Another special Sunday post:
This time with one of my short stories in full. Most of the things that happen are based on actual events. At some point my imagination went so far astray that I couldn't distinguish between reality and story anymore. This is a truly fantastical experience as a writer.
Did something similar ever happen to you?
Laura ran through the foyer, past the empty tables of the bar, past the information desk and jumped towards the button between the lift doors. She stood with her plump arms on her knees, breathing heavily. The doors on the other side glided open. She crossed the wet laminate floor and threw herself into the lift.
The place was empty. She wished her parents would not spend the whole day inside. Others went out onto the piste despite New Years Eve, too. The lift stopped. She crawled out of the cabin onto the blue carpet of the floor foyer and lifted herself up, straightening her skirt. She turned out of the lift niche when she dropped her keys. Immediately she jumped after them.
What was that? Her eyes scanned the floor and rested on a chest in the middle of the foyer. The four plants, two of them as tall as her standing, were moved. They surrounded the chest now. There was also an old desk on one side and a cupboard next to the vending machine.
She crawled to the chest and let one hand slide over the dry and rough surface. The dark wood smelled sweet and sticky, somehow like resin. At the front side she found a black punctured hinge. The cold iron sat firmly on the flat bolt. In the centuries the lid had deformed so much that the pieces barely fit anymore. With a loud rattle, the hinge came loose. Pulling it upwards, together with the heavy lid, she peered into the hollow space. It was empty. Just an empty chest. She dropped it with a loud thud, pushed herself up on one knee and hurried down the corridor.
Nine nosy kids were in the floor foyer - sincerely playing truth or dare. Most were not even close to ten years old.
“I once jumped out of a window,” said the oldest boy named John. The younger girls gasped. Laura, quite like an imitation of a pirate with the cloth on her head, spun the bottle again: “Truth or dare?”
As soon as the green wine bottle pointed at Tom, John’s younger brother, he shouted dare.
“Jump out of a window,” said a skinny girl. “Hide in the cupboard,” said another. Two girls only giggled into their hands while looking at the older brother. The quarrel rose to a brewing whirlpool. Screams here, clapping there.
“Okaaay,” shouted pirate girl, finally quieting the brats, “let him hide in the chest.” Her lumpish body got up.
Tom’s stare turned away from the dark backside of the chest and settled on his brother. Too bad for him, John’s mind was absent.
“Come on, Tommy.”
They followed pirate girl round the plants. She got onto her knees and pulled at the rusty lock. She needed much force and fell backwards as the hinge shot upwards. The others laughed. Anja and Tom’s friend Den on each side of the chest pulled the lid up.
The chest really wasn’t there to be played with.
The hinges made creaking noises, joining the howling wind from outside. The storm suddenly pushed harder against the glass backside of the foyer. A few kids looked at the blinds, but they were blocked from the view onto the snow-covered plane that stretched uphill into the night. The raging wind rushed down the Fichtelberg Mountain and hit the hotel on its side. It partly overshadowed the humming of the ventilation system and the cannonade of the vending machine’s interval cooling system that went off just this moment.
“Tommy, go in, we’re waiting,” said pirate girl.
Looking to his brother was no help. John had two girls around him, giggling into his ear: “You know what I would say if you had said dare?” John looked at the blond girl without twitching. “I would have said you have to kiss ... kiss a woman.” Both girls sniggered into his shoulders, while he could not hide a grin.
Tom set one foot into the chest. He needed to squeeze to fit through the narrow opening. Anja and Den still held the lid. Placing his hands on the bottom, he looked one last time at the spectators. He pressed his eyes as the lid pushed his head into the dim space. The creaking ended abruptly when wood hit wood. That same moment the lights in the foyer went off and the youngest let out a high-pitched cry.
As usual, and not changed due to the New Years Eve celebration, the lamps were turned off at exactly 11.08. Only the lift niche still contributed some light. Only some, because not all three neon tubes in each lamp cavity were working properly. One was flickering.
The foyer was dead quiet. Apart from the rumbling air conditioning, the vending machine’s surging, sucking noises and the howling wind outside.
Den went to his crying sister, Virginie, who still sat behind the plants all alone, and put one arm around her. “It’s okay.” Pirate girl wasn’t very impressed, but some of the other kids looked anxiously around.
Virginie cried louder as the hollow sound reverberated everywhere. “Hey.” BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. “Let me out.” The chest bounced.
The boy tried to get out, but the hinge was tightly fitted over the bolt. The lid barely bulged as he pressed his back against the strong fir wood. They shouldn’t have played with it.
John sprinted towards the chest and pulled at the iron. It didn’t move. “Help him, get him out of there!”
Tom screamed now, joining Virginie.
“Fuck.” Pirate girl hopped around on the spot and pressed both hands against her head cloth. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” She pushed John away from the chest, so he fell sideward onto the carpet, and ripped furiously at the hinge herself.
They shouldn’t have played with it.
John picked himself up and went to the commode, pulling open the drawers and the doors underneath. Then, he hurried towards the writing bureau on the other side, but found only a brownish, washed out paper that instructed how to paint garden gnomes.
“JOHN,” came out of the chest.
“I’m here, Tommy. It’s gonna be fine.” John put his hands on the lid. As if that boy would even recognize it. “I will get Dad, okay.”
His sobbing broke the words into barely understandable chunks. “I ... want to ... get ... out.”
John sprinted for the lifts and kept hitting the down button.
“Don’t worry, Tommy,” said pirate girl. “We will get you out of there.” She turned around and whispered: “... shit ...”
The lift doors competed with the static fuss in the foyer and the weather for a second; then John disappeared in the glimmering cabin.
The other kids hadn’t moved. The two giggle girls stood together biting their fingernails. Den still held his snivelling sister with a worried look thrown at the oldest. The other two girls now sat down and were rather staring blank.
“Tommy, don’t worry. John is getting your Dad.” Pirate girl hid her face in her hands. “We’re so busted.”
Nobody heard the lift arrive at their floor. A watchmen in black trousers and a blue standard shirt stepped out. He eyed the rhythmically flashing neon tube and then realized that seven kids were watching him out of the shadowy floor foyer.
With raised eyebrows he closed in on their quiet presence. “Hey, what are you doing here?” Nobody replied. “Hey, I am talking to you,” he added in a deeper tone.
Virginie started crying again and the watchmen approached them more determinedly.
“Please, let me out.” It was only a whisper followed by more sobbing.
“Oh my God. Who did you put in there?” Pirate girl had to hurry to get out of his way as he lunged towards the lock. “This is not a toy.” Shaking his head heavily, he pulled at the hinge. Nothing happened.
They shouldn’t have played with it.
“Are you out of your minds?” the watchman yelled. “One can suffocate in there!”
A man stormed out of a lift and ran to the watchmen. Two elderly women followed him, ranting about his rudeness. Last one to come out was the older brother.
“Where is my son?”
The watchmen turned surprised and let go of the chest. “He must be in here. I can’t get it open.”
“Dad! Please,” Tom sobbed, “let me out.”
“It’s okay, Tommy. I’ll get you out.” He put one foot on the edge and intertwined both hands under the hinge. He whipped forward twice and then pulled for a long time, blood rushing to his face. A sparkle whizzed as the hinge scratched the bolt. The father hit the ground. Nobody laughed this time.
Tommy didn’t believe right away that he saw the dim light again. A second later he jumped out and fell into the arms of his father, crying.
“What happened here?” asked one of the ladies.
Pirate girl straightened up, looking down, and explained: “We were just playing and then the chest somehow locked itself. We didn’t do anything? Really!”
The old lady, with her wavering bloomy dress that was bound around her wavy waist, studied the chest with a concerned look. “That is Mr. Weißflog’s old chest.”
The watchmen placed himself next to her. “That is true. Jens Weißflog ceased a couple of weeks ago. Our hotel acquired some of his old family treasures at an auction, because he was such a big thing in this town. And they are not a toys” he added towards the brats.
“Wasn’t he a winner of the Four Hills Tournament?” asked the father.
The watchmen nodded. “Yes, and also Olympia winner and an honorary citizen of Oberwiesenthal. A real legend in Germany. His family is deeply rooted here and quite wealthy.”
“Look!” said pirate girl. She grabbed something out of a hidden space in a broken panel and held it up. The old lady took it from her.
They found it! After all these years, they found it!
“It’s a certificate. Signed by Adolf Weißflog. It gives the old Weißflog property that he acquired in 1893 over to a man called Gustav Nietzsche. According to this document, this is the repayment for his unlawful acquisition of the land.”
The two ladies looked at each other in surprise.
“Anyway, we’re all going downstairs now,” said the father. “It’s almost midnight anyway. And I don’t want to see any of you playing with these things anymore, understand!?”
On his father’s arms now, Tom asked: “Dad, did we find a real treasure?”
“We found a treasure!” interrupted pirate girl, jumping up and down. “A real treasure, I have to tell Mum.” She was the first in the lift.
The lady with the paper said: “I’m gonna find out which family this belongs to. Someone owns a great amount of land with this. And what about the Weißflog’s heritage? This is interesting.”
“None of my concern.” The watchmen closed the lid of the chest and went off on his usual inspection route.
The old man was alone. He sat on his chest, listening to the explosions outside. He had wondered how it would feel like when someone finally found the paper. It never occurred to him that it would be like this, though. He didn’t feel any different. Nothing had changed.
He wished these children hadn’t played with the chest.
What good would it do now, after over a century? His offspring had made a good living anyway, being all famous and honoured.
Suddenly, the coloured spots on the carpet moved with increasing speed. He couldn’t say whether towards or away from him. There was a high-pitched fizzing outside and a muffled burst. Another year and he was still here. Only this time there was nothing to wait for. The secret was out. He lay down on the chest, but the dizziness stayed.
Hmmm, I'm not looking at the mechanics but the flow of the story, the dialogue, characterization and tension--all done well! Short sentences serve perfect during a 'nail biting' moment to promote anxiety in the reader, so it works well where you have them.
Interesting how you have the prologue after the story, that was the only part that confused me. Is the old man here Gustav?
Great, evocative story. Short sentences work here.
How do I make my supernatural tales believable. Root the reader in the humaness of the main character. Focus on glimpses of the unknown, never revealing or explaining fully. Keep the heart even in the most undead character. Roland