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 (and now this short Epilogue), for a total of a little over 16,000 words, about a fifth of a modern novel. Here is the first chapter.
Explanations are always messy, and they always lead to new questions.
"Max," said the man in the suit, in his typical reassuring tones. "I am sorry about Wilton, Claire, Allison, and Todd. Before we continue I would like to tell you that no one thinks you did anything wrong, and from what you told us you reacted as anyone in your position might."
"What happened?" asked Maxwell. "I mean, I have an idea, but why did it happen that way?"
"The house you found in the hole," said the man in the suit. "We have an idea. It seems the house fell into a sinkhole sometime in the past, we found the bodies of a middle aged couple crushed under the house. The body you found in the upstairs bedroom was presumably the couple's child. She was buried alive in the house, as it started to partially collapse on itself from the weight of the earth, she focused on her toys, and hoped for rescue."
"Rescue never came," said Maxwell.
"No," said the man in the suit. "It never did and we have a likely hypothesis as to why. Regardless, the girl held out as long as she could in the dark. Eventually she gave into despair hanging herself with a jump rope."
"God," said Maxwell.
"There was a dead flashlight and some paper next to her," continued the man in the suit. "She wrote something with a marker, we were able to enhance the faded writing."
"What did it say," asked Maxwell.
"She wrote, 'I waited so long, but the laughter in the dark is just too much'," the man in the suit said it with a sort of reassuring tone, more wistful and sad then the subject matter would suggest. "She was alive for a while, she was strong, she was a fighter."
Maxwell just put his head in his hands.
"Max," said the man in the suit. "We--"
"How do you lose a house?" interrupted Maxwell.
"How do you lose a house? Why was she not rescued? How did you lose where we were?"
"As I was about to say," said the man in the suit. "We found something under the ruin of the house. There was a... pillar made of polished black rock, it has script written on it that we have not identified."
"Any psychic that goes near the thing feels like they are going to puke and die," said the man in the suit. "It has been there a while, and we think it was the source of the 'laughter in the dark' the girl mentioned, it messes with cell phones, GPS, makes people hallucinate, we shipped it to a radiological institute to put in a shielded box till we figure out what to do with it."
"So people noticed the house was gone," said Maxwell. "But this thing scrambled their brains?"
"That house became a dream to the people who knew of it."
"Then why weren't people just falling into that hole year after year?" asked Maxwell. "Why only now?"
"A section of the ground near it gave way," said the man in the suit. "Its weird signal spread out, it used the young ladies memories and perceptions as a basis to lure people into the trap. Her little models of a small town and a carnival with little figurines of clowns everywhere. It played with your minds."
"You talk like it is alive," said Maxwell.
"We aren't sure if alive is the right word," said the man in the suit. "But we think it might be some kind of device, a computer maybe."
"So it just kicked on?"
"No," said the man in the suit. "And that has us worried. We think it was turned on. We think something might be coming."
"What?" asked Maxwell. "What is coming?"
"Something bad for all of us."
To Be Continued.