Thursday, September 16, 2010

NPR 3-Minute Fiction Contest

NPR is having a contest to write a story of 600 words or less, starting with the line "Some people swore the house was haunted" and ending with "Nothing was ever the same after that."

You can find details here.

The following is my submission, entitled 'When Were Things Ever the Same?'

'When Were Things Ever the Same? by Troy Blackford

    Some people swore that the house was haunted. Then again, some people swore the house had been built all the way back in 1776, and Jack knew that was a steaming pile of cattle cake, too. Fact was, around these parts people would swear to just about anything. Haunted, historical, whatever – the important thing was for the person telling you to feel like they knew something you didn’t.

    Still, ghosts or no ghosts, Jack knew something about that house that the eager swappers of stories hadn’t even guessed at – a painful secret perhaps better left forgotten. Then why is he here, pulling up the long drive when he really should be working, his ordinarily blaring car stereo silenced and his ordinarily shining eyes dull?

    “Why anything?” he said aloud, startling himself with his louder-than-anticipated voice. The spaces around the edge of that nearly meaningless question filled up with potential, and Jack realized he may have just asked the first really good question of his entire life, maybe of anybody’s life.

    He pulled in past the rows of trees that lined the path, and thought to himself how one could not explain these trees without explaining the origins of dirt, water, gravity, light – the idea of an explanation behind things was both tantalizing and inherently ridiculous. Such futile exercises fell outside the scope of Jack’s interests.

    So did rumors.

    What interested Jack were facts, features, things he could touch. Why did a sharpened knife cut? That could never be discovered, but that it did cut was obvious. Those lost in explanations felt that they were growing in understanding: really it was slipping from their fingers.

    And there were facts about this house that Jack alone was privy to. Not so long ago, others shared this knowledge, briefly. Jack felt a sense of greedy superiority about these details, and felt content in knowing the others had passed beyond knowledge.

    Some swore the house was haunted, others swore only that it was a good place to take your high school girlfriend. What they said made no difference because they didn’t know the secret to the house.

    “Funny,” Jack said to himself, getting out of the car and stretching his legs. “People who don’t have anything to tell talk about this place a lot.” Yet he, with his secrets, remains silent.

    Going around to the old-fashioned cellar doors, he glances nervously over his shoulder before kicking them open. He could feel the old thrill returning, starting in his fingers and running up his arms. Soon he would find them. Soon they would be together again: his secrets and he.

    Down, down, down the darkened steps into the strangely dry basement he stepped. Sparkling motes of dust glittered like galaxies in the shafts of light. His gleeful squeal cuts the silence.

    He removes a blanket which has been draped over a chest and lifts the lid aside. He gasps at the beauty – the trembling, delicate beauty – he has exposed within. His heart is raw and open to it – it pulses as though alight with a fire that creates rather than consumes.

    In a blink, the dim basement becomes awash in agonizingly pure, white light.

    “You dumb bastard!” the detective yelled, pointing his gun at a startled, blinking Jack.

    Jack frowned. Had he been followed? Caught? He looked down at the trunk, at the smooth, pearly bones jumbled together like a child’s playchest from hell – a fitting comparison as they were the bones of at least a dozen young children - and then back up at the detective.

    Nothing was ever the same again after that.


  1. And you'd like to thank Angela Kay for the inspiration and information for the above submission, right??? J/K It was fun to try and squeeze in a story in such short order!

    For those interested in my submission (please keep in mind that unlike Troy, I am NOT a writer!) visit my blog at

  2. Visit her blog anyway! And she's too modest!