By George Gad
An escape from reality into
A strong gust of wind might bring the abandoned house’s
walls down, so Jake did not care for the storm’s bluster. He settled in his
usual corner, away from the glassless windows, and opened his torn backpack.
A creak came from the ground floor, but Jake barely
flinched; he concentrated entirely on the task at hand, as the lighter flame
flickered in the wind. He turned towards the wall, blocking the breeze with his
body; finally, the heroin melting, he hungrily inhaled the vapor rising from
the dirty bottle cap.
With swift movements he filled the syringe. Wood broke
downstairs, and he momentarily turned his head to peek at the dilapidated
staircase. Nothing—only the strong wind from outside, and intensifying rain.
The veins of his hands, already exposed, looked close to collapsing. The
needle went in, and warmth flooded his body; the new music and colors lasted
barely a second. Sitting cross-legged, his leaned his back against the moldy
wall and sighed. The rain was growing stronger.
More wood creaked downstairs. Limbs numb, mind hazed, Jake
got up and cautiously approached the staircase. Nothing. Only shadows of trees
danced on the dusty, abandoned furniture. Feeling reassured, he returned to his
corner. It was empty!
His backpack had disappeared. He looked about anxiously—no
intruders. He scratched his neck, his heart beating against his ribs. He paced
the floor, searching every room, and peering into every dark corner.
Crackling behind him spun him around, fists clenched. No
one was there. Dizzy, he lost his balance and landed on his ass, making the
wooden floor tremble. Lightning struck, and, for a moment, the entire room
turned blindingly white. Jake saw dozens of shadows standing about, drinking
and laughing and dancing. Then thunder boomed so loudly that his ears buzzed
like a persistent alarm clock in his brain. His head swam and his vision
blurred. Once it cleared, the shadows were gone. Leaning against the wall, he
rose on shaky legs.
Loud guffaws and the counterpoint of feminine giggles
echoed in the otherwise empty room; a hint of mingled perfume, tobacco, and
whiskey teased his nostrils. He rechecked every room for signs of life or his
backpack, then froze at the tickle of a sour, hot breath on his neck.
Jake’s hair stood up and his fists clenched; yet, he
remained still, waiting. Nothing happened. He could not discern any shadow, but
felt an icy touch on his shoulder. Jake sprang up, shivering, and turned with
fists raised to face his adversary.
Seeing nothing, he wiped the sweat from his forehead and
tucked his long, unwashed hair behind his ears. At more creaking from the
staircase, he nearly flew there: empty. He stood at the top of the stairs,
scanning the pitch-black ground floor; rain like bullets pelting the walls was
the only sound.
Jake backed into his corner, picked up the needle and
bottle cap, and put them in an inner jacket pocket. He drew a deep breath and
rubbed his eyes, his body and mind growing numb. He could barely remain
standing, but he needed the backpack full of his most treasured possessions.
He descended the staircase, one step at a time, pausing in
hopes of catching a sound from the thief. Nothing. Finally, he was at the
ground floor. He had never explored these rooms; they were only for pushers and
their young clients who wanted a quick fix before hitting the fancy nightclubs.
With cautious steps he surveyed the great room; every piece
of furniture held a history of some soul who lived there before the house became
a temple for local addicts. Jake had learned not to care about history or other
Lightning struck close to the house, igniting a massive tree.
And, by its burning light, Jake was once more surrounded by shadows, drinking
and dancing, chatting and flirting. As the ancient tree succumbed to the raging
fire, the wind gave it a final push—onto the house! Despite the rain, the old
wooden walls burst into flames. Heavy, black smoke billowed.
Then, within the fireplace on the other side of the grand
hall, Jake spotted his backpack. Heart beating even harder in his chest, he
rushed towards it. One of the couches suddenly blocked his way. Jake tripped
and landed hard on his lower back, causing a tremendous wave of pain to
reawaken his fogged brain.
Around him, the house seemed to revive—the furniture looked
brand new, elegant gold chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and the shadows became
living people, discussing politics or work, drinking expensive liquor and some of
the men puffing on big cigars.
But Jake only cared that, in the ornate fireplace, his
backpack was burning. He stood up, ignoring the horrific pain caused by every
movement, and bumped into a young, smiling beauty with long, curly blonde hair
and wearing a ball gown; she tripped, spilling her drink. Angry voices assaulted
him, and someone picked him up under the armpits and dragged him towards the
main door, away from his precious backpack.
A black cloud suddenly hovered over their heads, and they
all noticed the ashes raining down; the women screamed and the men glared about,
perplexed. Jake was dropped by the man about to throw him out of the house. Amid
the general panic, he shot towards the fireplace. He was met by a huge mass of
people coming his way; he curled up on the hot floor, covering his head with
his arms, as trampling feet passed right through him. When the stampede was
over, he raised his throbbing head and gasped.
Surrounded by walls of fire, the backpack was still in the
fireplace, intact! The house’s exterior walls were burning, however, and flames
were spreading inside. A burning beam fell from the upper floor, just a couple
of meters away from Jake. He rolled, covering his mouth and nose with his
sweater; his eyes grew watery and the world blurry. He crawled towards the
fireplace. Another creaking groan, and another burning beam collapsed, this
time on the couch that had tripped him; it was instantly ignited. Breathing had
become almost impossible and, in the distance, Jake heard sirens.
Finally, he was at the fireplace and reached for his
backpack, yet, could not pull it out. Immediately, he looked for anything on
which it could have gotten stuck. The fireplace was absolutely empty. He pulled
it again with the same result. He used both hands, but something still grasped
The sirens sounded close. He had to get away before they
arrived! Screams of agony filled the room, deafening him. At the scent of
burning flesh, he fought hard against retching. He was on his feet now, holding
onto the backpack with both hands. He drew a deep breath, coughed, tightened
his hold, and pulled. At first, the resistance was the same; when, however, the
wall right next to the fireplace ignited, Jake found himself flying backwards,
with the backpack in his arms. More screams, pleas, tears, and prayers filled
the air; he tried to block the horrific sounds.
Then, other voices reached his ears, this time from outside—firefighters,
or cops, or both. Clutching the backpack in his arms, he rushed through the
flames, coughing hard, barely managing not to collapse. He stormed into what
used to be a bedroom and jumped through the window.
More cars were arriving, and people were surrounding the
house, as the wind blew the water from the hoses away and the rain had stopped.
He ran across grass that had turned into mud, heading straight for the nearby
Right after he had passed the first row of tall oaks, his
legs gave out and he sat onto the mud, his back against a tree. He could still
hear the voices of firefighters and see cops searching the area with
flashlights. Slowly, painfully, he crawled further into the forest; no one came
after him. He opened his backpack and smiled when he noticed all his stuff
still there: the last two grams of junk, his stuffed monkey, and a picture of
someone he hadn’t seen for nearly a decade.
He kissed the photograph and the stuffed monkey’s head,
then placed one gram of junk in the bottle cap and heated it up. Before the
chunk could melt, a cold, bony hand tapped his shoulder. The skeleton of a
child was pointing at the toy in the backpack and a heartbroken cry echoed in
George Gad Economou, firstname.lastname@example.org, who wrote BP #79’s “Turbulent Silence”
(+ BP #75’s “Walking to Class” and “Whispering Ghosts,” BP #74’s “The
Family F,” BP #72’s “In Dreams There Is No Time,” BP #68’s “Angel of the Dark,”
and BP #64’s “The Day I Started Believing”), is a 20ish horror author from
Greece, whose first novel, THE ELIXIR OF YOUTH, was published in Greece in
2010. He wrote this first novel at the age of 15, and has since written more
novels, as well as short stories, all in the horror genre. See also www.facebook.com/GeorgeGadEconomou.