Did last week’s installment of the Chatterbox House story catch your attention? Well, here’s the climax. Remember that last week our nameless protagonist was taking down a non-load-bearing wall between two upstairs rooms to make a master bedroom suite. Interested in hearing about your reaction.
|Courtesy of Geograph|
Infuriated by my groundless fear, I took the wall down with little further difficulty. Once that was done, I confirmed my earlier judgment. The two rooms melded perfectly, giving the suite pleasing proportions and a roomy feel. In the process of gathering splintered two-by-fours and plasterboard onto a tarp to carry to the trash, the familiar rush of muffled voices that weren’t voices surrounded me. I caught a few audible words: father and stairs and ruining. And the word home pierced my consciousness several times.
The voices grew louder… no that wasn’t right. Intenser. They grew more intense as I gathered the four corners of the tarp and hoisted the load over my shoulder. Grabbing the sledge, I walked into the hall to the head of the stairs. After shifting the load more comfortably over my shoulder, I prepared to take the first step of the steep, elbowed flight. Sweat broke out under my arms as the sound of voices and the flutter of indistinct, invisible things surrounded me.
While my left foot was still in the air, someone—or something—pushed me. Maybe it wasn’t a push, merely pressure, but it was enough to throw me completely off balance. I stumbled to the second step and felt myself going over. Dropping everything, I managed to clutch the bannister with both hands and prevent my fall, but wood and chips and nails and sawdust slid down the staircase and through the railing to the hallway below. Wood and glass splintered as the hammer dropped onto a table beside the stairway.
As I leaned against the unstable bannister, holding the railing in a death grip, I had the impression of something rushing at me, of air pressing against my face, of some force trying to dislodge me. My breath came in gasps. My stomach churned. My heart raced. Surrendering to a nameless fear, I let go and bumped down a stairway turned into a slide by the debris of the trash I’d been hauling out. I banged to a halt against the wall where the stairs turned to the left. In a panic, I glanced toward the top of the stairs and caught the terrifying ephemeral outline of a woman… a young woman, her indistinct face contorted by rage standing with hands on hips. Other amorphous shapes hovered at her shoulder.
Scrambling to my feet, I vaulted over the bannister and came to an abrupt halt as a wall of orange flames rose in front of me. The sledgehammer had crashed through the table, taking the lamp and old-fashioned electric clock to the floor and smashing the can of alcohol I’d put there to be out of the way. Live electric wires ignited the alcohol. The worn carpet and bits of trash littering the floor were not only flammable, they were combustible.
My first inclination was to run for the fire extinguisher in the kitchen, but I raced straight out the back door and around to the front of the house as smoke began to escape from gaps in the window and door frames. I had my keys and billfold, but my cell phone was up in my bedroom. That was all right. I had no intention of trying to extinguish the flames. The screams and wails coming from inside the building discouraged me from that. I had the feeling that nothing could expel the evil residing in Chatterbox House, so let it burn to the ground. The heat of the hngry flames shattered windows, feeding the fire oxygen. The place was totally engulfed in minutes.
A month later, my life had more or less returned to normal. I’d found a place to live and the insurance papers had been signed. The arson investigation turned iffy a couple of times, but eventually, my story of the incident became the official record. Of course, I’d left out a couple of details, such as the mysterious voices and the push on the stairs.
As soon as I had a chance, I visited the town’s newspaper morgue to learn more about the history of Chatterbox House. The original owner, a man by the name of Horace Humbolt, had died in 1958 from an unaccountable tumble down those same stairs that had nearly gotten me. He was elderly but not infirm. His five daughters had been questioned, and the eldest was suspected of having a hand in his accident. But eventually the ruling of accidental death prevailed. One article contained pictures of the family, and there she was… my phantom. Elsa, the eldest, looked exactly like the figure I saw at the head of the stairs wearing the same hateful look. One by one, in the succeeding years, the sisters had died in that house. All seemingly of natural causes. Elsa was the last to go.
There were tenants over the years, but none lasted long. They all complained of voices. In time, locals labeled it the Chatterbox House. And I knew how accurate that name was.
Well, was that worth waiting a week for? People who know me say I ask ill-advised questions (like that one), soliciting rude answers. It must be a character flaw… I can’t help it.
Let me know what you think of the story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, the March 21 release date of The City of Rocks has come and gone, and the book is now available. The following are my contact information and the DSP Publications links:
Don Travis Email: email@example.com
Facebook: Don Travis
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-city-of-rocks-don-travis/1126419974
As always, thank for being a reader.
New blogs are posted at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.