FlashFic: The Benton House

She crept along the hallway in dappled light, dawn peeking through drapes. A sound ahead made her freeze, her bravery faltering. She had to keep going. If she didn’t, they might catch her. Her big brother Jackie had told her to keep going and “don’t look back, Ellie, not for anything.” Her little hands turned to fists.

It had been a long night. Super scary, being alone in the dark, old house. The wind didn’t help. It made the place creak. Its fingers dashed chills all over her little body. Scrawny, even though she was seven, and stubborn to go with it, Mama said.

Her brothers each spent a night in the Benton House. The twins teased her until she was angry enough to show them she was as brave as they were. Braver! They were ten years old when they did it. She ignored their spooky stories of cold places and whispers. Secretly, she curled up in her room with a pillow when she was alone. She was scared alright, but she wouldn’t show it to them.

Only Jackie, her oldest brother, understood. He held her hand and told her she didn’t have to do it. It was spooky in the abandoned house, he said. When he saw her jaw set, he stroked her hair. His eyes looked sad. That’s when he took her hand and told her not to look back. He told her a lot that afternoon. Nearly changed her mind, but she gulped and held her ground. At least the twins weren’t there to hear or see. Bobby and Thom were only twelve. All they knew was how to make fun of her.

The night was darker than Ellie ever saw. There were chills even when the wind wasn’t shaking the house. Weird noises, too. The worst was the whispery sound, like voices too quiet to hear right. Ellie thought she heard “girl” a few times. It was probably the wind, though, wasn’t it? Jackie snuck her a flashlight and told her to save the batteries. She only turned it on when she got really scared. Its beam swung around her closet hiding place, scouring the walls and corners. Nothing there. Breathe nice and slowly, like Jackie said. It helped.

The darkness under the door seemed to reach for her. When it turned gray with the coming dawn, she shed silent tears. Easing from the closet, she saw a dingy, harmless room. Light filtered half-heartedly through tattered curtains. She tried to laugh. It came out as a cough, her body shaking with relief. All she had to do was get out of the house.

The sound ahead in the hallway made her freeze, her tummy tingling. Keep going, she told herself firmly. Jackie said keep going. She swung her fists at her side as she marched down the stairs and through the living room. Ellie ran when the front door was in sight. It fought back when she tried to open it. She almost panicked, but the hinges groaned open. Trembling, knees rubbery, she flew through and down the steps of the porch. Ellie turned and looked at the Benton House. It had so terrorized her. In the half-light of sunrise, it looked old, sad and saggy.

“Ellie, over here, be quick.” Jackie held out his hand over the fence edging the property. Ellie smiled smugly and strutted through the yard. She did it! Bobby and Thom might stop teasing her. At least for a while.

She reached for the gate. It didn’t budge. She tried pushing and pulling. Jackie ran over and grabbed the gate. He leaned against it hard. A quiet scream built in her throat. It died as a cold finger caressed the back of her neck. “No, Ellie! Climb over, keep moving!” Jackie pushed and pulled frantically. Ellie knew it was already too late.

Invisible hands grabbed hold and dragged her away from her horrified brother. Ellie heard the whispering voices clearly. “A girl child! We’ve waited so long. Welcome, welcome.” The voices soothed away her fear. The further away they pulled her, the more peaceful she felt.

The pulled her high above the yard. Below, Jackie yanked open the gate. He gathered up a small, limp girl. Curiosity made Ellie hover, watching as he shook his head and cried. Boredom came. She swirled through a window. Her new family waited.

©2010 Jessica Rosen

Once again, this story began as a #storystarters on Twitter. It’s a terrific collection of treats for the muse. Check it out for inspiration: first lines, last lines or general story sparks.

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36 thoughts on “FlashFic: The Benton House

  1. Marisa Birns October 14, 2010 at 9:37 pm Reply

    Oh, really was all nervous, then relieved when I thought she would make it out safely. Then you go and give us that scary twist! 🙂

    Very good and spooky tale.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 15, 2010 at 12:01 am Reply

      You’re a doll, Marisa – thanks a bunch. So glad to hear the ending came out of left field.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  2. The Four Part Land October 15, 2010 at 9:32 am Reply

    I thought she’d made it, and that the house wasn’t really haunted. Nice way of pulling her back in. Literally.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 15, 2010 at 3:41 pm Reply

      Poor girl child, eh? Thanks, I appreciate it.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  3. Johanna Harness October 15, 2010 at 9:45 am Reply

    Wonderful, Jess. I love that the ending gives us so much to think about. The ritual itself fascinates me and I’m so sad for the older brother. The more specific the description, the more chilling it is. Love the “girl” lines. Can’t wait for your next!

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 15, 2010 at 3:43 pm Reply

      I agree, I felt horrible for Jackie. Thanks for the wonderful review, Johanna. It feels good to be writing again.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  4. Kate October 15, 2010 at 10:48 am Reply

    I got to the end and said “Oh no” out loud! My coworkers were looking at me like I was crazy. I love when I don’t see the ending coming!

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 15, 2010 at 3:45 pm Reply

      Wow, freaking out your coworkers is high praise. I’ll write you a note for next time if it helps. Thanks, Kate!

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  5. shannon esposito October 15, 2010 at 12:47 pm Reply

    I read it again, hoping the ending would change! lol. Great story!

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 15, 2010 at 3:46 pm Reply

      Trying for a different ending is sweet, thanks so much. (Although they say doing something over the same way is a definition of mental illness.) I appreciate your feedback.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  6. Deanna Schrayer October 15, 2010 at 4:28 pm Reply

    Fantastic spooky tale for the season Jess. I thought for sure Jackie would turn into some monster and gobble her up, but this is so much better than that outcome, and I love it when I’m wrong about the end. Great work!

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 15, 2010 at 5:31 pm Reply

      Oh wow, that would have been fun to write, too! Thanks, Deanna. Really glad you enjoyed it. Believe it or not, I didn’t have Halloween in mind when I wrote it. Synchronicity FTW!

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  7. Icy Sedgwick October 15, 2010 at 5:43 pm Reply

    Whoa, so many twists. At first I thought something would get her in the house, and then I thought she’d made it, and then you give us that ending! Truly, truly spooky.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 15, 2010 at 6:09 pm Reply

      I bet you can guess this was fun to write. Ellie’s adventure unfolded in my mind as I typed. I thought she would make it over the gate at first, but no, it just wasn’t meant to be. Glad you enjoyed it, thank you!

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  8. Jamie D. October 15, 2010 at 10:50 pm Reply

    This is really fabulous, Jessica…your prose and pacing perfectly frames the story for maximum effect. I love the back story woven in, the creepy cold fingers, and the soaring end that becomes more and more peaceful. Lovely, haunting story…thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 16, 2010 at 5:44 pm Reply

      Thanks, Jamie, I’m so glad you liked it. I started it and set it aside after the first paragraph. It took some time to hear Ellie’s voice, see Jackie’s worry. I’m glad it came through well.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  9. Eric J. Krause October 15, 2010 at 11:03 pm Reply

    Very cool story! Good tension all the way through, and then the ending is a punch in the gut. You did an excellent job of sprinkling in back story to make us care about what’s going on.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 16, 2010 at 5:49 pm Reply

      Fantastic, thank you, Eric. Shaving the wordcount made it satisfyingly tight. Once Ellie approved, I published it. She’s got a lot of spirit, even now.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  10. Kari Fay October 16, 2010 at 6:33 am Reply

    Superb writing. I felt the whole way through that she would just about make it through and then she got snatched right at the end- heartbreaking.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 16, 2010 at 5:51 pm Reply

      I appreciate that, Kari. Thanks so much for checking the story out. “Heartbreaking” – what a lovely thing for you to say.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  11. Gracie October 16, 2010 at 1:50 pm Reply

    Great story! I didn’t see that end coming. At. All. I blame the brothers. 🙂

    Very spooky, perfect for Halloween month.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 16, 2010 at 5:52 pm Reply

      Yeah, those brothers were a handful, weren’t they? I love that it’s spooky to you, thanks. Funny thing is that I wasn’t writing with Halloween in mind.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  12. Virginia Moffatt October 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm Reply

    Spooky stuff. Really thought she’d escape in the end…

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 16, 2010 at 5:54 pm Reply

      Sometimes there is simply no escape. Thanks for your very nice review.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  13. Angela Perry October 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm Reply

    I loved it! Perfect for the spooky October weather and approaching holiday.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 16, 2010 at 5:55 pm Reply

      Thanks, Angela – so glad you enjoyed it. I actually wasn’t writing with Halloween in mind. The first paragraph came to me a month ago. The rest just popped into my head and the story formed. A bit of synchronicity there, I think.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  14. mazzz in Leeds October 17, 2010 at 5:47 am Reply

    What is it about abandoned houses after dark?
    Oh, *that’s* what it is!
    Loved the ending, and the parts about the wind were very spooky

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 17, 2010 at 6:38 am Reply

      Thanks so much, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Kind of spooked me while I was writing it, which I think helped.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  15. Sam October 17, 2010 at 8:24 am Reply

    Crikey, that was spooky! Beautifully written, the tension rising from the first sentence to the final reveal. Poor Ellie, and poor Jackie not being able to save her.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 17, 2010 at 9:01 am Reply

      I appreciate that, Sam, thanks. I think I feel worse for Jackie in the long run. Between grief and guilt, he has quite a plateful. I wonder how he’s going to work it out. Hrm… Perhaps there’s a flash story in it…

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  16. Jason October 17, 2010 at 8:33 am Reply

    Nice progression from door fighting back to gate that wouldn’t budge. Love the super scary unexpected ending.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 17, 2010 at 9:07 am Reply

      Thanks for your nice comments. I love getting feedback – especially good feedback! Seriously, though, I do appreciate your taking the time to comment.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  17. Maria Kelly October 17, 2010 at 9:13 am Reply

    Wonderful ghost story, Jess. Really terrifying at the end. Great job!

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 17, 2010 at 11:46 am Reply

      Yay! I love to hear the ending spooked the reader. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Maria.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  18. Crystal October 17, 2010 at 9:16 pm Reply

    Oh her poor brother. To witness that. How sad. How terrifying, truly in a psychologically messed up way. Good job!

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen October 17, 2010 at 11:16 pm Reply

      It feels so good to know the psychological pain and horror of the event comes through. We know that Jackie loved her so much, he’ll bear the banner of guilt – hopefully not forever – but the potential is there. That Ellie’s transformation excludes such things is probably a blessing for her. Thank you for your comments about Jackie. I appreciate them.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

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