Avery exhales slowly, so his own breathing will not block anything he may need to hear. His heart races in his chest, and his lungs ache. He inhales slowly, and again, exhales as quietly as he can. Cautiously, he leans his head back against the wall and adjusts his legs, planting his feet in a position that, if he should have to stand or move quickly, he can. He rests on the floor in a small corner in an old, dilapidated kitchen. To his right is an opening to an equally dilapidated dining room, where a couple battery-powered lanterns illuminate dust-encrusted walls and surfaces of a large farmhouse that hasn’t hosted residents in what must have been decades. To his left, a perpendicular wall making the corner where he now hunkers. Tense and sweating, he’s focused on listening carefully... for anything.
In the dining room a man gasps, as if struggling for air, but more likely dealing with pain. The air is still, but damp. Humidity maintains a thick almost claustrophobic feeling to the house, despite the openness of the rooms and the notable lack of in-tact windows. Humidity so thick, it makes the very clothing on one’s back feel stifling. A breeze would be a small reprieve from the almost oppressive wet heat.
The man in the dining room is crawling somewhere. Maybe. He might just be shuffling around in the room, beneath the make-shift dining table they’d set up to toast their victory.
Avery sighs another deep breath, this one is finally a little calming. Finally, a moment to think, to consider what the hell has just happened. Donny. Fucking Donny. He’s drunk, and he was berating Carrie. She left to take a piss, and Donny had gone off in another direction to do the same, but he’d apparently circled around the outside of the house, or something. He approached her, it seems, rather crudely while she had her pants down. They brought their fight back inside. Goddamn idiot. Now he’s bleeding on the floor in the dining room. Maybe it serves him right. He’d been on her case the entire time. She’d angrily protested working with him, calling him unprofessional and a disgusting pig. But he got a lot of laughs from the other two guys, and Bax said his task is the most important.
Now, everyone is scattered away from the dining room. Donny is bleeding under the table or somewhere else in the room. There is a sound of chairs and other objects used as chairs being slid across the old, grimy floor. He’s either moving somewhere or crafting a makeshift barricade. The air is still disturbingly quiet. There isn’t even sound from wildlife outside. No crickets or owls or anything. Just thick and wet, still and quiet. So it’s likely everyone hears Donny spit on the floor, groan, and slide around more make-shift furniture.
Carrie is a little hot-headed, maybe. But Avery empathized with her. Donny is an asshole with little respect for women, and he had not been subtle about it. Women are bad news on these jobs he’d say. He’d berated. He’d complained. Bax had put all this together, the leader of this little troupe, and he had to try reigning Donny and Carrie in on a few occasions prior to the job. He was forced to change up plans to accommodate the two of them, though Avery wonders why he’d even bother. Why not replace one of them? Maybe he can’t. Maybe Carrie is as “important” as Donny. Everyone is here with a two or three specialties, per person. Enough variance that they can be interchangeable and early on Bax would become visibly angry at the idea of having to reorganize anything. Everything needed to stick to the plan, the plan was too carefully constructed to deviate.
Avery closes his eyes for a moment, purses his lips, grits his teeth and hates himself. Right now, in this moment, with all of the hate he’d ever feel all at once. He hates himself for his stupidity in getting involved in this disaster. In hooking up with these people. In the very circumstances of his life, no, in every single decision in his life that has led up to this one massive, horrifying clusterfuck. In a moment of surreal horror, he becomes keenly self-aware at the sheer unreality of his situation. This is not normal. This is now what people do to solve problems.
How did he get so deep in debt? He’s always been a little too flakey with money, with responsibilities. His student loans, car loan, years of difficulty finding work, and recent brink of homelessness as the computer repair shop he’d worked in had recently closed… Once heavy, depressing, oppressive concerns for him, now seems like preferable, even minor inconveniences on a life he’d left behind. He’d worked his way up to a Masters Degree, but that was years ago, and he’d been stuck in dead-end jobs ever since, living paycheck to paycheck. No savings, no retirement. Few friends. Every plan and goal he’d had ended in colossal, even comedic failure. He’s been a loser his entire life. A lesson to others of what not to do.
“Carrie!” calls a scratchy voice from somewhere in the house. “Let’s talk about this, girl! You got your-“
“Fuck you!” Carrie yelled from elsewhere. “I want my cut, and then just let me fucking go!”
“Gonna get you, yah cunt!” sputters Donny from the dining room. Though it’s likely she hadn’t heard him. It sounds like she may have run upstairs and Donny is talking straight to the floor. She may be at a tactical advantage up there, for that matter.
Listening to the voices, Avery puts Donny obviously behind him in the dining room, Carrie off to the right of the kitchen, upstairs, and Bax off to the left, in that oddly-placed old living room, adjacent the dining room. Is that where Isaac is as well?
A tense moment of silence sets upon the house while everyone is trying to figure out their next move. Avery slowly moves leaning towards the opening to the dining room and, as carefully as possible, glances in there. Donny has indeed been moving things around. He’s in a far corner, though, no longer under the table. He’d moved the only two chairs in the room and some crates near an old cabinet and has apparently wedged himself in a corner. Avery angles his head attempting to get a better view of the living room, but cannot see Bax. He can just see the edge of the doorway he’d leapt through, to get to the living room.
This house has a lot of old furniture, crates, boxes, palettes, and things still in it for some reason. It’s possible that whoever still owns this property might use it for some kind of junk storage. Not everything in the house looks as old as the walls or built-in elements (the fridge has to be from the 70’s or 80’s at least), like the cracked and permanently stained kitchen counters. So some of this stuff was clearly added later. Avery glances around the dining room trying to take in as much information as possible. He can’t see anyone but at least knows Donny’s location, in that far corner, hidden behind some of this junk. Isaac seems to be missing.
Avery leans back against the kitchen wall again and scans his immediate surroundings. He sees an old butter knife on the floor in the doorway. He snatches it up quickly hoping no one will notice. With his hands trembling slightly, he attempts to polish the old butter knife in his sweat-damp shirt. Miraculously, there is a reflection. He uses it to look towards the stairs and front door. Unfortunately, in the dark, he can’t make out the stairs themselves, but he can locate the front door. Isaac must have run outside. If he did leave the house, then he could really be anywhere.
This full text is available in a short story collection, Macabre Vignettes. In a bid to sample self-publishing, the book is available via Amazon Kindle, or can be ordered in paperback form.
The collection contains a total of five stories running the gamut of werewolves, abduction, Hollywood, and the very meaning of narrative fiction!
About My Style
My biggest inspirations are Rod Serling and various writers of classic E.C. horror, crime, and suspense comics, along with the inventive horror and science fiction of 80's and 90's cinema. So add George Romero, John Carpenter, and Stephen King to that list. This page gives a nice sampling of some of my narrative works.