20 April 2013 - 3:00 pm

Writers’ Asylum: Challenge #5

It’s night-time. You’re in a remote place, inside a big, abandoned building. What kind of building is it?

It’s old, decaying. There’s power, enough to run the few remaining light bulbs, though they flicker unreliably. Any paint or wallpaper is peeling.

What is it like in there? Are there wooden floors that flex and creak under your weight, is it squeaky linoleum, or pitted concrete with puddles from leaks in the roof? Are the window panes cracked glass that could be described as ‘crazed’ or do the frames gape emptily? Is there furniture or equipment around you, or has it been cleared out?

What brought you into this place? An accident, a prank, a lure, your job? Why are you here alone? Are you confident as you move around here? Trepidatious? Blasé? Cautious?

You hear a noise. You’re sure that it came from within the building but you can’t see what made it. Do you try to investigate? You hear it again, closer this time.

The lights go out, plunging you into darkness. If you check, there’s no power any more, not even to the electrical devices you’re carrying. Your phone won’t turn on. There’s no light from outside to speak of.

You’re suddenly aware of all of the tiny noises inside the building, amplified by the dark. There’s a faint shuffling noise that sounds like it’s in the room with you. You feel a brush of warm air, like something is breathing close to you.

What do you do?

Your eyes start to adjust to the dark. You begin to see shapes again. Movement catches your eye. Something rushes towards you and a flash of light shows you its face.

The title of this challenge is Fear. Scare us. Tell us the story of the building and what you find there – or don’t find.

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4 comments

  1. Talitha Kalago says:

    The headlights pick out peeling yellow 70’s weatherboard and the edge of the gutter—rusted and hanging loose. There is a porch, front and back, but the sides of the house are exposed to the elements and the stumps are dimly visible through the weeds and trash.

    A skinny white horse with overgrown feet lopes awkwardly away. On a healthy animal it might have been called a trot, but on the swaybacked grey it is more of a stumble, left front shoulder dropping so far with each step it looked to be falling. Further out, a bay, almost invisible in the gun trees, watched the car approach head on, so its silhouette looked like batman.

    “Animal control was called?”

    “Yeah, or we’d be knee deep in cats by now.”

    The ute stopped with a jerk and the engine puttered out, but Simon left the headlights on, illuminating the side of the house and a wedge of the front porch.

    “Remind me why we didn’t start this hours ago?”

    “It’ll be fine. We’ll work through the night and Pete and James will replace us tomorrow morning. They said they’d bring breakfast.”

    “Is it bad?”

    “Yeah. But the daughter still wants us to salvage some things. There’s jewellery, apparently. And some antiques, but I doubt they’ll be salvageable.”

    They both slipped out of the car onto the dusty ground. Even from outside, Locke could smell the cats. The heavy, stinging scent of urine. They put on their white hazard suits, strapped on masks. Locke tucked her hair in a cap, but she knew the smell would get in and linger anyway. Simon handed her a light on a strap and she cinched it on the cap, turning it on.

    With bags and spades, they made their way up the steps. The wood buckled, threatening to break. In the front windows, she could only see newspaper. No taped in place, but stacked up high, so high it blocked the view in or out.

    “Pete said there’s power still,” Simon fumbled with the keys, but when he tried to fit it in the lock, the door scooted away from him, opening a few inches, them coming up against something on the inside. Tentatively Simon pushed, easing it open a foot, then he stepped to one side, holding his arm up like an arch so she could squeeze in.

    Obligingly, she wriggled past him, peering around the door. Big black eyes looked down at her. Dozens of them, perched all around the room. Teddy bears. Perhaps thirty in this room alone. Most were old and coated thickly with dust. The sat on boxes and newspapers, piles of clothes, stacked chairs and unidentifiable detritus. Winding down the left hand side of the room was a narrow passage, threatened on all sides by the hoard.

    She looked around; meeting all their dust-filmed gazes, then looked down to see what was blocking the door. Some movement had dislodged one of the magazine stacks and they had tumbled into the open space the opening door once occupied.

    “Yeah, it’s okay,” she slipped in all the way, shifting some of the papers so Simon could prop the door open.

    Simon shone his light down the passage, where it opened up into a hallway. Locke could see brooms there, perhaps a dozen, sprawled across the floor.

    “There should be power,” Simon said.

    He tried a switch and the lighting shifted slightly. A brown sort of light filtered through the dusty blub, casting shadows, but illuminating little. Even through the filter, the smell was making Locke’s eyes water. Old and stale urine. Cat, mostly, but under it she could pick up the scent of other excrement. Human maybe. Human probably. And the unsurprising stink of rotting flesh. Rats, cats, possums, dogs, birds, frogs—Locke had seen them all and more.

    That they were probably cats didn’t help.

    Dink, Locke’s cat, was grey and fat. He would be missing her tonight—sitting in his run in the yard, maybe hunting moths or frogs, but watching the road for her headlights cresting the hill. Every time she found a dry, husk of a corpse, with its bared feline teeth and leathery domed skull, she imagined Dink.

    “How many rooms?” she asked.

    “Kitchen, this room, two bedrooms, a bathroom. The back porch is screened in and just as bad.”

    “Where was she sleeping?”

    “Back porch, maybe? We’ll find it.”

    The door to the second bedroom didn’t open at all. Something inside had fallen against it and all of Simon’s shoving and straining couldn’t budge it. The main bedroom was almost as bad, but the door still opened. A teddy bear with a head as large as a beach ball looked out at Locke from a pile of clothes twice as tall as she was. The light didn’t work and that might have been just as well.

    In the bathroom, the toilet and bath both overflowed with brown sludge. The smell was so strong that Locke had to close he eyes, but only for a moment. Tuffs of toilet paper floated through the morass. The lumpy shapes of diapers.

    Simon grinned. “We’ll leave that for Pete and James, okay?”

    “I’m not wrestling a toilet full of shit in the dark for anything less than holiday rates.”

    They made their way through to the kitchen. There were crates and piles of debris in front of the fridge, but Locke could see a wide bloom of mould clawing its way out past the brittle seals. The sink was full of ancient dishes and rotten pockets of food. A pumpkin had grown from somewhere in the pile, reached the window and died.

    On top of a pile of newspapers on the microwave, a teddy bear slumped to one side.

    On the dining room side of the room, the table was a pyramid of rubbish, the chairs all stacked with books and radio parts. Leaning against the wall, on top of bric-a-brac and porcelain statues, four smaller teddy bears hugged one and other like frightened baby monkeys.

    April 20th, 2013 at 3:55 pm

  2. Mel says:

    Love it! Very creepy. Glass teddy bear eyes are unnerving. Good job!

    April 20th, 2013 at 9:10 pm

  3. Anne J Romano says:

    It may have only been minutes or hours but it felt like days or months had passed since I first entered the old Reithmuller place. It was a dilapidated Victorian, complete with rotting wooden walls, floors and support structures. Even the windows were the requisite jagged pieces of glass barely clinging to the frames. Simply put the old Reithmuller place was your stereotypical, straight from the horror movies, haunted house. Not that I had believed in ghosts or demons or vampires or any of that other stuff before moving to this podunk town and had been regaled with story after story of the terrors that lurk in the old Reithmuller house.

    Being the new kid in town and determined to filling be part of a cool crowd, I had leapt at the chance to spend the night in the house of horrors with only a flash light and a sleeping bag to keep me company. I had smuggled my mobile phone in with me and had to pray that no one found out about it. My logic being that the reason people had never been seen or heard from again after attempting to spend the night in the crappy place was that they’d fallen through the floor and into the basement where they’d die from a broken neck or bleed out while waiting for dawn and help to come. My classmate swore blind that no bodies had ever been found the next down but clearly the adults where keeping it quite so the true fates of their classmates wouldn’t haunt and to try and stop people from doing exactly what I was doing.

    My flashlight had died shortly after I had rolled out my sleeping bag on the sturdiest patch of floor I could find. I wasn’t game to use my mobile screen to provide some dim illumination lest it go flat and leave me stranded when I needed it most. There wasn’t even any light from the moon, even though it was full, in the corner I had selected to so I could keep an eye on my surroundings. I kept waiting for my eyes to adjust but had a feeling they were as adjusted as they were going to get, it was just too damn dark in this corner for any light to penetrate and there was no way I was moving without the benefit of some illumination. I didn’t want my foot to go through a particularly rotten patch, I could pierce an artery and bleed out before I had a chance to prove there was nothing going bump in the night in this house and therefore win my place alongside the school’s coolest kids.

    The silence started getting to me more than the lack of light, I’d never lived anywhere that was so quite. Why the parental units had picked this armpit of the universe to move to I’d never understand but it didn’t matter what I thought or felt or needed. It was always about “grown up business”, seriously what’s so important and exciting about grown up business? What about my business? Do they even care how stressful it is for me to have to keep trying to break into the cool kids groups only to be taken away just as I’m getting close. I noticed I was rambling out loud, just to chase back the cloying silence and bit my lip to shut myself up. It wouldn’t do to have any of my classmates hear me talking to myself like a frightened crazy person. Not that I was frightened, there was absolutely nothing to be frightened of in this town or this house.

    That thought had barely finished when I hear a low moan. It seemed to be echoing up through the floor boards. “Hello? Is there someone here?” I was proud of myself for keep my voice calm, almost nonchalant. So confident was I that it was one of my classmates trying to freak that I didn’t even hesitate to call out and draw attention to my location. The only answer was another low moan, this one slightly louder as if whoever was making at had crept closer. “Michael? Lewis? Shannon? I know it’s you guys. You better be careful, the floorboard are pretty fragile in this room and I don’t want you to get hurt just you can freak out the new kid”. I was so proud, so confident that it was just my classmates that nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

    The flash of light came out of nowhere, literally there was not possible way for lighting to have occurred inside the house and it sure hadn’t come from any external source. In the five seconds of illumination I was able to see fangs, wild red eyes and blood. I shrieked and slammed my back into the wall as I scuttled backward. More from the shock of light and seeing a face where I hadn’t expected to see anything but darkness until the dawn. It had to have been a trick by Michael and his cronies, one of those flash crackers and a mask. There is no way those things had been real, I kept repeating that over and over as the afterimages faded from my vision and my eyes began the slow process of readjusting to the pitch black.

    I didn’t bother responding the third low moan, I was feeling angry and a little embarrassed by this point. I so despartely wanted to fit in with these kids for however long the parentals kept us in this town. I was so sure I had blown it that I hadn’t noticed a piece of the darkness was a couple of shades lighter than the rest and was moving steadily towards me. The scream I unleashed as teeth crushed my left ankle would have woken even the heaviest of sleepers, had there been anyone sleeping nearby. My last thought as the fanged beast devoured my body was that I’ll never be cool.

    April 25th, 2013 at 2:50 pm

  4. Mel says:

    Creeeeeepy! I love it. 😀

    April 29th, 2013 at 3:18 pm