I have found and tentatively joined a creative writing group in the local area. It’s small, only a handful or so of people attended the one meeting I did, and I’m not sure my style fits in. This is a group nestled firmly in the deep south and some of my subject matter may fall far, far outside their comfort zones. We shall see. To get the meetings going, they post a flash prompt limited to 500 words. Write it up, make copies, read it aloud for everyone to critique. It’s a little daunting but fun. I didn’t feel like anyone was trying to be mean-spirited or cruel, even when someone’s writing style wasn’t a favorite. I can appreciate that.
September’s prompt was a simple phrase: What took you so long? I had…IDEAS. So many ideas. So many long, drawn out, complicated ideas that I knew I couldn’t condense into 500 tiny words. So I stewed, and I thought, and I discarded one after another until I settled on this one two freakin’ days before the meeting. It’s a little spooky, well, spooky-ish, so I thought it’d fit well into the month of ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. Enjoy!!
What Took You So Long?
The gala was in full swing by the time I arrived. The ostentatious manor a hulking shadow in the night, windows glowing like predatory eyes. I shivered. Others described it as elegant or dignified. To me, it was Castle Dracula meets the Addams Family.
“What took you so long?” The voice was warm, the eyes…not so much. “I was beginning to worry.”
Liar. I blamed traffic, she complimented me on my gown. We were both lying out our asses. I breathed a sigh the moment she walked away. She was dangerous and too perceptive by half.
The first notes of a waltz drifted through the chamber. I picked my way across the room. I stopped, chatted, admired gowns and hairstyles, but I never veered from my target. Visibility was as important as the champagne I took from the passing waiters.
“’Scuse me?” I slurred just a bit. “Where’s the ladies’ room? It’s an ’mergency.” I gestured with my half-empty glass until it splashed over the side. I giggled. “Oops!”
“Down the hall, madame.” A flash of disapproval, there and gone. “First door on the right past the stairs.”
“Thanks.” I placed my glass on his tray with exaggerated care and weaved out of the ballroom.
The hall was empty except for two of the kitchen staff. They didn’t look up before disappearing around the corner. I waited for a ten-count. No one followed. Good. With a final glance toward the ballroom, I darted up the stairs.
Darkness cloaked the top floor, broken by slivers of moonlight peeking through the drapes. I hoped it’d be enough light. I couldn’t risk a flashlight. The nearest set of curtains fluttered, and shadows danced across the wall. Great. The creepy house found a way to get creepier. Gathering my skirt in one hand and my courage in the other, I tiptoed down the hall.
The flickering moonlight kicked my imagination into overdrive, conjuring images of demons, ghosts, and other monsters from the swaying curtains. The pounding of my heart drowned out all sounds until I couldn’t hear
neither either the hum of conversation nor or the lilt of the music below. I licked dry lips and swallowed hard. This damn house.
I finally reached the door. I don’t know if I knelt or if my knees finally gave out. Both maybe? Either way, I’d reached my objective. Thank God.
My tools were strapped to my inner thigh, but my hands were shaking too badly. This was ridiculous! I fisted my hands, shook them, and took a couple of slow, deep breaths. Calmer, I set to work on the lock. The tumblers fell into place with a soft click, and the door swung silently on oiled hinges.
That’s when I saw him.
He leaned against the desk, an elegant monster in a tuxedo. A book rested beside him. The book I’d come to steal. His smile was a thing of terrible beauty showing very white, very sharp fangs.
“Hello, m’dear. What took you so long?”