Sunday, October 29, 2006

November Wordsmiths Unlimited Challenge: The Chapel

I was recently invited to join in the fun with the massively sexy people over at Wordsmiths Unlimited for their November Challenge which involves writing a scary story involving the picture below. You have 500 words or less with which to hang yourself, and this month there's the added challenge of not using any word over 4 syllables (which was surprisingly easier than it sounds). So here's my contribution, and everyone have a rad Halloween.

The Chapel

This place is haunted.

Look at the picture of it; you can tell without having to be there, following your husband to this shell of a building on the edge of his grandparent's farm. You won't be able to feel the damp November sky peek through the rotten timbers of the ceiling; you can't smell the scents of fern, dirt, animal, fire. You can't see the way the shadows hide things, but you can look at this photo and know that yes, it is filled with ghosts.

The ghosts are around you now as you clutch your husband's hand tight, standing in the doorway. You are trying to be brave; this trip is important to your husband. He walks inside, picking his way through the wild growth. You stay where you are, trying to listen to the ghosts that tickle the backs of your knees, prick you between the shoulders.

What are they saying?

To hear what they say you must first know what happened here. This is what your husband tells you:

When I was young I spent summers here on the farm with my grandparents. Their acreage included part of some woods, and at the edge of the woods was an old building. It was probably a barn or a stable, but we always called it The Chapel. My grandparents forbid me to ever go near there because hobos liked to camp out there sometimes. But I was a dumb kid and one night I snuck out there. There were two men there and I saw them cooking something over a fire. They heard me and they found me.

So this visit is meant to be therapy, helping your husband come to terms with that night, and the ghosts are those of small animals and the sad innocence of a little boy.

The ghosts are victims, but you've heard them wrong.

You can hear your husband scuffle around, then you hear him sigh. It takes monumental effort to join him inside The Chapel, and when you do you find him staring at a charred ring on the ground. You wrap your arms around him, oh my love.

The ghosts are louder now but you are too absorbed in the misery of your husband, you try to hold him and comfort him.

This is what you are missing:

Once there was a little boy who lived with his grandparents during the summer. They lived on a farm, and at the edge of their land was a rotted-out building they called The Chapel. He liked to bring animals here. One time he brought his dog, a big German Shepherd. The last time he was here he brought back his baby brother. They found the baby in the creek, thought he had crawled too close to the water and drowned.

Your husband is holding you tightly, too tightly, there is something cold and sharp in between the knobs of your spine.

The ghosts tried to warn you.


tiff said...

Hell YES!!!

You be one twisted woman - most excellent.

As a minor critque (because that's part of the exercise of the wordsmiths), I wasn't following the first paragraph that well. I had to read it twice before getting the overall idea. Once it was in the rest of the story rolled very well.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap! I didn't see that one coming!

I guess "couple's therapy" means different things to different people :)

Anonymous said...

Fabulous effort. Remind me to not see that couple's therapist!!!

Chelle said...

Cool (a little chilling) and unexpected. Nicely done.

Lady Jane Scarlett said...

Wicked ending Sea Hag!

Kingfisher said...

I liked this. A lot. It is twisted and sick and satisfying.

Well done except for two points:

The italicized part moves the story, but harms the flow.

The "Once a little boy..." paragraph tells instead of describes.

A little judicious rearranging and this is a damn near perfect story. The best of the bunch, IMHO.

Thanks for participating, and come back next month!

the only daughter said...


Chiming in, joining the crowd. Yup, pretty darn fine yarn.

Sea Hag said...

Wow, thanks so much for the feedback and the comments, guys! I appreciate the constructive criticism, too. Now I have to go read all your stories!