Flash! Friday # 42

The doors to this crazy building are now CLOSED!!!! Thanks, all! Judge’s results Sunday, including the winner of this week’s special competition for Best Title. See y’all then!

Welcome to Flash! Friday # 42! I came across this week’s prompt while browsing through photos of various historic sites. It was the building’s name, actually, that caught my eye: the Odd Fellows Home for Orphans, Indigent, and Aged. (Read more about this fascinating project here.)  What a colorful mixture of people–what a curiously titled batch of folks at the helm–and what on earth is that bizarre thing out front?! The official report is far too prosaic to satisfy me, and so I bring the building and its name to you, dear writers. What wondrous world lies hidden behind the doors? Tell me everything!*

*Or as much as you can squish within the word limit, that is. 

(Find the contest rules here.)

This week’s contest is judged by SVW member Maggie Duncan who, in honor of the topic of names, is awarding a special prize this week for Best Title. She’s also quite crazy about well-structured tales–check out her judge page to find out more!

And now:

Word limit: 300 word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt. 

* How: Post your story here in the comments. Include your word count (290 – 310 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one.  Be sure to give it a great title to qualify for this week’s special “Best Title” award.

* Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday’s on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post SUNDAY 

Prize: A bizarre e-trophy e-dragon e-badge coming your way, a strangely structured winner’s page here at FF, a curiously personalized yet philanthropic 60-second interview feature next Wednesday, and YOUR NAME hammered to the front doors of insane asylums everywhere (so to speak). NOTE: Winning and non-winning stories alike remain eligible for selection for Monday’s as-often-as-I-can-manage-it Flash Points. 

* Follow @FlashFridayFic on Twitter for up-to-date news/announcements/lairs for old and infirm dragons.  And now for your prompt:

Odd Fellows Home for for Orphans, Indigent, and Aged. Public domain photo by the National Parks Service.

Odd Fellows Home for for Orphans, Indigent, and Aged. Public domain photo by the National Parks Service.

196 thoughts on “Flash! Friday # 42

  1. An Oscar worthy performance
    306 words

    Oscar shuffled to the counter, dodging hordes of screaming orphans. He hammered the small bronze bell with the zeal of a hungry woodpecker. The nurse at the desk looked up from her crossword, “What now Oscar?”
    “Someone stole my medicine again!”
    “Are you sure you didn’t swallow it?”
    Oscar scowled indignant, “I think I would remember if I had taken it!”
    “Remind me, what is the medicine for?”
    “My Alzheimer’s!”
    She sighed to herself. How many times did they have to play out this scenario? She did her best to act concerned, “Why would someone take your medicine?”
    “Because they want me to forget. They don’t want me revealing the secret of the greenhouse.”
    Not the greenhouse conspiracy theories again. She played along in the hopes he may actually commit to a theory today, “What secret Oscar?”
    “I’m the only orphan left from all the boys I came here with. The greenhouse took them. Dark things are hidden in there.”
    She made a mental note to increase his anti-depressants, “It’s not a great place to hide something, it’s made of glass. The only thing in there is our award winning roses.”
    He leaned over the counter, “I need more pills. I can’t forget, I must never forget.”
    The nurse reached under the counter. She shook out two blue pills and handed them over with a cup of water. She said, “Swallow them.”
    He did so and stuck out his tongue. Placated he wandered off and she went back to solving seventeen down.

    Oscar went straight to the garden shed and dragged the limp body of the orphan from under the tarp. He ground up the body in the wood chipper, ready to fertilize the roses. Nothing made them bloom quite like fresh blood. He quietly muttered to himself, “I can’t forget, I must never forget.”


  2. Life Under Ioof’s Eye

    In the fall of his seventh year, Jake was delivered from evil. That was when his father killed his mother. His father went to jail and Jake went to live under Ioof’s eye. At least, that was how he originally thought of the castle-like building.

    When the social worker dropped him off, he looked up at the structure and saw the eyeball under the initials IOOF. He thought Ioof was a name. He would finally be in a home where someone would be watching over him. Even if it was the strange single eye on top of the orphanage.

    Inside he met friends, residents and staff. Mrs. Herndon oversaw all the operations, and no matter how full the facility got she remembered Jake’s name. Meals were regular, beds were warm, clothes were kept clean, and nobody hurt him. Life was good under Ioof’s eye.

    So he studied, without distraction. He grew, without fear. He expressed creativity, without regret. When other people his age were struggling to find themselves, he relaxed and enjoyed life. He was good at math. He couldn’t spell. He loved music, but was devoid of talent. And he found faith while living under Ioof’s eye.

    In his late teen years he began attending a nearby church. He worked at the local grocery store. He dated a girl from his high school. He considered himself blessed and was careful to not do anything which might endanger this sweet life he had. Not everyone had the privilege of living under Ioof’s eye.

    He tirelessly wrote for scholarships and grants, and won enough to go to college. The day he left he turned and looked up at the single eye on the front of the building. He had a melancholy suspicion he would never again live under Ioof’s eye. So he said thank you.

    304 Words


  3. Nocturnal
    299 words

    “We don’t go out at night.”

    The rules were specific, though they didn’t tell us why. To keep control of the orphans, I assumed. Whatever. I rolled my eyes and flipped the latch to the window.

    “No,” she said, with round brown eyes peeking through her bangs. “You can’t. We don’t go out at night.” Clinging to her silky nightgown, she rocked back and forth on bare feet. “Stay here. Please?”

    Sighing, I settled back from the window. She was ten years younger than me, and she kept watch on me better than the staff did. It was so annoying. I couldn’t abandon her, though. She looked scared.

    So I waited until she slept.

    Her little snores ruffled the blanket beside her mouth, and she clutched her teddy bear. I held my shoes until I unlatched the window. Perching on the sill, I slid the shoes on my feet and tied the laces. I’d be back before she woke. I just wanted to explore my new home. The staff here told us nothing.

    My rubber soles clung to the narrow ledge below the window. The staff had put me on the bottom floor. They should have known better. A six-year-old chaperone would not keep me in, not when the room was so easy to escape.

    I landed on the wet grass with a slick rustle. Crouching beside the hedges, I looked around.

    Moonlight glistened from the lawn. Trees stood stark black against the star-peppered sky. A single cloud threatened to stifle the moon.

    Something skittered across the roof, three stories up. The scraping claws echoed across the yard.

    “We don’t go out at night.” My little roommate’s words echoed through my mind.

    Dark shapes crept across the lawn. Toenails scratched on the road.

    “We don’t go out at night.”


  4. The First Day of School

    309 words

    “But I don’t wanna go school here!” Jimmy tugged at his mother’s hand as they walked up the driveway. The massive building in front of them looked like something from a horror movie.

    “Now, come on,” she said, crouching down to look at him. “This is the best school in the whole state, I already told you.”

    “Don’t wanna,” Jimmy repeated stubbornly. “Scary.” He shot a glance up at the many windows. They glared sternly at him, judgemental eyes dark with malice and wicked intent. “Can we go home?”

    “At the end of the day, of course we can go home.” His mother replied, firing hope in Jimmy’s chest and then squashing it like a heel crushing a bug. “But first, school.”

    Unwilling, scared and protesting every step of the way, Jimmy followed his mother into the cavernous entrance hall. A tall, severe-looking woman met them.


    “James McKenzie.” Jimmy hid behind his mother’s legs.

    “Ah, yes. Assessed as category ‘c’. Fine. Come on then, James, let’s go.”

    Jimmy stared at the woman’s outstretched hand, then turned back to his mother. “I don’t wanna go with her.” He whispered, saying it out loud might offend the hawk-faced lady.

    “Jimmy,” she knelt down again, her dark hair soft as it brushed his face. “This is the best place for people like us. You’ll learn to be yourself here. Trust me. Your daddy came here and look how wonderful he is.”

    Jimmy pondered. Daddy was awesome. Werewolf of the year twice already. “Can they teach me to shift outside the full moon?” he whispered.

    “Of course, boy,” the severe woman boomed. “Elementary skills, you’ll learn that in the first term. Now, could we go? Your teachers await you.”

    Jimmy smiled. If Daddy came to the Odd Fellows School for Werewolves and Shapeshifters, maybe it wasn’t that bad after all.


  5. Palindromic Rage

    Lightning bolts illuminated the belfry, the stench of burning ozone emanating downward from the steeple, where a cloaked figure hid in shadow waving a burlap sack.

    In the attic below, the ogre rattled his chains and growled. He was hungry and alone, and his master was late. Finally, the door flew open and in walked his master, Shah.

    “Master Shah. Otto hungry!” the ogre snarled.

    Shah lowered his hood and took a few steps toward the lowly ogre he named “Otto.”

    “I have a surprise for you, my dear Otto.”

    Otto jumped and stomped, “Otto LOVE surprise!”

    Shah opened the burlap sack and unleashed a nest of two dozen bats into the dimly lit hollow chamber. “If you want to eat, my dear friend, then first you must catch them!” He proceeded to laugh sinisterly as he shuffled out of the room and locked the door behind him.

    Otto grimaced and groaned and howled in anger. “Otto no like! Otto no like! Shah!!! Shah!!!!!” He pulled and jerked the chains wildly, causing some of the links to snap. A few more violent yanks and one of his hands was free, then the other. He made quick work of his two leg chains and then started tearing the room apart looking for a weapon.

    On the far side wall, he ripped the panel off and uncovered a large silver dagger, one that had been there for ages.

    His mind raced with images of murderous vengeance and ripping out organs and body parts. Yes. Yes!!! He would tear Shah apart and rip his heart from his chest while still beating and eat it as Shah died!!!

    “Good! Good!!!” Otto jumped up and down on the creaky floor as debris fell from the ceiling.

    But first, he was going to, in palindromic rage, stab shahs bats!!!

    303 odd indigent words


  6. @StephenWilds
    “Forced Closure” – 310 words

    Eric approached the old rundown building, pausing by the faded black trashcan to light his cigarette. Smoke lifted from the end of the cancer stick for a few moments after a long inhale, just before he flicked it into the trashcan. He had told Marla he quit, but this moment was quite deserving of the relief that the action gave him. The nicotine calmed his nerves, filled his lungs and seized them momentarily, just as the building before him stopped his heart.
    Eric was early. He wanted to see the place one more time, as close to as how he remembered it. The wind blew his coat and set off the chimes near the front entrance of the old orphanage. With it, the wind brought the sounds of the past, doors slamming shut and the voices of children who played around the corners. Without going in the structure, his mind had begun a tour through his memories. There was a pain. His hand clenched grabbing just under his rib, the old familiar wound. He heard the man approaching behind him, it would be Simon.
    “Glad to see you showed up,” Simon said with no greeting. I’m not sure I could’ve done this without you.”
    Eric didn’t want to turn and look at him. There was a fear that he may not be real. All of this, the past few months, everything could have just been a dream. The noises the wind brought this time around were almost haunting, but nowhere near as painful as the ones he remembered.
    “I had to see if you were right.” Eric clenched his fist, “see if it’ll end.”
    Simon stepped in front of him and nodded in response. He was in pain here as well, written across his features. His strength was in the gas container now, and he had brought one for Eric.


  7. “Personal Demon” by Mary Cain (310 words)

    Logan and Lucy continued to hold hands as they walked towards the school while Nick just watched from a distance.
    Logan doesn’t know, Nick told himself, a strange ache growing inside his chest.

    “Oh he does know, he just doesn’t care,” a dark, all too familiar voice echoed in his mind, his words ensnaring his thoughts like the songs of a Siren, both pleasing and dangerous to hear.

    “He knows you like her, and you know it,” the voice whispered.

    The cold enveloped Nick, weakening him till he had to hold the railing that surrounded the grave of the founder of the Academy.

    “No,” he groaned. A sharp pain stung his wrists as the metal bracers around them began to glow, the blue archaic language of the Magi appearing.

    His irises changed, shifting from icy blue to red. He stared at the grave, and could barely breathe as he read the writing on the gravestone.

    Here Lies Logan Fiorelli, born 1995-2011. Et tu, Nicholas?

    Nick trembled violently, collapsing to the ground. He tried to flee towards the school but when he turned to it, black smoke rose up into the sky as fire consumed it, poisoning the air.

    “This is what you want,” the voice said, “you want to get back at all of them. All those who’ve wronged you, who’ve betrayed you.”

    Nick clutched his head, the pain spreading from his wrists to his head.

    “No, I can’t give in…I…”

    “Submit,” it commanded.

    Nick clamped his eyes shut, trying to block out the voice, as if his will could stop the monster inside of him where magic alone couldn’t.

    “NO!” Nick cried.

    The cold receded and voice went silent. When he opened his eyes, the school returned to normal. He looked down at this wrists and the markings upon the metal faded.

    But the demon, Ska, he wasn’t gone.


  8. Erin McCabe


    307 words



    “Are you comfortable here?”

    It was 1925, she was 17; she was smiling and had just started working in the newly built nursery.

    “I’m the youngest staff member working here you know!” she stated with elation. “Do you work here too?”

    “Would you like something to eat?”

    “It is such a wonderful place….they can’t have children of their own”

    “I remember, would you like something to drink?”

    “Charles and Baxter, Baxter always wears flowers, he loves flowers; they are both so very much in love.

    “Odd Fellows?”

    “She laughed, “Yes, they are very rich, I was lost and Baxter found me, 2002.”

    “In the heating tunnels, right, 1916, you were just a little girl”

    She was staring into the distance, trying desperately to grasp the wisping trails of thought that fluttered before her.

    “It broke their hearts” She was suddenly filled with anger, “Bloody government, this is the best orphanage in the state!”

    “This isn’t an orphanage.”

    It was 1962, she was 54; she was crying; her campaign to stop the Odd Fellows Orphanage closure had failed.

    “Are you okay?”

    “Why is it so dark and cold?” She shivered and rubbed the tears from her eyes, her anger replaced by fear.

    Would you like a blanket?

    It was 1916, she was 8; she had torn open her knee and was lost in the vast heating tunnels which lay underneath the building.

    “My knee…where is Baxter?”

    “Baxter died many years ago.”

    “I’m lost.”

    “Would you like something to eat, Mum?”

    “2002” was all she could muster as she searched her daughter’s eyes for answers to unknown questions.

    It was 2002, she was 94; she was dying and she had Alzheimer’s.

    She repeated the mantra in her mind, as per the Doctors advice, unaware that reaching the end of this thought caused it to ceaselessly blur, fade and re-ignite.


  9. Spacious Accommodation (309words)

    Di looked out from the top landing at the gathering crowd.
    ‘So much for keeping a low profile,’ she said. ‘Run that great plan past me again! The one that starts, we’ll blend right in to the neighbourhood…’
    ‘That’s right, blame me,’ said Ray.

    The Press had set up their pitches first. Their flashing bulbs shot at every flicker of movement from inside the enormous structure. Curious people had followed. The surroundings buzzed.

    ‘What do we do now?’
    ‘I guess it’s only a matter of time until the authorities get here. Those pressmen are just the start of it. There’s no way we can get out of here unnoticed,’ said Di.
    ‘Maybe we should remain. Talk it out. Tell them we had run into difficulty. We just needed a place to stay. They might see it from our point of view,’ Ray said.
    ‘Are you kidding? Are you forgetting what happened to our cousins down in New Mexico a year ago? I don’t want to be probed, locked up.’
    ‘Just gossip, Di, making up stories- it’s a human frailty.’
    ‘I don’t wanna take any chances. Do you!’

    Ray looked tense. Deep lines creased his forehead, his eyes were bleary and red. Di saw how jaded her partner looked.
    ‘It was a good plan,’ she said softening. Her lips were scaly but she kissed the side of his face. They were both suffering from a lack of proper nutrition. ‘We were just over ambitious.’
    ‘It is my fault. I totally miscalculated,’ said Ray.
    ‘When she started malfunctioning, I should have ditched her,’ Di said.

    A roar of artillery vehicles cut short their conversation.

    ‘We need to get to the escape capsule,now! ‘ said Di.
    ‘And we just leave her here? The mother ship? Our home?’
    ‘The greenhouse is all we have left, Ray. Remember our cousins down in Roswell!


  10. ‘The New Caretaker’ (309 words)
    by Tom O’Connell (@Conveniently_So)

    Erin stood at her husband’s side, arms akimbo, and took it all in.

    ‘Nuh-uh,’ she said. ‘Too much like the Overlook Hotel.’

    Julian frowned. ‘I thought you were going to be supportive about this. Or, at the very least, show some maturity.’

    Erin looked away. It took a moment, but eventually she swallowed her laughter. She cleared her throat, set her tone to sincerity.

    ‘I’m sorry, baby; I do support you.’

    Like everything about him, Julian’s smile was ineffectual. But all, it seemed, was forgiven. Erin wasn’t surprised; Julian hadn’t the capacity for anger. Even Erin’s mother had remarked how bland he was.

    Truly, she had said, the only remarkable thing about that man is how very unremarkable he is!
    Erin couldn’t deny it: her mother’s disapproval had been a contributing factor when she’d accepted Julian’s proposal. But he was a nice man – honest, dependable, guaranteed never to lay a hand on her. Those were rare qualities. They counted.

    In an uncharacteristic display, Julian drew Erin in near. His hands rested upon her hips. His grip was so gentle it was near-apologetic. They stood together at the mouth of Gretchen Lake. Behind them, a thick fog rolled by.

    Julian looked at his wife. ‘I know being here … Me taking this job … It’s not exactly what you pictured for our honeymoon …’

    ‘Not what I—!?’

    Julian silenced her with a raised finger. ‘It’s not the Bahamas,’ he explained. Julian fell silent. His head bowed. Then, as if coming back from the dead, he gestured grandly to the building. ‘What I’m trying to say is … will you help make this place home for the next three months?’

    Erin smiled. The moment was charged with romance. She had to dispel it.

    ‘Only,’ she said with a nervous laugh, ‘if you refrain from going all Jack Nicholson on me.’


  11. Escape from Mount Vernon
    by A J Walker (@zevonesque)
    (310 words)

    ‘Harsh’ Hattie Flumberbatch had ruled the Mount Vernon Helping Hand with a rod of iron and a soupçon of electricity for almost five years. The anniversary was to be celebrated on Friday with cake for the disparate inmates and a compulsory after work party for those staff unlucky enough not to be working.

    The Oddfellow’s home was set up in the 19th Century with laudable intentions, but had evolved through unsavory into something evil. To be sent there was tantamount to a sentence of hard labour with additional sadism guaranteed – many volunteers were as likely to be sent there on another day.

    Ms Flumberbatch loved her job though – the stench of burning flesh in the morning made her feel alive and when ‘the Ride of the Valkyries’ was piped through the home and the familiar odour hit her nasal passages it made goosebumps bloom throughout her body, whilst the inmates would become introverted whenever the music was played, conscious of its meaning.

    So it’s no surprise that twenty planned to make their escape that Friday. They would make a run for it just after the strawberry sponge cake was distributed – when the entire home would be focussed on compulsory enjoyment.

    The secret entrance to the passage – hidden behind the statue of Freud – had only recently been discovered. The escape went like clockwork (Freud would surely have had something to say about the group funnelling down the back passage) then. after five hundred yards, they could see the light – their escape almost complete. It needed three of the bigger guys to push at the ironwork cover but eventually it shifted. When they’d finally struggled out into the moonlight the twenty staff jumped with joy.

    Hattie sat alone at the bar with a drink – absently playing with an electric socket – planning the things she’d do to tomorrow to make herself feel better.


  12. The sanitarium


    There were no birds singing as their car followed the curve of the driveway, tyres crunching on gravel. A heavy pall shrouded the sanatorium in gloom; the air was humid and tense.

    They pulled up outside the main building, under the baleful gaze of a cyclopean eye carved into dormer fascia of the central bay windows. Constance looked up at the bas-relief as she closed the car door with a clunk, straightened her trench-coat over her hips.

    “That thing is creepy.”

    Weldon closed his own door and glanced up before walking round to the back of the car and popping open the trunk.

    “Yeah, but then that’s what we do right?”

    Constance shivered involuntarily for a moment, then went to help her colleague with their equipment.

    “So what’s the story here?” she asked once they were inside, setting up a motion camera in the dining hall.

    “They did stuff to people here, experimented on them.”

    “Like what?”

    “Electrocution therapy, drugs, sleep deprivation, hypnosis, lobotomies; drove people bat-shit insane. Then they put them in strait-jackets and locked them up screaming in the deepest holes they could find.”

    “That’s terrible.”

    “Then one day it all went from bad to worse; because some of them escaped. They killed some of the staff, and the place was closed down. Nobody would buy the building until recently…”

    “…and now the new owners hear screams and things going bump in the night.”


    “Well, I’m done with this camera; let’s get outa here.”

    Suddenly they heard a loud bang, saw the main doors of the dining hall had slammed shut. They looked at each other, eyes wide. Weldon’s mouth formed a half-smile, Constance laughed nervously.

    “The wind, right?”

    BANG; the door at the other end of the hall slammed shut.

    Daylight faded to pitch darkness. A deafening thud shook the building.

    Then they heard the screams.


    310 words


  13. Sorry, I’m new to this…

    The Inescapable Memory

    She looked up at the old place with a shiver down her spine. The shingles were still in place, the windows clean, the air of the place fresh and lively… But there was nothing kind or refreshing about this place. No matter how well it was maintained, it was still her own personal hell from which she had escaped. It was still the place that gave her nightmares on occasion, making her start upright in her bed with a scream barely clinging to her throat, the hurt echoing in her chest.

    It still had all the bad memories in the house, even with its previous occupants dead and gone, the papers signed, the millions transferred, the deed ink dried. Her parents’ death had been a massive relief, if uneventful and quiet, gone in their sleep as one. Now, the huge place was hers…. and she didn’t even want it.

    “Annie!” the tiny voice called from behind her, making her heart clench.

    She turned to see the little boy run up to her. Her heart stuttered in her chest as her little brother ran to her. She knelt and opened her arms to hold him, and…. he went right through her. She was left holding her arms around herself, as she stood on legs that had become wooden. She turned to look at the house, its dark eaves towering her menacingly, and she knew that the pain would never go away. She knew that the death of her brother still clung here, like the scent of the frankincense used to cleanse his path as his tiny body was carried down the stairs to the waiting hearse all those years ago….

    The door slammed shut behind her, locking. She looked back as it shut, knowing that she had just been claimed… for good.

    302 Words.


  14. ‘The New House’ (302 words)
    By Ian Martyn @IBMartyn

    ‘What d’you think?’ the architect said as they stood under the new dome, safe from the methane storms that raged above.
    ‘Interesting,’ said Barantian Barathea III, the potential owner.
    ‘We can change it if you don’t like it .’
    ‘No, no. Let me…let me just get used to it.’
    The architect nodded. ‘I know what you mean. But you did say you wanted something different. I particularly like the turrets. Nice touch I think.
    Barantian strolled towards the imposing facade. ‘Has it got a name this, this style?’
    The architect waved his hands to encompass the whole building. ‘I think they called it ‘Gothic’, or even ‘Mock Gothic.’’
    ‘Really, ‘Mock Gothic’’, Barantian said gazing up at the afore mentioned turrets . ‘And it’s from?’ he added as they approached the door.
    The architect stepped ahead and the door swung back as he approached. ‘Oh, Earth. Pre-apocalypse of course.’
    Barantian smiled as if to say, how could it be anything else. ‘Of course.’ His voice echoed round the impressive entrance. He tapped a foot on the floor. ‘And this, what’s it made from.’
    The architect bent down and ran his hand over the material. ‘It’s called wood, similar to those tall plants outside, which are from the same period, or at least as close as we can get.’
    ‘Of biological origin,’ Barantian said, ‘how drole.’ On the walls were numerous still two dimensional pictures of people in various costumes. He pointed to one. ‘Those original as well?’
    ‘Oh, yes,’ the architect said with some enthusiasm as he sensed interest in Barantian.
    ‘And what did they use this, this ‘Gothic’ for?’
    ‘I believe it housed children who were, for some reason, separated from their natural parents.’
    ‘You mean the norm was for children to be with their natural parents?’
    ‘I believe so.’
    ‘How strange.’


  15. “Kindred Spirits”
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke)
    310 words

    You should have seen me in my prime. I was the feather in the duke’s cap, his prized possession. The beau monde, princes, even foreign dignitaries flocked to me in grand carriages, eager to seek out my many hidden pleasures: the sumptuous banquets, the illustrious balls, the secret trysts, the endless pleasure seeking.

    Ah, those were the days.

    Now look at me. The Odd Fellows Home for Orphans, Indigent, and Aged. A setting for a horror film if I’ve ever seen one. Mewling infants cry for parents they’ll never have. The older ones are no better, shuffling along my hallways, eyes vacant as if focused on days gone by. All reeking of poverty and loss, nothing like the blithe beauties and dashing rogues of yesteryear.

    Even my magnificent fountain, once the welcoming centerpiece of my masterful estate, lies dormant, covered in hideous netting in order to keep these idiots out. “For their own protection,” I hear.

    How did it come to this? I am a shell of my former self. An eyesore, some say. A visual reminder of all that society wants to ignore, to obscure, to forget.

    My cement eye sees the fear in their faces as they are led through my doors, doors that used to signify One Had Arrived. Doors that now open only to lost opportunities, lost selves, lost lives.

    I listen to the young girl whispering confidences to me from her bed, telling of tragedies I can only imagine. I smell the fear on the sick and the dying, who know they have already come to their final resting place. I feel the pain of those abandoned, clinging to the meager comforts I offer because I am all they have in the world.

    Now they are all that I have.

    We are the things that nobody wants.

    Perhaps these are my glory days after all.


  16. Masquerade
    Count: 306

    Yeah, it was an old building, but no one could remember it; when it was built, who had built, or even who had it built. It dominates the landscape, not because it is so big, but because it is in such a pristine condition. The grounds seem to be well taken care of, with a light dusting of morning dew over everything. The bushes are sculpted masterfully in to the forms of people, monsters, and fantasy creatures dotting the landscape. The few trees actually on the ground are large for their types with long reaching branches that show signs of having their finger cut off.
    But the building itself is the dominative feature. It stands about three and a half stories high, with wings to each side of the main keep, obviously newer as their brick colors are much darker. It is not that the build is large, for what can be seen suggests much depth. Nor, is it that when stepping into the expansive grotto, the time shifted to just after sunset, dusk glowing gray blue, frosting the tree tops all around.
    No, why it dominates is the stream of revelers that seem to be continuously going in, All the windows are lit with shadows playing on each pane. On closer inspection some details of the revelers can be made out. A wide variety of ages attend, from children to active senors. Costuming suggests a type of masquerade. Some show wear and tear and it become evident that they stretch from recent Halloween costumes, to ball gown and suits dating to reminiscence of the Dark Ages.
    You start to get this feeling that it was not a good idea to accept the invitations from the girls in town, but they were cute and very persuasive…

    “Why are we playing an episode of Supernatural?”


  17. Checking In (309 words)

    My hand shook as it fingered the door handle. I couldn’t leave now. Surely someone had seen my car gambol down the meandering driveway, and now that I was parked outside the main building it would be a coward’s move to turn back and beat an unseemly retreat.

    The imposing structure glared down at me with eyes that bespoke generations of erosion, the passage of time worn in every brick and overhang. But the day was bright and the ominousness was diminished by the modern parking area and the sunbeam that was approaching from the steps and flashing what must be her biggest smile.

    There was definitely no turning back now. I was in it come hell, high water, or the people that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to encounter once I checked in. I levered the car door open wide and stepped out, leaving it between myself and the approaching welcome as some sort of unconscious security blanket shielding my body from prying eyes.

    “Well good morning, you!” the greeter chirped as she strode purposefully toward me and my insecurity. “You must be David. Welcome.”

    I had no choice but to shake her forceful hand and allow her to pull me toward the entrance.

    “But, my bags,” I stammered, “my towel.”

    “Oh, no problem at all, you can come right back and pick those up once I’ve shown you around and gotten you comfortable. As you can see we’ve kept up the historic aspects of the building, so it looks a little creepy, but it’s mostly for the historic building tax cut we get; once we get you past those imposing doors, you’ll be delighted how free and open and refreshing everyone inside is.”

    “Okay.” I gulped.

    “So,” she opened the front door, “is this your first time at a nudist resort?”


  18. Going Back

    Mike Jackson (@mj51day)
    300 Words

    “First time I’ve been back here in over twenty years. Makes my blood turn cold just looking at the place.”

    Jenny gripped Ron’s hand tightly. He’d told her all about the miserable years he’d spent here as a child, about the abuse and the cruelty. She’d wanted to go to the police but he would have none of that. He felt all he needed was the courage to visit the orphanage one last time and maybe dispel some of those memories forever.

    “You’re OK Ron. I’m not going to let anything happen to you. That’s why I agreed to come along. We can bury those ghosts of yours together. Where next?”

    “The old greenhouse. That’s where the worst of it went on but I’m not sure about this Jen, you’ve no idea what went on in there. I can’t go back in. Come on let’s go, this was a stupid idea of mine.”

    “Relax Ron, take some deep breaths. Whatever happened in that place happened a long time ago, there’s nobody in there that can hurt you now. If it will help, I’ll go in first, just to show you there’s nothing there, then you can follow.”

    Ron said nothing, just nodded and waited as Jen made her way to the door of the old greenhouse. He watched her carefully all the way. As soon as she disappeared inside, the air filled with her screams, Ron ran to the open door.

    “Come in Ronald, come in my boy. It’s been a while but I’m so glad to see you and you’ve done so well, she’s almost perfect, just what I need for my little project. Maybe next time though, you could find one a little taller.”

    “Yes master, thank you master,” muttered Ron, bowing gently, not daring to look up.


  19. Uncomfortable Roosts
    (295 words, @BryantheTinker)

    As the sun rises, George gazes up at the job at hand. The roof is sharply peaked, with several gables and towers, and every inch of it to be covered with new shingles as quickly as possible. He’d actually never seen tiles like these before. That they were stone was no problem, but each of these tiles was raised in a sharp point in the middle. Wondering if he was at the wrong house, he couldn’t see anything needing to be fixed on the meticulous construction.

    Across the yard, he hustles over to speak to the caretaker while his crew sets up their equipment. “Good morning! This is the place expecting a new roof, right?”

    “Oh yes, and not a bit too soon. We’ve had a dreadful problem lately, these will be just the thing.” The caretaker answers cheerfully with a slight accent. Though he looks middle aged, as they walk together his pace is youthfully exuberant.

    “Well, we’re getting started. If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of problem?”
    “Well, suffice to say, there’ve been some pests that have taken to resting over the rafters. It’s merely a matter of time before they damage the property.”

    “That explains the spikes, then. Pigeons? Grackles? I haven’t heard of any other complaints.” George asks. Living nearby, he hadn’t noticed any large flocks of birds darkening the sky, or heard anything at the bar, either.

    Chuckling, the caretaker shook his head. “No, these are a wee bit bigger than either of those, and travel in smaller groups. Thank the stars! Ah, I see we’re back to your mates.”

    “Can I ask one last question for you?” George beseeches, curiosity now fully engaged.

    The caretaker nods, amused.

    “Why is it so important that the tiles be fireproof?”


  20. Wait In Peace (309 Words)

    The dark brick home stood at the end of the long driveway. Elizabeth felt the house watching her when she debarked from her bus, but that was silly. It was just a home for lost children.
    She picked up her bags and walked to the front door where a woman in a black dress stood waiting.

    “You must be Elizabeth Chase. I’m Mrs. Worthington. I oversee the place. I’ll show you to your room.”

    Her room looked back over the fields and woods, and Elizabeth saw a small stream bordered by weeping willows. Charming, she thought. Really, it was lovely here, a good place to start over after Robert.

    Mrs. Worthington said. “If you come along, classes will be ending, and you may meet the children.”
    Elizabeth heard the lilt of children’s voices when she walked downstairs.

    A small girl with round dark eyes saw Elizabeth and gave her a smile. “You’re the new night nurse.”

    Elizabeth nodded. “And who are you?”

    “Oh, we don’t have names here. I’m number 57.”

    “Why on earth wouldn’t you have names?”

    The girl took Elizabeth’s hand, her face sympathetic. “You don’t know. You see, once you come, you leave all that behind.”

    “I don’t understand. I was hired to replace the night nurse.”

    “Yes. They let her go beyond the willows.”

    “What does that mean?”

    “This is just a waiting station. Eventually we all go beyond the willows. I’m in 57th place. I think it has to do with when they find your body.”

    “But I can’t . . .” Elizabeth closed her eyes, remembering the shriek of tearing metal and the roar of wind.

    “My father buried me in our basement,” the girl said.


    “You’ll get used to it. I’ll even call you by your name, like we do Mrs. Worthington and the other teachers. It’s peaceful here. You’ll see.”


  21. Madame Bartholomew’s Bed and Breakfast for the Criminally Insane.
    305 words

    A bed and breakfast had never been part of Marie Bartholomew’s plan. She had been looking for the ideal summer vacation home, and here it was, but the idea of actually working while on vacation was preposterous.

    She wanted, no, needed a place where she could simply relax and let her hair down, a place where she didn’t have to be anything to anyone. A B&B would mean having to get up early; fix guests breakfast, lunch and dinner on a regimented schedule and it meant having to clean not only after herself and her family, but the guests as well.

    It was simply too much, but the house called to her.

    To be fair, it wasn’t a house, not really. It was three and a half stories of former institutional splendor. And while the building was striking– it was the stone monolith in the formal gardens that caught her attention. She had seen similar formations in her youth, carefully guarded in sacred groves– but this one was not only out in the open, it was the focal point of the landscape, carefully enclosed in glass and steel for year round access. It was perfect.

    “I’ll take it!” the old woman blurted out.

    The night manager of Saint Bart’s looked at the young man who was checking his mother in, and raised an eyebrow.

    The lad shrugged. Ever since someone had gutted his father in the woods, his mother had become unhinged. He hoped the rest home would do her some good. He hated leaving her here, but he just didn’t feel safe with her in his home any more. Not after the night he’d heard her talking in her sleep.

    No, this place was better for her, and she would be someone else’s problem.

    Madame Bartholomew smiled knowingly. This place held so much potential.



    The old, three-story tall,Gothic brick building boasted a spire, two turrets, and several gables. It was named the Odd Fellows Home for Orphans, Indigent, and Aged it sat in the middle of an immaculete expanse of neatly manicured lawn, bushes, and trees. The only visible eye-sore was the old concrete fountain. It was encased by a metal frame covered covered by mesh. Dark things were whispered about the Home. Orphans ran away, Indigent disappeared, and the Aged died unexpectedly. There were investigations of course, but nothing was ever proven, and no charges were ever made. Rumors that the Odd Fellows dabbled in Magic abounded.
    The air was dead still. The reeds filling the old fountain rustled and bent as though blown by a breeze. Strange chirps and groans sounded. The mesh caging the fountain billowede and waved. A small trickleof water oozed from the base of the fountain. Dusk was falling rapidly. The water in the fountain began to bubble and swirl. Creaks and eerie groans emitted from the reeds. The mesh bulged as though an invisible form was testing its’ strength. A visitor appeared. The fountain and reeds went still, waiting tensely. He seemed friendly and inoffensive. He wore a welcoming smile and a sweater over his slacks. The forces in the fountain gathered themselves. The visitor walked closer to the fountain. He was chipper and singing a happy tune. The visitor was famous for being a pleasant, patient, compassioate, and moral man. The invisible form reached out and grasped him. The Darkness in the fountain wrapped itself around the visitor and sank into him. All of the Evil he had deposited in the fountain so many decades ago reclaimed his soul.
    “Welcome to my neighborhood, Mr. Rogers!” Fred shouted in rage as the sundered spirit reunited with its’ parent. 301 words @EmilyKarn1


  23. POV Panes

    #5: Hey! #14! I think I see an apple box on the porch. You hear something?

    #14: Yeah, sounds like a baby. Glad we’re all transparent!

    #7: The matron’s opening the door. She has the baby.

    #25: Nurse is checking the baby over. And it’s a boy! They named him Jack!

    #5: I guess he’ll go to the second floor nursery. So, #33, fill us in when Jack gets there.

    #33: OK, Jack’s here…screaming! Must be hungry. Nurse has his formula…He’s a happy boy!

    #48: Jack’s heading out into the world…packed his valise with part of that apple box.

    #91: There he goes, toward the gazebo – can’t talk to Gaz; he screens us out. Guess we’ll never see Jack again.

    #5: Looky here! Jack’s back. Hey, ya’ll open your sashes for Jack’s story.

    #80: Oh, My, he’s raggedy. I hear he lost his fortune to the Crash, and his wife and child to a horse and car accident.

    #79: My panes feel Jack’s pains. He’s resting now. Sleep is a panacea and window to one’s psyche.

    #10: Your sills are showing, #79. Wonder how long Jack’ll stay with us?

    #79: I think Jack will regroup and quickly leave. A Crash can’t shatter him.

    #91: I see Jack’s walking out confidently again. #79 tells me he packed the apple crate piece in his suitcase.

    #33: Remember when Jack came to us? He has been a truly winsome lad and adult whom we have seen through the viscosity of life.

    #14: Jack’s returned to us. This time he has come to retire, but I think his remaining days are as fragile as we are.

    #15: Yes, Jack’s been moved to this room for palliative care. His pain is assuaged as he moves toward a death with dignity.

    #91: And we have viewed his worthy life as an apple orchardist through our panes..

    310 WC, exclusive of title


  24. Maid Margot’s bustle heaves back and forth behind her as she propels her mound of black skirts down the hall, eventually reaching the thick double doors at the end and shoving them open with both hands.


    Maid Bernadine spins around to see her visitor. “What is it, Margot? Have you been running?”

    “Yes, ma’am…”

    “Well, don’t. It turns you all clammy. Look at yourself.”

    “Ma’am, I had to hurry.”

    “What is the rush? Please, move me over by the window.”

    Maid Margot lifts the crystal ball containing Bernadine’s head in one arm, the stand in the other, and places both carefully on the wide windowsill. Bernadine drifts like a fish in a bowl and a bubble escapes her nose.

    “Now, if you don’t mind, ma’am, I’ve got to tell you…”

    “Ah yes, she’s gone, isn’t she. I can see for myself.”

    Margot freezes. “Why yes, she is gone. Gone from the cage out front. Ma’am, what shall we do?”

    “Nothing. I let her go.”

    Margot’s hands ball up, her eyes squint shut and she shakes as if her response must work its way up from the floor to her mouth. Finally she squeaks,

    “Wh-what? You let her go? She’ll kill us all!”

    “Don’t be daft, Margot. Lily-Anne had done her time. I simply let her liquefy and seep out. That’s all. She’s part of the lawn, now.”

    “But, what shall I tell the others?” says Margot.

    Bernadine turns back toward the room. The light from the window casts a slick glow across her face.

    “Tell them to control their magic, Margot,” she says. “Or they shall find themselves out front, in the cage, with all of us gawking at them through the windows. And then, only if they are very lucky, in a few hundred years they can water the lawn, too.”

    303 words


  25. Treasure
    1903-“What’s your story, child?” The old man was in a wheelchair. His name sounded like Christmas.
    “My story?”
    “Everyone has a story,” Mr. Chrisman said.
    Kit was the only survivor of a house fire. His father sent him outside and returned for his pregnant wife. They never made it to the stairs, suffocating in the smoke. When Kit saw them, they looked like they were asleep.
    “What’s your story?”
    The old man gave a wide, toothless grin. “Well, my wife died and there was no one to care for me.”
    They became friends. Kit pushed Mr. Chrisman around the grounds in his wheelchair so he could socialize with other residents. The nurses allowed this because it kept them both occupied and out of their hair. One day, Mr. Chrisman showed Kit a little snuff box.
    “I have a treasure,” he said, opening the box. Inside was a bullet. “I should have died back in ’63. Gettysburg. But I had my prayer book in my jacket and it missed my heart. I don’t want it thrown away when I’m gone.”
    Kit pulled out a marble his father found on the street. He placed the marble in the box with Mr. Chrisman’s bullet. Kit used his spoon to bury the snuff box, near the old oak tree.
    Kit did not have a prayer book to save him from the bullet that entered his heart at Belleau Wood.
    2013-The Home needed to come down. Between ghosthunters and teenagers, it was a lawsuit waiting to happen. A worker saw a glint in the dirt near the oak tree where the backhoe dug. “Stop!” he called out. He picked up a snuff box and brushed off the dirt. Inside were a bullet and a ball bearing. Junk. He tossed them in the rubbish pile. The snuff box, though, might be worth something.


  26. Odd Fellows Home for for Orphans, Indigent, and Aged. Public domain photo by the National Parks Service.

    Making a Difference
    300 words

    Susie stared out the window. She had worked hard to build the new pond. some of the teachers had been against the idea thinking young ladies should not be working this hard physically and secretively. Susie had proved however that she could cope and had even built a shelter all round the beautiful pond. She had built it so they, well herself really, could climb inside it to relax in peace or the pond was left in peace with its centerpiece intact. Now the watery refuge was complete Susie had somewhere to fade away to whenever lessons became too much.
    At the moment she was looking as her masterpiece she was thinking that it was time to try out her hiding place. She was supposed to be out on the field in PE but lacrosse just was not going to find a home on her curriculum vitae gardening, art, writing, yes. Running around chasing a ball with a net while Sarah was yelling ‘get some ball you bunch of soft Nellie’ s just wasn’t for her!
    Quickly Susie flew down the stairs with her pencils and sketchpad and to her hidey hole. After an hour Susie could hear the other girls heading back to the changing rooms. She knew that now she had at least twenty minutes before she was missed. She would be ok then for it was art next and she wouldn’t need to hide. Sometimes her school was the best but they didn’t take into consideration the girls different likes and talents in the call for educating the masses! One day Susie knew that she would come back here and make a difference. That was why she worked hard to perfect her teaching skills to ensure that no one ever went through her experience when she was headteacher.


  27. Run to me

    This isn’t right. I shouldn’t be here.

    The shadowy corridor is endless, punctuated by room after room. An alarm, high and shrill, beeps in the distance. I’m scared. I want to escape the noise, the darkness, and so I run.

    But the corridor – the corridor just doesn’t stop.

    My legs ache and my ears hurt; the alarm – why won’t someone silence it?

    I hear footsteps behind me and, panting, I look over my shoulder. I can’t see anyone, but there’s little light and my vision is blurred with tears.

    I’m frightened. The corridor looms on.

    Changing tack I open a door. A little girl in a red smock with outstretched china fingers plays deftly at a piano. I listen; it’s so beautiful. She hesitates, misses a note. A long cane crashes down on the girl’s hand, wielded by a sneering lady dressed in grey, her back to me. I wince. I want to fight back.

    But I’m afraid so I turn and run.

    I try another door. A young woman sits in a wedding dress. I can’t see her face, but I know from her shaking shoulders she is crying. From the shadow of the doorway I watch. Her hands smooth the creases of her gown and I want to scream “No! Don’t!”

    But I run back to the corridor before she sees me.

    And the footsteps are deafening, and the alarm is still beeping. But I know where I am now, and I know who is coming.

    I feel the light bathe the walls and squinting I make out the approaching figure; me.

    My arms are outstretched and without questioning I run to them.

    And every moment of fear from my life dissolves; the corridor disappears; doors turn to dust; the beeping becomes one long sound.

    I melt into me, until there is only light.

    And beautiful, unending, silence.

    310 words


  28. Frozen in Time, Waiting For Life
    293 words

    I sit here looking across my gardens, my beautiful glass fountain, silent now. Nothing moves, nothing stirs.

    I am waiting. Waiting for the new life I hope will soon be here.

    My corridors and halls have been empty for so long. No running children scuffing the polished wooden floors, no giggling or squabbling. So quiet, so empty!! No laughter echoes beneath my arching roof, I miss it.

    Once my ballroom was filled with music and happiness, the ladies so beautiful in their gowns, the gentlemen dapper in their evening dress. Such wonderful days. Gone now, I miss them too.

    My last two young Masters marched away proudly in their new uniforms, anxious to do their duty. They never returned and the life which had glowed within me came to a standstill. My mistress was so sad, so lonely. Slowly all began to be silent, no laughter in my rooms, no gentle piano notes tinkling through the still air of my drawing rooms. No life, no love.

    There are no ghosts in my majestic rooms. Ghosts are for castles and ruins. I am neither. Only memories of sorrow and joy remain here. But memories sustain me, keep me alive and hoping that some day life will return to my lonely halls.

    I can wait, I am patient as all buildings are. But please do not make me wait too long. I have so much to give. Come and live within me, bring life back to me once again. Make my windows glow with light and love.

    I will love you and care for you as I have all my previous families. My faithfulness is guaranteed.

    But until you come to rescue me from my enforced solitude, here I sit. I am ready. Are you?


  29. I wasn’t born in the cage, but my birthday was the only day I ever saw the world without bars around it. Once a year, they’d retrieve the key from its hook in the Master’s office and open the tiny door. I’d wriggle out without too much trouble – even my bare ribs slipped easily through the opening, and I’d look up at the sky, sometimes blue, sometimes grey, and hope to see a bird flying overhead. They were so beautiful, the birds, even the scavengers, free to roam the skies. I’d hear their song in my cage and dream at night of what their lives must be like. But I’d never seen a lake, or heard the howl of a wolf, I’d never seen a flower or a mountain or the sea. So my dreams were as much a fantasy of what the world was as the possibility of ever being a bird.

    I was thin, but strong – my cage was large enough for me to move around in easily, and I stood amongst the people without shame, my back strong and straight. My mother gave me a gift when she offered me to the people, to live amongst them but not of them. I got clean water, unspoiled meat, and my labors were few. The winters were mild in this place, and my skin was hard and browned from the summer sun. I saw others go off to war and come back bloodied, or maimed, or in a box. I saw children struck down by disease. But my solitude protected me, and I lived many years in my cage.

    I died in the cage, one night between my evening meal and breaking my fast. The end was quick, although not painless. I did not cry out, nor was I mourned.

    301 words


  30. I took myself out of this one with a whopping 357 word story, but I enjoyed it too much to reduce it for the contest. I honestly thought it was 350 word limit which is why it got so long in the first place. Please just read and I hope you will enjoy. Scott

    Tricks Not Treats
    By Scott L Vannatter 357 words (not for contest)

    “It looks like an old school,” Tom Westingham said, picking his nose.

    “Do you really think it’s haunted?” Marlene was always worried, whether it be about her appearance or the end of the world. In fact, unless she told you, you could not tell which from her reaction.

    “Nah, people are nuts. It’s just…” Joel’s gum dropped from his mouth in mid-sentence. The other two glanced at him then turned to the old building. Near the top of one of the turrets, a soft-white glow appeared, slowly moving down the spiral staircase. You could make out a head behind the glow, but the figure, otherwise, was missing.

    “Joel Morgenstern!” Marlene, a very indignant twelve, rebuked the boy for the natural release of bodily fluids at the sight of something he should be running from. He ignored both her and the growing stain, choosing instead to bounce a bit back and forth as if deciding the proper direction to flee.

    Tom, always trying to be a proud and unshakeable visage of strength, remained outwardly calm. His eyes, lost in the approaching darkness, might have given a more true report of his emotional construction. He did not move. Let it be noted he also did not look away.

    Marlene, after yelling at Joel, seemed to recover and realize she should, indeed, be scared. Her trembling started in her knees, but quickly spread to the reaches of her body so that she appeared very cold.

    The figure in the old building stopped and, as if sensing the fear, turned slowly until the face was looking directly at the children. As if on cue, the trio spun 180 degrees and left some prints in the soft ground as they headed full-steam to their respective homes. This moment would not be mentioned by them again while they were children.


    “Well, that should do,” stated Mirabelle, removing the black cover from her neck and body. She shook the sparkle dust from her hair and face, as well as from the candelabra in her hand.

    Her husband, Dirk, smiled. He enjoyed a good snack, but agreed with her that missing children brought trouble.


  31. Trifecta

    “I’m not going. They can’t make me. I have the trifecta…”

    “You had the trifecta, Denny. Now…”

    “Now he’s gone and ruined everything! Asinine, inbulbitating bastard…”

    “Language, Denny!” I said, but he simply continued in a tone too low for me to hear.

    The men in white coats were smiling. Denny hadn’t noticed them yet.

    “He never liked me. Why now? Where was he when I was orphaned?”

    “Why now? Denny, he died! That’s ‘why now.’ There’s nothing insidious about it.” We’d had this conversation before. Three times a day for the past week, to be precise.

    “Insidious… yes…” Denny stroked the stubble that used to be a beard. The men in white coats were casually heading our way. “Doesn’t being an orphan qualify me to stay?”

    “No Denny. Being an orphan only matters when you’re a child. You’re ninety years old…”

    “Aged! I am aged. Have been for years now.”

    “Yes, well, there is that.”

    The men in white coats reached us. “It’s time—”

    “You’ll never take me alive!” Denny leapt to his feet, pushed one of the whitecoats to the ground with the finesse of a linebacker, danced briefly with the other, and took off down the hill.

    Fortunately, I’d planned for this. The bodyguard I’d hired sprinted right past the men in white and returned to me, Denny draped over his shoulder.

    “Denny!” I hate using that sharp tone, but sometimes that’s what it takes. “Yes, you are aged. But your status as an orphan hasn’t mattered in more than half a century, and upon your cousin’s death, you are no longer indolent.”

    He glared at me, but at least he stopped struggling.

    “Denny, you are now the Duke of Pembrooke.” I fixed him with my patented no-nonsense glare. “It’s high time you learned to act the part.”

    302 words without the title @USNessie


  32. The House on the Borders Lands
    310 words

    “Ah, PM, a word?”

    “Really Greg? Now?”

    “Bit of a problem actually. Can’t really wait.”

    “Get on with it then – PMQs in ten.”

    “Might have to wait. You read the Greys dossier?”

    “Chaps from New Mexico, got old Winston to offer them asylum in return for helping with the rocket program?”

    “That’s the one. Well, seems they were put up in an old house in the Borders. Passed it off as an orphanage; Little fellows, you see…”


    “Well, you recall the problems the Culture Secretary had with Crowley and his chums?”

    “God, that embarrassment! The so called Great Beast returning from the dead and threatening to spill the beans about how we really got the Olympics.”

    “Yes, well, it seems that he was repatriated to a certain home, renamed for Orphans and the Aged.”

    “Ah. Not the best of ideas?”

    “Not really. And when Richard took his balloon trip around the world? Crashed in the Alps and almost got eaten?”

    “Of course, big hairy fellows rescued him. We let them settle in return for his safe – Oh. We didn’t…?”

    “We did.”

    “Orphans, Aged and Excessively Hairy?”

    “We called them Indigent as a general catch all. Covered the Yeti, the green blighters we found sniffing round Sizewell, the little squeaky chaps we found on the moon in ’65, all the others…”

    “We put them all in the same building?”

    “We had one good idea and we stuck with it. Secure, remote, plenty of deniability and unlikely to be found by accident.”

    “And yet here, we are, missing Prime Minister’s Questions to talk about this secure, hidden facility…”

    “Seems they got tired of the view.”

    “You let them escape? What about the guards?”

    “They took the whole estate. It was airborne for 27 minutes. Seems they’ve landed on Liverpool.”

    “Bugger. Options?”

    “Odd Fellows Home For The Orphaned, Aged, Indigent and Scouse?”


  33. Past Memories

    Macey froze just inside the gate. Her legs refused to carry her any further. Her lungs couldn’t find air to suck in. The nearly symmetrical building stretched austere before her, framed by trees that should have been welcoming. She shut her eyes and swallowed.

    More than ten years had passed since she had left the Odd Fellows Home. The flaking paint of her past had nearly disappeared from its turrets.

    Memories assaulted her mind, mimicking the years she’d spent inside. Hands she couldn’t avoid brushing against her. Days spent in darkness, praying the insects in her hideaway weren’t the kind that bite. Being pinched, and prodded, and pulled to placate visitors in business suits. Investigators.


    Her fingernails bit into her palms, surfacing her from the onslaught enough to draw in a single breath. Macey shrugged the memories away and forced her eyes open. Abandoned, the home should have looked worse than in her memories. An impossibly tall order.

    The taxi still stood, less than ten steps behind her. She could turn around, drive away. She could leave this place to rot on the outside like it had long ago on the inside. As the one surviving resident, she had been offered the run of the land.

    Potential, they had said, over and over.

    Hell, her mind had whispered.

    Now the windows whispered it for her. She never should have come.

    Hands dropped on her shoulders. Macey shuddered, but these wouldn’t be shrugged away. Soft circles brushed over stone muscles. Air flooded the space around her, and her lungs ached with renewed life.

    Wind fluttered through the leaves. The hands fell away, but warm fingers soon tangled in hers, squeezing gently. Sunlight she hadn’t been able to feel pierced through the misery around them.

    Her gaze fell to an illuminated patch of lawn. A tiny blossom winked a fragile promise.

    (310 words, @AriaGlazki)


  34. This is my first time joining you all. I don’t have a twitter account. 🙂
    (303 words)

    Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

    She had fallen badly. Arm twisted, resting beneath her body. Left leg bent at an unnatural angle. Dress billowed out with petticoats and undergarments in disarray. At the bottom of the stairs, in the front lobby.

    What would mother say this time? It didn’t bear thinking about, Mary shuddered. There was no blood. Mary crept down the stairs as close to the wall as possible. She knelt and lifted Lillian’s hand into hers. She lifted the stray locks of golden hair from Lillian’s face, sweeping them to the side. Mary stroked Lillian’s hand as she determined what to do.

    First, she re-arranged Lillian’s petticoats. Then Mary pulled the twisted arm and leg out in order to determine the severity of the injuries. Lillian didn’t stir. She considered Lillian’s prone body. Mother, she thought. A wash of urgency chilled her. Mary stood and adjusted her dress. Lillian was small which made lifting her into her arms easier. She carried her as quickly as she could towards the infirmary.

    Mary rushed through the door of the infirmary and placed Lillian on one of the beds. She turned to the young nurse, Ms. Olsen.

    “Lillian is gravely injured, I fear” she said.

    “Oh, dear. Lets have a look, shall we?” she said as she bent over Lillian’s body. “It looks as if she has a a broken leg.”

    “I’m dreadfully worried.” whispered Mary.

    The drapes in the room stirred as a blast of air came through the door.


    “I thought I’d find you here. What happened this time, Mary?”

    Mary couldn’t meet her eyes.

    Nurse Olsen jumped up, straightening her apron over her uniform. “Oh, Mrs. Westley. I didn’t hear you come in.”.

    “I asked a question.” she repeated.

    “Oh, Mary’s just thrown her doll down the stairs again.”


  35. An Afternoon Chat At The Insane Asylum (1828)
    vb holmes
    308 words

    The woman has come to my room again.

    The last time she visited, her hair was tangled; her eyes, red from sleepless nights; her feet, shoeless; her dress, gray like her skin, and stained from weeks of constant wear.

    Today, she is clad in the silk of an urban lady of means. Her shoes are soft leather. Her hair is clean and fixed. She smells of rose water.

    “My son visited this morning,” she says.

    She moves my legs as she sits on my cot.

    “I’ve had a bad time recently.”

    I raise my eyes.

    “I’ve been to The Room.”

    I shudder. I’ve heard the screams.

    “Two men removed my clothes,” she looks away. “They put me in a large tub of cold water and took turns holding my head down until they feared I had drowned.” She takes a deep breath.

    “A doctor came in. He said this treatment would cure my mania.”

    The woman stands. “Nothing was wrong with me until my son brought me here.”

    “There was a man in the room,” she returns to her story. “He was in the twirling chair. Do you know what that is?”

    I try to respond.

    “It’s a chair that’s suspended by ropes from the ceiling,” she explains.

    “Again, the two men took turns. First, they’d dunk me, and then they’d twist the ropes tight so when they were released, the chair spun.” She puts her hand to her head. “Fast. Around and around. When it finally wound down, the man begged them not to do it again. That was an invitation to repeat the process.”

    She looks down at me.

    “I’m sorry to see you’re still chained to your bed. You’re so weak.” She touches my forehead.

    “It’s just a matter of time.” She turns away.

    “With luck, I’ll precede you.” She sighs, and leaves the room.


  36. “Leaving Our Mark”
    299 words

    Mark lifted the rotted window frame, and Katy and Ryan stepped through. It was just two weeks before graduation, and this rite of passage could wait no longer. The old hospital would be demolished the next morning.

    Katy carried a six-pack, and Ryan held her other hand, guiding her over the beer bottles left by scores of other kids.

    Mark noticed how Ryan grasped Katy’s fingers for longer than necessary. It made sense. The two would be in Boston in the fall; he imagined them leaning into each other on screaming underground trains.

    Katy frowned at Mark. “How is your mom?” she asked.
    “Still dying,” he said.
    Katy touched her palm to Mark’s shoulder, and Ryan cleared his throat and pointed the flashlight into the empty rooms. “We’re in,” he said. “Now what?”

    “Time to leave our mark,” she said. She pulled a can of spray paint out of her bag and shook it.
    “But the place is being knocked down tomorrow,” Ryan said.
    Katy grabbed the flashlight and strode forward.

    They wandered around sipping beer and reading the names on the walls. Ryan and Katy took turns holding the flashlight, and Mark followed behind.

    “Here,” she said, pointing. They were standing in the foyer of the old building, under a sign that said, “The strong support the weak, the well nurse the sick.”

    “This was a hospital, then it was an orphanage,” she whispered. Both avoided looking at Mark.

    They took turns painting their names below the sign, then swayed in silence.

    “Well, that’s it,” Ryan said.
    “Mark?” Katy called. “Where’s Mark?”
    “I’m still here,” he said.
    He was standing far behind them in a spot where the flashlight didn’t reach.
    “Come on Mark. Catch up,” Ryan said, taking Katy’s hand.


  37. High Noon and a Generous Helping of Mashed Potatoes
    By: Allison K. Garcia
    310 words

    I lived there after Father killed Mother. A strange place filled with strange people. And the owners were no exception. Geraldine Odd and Martha Fellows met me at the gate the first day I arrived, both dressed in black with untamed gray hair flying in the autumn breeze.

    I stared at the towering building behind us. It’s tall pointed steeples intimidated. Outside it appeared so stern and cold, scary even.

    Geraldine patted my shoulder. “Don’t let the building scare ya. Inside we’re all a big, happy family.”

    She was right. A family of vagabonds, orphans, beggars, retired carnies, gypsies, and crazy old women. A mishmash of undesirables who loved each other because they knew what it was like to be unloved. Those people took me in. The orphan of a murdered mother and a hanged father. They accepted me as one of their own.

    The memories of the place are seared onto my senses. They’ve been woven into me like a family crest.

    A lumpy cot, itchy pajamas, and shoes that were always one size too small. Laughing children, the off-key piano, and mysterious creaking when no one was around. Wood oil, bleach, and fresh flowers. Smiling eyes, the tiny greenhouse in the front yard, and dusty spiderwebs in the chandelier.

    The old girls hardly turned anyone away, which meant less food on everyone’s plates. But, there was one thing that never seemed to run dry: mashed potatoes.

    The running joke was there was a flowing mashed potato river in the cellar. Really, I think it was one of the only foods everyone could eat, though I never got a chance to ask.

    Shortly after I came of age, they closed their doors. Its cold exterior shows no signs of life, but, still, years later, whispers of old Vaudeville tunes float through the air.

    Love like that leaves a mark.


  38. The chosen one
    310 words

    Its windows were dark, but two that casted their ill shades upon the quiet night, and us, the two intruders that stood before its doors. The supernatural atmosphere that hung about the entire place stirred our spirits – though asleep, the old chateaux-fashioned home glared at us with a dark sparkle, its reflective tall windows and sharp features narrowing upon us.
    She turned to me, her eyes full of mixed emotions – fear and anticipation, hope and doubt. She had, thus far lead us correctly, her mind constructing the path to our salvation. In this asylum and hostel was the key.
    “Speak to me Naya, where is he?”
    “He is old and weary and his mind and heart are dying. He is young and fragile and he is so lonely.” Her voice gave away, words transforming into incoherent whimpers. She fell to my arms.
    “Mark, this is nothing like what I predicted.” She is weak, her mind becoming absent in the mad search for him inside there. But when she spoke, I trembled. “This is his past and his future and in the core of it, it’s his present. He is this entire place, Mark. He is here to be safe, because he knows no other place. This is his projectile, his architecture of self-destruction. He will die. Knock on the door, Mark, for our world’s sake, knock on that door, and call to him. Scream, Mark!“
    Her last painful scream carried me up the stairs and I banged my fists upon the wooden door, screaming until my lungs hurt. As time poured in and out of this place, expanding and narrowing, almost as breathing, our world, billions of years from now counted the seconds away from ending. I let him hear that, feel it till it hurts, relive abandonment and dementia. I cred my last hope.
    Then the door cracked open.


  39. “Home”

    When most people look at our house, they see a movie set. It usually involves some idea about a boarding house/school for wayward teens or mutants. Of course, there’s the horror flick vibe, too. Any kind of haunting could happen here. Maybe even a murder or two.

    But for me this house was simply where I grew up. I never saw the serial killer lurking in the shadows, or the ghost of a schoolmarm flitting behind the curtains. I remember my 13th birthday party, though.

    I didn’t have friends. I’d spent most of my life with my teachers. They were my friends. But for my 13th birthday, my mom searched far and wide for friends and family and associates who had children around my age.

    A dress was made specially for me. Silk and ribbon and chiffon. Or something like that. It felt like a cloud. I hated dresses, then. But this one was beautiful and blue. It was light and twirly and I felt pretty in it. Until I flounced into the sunroom where the guests waited and was met by blank stares. I guess my mom hasn’t paid them enough to pretend they liked me. Just enough to get them out to our house. With gifts.

    I spent the whole party avoiding everyone. Especially my mother. I didn’t know how to explain to her that I didn’t know how to turn on a smile like her.

    So, I found an empty room up above and listened to the thrum of the music below.

    Eventually, the music disappeared. So did the people. My mother brought me a piece of cake.

    We left the house not long after that. We just couldn’t afford it, mother said. Apparently, the city could. My home ended up being part of a university. But I still visit it from time to time.



  40. Towers & Trepidation

    The towers and spires of the house pierced the sky like spears, standing guard over the orderly rows of windows and carefully groomed gardens. If the architect of this…Ian hesitated to call it a home…this BUILDING, had intended it to loom menacingly, they’d succeeded.

    Lizzie moved closer to her brother and let her left hand join her right in gripping his fingers.
    “It’s watching me, Ian.”

    The lanky boy smiled and didn’t mention the numbness spreading in his fingers. “It’s waiting to welcome us, Lady Lizzie.”

    The nickname failed to bring out the smile he’d hoped for.

    He held back a sigh and crouched on the gravel drive so that his pale blue eyes met her bright green ones. Lizzie had a vivid imagination, and as the older of the two by nearly eight years, it was his responsibility to rein it in.

    “Uncle Niall is in charge of this…” He hesitated, trying again to find the words to describe the place their parents’ unexpected death had brought them to.

    “…home. He runs it, and you like him well enough, don’t you?”

    Lizzie’s eyes shifted from his, to the militant towers, and back again. “I liked Uncle Niall in OUR home. He’ll be different here.”

    Ian glanced at the words carved above the door – “The Odd Fellows Home For Orphans, Indigent, and Aged.” Well, he thought, there’s little doubt which category we fall in.

    He met his sister’s knowing gaze and felt the fingers of anxiety slide down his spine as he led her toward the waiting door. An imagination she had, to be sure, but she also had a way of knowing the truth of things.

    “We’ll be right as rain here, you’ll see,” he assured her, but her knowing eyes showed him the lie in his words even as she followed him through the door.

    307 Words


  41. “Lashes”
    306 words

    “We’re not supposed to be out of bed,” Chucky whispered. “If anyone sees us, we’re going to get lashes. I don’t want any more lashes. My back really, really hurts.”

    Charlie waved Chucky off and slowly opened the door and slipped into the hallway. Chucky raced after him carefully to avoid sliding in his socks on the hardwood floors.

    “Come back,” Chuck whispered. “I’m going to tell on you. I will and you’ll get the lashes this time.”

    Charlie rolled his eyes and crept down the carpeted stairs. The main hallway echoed with the sound of the large grandfather clock ticking.

    Chucky went down the stairs two at a time hoping to catch up with Charlie who had already ran down another hallway towards the kitchen.

    “I’m serious,” Chucky said. “I’ll go wake Ms. Harrison up unless you come back right now.”

    Chucky paused at the doorway of the hallway and looked back to the stairs. He considered going back up, climbing into bed and leaving Charlie to his fate. He knew he couldn’t afford to get into any more trouble and Charlie was always stirring something up.

    Chucky grumbled and ran after Charlie. He ran through the mess hall and into the kitchen. The white light flickered on and wavered for a few moments before steadying. Charlie pulled a huge butcher’s knife from the block and waved it around.

    “Put that down,” Chucky said. “Put it down now before you get hurt. I don’t want – “

    “Chucky, what are you doing?” Ms. Harrison’s voice yelled. “Restrain him.”

    Two adults grabbed Chucky and wrestled the knife from his hand.

    “You aren’t supposed to be wandering around at night and how did you get in here? It should be locked,” she said.

    “It was Charlie,” Chucky said. “I chased after him.”

    Ms. Harrison shook her head. “Lashes.”


  42. An Odd Curiosity
    (300 words)

    The building stood quietly in the center of immaculate gardens. The gates, though well oiled and rust free, had remained barred and locked for the past half century.

    “Can you see him?” Tiny fingers threaded themselves through the gate as an avid gaze swept the carefully maintained lawn and the majestic facade of the manor.

    “See who?” A set of larger fingers joined the first, a side long glance given to the other.

    “Mr. Fellows.”

    A resigned sigh followed. “There’s no such person, Pipsqueak.”

    “Of course there is. His name is on the sign, ain’t it? And don’t call me Pipsqueak.”

    “Grandfather said Archibald Torrent built it about eighty five years ago and only ran for thirty five years. It shut down for some reason.”

    “That’s ’cause Odd Fellows showed up. He’s territorial and wanted the place to himself.”

    “Where does he lifv, then? The house is boarded up.”

    “There’s a special tunnel that leads into the house, but he actually likes living in that little glass building out front. All the plants and stuff hide him from people he don’t want to see him and he can eat the fruit and nuts so he don’t ever go hungry.”

    Another sigh, one filled with fond exasperation. “Yeah, okay Pip.” Then the tone slid into teasing, teeth flashing in a grin. :So, what is he? An orphan? Aged? Maybe he’s an indigent and that’s why he’s here.”

    A brief pout crossed the tiny face. “I know you don’t believe me. That’s okay.”

    “C’mon, Pip. Time for dinner.”

    “Okay.” Fingers unwound and a hand waved. “Bye, Mr. Fellows.”

    “Yeah. Bye. Let’s go already.”

    Quiet descended over the estate. Within the greenhouse, eyes peered out from the screen of leaves before withdrawing.


    • I love how you put so much character/relationship exposition in here with just dialog and how the two reacted to each other… and I like that ‘Pip’ was right, even if he was wrong.


  43. Mabel
    I spent most of my time in the gardens. There I was able to escape to a world where things were simpler: a place where I could use my hands and remember what once was.
    I’d work the plants on Wednesday mornings after breakfast once they’d sponged me, or on some afternoons when they cleaned the bed pans or changed the sheets. I would sit on a stool, pruning the roses or plucking browning petals to ensure their future posterity. There was hope in those buds.
    It was a September, if I recall, when the fog began. There was one instance when I told Denise—the sweetest nurse in the building—that my brother Everett was being deployed that afternoon, due to the attack on the Harbor. I was hoping I could be excused to meet him for lunch at the restaurant down the street. Denise, bless her wholesome little heart, informed me that Everett had died in 1991 and that it was a new millennium, long after the Japanese attacked our country. She then told me that she’d be glad to join me for dinner in the cafeteria at six, when her shift ended, and that she’d even sneak me my favorite tapioca pudding. I argued for a few moments before I realized she was right: Everett had died many years before, and I never did make that date.
    The fog is much heavier now. I still prune my roses and pick my dead petals, but the work is difficult for my arthritic hands. Sometimes, I remember a time when life was a little simpler: when I could easily maintain a garden without forgetting where I put the pliers or worrying about how much my muscles would ache in the morning. For now, though, I just take it day by day, and hope it eventually gets better.

    I’m late–my apologies! @nXgWVteacher –309 words
    Entry still accepted–Editor


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