Today I bring you ...
I wrote a collection of 1k slipstream/ speculative shorts a while back and decided to share them with you on my blog.
This collection from GHOSTS IN TIGHT SPACES is for readers of all ages.
Every few weeks, I'll feature one story. Hope you enjoy it!
1. A Cellar
2. The Department Store
3. An Office
4. A Garage
5. An Alley
6. A Restaurant
7. The Boat
8. A Library
9. The Woods
10. The Computer
Today I bring you ...
“Momma. What’s that sound?” Kaitlin clutched her mother's arm.
“I'm sure it's just the hockey gear in the cellar. Must have fallen again,” her mother assured her.
Uneasy, Mrs. Hall stood from the couch and left her ten-year-old daughter watching TV. "It happens when the winds pick up in the mountains."
It was their special night alone. Mr. Hall and Kaitlin’s brother were out watching a game. With the storm coming she expected them home soon.
On a direct course for the basement near the kitchen, Mrs. Hall grabbed the handle and hesitated before turning the knob.
Standing above the pit of darkness, she switched the light on. Then proceeded down the steps.
“What is it, Momma?” Kaitlin waited at top of the stairs.
“I’m sure it’s nothing. I’ll check on the rabbits, don’t worry.
“Can I come down?”
“Wait there and switch the light on if it goes out.”
Kaitlin’s breath was heavy and labored. The humidity had brought on her asthma. Mrs. Hall padded down the fifteen steps to the bottom.
The basement light went out. “Kaitlin!” her mother shouted. The faulty wire, again?
“Got it!” The light was back.
Ever since the Hall family had moved into 105 Essex, the blackouts were all too frequent. Not unheard of in the windy mountains of Western Pennsylvania. On some days, even without the wind, the lights went out.
There were occasions when the neighbor’s lights went out during a storm, the lights at 105 Essex would still be on. Or vise-versa. It was almost as if 105 Essex had its own energy supply.
At the bottom of the steps, Mrs. Hall tiptoed around the corner where the rabbits were busy munching. Not sure why she kept them in the basement instead of the art shack in the backyard. It was warmer there.
The rabbits looked up with their usual nervous twitches. One finishing a carrot and not the least bit disturbed about anything unnatural.
And then BANG!
Mrs. Hall jumped.
“Kaitlin, are you all right?”
“Yes, Momma. Are Pinkie and Peppy, Okay?”
Mrs. Hall searched among the junk in the cellar for the piece of furniture or athletic accessory that must have fallen. When she was satisfied all was fine, Mrs. Hall reached into the pen and picked up Pinkie, the white rabbit with brown patches.
“Can I see the bunnies?” Kaitlin called down the steps. “Please?”
“Sure, come on. Just watch your step.”
“I’ve got, Pinkie.” Kaitlin scooped the rabbit up from her mother’s hands.
“Not too long,” her mother said, “Your asthma’s already kicking up.”
Kaitlin nodded. “And Peppy, I don’t want you to get jealous.” She replaced Pinkie in favor of Peppy.
Hearing another sound in the far corner, Mrs. Hall moved away from the pen, while Kaitlin talked to the rabbits.
Not only did the new house enjoy its own light display, it often seemed to try its hand at redecorating, and favored the basement for its antics.
As suspected, the skis had fallen on top of the hockey equipment set-aside for the season. Turning to see Kaitlin, movement caught her eye.
But it was nothing, must have been her imagination.
Lifting the skis, she was glad she’d moved the rabbits days ago. From her position, she couldn’t see Kaitlin or the rabbits.
After she finished positioning the equipment, she passed the cellar window and found it open. “Must have been a raccoon,” she said turning the knob. The window squeaked shut. “There, that should keep them out.”
Would raccoons hurt the rabbits? Mrs. Hall wondered. She made a mental note to move the bunnies out of the basement tomorrow morning.
Her daughter was gone and so were the rabbits. “Kaitlin, you can’t take the rabbits upstairs,” she called and trudged up the steps.
“I didn’t put Edgar away. Could you bring the dog leash?” Mrs. Hall reached the top step and the basement door slammed shut.
“Kaitlin, please open the door!” she shouted and turned the knob. It was locked. “Kaitlin!”
The basement lights flickered. Not again.
“Kaitlin! Open this door, right now!” Mrs. Hall knocked harder and harder.
There was no answer.
Racing down the basement steps, then across the room to the back exit she noticed the window she’d just closed was open.
Her first thought: there’s a raccoon in the basement. “Ridiculous, raccoons cannot open windows.” Her heart raced. Mrs. Hall’s throat was dry and she coughed nearly choking on the air.
She lifted the metal bar across the basement door. It leads to the back yard. But she could not push the door open.
She was trapped. Mrs. Hall banged against the door with the full weight of her body.
Who would hear her out back? It was woodland for miles?
Kaitlin wasn’t answering. She must have gone to her bedroom to play with the rabbits.
Sweat rose over Mrs. Hall’s lip. The basement was stifling enough, and it was humid, she couldn’t breathe. As though oxygen was being siphoned out of the basement.
Unable to leave through the basement door, she turned ran up the staircase. “Kaitlin!” she shouted knocking at the door.
The blender turned on. Or was it the juicer? Both?
The walls rattled.
Pounding the door, over and over, her knuckles cracked open and splintered in red. Mrs. Hall kept knocking until her hands numbed and then she stopped.
Exasperated, she slid to the floor with her back against the door, listening to each and every electrical appliance in the kitchen grind and whirl.
Then basement lights went off. Darkness enveloped her. The grinding of the motors grew more deafening.
“Kaitlin,” she whispered.
Reading her watch, it was 9:00 PM, she hoped her husband and son would be home soon. She was sure Kaitlin was playing in her bedroom with the rabbits, two flights up, and being a very bad girl.
There was no excuse for this. Even if Kaitlin wasn’t feeling well. “Kaitlin!” She knocked one last time. Her head fell back against the door, the whirling and grinding continued on the other side.
And then, the house became silent.
Checking her watch, it was 9:30 PM.
Something rustled under the pile of newspapers at the bottom of the steps. With the lights out, Mrs. Hall made her way down, one hand held the wall. The rabbits must be loose. “Kaitlin?”
The lights went on.
A willowy silhouette wavered. She screamed and raced up the steps and the basement door flew open just as she reached the top.
“What were you doing down there?” It was Mr. Hall.
“Harold!” They embraced. “Shut the door,” she ordered. “Where’s Kaitlin?”
“She isn’t with you?” Mr. Hall said.
“In her room!” She ran up to the second floor. “Kaitlin?”
“Hi, Mom.” It was Jack.
“You didn’t see her?”
Mr. Hall went from room to room calling her daughter’s name. Kaitlin’s room was empty. The lights were off.
She hadn’t been here at all. Perspiration enclosed Mrs. Hall in the debilitating heat. A sickening malaise gripped her throat. In a panic and confused, she forced a breath. “We have to find her!”
Harold checked under the furniture. “She must be hiding somewhere.”
Mrs. Hall passed the large bay window that faced the woods. She caught a glimpse of her daughter’s pink dress and ran outside onto the deck. “Kaitlin!”
Her daughter didn’t take any notice of her call and she was walking into the woods “Kaitlin!” Mrs. Hall repeated until she stood beside her. “What are you doing? Why aren’t you listening to me?”
Kaitlin turned slowly. She was covered in mud and twigs.
“What’s going on?” Mrs. Hall asked again.
“He told me to set the rabbits free . . . in the woods.”
“He?” She pulled her daughter close to her heart. “Is that where they are now? In the woods?”
Kaitlin nodded, half-hidden under her mother’s embrace.
Mrs. Hall sighed with relief and turned where her husband stood on the deck above the cellar’s back door.
The lights were on and a dark shadow stood there.
“He’s waiting for you,” her daughter said. “He has another request.”
*Okay, it was a little over 1k. :)