This story was written for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge round 2, 2014; I was set the genre horror, I had to work in a rabbit’s foot, and needed to feature a foreclosed home.
New Lease of Life
By Lauren McMenemy
Written October 2014
She closed the door behind her, probably for the last time. Who knew how long until the bank moved in. The negotiations had stopped working long ago; her last chance had been pleading for pity. She should’ve known better; bankers don’t have hearts, not these days.
And so it comes to this: six generations of Bakers have lived here, seen this view. She will be the last. Six generations of Bakers buried in the gardens, and she won’t get to join them. The house will be sold for a lot less than it’s worth, just to cover the debt she stupidly wracked up in an attempt to renovate and make the house – no, the family home – last a few more generations.
“That’s what I get for caring,” she muttered, wiping her finger along the banister as she ascended to the office. She remembered her grandfather in this room, behind the big mahogany desk, dwarfed by the bookcases full of dusty objects, looking at her over his gold-rimmed glasses. “Lois, dear,” he had said. “This isn’t just a house, you know. This is our family. This is our history. We won’t survive without it.”
She sat down in the old armchair by the window, pulled her feet up, and stared out to the gardens, the broken tombstones of six generations staring back up at her. Mocking her. Like they knew what she’d done.
She tried to convince herself that she’d only done what was necessary. She tried to convince herself the house had been unstable. She herself had felt the foundations moving, seen the cracks appear before her eyes, the fireplaces crumble at her touch. When she returned here after her failed attempt at a Big City career, her failed marriage in her wake, she thought the country air would renew her. Return to the family foundations, rebuild herself. She took her grandfather’s words literally: this house is our family. She should take better care of it.
But old houses need money. And every time she got something fixed, something else broke. It didn’t help that she struggled to get contractors to come out. The home wasn’t exactly in the middle of nowhere – nestled among the trees at the edge of town – but the builders would hang up as soon as she gave the address. The odd one that did come, muttering something about seeing for themselves, left the job half-finished. She had turned to YouTube and DIY.
It still cost money, and money she could only get from the bank. Divorces and failed careers have a tendency to leave you broke.
She sighed, rubbed her eyes, got up towards the door.
“I’m sorry, grandfather.” A tear rolling down her cheek, she reached for the handle.
It burned. It burst into flames as she jerked her hand back.
Then the door was gone. Only a smooth wall remained.
She could’ve sworn the walls were closing in, the room getting smaller, more stifling. Is that breaking glass she can hear? Wasn’t there glass on both sides of the window seat?
Walking backwards without realising, she now bumped into that old desk her grandfather loved so much. That, too, was hot. The temperature in the room was choking. She felt like she was in a sauna.
And then she felt the hand grab her ankle, yanking her to the floor. She collapsed and turned in the direction of the hand, but saw nothing. Just the fog and the mist of a too-hot room in the middle of winter. And the solid wood that covered the front of the desk was intact, though smoking.
She began to cough. The room was no bigger than a bathroom; 10 minutes ago it had been the size of a library. It *was* the library. Her grandfather’s domain. She scrambled around the side of the desk, pulled herself up to the window seat. Hands up against the windows, desperately clinging for some air.
It was then that she saw it; her grandfather’s desk drawer had opened in the commotion. Inside the top drawer – the one he always kept locked – were his trinkets, his life. She had never found the key after he passed, and her parents had been buried in the garden long before she left home.
The drawer removed itself from the desk and appeared in front of her. Inside, her grandfather’s lucky rabbit’s foot still hung from its chain. So often she had seen him clutching this in times of stress or grief. Now, she grabbed it for herself.
And the room stilled.
And the voice rose.
“Lois, dear,” it said. “This isn’t just a house, you know. This is our family. This is our history. We won’t survive without it.”
“I know!” she cried to no one in particular, to the voices that now echoed and rose around her. The voices of centuries of Bakers, swirling in this claustrophobic room. “I tried to fix it! It’s falling apart!”
“Lois, dear. This house is our family. You are the end of the line; you are the end of the house. Come, join us and be free.”
Now the voices had hands, clutching, pulling at her.
“There’s no struggling, Lois. The Bakers are waiting for you. All of us, all the way back. We are here for you. It is your time. You will now join us. It is how it has been for generations.”
Lois desperately looked around her for a way out of the madness. There was only one way. Rabbit’s foot still in hand, she threw the desk drawer through the steamed-up window. And she jumped.
She jumped from the second floor office, the library that held her family history.
Her body was never found; the Bakers took care of that. And the house still stands. A little less cracking, these days, now it’s had some fresh blood. But one day it will need another life.
Until that day, drive on. Do not stop. It is not worth the view.