Black Petals Issue #85, Autumn, 2018

The Seeker

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Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Bottle Music-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Bridge to Forever-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Door County Getaway-Fiction by Roy Dorman
It's Out There-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Napper's Holler-Chapter 4-Continuing Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Napper's Holler-Chapter 5-Continuing Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Napper's Holler-Chapter 6-Continuing Fiction by A. M. Stickel
The Gift-Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Gifted Ones-Fiction by David Powell
The Seeker-Fiction by Ken Hueler
Blood/Brain Barrier-6 Poems by Will H. Blackwell, Jr.

spookymanor.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2018

The Seeker

 

By Ken Hueler

 

An obvious solution

 

 

 

Normally, unlike his classmates, Ike slowed when he passed the house, and he didn’t hold his breath, either. Someday, maybe, he might be called brave instead of creepy. But today Ike was running, and he knew his legs were too short. He reached the iron fence, but the older boy kept coming. Smiling at Ike, he began to walk, drawing out the misery. Ike placed his hand on the gate. He had touched the armpit high, ornamental black metal before, when he really needed to prove he could be brave, but the boy still approached, unafraid. Trapped, Ike tried to lift the latch, but it had forgotten how to move. Then he grabbed the post cap, swung his leg onto the brace, and tumbled to the other side. He heard footsteps speeding up, and he scrambled toward the house. The front door had long ago become a plywood sheet with a sign whose warning was sinking under a rusty scum. Ike prayed that somewhere, at the side or the back, the house would let him in.

He ran left, past the large pine. He heard screaming behind him as hinges got forced. He chanced a look just before the corner. The boy, now through the gate, hesitated, and then lurched uncertainly forward. Ike kept going. Low along the side he saw only plywood rectangles and peeling siding, and, high above, shut windows with jagged, biting glass. But then—there, on the ground ahead—he spied the cellar door open and flopped onto the weeds. Sunlight flooded the spurt of brick steps. Ike didn’t pull the door shut, more afraid of stumbling into painful things than of the boy daring to follow.

The room of dusty shelves, sunlit and small, left him an easy target. He stepped through a gaping door and edged into the black basement beyond. Ike sensed more than saw the light behind him flutter, maybe from trees swaying, or a passing cloud, or a boy. His steps became infantile; his hands wove, conjuring nothing. He took some comfort that the boy would be just as blind, and he kept swimming through the darkness until his fingers struck a wall.

He patted along the bricks and fat mortar until they vanished. He kicked low, stubbed into steps, and then tapped upwards. The doorknob at the top turned, and a thin, hopeful gloom greeted him. He slipped through and closed the door, not wanting to offer any help.

The kitchen was empty and stark. Sunlight slunk around the edges and chips of the plywood, and filmy white paint reflected the light. Ike remembered how, after they’d moved in, the things in his dad’s kitchen had blunted the bare angles. He walked through a space perfect for a table, climbed into the sink, and looked through a chink in the boards. He could see a sliver of the bushes that hid the road and the roof of the house opposite, but no hint of anyone. He went into the next room, a large space, dusty, its corners softened by old cobwebs.

He walked to the window. An abandoned paint can let him reach a gap between two boards. A backyard of tall grass and fennel stretched to the woods, and not one person was in sight. The boy might still be on one of the other sides, circling, or even crouched in the grass, able to see him even now. Ike pulled away. The other door took him into the hallway. The front door, down and away, he knew was safely nailed shut. The window over it, sectioned like an orange slice, spilled light across the dusty glass and rocks leading towards it. Ike tested the back door. Locked. But people could pick locks, he’d heard. Had they boarded up this one, too? He’d never seen the house from the back and didn’t know. He ran up the steps.

On the landing he found three closed doors and an open one. Creeping into that room, he found it, except for rocks and glass, as empty as those downstairs. But here the walls were spattered with letters and names. He walked closer and read them, wondering why here and nowhere else. And then he knew: this is where it had happened. Older people came to this bedroom because it was the famous one, and they left their names or initials to prove they had been brave, too. 

Ike knew the boy’s first name started with W, and he found several of those, but he didn’t know the last. He stood, hyper-alert. He thought he heard a wooden tap, but it could be anything, from an animal to a tree. Ghosts would be quiet—imaginary friend quiet. An older boy would not.

“Hide me,” he begged the room.

The house did not reply. Ike prayed to be invisible and silent and beyond hurt. That worked most times at school or at home, but it also incited certain people, sometimes a lot. He put his palm to the wall. “Please,” he whispered.

The daughter kept quiet. Well, maybe she didn’t like this room. He realized he wouldn’t either. He went back to the landing. The floorboards creaked. He heard an echoing creak far away in the house. He froze. Another creak. Settling? William? That’s his name—William. He tiptoed to the wall and crept along it; crossing the noisy expanse in the middle would give him away. He opened the door next to Eliza’s. It gave—a crack of expanding wood letting go.

This room held a heavy desk with no drawers and a window with gauzy curtains. The yellowy-white fabric made the day seem later, and if he were dead like the girl he would want to be here, where it was not so sunny and sharp. He crept to the window. He could see the road. A small group of kids had reached the house and he could tell they were about to launch into a run. They looked toward the house, the front, but one girl looked up and at the side. She shrieked and ran before the others.

Ike realized that she had seen him, misty through the curtains. He wanted more than anything to be a ghost, unable to be hurt and belonging somewhere. People said that the family’s heirs were fighting over the ownership, and probably would until they too were buried, so he felt the house would be here with him almost forever.

He thought he heard a sound, as soft and slithery as thread pulled through thick cloth. He held his breath, not moving, staying Dad’s-asleep quiet. He hoped the girl outside would tell someone she had seen a person in the house and then adults would come, but he knew they would not. He should have yelled.

He parted the curtains, metal rings scraping like a dozen knives sharpening. Maybe someone else would pass. He scanned for the boy but saw no one. He noticed that the cellar door was shut. Then, from the other room, he heard, or thought he did, a creak.

He looked at the scoops and peaks of glass that still clung after the rocks. Beyond them, maybe, the trees could be hiding someone coming—a helpful adult, maybe several. But he knew there would be nobody, just him and whatever else wandered the house. He hoped it was Eliza wanting him to join her, to be a playmate to break her monotony of being left alone when everyone else she knew had left. The only company she had now were scared or laughing jerks.

He looked at a smooth slope in one pane. He was so drawn to it that he hurt deep inside. He could use it. He could join Eliza. This would be his room, his own room, and people might come and write on his walls and laugh, but they could not touch him. Not ever. He poked his hand out the window, over the glass. His fear flowed up his throat like bile before a dry heave, and stuck. He trembled. His eyes stung. He was too afraid to drop his arm, but the edge was too compelling for him to pull back. It would hurt. But only for a little while. 

“Do it,” a voice behind him whispered.

 

The End

 







Ken Hueler, kenhueler@gmail.com, who wrote BP #85’s “The Seeker,” lives in San Francisco, CA. He has written about his commute in a previous BP issue, and his most recent horror tale appears in Weirdbook #39. Read more about him at http://kenhueler.wordpress.com. If you need a lift after all his gloom, he writes very silly things as Nathan Cromwell.





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