22 November 2010

And the winner.....

.....Wasn't me.
I'm referring of course to my entry in NPR's Three Minute Fiction: Round Five. The rules were simple, and the beginning and end predetermined. Every entry, no greater than six hundred words, had to begin with, "Some people swore that the house was haunted," and had to end with, "nothing was ever the same after that."

While my story wasn't selected the whole exercise was an incredible amount of fun. My first draft of the story was way, waaaay too long, and the process of cutting, and getting out the story in 600 hundred words was a real challenge. It isn't easy to cut things that you really like, but having that hard six hundred word limit made it a bit less brutal.
Only a bit less.

Since my story wasn't selected, I suppose I am free to post it here. Enjoy.
(Anyone wanting to see this house, and to see if my memories of it match as well with reality as I felt they did when I was describing the house in the story need only drive North on Round Barn Road in Richmond Indiana. Its just a few minutes, maybe five from I-40. A friend of mine once told me, at least I think it was her (she knows who she is), that it was a popular hang out for what would later probably have been termed the freaks and geeks of RHS. Or maybe they would have been labeled the alternative crowd? I confess I'm clueless. Oh well, its hardly germane. The house stands and is abandoned, or it did and it was, the last time I called Richmond home, and you should go visit it.

I've never been inside of course. Some people swore the house was haunted.....

Max Driffill II

Some people swore that the house was haunted. An empty house, big, and abandoned, represents a hole that cries out for explanation. When facts aren’t available, people often feel free to invent them.

That was how Matt and I always thought the house on that old road came to be haunted. Maybe it had once been pretty. It was big but not obscene, faded but still yellow, and the frames around the windows had once been white. North of the house, there had stood a massive tree. Its trunk was broken at the base and the tree, its bark long departed and most of its limbs stripped by nature and time, lay disappearing into the wild grass. A lone strip of gutter hung from the back of the house. The house had no neighbors but empty fields, and a dark stretch of empty road between a nowhere city and a nowhere town.

I only heard a few of the mutually inconsistent stories about the house. Their utility for us was that they served to keep people away. Such isolation, even creepy isolation, was ideal for two young lovers. We rode our bikes to the house several nights of every month.

On that night I was sitting on the kitchen counter, Matt standing in front me. We were engaged in an old, mostly wordless, debate when the door to the basement drifted open, and a man emerged from the shadows. Matt and I both screamed. I pulled Matt close and we looked in horror at the man lit only by dim moonlight.

He looked at us, as he put an index finger to his lips. He crossed to the kitchen window and peered into the Indiana night. It was impossible not to notice that he actively avoided standing fully in front of the window. He was tall and his dark jeans, Superman T-shirt, and green flannel seemed well worn. His feet were bare. As he bent to look out the window, his green flannel drifted upward, and revealed a huge pistol-grip glinting faintly in the dim light. He shook his head and then looked back at us, scratching at cheeks covered in stubble.
“Sorry boys, but you may be in this now.” He said. “Better get your clothes back on and head downstairs.” He cocked a thumb toward the basement. “You’ll probably be safe… tonight.”

A car pulled up to the front of the house as we descended. We watched from shadows through a broken window in the basement. The driver wore a dark suit and a wild beard and he oozed out of the car.
“Did you go and make friends Agni?” The driver shouted as he moved fast for something underneath his jacket. The night erupted in light and noise and the driver pitched backwards, lifeless.

Agni walked to the driver and crouched down. When he stood up he was holding two guns. He walked calmly toward us and crouched again, but this time in front of our window.

He thrust a cold pistol toward me. He regarded us both with sad eyes. “I hope you can be hard men because hard men are now after you.” He turned and walked to the dark sedan. He looked back at us before he got in. “It’ll always happen like this, when you are alone and away from prying eyes.” Agni got in the car and drove away.
Two ravens were sitting on the dead tree. They seemed to be looking at us in our dark hole. They called their bizarre calls and flew away.
Nothing was ever the same after that.

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At 9:50 PM , Blogger Laurie said...

Max, that's really intriguing! Love the sense of threat that hangs over it, and your attention to detail is terrific. Made me want to read more! What happens next? Well done, mate.

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