Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Unfinished Business in the Basement - Red Dress Club

Kate patted her belt, checking to make sure she was fully equiped before shutting off the cruiser.  She gazed warily at the downtrodden house, that seemed to collapse upon itself, as though it had given up all hope of a family.  Shutters hung awry and the paint had long been flaked off by the elements.

Kate mentally gathered her strength and her wit, and stepped out of the unmarked car, wondering if she should wait for backup on this one.  As just a courtesy check, this shouldn't be a big deal, and 'the boys' would tease her mercilessly if she asked them to come out on this.  Better to plug on, she thought, as she walked up the narrow path, overgrown with neglected, choking bushes and weeds.  The cement porch steps were crumbling, and she stepped lightly across gaping holes in the wooden porch floor.  Wires hung out exposed from the ancient doorbell, so Kate rapped loudly on the door instead, listening to the slight echo inside.  A few seconds later she heard a thump followed by a soft shuffle as someone approached the door.  Kate listened to a lock twist, and then another lock, a deadbolt, and a chain.  Kate rested her hand lightly on her belt, prepared.

As the door struggled to open, it groaned, and Kate could see it was swollen from moisture.  The cloying scent of mildew slapped her across the face, and she struggled not to cough.  Her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness and she found herself facing a boy, maybe 19, with silvery gray eyes and a tight, white 'wife-beater' tank that had a rip across one side.  Tattoos of wolves ran up and down both bony, emaciated arms.

"Yeah?" he said, surly.

"Hello.  I'm Officer Dugan.  We've received some complaints of activity out here.  Loud noises, flashing lights, that sort of thing.  Seeing as how Mr. Hendricks passed away eight years ago, we wanted to check it out," Kate said mildly, with a touch of concern, watching as the expression on his face darkened. 

"Delmas Hendricks was my Grandpa.  I got every right to be here," he said, anger evident along the edges of his spoken words.

"Okay, that may be.  Can I see some ID?" Kate said, reassuringly.  She really didn't like the vibe she was getting.  She needed to keep him calm.

"Yeah.  Come in I guess," he turned abruptly as he spoke, and walked into the darkness of a long hall. 

"You the only one here?" she spoke cautiously to the retreating form.

"Yup," he said, without bothering to look back.

With a great deal of misgiving, Kate stepped into the entryway.  The scent of mold was so overwhelming Kate almost felt like she was being smothered.  She waited, watching candle scones flicker light on stained mauve paisley wallpaper.  To the right was a sitting room, the sort that once might have been a formal parlor for entertaining guests.  Now it housed a battered couch, stuffing and springs exposed, topped with a down sleeping bag, a dingy pillow, and a few scattered Doritos wrappers and crushed beer cans.  Above the couch, a painting hung haphazardly.  It tilted dangerously to the right, and as Kate walked toward the picture her boots creaked on the worn pine floors.

The painting was a waterfall.  The water was life-like in oils, colors radiating as the sun hit across rainbowed froth.  The candlelight brought out an unusual iridescent quality in the water that Kate had never seen captured in oil before.  Across the water floated hundreds of white orbs, shining and flowing.  It was beautiful.  Kate leaned closer, squinting at the orbs in the flickering candlelight.  A chill went through her as she realized that the orbs were gazing back at her.  Eyeballs.  The spheres floating on the water were tiny painted eyeballs.

"Water gives life.  And it takes it away," said a voice from just behind her left shoulder.  Kate jumped.  She forced herself to take a calming breath before turning around. He smirked and held out a card.  Kate accepted the South Carolina driver's license that he held in his fingers.

"Roland Hendricks," she read out loud, "So what are you doing in your grandfather's house after all this time?  There's no electricity and it doesn't seem safe for habitation."  Kate winced internally at the word 'habitation', knowing that she sounded stuffy for using it.

"Rol.  I go by Rol," he answered, irritated. "I'm here about the unfinished business in the basement of course," he said, and Kate felt the burn of his unsettling stare.

This piece is inspired by this week's prompt at The Red Dress Club:
Water gives life. It also takes it away.
Write a short piece - fiction or non-fiction - inspired by one or both of these statements.


Unknown said...

Don't go the basement!

jp@A Green Ridge said...

Oh, BabyGirl...this is awesome!...:)JP

Unknown said...

Well yikes.. Note to self don't go towards the basement..

Nancy said...

Awesome! My kind of fiction. :)

Jane said...

That was really good! But I wouldn't go to the basement either. You could do a lot with that story,very good.Remember no basement! Blessings jane

Mere said...

What an exciting story! is there going to be a sequel? 'cause I'd really like to know what's in the basement :-)

TexWisGirl said...

Oh I TRULY want to know what's down there!

Rambling said...

Very good! "Please Sir, may I have some more?"

Chatty Crone said...

Does she know what the unfinished business was in the basaement? Whew.

Great writing.


Andrea said...

Oh no, you left us hanging!!! I like it. You really caught me and pulled me in once the painting appeared. I could picture the place straight away, so I skimmed the Dorito bags and stuff because I wanted to see where the water came in, and that painting freaked me the heck out! First I thought there were eyes watching her from the other side of the wall! Like the mysterious feel of it.

And this line? "He smirked and held out a card." I sense a mutual attraction, even if there isn't one ... yet. ;)

Valerie Boersma said...

Please, please, please, please , please....I want more!
Unfinished busines.....hmmmmm.
Great writing! I was hooked from the first sentence!!

amygrew said...

Stay out of the basement!!!! Please write more.... I need to read it :)

Sonora said...

Oh! I really liked this one. I am a sucker for suspense and mystery and this was great. I LOVED that part about the eyes in the painting. I did not see that one coming and it made me say OHHHH out loud. Great story, great ending point to lead up to a continuation, and great use of the prompt!

Shell said...

You have me sucked in! What is in the basement???

CDG said...

Oh, I like this. Quite a bit.

Nothing like mysterious paintings, creepy (but perhaps also kinda sexy?) guys, abandoned houses, and something sinister in the basement.

One small thing, did you mean, "candle sconces?"

Jennifer said...

ooooo I liked this. It was so unsettling without being overly so. I like the surprise of the eyes, Rols total and utter creepiness/irritation and I vote that she has to go to the basement because how else am I going to know what happens?

Anonymous said...

Okay...this one pulled me in. I, too, want to know what's in the basement. The painting was creepy. Did he paint it?

The only critique that I have - and it has nothing to do with your writing! - is that with the justification centered, it was a little hard to read. :)

Farah Jasmine said...

Oh no! What happens? Does she go in the basement? I'm so curious!!

Farah Jasmine said...

Awesome! What's in the basement?? Did she go down to the basement?? Who painted the picture??? Ahhhh!

Selena said...

I LOVE creepy horror that may or may not end up being horror. I would love it if the "unfinished business" was, like, a wine cellar filled with good vintage wines. LOL. VERY cool to leave it hanging like thaat.

Cristina said...

what is is the basement??? I must know! you really captivated me and did an amazing job at building tension... I want more!

Ami said...

I hope this is the beginning of something bigger. You've got me hooked and I really want to know what happens in the basement! I also like how you've captured a good deal of the essence of the characters in such a short piece. Looking forward to reading more!

Denelle @CaitsConcepts said...

ACK! What's in the basement????

My Mad World said...

HEY!!!!!! I hope you continue with this one!

Love them all and always wanting you to continue but I wanna know what's in the basement!! :)

Great job woman!!

The mad woman behind the blog said...

fingers in ears, eyes squeezed shut "la la la la, just the laundry down there, la la la la"
Brightest day all week and there is no WAY I'm going into my own basement today. Thanks!

Ash said...

Eeeeeek! I could smell that place, hear the floor, feel her uncertainty. So fantastic.

But boy am I glad my house does not have a basement. More please.

erin margolin said...


I watched part of "The Ring" last night and this got me all creeped out, too!

Wonderful job, Lisa!