Deep Slumber

Posted: October 25, 2013

Rural Pen

Editor’s Note: Today’s column is a departure from Luanne’s usual style – here’s another example of flash fiction, or a type of very short story.

Walking by the empty old Victorian house, Laurie and Jen — the best of friends — had eyed it many times. They wondered if it was haunted. They agreed to try to get inside on Halloween, just a few weeks away.

The 12-year-olds were intrepid explorers. Property lines were no barrier to their curiosity.

Early that summer, they decided since they’d outgrown their baby dolls, to offer them as sacrifices to the gods, who they were sure must be placated.

At Laurie’s house, they placed their dolls into a wicker basket. They dashed across the street and ducked behind the old barn in the otherwise empty lot.

On a wide, flat rock, they stacked sticks and dry leaves, making an altar. Jen set the basket on the pile, Laurie lit a match and — Voom! — the sacrifice was ablaze.

Within seconds, the flames lit the dry grass and began making a path toward the barn. Laurie ran back to her house to call the fire department.

Another time, at Jen’s, the girls hopped over the back fence to sneak into the old shack in the neighbor’s yard. When Jen pushed the hinged, dust-caked window, it creaked open.

“Give me a boost,” she said.

Jen expected old shovels and hand tools, maybe some bicycles or sleds. She instead saw small lead soldiers strewn about. Molds and tools lay everywhere. Jen picked up a soldier, marveling at the detail in his face and uniform.

But the Victorian house was different. First, it was on Main Street, so they’d have to dodge the police. Second, this was no shack. It was the Lowe house, owned by a prominent family in town.

Halloween night came. As their friends fleeced the neighborhood, Laurie and Jen donned their black costumes. Their mothers thought they were going as cat burglars.

The pair crept around the outside of the house, staying in the shadows, looking for a way in. The windows were too high. There was an inclined cellar door, but they were afraid to enter that way. Laurie checked a back door. When she turned the handle, it opened easily.

Inside, the girls found themselves in a grand hallway extending to the front door, with an oak floor, Oriental carpet and carved foyer tables. Suddenly, they heard footsteps at the top of the grand staircase. Their instinct was to run, but they couldn’t.

“Who’s there?” They heard the shaky voice of an old woman. She descended the stairs. “Who’s there?”

The woman looked down over the banister at them. She was dressed all in white and had white hair piled on top of her head like a Gibson girl.
“Oh, you’re here for the tea party!” she said.

Jen found her voice. “Yes …  that’s it …  the tea party,” she said.

The woman continued down the stairs, and turned left under a wide arch. The girls followed and found a mahogany table holding a large teapot and covered with homemade cookies, ham biscuits, buttered crackers and miniature mince pies.

But where was the woman? Laurie rushed to a door on the left and searched the kitchen. Jen checked a closet at the far end.

She had disappeared. The girls shivered. The feast looked too good to resist.

“Could it be poison?” Laurie asked, picking up a chocolate chip cookie.

Jen took a bite out of a sandwich. Once they began, they could not stop eating. As much as they ate, the plates remained full.

They ate until they could not move. Their heads dropped to the table and they fell asleep. They slumber there still.

Contact Luanne Austin at or on Facebook.

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