Flash fiction challenge – finishing the story

This week’s challenge at terribleminds is to finish someone else’s story in 500 words. So here it is:

The Shrine

(beginning by Doom and Gloom in Austin)

I don’t know why I have come back to this place. The old two-story building before me has never been a home in any sense of the word. It was more of a monument of suffering; a temple of affliction with my father as the high priest. There isn’t a room in this place that hasn’t been decorated with my blood at one point or another.
Now he’s gone and this house stands as the last testament to his brutality. So, why am I here? To find any shred of decency and happiness within and rescue it? Not likely. That all died with my mother when I was still an infant. What, then? Maybe to get one last look around before I sell it off? Or maybe, just maybe…to destroy this place.

I push the thoughts of setting the house ablaze aside and make my way up the steps to the porch. My hand grows ice cold with dread as I reach for the doorknob. It turns with a metallic grind and I push the door open. The smell of age and dust and stale cigarette smoke hits me in the face. My stomach lurches a bit with childhood panic. My skin prickles in remembrance of each and every cigarette burn mark given to me.

I slowly walk in and look around. Other than a thin layer of dust, nothing has changed in this place in 15 years. Every piece of furniture, every picture, every memento is exactly where it was when I was a child. Even the bloodstain on the rug in front of the fireplace is still where I last left it; black with age. I couldn’t say what I supposedly did or didn’t do to ‘earn’ that particular beating. They all ran together like a flipbook of pain. Each beating was partnered with the threat of much, much worse if I ever told anyone.
No, I still don’t know why I have come back to this place. It’s serving as nothing but a bruising reminder of my past. This place was filled with nothing but rage and fear and, in all the years, I never knew why.
Perhaps it’s best that this place and the past it harbors should be brought to the ground and removed from the world. Just blow out the pilot lights on the stove and let the place fill with gas. One spark and this place is consigned to Hell.

My footsteps carry me through the rest of the living room and into the dining room. Like the living room, nothing has changed here. The familiar setting brings forth the past in my mind once more. I shove aside the fresh wave of memories and continue to the door that leads to the kitchen.
Pushing it open, I stop short. Within the center of an otherwise unchanged kitchen is a large, round hole. Cautiously, I approach the edge and look down into the void.

Middle part by almosthuman1blog

The rhythm of ragged breath stutters as the sides of the hole undulate before me. Heat oozes over the jagged edges and pool around my feet, grasp at my knees. The kitchen swims around me and I begin to lose my balance. A hand grips my shoulder, pulls me from the edge. I am too frightened to turn. I slide to my knees, hands grasping the edge of the pit. I almost allow myself to topple forward into the gaping hole, but I pause. Anger grows inside me and I stand, the hand still pulling at my shoulder, and I allow myself to turn.

“Jacob.” It was him. My father, long and thankfully dead, stands before me, hand on my shoulder, smiling in my face as though nothing but love had ever passed between the two of us.
“It’s been a long time, my son. Too long.”
My tone is curt, cut short intentionally for fear if I allow myself to speak freely, I would unleash years of anguish, terror and pain in a single gasp and our conversation would end. Despite this man’s horrific actions toward me in the past, I want to hear what he has to say. I need it. I crave it.
“I was wondering when you would come back here, Jacob.”
I allow myself to be led to the dining room where my father pulls out a chair for me.
“Please,” he says. “Sit.”
I, as always, do as I am told. Now the old man places both his hands upon my shoulders, squeezing, patting as if he were making sure I am real. He exhales and mumbles something about how good it is to see me here. The room begins to smell of death and the heat from that hole in the kitchen roils its way into the dining room.
“I suppose you have some things you would like to discuss. About the past?”
“Yes,” I say forcefully, surprising myself. “I do.”
I feel the floor rumble. Hear floorboards crack. I turn to face the old man, but he turns away too quickly for me to catch his eyes. It seems his flesh leaves a smear in the air as he steps away from me.
“Your mother and I missed you. You realize that, don’t you? She was always so fond of you. She got so angry when you left.”
My skin begins to flush. Sweat pops up in beads on the backs of my hands. Whether it was anger or the rapidly increasing temperature in the room, I couldn’t tell.
“My mother died,” I shake my head, sweat dribbling into my eyes.
“I had to leave. I had to make your abuse stop. I had to protect myself. I had to leave.”
I begin to feel sick. Father whips around and slams his open palms down on the table before me. His eyes burn red and his flesh drips from his face.
“What if I told you your mother never died?”

The end (my contribution)

“You lie”.
He looks at me, a smile curving his lips.
“Am I? Have you seen her body?”
“I was too young, you know that.”

My mother had died when I was just a few months old. A series of women had taken care of me, my father’s girlfriends, a long line of them, each driven away by the man’s sadistic nature, his violent ways, his drunkenness.
He sits down heavily, facing me, his hands leaving shiny trails, like a snail’s, on the dusty table. I stare at him, revulsion and anger mixed inside me. I very much want to hit the man but I try not to. I don’t want to be like him. I clench my hands under the table.
“Your mother was always here with me until the day you left.”

I stare at the man, and my brain refuses to accept what he just said. I close my eyes and see Janice, my mother’s sister, holding my hand, leading me towards my mother’s grave – a simple stone engraving with her name. That grave was all that was left of my mother.
“She always tried to protect you, you know.”
He stands up, and a piece of flesh from his right hand remains behind on the table. I stare at it, repelled but unable to look away.
“Pushing me away, hiding my belt, making me trip on the stairs. The more she tried the more I wanted to hurt you. And her.”

The heat had plastered my hair to my forehead and the shirt to my back. “If that is Hell”, I think looking towards the hole in the floor, “if that’s where he came from, I hope he roasts in there forever.”
I stand up. My voice comes out hoarse, my throat parched. I need a drink but I’d sworn off alcohol a year ago. It was easier to control my anger if I was sober.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Why are you here?”
“How is that even possible?”

He turns to face me for a moment, his cheeks drooping. He has no eyebrows and no eyelashes, and the eyes look large and shiny, almost popping out of his face.
“One night a year…” his voice feels like sandpaper rubbed over my skin.
“…I can come back.”
I wait but he says nothing.
“Why? What do you want?”
He comes closer and I involuntarily take a step back. Waves of putrid smell emanate from him, making my eyes sting. He spreads his hands as if giving me a hug. His lips peel back and for a moment I think he is going to tear a chunk out of me.
“Why, can’t a man talk to his own son?”
Suddenly, I want no more of it. I run to the door and yank it open, stumble across the hallway and almost make it to the front door before I feel his hands grabbing me from behind, dragging me back to the stinking heat of that hole.

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2 Responses to Flash fiction challenge – finishing the story

  1. Priya says:

    Wow. I would never have believed this was pieced together by three different writers had you not mentioned it! That is so vivid and gross and I wish I could get the images out of my head – this, I know, is not the best way of saying that the story is pretty awesome, but that’s how I feel. *shudders*

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