15 March 2010

Magpie Tales #4...The House

Life goes on around it, for it lies on a busy road, where cars rush past from early morning to late evening. But in the house, life has not been present for decades. Even mice and rodents no longer frequent its quiet hallway and still rooms.
Outside, it is a house of grey stone again. It had been painted a creamy white by the commission of a housewife. The window frames are covered in chipping paint, a cheery yellow. You get the sense that the window frames were painted by some other hand, perhaps that of a daughter.
Once there were window boxes on each window, now only one is left in solitary confinement, sagging to the left, supported by a single long nail. In it a cluster of brown weeds wilts.
The glass in the windows is but jagged shards that were broken for sport by schoolboys. In the lower window, lace curtains hang to the floor. Today a gust of wind has lifted them out the pane-less window. There they hang, thrust out as a bride thrusts off her veil, awaiting a new life of homemaking and promises of love and happiness. But perhaps the curtains were thrown out the window not in hope, but to cleanse them of their dirt and grime, the life they led, the things they saw.
A sagging staircase leads upstairs. There are three rooms; two bedrooms and a bathroom. One bedroom is windowless, its door faces the bathroom. Wallpaper drapes the floor in peeling strips. Yellow ducks swim in a faded sea of blue. In the middle of the room, a collapsed heap of boards lies evidence to some place of rest. The boards look like railings.
In the next bedroom, there is no bed, only a pile of musty blankets in the corner, heaped as though torn from a mattress. Beneath them are scorch marks, a hole in the floor. Above them the ceiling is black, the walls are gray; a trail made by a finger shows it to be soot.
In the opposite corner, a sewing machine rests on a collapsed table. A spool of thread leads across the floor in looping patterns. Red thread, dusty like everything else.
Next to the sewing table, there is a wooden dress dummy. Its shapely curves show that it was a woman's. It is headless, and it arms hang slackly by its sides. One wooden hand is on the floor. Its screws are not rusted, but the wood is dusty. One finger of the hand points listlessly toward the blankets, the others are limp and lifeless.
The dress dummy wears the remains of something lacy. The work is sloppy, the threads unravelling.
You look at the blankets again. Then something else is visible. Piled in the corner are empty bottles of alcohol. Beer, vodka, whiskey. Now you can smell it on the air, wafting close like the stale breath of a drunkard.
In the bathroom, a bottle of pills has spilled onto the floor. They have rolled out in a convex from the bottle. Next to them there is a creased photo of three people. A man holds a smiling woman close. She cradles a laughing baby. They are all blond.
Rewind to the entrance. The yard is knee-deep in weeds. They are brown, dying. Behind the house, just out of sight, there is a garden shed. In the shed, a bloody hatchet rests on the table. An empty can sits next to it, the scent of petrol lying heavily in the air. A box of matches is teetering on the edge of the table. It too is empty. On the wall there is a shovel. It has clumps of dried dirt stuck to the blade. In one of the clumps a single human hair is embedded. It is blond.
Behind the shed there is an unnatural mound of earth.
It is the only place in the yard that has flowers.


I was experimenting with telling a story just by setting a scene...I think it turned out pretty good (I did digress a bit, using the second person).
Also, both of us posted a Magpie Tales this week, so don't forget to check them both out! (if MM posts hers on time that is...still doubtful)


Lyn said...

Good and mysterious..a picture of a world gone away..so very visual..the dress dummy..something I had thought of!

Brian Miller said...

snap. that was good...you set the scene perfectly and then the rewind was marvelous...i need to try this...you have inspired me...wonderful magpie!

Ronda Laveen said...

Yes, you did very well. The scene did tell the story. Interesting exercise!

Vicki Lane said...

Very nice description . . . and a descent into horror. What a tale a setting can tell!

♥ Braja said...

Wow...what a piece from that one image...well done :)

Queenmothermamaw said...

I was there I could see it. What a wonderful descriptive piece. Flowing so nicely to build up the story and to a fascinating ending.

Peter Goulding said...

I like the use of the present tense here to build up the atmosphere. I think its very effective and I'm not surprised you like it. Possibly you give too much away too soon with the reference to the torched bed? I'd maybe have kept it a bit vaguer until you hit us with the final chilling image. (But that's only my opinion - I write doggerel!)

Pat transplanted to MN said...

I could see the dilapidation and the debris; very descriptive leading back and then there it is the hand and darkness. Intriguing, but after I read about the hand, I was not sure what to expect.

steviewren said...

I think by setting the scene you immediately put atmosphere into the story. Great read.

Aoife.Troxel said...

Thank you for the comments everyone, I appreciate you sharing your opinions.