Myth Confirmed – 100 Word Flash Fiction

 

He was onto it now, Bernard could feel it. He’d tracked the beast through the snow for hours, and knew it must be close by. Once he caught it, he would be famous! The tracks led into some bushes, and Bernard followed. Then he froze, dumbfounded.

“Nessie?!? What the hell are you doing here?”

The serpentine neck turned gracefully to regard him. “Oh, I just fancied a change of scenery. Bigfoot raves about this place.”

“But how can you, a cold-blooded reptile, survive here?” Bernard asked.

The plesiosaur gave him a quizzical look. “You’ve never been to Scotland, have you?”

*     *     *

This Friday Fictioneers entry was brought to you by Scotch Video Cassettes, because screw Netflix.

I wasn’t all that happy with my last attempt, so I thought I’d have another go. I’m much happier with this one. Apologies to any Scottish readers who might be offended. Please don’t nut me.

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Myth Confirmed by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

False Alarm? – 100 Word Flash Fiction

 

Jake yawned purposely, eyes closing tightly enough to aggravate his migraine. Freezing air filled his lungs. He didn’t want to be here. Crouched beside him, the engineer was finishing up. Jake wondered how easy it would be to make him just disappear.

“I can’t find any sign of a leak,” the engineer said. A false alarm, apparently. Jake was certain he’d smelled gas in his kitchen, but it was 3 AM, he was tired and eager to leave the dingy apartment building basement. He apologised to the engineer and showed him out hurriedly. As he did so, he made sure to avoid glancing at the darkened alcove near the entrance, where he could’ve sworn he’d seen a figure watching them.

This Friday Fictioneers entry was brought to you by Kia-Ora and their vaguely racist ad campaign. “I’ll be your dawg!”

Hey look, I’m back again! A little late, but I got here in the end. Don’t get used to it, though, I’ll probably disappear again before next week. Things are still unsettled on the home front.

This one is drawn from a personal experience, which took place earlier this year. It’s not 100% accurate – I didn’t see anything, but I was sure I’d heard someone, or possibly something, moving about in that little offshoot. I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I made sure the engineer was stood between me and the alcove. I was probably imagining it, but it doesn’t hurt to be safe.

Creative Commons Licence
False Alarm? by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Patience – 100(ish) Word Flash Fiction

 

Johnny walked hurriedly down Loughborough Road, his heart thumping. Every day he made this journey to and from school. And every day he passed that empty white house and the hair stood up on his neck. He had no idea why, but that old house terrified him. Today he dared to take a sideways glance, caught a brief snapshot of flaking brickwork, dirty windows and mouldy net curtains. His mum had told him it used to be a doctor’s surgery, many years ago. Johnny hated going to the doctors.

He looked away and carried on walking.

*     *     *

A grey, tapered forelimb rested on the windowsill. Through mottled net curtains, it watched as the boy hurried off. The faint chatter of children’s voices drifted out of its subconscious – was that really how they’d sounded? It couldn’t be sure anymore. It had been so very long.

It turned away and carried on waiting.

*     *     *

This Friday Fictioneers entry was brought to you by Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Stick it on your shopping list!

Right, first off, if you’re new to the whole #FridayFictioneers shebang (in which case I can say without hyperbole that you have not lived) then please visit Madison Woods’ blog to find out WTF it’s all about and HTF you can take part. While you’re there make sure you check out her entry, then have a gander at the comments to find links to others. Feel free to read and comment on as many as you can, because they are all guaranteed to be awesome. If you are already aware of the #FridayFictioneers then you’ve just wasted valuable reading/commenting time on the above. In addition, you may or may not have discovered that I’m a damn liar.

Moving along, apologies for my absence these last few weeks – what do you mean, you hadn’t noticed? Little bit of traditional English self-deprecation there. Consider that a bonus for depriving you of my obvious talent. What do you mean, what talent? There you go, have another! I’m all about giving.

Frivolity aside, an explanation is in order. I’ve been busy for the last month or so doing up my flat to get it in a reasonable state as we’re hoping to move. Between this, the Domain and other commitments I haven’t had a lot of free time. I was all set to make my stunning return this week, when unfortunately I happened to get sick as a dog. Lazy, useless antibodies. Fortunately I wrote this piece and prepared the illustration in advance, so this time I will not be denied! I won’t be able to read or comment on other entries tonight, or respond to any comments here, as despite technological advances it remains difficult to do so from the confines of the bathroom (apologies for that mental image, I’m trying to dilute my own ill feeling by spreading it around a bit). Hopefully I’ll feel up to it tomorrow. After that, I might do a bit of reading and commenting! There you, a side serving of euphemism to go with your double helping of self-deprecation. Another little bonus for you.

While I’m here, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Susie Lindau for taking part in my recent 200th comic special. Sadly the planned follow-up has been kiboshed by this accursed disease, but you will still get your cameo appearance as promised, alongside a certain other well-known blogger. Look out for that next week.

Till then, this is Jake Kale signing off. Hopefully not permanently.

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Patience by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Turn On, Log In, and Freak Out – 100 Word Flash Fiction

 

Jake stared at the comment field, the expectant square as blank as his mind. Everyone else’s comments were so witty, insightful and encouraging. What could he possibly add to the discussion? He thought for a second, then his figures skipped about the keyboard.

“No comment.”

*     *     *

I hope Susie, Madison and elmowrites will forgive me for incorporating them, or at least their avatars into the story, such as it is. And I hope you’ll all forgive my self-doubt, not to mention my self-indulgence. I like to take frequent, cutting shots at my own inadequacies. I have no idea why.

In case you’re wondering, the unseen entry they’re commenting on deals with a character my nephew came up with named Mr. Facemelt. I’ve referenced him before, here and here. One day I’m going to explore that character in full, bloody detail.

As always, for more details about the Friday Fictioneers check out Madison Wood’s blog.

Creative Commons Licence

Turn On, Log In, and Freak Out by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Breaking the Surface – 100 Word Flash Fiction

Dust scattered as if moved by a mighty exhalation. Shafts of hot light penetrated the gloom, revealing a whole new world that long vanished eyes would never see. It had faced annihilation, the end of life, yet it had persevered. And now, after enduring the bone crushing weight of time for so long, the great beast had finally surfaced.

Dr Bob Jackson knelt before the scant remains. To think, he’d almost walked right by them. As he lightly swept away the baking earth the maxilla appeared, immense teeth still routed in the jaws. Jackson smiled. “You made it, big fella.”

*     *     *

OK, so I tweaked the prompt a little. Call it a compromise!

To be honest, I couldn’t not use this prompt. The second I saw it, I thought, “Dinosaur!” I have been a prehistory nerd since before I can remember, and I retain that fascination with these awe-inspiring animals and the vanished ecosystems they inhabited to this day. In my geologically insignificant time on this planet I have seen our understanding of them and their world, and of the worlds that came before and since, change many times over as intrepid palaeontologists pushed the boundaries of what we can know, what we can learn. I have seen things that just a few years ago I would’ve thought impossible become reality. This story is dedicated to the efforts of the men and women who venture out into the world to discover its past. If I’d had their drive I could’ve been out there with them. I share their fascination though, and I thank them for their work. To coin a phrase, you guys rock!

As always, thanks to Madison Woods for giving me and others an excuse to write/kick up the backside. Go to her blog to learn more about the Friday Fictioneers, and please feel free to comment and leave links to your entries there and here. And if you haven’t yet then please join in. It’s fun!

One last bit of business. This is shameless begging, so I apologise in advance. This an appeal to readers who have visited my other site, The Master Of His Domain. I’ve recently posted a review of the 2011-early 2012 season and I’m looking for feedback. I’ve been running it since late 2009, and while its audience has grown steadily I want more. I’m really trying to make the site a success so any suggestions/criticisms/squeeing would be very much appreciated.

Jake 

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Breaking the Surface by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Loose Lips – 100 Word Flash Fiction

 

The pathologist stifled a yawn as he entered the bedroom. What remained of the young woman was spread across the bed before him. Moving past ashen detectives, he began his examination. The head, though blood-spattered, was uninjured. Sightless eyes stared up at him. With the lightest touch from his gloved hand, he teased open her thick, full lips, revealing the slack tongue inside. Formerly motile organs that had brought him such pleasure just a few short hours ago…

He drew back, mindful of his colleagues. Soon, she’d be on the slab in his morgue. Then the fun would really begin.

* * *

This one was inspired by the work of a friend of mine, Mr. Daniel Brown (no, not that one). Technically, his Creative Commons license forbids expanding on any of his work, but I’m kinda of hoping he won’t mind in this case. If he does, then this is not the same character. Just one very similar. They look alike, too, and have a similar MO. But they’re totally different, I assure you. His story is well worth a read and fits the rules for this here contest perfectly, so be sure to check it out. You maybe could encourage him to get in on this, too. Be subtle about it though, don’t just charge in shouting “WRITE MORE STUFF!” I have learned from bitter experience that this is not a good way to motivate someone, unless that someone is a fist that you want to motivate into your face.

Right, I’m off to read other people’s stuff now, assuming my internet holds out. Honestly, a little bit of snow and the greatest technological achievement known to man goes on the fritz. Internet scientists, sort this out before the next ice age or we could have a problem. Hopefully your internet is OK, in which case feel free to read, comment and link back to your entries. If you have no idea what I’m talking about (which, let’s face it, is likely the case) drop by Madison Woods’ blog to learn more about the Friday Fictioneers (not to be confused with the Musketeers, or indeed the Muskehounds). Have fun! Just don’t mess up the place.

Jake

Creative Commons Licence
Loose Lips by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Circular Logic – 100 Word Flash Fiction

 

After storing the ropes and planks in the Land Rover’s boot, Charlie and Bowen admired their handiwork. A perfect circle. Simple, effective and a hoax. Hoax claim proved.

Then they noticed a figure moving towards them. Tall. Grey. Big black eyes.

“My God,” Charlie said. “It’s an alien! Aliens are real!”

They jumped into the Land Rover and sped away in a panic. They didn’t spot the low cobbled wall until it was too late.

* * *

Aaron removed the mask and watched as the little scrotes emerged from the stricken Land Rover and scurried away. “Teach ’em to destroy my crops!”

* * *

This is my second crop circle in as many days. No, not literally! Perhaps I should explain. In addition to this site I also publish comics over at my other site, “The Master Of His Domain”. The main comic just concluded its second season, so during the break I’m publishing a selection of filler material, including the brand-new “Grey Area”, which focuses on the exploits of the infamous aliens. It’s proved popular so far (read: it hasn’t got any complaints), and is well worth a look.

This story itself was intended to be a longer one, and was briefly reworked as a Master Of His Domain comic before I gave up on it. I might do a longer version some day, but this’ll do for now.

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Circular Logic by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

My First Time – 100 Word Flash Fiction

 

It was twelve years ago at my first Gathering. There were thousands on the beach, their surf-specked bodies undulating in the twilight. I was nervous, self-conscious, until I saw her. She beckoned to me. No words were spoken; we simply lay beside each-other, thrusting into each-other, feeling the bodies of our compatriots thrusting into us, our minds and bodies converging.

Then suddenly an intense light shone down from above, freezing us in sharp clarity. Behind it a shape, deep black and tall as a mountain, shifted ponderously. Then she was snatched up into the sky.

I never saw her again.

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My First Time by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The Treehouse – Chapter VI

By Jake Kale

My journey has reached its conclusion. I stand at the end of the gravel pathway, deep within the dark grove at the heart of the old golf course, the derelict barn behind me, the stinking, putrid pond visible through the bushes ahead and to my right, my gaze raised and centered on the tall oak tree that still stands in front of me.

There is no sign of the treehouse.

*          *          *

My recall of what happened after I ran from the Fields is disjointed and hazy. I know I made it to Abbeyville, and I sat crying in the road until a kindly old woman stopped to ask what was wrong. She couldn’t get any sense out of me—hardly surprising, really—and the police were called. If I remember rightly they had to identify me by checking with the local schools because I’d left my schoolbooks at home and had nothing on me with my name on it. I was delivered back into the arms of my frantic mother later that afternoon.

The police immediately began a full-scale search for my missing friends, centering on the Fields but extending all the way up to Sunset Hill. Unfortunately I was of no use whatsoever. I’d been so badly scared I couldn’t talk, and I didn’t speak a word until almost a month later. Even then I couldn’t bring myself to tell the patient WPC what I’d seen, what had really happened to my friends—I thought they’d lock me away in the nuthouse. The police continued their investigation as best they could, and a suspect was even questioned, a drunk who frequently dossed in the Fields and who was suspected of being a flasher. But the police had little evidence to begin with, and nothing that pointed directly to him. Just days after being released the drunk turned up dead, his brutalized liver having finally given out on him. With his death the investigation stalled, and was quietly wound down.

No trace of Henry Eallis, Ricky Northcott or Ian Farmer was ever found.

I never went back to Kenlis Middle School, and within weeks my Mum had finagled the exchange with the family in Arrowhead. How she managed it given the circumstances I don’t know. Her bosses at Rosewoods Supermarket were very understanding. They owned several other supermarkets in Cranford and found a place for Mum at the one in the town centre. I know she was sad to leave Kingsland as my grandparents lived just round the corner from us, which had come in very handy when I was at lower school, but she knew I’d never feel safe there so off we went.

At Arrowhead we struggled to rebuild our lives. Mum acclimatised herself to the daily drive into town, while I started receiving counselling. My recovery was arduous, but one side effect of the trauma I’d experienced was that for a while I didn’t eat, so I began to lose weight. I started at Arrowhead Middle School the following year, and school life was not easy by any stretch, especially when my fellow students found out who I was. At one stage things got so bad we considered leaving Cranford altogether, but luckily I made some new friends and slowly my life improved. I bucked my ideas up and concentrated on my schoolwork, concentrated on beating my weight problem and started building a life for myself, and as the years slipped away I tried to forget about Kingsland, I tried to forget about what happened, and I tried to forget that I’d ever known Henry Eallis, Ricky Northcott and Ian Farmer.

For the better part of the last sixteen years, I was successful.

The trigger that brought it all back and prompted my return to the Fields occurred a little over a month ago. I got in from work to find my girlfriend waiting for in what can only be described as a state of cautious and barely contained jubilation. Before I got the chance to open my mouth she broke down, and amidst the teary babbling I just made out the word, “pregnant.” I’ll tell you in full candour that that was the single happiest moment of my entire damn life! The weeks since then have been a blur. The baby is due February next year, and we’re getting married next Saturday. I would have preferred to wait and actually plan everything properly, and I even suggested a Christmas wedding, but Charlie wants to do it before her bump begins to show.

The other night we were discussing baby names, and Charlie suggested “Henry” for a boy and “Ellie” if it’s a girl. She knows about my past—or at least she knows what I’ve told her—and she knew that the anniversary was coming up. She thought that’s what I’d want, but just hearing our future child mentioned in the same breath as my old friend, and the hint of a connection between them made me extremely uneasy. So I declined Charlie’s suggestion, but I didn’t tell her why. I didn’t tell her because I’ve never told anyone, and I never will. And I certainly don’t want my child to ever know about the evil lurking within the Kingsland Fields. But in order to be certain of that I knew I had to confront it.

That’s why I’ve come here today, on the sixteenth anniversary of my friends’ deaths, to lay the past to rest for good. But I can’t do that because there’s nothing here. The treehouse is gone, it’s as if it was never here, and now I can’t be sure that it ever was. So I’m left to wonder about those last few moments between the deaths of my friends and my terror-stricken run to Abbeyville, when I realized there was no way I could outrun the thing from the treehouse, so I stopped and dove into the bushes near the barn, the very bushes I’m staring at right now, and waited.

And watched.

And saw movement coming from inside the shadowy doorway, and a figure emerge and start to climb down the rope ladder to the base of the tree and stand right were I’d been just a few seconds before. And I watched as the figure started walking away from the tree and towards my hiding place, and I sat rigid, my mouth tightly closed, only my eyes moving as they followed what looked like a large man in a grubby brown shirt moving up the path and stopping just a few feet from the bushes where I waited to die. He was looking away from me so I couldn’t see his face, just a patchy covering of coarse black hair on the back of his head, and I realized he hadn’t seen me. I waited a little longer and the figure moved away, vanishing around the other side of the barn, and once I was satisfied he was gone I began my senseless, terrified run through the Fields to Abbeyville, certain that he, no, it would spot me, the muscles in my arms and legs pushed to breaking point, my lungs heaving loudly, but not loudly enough to drown out the still fresh memory of the screams of my friends, and the throaty clicking sound I heard when those four glistening black mandibles opened, their hooked ends poking out from the side of that monstrous thing’s head.

Chapter V

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The Treehouse by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The Treehouse – Chapter V

By Jake Kale

Having circumnavigated Kingsland Cemetery without incident—and still without sight of a single local—I find myself walking on the withered grass of the overgrown golf course where I’d spent a huge portion of my youth for the first time in sixteen long, tortuous years. Oddly, setting foot in here has not provoked a reaction anything like what I’d felt at the cemetery gates. I can’t decide if that’s a good sign or not.

I look down over the rolling hills and scattered groves of woodland, and the view is both familiar and subtly altered. Such an impression might be expected of someone returning to a place they had not visited in years, and maybe it’s the result of the muted light on this typically dreary Cranford day, but to my eyes the grass appears greyish and sickly, and the distant trees seem to have lost their lustre. Perhaps it was always that way, perhaps nostalgia accentuated colours to match my previously fond feelings of this place. But I think of the houses in Easton Avenue, and the fact that signs of recent human activity have become rarer the closer I got to the Fields, and my paranoia begins to climb again. There has been a decay here, and whether it is the result of the otherworldly nightmare lurking in the centre of the Fields or not, I can no longer deny that it is real.

I can’t turn back now. I’ve told myself that over and over again on this journey, convincing myself that it was true so that I wouldn’t turn around and leave Cranford for good. But now it is true—I can’t turn back. I’m more afraid than I’ve been since that day, yet at the same time I experience a total acceptance of my fate that allows my to make this final journey down the slope, the exact route I took when my friends were chasing me, when I thought I was running for my life. Little did I know that we were all heading unthinkingly towards death.

I reach level ground and ahead of me I see the narrow stream leading into the large grove of trees that marks the centre of the Fields, the edge of the barn just visible within.

*          *          *

We’d reached our destination—the long gravel path leading into the grove lay in front of us, the old barn with its missing left wall partly obscured by trees but still visible. We made our way up the path to look inside. The barn was empty as always, just a scant carpet of what I assumed was hay covering the floor, the remains of ancient wooden beams dotted here and there. The cracked ceiling hung high above us, vaguely discernible shafts of light attempting to penetrate the gloom. I inhaled and wrinkled my nose. The barn smelt musty and dank, and was probably crawling with bugs.

And this was supposed to be our home for the next few days.

I still felt deeply unsettled. The chase through the northern ridge of the Fields might have been nothing more than a cruel practical joke, but I still detected an undercurrent to this place, one that was particularly strong here. It was as if the presence I thought I’d felt was in fact real.

And observing us even now.

Next to me Ricky sniffed, and verbalized my first thoughts about the barn in his own inimitable style. “It fuckin’ stinks!”

“It’s not that bad,” Elly said.

“Just ’cos you’re used to it,” Ricky sniggered, and Elly thumped his arm hard.

“So, what do we do now?” I asked.

Elly thought about it. “We could have something to eat,” he suggested finally.

“Good idea. Kevin’s looking a bit thin,” Ian said. I ignored him.

Elly made his way into the barn, Ian following after him. Ricky and I exchanged a glance, and looking past him I saw something I’d never noticed before. At the end of the path stood the tall, thick trunk of an oak tree, and nestled within its branches I saw a conspicuously angular shape.

It looked like a treehouse.

Ricky noticed I wasn’t looking at him—he probably thought I was about to pull the same stunt Elly had in the cemetery. Regardless, he turned to follow my line of sight, with predictable results. “Fuckin’ hell!” That drew the attention of Elly and Ian, who’d been sat on one of the decomposing beams rummaging through their schoolbags, and they came out to see what the fuss was about. The four of us ambled bewilderedly up to the oak tree, staring into the branches above us at this strange new feature we’d never detected before.

It was a simple box-shaped structure constructed from grey-green planks, with a single tall entrance and no windows, at least on this side. The roof was flat with no overhang, and an extension of maybe a couple of feet jutted out from the floor in front of the doorway. The interior was thickly shadowed. It looked like a garden shed that someone had balanced within the branches of the oak tree. In a weird way it made me think of Monks Park Bus Station in town—its shape was very reminiscent of that bleak looking building.

Speaking for all of us, Ricky said, “I’ve never seen that before.” I could tell he was nervous too because he wasn’t swearing.

Elly said, “Someone must’ve just built it.”

Ricky shook his head slowly. “I dunno, it looks old.” He was right—it looked almost as old as the barn.

“Well, how come we’ve never seen it before?” Ian asked.

“We probably just didn’t notice it,” Ricky said, and Ian gave him a decidedly dubious look. I wasn’t too fond of Ian at that moment, but I certainly shared his appraisal. We’d been coming to this spot for years. The pond was just ahead and to our right, we’d fished for tadpoles there during previous summers, and I vividly remember the time myself and Elly tried to ride our bikes across it and they sunk right to the bottom, so that we couldn’t get them out. There was no way in all that time that we wouldn’t have noticed an old treehouse sat snugly in the oak tree at the end of the path!

“Why would they build a treehouse out here?” Ian said, and I wondered at the time who he thought “they” were.

“Maybe it belonged to whoever used to own the barn,” Ricky suggested.

I tuned their conversation out and looked over at Elly, and saw that he wasn’t listening either—he was looking up at the treehouse. I guessed what was coming next. “We could stay up there,” he said at last.

I was conscious of my mouth falling open as I craned my neck to stare at that odd little wooden shelter. Again I was reminded of the bus station, and I thought of the titular ghost said to roam the pathways underneath that building. The entrance to the treehouse seemed thoroughly uninviting.

“How’re we gonna get up there?” Ricky asked him.

“How d’ya think? We’ll climb up.”

I stared at him. “I can’t climb up there!”

Ian quipped, “You can stay down here then!”

I was getting so sick of his smartass comments that I finally broke my self-imposed swearing ban. “Piss off, Ian!” I snapped. He looked surprised, but didn’t stop smirking.

Ricky was too busy studying the treehouse to notice I’d joined him on the dark side. “It looks a bit fuckin’ rickety,” he said. Actually it looked like a small breeze would send it, and us, tumbling to the floor.

“That’s just ’cos it’s old,” Elly told him.

“Exactly!” I said, “It’ll probably fall to bits.”

“You mean it won’t take your weight!” Ian said.

That was the last straw—I’d well and truly had enough of Ian Farmer. It was probably his idea to play that trick on me earlier. I whirled on him and shouted, “I said, fuck off, Sambo!” I’d heard Mr. Northcott call him that, and I knew he hated it. The smirk disappeared and his eyes went wide. I’d crossed a line, but at the time I didn’t care.

Number ninety-eight on my list.

Elly had apparently had enough of both of us. “Oh, just shut up, you two!” Then to me, “Kevin, we can either stay here or go back to the barn. It’s up to you.”

I stared up at those dull grey beams, that murky, mysterious entrance, and silently cursed Elly for forcing me into this. Twice. All I wanted was to go home. “Alright, we’ll stay here!”

“That’s if you can get up there!” Ian said, but his tone didn’t sound particularly humorous this time.

“Ian, shut your fucking mouth!” Elly said, and Ian finally took the hint. Elly shook his head. “Right, you three can wait here, I’m gonna climb up there and have a look inside.”

Elly sauntered up to the trunk, and I wondered how he was going to do it on his own, but he obviously wasn’t in the mood to ask for help. Instead he reached up for a low branch, gripping the rough bark with his fingers, and tried to haul himself up. He misjudged his grip the first time and had to let go. Then he tried again and this time he managed to lift himself partway up so that he was hanging from the branch, his legs flailing against the tree as he struggled for purchase. I thought he was going to fall, but he managed to find a foothold and yanked himself up so that he was draped over the branch. He then turned awkwardly sideways to lay on top of the branch, and used the trunk to steady himself so he could stand. I worried that the branch wouldn’t take his weight, but it held firm. From that point Elly had little difficulty clambering up to the treehouse entrance, though I knew there was no way in hell I was going to get up there. Rather than risk pissing him off even more I kept my mouth shut and watched as Elly reached out and grasped the lip of the entrance, pulled himself over it and disappeared inside.

I stood with Ricky and Ian, waiting anxiously. We heard scuffling coming from the treehouse floorboards, then nothing for a while. I was about to shout up to Elly to see if he was alright when a muffled cry came from within. “It’s empty!” Half a second later Elly was grinning audaciously down at us, holding something in his hands. “Look what I found!” He let go and a long rope ladder unfurled, enough to reach to the ground with some to spare.

“Nice one!” Ricky said, and he ran over to it and started to climb up to the treehouse, somehow making a clumsier ascent than Elly had done without the aid of the ladder. Ian followed him, his weight helping to stabilize the swinging ropes so that Ricky’s climb was easier. I stayed where I was. My suspicion had been roused the second I saw Elly unroll that ladder, and alarm bells were ringing loudly now. This was all too easy, too convenient, and I swear in could feel that otherworldly presence from the cemetery so intensely I almost expected to turn and see it.

I knew we had to get the hell out of there.

“Elly, I really don’t think we should stay up there,” I shouted up to him.

“Why not?” Elly called back. “It’s OK, it’s strong, it’s probably been here for years.”

“’Cos I don’t like the look of it, alright?” I said.

“There’s nothing in here!” Elly replied, a slight edge creeping into his voice.

“What if whoever built it comes back?”

“There not gonna come back! They’re . . .” He didn’t finish, probably because he didn’t want to spook me any further, but I knew he was going to say, They’re probably dead by now.

Joining Ricky and Elly at the entrance, Ian said, “Oh, leave him out there.”

Ricky agreed. “Fuckin’ chicken,” I heard him say as he went inside.

But I ignored them and focused on Elly Eallis, my best friend since I was five years old, because I knew I had to convince him to come back down. But he was looking at me now with undisguised contempt, and I suddenly realized that all the times he’d stuck up for me against the taunts of the various bullies we’d encountered, including Ian and Ricky, deep down he had shared their opinion of me. He had actually thought all along that I was a useless, fat coward. He sighed and said, “Look, Kevin, either come up here, or fuck off home. You just better not tell anyone we’re up here.”

With that he turned away from me and went inside, and I heard Ian and Ricky ripping into me unchallenged. I stood pathetically staring up at the entrance of the treehouse, slowly beginning to appreciate that the longest and closest friendship I’d ever known had just come to an end.

Then something happened that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Inside the treehouse I heard Ian say, “What’s . . ?” but he didn’t finish, and instead his question turned into a long drawn-out scream of pure terror. I heard Elly yelling something, then Ian stopped screaming and I heard the sound of scuffling, followed by a loud, wet crack and the thump of something hitting the floor, and the treehouse began to shake violently and Ricky was sobbing, I couldn’t hear Ian or Elly anymore, just Ricky pleading desperately, and I stood unmoving at the foot of the tree, listening as my single surviving friend’s cries turned into screams, then cut off so suddenly it took my breath away. The treehouse stopped shaking and I heard the shifting of some ponderous object inside, and I knew it was the thing from the cemetery, the thing that had tracked me and my now dead friends through the Fields, and that it was going to come out to get me. So I turned and I ran, away from the treehouse, away from the barn, through the Fields and all the way to Abbeyville, not daring to look back.

Chapter IV ChapterVI

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The Treehouse by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.