Kreative Kue 386 asked for submissions based on this photograph:
“Hi, and welcome to the firm. My name is Lew, and I’m the HR director.”
“Very pleased to meet you, Mr. Lew. I’m John Wayfair.”
“Yes, John. I have your application in front of me. By the way, Lew is my first name.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Can I call you Lew?”
“Of course. Now let’s get down to business. You applied for a position in the marketing department.”
“Yes, yes, I have.”
“I see here you have published several books.”
“Yes, I’m an author, and a big part of the job is doing marketing.”
“I see. So you think these skills will traslate to our business?”
“I’m sure of it. ‘Marketing be marketing’ as we say.”
“Yes, quite. Tell me about the first person you killed?”
“Oh, you mean in my book.”
“Yes, in your book.”
“Well, not much to tell. The character was a lowlife, and the hero took him out.”
“Just like that?”
“Yup, just like that.”
“How about the first rape?”
“This is a little uncomfortable for me.”
“I’m sure it is. Do tell.”
“A real bad guy did that.”
“But you wrote it, right?”
“Okay, then there was that adulterous affair between your characters.”
“Well, not to brag, but there were several.”
“I noticed you use a lot of profanity in your stories.”
“I just construct realistic dialogue.”
“You also seem to call on God to damn people a lot.”
“Pretty tough characters.”
“Heavy drinking and drug use.”
“Where is this all going, Lew?”
“An excellent question, John. I don’t think the marketing department is right for you. I think you will do better in a starting position.”
“What if I don’t agree?”
“You have no choice. With your background in sin, I think you should start in the furnace department. It’s the hottest place we have. And you will no longer call me Lew. Instead, you will address me as Lucifer. You are dismissed. Miss Harpy, send in the next candidate.”
“But it is all fiction.”
“So you say, John. Now get out.”
My effort was:
“Is this what you imagined when we first got together all those years ago, Mabes?”
“What – on that first disastrous date, when you thought watching an amateur brass band slaughtering the output of some of the world’s best composers was your idea of showing a girl a good time? No, it isn’t, Joe.”
“Well, what about the second date, then?”
“Do you realise how lucky you were even to get a second date after that first fiasco?”
“Yes, I do, and I’ve been thankful for these past fifty-odd years that you saw through my first misguided attempt to impress you.”
“I still can’t believe that you thought an intelligent, fashionable, modern – for the time – teenaged girl would be impressed by a bunch of losers—”
“That’s not fair, Mabes, and you know it. Some of those kids went on to be—”
“Don’t say famous, Joe. Do not say any of them went on to be famous, because hey didn’t. None of them. It’d be a stretch to say any of them went on to become competent musicians.”
“That’s the word I was going to use, dear.”
“What, competent? HA!”
“No, musicians. I’m sure one or two of them at least went on to make a living as—”
“Session players if they were lucky, buskers if not.”
“Anyway, forget about that band, I—”
“I wish I could, Joe. I seriously wish I could forget about that unworthy bunch of cacophony peddlers, but I can’t. I still wake up in the night convinced there’s blood coming out of my ears after hearing their awful noise.”
“I’m glad to see you haven’t lost your knack for exaggeration.”
“And I never will. As long as there is breath in my body; as long as this tired planet keeps spinning and running its yearly course around the sun.”
“You haven’t answered my question, my precious.”
“Is this what you imagined our life would be like after our second date – the one where you told me of the life you dreamt of?”
“I told you that? In the middle of a roller-skating race – a race that gave me backache for days afterwards? Which, I have to admit, was a massive step up on the earache I had after the first one. Remind me, though, at what stage did I reveal my dreams to you?”
“It was when you came to after falling down those steps.”
“I was probably delirious.”
“You sounded fine to me.”
“Which possibly says more about you than it does about me.”
“But is it?”
“But is what what?”
“Is this what you had in mind when you said what you said back then?”
“Remind me. What exactly is it I’m supposed to have said?”
“Well, not exactly said, it was more like singing, really.”
“I sang to you?”
“Maybe not sang to me. Not as such. More like I happened to be there when you decided to sing. In fairness, though, these were the first words to come out of your mouth after you regained consciousness.”
“Are you sure I was fully compos mentis? Not just beginning to come around?”
“You seemed to be. I’ll grant you, though, you may have been in that happy halfway state between awake and…”
“So, what did I sing?”
“Have you forgotten already?”
“Already? It was more than fifty years ago. That hardly counts as already. Especially if I wasn’t fully conscious at the time.”
“Okay, I’ll tell you. Your exact words were, ‘Baby, you can light my fire.’ Remember?”
“I remember going to a concert with some of my mates a week or so beforehand. I remember that dreamy Jose Feliciano singing Light My Fire. Maybe it was in my head as a came to again.”
“So you weren’t singing it to me? You weren’t sending me a message?”
“Hang on. Have we had this conversation before?”
“How am I supposed to know? My memory’s a bad as yours!”
“Never mind. Put another log on, will you? My feet are like blocks of ice.”
Raymond Walker offered this eerie tale of adventure and danger. Raymond is a prolific author whose main web site is at http://raytwalker.com/. Details of Raymond’s books can be found on his Amazon author page
Untitled © 2022 Raymond Walker
As children we would play in the swamp that lay before the witch house. We would jump from one marsh grass hummock to another, laughing when one of us slipped and splashed mud and water filling our wellington boots. The mud would suck your boots from your feet, but for Connie, Jasper, and I it was fun, we caught tadpoles, frogs and newts and kept them in jam jars. I found a salamander and kept it for a year in a shallow bowl filled with water until it shriveled up and died, maybe I fed it the wrong bugs, or it just died of old age.
Connie, a slender, pretty girl in floral dresses and black pigtails that matched her eyes was the ringleader, she would urge us on to do ever more silly things laughing at Jasper and I when we could not make a jump, when we fell in the murky water. She would pull the leaches from our skin and tell us that we were girls. Connie being the only girl we really knew; we did wish we were girls as she was braver, tougher, and happier than Jasper and I put together.
We were still young, only a few years into primary school when we three decided to enter the witch house. None of us knew why it was called the witch house other than it lay in the middle of a marsh and was misshapen, crooked. All the kids called it the witch house. Perhaps it was because at night small flames would suddenly appear cavorting in the swamp, perhaps because the house was crooked, perhaps it was simply because it was old and deserted or perhaps because once a witch had dwelled there No one knew.
Connie, always in charge, dared we boys to go into the old wooden shack, and by this time we could not refuse her anything. Thinking back, Jasper and I were in love with her. She was our leader and chief and she was beautiful.
The door was rotted through, hinges rusted and inflexible but to impress Connie and show I was now a “Big boy” I threw my small weight upon it and the rotted wood fell away as though eaten through by maggots leaving a jagged hole underneath the top hinge. I ducked under the remains and entered.
Everything was crooked, there was not an angle you could trust but there was nothing frightening other than the many cobwebs that festooned the place. It was creepy but just as any old house dilapidated and deserted would feel. I felt brave as Jasper and Connie entered behind me. And we started searching for the old house. But there was nothing other than a few old spliffs pressed out on the floorboards and crumped beer cans to show depravity and the presence of a witch. Jasper still downstairs searching the detritus, Connie and I standing at what would have been a bedroom window I, braver than had been in my life, took her hand. She, turning from the window, just smiled at me and her fingers curled round mine.
Many years have passed Since that night.
Connie disappeared several years later, whilst still living at home with her mother. The police investigated her disappearance, but she had been unhappy at home and sixteen, most figured she had run away, so many did. I followed later and fled the small highland town with ambitions for a further education and a life beyond such a towns limitations. Jasper followed suit and was now at university in Manchester, we rarely saw each other but stayed connected on the phone and internet.
It was again time for me to enter the witch house. I was prepared for everything this time. No longer a young boy I was aware of what was real and what imagination. The small flames in the marsh, Methane igniting on a warm night, the crooked house, woodworm, and rot, sinking foundations, no wonder it was crooked, stupid building a house in the middle of a marsh. But I had seen something “Other” on that night and I suspected that later it had taken Connie.
I was prepared. I had torches, two, new batteries in both. New LED’s, Back-ups, matches and candles, a hurricane lantern, a foldaway survival blanket, a flare gun, with a couple of cartridges, I had charged my phone and it was a safety valve and light if required and some sandwiches. Better to be prepared. I had joined a “Munro baggers” club at university and climbing mountains you had to be prepared for anything to happen and I was. Not that I expected to be gone long or to find Connie. For all I knew she could be living happily somewhere with a new boyfriend or even a husband. Her own mother thought that was the case. She had told me just the other day when I ran into her in the local Tesco’s. “I don’t mind that she has run off” she said, “I just wish she would call and let me know that she is fine”.
But something had always stayed with me from that night many years ago, something that we had seen. Something that had no explanation. As we had stood in what we thought might have been a bedroom, occupied only with peeling wallpaper a couple of old tarnished mirrors and a dozen or so crushed beer cans, holding hands for the first time we saw a woman reflected. Gaunt, pale, dark stringy hair plastered to her face. We were both startled but when we turned there was no one there. Separating, we ran down the stairs to find Jasper standing at the bottom. “Where did the woman go?” we asked simultaneously. “Woman?” Jasper looked startled, “There was no woman here. I have been waiting on you to come back down, I didn’t want to go up the stairs, they look rotten”. Connie and I just looked at each other saying nothing. It was only later that day she whispered to me, “we did see her, didn’t we?” I nodded. “I am going to go back there one day and find out who she is”.
I started out across the marsh wearing anglers, waders over my jeans. I remembered just how bad the mud and pools could be. Although they did not bother me in my youth, apart from the pain when pulled off I had developed an aversion to sinuous black leeches. They somehow seemed unclean to me even though I know that they are still used in medicine. But then they use maggots too and I don’t like them much either. Crossing the marsh was arduous but easier than I remembered and soon I stood before the witch house and gathering my courage ducked under the door, I had broken so many years ago. Little had changed, empty cans had been replaced with Buckfast bottles, crushed out joints with dirty needles.
I decided to start as we had done before, proceeding carefully up the rotting stairs to the possible bedroom where Connie and I had first held hands. I kept my feet close to the wall and rotted banister where the wood was supported but even there the wood was rotting and gave a little with each step. The bedroom had changed little, few I suppose even when drunk or stoned had been stupid enough to climb those stairs. I stood where we once had and looked in the old mirrors but there was nothing. I felt the floor dip and tried to move as it gave way but was not quick enough. My weight carried me down, the wood splintering into my legs and ankles jarring me, hitting the floor below this too collapsed and I fell a longer distance and all I remember for a long time is pain.
I woke in a dirt, dug out basement, hot, fevered, bleeding from many small cuts. I took me a little time to focus and when I did, I passed out again.
Coming round, lucid but in serious pain, I remembered a little from before. Steeling myself I looked again at my broken legs. One purple and badly hurt, broken in a few places but the other shattered the bones poking through the flesh just above my knee and through the back of my calf. Both had bled badly but the seepage had congealed while I was passed out; I was not going anywhere.
My senses recovering despite the pain, I remembered my rucksack; it was still on my back, and I was always prepared. My mobile phone is in there. I can call for help. But I had landed on my legs and fallen backwards, the rucksack beneath me. Every movement brought me an indescribable pain, but I tried to get the bag out from under me, realizing in the process that I had also broken my right arm.
Pain and pain built upon agony as I tried to squirm out of the straps, my snapped arm catching at one point in the padded straps. I think that I passed out again for a while but eventually I got there, opening the front of the bag with my teeth and one good hand; fishing out my mobile phone to find it shattered and unusable. My limp arm, my good hand and teeth fished out a torch from the backpack, but it was also broken. Surprisingly, the hurricane lamp was in one piece and eventually I was able after spilling much of the oil onto the dirt floor and wasting many matches get it lit.
Perhaps I passed out again but I was growing feverish and so it was hard to tell what was true and what was not, but I was lucid enough to look around me. A cellar. No one thought to look for a cellar. Such things are uncommon in Scotland, and it surprised me. The floorboards of the room above sat fifteen feet or so above me showing the hole where my momentum had carried me through the whole old rotting house breaking my bones. The cellar was square and not that large but containing three embrasures, as well as the rotting corpse of the woman Connie and I had seen in the mirror which I thought odd until I realized that each embrasure bore a faded white sheet, stained and dirty with age and before the light receded, I saw shapes under those shrouds. This was a mausoleum.
As my fever built, I heard whimpering and assumed it a fever dream as the shroud of one of the interred sloughed to the ground revealing the face of the woman in the mirror. The woman we had seen in the mirror, a simple itinerant, who had found the basement in a deserted house and took shelter there. The second shuddered assuming a form of life for a second and moved sloughing off her sheet and Connie was revealed, Connie when she was the little girl whose fingers clasped mine. She smiled at me before melting away as the shroud fell from the last body and the true witch rose from her rest.
“I thank you, young man” she said. “I laid plans to ensnare you before you were born and once dead, I live again bathed in your blood and pain”. “Oh Yeah” I said knocking over the hurricane lantern with my one good arm and the oil seeping from the already lit lantern, creeped into the rucksack and my preparation; hit the flares and batteries, candles, all wrapped in the silver foil of the survival Kit.
I think they call these things a bomb?
“I really do love you Connie” was my last thought.
Halfway across Scotland in the capital “Edinburgh” a young girl about to eat her “Chana Pouri” with her friends on a night out suddenly feels as though she has lost something from her life. Begs farewell and runs to Waverly Station where she gets on a train to Glasgow, bus to Campbelltown and hires a taxi to take her to Ardnacross where in the middle of a marsh an old, dilapidated house has burnt to the ground.
The police, ambulance service and fire brigade are still there though the fire must have started many hours ago. It is not an easy journey. But she saw his body taken away.
Connie stood there and she cried. Then she smiled. She fooled them all.
Using this photo as inspiration, write a short story, flash fiction, scene, poem; anything, really; even just a caption for the photograph. Either put your offering (or a link to it) in a comment or email it to me at email@example.com before Sunday evening UK time. If you post it on your own blog or site, a link to this page would be appreciated, but please do also mention it in a comment here. Thank you for taking part.