This week's challenge for Flash Fiction Friday is about a wrong number, an inadvertent eavesdropping on a call, and the consequences.
Let’s say you need some serious R&R and you decide to spend the weekend at an isolated cabin. It belongs to a friend, who will be out of town, and it is well-stocked with food, liquor, first editions, and firewood. The thing that is most enticing is the fact that there is no cell service; therefore, no one will be able to bother you with the day-to-day nonsense you are trying to get away from. There is a working phone in the cabin, but it’s a rotary that your friend keeps around for laughs.
Prompt: Craft us a tale and share with us exactly what it was that you overheard, and also, while you’re at it, let us know how that weekend turned out for ya! If you can, that is…
Genre: Whatever floats your boat!
Word Limit: You’ve caught me in a generous mood, so let’s cap this one at 1,800 words.
I liked the idea of an isolated place in the woods, and crafting some horror around it. And I knew of just the place - Red's grandmother has a delightful little cottage. Was a quick write, and fun - initially 1483 words. Finished on a twist and a cliff-hanger, so went back and added a couple of times to the ending. Let me know what you think. Note - part of an ongoing Fairy Tale Folk series.
“I hate men,” said the witch.
“Nonsense Agnes,” said Red. “You love them – maybe too much at times. Men are fine, your problem is with those boys you pick up in the bar.”
“Young men, not boys,” said Agnes. “They're all so cute too, and so appreciative.”
“You do realize some of that is from the spells you weave?” said Red.
Agnes sighed. Their years in Grimm's tales had eventually brought her and the other characters to life, and given them skills in roleplaying, in disguise, in persuasion. Skills they could use to add power and strength to any stories, skills they could use in between stories, in their own lives. Skills that covered the warts and wrinkles of a witch and drew young men too her in droves. Skills that unfortunatly couldn't add even a pinch of maturity or intelligence or empathy to a single one of them.
“I need a break,” she said. “I'm so exhausted from trying to keep up with these guys, I can't even keep the simplest spells going. The last one I brought home, poor boy, he woke up before I did and saw me without my “game face” on.”
“What did you do”” asked Red.
“Nothing,” said the witch. “Didn't get a chance. He ran out, stark naked, pants in one hand, shoes in the other, screaming something about his gran. I was suprised how much it upset me. I don't look that bad do I?”
Red laughed. “You do look a little different without those spells even on a good day. But right now – you look like hell my dear. You definitely do need a break.”
“I'm just feeling a little old lately, and tired. I need a weekend away somewhere on my own with no distractions, no men – or boys – just peace and quiet.”
“I've just the place,” said Red, “my gran's cottage. She's off on some seniors cruise and her place is sitting empty. Only an hour or so away, but it's dead quiet up there. Her place is on it's own road, no cell coverage, just an old rotary phone on a party line with a a few other spots scattered around up there.”
“You're a saviour,” said Agnes, “just what I need.”
Agnes peered ahead into the gloom, and twisted the wheel to avoid yet another pothole. She'd considered taking her own Beetle, but didn't trust her spell-casting anymore – just her luck it would revert and shrink while she was sitting on it. Instead she'd borrowed Red's Miata – a nice car but not built for this road. She winced as the red sports car scraped over another rock. She'd have to do some fancy spell-casting on it once she rested up.
At last the little cottage came into view, and just in time too. The storm that had been building broke just as she stepped out of the car with her suitcase. She fumbled with the old fashioned key then pushed into the gloom, slamming the door against the wind and rain. She felt along the wall for the light switch and flicked it on.
Red had mentioned the power was flaky during storms, so Agnes concentrated and managed to conjure up a faint flame on one fingertip. It was bright enough to get her to the mantelpiece, and to light the lantern sitting there. She lifted it high and looked around the tiny cottage. The main room held a sofa and rocking chair, a small bookcase, and the fireplace, a kitchen in one corner, and a small table with two wooden chairs at it. The phone Red had mentioned was on the wall, an ancient model with two bells on top, and a rotary dial on the front. Through a curtained doorway, she found the small bedroom, with a closet in one corner and a very comfy looking four poster bed. She was ready to crawl under the covers already, but decided to get some supper first.
She soon got a fire going and relaxed a bit as it took the chill and damp from the room. She'd packed a lot of snack food, so decided to just curl up on the couch with some cheese and crackers and a glass of wine. She pulled an afghan over herself and admired the pattern. No doubt made by Red's gran she thought – all grans made afghans. She was just starting to drift off when the phone rang. She jolted awake, knocking the crackers to the floor and barely saving her wine.
“Must be Red,” she thought, “checking up on me.” She picked up the phone and was about to say hello back at the voice in it when she realized there were two voices, talking to each other.
“Sorry,” she said, “Thought it was for me. Wrong number – or rather wrong answer. I'm not used to party lines.”
But the voices kept right on talking to each other, as if they hadn't heard her. She kept listening.
“Is she there yet?”
“Yes, got here just before the storm hit – it washed out the old bridge again.”
“Excellent, we're looking forward to an exciting night.”
“Hello,” she said, “sorry, yes I'm here and OK.” They still ignored her and continued their conversation.
“How's your little pet doing?”
“Fine – he's eager to get out and play as soon as the rain let's up a bit. He doesn't like getting his fur all muddy.”
“Picky for such a violent creature.”
“Yes, but he's good a what he does.”
“He does play with his food at times though – I think he likes it when they scream.”
“Always messy to clean up after he -”
The line went dead. She jiggle the hook a few times.
“Hello? Hello?” Nothing, not even a dial tone.
She felt a shiver run up her back. She crept to the front door, and slid the heavy bolt shut. She looked around the room – a small window on each wall, all bolted shut, all strong looking. She checked the bedroom window – bolted too. She played back the conversation in her mind. Could have been talking about her arrival, or someone else on the party line. And that pet – she supposed was someone's dog, although they did talk of him liking to hear screams – a peculiar phrase. She peered out the window into the rain and flashes of lightning. She thought she saw a shape in one of the flashes, over behind her car, but the next flash showed just the car. She'd left one of the window's open a bit she noticed, and on the side facing into the rain. Too bad, she wasn't going back out there now. Just in case, she turned the lamp down a bit and got a carving knife form the kitchen. She felt very vulnerable without her spell-casting powers. She tried the phone again, and was delighted to hear dial tone. She decided a 911 call would just be over reacting, so dialed home. All she got was her machine.
“Hey guys, it's me. Got to the cottage OK, just before the storm hit. Power is out, but phone works – off and on. Actually, just overheard a weird call on the party line about somebody getting here OK, then a dog or something going out hunting – kind of freaked me out a bit, wouldn't mind hearing -”
The line went dead again. Damn. Hopefully either Red, or Romulus the wolf, would check for messages and call her. She went back to the couch, clutching her knife, and pulled the afghan around her.
When she awoke it was still dark, but quieter. She could hear the water dripping from the leaves outside, and the branches rustling. She stirred the embers of the fire and put another log on. She went over to the kitchen window and peered outside into the gloom. Looked like the storm had blown over, there were still a few clouds but the moon was managing to brighten the woods a bit. She saw a glint in the moonlight, behind some bushes, and realized with a chill she was looking at two eyes. They blinked, then disappeared.
A moment later there was thump at the front door. Silence, then a rustle by the front window, then a moment later by the side one, then the back one. More silence, just the dripping leaves, a rustle of the branches. She peered through the back window and saw a huge wolf sitting in the back yard, grinning at her, fangs shining in the white light.
She smiled and gave him a finger. “Romulus, you idiot,” she called. “What are you doing scaring the shit out of an old friend. Come on around front and I'll let you in.”
She'd just slid the bolt back and opened the door a bit when the phone rang.
“Must be Red warning me of his tricks,” she thought.
“Hello?” she said.
“Hi Agnes, it's me, Romulus. Just got your message, are you ok?"
She turned and leaped towards the door.
Edit - This was the original ending. I looked at it again and decided to add to the ending ...
Too late! The door crashed open and a beast - half dog, half wolf - jumped at her. She caught a quick glimpse of red eyes and long fangs, then threw out her hands as if to block its leap. There was a blue flash and a scream.
Edit - and maybe add a bit more ...
When she awoke it was daylight. Romulus was leaning over her, and thankfully as a man, not a wolf.
She smiled up at him, then suddenly it all came back. She sat up in a panic.
"Rommy, where is it?" she asked.
She looked around the room. The door was open, with the morning sun streaming across the floor. The kitchen chairs were knocked over, and a knife lay next to her on the floor. She could smell flowers, Rommy's cologne, and burnt fur.
Romulus pointed at a black spot on the floor. "Whatever it was, it's gone now. Looks like your spell-casting still works just fine. Maybe it was more a matter of confidence."
She gave her friend a hug. "Very perceptive," she said. "You're not just a pretty face. You're right, I can feel all my abilities again. Thanks for coming up."
"Want me to stay for a bit?" he said.
"No, I'm good now. I'll grab a bite to eat then go for a bit of a walk and explore. Maybe I'll follow that phone line and see where it leads to. Might be time for some payback."
Edit - OK, done now. Could take this further - who were those voice, why were they after her? Or were they in fact after Red's gran? Was her gran not on a seniors cruis, but drug running in Columbia??