And without further ado the Winner is…
1st Place: Charles Lilburn “Rockabye Baby”
2nd Place: Phil Town “The Letter”
3rd Place: Wendy Edsall-Kerwin “Kindred Spirits”
4th Place: Ken Cartisano “Mrs. Schmidt’s Attic.”
5th Place: Maud Harris “Better to be lucky than rich.”
Story with the Favorite Character: Charles Lilburn/Steve
Story with the Best Pacing: Phil Town
Story with the Best Use of Dialogue: Ken Cartisano
Anyone who would like to get their vote totals may send an email to liflashfiction(at)gmail(dot)com to request details.
To read all of the stories entered and find out how you can participate in our weekly/bi-weekly/monthly short story contests please go to: What’s in the Attic.
Per the new process, Chris Smith will choose the Nov 9 prompt/theme. Visit http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/why-and-how-to-participate/writing-prompt-roster/ to view the Writing Prompt Roster.
Rockabye Baby by Charles Lilburn
Marisa Dunlap called her husband Steve to the window. “Look, Honey, Matilda is leaning up against her mailbox crying.” Steve quickly headed outside with Marisa following, to see what was wrong.
Crying and holding a crumpled letter, Matilda, their 84 year old widowed neighbor, told them her stepdaughter had sold the house.
They got her inside her house, and Steve got her some water; then listened to Matilda’s sordid tale. “I’ve got a week before they come and take the furniture and send me to the Willows Retirement Center.”
Steve, thinking of his own grandmother, asked, “How can we help?”
“Well, you can help me clean the attic, I want to hide some of my nicer things from her. I’d really appreciate that.”
The next day they were finishing up in the attic when Matilda brought up a bottle of wine and three glasses. She smiled and said, “it’s five o’clock somewhere.” They felt they couldn’t refuse.
After a glass of wine, Matilda smiled at the couple. “You two have been so kind, I’ve got a surprise for you. For helping me, anything in this attic you want is yours.”
Marisa’s eyes went wide. “Oh, Matilda, we can’t take your stuff.”
“Honey, I only got a little time left on God’s earth. I have no use for any of this. You and your husband have been more like my children these past few years than my step-daughter ever was. And, I sure as hell can’t use it at the Willows.”
Steve was looking around the attic when he thought he saw movement. Startled, he asked, “Did you see that?”
“What,” Matilda asked?
“That rocker, it moved by itself.”
“That old thing. I forgot it was even up here.” Matilda grimaced, ”Bought that at an auction in Salem, about 35 years ago. Quite a steal at the time I thought. Sat in it once and got the creepiest feeling. Never sat in it again.”
“Well, I think it’s beautiful,” said Marisa, “What do you think. Steve.”
“Honey, if that’s what you want, we’ll take it.”
When they got home, Marisa took it upstairs. Marisa smiled, “It’s so beautiful.” Marisa sat down and rocked, her eyes closed, “It’s so comfy. I can’t imagine why Matilda felt it was creepy.”
Downstairs, Steve texted his grandmother several photos he had taken of the rocker. “WHAT DO YOU THINK OF OUR NEW PIECE OF FURNITURE?”
OH MY GOD! WHERE DID YOU GET THAT?
FROM OUR NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR.
LOOK ON THE BACK. IS THERE A CARVED MESSAGE ON THE BACK SAYING, TO LISA FROM GRANDPA?
YES, I SAW IT WHEN I CARRIED IT HOME. HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT?
The phone rang and his Grandmother’s voice was tense. “I’ve seen that rocker before. I’m sure we used to own it. I can’t believe this.”
“Grandma. What’s this all about?”
“That rocker is evil. Where’s Marisa.”
“Go find her.”
“Grandma, get a grip.”
“Just do it, Stephen. NOW!”
She never called him Stephen, Never!
As he climbed the stairs, he heard laughter, but unlike any he had ever heard before, hollow and echoing down the stairs. He found Marisa sitting in the chair, her head back as the rocker slowly rocked by itself. “Marisa!” Steve rushed to the chair and grabbed Marisa’s arm, pulling her onto the carpet.
Marisa jerked awake. “What’s wrong with you? I was sleeping.”
His grandmother was screaming in his ear, “STEPHEN, WHAT’S HAPPENING? IS MARISA OK?.
“Marisa is fine, she was sleeping in the chair. You’re scaring me to death with this crazy talk about the chair.”
He heard the catch in her throat. “It was trying to kill her. That chair is alive.”
Steve shuddered. “Kill her?” What makes you think that?”
“If I’m right about it, that chair was in our family for years. It was made by an ancestor burned at the stake during the Salem Witch Trials. We kept it in the attic because my mother said it was made by witchcraft. After Mom died Dad gave it to your mother when you were born.
“They found Lisa dead in that chair with you, barely alive, in her arms. After the funeral, your dad sold the chair at auction. That was the last time I saw it until I saw those photos. Stephen, take that chair, chop it up and burn it. It’s evil. I lost my only child in that chair.”
“Grandma, It’s not alive.”
“Trust me, Stephen, it’s a soul stealer. It’s waited 35 years, now it will take yours or Marisa’s.”
“This is crazy, Grandma, but I’ll destroy it if that will make you happy.”
They were getting ready for bed and Steve held Marisa close. “How’re you doing?”
“Fine. Why did you take the chair downstairs to the porch?”
“It’s a long story, but I think it’s broken, so don’t sit in it anymore,” he lied.
She kissed him goodnight. “Explain in the morning.”
Steve woke up early; Marisa wasn’t in bed. He made his way downstairs to the kitchen. “You certainly got up early.” Marisa wasn’t there. He heard the hollow laughter again, and a faint creaking noise. He went to the porch and saw Marisa in the rocker as it slowly rocked back and forth, her head back, eyes closed.
Frantically he pulled Marisa to the floor. “Stephen, so help me. What is wrong with you? Why are you doing this?” Her eyes flashed in anger.
“You don’t understand, there’s something wrong with the chair.”
“No, there’s something wrong with you.”
He shared his grandmother’s story. “She said it would steal my soul, but you’re right; it’s an old woman’s crazy story. We’re adults. Chairs aren’t living things. It stops now.”
Marisa had gone to bed early while Steve finished watching a late game on TV. Steve heard faint echoing laughter and went to the back porch. The chair was slowly rocking back and forth. He felt drawn to the rocker and touched it. A sense of calm enveloped him. “Either I’m crazy or Grandma is. Soul Stealer, huh?”
He sat down in the chair and felt it suddenly tighten around him. His pulse quickened. “I will burn this damn thing,” he thought. He tried to move but was paralyzed. He struggled and tried, but could no longer talk, or call for help. The pressure got tighter and tighter as blackness closed in and he could no longer breathe.
The next morning, after waking, Marisa stretched. ‘I wonder where he is? Probably making coffee,’ she thought. She walked downstairs to the kitchen. Marisa heard hollow laughter and turned toward the porch. As she approached, she could see Steve in the rocker, his eyes open, staring. She got close, then teasingly pulled on his arm. She tugged again, then realized Steve wasn’t aware; Steve would never be aware of anything again. Marisa called 911, but knew it was too late.
The autopsy was inconclusive. After the funeral, standing in the back yard, there was just the two of them. Marisa invited Grandma to light the gasoline soaked chair tied to a pile of wood branches, “It could laugh,” Marisa said, “but will it scream? Let’s find out.”