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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 21: Brown 7
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There was no way to get through the wall to see if it really was his bicycle he sensed beyond it. Derek stood for a moment, terrified that he might not be able to escape the house at all. He tried to think, to calm himself, to consider how to find the exit.
A lot of houses had the stairs near the front door. He could go back across the living room and see if there was a door there. He hadn't seen such a door, but at that point he had been trying to find the bicycle, not the exit. So that was one possibility. What were the others?
He had never been in a house where there wasn't a doorway connecting the dining room to the kitchen. That made sense. It also made sense that there was usually a door in or near the kitchen, a way to bring groceries and such inside. If there was a door there, it would probably be closer than the front door.
Sometimes dining rooms had French windows or sliding glass doors leading out to decks or patios. Sometimes they had picture or bay windows. If there was a door on one of the other walls, or a window which was like a door, that would be the quickest way out. But he was assuming that this was the ground floor. He had no way to know how far it really was to the ground, and jumping out a window might not be the best idea. Odds were that a window large enough to get through comfortably wouldn't be designed to open if it wasn't also a door, and in that case he would have to smash it before knowing whether it was a suitable route of escape. He didn't really want to vandalize the house; besides, once the window was broken that storm outside would pour in, and the extra noise and wind and water would make it that much more difficult to keep aware of what was happening around him if it proved a bad escape plan.
He turned around to look back into the house. It was a long walk across the living room, and if there was an outside door there he couldn't see it from here. The back window was a large picture window; as the lightning flashed, it illumined the white sheers with stark disjointed shadows of whatever was beyond. The kitchen door was on the other side of the table, and through it he could see what looked like a back exit on the far corner of the room. That seemed the way to go.
The trek to the door had to be considered piece by piece. Should he map out the entire journey in his mind first, or make each choice as it presented itself? One choice at a time, he decided; cross each bridge as it appears.
The first bridge was from here to the kitchen door. There seemed to be four ways to get there. He could go over the table. Apart from that being an awkward move which was somewhat more ambitious athletically than he envisioned, it placed him directly under the chandelier-style light fixture. Those things always fell in haunted houses, no matter how strong they appeared, and it was better not to be under it. He could go under the table, which potentially trapped him between the legs of the chairs. Passing between the table and the window was a third option, but that meant walking close to those heavy drapes, from which a cold bony hand could grasp him. The best path appeared to be the direction he had come, between the table and the living room. It had the added benefit that it kept his options open the longest: if the kitchen suddenly appeared impassible, he could cross the living room in search of the front door. Besides, the vase and the horseshoe had already fallen and were still on the floor, so if there was a ghost, it might be out of ammo on that side.
He crept cautiously back toward the living room, retracing his path as well as he could. Then he turned and rounded the room to the kitchen door, and stopped, surveying the path ahead.
The kitchen appeared as an obstacle course. The cooking area and dinette were separated from each other by a counter, so he would have to stay on this edge of the room until he was past that. That meant passing close to the refrigerator, and refrigerators were known extra-dimensional portals, but it was that, or a long path under the potentially deadly ceiling fan or an even longer path following the counters past the stove. No, kitchens were not a good idea. After that, he had to get around the table beyond to reach the distant exit. It was not going to be easy.
Of course, maybe he really was overreacting. He had seen too many movies. It was just a walk across a strange kitchen at night. He could do this.
He entered the kitchen more quickly than he had crossed the dining room, and rushed past the refrigerator. A noise froze him in his tracks. A heavy frying pan flew across the room and barely missed him, crashing into the refrigerator behind him.
It was definitely a haunted house.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #82: Novel Developments. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: