by Alexis Hummel
Alexis won second place in our Magical Muse Moments flash fiction contest ending April 12, 2020. The challenge: write a story of less than 500 words about the photo by Watson Brown. His photo was borrowed with permission from his Instagram account.
She hated that room. The house was a barren wasteland of dying dreams and all-to-real unenviable futures, but that room was the worst. She had spent summers in that room, under the care of her eccentric Aunt Rose, who fancied herself a lost queen and told tales of fantastical lands and mythical beasts. She longed for summer all year, so she could once more listen entranced to Rose’s yarns while sipping on pink lemonade that tasted of sunshine and happiness.
By her 14th year, however, Rose’s eccentricity got the better of her and she was “sent away.” No one liked to talk about it much. Even now, as she absently played with the matchbook in her hand, she stiffened at the memory of her parents’ grim faces telling her the news. She was never allowed to understand then what they meant, or what had happened to Rose, only that she was gone and she could never go back to summers of sunshine in her lemonade or magical stories told around the tea table dressed up in the blue room.
She walked purposely through the room, looking at the walls where the pictures used to hang, all paintings of Rose’s stories, done by her hand. Her father had thrown them in the rubbish when she died, discrediting them as the work of insanity. “Genius, more like,” she thought to herself, as she found scraps of newspapers and other miscellaneous papers she started piling in the floor. She opened the closet one last time, grating at the familiar screech it made, protesting its use. The trees grazed nonchalantly across the window, and she took one last longing look around the room. Though whether she longed for her aunt, for summers in the blue room, or for the innocence of childhood, she couldn’t say.
“Goodbye, Rose, and thank you,” she whispered as she dropped the lit match into the pile of dry newspapers. She listened to the crackle of the pages and smiled to herself, turned, and left her past behind her as she shut the door.
THE HOUSE OWNED THEM by Linda M. Rhinehart Neas
first-place winner in Magical Muse Moments flash fiction contest ending April 12, 2020. The challenge: write a story of less than 500 words about the photo by Watson Brown. His photo was borrowed with permission from his Instagram account.
On the wall by the door, one could clearly see where the picture had hung. The sizzling Caribbean sun poured through the antique windows, casting half-baked shadows of spiderwebs, dirt and vines that laced the outside, much like the way the hand-crocheted curtains that hung with pride inside once had.
Everything within the empty room echoed of the past – from the Delft-blue walls to the rotting paneled doors. Hints of luxury, of opulence could be found by eyes trained to seek out what once was. Those eyes saw the hand-hewn floorboards; each expertly fitted one beside the other. Over a hundred years old and still they held tight and strong with nary a squeak. They, also, quickly noted that while someone had at some point in the past painted the woodwork white – a crime that should be punishable by law to some folks belief – bits of the original, rich, dark mahogany still peeked through, like a bride behind her ivory colored veil.
From the middle of the room, ghosts of past owners could be felt. Their pride of possession palpable. However, one immediately got the sense that they never really “owned” the house. No, the house owned them. They, the humans who had inhabited these rooms, who sat, ate, slept, birthed and died under this roof, were no more than pets to this great dame of a building.
Now, abandoned like some old coat that had lost style and grace, she molded in the heat and humidity of tropical breezes. The one saving grace was the picture – a painting made on a day when the windows opened to the scent of jasmine and salt air. That picture, painted by hands that cast spells of water and color that bewitch all who gazed upon the canvas, was of this very room, but back years ago, when all was as new as the tiny babe from that time, who cooed and cried in the nursery just one floor above. Rumors of the painting’s charm had filtered through time but had long since become another island legend.
The young couple had found the beguiling painting in a tiny, hole-in-the-wall shop with a sign that looked like it had been created by the conquistadors, who once overran the island. There was something mysterious about it; something that pulled them into the dark, cool interior.
After a few moments of blindness, their eyes adjusted to the light. Or, was it the painting that seemed to radiate a light of its own? For, as sure as the sun sets west of the white sand beach they had just visited, the only thing they could see was the painting of the room.
In the process of purchasing it, the story was woven, the address given and the words of caution cast upon deaf ears. Intoxicated by what once was, the young couple headed for the house, the room and their destiny.