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TMFFC – The Murder House

29 October 2013 No Comment

Again, it’s been a while since I participated in the Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Contest, and though I’ve gone well over the established 1k word limit, and I’m not sure it makes any sense whatsoever, this is what flew out of my fingers on Friday.

My genres were haunted house and psychological horror. I’m pretty sure I got the haunted house down, but… well, read on and let me know what you think.

PS – I have to apologize to Caitlin McColl as it should have been the second part of …As We Know It, and it should have been posted weeks ago. BUT – I am working on that one, I just want to make sure I get it right, and do the original justice.

The Murder House
by Jodi Lee
© 2013 All Rights Reserved
Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge – The Sub Genre Smash-and-Grab

James took the stairs to the veranda two at a time, misjudging the top step and nearly toppling back to the ground. Déjà vu… I’m sure I’ve done that before… He smiled sheepishly at Melanie, nearly blushing. Their first date, and already he’d screwed up trying to show off. She wasn’t watching him, though, she was already peering into the windows of the first floor.

He was a genius, bringing her to a haunted house for their first date. She’d probably fall all over him at the first creepy sound or sight. He hoped she would, anyway. He’d been thinking of asking her out for months, and bringing her coffee at break for the last week… something she seemed to appreciate very much. She’d even brought home made pumpkin muffins for their break yesterday. Very suiting to the season.

A co-worker had mentioned this place at the office Halloween party, suggesting they all go as a group once things wound down and all the not-so-cool people headed home. It sounded familiar, like he’d been there before. James had nixed the idea in the end though; no one needed to be ghost hunting when they were falling down drunk.

Still, he’d kept the thought in the back of his mind and as soon as the opportunity presented itself – which was the next morning – he grabbed the morning break coffee and asked Melanie on a date. He wasn’t sure if she’d said yes because it was him and she liked him, or if it was because he’d mentioned going haunt hunting. Did it really matter, though?

No. Anything to get her away from the office and on their own, where he could be more himself and get to know her better.

He was fumbling with the backpack when she turned the corner, disappearing from his sight, though he could still hear the sound of her boots across the floor boards. That’s okay, the only thing over there is the door… Wait, what?

A moment later, she’d returned, excitedly grabbing at his arm, tugging him in the direction from which she’d come. “I found the door! James, it’s open, we can go right in!”

He grinned. Good. This is good. If she hadn’t been interested him, even just as a friend, she wouldn’t have come back for him. She’d have just gone on into the house.

James managed to pull out the flashlight and camera – he’d borrowed a night vision video camera from the office just for tonight – and offered the latter to Melanie. When she took it from him, he pulled out a little gray box topped with a number of LEDs. The moment he turned it on, they started flashing. “Holy shit, Melanie, look at this…”

“What does it mean, James?” she asked, coming closer. “I’ve never seen one of those before, what is it?”

“It’s a K2 meter. It measures the amount of electro-magnetic energy. I’d say this was just a malfunction or it was picking up faulty wiring, but the house isn’t connected to the electricity any more, and I know for a fact this meter is working. I tested it myself.”

“Does that mean there’s ghosts or something?”

“Or something… well, probably ghosts. Who knows? Let’s get looking around, maybe ask some questions. Did you turn the camera on?”

“Oh, crap.” Melanie laughed. “Of course I didn’t, that’d be the smart thing to do, right?” She turned it on, and winked at James, making his stomach do flip flops in the process.

They moved through the house, first the living room where they’d entered, and then the dining room and kitchen. The K2 fluctuated wildly, and Melanie pointed the camera wherever James said the meter read the highest. Eventually they decided to move to the second floor.

“So, what do you know about this place, anyway?” Melanie asked, following closely behind James.

“Apparently it was built in the 1800s, the later decades sometime. About fifty years ago the original family that owned it and the surrounding acreage had to sell, and the city bought it up. They used this place as a rental unit for city employees with families, but closed it all down in 1970.”


“The last family to live here was murdered, and it was bad. The father flipped shit at work, then went home and butchered his wife and kids. I mean, really butchered.” James realized as he spoke that the dark stains on the flooring in the kitchen were probably from blood. He knew it was bloodstains, could see the body parts helter skelter all over the floor. He shuddered a bit, but kept on. “There was just one survivor, but no one seems to know what happened to him. He was a kid, maybe three or four. He’d been hiding behind a folded up cot in his parent’s bedroom…”

“I think I’m sorry I asked now, James,” Melanie replied.

“Yeah, sorry. The story kinda stuck with me for some reason…” James couldn’t believe he’d gone into such detail. It wasn’t necessary. Snap out of it, jerk! he thought to himself.

The meter hit maximum as soon as they reached the top of the stairs, and it stayed there. No going down a light or two, no going off then on, it stayed full lights, the entire time they were up there. Melanie began asking questions of the murder victims, talking to them, telling them they were loved and it was a horrible thing that happened to them. James echoed her, occasionally popping out a question of his own.

The air around them became very cold, something Melanie said was indicative of haunting activity; James felt again like he’d been through all of this before, and now he wanted out. But Melanie had become very excited, asking more and more questions, so they stayed, hunting the ghosts of the second floor. At least until the camera wigged on them and powered down. The K2 meter shut down as well, and the moment James went to shine the light on the stairs so they could leave, it died too.

“What the hell is going on? I just charged these batteries before we left the office!” James turned and grabbed Melanie’s hand, pulling her along as he scrabbled down the stairs. By the time they reached the bottom, his heart was pounding, and he was sure he could hear laughing. From behind him.

He turned to look, and saw no one. No one followed him, the hand he held in his own was cold, the flesh wrinkled and rotting. He dropped it, screaming for Melanie. No response, only more laughter.

James turned and ran for the kitchen, thinking he’d seen a flashlight on the counter there. He searched blindly in the dark, first the counter, then the floor… even in the cupboards, to no avail. A scream chilled him to the bone, a scream that came from upstairs. Although he was positive he knew where the door out of the kitchen was, he couldn’t find it, couldn’t make his way to find Melanie, and she was screaming, the pain obvious in the pitch and depth of her cries.

The screaming didn’t stop, even when James called out to her, even when he cried out himself. Finally he found the door and stumbled through, crossing the dining and living rooms with three long strides. Steeling himself, he made his way up the stairs to the second floor once more, but couldn’t remember the twists and turns, the landings and windows. It felt as though he’d been climbing forever when Melanie screamed out his name.

“JAMES! Oh, god, oh James! Get out of here, run James! Don’t let him-” The cry ended with a strangled, choking sound. James was sure he could hear bone cracking or grinding as well. He bent, throwing his lunch and dinner up all over the final few stairs.

He listened to her. Turning, he fled down the stairs, tripping and stumbling, before he stopped, unsure of where he was. He had lost his way, again, on a single flight of stairs. He tried to catch his breath, ragged deep inhalations causing him to cough. He bent over, hands on his knees, and allowed himself to cry. He… he’d lost Melanie, had no idea what had happened to her or where she was, and now he was lost himself. He had no idea how to find his way out of the mess he’d gotten them into.

What the hell have I done?

His father’s voice whispered in his ear. “Nothing, James. You did as you always have, and always will. You’ve brought me what I needed, and now you will leave. No memories. No guilt. No panic. You are free to go. But you’re always welcome back, Jamie-boy. Anytime.”

More laughter followed James as he turned to the side door and opened it.

As he crossed the threshold, James lost all memory of how he got there, or what he’d been doing. He stood on the veranda for a few minutes, thinking he’d been drunk and out with friends and they’d ditched him. Sounded plausible. Looking across the street he spied his car, so he hopped down, whistling as he crossed the yard to the street. As he started the engine and took off, he wondered what Melanie would be wearing to work on Monday. He couldn’t wait, thinking it’d probably be the short skirt and low cut blue sweater he liked so much.

Hope you enjoyed the story…
<3 JL

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