A little while ago I wrote a short story for the L. Ron Hubbard "Writers of the Future Contest". I did not win, and I know why, my story is really more horror than Science Fiction or Fantasy. But I decided that I will post each chapter here on my blog. There are 37 very short chapters, for a total of 15,000 words, about a fifth of a modern novel. Here is the start.
“The Crooked House has no linear progression,” Allison began. “You’re like an ant walking around on the surface of a tire swing. You could move around the outside, move forward, back, left and right, but always remain on the tire itself. What you need to find is the rope that suspends the whole thing, and climb up and away.” She led Maxwell through archways and along railings, up and down staircases, and ultimately without a clear point of origin among the endless, random architectural pieces they progressed to no avail around her analogical tire.
“How do you know about this place?” Maxwell was more than a little suspicious of his seemingly friendly company. “How did you get here? You said not to worry about it, but how do I know you aren’t some minimalist clown with a boring name leading me around the fun house just until you kill me?” He stopped and held his ground until she turned to face him.
“I dreamed of this place. And I am not planning on killing you because you’re a White Hat, and so was I.”
“So you are the Allison I knew?” Maxwell steeled his jaw and eyes
“And you died?”
“I told you not to worry about that right now.” Allison turned to start leading them back.
"It's a pretty big thing to worry about," said Maxwell. "And why do you look like you do?"
"I don't know."
"So your suddenly being a little girl doesn't strike you as odd?" said Maxwell.
"It's weird," she said. "But I am dead, so worrying about my own well being isn't really a priority. You are a priority."
"Don't mention it, Max."
"Allison," Maxwell was noticing things about her appearance now. "Your neck has markings."
"Come here," Maxwell crouched down and looked at a thin line that ran across the front of her throat, like the indentation left by tight pants on his waist. "It looks like you had something pulled across your neck. Do you know what that is?"
"I have a feeling that I am just renting this look," she said. "This is probably someone else who died in this hole. Sorry if it is creepy to say, but she probably hung herself to get out."
“God, Allison,” Maxwell saw another colleague dead in front of him. "I’m so sorry."
"I told you, Max," she said. "It isn't about me anymore, you're who I might be able to help, so I'm going to try and do just that."
While it was not grisly, and in fact was distant, seeing this dead little girl was making the events of the day catch up with him and Maxwell's eyes welled up as he continued to follow his guardian angel to what he hoped was a rope for climbing, and not for hanging.