The Red House

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Claudia stood at the entrance of the big house and stared at the dark red curtains along the great staircase in front of her. Aside from a few candles on the handrails, there was not much light, and in some ways, the shadows seemed bigger because of the tiny flames.

Claudia sniffed and swallowed.

She turned her head to the front door, but when she saw a bit of light from under a door above the stairs, she was drawn to it.

Forgetting her fear, Claudia stepped onto the stairs. Her eyes watched her feet, and she saw her pink pajama pants and fuzzy bunny slippers move up the stairs.

She was dizzy when she reached halfway. She thought she heard whispers, but she didn’t know where
they came from.

Wind blew in the room, and she stopped as she shook the cold away. The candles blew out. She was in darkness.”Don’t go!” she thought she heard.

Claudia shook her head and looked back down the stairs. Vertigo overwhelmed her, and she swayed towards the bottom.

The sound of someone singing brought her back to reality, and she looked back at the light. It called to her, and she imagined how warm and bright it must be inside.

Claudia ran up the remaining stairs, or at least as much as her tiny legs would let her, and placed her hand on the doorknob.

Whispers from every direction screamed, “No!”, but it was too late. The knob turned, and the door burst open. Light flooded her entire body, and in an instant, she felt warm and happy.

At first all she could see was the bright light. She stepped forward, and the door slammed behind her. She jumped and yelped her terror.

She heard a giggle as a response, and somehow, Claudia’s fear abated.

She thought she knew that voice.

“Are you going to play with me today, Claudia?” she heard.

Claudia rubbed her eyes.

“Gerdy,” she said with a yawn.

She blinked, and for a second, she thought she looked like an old woman, but the image was gone as soon as it came.

Gertrude was surrounded on three sides by dolls and dresses. On the far side of the room, there was a rocking horse and a doll carriage. A table and tea set was in the middle of the room.

Her eyes had focused on Gertrude’s, and with a big grin, she skipped to the corner with her. “Of course!”

She sat down across from the toddler.

Claudia picked up a doll and started to dress it up for the tea party. They always played tea party first.

Playtime went on for hours, as it had three other nights this week.

Tonight, though, Claudia felt an urge. Every moment she looked at Gertrude, she was compelled to say something, but she pushed the thought away. She was being silly. But after an awesome game of chutes and ladders, she just blurted it out. “I never want to leave your side!”

Gertrude’s grin stretched from ear-to-ear, and her eyes grew wide with excitement. A hiss swelled in Claudia’s head.

She felt something in her throat and coughed.

Gertrude laughed, but the sound of it was husky.

The room spun. Claudia’s chest tightened, and she felt like fire burned her from the inside pulling out her heart.

“I’ve waited for so long to hear you say that,” Gertrude said.

Gertrude grabbed Claudia’s hand. Only it was an old woman’s hand. She pulled to escape the embrace, but inside she was being ripped away. She couldn’t see anything on the corners of her eyes. It was like she was in a tunnel, and her mind was being pulled out of her body.

She realized it was. She was outside her body now, and she watched as her hand tightened around Gertrude’s. She heard her voice laugh, but she had not done it.

“You never have to leave again,” Gertrude cackled.

Her tiny child-like body hugged the old lady. Gertrude’s withered form started to change shape. Her wrinkles less pronounced.

Claudia’s mind was still drifting further away. She was dragged down the stairs and out through the front door.

As her eyes filled with darkness, she thought for a moment she saw herself standing in the doorway waving goodbye with one hand and holding a young woman’s hand with the other.

As the darkness took her, the husky laugh echoed all around her. “Thanks for your youth.”

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8 thoughts on “The Red House

  1. Creepy piece! I always enjoy a good horror. This might seem counterintuitive, but I suggest that you make this flash fiction piece even shorter – you’re capitalizing on our fear of the unknown, so the more sparing you are with details, the better.

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    1. You spent a long time describing the stairs and her movement up them. I agree that the true tension is in the interaction with Gerdy. The sooner you get us there, the better.

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      1. Thanks, Cyn! Totally should have. Didn’t consider that at all cuz it’s part of a bigger piece. If I try and get it published I’ll definitely cut more of the start. 😊

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    2. Thanks! I definitely will look at doing that! It’s practice for the first chapter of my next book so it is meant to be heaps longer. I should have thought to cut more. Heheh

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  2. You do creepy oh so well! The end is spot on. I was confused in two places. “She sat down across from the toddler.” seems out of order in the events. The other part that I did not quite get is why does Gerdy’s voice seem familiar? They have seen each other three times, so I think she would know the voice. Or is it a dream? Or has Claudia been dying for a while with maybe three near misses?
    Ah never mind all the above, I just re-read it and I see that Gerdy is the toddler in that line. I was thinking Claudia the only toddler.

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  3. Creepy! You drew out the tension on the staircase really well, and the descriptions of the candlelight, the dolls, and the red curtains helped set the scene clearly. I liked how the house seemed to be trying to save her – that was a unique twist. I got confused a couple times when the second “she” entered the picture, though – sometimes I couldn’t tell who was being perceived as the old woman. The last line is also not really necessary – the second to last paragraph shows pretty clearly what happened to poor Claudia.

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