This is a flash fiction story written and edited in just two days to as part of the challenge posted by Chuck Wendig on his awesome blog Terribleminds: Take one of the five word headlines he posted and write a short story at about 1.500 words.
The house was a shabby thing, walls leaning so heavily it almost swayed with the wind. Ugly as hell too. And the guy I bought from wasn’t much better, shady old bastard who went through every room a little too quickly, and for the life of me I can’t recall what he looked like.
Did he ever take off those sunglasses.
But I was desperate and as close to broke as I’d ever been, and this was the only thing I’d found remotely close to the middle-of-nowhere factory I’d landed a job at. And it was a bargain, ten grants for a two storey home build in the — Shit, how old was it again?
Who cared? The thing could be precolonial and still be the deal of my life. Besides, I was handy enough with a hammer and a paintbrush; it would be as good as new within a month.
I sprung from bed the next morning, woken by what sounded meowing inches from my ear. Sure enough there was a huge, grumpy looking wreck of a cat sitting on my bedside table, stretching it’s legs on top of the stack of papers I’d signed to get the house.
Well this wasn’t part of the deal.
I threw my alarm clock at it, barely scaring it enough to roll off the table and swagger over to the door.
The bastard had left muddy paw prints all over the paper, so I picked them up to inspect the damage. It almost looked like the beast had circled something (of course it just looked that way), an inventory list of what followed with the house, not exactly the part I’d payed the most attention to rushing through the contract. I could always get rid of the old man’s shit afterwards.
An refrigerator (always nice), drapes for every room (ugliest god damned things I’d ever seen), yadda yadda yadda, Morty the house cat.
The sneaky little creep had actually managed to dry off his cat on me.
As I started working on the house later that day, I made mental note of finding the nearest shelter. Not that I didn’t like cats, but I preferred to decide if I wanted pets myself. Besides, this one looked like it devour me in my sleep.
I started with the staircase, replacing the creaky, foot-worn boards with the ones I’d bought in what went for a woodshop in this faded ghost town. It took most of the day, but I also got around to changing the drapes in most of the upstairs rooms. I’d bought replacements in Ikea a few days ago, ugly, cheap ones but still a whole lot better than what the house came with.
It wasn’t Morty, the beastly cat, that woke me the next morning but the crash of something hitting the floor followed by light rushing in to blind me.
There was a another crash down the hall, and another. By the time I’d slipped on some cloths and got to inspecting the damage every single one of the new drapes were down, and not one of the old ones. Crumply old walls. You’d think something this old (when was it the house was built again? It had to be in the paper stack somewhere) would be well crafted.
Busy cursing at the house, I headed down the stairs to make myself some instant coffee, pretty much the only foodstuff in my kitchen. And it was pure luck that I managed to grab on to the railing and keep my balance as the top floorboard sprung up, not a single one of the five inch nails staying tight.
I almost wish I would’ve fallen. Could’ve sued the shit out of the woodshop. I might’ve been sloppy with the drapes, but the stairs were solid craftsmanship.
I only tapped the next step with one foot before it came loose in the end near the wall, one nail springing free from the board too and only missing my head by an inch.
The shop owner was going to pay for this. But it was Saturday, and from my experience nothing would be open during the weekends in this kind of good-for-nothing town. So I dropped the stairs, let my anger simmer until Monday, and went to work at the wallpaper instead. It was some of the ugliest shit I’d ever seen (aside from the drapes), a miasma of brown seventies stuff and an explosion of flowers so pink and yellow that… well, I’m surprised Morty didn’t puke his dinner up every day.
I walked through the dining room, deciding where to start, slipping my fingers across the wall when I heard it. Purring.
Morty was nowhere around, and the street outside was empty. I was alone, yet I was almost sure I’d heard purring. I back-tracked my steps, walking backwards, right hand gliding along the wall. There it was again. I felt it as much as heard it, purring coming from seemingly all around.
That was creepy as hell, but I’ve never been superstitious, and honestly I was too freaking tired of the mess I’d made of my life to be making a habit of looking over my shoulders for ghost I knew didn’t exists. So I ignored what was probably a trick of the mind anyway and went ahead with my plan, sticking up my new, plain white wallpaper on top of the old stuff.
It was dark outside when I’d finish the living room, so the next morning when I was heading for my first cup of coffee, having fought my way down broken stairs, I went to check out the new wallpaper in a better light. And there it was, folded up in pieces on the floor, leaving the old flowers and seventies brown bare except for what glue stayed behind.
Two days, I’d stayed here for two days, and I was done. There was something seriously wrong with this house, something spooky, and if I couldn’t fix it up, then it sure as hell wasn’t a bargain. I’d sell it a loss if I had too.
I wasn’t surprised when I woke to creaking sounds coming from the corridor that night. In fact, I felt sure the house had a mind of its own and had decided to spook me. Only when I heard whispers did I realize something else was going on.
By the time the burglars were working on the lock to my bedroom, which I’ve luckily always had a habit of locking, I was up and looking for something to defend myself with.
The alarm clock, no good. A pen, nope. My bedside table, that Ikea crap would break if I tried lifting it. Cold sweat clung to every part of my body. I was about to get mugged in my own home. And who was to say they’d be satisfied stealing my worthless shit. I wouldn’t if I was a thief, and out here every hillbilly probably had his own arsenal .
I don’t know where the idea came from, pure desperation probably, but just before the lock clicked, I whispered into the room, “Please help me, please. I won’t change a thing, promise.”
The door swung open, and for a second I was sure the loud booming sound was my heart racing into overdrive. Then a dust cloud floated in through the door instead of burglars, and there was screaming coming from somewhere downstairs.
Creeping along the wall, I headed for the door where I switched on the light. There was a gaping whole in the floor in the hall, and at the bottom a groaning pair of men dressed in black, struggling to get up. I headed for the stairs, determined to chase them away. As I landed on the first floor, I realized I still had nothing to defend my self with, but in the same instant the lowest crossbeam of the railing came loose and I was standing with an almost too conveniently appearing club.
I didn’t need it though. Before I’d the reached them, the burglars were making for the main entrance in an awkward mixture of running and limping. The front runner managed to tackle the door frame to the kitchen, which I swore seemed to have swayed into his path. The other one managed to go through the otherwise solid hardwood floor with one foot, twisting his ankle in the process. You could almost hear him crying as he fought to reach the outside world.
It was still pretty creepy, but as long as the house was on my side, I wasn’t going to move.
Of course, I never changed a thing in it since then. Well, aside from a few broken floorboards — like patching a wounded animal I guess; if you do it right you won’t get bitten.
And I stayed there, even after I’d quit my job at the factory and the town held nothing else for me. Though, I did wish I could take the house with to some place warmer.
And would you know, a few days later I woke up to the warmest summer day I’d ever seen in a town that must’ve been a thousand miles south of where I bought the house.