Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Haunted House - Flash Fiction

The following is a flash fiction piece from James Everington's The Other Room,
a collection of "weird horror fiction" short stories. 
The Other Room is available on Kindle: US Edition and UK Edition

 Some Stories for Escapists #3 - The Haunted House
by James Everington 
Blog: Scattershot Writing

            "The old men loved to scare the young boys by telling them the story of the black house that was the highest point on the skyline; but the young were never so scared as the old men expected.
          "The Son murdered The Father slowly, so the old men said, a thimble-full of poison a day. It was poured into The Father’s fifth glass of wine, by which time he would be too drunk to taste it.  A thimble-full a day, but it soon added up, like pocket change put by. The Father went grey around the edges, his eyes yellowed over and lost their spark, his spine bent and his limbs trembled. He had to entrust the running of his business affairs to The Son who, educated more recently, understood the day’s markets better. Profits rose. This pained The Father terribly, for he knew when he recovered from his illness he would have lost much respect in the business world. To think that his own child could just take over like that and increase productivity! Admittedly to do so he’d laid off many workers, but at least the shareholders were happy. From his sick bed The Father could see the plumes of quiet smoke which drifted away from his factories. He tried to put it all from his mind, telling himself his health was of more importance. But he felt like he’d built those factories with his bare hands (even though he’d just inherited them) and now they seemed beyond his influence.

          "Eventually he died, and the share prices hit a new peak. Investors knew all about The Son and his reforms. The Son took charge of the business full time, and he moved into the house on the hill, the family’s ancestral home. Its vast spaces seemed too empty for him, and he quickly married and moved his new Wife in. She quarreled with his Mother about trivial things, but eventually got her way. The Son installed bright lights and security cameras into every inch of the dark house. He kept expecting his Father’s spectre to appear, glowing and moaning inaudibly, but pointing his accusing finger at The Son. Certainly he saw such things in his dreams. He put more and more lights into the house, and lived in fewer and fewer of its rooms. Profits were stable but the shareholders were worried - they all knew The Son spent less time at work now, and delegated often. He seemed to have lost the flair he’d had around the time of his Father’s death. The shareholders were like ghosts to him, invisible people he’d never seen but who somehow exerted an influence on him. He had less energy now, and his back was troubling him.

          "For years people had been wondering why his wife had never fallen pregnant - was something wrong? But now she did. The Son regarded this new development with unease. He could no longer remember if he’d actually killed his Father, or just fantasised about it. Certainly he had dreamt of killing him, without really knowing why. That was probably where his vivid memories came from; but in reality a growing-old disease must surely have carried the old man off. So there was no reason to feel guilty or afraid. But he did. The family business was failing to move with the times now, and despite the cutting and cutting of workers, profits were down.

          "When his Son was born the new Father took one look at his smooth face and fled. Some of the old men said he saw his Father’s features there; others kept their mouths shut. This new Father raced to the top of the house in terror, into the unlit rooms he had sealed off. Here The Father threw himself out the window, dashing his frail body against the stones so many stories below. After another brief dip, shares prices increased. The note he left was confused and disorientated, as if he thought he was someone else. Now he is said to wander, a ghost no one ever sees, around the dark house, with an aged look of confusion and terror on his face, because when he reaches out to touch things, his hand slides through.”

©James Everington 

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