My latest non-winning NPR entry follows. The underlined text was required wording and the piece had to be 600 words or less. Next time I’ll 86 the humor and go for something more literary and dour as most of the finalists and all of the winners thus far have been cut from that pattern. Oh well. We like what we like, eh?
Some people swore that the house was haunted, but I knew different. It used to be, lots of places were… until God went green.
Miss Edwina lived in the house more than fifty years until one day her son came to cart her off to a nursing home. She died the night before she was to leave, the strain too much for her fragile heart. Her son tried to sell the house, but he had no takers. Between the neglect and rumors of Miss Edwina’s ghostly apparitions, nature eventually claimed it for herself.
Jake and I discovered its forgotten cellar door after he hacked a gap in the blackberry brambles with the knife he always carried. We followed the stairs down then another set back up to the main floor. In that abandoned house, Jake gave me my first kiss and pledged his undying love. I caught him spitting on his promise a few months later.
“Jake! How could you!” My screeched words ricocheted off the walls of Miss Edwina’s living room.
Jake rolled off a woman I’d been warned would be Kristin. It was, and small mercy, both were still clothed. He leaped to his feet. “Honey, it’s not what it looks like. We… fell.”
Kristin scrambled up also, crossed her arms and glared at him. “No. It’s exactly what it looks like. Jake, you said you broke up with her.” She gave his chest a mighty shove.
He stumbled but recovered. “I told you we’d said our goodbyes for the summer.”
“The both of you can rot in hell!” I picked up an abandoned ceramic pot by the doorway and hurled it at Jake, striking him in the throat. He made no sound other than a small gurgly grunt before he crumpled to the floor.
Kristin screamed as the rest of the events played out according to a divine script none of us could alter. She charged and began to make a pin cushion of me with Jake’s knife. My flailing hand located a broken piece of pottery and slashed her throat. The coppery tang of our mingled blood filled the air, stained the floor. Miss Edwina materialized to scold us.
Rewind, replay, repeat.
One day, the cycle ended. From the corner of my eye, I caught the fluttery movements in the dining room just before I was to make my grand entrance.
Two shining figures entered the living room as Jake and Kristin descended to the floor for their final make out session. The figures threw fists full of dirt into the air. Uh-oh, that would and did trick Miss Edwina into an early entrance. She exclaimed at the state of her home, decrying the blood that had yet to be spilled.
The taller interloper yelled, “I command you in His name! Spirits leave this place!!!” He threw more dirt while the shorter one chanted, “Ramiscunum malagashum!”
High-pitched whines drove my hands to my ears. Kristin’s face contorted with fury before she dissolved into a puff of smoke. Jake and Miss Edwina did the same, all vaporized before I’d even begun my part of the scene.
The smaller one high-fived his buddy and said, “Excellent. We captured three souls for recycling. The fourth should be here…right…about…now.”
“Aw crap,” I muttered as my legs compelled me forward.
Most of us preferred the repetitive cycle of reliving our last few moments–the devil we knew–to the roulette of recycling. Once the ectoplasm vacuum got a grip, a new cycle began and nothing was ever the same again after that.