Here is another short fiction piece based off of a prompt from Flash Fiction Friday. And a word about that. It looks like most of the other writers who post flash fiction in response to prompts at Flash Fiction Friday don’t do so the same day the prompt goes up. Friday happens to be my flash fiction day, so I post what I’ve written pretty much as soon as it’s ready to be posted. I swear, I am not an over-achiever.
Cue: Write a story where your protagonist is mistaken about something they “know” to be true.
Length: Up to 1200 words
“Oh, I know she did. She’s a slut, Em. She was sleeping with Aaron’s friend, that–what was his name? Brad? Brian? Bruce! Bruce, the one who dated Stacey…has a big nose…mm-hmm, that one…well, she was sleeping with him the entire time she was dating Michael.”
Emily paused. She held several hangers in one hand, the clothes draping to the floor, and covered her mouth with the other hand. “Wait.” She said. Her eyes were wide and her shoulders tensed. Margaret looked up from her magazine and visually explored the room. “What, Em? What the hell–”
“Wait. Quiet!” she said insistently.
There was a scratching sound, faint but distinct, from somewhere down the hall. Emily listened as it died out and then held her breath in anticipation of more.
“Em.” Margaret said flatly. “Em, please. This place is not haunted.”
Emily sighed, tossing the clothes onto her bed. Margaret lay prone across the length of the bed, her legs bent at the knee, feet in the air, and a copy of Cosmo in front of her. She worked over a piece of gum like the gum had done something to someone she cared about. Something very wrong.
Emily fell back parallel to her friend. “I know that in my head,” she said, “but the neighbors. Those stories they told creeped me out.”
“About things moving?” Margaret asked.
“Well, yeah. And about the dead squirrels in the backyard. I found two dead squirrels last week.”
Margaret laughed. “Em, Bentley did that! He killed squirrels and birds all the time at your last house.”
“Maybe,” Emily said, “but he wouldn’t go near these and he usually leaves dead things at the door. For me, I think. Like a present.”
“Anyway, my mom says it’s just the neighbors teasing me, and my dad got mad the last time I said something about it.”
Margaret rolled to her side, propping her head up with her hand. “Then don’t say anything about it,” she said cheerfully. Using her forefinger and thumb, she snatched the gum from her mouth, a large piece that glistened with saliva and spit bubbles, and tossed it in the trash can by the nightstand. She swept her tongue around her mouth to clear out any bad juju left by the gum and then smiled. She had a lovely smile.
“Em, it’s just an old house. I mean, you’ve been to my place. There are noises there, too.”
“I thought your dad built your house.”
“He did…ten years ago. But now it creaks and makes noises just like your house. All houses do that.”
“What about the stories about the last owner? Or all that stuff about a hidden room? I measured the rooms, myself. The neighbors are right–there should be another small room right in the middle of the house.”
Margaret laid her head on Emily’s shoulder. “Em, you probably measured wrong. Or that’s just the way the house was designed. Seriously, there’s no such thing as ghosts. Just let it go.”
After lying like that for a moment, Margaret crawled off the bed and snatched her towel off the back of Emily’s desk chair. “Besides, aren’t we supposed to be out at the pool right now? My skin isn’t gonna tan itself.”
Emily smiled. She stood and rolled her head from side to side to stretch out her shoulders. Then she retrieved her towel and the two girls left Emily’s room, bound for the backyard. As the sound of their laughter carried through the house, echoing off the hardwood floors, a quiet, almost imperceptible scratching sound could be heard. It emerged from the very center of the house, where there certainly should not have been a small, mysterious hidden room.