My very talented writer friend Regan Leigh is once again having a blog contest. Entrants must write a flash fiction (under 1000 words) story with a Halloween or Fall theme and base it on one of the four pictures she posted on her site.
I selected the photo pictured and here is my entry:
Karen cringed when she saw the open house she’d drawn for the day. She didn’t mind open houses so much as she minded that particular house. The Winston home squatted atop the peak of Tilney Avenue, twenty two hundred square feet of nightmarish, unmovable real estate. She wished the owners would take it off the market for six months, maybe even a year, but they no longer lived in the area, had moved shortly after the incident. People blamed them for much but no one blamed them for that.
The dank and musty interior of the house hit her nostrils as soon as she opened the door. She scolded herself for not coming earlier to air it out. After turning on all the lights, checking the sinks and toilets for unsightly debris and running a wet towel over all the counter tops, she declared the home ready to show. Then waited.
Three hours later and no one had stopped to see the house. One or two cars slowed at the driveway but kept going. Karen walked outside to make sure she hadn’t missed any telltale signs of neglect but found nothing amiss. With a sigh, she returned inside and resumed her novel, a horror story about a pair of bewitched Jimmy Choo’s.
Muffled sounds from one of the back bedrooms grabbed Karen’s attention. “Oh no…” The hair on her neck stood up on its ends. She quickly snatched her purse to her chest and scoured inside. “Where is it? Where is it?”
The doorbell’s chiming interrupted her search. She dropped her bag and bolted for the door. “Of all the times…” she began muttering as she plastered on her realtor’s smile and greeted her visitors.
“Come in and welcome.” She stepped back to usher in a couple in their late thirties. “I’m Karen Kramer and I’d love to tell you about the house.”
The woman, who had been craning her neck to survey the living room during Karen’s introduction, snapped to attention. “Oh, I’m Susan and this is my husband, Greer. Oy, we’ve been to so many open houses today, I’m just exhausted. Our realtor didn’t mention this one, but we were in the neighborhood and saw your sign.”
Karen did a mental cheer. “I think this’ll be the last house you need to traipse through because I have a feeling you’re going to love it.” She darted a glance at Greer, who stood in stoic silence behind his wife and appeared to be inspecting the carpet.
“We’re kind of particular about what we want so don’t get your hopes up too high.” Susan gave her a pinched smile then turned to her husband. “Honey look, wood paneling.”
Karen suppressed a groan. “I know it’s a bit dated, but the owners will put five thousand dollars into escrow to upgrade the house. You could easily remove the paneling, sheet-rock and paint the walls in here. With a lighter wall color, this room will feel so much more open and airy.”
“Looks perfectly fine to me.” Greer marched over and rapped the back of his knuckles against the wall.
As he rejoined his wife, Karen’s eyes flew open at the sight of two words in red that slowly materialized just above the light switch:
“Uh, let’s go see the kitchen shall we?” She beckoned the couple to follow, neither having noticed the crudely scrawled threat behind them.
Greer walked straight to the sink and peered out the window into the back yard. “How much land?”
“Um, I believe it’s nearly a half an acre. Hang on. Let me double check that.” She ran her finger down the fact sheet. “Yes, half an acre.” When she looked up, Greer had turned on the water in the sink, only it wasn’t water trickling from the spigot, but blood.
“Looks like the pipes are a little rusty.” Greer shrugged and turned the knobs to their off position.
“Come on Honey, let’s go see the bedrooms.” Susan exited the kitchen, walked through the dining room after a quick assessment then down the hallway.
Karen clicked off the kitchen light and started as a cold chill passed through her and an unseen speaker whispered, “Leave!” in her ear. Ahead of her, Greer snickered to Susan that someone forgot to flush the toilet.
“Oh my God!” Susan stopped dead in her tracks, her hands flew to her face. “Oh my God!” She shrieked her words as she peered inside one of the bedrooms.
Greer stopped behind and enveloped his wife in his arms, his own head bowed as he offered her safety and solace from whatever she’d seen in the room.
Karen hastened to their sides and followed the path of Greer’s gaze, dreading what she’d see. Sure enough, a pair of boys’ tennis shoes dangled in the air as if still being worn by its ghostly owner. Autumn leaves littered the carpet below them. Five years prior, the Winston boy had hung himself from the ceiling fan in that room. Trouble was his spirit hadn’t seemed to want to leave nor did it want to share the house with new owners. Karen cursed the couple’s untimely arrival before she’d had a chance to properly ward the house.
“I’m so sorry.” Karen searched for an explanation to offer, but nothing plausible came to mind.
“It’s gold! Gold carpet.” A cackle rose from Greer’s jacket as Susan lifted her head from where she’d buried it against her husband’s chest. “Oh my God. I’m so relieved.”
“You’re…relieved?” Karen again peeked inside the room. The shoes and leaves had disappeared. And the carpet was gold, as it always had been.
“We wondered why the house was so cheap.” Susan pointed to the floor. A bubble of laughter that bordered on hysteria echoed off the dead white walls of the room. “It’s absolutely hideous, and…we’ll take it.”