Updated date:

Wrong House: A Short Story for Ann Carr

Verlie Burroughs is a west coast writer from Vancouver Island.

wrong-house-a-short-story-for-ann

It is morning. Eliza is late for work. She can hear Mrs U's piano playing as she walks up the front steps. "Is it Moonlight Sonata?" she wonders. "How lovely." The door is locked. She goes round the back to fetch the key, small birds are chirping in the hedge. A glorious day, daffodils bloom in drifts along the fallen down fence. "Pity," she thinks to herself, "old Mrs U clearly needs help with her yard".

As she steps through the back gate Eliza is surprised to see a small child in a red sweater clutching a handful of daffodils. "Hello," she calls quietly. The child drops the flowers.
"It's OK, take the flowers, take them home to your Mom," she smiles. The boy begins nervously picking up the flowers, gripping them tightly in his tiny hands. Then he runs, leaps over the fallen fence and off through the trees.

"Where does he live?" All the houses in the back lane were destroyed in the flood. Mrs. U's house, and a few others were spared being on higher ground.
She reaches under the mat for the key, it's not there. Then it hits her, she's come to the wrong house, this is not Mrs. U's yard. "Oh gosh, how embarrassing. "And why did the child run away?"

She retraces her steps through the side yard, there's no sound now from within, the music's gone silent.
Is she even on the right street? Eliza checks her phone. 52 Baker Street is the address they gave her at the temp office. "This is 52 Baker! Maybe a text error?" She can't call in, it is Sunday.

What to do?
There's not another bus for an hour. It's a long walk home, should she wait? She knocks again at the front door, hoping to explain her predicament. No answer. But then a loud yowl, like someone stepping on a cat, poor cat. She hears a scuffle behind the door, and then scratching. There must be someone home.

Then, the door opens a crack,
"What do you want?" asks a gravelly old voice. Eliza can see just one eye through the crack. It is bloodshot around the startling blue orb.
"I'm sorry, I'm quite lost, I've come to the wrong house."
The door opens just a lttle, and a tiny old woman gazes at her with both eyes blazing. She's wearing a blue dressing gown and fluffy blue slippers, there's a black cat pushing through her skinny ankles. It rushes out

"Now look what you've done!"
"I'm sorry, I'll catch the cat. I'm so sorry."
The old crone slams the door. Eliza rushes down the front steps after the cat who has disappeared around the side of the house into the back yard. She watches it leap over the fallen fence, and into the trees.
"Oh, this is not my day." Taking a deep breath she jumps the fence, and sure enough the flower boy is standing there holding the black cat in his arms. He holds it out to her, then runs back through the trees.
Eliza carries the cat gingerly back to the house. There's piano music playing again, the same song. The cat is purring.

She waits at the door gripping the squirming cat in one arm, and tries the knob. It is open. She enters quickly, closes the door behind her, and drops the cat.
The piano music is much louder inside, it's soothing notes rising and falling sweetly through a long dark hallway.
The floors are dirty, covered with dust and cat hair, she leaves her boots on, wiping them carefully on a worn rag rug, and follows the music to a room at the end of the hall.

Seated, at the piano, is a stunning young woman in a green silk dress, her long brown hair rises and flows across her face as she plays, lost in the music.
Eliza gasps as she notices the boney old legs in a pair of fluffy blue slippers on the piano pedals. She screams, and rushes out of the house. The music stops, and she hears laughter, a growly laugh, then a high pitched cackle, then a shriek.

"Don't come back here my dear!"


At the office on Monday no one is able to understand her story of the missed appointment with Mrs. U.
"We had a Mrs U who lived on Baker Street years ago, but she drowned in the flood along with her young grandson, and a cat."

© 2018 Verlie Burroughs

Comments

Verlie Burroughs (author) from Canada on October 15, 2018:

Tim, thanks for reading. I enjoyed your comments. Glad you found this creepy write to your liking. Cheers.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on October 14, 2018:

Hi, Verlie,

Original. Creepy. Excellent Halloween tale. It reads like a Goose Bumps' book, complete with a surprise ending that makes a person never want to knock on a stranger's door again.

Loved it.

Much respect,

Tim

Verlie Burroughs (author) from Canada on October 13, 2018:

Thanks John, what fun eh. Appreciate the visit, and glad you enjoyed.

Verlie Burroughs (author) from Canada on October 13, 2018:

Hi Genna, thank you for reading, and your kind words. Makes it exciting to have a writer such as yourself come along and enjoy. You made my day.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on October 13, 2018:

Great job, Verlie. I was hooked from the first paragraph and it just built from there. An eerie and surprise ending too, and as others have said Moonlight Sonata was the perfect accompaniment.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on October 13, 2018:

Spooky, ethereal and compelling. Moonlight Sonata is perfect for this tale. Baker Street, the woman from two time realms, lost in the flood, along with her grandson and cat, and the boy's gift of the daffodils that "bloom in drifts along the fallen down fence..." So well written, Verlie. I was hooked right out of the gate.

Verlie Burroughs (author) from Canada on October 12, 2018:

Dear Mar, thank you much. It surprised me how it ended, I'm thinking where did that come from? I really enjoyed writing for Ann's story challenge.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on October 12, 2018:

Dear Verlie,

You rose to this challenge in a spectacular and spooky way - a compelling and very well crafted story.

Love and hugs, Maria

Verlie Burroughs (author) from Canada on October 11, 2018:

Pag, thank you. Ann's challenge led directly to the paranormal for me anyway. I enjoyed writing from her prompt. I love Moonlight Sonata too, would be wonderful to hear it played live like that. Signing in and commenting is a mystery to me now with the niche sites. seems different each time. Changes eh, what can we do?

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on October 11, 2018:

Read this wonderful story yesterday and then had to sign in. Don't you just wonder why the site takes you back to the home page when you do that? Curious.

You've really penned a great tale for this time of year when things get mysterious and spooky. I loved the surprise of the changed appearance in the woman at the piano. BTW, I love Moonlight Sonata. My neighbor used to play it all the time with his windows open and serenade the neighborhood. Charming.

Verlie Burroughs (author) from Canada on October 10, 2018:

How interesting mj. Let me know how that goes, please.

mj on October 09, 2018:

Excellent...beautiful.

I am thinking to translate in my Gujarati language.

Verlie Burroughs (author) from Canada on October 09, 2018:

Venkatachari M thank you so much! What a nice comment to hear, I'm happy you enjoyed reading, Cheers, Verlie

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on October 09, 2018:

A thrilling twist and a beautiful ending. I was immersed in each word of it experiencing actual scenery there. It's so much appealing and exciting. A great fiction to enjoy at this Halloween season.

Verlie Burroughs (author) from Canada on October 09, 2018:

Bill thank you very much for your lovely comment. I am honored.

Verlie Burroughs (author) from Canada on October 09, 2018:

Hi manatita, thanks so much, yes I read Jodah's story it is awesome, I agree.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 09, 2018:

I read a lot of articles and poems during the week, but truthfully there are very few I look forward to reading. Yours I always look forward to, Verlie!

manatita44 from london on October 09, 2018:

Lovely ending!

You gave your story charm and cuteness. Read Jodah's which is equally awesome but different. Beauty in diversity. Great!

Verlie Burroughs (author) from Canada on October 08, 2018:

Rinita, thank you. You are so generous, with your words, and your time. I'm happy to be sharing this journey with you.

Rinita Sen on October 08, 2018:

This is what happens when a poet writes fiction! Haha. The soothing tunes of the piano, the boy with the flowers, the imagery, all speak about how great a poet you are. The story was kind of predictable, in the sense, I knew it was a haunted house around the time you mentioned the floods, but this story stands out for its presentation and flow, which you have brilliantly carved. When I read fiction, it is the style I look for, rather than the actual story, and this is of the highest standards for sure.

Verlie Burroughs (author) from Canada on October 08, 2018:

Hi Mike, you know me too well. Thank you friend, every bit of encouragement helps, doesn't it? I wish I had a black cat, or any cat.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on October 08, 2018:

Hello Verlie - It must be October. It must be Halloween. It must be Verlie's pen. What scenes you have painted, right down to the dust and cat hair. And that fence played a role as well. Happy October/Halloween. Now where is that black cat?

Verlie Burroughs (author) from Canada on October 08, 2018:

Ann, thank you! I am a bit rusty writing fiction since I switched to poetry. I was concerned about point of view, and quotation marks around what the protagonist is thinking. Will check your email. I'm so happy you liked the story!

Ann Carr from SW England on October 08, 2018:

Absolutely brilliant, Verlie! I love this and had no idea of the ending up to the beautiful girl playing the piano.

How well you left the twist in the tale until the latest moment possible. And what a good twist it was!

Thanks for the email. You're spot on with this but I have answered you nonetheless. Thank you for writing a response to my challenge; it's so original and I was hooked from the beginning. Will add the link to my challenge hub.

Ann

Related Articles