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Flash Fiction Guidelines 2017


First Place Winner

 

One More

by Vicki Thomas

“OK, so I turn left at the T intersection?”

“Right.”

“Right correct or right the direction?”

“Right correct.  It shouldn’t be this difficult.”

“I’m terrible with directions.  Thank God the moon is full.  You realize I could turn off the headlights and still see exactly where I’m going?  When I get there, we can go for a moonlight walk.”

Erin was smiling.  She hadn’t seen Logan since last Sunday.  Long-distance relationships usually suck, but she and Logan seemed to thrive on the emotional space it gave them in spite of the physical distance it put between them.

“You’re not going to get here till after mid-"

In mid-word the phone call was dropped, replaced by three beeps and a silence so complete Erin was shocked.  Usually when she lost calls, they would exchange warbled speech and wait for the inevitable silence on the other end.  She looked at her phone to make sure it wasn’t dead.  Nope.  63%.

She drove on into the night, anticipating the intersection.  She would be arriving at the rented cabin within half an hour.  The night was beautiful, with the full moon and sparse but quick-moving clouds occasionally obscuring the reflected light it provided.  There were no clear landmarks.  Everything was shadow — oceans of blue, purple, and black cascaded over the landscape.  The old country road had no markings.  Fortunately, she hadn’t passed a single car.

As she approached the stop sign at the intersection, she saw the route number.  Route 13.

“No wonder he wouldn’t tell me the route number.”  She spoke aloud into the car.  Logan knew she avoided the number 13.  She wouldn’t call it a fear, but other people might.  She didn’t go far out of her way to avoid the number 13, but she didn’t embrace it either.  Her parents had named her Erin Ann Weaver.  Thirteen letters in her name.  She always thought it best to avoid 13 when there was another option.  But tonight, it seemed, there was no option.  To get to the cabin she would have to travel Route 13.

It wasn’t until she stopped and pondered the significance that she saw the obscured house, a two-story Victorian brick, and the frail old woman in the window.  At one time the house would have been grand, with its wraparound porch and gleaming white gingerbread trim.  But now trees as tall as the grand home obscured the peeling paint, rotting wood, and ornate windows.  The house looked to be abandoned.  Yet sitting at the window, with a gnarled hand holding back the faded lace curtain, was a woman whose frail features, lined faced, and white hair seemed ominous in the harsh glare of the headlights.

Erin turned off the headlights, intrigued, fearing she was imagining the figure in the window.  But the woman appeared to glow of her own volition, her features and age more prominent than before.  The gnarled hand beckoned for Erin to come in.  Erin gave a slight wave and looked at the clock: 11:56.  She hit the gas.  She couldn’t wait to leave this intersection, even if it meant turning onto Route 13.

As soon as she made the turn, the car stopped as suddenly as her call to Logan had.  No sputtering, no hesitating.  She still had a half tank of gas.  She tried to turn the key.  Nothing.  She picked up the phone.  Still no service.  Frustrated, she resigned herself to her only option, the creepy old Victorian house and the little old lady.  She fought her way through the overgrown shrubs to an obscured path.  The old woman was no longer sitting at the window.  Erin needed help now and seriously hoped the house was not abandoned.

As she approached the front door, she felt that she had made a mistake.  Route 13 was wrong.  This house was wrong.  This old woman was wrong.  She was ready to turn and run when the front door opened.  As much as the outside was falling apart, the inside looked new.

The scent of lavender hung in the air, not the old musty smell she was expecting.  The furniture, old-fashioned pieces, appeared to be brand new.  Expecting to see the old woman, sitting in a wheelchair perhaps, behind the open door, Erin stepped inside.  But no one was there.

She took a few steps forward, shouting a greeting to let the old woman know she was coming.  A soft light and hushed conversation emanating from the next room guided Erin’s steps.

Fear that she was intruding was replaced by a far greater fear the instant she entered the room.  A small crowd of people, all dressed in formal clothing of different eras, stood by the fireplace cradling cocktails.  A couple from the Roaring '20s looked as fresh as the gentleman with the crewcut wearing a 1950s suit and tie.  People from the shoulder-padded '90s, some from the bowtie-suspendered '80s, a girl in a sundress reminiscent of the '70s stared at her as she entered.  Candles flickered on a long dining room table set for the group.

The sundress girl spoke.  “We only have 12.”  She gently reached for Erin’s hand.  “We need one more.”

Erin turned to run, but the party moved, quicker than any humans could, to block her path.

“It’s almost time for dinner.  We need one more,” the old woman whispered softly.

The clock on the mantle showed 12:13 a.m.  Erin’s fear and confusion were replaced by resignation.  She was here.  She wasn’t leaving.

When the sun rose on Route 13 on October 13, no car was found abandoned.  Logan drove repeatedly up and down Route 13 most of the morning.  Police were called out and locals helped search, but there was no sign, no trace, that Erin Ann Weaver had ever been there.

***

Vicki Thomas is an English teacher at Greater Johnstown School District and has been a Western Pennsylvania resident her entire life.  In her spare time, she enjoys bike riding on the local trails with her husband of 26 years.  She also enjoys spending time with her three sons.


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