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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 18: Brown 6
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 17: Kondor 47
Crashing to what he hoped was the ground floor, Derek lay there for a moment. He was definitely bruised and battered, but he had been largely sandwiched between the pack of clothes on his back and the bundle in his arms. He hoped that the electronic toys, his laptop and video games and such, were as protected as he was, but now was not the time to check.
He also thought that he might as well give up trying to be quiet. If there was anyone to hear anything, they should have heard that, and should arrive in a moment. Probably they would call the police, and report him breaking in; as much trouble as that would be, he would gladly take it just to escape this oppressive house. He wondered what had caught his leg. Perhaps he hadn't seen something in the darkness; maybe there was a thread or string or something across the stairway. Anyway, he might as well wait here for someone to come take him away.
No one came. The rain continued, the lightning flashed, and the wind howled again, again bringing that same low moan through the house.
Well, if no one was coming, he might as well continue. He got up, and focused for a moment on that sense he thought was his bicycle. Finding that direction, he thought that as long as no one was complaining about his presence, he might as well try the lights. There was a bit more illumination eking through the windows down here, and he spied a switch (a sure sign of civilization, he thought) on the wall. He flipped it.
If anything happened, he did not see it. Great, he thought, no power. Probably the owners moved, but left the place furnished so it would be easier to sell; or maybe it's one of those demonstration homes builders put up to show people. Or maybe–and at this he stopped, trying to think it through in a way that wouldn't frighten him–maybe it's a mock-up of a haunted house, something they built for Halloween, or a movie set, or something like that. That might explain a lot.
The idea relieved him less than he had hoped. The problem was he didn't believe it. Deep down, he knew what this was, and he didn't like it at all. But he wasn't going to allow himself to see it, to know it, because if he actually let himself recognize what was happening he would be too terrified to escape. Everything was normal. It had to be normal. It could not be otherwise.
His directional sense led him across the hall into a living room, and beyond that to a dining room. He crept along, careful in the shifting light and shadow, not for silence but for caution. He still wished that the floor wouldn’t creak so much or so loudly, as it made him nervous, but there was nothing he could do about it. He passed through the living room, and under the archway into the dining room.
The floor groaned loudly at that moment, but he heard another sound, and as his mind raced to match it, he instinctively stepped away from it. A heavy pottery vase atop a tall cabinet had fallen over, and was rolling toward the edge. It fell, and smashed on the floor a few feet from him. Even as it hit, the floor shook, and there was another movement. A horseshoe, apparently secured above the archway, had been dislodged by the impact. It, too, fell to the floor, striking with a loud clank and a hollow knock.
"If it is a demonstrator house," he said aloud, "it's got to be the worst built one ever." Yet he knew it wasn't a construction flaw.
He turned back in the direction of that sense, and took three more steps, more quickly. Then he stopped. He had reached a wall; and there was neither door nor window. His bicycle was on the other side, but he would have to find another way to reach it.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #78: Novel Fears. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: