleansing themselves in the holy pool, Travis took his place at the edge of a ring of blasted earth. Behind him Kanno began chanting. There was no knowing what would arrive in the center of the ring but he’d have only a few seconds to control whatever it was.

Travis cleared his mind and made himself fully receptive to the creature’s arrival. His fingers tingled with the power he drew from the sacred pool and the holy grove. The air buzzed with anticipation and power. A loud crack and the smell of ozone filled the circle. In front of him stood a young woman, long blonde hair spilling over her shoulders to mid-thigh, hiding her nakedness.

A girl? Was this a shape-shifter and she’d turn to a dragon or a were-wolf? He pulled power from the grove around him and cast a binding net over the girl. It splintered into shards of crystal as she dashed straight for him. He didn’t know what to do. Was it a nymph? Should he bind with fire? He danced to his right, half a step away from the girl’s grasp, her hair flying like a banner behind her. Sparks flew from her fingertips.

Was she a harpy? He tossed a net of hair, conjured from the blessings of the goddess. The girl shouted a word of power, he couldn’t tell which one, and the net burst into flame. Travis panicked. What if he couldn’t bind her? She’d escape into the world and cause all manner of harm.

He shouted his personal word of power. None knew it, not even Master Kanno. The girl slowed, as though she was caught in quicksand, her movements graceful but her eyes flashed red and her face formed a mask of hatred and evil. A snarl revealed pointed teeth.

Travis spun to his left and cast a chain of iron. The girl’s scream ripped along his nerve ends until he thought it would pierce his brain. He held the chain, snapping it around her until she stood immobile in the char of the circle. Panting with the effort, relief flooded through him that he hadn’t let this creature loose upon the kingdom. Travis’ every muscle trembled.

A hand clapped him on the back. “Well done, Travis.” Kanno took the chain from the young man and flicked it. It unraveled and with a wave of his hand and a word, made the girl disappear.

Master Kanno held out a water bladder and Travis drank half of it.

“What did you learn?”

“That I wasn’t as ready as I thought.”

Kanno smiled. “Good. You’ve passed your test. There is much, still, to study. But that will be a life-long pursuit. The ceremony will be in a month, with the others who pass. Congratulations.”

Travis thought about how close he’d come to losing. Something to keep always in mind, he thought as he shook the mage’s hand.

 

 

 

The End

992 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday Post: Dark Carnival

State Fair

State Fair 2011 by Randy Cockrell

Gabi Rickson rubbed her eye as she flipped the switch in the trailer turning off the carnival music. If she never heard carnival music again it would be fine by her. If she never stepped foot in another carnival trailer, that would be fine, too. Next town, Gabi promised herself as she turned out the flashing neon lights; she’d get a waitressing job in a diner or something and get away from this creepy carnival.

After a month with the carnival, she was trusted to shut up the game trailer for the night. She stepped out of the back door and locked it. Gabi shared a camper with the carnie owner’s daughter, Brianne. The bed over the cab was hers, along with the tiny storage cubby. Not that she had much—a couple of changes of clothes, her e-reader, and the electronic notebook that served as her computer when a free WiFi hotspot presented itself.

At the camper, she went inside. It shifted with her weight on the step. The light was on over the stove, meaning that Brianne was out. Gabi felt relieved. Brianne and the rest of the carnies had some sort of weird vibe. Kind of like the vibe she got from her mother’s boyfriend and the reason she’d left home. The carnie vibe, though, was something else. They seemed okay during the day, friendly enough. After dark was another thing. Gabi eyed the door. She wanted nothing better than to lock the damn thing but it wasn’t her camper and Brianne needed to get in.

She changed into the tee-shirt she slept in and splashed her face in the tiny bathroom sink. Thank goodness the camper had a toilet and shower. It would have sucked to use the port-a-pots and outside wash stations some of the carnies had to use. After she climbed up into her bed, she read a chapter on her e-reader and turned out the lights. The game trailer had to open at ten, just seven hours away.

Gabi woke, heart pounding, the camper rocking violently. She scrambled down the ladder and bolted out of the camper door, barefoot and trembling. With the dirt and small stones cutting into her feet, she saw three men rocking the camper.

Brianne grabbed her hand. “Come on! Run!”

Blinking with confusion, Gabi followed, her hand still in Brianne’s. “What’s going on? Where are we going?”

“Hurry!” The owner’s daughter dragged her past the carnie’s campers and led the nineteen-year-old at a run up the ramp of the carnival’s only tractor trailer, through a person-sized door. She dropped Gabi’s hand and slammed the door shut.

Gabi stood gasping as Brianne stood, back against the door. “What is going on?”

“It’s time.”

“Time for what?” Gabi shook her head. This wasn’t making any sense.

Brianne stood up. “Time for you to serve your purpose.” She took Gabi’s hands in hers. “Time for you to pay us back.”

Gabi tried to pull her hands from Brianna’s. “Pay you back? I do my work.”

Brianna’s grip tightened. “Of course. But we need more than that, sweet girl.”

Gabi yanked her hands, but the carnie’s grip couldn’t be broken. She didn’t like the way Brianna stared. “Let go of me!” she cried out. Panic flooded through her.

“Don’t worry, sweetheart.” Brianna smiled and licked her lips. “This won’t hurt. Not too much, anyway.”

“Let go!” Gabi shouted as her elbows were grabbed by two men, one on each side. Brianna let go of her wrists as the two men lifted Gabi from her feet. She recognized them from around the carnival but hadn’t really met them. “Let me go!” she screamed again as they carried her to the front of the trailer.

The inside was lit by purple rope lights mounted along the corners where wall met roof. The sides were lined with the carnie people, dressed in black robes, hands tucked into wide sleeves. Gabi tried to kick the legs of the men who held her, but her bare feet were weak weapons. They ignored her. At the front of the trailer was a platform that ran the width of the trailer and a table, draped in white, on it. The white material glowed purple in the light from the ropes. They lifted her higher and before she could react, two other men grabbed her feet and bound them in three turns of rope before she was placed on the white cloth. Her hands were raised over her head and tied to the corners of the table. She thrashed, her long blonde hair spilling across the table and over her face. Tears flowed with fear and frustration.

Brianne, now dressed in a black robe with silver embroidery at wrist hems and down the middle front of the robe, gently pulled Gabi’s hair back from her face and with a black cloth, wiped her eyes. “Shh, sweet girl. There’s no need to fear. You’ve been judged worthy.”

“Worthy?” Gabi tugged at her feet, they were secured, as were her hands. “What are you doing?”

“We need to feed. You’ve been chosen.”

Gabi shook her head so hard the hair flew again. “You can’t. You can’t!”

The people in the room began to chant. Brianne lifted Gabi’s head and placed a padded brace under her neck and smoothed all of Gabi’s hair to her left shoulder. “So beautiful, dear girl. You’ll feed us for quite some time.”

Gabi screamed as Brianne leaned over her neck and bit. Fear and pain flooded through her then warmth and a feeling of bliss.

The missing girl posters appeared a week later, but the carnival had moved on. A year later the body of a woman, apparent age 72 was found in the parking lot of an abandoned drive-in theater.

Gabi’s mother searched for her daughter the rest of her life.

 

The End

977 Words

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Chuck Wendig Challenge Part 3: Finish the Story

Into the fiery pits of Hell by The Darkened Light via www.deviantart.com

Into the fiery pits of Hell by The Darkened Light via www.deviantart.com

This is part three of the Chuck Wendig, http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/09/19/flash-fiction-challenge-conclude-the-tale-part-iii/, challenge to write the 1st third of a story then leave it for another writer to finish the next part. This week, we do the end of the story. I chose a story titled Shrine with Part 1 by DarkVirtue1974, http://darkvirtue1974.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/my-return-to-blogging-and-a-flash-fiction-challenge/, and Part 2 by Anthony Armstrong http://almosthuman1blog.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/flash-fiction-challenge-week-2-the-shrine/. The second part of the story turned it paranormal. Let’s see what I can do to end it as well as these two guys started it.

No one has picked up my first half from the first yet. I’ll let it go this week to see if anyone decides to do a middle or an end. But I promise I’ll finish it if no one else does.

I pick up the story at the second dividing line.

Shrine

I don’t know why I have come back to this place.  The old two-story building before me has never been a home in any sense of the word.  It was more of a monument of suffering; a temple of affliction with my father as the high priest.  There isn’t a room in this place that hasn’t been decorated with my blood at one point or another.

Now, he’s gone and this house stands as the last testament to his brutality. So, why am I here?  To find any shred of decency and happiness within and rescue it?  Not likely.  That all died with my mother when I was still an infant.  What, then?  Maybe to get one last look around before I sell it off?  Or maybe, just maybe…to destroy this place.

I push the thoughts of setting the house ablaze aside and make my way up the steps to the porch. My hand grows ice cold with dread as I reach for the doorknob. It turns with a metallic grind and I push the door open.  The smell of age and dust and stale cigarette smoke hits me in the face. My stomach lurches a bit with childhood panic.  My skin prickles in rememberance of each and every cigarette burn mark given to me.

I slowly walk in and look around.  Other than a thin layer of dust, nothing has changed in this place in 15 years.  Every piece of furniture, every picture, every memento is exactly where it was when I was a child. Even the bloodstain on the rug in front of the fireplace is still where I last left it; black with age.  I couldn’t say what I supposedly did or didn’t do to ‘earn’ that particular beating. They all ran together like a flipbook of pain.  Each beating was partnered with the threat of much, much worse if I ever told anyone.

No, I still don’t know why I have come back to this place.  It’s serving as nothing but a bruising reminder of my past.  This place was filled with nothing but rage and fear and, in all the years, I never knew why.

Perhaps it’s best that this place and the past it harbors should be brought to the ground and removed from the world.  Just blow out the pilot lights on the stove and let the place fill with gas.  One spark and this place is consigned to Hell.

My footsteps carry me through the rest of the living room and into the dining room. Like the living room, nothing has changed here.  The familiar setting brings forth the past in my mind once more.  I shove aside the fresh wave of memories and continue to the door that leads to the kitchen.

Pushing it open, I stop short.  Within the center of an otherwise unchanged kitchen is a large, round hole. Cautiously, I approach the edge and look down into the void.
———————————————————————–

The rhythm of ragged breath stutters as the sides of the hole undulate before me.  Heat oozes over the jagged edges and pool around my feet, grasp at my knees.  The kitchen swims around me and I begin to lose my balance.  A hand grips my shoulder, pulls me from the edge.  I am too frightened to turn.  I slide to my knees, hands grasping the edge of the pit.  I almost allow myself to topple forward into the gaping hole, but I pause.  Anger grows inside me and I stand, the hand still pulling at my shoulder, and I allow myself to turn.

“Jacob.”  It was him.  My father, long and thankfully dead, stands before me, hand on my shoulder, smiling in my face as though nothing but love had ever passed between the two of us.  “It’s been a long time, my son.  Too long.”

“Father.”  My tone is curt, cut short intentionally for fear if I allow myself to speak freely, I would unleash years of anguish, terror and pain in a single gasp and our conversation would end.  Despite this man’s horrific actions toward me in the past, I want to hear what he has to say.  I need it.  I crave it.

“I was wondering when you would come back here, Jacob.”  I allow myself to be led to the dining room where my father pulls out a chair for me.  “Please,” he says.  “Sit.”  I, as always, do as I am told.  Now the old man places both his hands upon my shoulders, squeezing, patting as if he were making sure I am real.  He exhales and mumbles something about how good it is to see me here.  The room begins to smell of death and the heat from that hole in the kitchen roils its way into the dining room.  “I suppose you have some things you would like to discuss.  About the past?”

“Yes,” I say forcefully, surprising myself.  “I do.”  I feel the floor rumble.  Hear floor boards crack.  I turn to face the old man, but he turns away too quickly for me to catch his eyes.  It seems his flesh leaves a smear in the air as he steps away from me.

“Your mother and I missed you.  You realize that, don’t you?  She was always so fond of you.  She got so angry when you left.”

My skin begins to flush.  Sweat pops up in beads on the backs of my hands.  Whether it was anger or the rapidly increasing temperature in the room, I couldn’t tell.  “My mother died,” I shake my head, sweat dribbling into my eyes.  “I had to leave.  I had to make your abuse stop.  I had to protect myself.  I had to leave.”  I begin to feel sick.  Father whips around and slams his open palms down on the table before me.  His eyes burn red and his flesh drips from his face.

“What if I told you your mother never died?”

——————–

It felt as though my heart stopped. Sweat ran down the side of my face. “What?”

“You heard me.” He stuck his face into mine, those red eyes locked with me. “You’re just as stupid now as you were then.”

I thought he was going to crack me across the head just like the old days but he turned and stomped away from the table, muttering. “What do you mean she never died?”

“She was always here, Jacob. I made a special place for her, under the kitchen floor.”

His face had somehow crawled back into place. I tried to swallow, to wet my dry mouth enough to spit the words out. “You kept her under the floor? In a room?”

He jammed hands into pants pockets. Those same saggy-assed work pants he always wore. “You could say it was a room.”

I stood so fast the chair fell over behind me with a crash on the worn oriental carpet. I ran to the kitchen. The hole in the floor gaped in front of me, the heat still rising, edges still undulating. “Mom!” I yelled into the hole, God help me I don’t know why. Tears of fear and frustration ran down my cheeks. “MOM!” I screamed.

The heavy hand grabbed my shoulder. I dug deep and flung it away from me. “What did you do, you bastard!” He backed up a step. For the first time in my life my fear was gone. I went after him, hands outstretched for his throat. “Where is she?”

The smug look fell from his face. It occurred to me, in the tiny part of my mind that was still lucid, that I was bigger than he was. I grabbed the front of his shirt and dragged him over to the pit. He danced on the edge, his hands gripping my wrists. “You’ll tell me right now, you sonofabitch.”

A grin spread across the red-eyed demon’s features. “Do it, just do it. You know you want to.” He let go of my hands, balanced precariously on the edge of the hole.

“What did you do?” I spit between gritted teeth.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” His teeth flashed at me, they were pointed. Father spread his arms wide. “Go ahead, do it.”

I let go. Just opened my hands and watched as he slowly fell soundlessly backward into the pit. Heat washed up around me as he fell, the grin never leaving his face. I took a step back. A mix of fear, relief, loss, and grief crashed over me like the waves of the ocean against the shore. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe.

When I opened them, the floor was simple cracked linoleum. The heat and stench was gone. Blinking, I tried to get my emotions under control. I pulled my phone from my pocket and dialed 911. I wasn’t sure how I was going to ask but I needed the floor under the kitchen dug up.

 

The End

491/500/498 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday: The Scent of Lavender

lavender__by_LittleBlackUmbrella

Photo: Lavender by Lena Cramer

The Scent of Lavender

The scent of lavender was overpowering. He sniffed at his tea. “What the hell?”

He peered around the small first floor room. He’d had a T1 line run to the house and connected in here. If he was going to write video games, he needed a fast connection. He sniffed. Got up out of his ergonomic chair and walked around the room, sniffing. “What is that smell?”

Every day since he’d settled in the overpowering scent hit him. Bedroom , bathroom, office, it didn’t matter. “That’s what I get for buying an old farm house,” he muttered as he sat back down.

He just wanted quiet, that’s why he moved out here to the hinterlands. That’s what he called it though the old farm was being engulfed by the suburbs. The owner assured him no animals had been raised on the farm in years. “No smell left at all,” the guy said as they shook hands.

“Yeah,” Nathan thought, “except this old lady smell.”

It was two weeks after he moved in that the shimmer appeared in the kitchen. Nathan squinted. “Need to get away from the computer screen,” he thought as he poured the first cup of coffee of the day.

He rubbed at his eyes for the next two days. The shimmer wouldn’t go away. On the fourth day he turned away from his coffee maker and nearly dropped his cup. An old woman stood in front of him. Hot coffee splashed his hand. When he looked up, she was gone.

“Damn!” He rubbed his eyes and ran his hand under cold water from the faucet. “What the hell!” He spent the rest of the day jerking around in his chair at every creak the old house made. I need to go to town, he thought. Too much alone time.

He met old programming buddies at their favorite bar. “How’s it going?” his best friend, Davin, asked.

“The house smells like old women,” Nathan said.

“Bummer, dude. Why the hell did you want to move way out there anyway? No chicks, man.”

Nathan rolled his eyes and punched his friend in the shoulder. He didn’t say any more about the house.

The next morning he squinted against the morning light flooding through the kitchen windows. Need some shades, he thought as he poured his coffee.

The old woman appeared as he turned around. He shut his eyes then slowly opened them. She was still there.

“Look,” he said. “I’m hung over. There’s no such things as ghosts. Go away.”

She looked at him. He was taken with the sadness in her eyes.

He squinched his eyes closed then opened them again. She was still there. “What do you want?” he nearly screamed.

A tear leaked from her eye and ran down her cheek.

He felt like an ass for distressing an old woman. Then he felt stupid, there’s no such things as ghosts. “You’re not real!” He stepped through her and nearly ran to his new office.

All morning he worked, afraid to turn around. He finally had to go to the bathroom. No old woman. “Stupid,” he told himself as he washed his hands and looked at his reflection in the mirror. “Just hungover.”

He went to the kitchen to refill his cup. She hovered near the kitchen table. “Please,” he heard her say.

Nathan pressed his fingers into his eyes. When he let go, she was still there.

“Please.”

“She’s not there,” he muttered and went to the sink to rinse out his cup. When he turned around she was still there.

“Please.”

She looked so sad. He remembered his own grandmother, standing at her kitchen sink, washing up the cookie sheets as he sat munching warm peanut butter cookies at the kitchen table, sun streaming through the windows. He took a deep breath. “Grandma,” he whispered. A memory of the bottle of lavender water on her dressing table flashed through his mind. “What.”

“I’m in the cellar.”

“What?”

“The cellar.” She disappeared.

He rubbed his face with both hands. This is what I get for moving out of the city. He remembered touring the house with the realtor. The cellar was dirt floored, a relic of old farm houses. “The house is sound,” the realtor said. “These old houses were built on solid foundations, built to last. They just didn’t put floors in.”

He walked to the door in the kitchen leading to the cellar. He took a deep breath as he grasped the old fashioned iron knob. Door open, the musty smell of the cellar washed over him. He flipped the light switch and stepped gingerly down the ancient wooden steps. A bare 40 watt bulb hung from the cellar ceiling, the dusty under-floor of the kitchen above.

A short handled shovel was propped against the wall next to the stairs. The acid from the mornings’ coffee churned in his stomach. He sincerely wished he hadn’t drank so much the night before.

“OK,” he said out loud. The vision of the old woman crowded him. “OK. I’m looking.” He picked up the shovel.

There was evidence of water flowing through. Cobwebs caught in his hair as he walked across the uneven floor. The overpowering scent of lavender stopped him. He scraped the dirt with the shovel. In a frenzy he stuck the shovel into the dirt, again and again. Nathan hit something solid. He dropped to his knees and gently brushed away the dirt.

Two hours later the State Police were there. The previous owner’s name was mentioned, the grandson of the farm’s original owner. Nathan talked to police all day. A week later it was over; the grandson in jail for murder. Nathan never smelled the lavender again but he did learn to make peanut butter cookies in the old farm kitchen.

The End

968 Words

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