Flash Fiction Thursday: The House on the Hill

There was a house on the hill. It was a run-down old thing, with shingles fallen off the roof, and the door halfway off its hinges. The windows were all boarded up, except for one round window at the top of the house. In front, there was what used to be a lawn. Over the years it had turned into an almost-meadow, high weeds and the occasional wild flowers growing wildly. Then there was the fence. It was tall and made of iron, and not one bit of it was rusted. The strangest thing was, there was no gate. Nobody remembered that there’d ever been one. It was as if someone had left the house to rot and built a fence around it afterwards.

The Hensley brothers sat with their backs against one of the big oak trees that kept their own house separate from the hill behind it.

“You think anyone’s ever been in there?” asked Tommy. He was ten, and his pajamas featured a pattern of Pokemon creatures.

“What, you mean like mom or dad or the kids at school?” answered Jake. He was barely six, and his world view encompassed only those people he knew. He was unfortunate enough to have his mom still picking out his clothing, and his pajamas featured multicolored, grinning bunnies.

“No, stupid, I mean anybody. Anybody in town. One of the older kids or the cops or someone.”

“But how? There’s no way to get in!”

“Bet I can figure out a way.” He got up and yanked Jake up off the ground.

“Tommy? Tommy, we’re not going up there, are we?” Jake’s hand was held so tightly that he was stumbling after his brother trying to keep up and not fall and be dragged on the ground. Tommy marched resolutely upwards, and when Jake started getting breathless, he picked him up gingerly and brought him the rest of the way. He stopped at the tall fence and plopped Jake onto the ground.

“Stop sniveling, Jakey! Look, we could make this place into a club-house, right?”

Jake looked up hopefully, wiping his dribbling nose with the pack of one muddied hand. “Could we? Could we really? With secret meetings and stuff?”

“You bet. Now, all we have to do is this. Look, you see my hands? They’re like a step now, right? So step on, and I’ll lift you as high as I can so you catch onto the top.”

Jake scrambled onto his brother’s cupped hands and held onto the fence rails as he was raised slowly up to the top. He reached out an arm, and caught hold of the one of the raised spiky bits with one little hand. Tommy saw this, gave a whoop and let go of Jake’s feet.

A moment later, there was a crumpled Jake on the floor clutching his leg and a very white Tommy sitting next to him. His mind was very focused on two things at the same time. The first was that he had to get Jake back home quickly because that leg was definitely broken, and the second was how was he going to explain this to Mom??

It was years before either brother went up that hill again.

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Santa Ana

A Los-Angeles girl at heart and soul in many ways, there are certain feelings and scents and types of weather that I can identify as being utterly LA-ish, even though I have no good reason to know or understand LA weather to such an extent. For instance, there is a wind blowing outside my window right now – a warm wind, carrying with it dust and grit and a dryness that makes you need to lick your lips every few seconds.

This sort of wind is called a “Santa Ana” wind, because that’s the sort of wind that flows through that area in California. It’s a desert wind, and there’s something infinitely creepy about feeling it on one’s face at midnight in January. It is earthquake weather – it feels as if the earth is about to tear open, as if all the dogs are going to start becoming giddy soon, feeling the disaster coming on. It feels as if the sky will break open and sandy, dirty rain will fall, even though there are no clouds to speak of.

It is the sort of night that is build for unconventional horror stories, a night where you know you won’t be able to fall asleep because the warm air will prevent you being comfortable in your quilt. Moreover, the wind will be moaning its dreadful sound and making the dry, dead leaves shake like death rattles. The wind brings to mind graveyards in summer nights, endless deserts and no water or sustenance, haunted houses and funerals. It is unpleasant, and yet it still smells and sounds like a bit of home to me, a bit of LA transferred to this tiny country.

Popular Haunt

Every small city has to have at least one spooky place. We have ours, alright. Oh yes, we do. As girls, me and a couple of my friends actually went into the single abandoned and, of course, reputedly haunted house. We’re alive to tell the tale, amazing as it sounds.

The house is truly creepy. It is set back from the street, and you have to climb a long set of winding, falling apart, stone stairs that are cut right into the wall of boulders that the house sits on. The stairs are overgrown with weeds, stinging plants and thorns a necessity. When you reach the top of the steps, there is a locked gate, and climbing over it is quite painful, the plants getting in the way constantly, and the gate is so rusty that your hands come away caked in brown metal shavings.

Then there is the house itself. The story goes that the architect – or sculptor? – that lived there just moved away and left the house to decay and no one knows why he didn’t sell it, because it’s big. The creepy thing is, it used to be rather clean inside. The house is completely empty, and is very like a maze – there are two separate wings to it, and the only way to get from one to the other is by crossing through the balcony. The tap in the kitchen is rusted shut, and the doors are all gone or creaking slowly in the wind that moves through the house. There is even a loft, its stairs mysteriously gone, and no way to get up there.

My friends and I sneaked in there a few times when we were younger – even at night once or twice. Sadly, over the years it has become less spooky and much more a place for teenage drunkards to crash. It is now full of people’s exceretians, spray paint and even a couch someone had the strength to drag up there, and it has pentagrams and funny drunken messages painted on the walls. The creep factor is there, but now it is more “Ew, it stinks and some drunk guy will attack me” rather than “Oh god, oh god, I swear this place is haunted, I swear, I swear!”