#4 Room

Part of an ongoing serial story

Zephan rolled his shoulders, trying to release some tension, and then rubbed his hands across his face. He didn’t know what to do now. Voices that called to him from flames! He must be crazy!

“Mom, please tell me everything you can about the house and that old woman who seems to run it. If I am to go back, I need to know who they are and what they want.” He spoke quietly, but with a firmness beyond his year

“Her name is Mrs. Stone. As far as I can tell, she is as old as the house and still going strong. She is solid as a rock, immovable in her opinions, flinty-eyed when it comes to mischief, but she has broad shoulders and a soft heart for the sorrowful. Go to her when you are in trouble, and you will receive unfailing aid,”

“But the house, Mom?”

“I don’t know, honey. All I know is that people staying there are given jobs to do, some of them pretty heroic. Like the time Lester led a herd of sheep down the mountain in a crashing thunderstorm at night. Good thing he and his dog know that mountain like the back of their hands, er, paws. I just had to learn not to feel sorry for myself, and one day to marry and have a son.” She sighed wearily. “I don’t know what else to tell you.”

“Can I trust them?” Zephan asked quietly.

“With your life, ” she said swiftly. “They saved mine, you know. I was a proud, heartless girl the day that fall blinded me, and drove the will to live out of me.” She reached out for him, and he took her hand. “Ask anyone who knew me then, and they will tell you that blindness was the best thing that ever happened to me. But I will add, no, it is the best only because of Mrs. Stone and the house.”

“Why do you say the house, Mom? Do you mean the people living in the house?” Zephan released her hand, frowning.

She smoothed her skirts, tilting her chin up a little. “No. Though they did help. It was the house.” Then she smiled. “It is alive, Zephan. It knows what you want and what you need, and when to give them both. It is like the world’s best parent, only it never speaks directly, only indirectly. And it is full of love, infinite love, for each one within it. You know, it’s funny, but there’s always room for one more. It always seems to know when someone’s coming. It’s the house that tells Mrs. Stone, you know.”

The snap of resin popping and wood burning was the only sound for a while. Both mother and son seemed far away in quiet conversation with themselves. Finally, Zephan roused himself. As he scooped up his backpack, it was apparent something had changed. He no longer looked like someone to be bullied; he had grown into a young man in an evening.

#2 The Beginning part 2

Part of an ongoing serial story

I am Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

Niko followed silently behind Mrs. Stone, but his mind was agitated. He turned over her few words in his mind, much like a jackdaw would look for jewels among pebbles. What did she mean by saying only a fortunate few are welcomed here? Hadn’t he decided on his own to take Bruiser’s dare? No one invited him! Rather than get another beating, or worse, make his mother worry, he’d decided to just get it over a knock on the door of the strange old house. He didn’t really believe the stories that said people had gone in and never come out again. Did he?

Mrs. Stone turned in mid-stride, as if jerked around by Niko’s doubts and said, rather sharply, “I’ll not have you fretting, boy, for this house is a harmless as she comes. No one is ever held against their will. You are free to come and go as you will.”

‘B-b-but why am I h-h-here?” Niko managed to stutter.

“Well, I don’t know,” she said crisply, shaking out her skirts and turning to go on. “The house hasn’t told me yet. This way please.”

After a few more corridors (Niko had lost count) they stopped in front of a big black oak door with Niko’s name on it!!! This is too weird! I am outta here first chance.

Mrs. Stone swung the door wide onto a teen-aged boy’s Fantasy Island. Game consoles with comfortable swivel chairs, the best bluetooth head sets, game controllers and joysticks, mouse pads and and webcams. And one of his favorite games was already loaded and ready to play. He barely noticed the large bed and easy chair in the corner, but he did take note of the door and windows opposite their entry point. They didn’t appear to be locked.

“Well?” Mrs. Stone smiled.

Niko shifted uncomfortably. “I’m going to have tell my mom where I am. Then I’ll come back. For a while. To see.”

“So we’ll see you at dinner then,” said Mrs Stone, nodding her approval. “Just knock on the door and someone will answer and bring you to the dining room. You’ll get to meet the others then.” She turned backed and added, “Oh, and give my love to your mother, please. She was such a sweetheart during her stay here. Always looking out for other people. I expect she still is.”

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#1 The Beginning

Part of an ongoing serial story

Photo by Rohan Shahi on Pexels.com

There once was an old woman with a magical house. Every now and again the house would grow a new room, and the old woman would know it was time to expect guests. She never knew who would come, or when, just that some day there would be someone in need of that room, and it was her sacred duty to keep it ready for them.

She and the house had an odd sort of relationship, almost symbiotic. The house needed her as much as she needed the house. I was never sure where the magic came from for those extra rooms, but my guess is that it was from the bond between them. She needed guests to be happy, so the house supplied them.

As you might expect, after years of organic growth the house was a great shambling thing sprawled across a hillside, like something from one of those magical Japanese movies. In fact, the house was so odd it was a wonder anyone ever dared approach it seeking help. But I guess word had got around that the place was safe after all.

So that’s why Niko turned up on a Friday. Trying to look nonchalant, he lifted the old-fashioned door-knocker, only to have the door swing wide. Inside was a cheery little parlor with a fire blazing on the hearth and the old lady knitting a great shawl in one of those bright colors whose names never seem to match the color themselves, like puce or vermillion. “What an odd color!”said Niko out loud, before he could help himself.

“Do you think so?” The old lady peered at the shawl. “I have wondered myself. But this is what Mrs. Oddsworthy asked for specifically. She does have the most extraordinary taste.” She stopped, laid aside her knitting and rose. ‘Oh, but do come in. I am Mrs. Stone. I see you have been invited. I have just the room for you.”

Niko’s mouth, which had gaped a bit during this last bit, hurriedly shut, then opened again and said, ” I don’t know what you mean. Invited?”