Chapter 10

Written by: MatClarke

‘Hello? Gretchen, you about?’
    All three looked to the top of the basement steps.
    ‘I knocked and thought I heard you call out.’ Jen appeared at the doorway, smiled and began descending the steps and talking of the heat of the day. By the time she reached the last few steps, she could see Gretchen’s mournful expression and pallid complexion. Her left foot hovered for a moment then settled back.
    ‘Gretchen?’ Jen wiped the buildup of sweat from her forehead.
    Grandma Whitaker pointed at the realtor and Albert sprang from Gretchen’s side, all fists,striking Jen three times before she collapsed to the floor.  
    Gretchen blinked. She looked at her clothes and saw spots of blood. The realtor lay sprawled at her feet, blood splatter on the wall and a pool creeping out from her head where it lay resting on the concrete floor.
    Gretchen screamed. Her eyes rolled up and her legs crumbled.

Cold metal stung Gretchen’s back, her child was at her breast trying to feed.
    Albert held the baby for her since her own arms were restrained by handcuffs.
    ‘Good. See, he’s hungry.’ Grandma Whitaker said, and stroked Gretchen’s hair.
    Albert turned to the sound of footsteps. Gretchen’s ears pricked up. A dark shape was walking from the shadows. Gretchen squeezed her eyes shut.
    ‘Hunny?’ a male voice said.
    Gretchen’s eyes sprung open, Matt came fully into view. But, no, it couldn’t be. This couldn’t be the man she had once loved. His face was torn, but not bleeding and his clothes where in tatters and covered in dirt. He snarled.
    Albert unlocked the handcuffs. ‘It’s time.’
    Gretchen stopped breathing. Her heart beat so hard her necklace bounced.
    She sat up with Brent close to her while also trying to manipulate her buttons to cover herself. ‘MM...Matt?’
    Her mind buzzed like it was full of electricity. The room blurred and shifted. A charred hand rose from the baby carriage and a moan, ancient and evil, called. Grandma Whitaker held out her arms, beckoning Gretchen to hand Brent over. Albert smiled at Gretchen and nodded.
    Gretchen raised her baby and leaned out to hand him over to the old woman.
    Grandma Whitaker leaned towards her.
    A shrill scream sounded from the stairs and a woman in a blood matted dress crashed into the creature that wasn’t Matt and pushed him into Grandma Whitaker.
    ‘Run!’ Jen yelled.
    Gretchen didn’t need any coaxing. She ran to the tune of her son’s wail and great gulps of air. She was halfway up the steps when she heard pounding footsteps behind her. She looked back and saw that it was Jen, gaining, but Albert was close behind.
    Jen burst from the stairs following Gretchen, slammed the door and locked it. A massive whump and the hinges almost broke from the wall.
    ‘My car!’ Jen said, leading the way.
    Moments later they were on the main road, praying they were safe from the house of horrors.



Dramatic finish but still more to come.  Don't know what a realtor is and was Matt really there? All the bad ones needed to burn in hell in this story.  
Always good to come full-circle, of a sort. Tie things together. Almost. Things are a little murky for me, image-wise, in the middle of the story. Had to read it more than once to feel like I got what you were putting out there. I think the Matt "appearance" threw me a little. Still not quite sure if he was a total apparition or Gran Whitaker casting an evil spell of control or a zombie apocalypse that was averted. The ending was great - nothing got explained, but the good ones got away.
Someday, I want to kill a character of and have them stay dead :-)
Oh yes, when my characters die they stay dead. Sometimes I leave them headless.
It's the shortness of short stories that really ties me down ;) There were so many possibilities, so many things to tie together and so many different characters. It was possibly crazy of me to go and bring another one back from the dead!! However, it stems from my original idea that would have needed closer to 3,000 words to fully capture what I wanted to do. This was to create Gretchen's world as part imagined and part real. In the original, Gretchen killed Jen. Mat didn't die. There was no funeral. Then while Gretchen was in the basement with her baby I wanted not only her to not know what was real, but the reader as well. But, in 500 words I couldn't make it work. So, I wrote what you see above. I guess I was thinking of what happened to Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Anywho, here is the last part of what I originally wrote. The rest of the story is quite different as well. I'm only including the ending here (bare in mind that Matt is not dead):      Gretchen raised her baby and leaned out to hand him over to the old woman.     Matt saw Gretchen hold the baby up as if she wanted him to take Brent, and approached her with a confused look. Gretchen let go. The baby fell to the floor. The unmistakable sound of a cracking skull brought Gretchen back from her daze.      Matt was on the dusty floor, hands covered in the dark liquid that leaked from their baby, cradling its broken head.     He looked up. Tears in his eyes. His mouth opened twice but no words came out. He looked over at the steps, then back to his wife before climbing to the open door.     What had she done?     The front door slammed moments later. ----- Still doesn't give you the full picture, does it. Well, that's what you get with short stories, especially horror stories. Things go unanswered, and that makes you keep thinking about it after you finished reading.
Mat, I do see now where you were trying to go. I gasped out loud as the baby fell to the concrete floor, head first. Kinda glad that's not the way it ended, although it would have been the better ending. Sigh. I appreciate you giving me the picture of what you wanted to do.
I'm not sure I liked this. It's all very confused. I sympathise with Matt that he had one hell of a job to bring this to a close and I do understand his frustration at not being able to write the end the way he really wanted it to be. Never mind. The point is, Matt had a go and in the time he had did the best he could. 10 out of 10 for overcoming frustration and soldiering on. 
I think it is time to finish my book, "So you think you can write in a Serial"
I envisioned Matt being held captive in an attic hideaway to eventually gain his freedom and foil the conspiracy of Albert and the old woman that was intended to maintain possession of the house. The final chapter was effective in the way it brought me in the the horror that was happening in the basement and the heart thumping escape up the stairs. The one negative is that the end left me feeling unsatisfied like there was no conclusion. there is supposed to be a struggle and a victory but I felt like nobody won.