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.

2. Amanda

On this same late August evening, Amanda left the office of admissions at Valley University and made her way to Oakwood, the only dormitory left open during the summer break. She cursed herself for the umpteenth time for taking the summer job of shuffling paper and answering phones in the office. She had to admit, though, that it had been better at the beginning of the summer when the office was busy with the applications of transfer students. The phones had been ringing off the hook, there’d been lots of envelopes to open and sort through and her days, although tedious, had been full. The flurry of activity had ended by midsummer, though, and there weren’t any deadlines during August, so the only phone calls Amanda was getting in the office were the occasional prospective student or parent and some pranksters trying to make their own lazy summer days more interesting.

The campus was absolutely deserted, and as always the quiet and solitude depressed Amanda. It wasn’t that she was an overly social person – she wasn’t. In fact, she enjoyed being alone more often than not. But she liked being alone in the midst of life, and the quiet and emptiness around her made her feel like she was the only person living and breathing within a mile radius. There were the squirrels, of course, but at this evening hour they all seemed to be chasing each other around the trees, making the leaves rustle. Amanda couldn’t see them at it, so she always felt a sort of creepy feeling, as if there were ghosts whispering among the leaves.

She wasn’t, of course, the only person left on campus. There were others who worked at the various offices, as well as the ever-present cleaning staff and some eternal graduate students that haunted the library and the computer labs. It didn’t matter, though, that Amanda knew of the others’ presence. The walk across campus was still always unnerving after having spent freshmen year making the same walk while being surrounded by chattering multitudes.

Luckily, Oakwood wasn’t too far from the office of admissions, and Amanda pushed the door open into the front hall gratefully. The only dining hall still open during the summer was the one here, and at five o’clock, when Amanda got off from work every day, people were arriving from their various jobs and activities to make use of it for dinner. Entering Oakwood’s spacious front hall always made Amanda feel better, and she walked towards the not-so-alluring smell of cafeteria food, ears happily drinking up the chatter echoing around her.