Last week, Marcia Richards posted a series of wonderfully inspiring photos of abandoned buildings. She invited readers to pick the photo that most sparked their imagination and post at 200-1,000 word story inspired by the image.
Below is my attempt. Rather than post the photo I chose, I invite you to check out Marcia’s post, Inspiration in Black and White and guess which one it was!
It would be another day like all the rest, Laura thought as the morning sun crept from the horizon and climbed over the long stalks of golden wheat that grew rampant just outside the cabin door.
She crept soundlessly to the window, dust whirling behind her and dancing in the first rays of sunlight. The windows were nothing but holes. Even the shards of glass that had remained when the angry townsmen shattered them in their search for Father were long gone.
How long ago was that – a day, a month, a year? Laura was no longer sure. All she knew was that they had ransacked the cabin and the barn, had traipsed through the wheatfields with torches held high. She did not understand why they wanted Father, but they had never found him.
He had been long gone when the vigilantes arrived, leaving them behind. Mother said he would return for them one day.
So they waited, sitting day after day, watching through the windows as the sun crept higher and then melted behind the clouds, returning them to darkness. They were oblivious to the biting cold that stole through the open windows.
Yes, today would be like all the rest. Laura settled into the rocker by one of the broken windows. Mother joined her, seating herself in the other.
They began to rock, the creaking of their chairs the only sound in the cabin. They rocked, and waited for Father to return and take them away.
“Wow, its so overgrown,” Brenda cried, reaching for Tom’s hand as they traipsed across the wheatfield towards the cabin. The stalks swayed in the breeze, creating a rustling that drowned out the chatter of the other hikers.
Up ahead, the ranger who was acting as tour guide stopped in front of the cabin. He had brought them off the trail, promising the detour would be worth the walk through tangled wheat. Now, he told them to gather around and take a break. Their fellow hikers pulled out water bottles and trail mix, settling in around their guide. But Brenda had no appetite.
The ranger cleared his throat and began.
“A hundred years ago,” he said, “The Josephson family lived there. William Josephson had a young wife, Linda, and a 12-year-old daughter, Laura. They were a religious family, but didn’t go to church. Linda schooled Laura at home, and only William was seen about town. They lived off the land and kept to themselves. That’s how William wanted it.
William was fond of drink, and he befriended the owner of the local tavern. He’d sit and drink for hours, and over time he began to trust the barman with his secrets. He said he’d been having visions, and was being told that in order to save his family from sin he needed to end their lives and ‘take them home.’
The barman got concerned, and told some of the other townsmen. They agreed William was a danger to his family. So one night, the barman and several other men came in the night carrying torches, in search of William.
When no one answered the door, they forced their way into the cabin, and only then did they realize that they were too late. Linda and Laura Josephson were dead in their beds. They searched the cabin and every other building on the property. They scoured the fields and the surrounding woods for days. But no sign was ever found of William Josephson.”
A chill stole over Brenda as the ranger paused. A rock had settled in her stomach.
“It is said,” the ranger continued, “that Linda and Laura are still here. Local teens hike up here, and they swear they catch glimpses of two women when they peer into the windows. I’ve looked a hundred times myself, and have never seen a thing. But who knows?”
The ranger finished and gave them a charming grin. The hikers gathered up their litter as he motioned them onward and began traipsing back through the wheatfield.
Tom hoisted up his backpack and began to follow the group. Brenda grabbed his arm.
“One second,” she said. She pulled him towards one of the open windows, and peered inside.
It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness inside. A few rays of sunlight criss-crossed the cabin like party streamers, and in them Laura could see dust swirling in the musty air. As her vision cleared, she could make out two rockers in the shadows, each positioned near the windows. They were old wooden chairs, worn by time and lack of care.
But they were moving softly, rocking back and forth in a slow, synchronized rhythm.
Brenda drew her breath in sharply and stepped away from the window.
“Do you see that, Tom!” she gasped, as he took her place at the window. He was silent for a moment, squinting into the darkness. Brenda could hear the rockers creaking gently even though Tom now blocked her view.
“It must be the breeze coming in through these windows,” he said finally. He stepped back and gave her a lopsided grin when he saw that she was wide-eyed and pale. He draped an arm around her shoulders.
“C’mon,” he said, “Before we lose the others.” He led her into the rustling wheat stalks, following the chatter of the other hikers that drifted in the breeze.
Brenda’s legs trembled, and she looked over her shoulder. The cabin windows were bleak and desperate eyes meeting her gaze. She turned away and let Tom lead her to where the others waited on the trail. Soon they were surrounded by bustling life, and Brenda turned her face up to the sun and felt her unease slipping away.
That night, as they huddled around a campfire roasting marshmallows and drinking beer, Brenda and Tom told the rest of the group about the chairs. They shared a shudder and a chuckle, and moved on to other stories.
A few miles away, Laura and her mother rocked and waited as a full moon climbed the sky.