Turning Tales Week 5: The Things We Leave Behind

Welcome to the fifth week of Turning Tales!

This week’s writing topic: Stories, told through objects


Someone dies or disappears without a trace. Someone has to flee the country or is moved into a nursing home. A forsaken space has to be reclaimed eventually – by a friend, an heir, a random stranger, or an archaeologist.

Describe an abandoned space. Show your readers the person who used to live there through the things they left behind.


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I’ve been an urban explorer for years. For those not in the know, that’s a fancy term for someone who breaks into old buildings for fun. There’s just something about standing in a place that is abandoned, somewhere that hasn’t been lived in for years, which fascinates me. There is a subtle uncanniness to it, something just ever-so-slightly off about being in a place that was meant to be used, but has been abandoned for a long time.

I’ve explored old sanitariums, hospitals, schools, malls, and a handful of stores. I tend to avoid houses and apartment buildings, since those are usually more likely to have nosy neighbours call the police. But when I saw the house on 5th street, I couldn’t help myself.

The building itself looked old, with a gothic style like something out of an old ghost story. It seemed to fit in the middle ground between mansion and house, barely fitting in the space between the buildings next to it. It looked completely abandoned, with all of the windows boarded up, the lawn completely dead, and a sign with the word “foreclosed” stuck to one of the walls.

It wasn’t so much how the house itself looked, and more the fact that it wasn’t there the day before. It sounds impossible right? But its true. I’d never noticed it before, so I looked up the property on the web, using street view on an online maps site to take a look. It wasn’t there. Its not like there was an empty lot or a different house, its like it just sprung up overnight, pushing other houses out of the way. I had no idea how it even fit there, its not like the street was suddenly longer, or a house was missing. It was as if it had always been there, regardless of how impossible that was.

At first I was fairly hesitant to enter the building. It was in a residential area for one thing, and also it was fundamentally an impossibility. Was there some kind of cover up for this building? I was half expecting there to be some top secret government lab hidden underneath it, all records of its existence erased from satellite data, city records, and online databases. But I had to know, it would eat away at me for the rest of my life if I didn’t at least look into it.

On the next day I had off from work, I packed up my gear and got ready to enter the house. I decided to go at night, figuring that the less people were awake the better. I packed a flashlight, spare batteries, a water bottle, some pepper spray, my cellphone, and a first aid kit. I had no idea what to expect, so I decided to go as prepared as I could.

When I arrived at the house on 5th street, I had this really weird feeling, like I was standing on the surface of another planet. It felt wrong, as if I was a magnet being pushed against another magnet of the same polarity. I tried to shrug it off, to tell myself I was just nervous, and I walked up to the front door.

I expected it to be locked, that I’d need to go around the back and see if there was a back way in, but to my surprise, the door pushed open. I didn’t even need to twist the doorknob, in fact, when I did it didn’t budge. A closer glance made me realize that the knob itself had no mechanism, it didn’t control a bolt. The door was simply closed via friction. The doorknob wasn’t even made of metal, it was just a piece of wood painted metallic gold.

I turned on my flashlight, stepping into the entryway of the house. I expected it to smell of mold, decay, but to my surprise the scent it most closely reminded me of was that odor new cars have. I looked around, observing my surroundings. The inside was in surprisingly good condition, given the dilapidated appearance of the exterior. The walls were carved wood panels, and the floor seemed to be polished hardwood. A staircase led up the second floor, and there were a few doors leading to other parts of the house. I figured it would be safer to try the first floor to begin with, and so I picked one of the doors at random and opened it.

Like the front door, there was no mechanism to the door knob, I couldn’t twist it, just pulling it caused it to open. I wondered how nobody had broken into this place already, given that there was evidently no way to lock the front door. The room I entered seemed to be a dining area, with a number of wooden chairs arranged around a long table. At the far wall was a painting of a familiar looking house. Inspecting it closer, I realized it was a less decayed version of the building I was currently standing in. It struck me as rather odd to have a painting of your own house hanging on the wall, but rich people can be a bit eccentric, so I didn’t pay it too much mind. I was confused as to how well furnished everything was, usually people take most of the furniture when they leave, and when they don’t what is left behind is quickly stolen or destroyed.

I looked closer at one of the chairs, admiring the craftsmanship. I tried to pull it closer to me, to get a better look, but it wouldn’t budge. Confused, I knelt down next to it, trying to see what was keeping it held in place. To my surprise, I realized that the whole thing seemed like it was a part of the floor itself, as if it was all carved from one solid piece of wood. I tried to find a seam or signs of glue, nails, anything to indicate that the floor and the chair had originally been separate, but I couldn’t. It looked almost as if it had grown out of the house itself.

That feeling of magnetic repulsion came back again. This house felt… wrong. If I was smarter, I would have turned and left right then and there. But I needed to know what the hell was going on. I proceeded further into the house, opening up another door that led out of the dining room. This one took me into what seemed to be a library.

Bookshelves lined the walls, filled with volumes of all shapes and sizes… or so I thought. Moving closer to one of the shelves, I noticed that none of the books actually had titles on their spines, they were all just blank. I tried to pick one out, but I found it wouldn’t budge. The books were part of the shelf itself, just like with the chairs in the dining room.

“Who the hell built this place?” I muttered to myself, profoundly puzzled. Then I heard the sound of wood creaking behind me.

I wheeled around, startled, seeing a door slowly being pushed open. I shone my flashlight, trying to get a look at who was opening it. “Who’s there?” I shouted, trying to control the fear in my voice. There was no response, and the door just continued to slowly creak as it opened ever wider.

I reached for the pepper spray and got it ready, holding my flashlight in the other hand. Then I saw what was coming through the doorway and screamed…

The Markets at Night

The most abandoned of places always buzz with previous life. Even if they are left alone permanently, an empty space is never truly empty—little splashes of color left behind show more personality than when filled to the brim with people.

Whenever my mother and I visit family in Vietnam, I am reminded of his firsthand. Majority of the family works at an outdoor/indoor market, one giant building separated into sections that everyone manages to respect without much trouble. Inside, people pay for a space to set up their shops, but on the outside, it is a free for all. People can only set themselves up outside on a first-come-first-serve basis.

During the day, patrons can only take up a shoulder’s width of space when shuffling between each of the stalls. If I thought the flea markets in the Chicago summers were busy, this place might as well be a flood of markets piled on top of one another, one breath taken in only coming from a breath leaving the person centimeters away. Cigarette smoke, chicken gizzards, plastic toys, and various seasonings fill the air that make it seem like a saturated beige, but there isn’t anywhere else that I love visiting more whenever we go to Saigon.

But at night, it is a whole different story.

In hopes of saving money, my mother always snags plane tickets that lead to a departure at dawn and the arrival at dusk, our footsteps being the only sound that echo the airports as we pick up our luggage and walk to the gates.

And when we hail a taxi deeper into the city, we pass by the market, except, it simply becomes a concrete box under the moonlight.

I have walked the perimeter in the middle of the night before, dragging my fingers across the garage doors made of steel, closing off each entrance to ensure no one can squat inside. No temporary walls are set up to differentiate the stalls, but there are marks left on the sidewalk outside that signify where people settle themselves each and every morning. There are pieces of wrapping paper and plastic bags floating about as I avoid puddles of waste water and spilled tea. There are piles of smashed sugar cane within a few corners, the yellow strings contrasting every other surface in the area. No crickets reside in this part of the city, grass nonexistent because of the foot traffic during the day. A few stray dogs venture about only to look for food in the small piles of trash, and so the only sounds come from the rustling of tattered plastic and swept lottery stubs.

The street lamps are old, but there isn’t anyone willing to work so late in the night to replace them, so as I walk, some parts are lit, and other parts are filled with shadows. Not even the homeless dare stay on this property, and I never dared to ask where they end up sleeping if not out in the open.

Cracked pieces of plastic always scatter the grounds, coming from the cheap toys sold inside during the day or from the broken crates that transport the meats and produce to and from the market. Skid marks from the mopeds were frequent everywhere in the city, cars simply too big to maneuver between the thousands that mingle within the small plot of land daily.

And even if there are almost no folks in sight, I dare say that the most significant thing they leave behind is the smell. During the day, it was mostly the smoke of cheap cigarettes filling the air, but at night, the smell of trash and sewage transports me back to the streets of New York—they try their best to clean in Saigon, people in big hats and long sleeves constantly sweeping the streets during the day, but the smell is incessant, and can only be covered up by odors that are stronger.

The hours of the night where everything is empty is like death in a physical sense—peace, stillness, and the false sense of eternity latching onto the blue hues of the evening. But right before the sun beings to peak over the horizon, people will come set up their shops again, preparing for a full day of bartering and yelling that awaits them.

Abandoned spaces are only ever temporary. And my proof comes from the heart of Saigon.

The deep

Down. I wished I were going up. Down, relentlessly down. The pressure inside the submersible rose as it sank inexorably through the atmosphere. Down past any light. Lights reflected on weird creatures as we descended, external lights flickering as the currents hit us. Methane snow falling all around us, chemical flakes tumbling faster than we were. There’s nobody here. We were abandoned here. No rescue possible here, our ship too remote to answer our comms. No air outside, the pressure still rising. Monitoring Earth’s collapsed climate, we say our prayers.


Mourning someone when they are still alive is tiring, hard, stressful, upsetting and not something I would wish on my worst enemy. The only positive about it is, that when they finally leave this mortal world, that you have only a little grief left, it’s not a shock and in a lot of ways it is a relief. A relief that they don’t have to struggle any more and a relief that you don’t have to sit and watch the strong, independent, smart, empathetic person you have known since birth, continually loose everything that made them them. It’s heartbreaking.

As a family, we were noticing that mam’s memory was declining, the usual repetition of stories but more worrying, not remembering the names of her children. I went to the clinic with her and sat in the consultation room as they conducted the memory tests. Having to keep my face blank was not easy, especially when her eyes turned to me, pleading for support and confirmation that she was right or a word to help her remember.
“That’s a bird”. She said confidently.
‘What type of bird is it?’
She looked down at the picture, her facing twisting. Her eyes darted to mine but I couldn’t help. She smiled at me hoping that I would help her out.
“It lives in the cold.” she said.
Panic was setting in as she shifted her body in the chair.
Her hands gripped the paper and she stared, willing the word to come to her. Frustrated she had to admit that she didn’t know what type of bird it was.
She wasn’t told that the picture of the black and white bird that she had struggled to remember was a penguin. The consultant just progressed on to the next question, the next test.

I was crying Inside.

Alzheimer’s is an awful disease. It felt like mam’s brain was becoming an abandoned place. Memories left never to return. Broken memories were made unrecognisable by being spliced with made up events or snippets from the TV. Time, as it does in abandoned buildings, had no meaning, other than to mark the decline, her decline. What’s worse is that she knew that her mind was abandoning her.

I watched, I listened, I did what I could and when I left, I cried. She was loving and kind even when she couldn’t remember who I was. I mourned the loss of this wonderful giving woman every day, day after day, year after year.

She’s at rest now, hopefully with brain full of all those lost memories, and enjoying the afterlife with my dad.

Empty rooms, once full of memories. Broken glass and debris is all that remains. Evidence of happier times, tumultuous encounters, heartbreak and anguish. Walking these halls that once rang loud with the sounds of love and joy. As you listen now, there is but a distant echo of what was before. These rooms, this place, full of shadows lurking in every corner, hovering just out of view on the edge of your vision, but when you try to focus it fades from view. Plagued with a constant feeling that the word your searching for is right on the tip of your tongue, an idea just out of reach. The familiar is no longer so, and you hardly recognize anything anymore; anyone.

Strangers calling your name, 5 letters that used to hold so much power, now only hold pain at every utterance. The pictures that hang on the walls are blurry, their frames broken. The faces staring back at you no long hold significance in your heart. Room to room, you become lost in your own home. Everything is twisted, deformed. A maze not of your making, with no exit in site.

All around you, the remnants of your life lie shattered and broken. A silent intruder wreaking havoc in this sacred and private place. It entered without a word, but left its mark, a wound on your soul. Even now, you are a slave to its power. It has trapped you in what was once yours, erasing everything you hold dear and replacing it with fear and confusion, chaos and sadness. It has poked holes in your walls, weakened your foundation and soon your proud and majestic home will be reduced to rubble.

In the end you will stand in this empty place. Bare walls, windows clouded with dirt and dust. You will stand alone, and you will ask questions, unable to understand the answers given. The sun will set on your broken heart and shattered mind. The darkness will descend upon you, lonely and scared.

Then there will be nothing; peace.

The Refuge

Every person has a place, a sanctuary, where they go to seek solace and refuge from the onslaught that is modern life. For some that may be a walled compound on a tropical island. For others, it might be a dark corner of a parking garage that blocks the wind and stays dry when it’s raining. Whatever shape it may take, everyone needs that one place that is uniquely, unapologetically, theirs.
I am standing in such a space, a moderately appointed office that falls somewhere between “senior vice president” and “tenured professor”, trying to determine what manner of man sought shelter here. I am surrounded by a little over two hundred square feet of belongings that should be proclaiming their owner’s passions, desires, dreams, goals, and fears, in short, what makes him “him”, yet everything is silent.
There is an L-shaped desk, dark wood and bronze, placed unpretentiously in a corner. On it, covered in a thin layer of dust, are a wireless keyboard and mouse. Three modestly sized monitors stand watch over them from their position at the back of the desk, as if anticipating the return of the hands that would bring them to life. A barrel shaped mug rests to the left of the keyboard, partially filled with the moldy remnants of orange spice tea, the flavor identified from the tag dangling from the rim.
A calendar rests upon the desk’s other branch. Most of the days have notations in their respective grids. I peruse a variety of appointments, obligations, and events, but there is nothing remarkable contained in the tiny boxes of text. I notice that the writing on the calendar is exceptionally precise, more reminiscent of a computer’s font than of a hand-written note.
A bookcase, several shades lighter than the desk, stands against another wall. The books are sorted by topic: history, philosophy, political science, and gardening. Each subject, in turn, is arranged alphabetically. I wonder if the interest in gardening was related to the others. Maybe the garden was more the refuge than this place, and the information I seek is there, hidden in the bright colors and sweet smells of floral design. I realize that I’ll likely never know the answer.
To the side of the bookcase, facing the wall, is a comfortable looking office chair with a worn seat. Did the occupant collapse when his heart unexpectedly announced that his life was over? Or did the paramedics who arrived later push it out of their way? The room remains silent.
The wall opposite the desk supports several framed pictures and documents. There are bachelor’s and master’s degrees surrounded by images of the graduate during his school years. Apparently he played baseball, and enjoyed hiking.
More recent pictures depict an older version of the man. Although baseball seems to have been left behind, hiking, now in the company of an athletic looking brunette, is still a featured activity. Other snapshots show the couple deep sea fishing, dressed up for a night on the town, and smiling in front of a variety of touristy landmarks.
I’m surprised that there are no children in any of the photographs. One of the few things about this man of which I am certain is that he was a father; whether a good or bad one is for others to decide. I can’t prove it from this wall, though. There are pictures of him as a young man, and as an old man, but none that show him as a father.
I’m lost as to what to do with this information. I know that the man had a child, a son in fact. But here, in this room that that was solely his, that should proclaim everything he was interested in or found valuable, there is nothing that points to fatherhood.
Did he dislike the child so much that he refused to acknowledge his existence? Or was it shame that made him unable to stand in the presence of something as simple as an image of his son. Was he trying to forget?
A soft voice pulled me out of my thoughts. “John? Are you okay?”
I regarded the questioner, a friend of the family who had agreed to meet me here before I faced the rest of them. “I am, Tom, really.”
Tom looked around the room, as if it might reveal what he should say next. “I’m sorry about your father.”
“It’s okay. We weren’t particularly close anymore.”

Itsy Bitsy

Her fingers ran gingerly over the snow painted surface, taking in the feel of the dust that had gathered under her fingertips. How long this had been here, Kit didn’t know. But by the look of things, it had been a while…

Sliver strands hung torn from the ceiling, the stickiness causing it to cling to her skin. She brushed it off, the moonlight dancing on the strands as they swayed upon being released. She stood transfixed as she watched the sliver strands and the moonlight dance for a moment before shadows caught her eye.

Just beyond the dancing strands loomed dark shadows, causing a feeling of despair to decend upon her. Upon closer inspection the shadows turned into enshouded bodies. She gasped, taking a step back. One… Two… Three… As many as 10 bodies lay between the silver strands. The dust layered on and around them shown how long they had been here. What had happened here? Who had killed them?

Another shadow caught her attention. She leaned forward for a closer look, straining her eyes to see what it was. As her eyes adjusted she saw what it was. It… was…a…hairy…

“Kit. Kit. KIT!!!”

She jumped when a hand touched her shoulder, the action causing her to come back to herself and out of the daze she was in.


“Where were you? You’ve just been staring at nothing for the past 15 minutes.”

“Sorry, Mom… I’ll get back to dusting.”

“Good. And don’t forget that spiderweb in the corner there. Who knows how long its been up there.”

To a dear friend.

A friend is gone, hope he will have a better life next time. Hope he won’t suffer anymore for the greed and violence of this world. His house was the first excuse to fight over. Greedy people will always be the first there to empty any room with a money value. But what will miss me will be his laughs. The way he told me so many story of his life. The passion he put in his paintings. The beauty that was bornt from it. Many people care about painting with names no matter how ugly or lazy it is but. I will miss the passion and the care to detail my friend put into his paintings. Yes they will never be known with a big Name and value. But I still remember the look on his face when was doing it. And the smile when he finish it. I miss the talk and critics.

The Mirror

Sylvia peered through the bars wondering what on earth could be beyond the locked gate. From what she could see it appeared to be stuck back in time. An old truck covered in layers of dust, a rusty red wagon was lying on its side in the middle of the yard, a child’s tricycle sat at the end of the driveway with one of its wheels continuously spinning in the non-existent Arizona breeze, and the oddest thing was a giant pile of sand that sat just inside of the gate.

Sylvia had passed this house so many times and every time she wondered what may lie beyond the dust covered ‘treasures.’ Sylvia sighed knowing that she would never find out as the gate was securely locked, paired with a large sign stating in bold letters, NO TRESSPASSING ALLOWED. KEEP OUT. She would likely never know.

“Whatcha’ doing?” Tommy’s voice startled Sylvia out of her thoughts.

“Tommy! Why are you always sneakin’ up on me?” Sylvia asked as she turned to face red headed, freckle faced Tommy.

“I ain’t sneakin’ up. I rode up on my bike and even rang the bell.” Tommy rang the bell again, “You are just never listenin’ ”

Sylvia turned back to look through the locked gate, “What you think about this place?”

“It’s old and dusty, locked up for ages. Tanner said one time, he saw a ghostly figure in one of the windows, scared him so bad, so he would never look through these bars ever again.”

“You believe that?”

“Nah. Catch ya’ later!” Tommy said as he hopped back on his bike and took off down the road. Sylvia could now hear the bell ringing even as Tommy rounded the corner onto Devine Street. Sylvia took one last look through the locked gate and headed home.

The next day Sylvia decided to walk by the gated property again and was surprised to find the lock had been cut. Sylvia’s curiosity got the best of her, and she decided to just peek around really quick.

Sylvia slipped through the gate, around the large mound of sand, and slowly made her way up the driveway passing the tricycle with the one wheel still spinning, the rusty red wagon, and then finally around the dusty old truck. The house looked so big now that she was looking at it up close. It was a two story, brick home, with lots of windows all of which were covered on the inside with white sheets. Sylvia noticed that the front door was slightly open and wondered who on earth would want to go inside. As she walked closer to the door she noticed two bikes that were hidden behind the dusty old truck.

“Tanner? Tommy?” Sylvia said out loud as the feeling of dread began to creep in.

Sylvia walked closer to the door and peered inside to find the entry way to be completely empty except for mysterious piles of sand. What is it with the sand?

“Hello?” Sylvia said as she pushed the door open a little wider. After a few moments of not hearing anything Sylvia decided that she should go inside and find her brother before he gets himself into trouble or worse. After a deep breath Sylvia slipped inside and closed the door.

Sylvia looked around the empty entrance hall to get her bearings. All of the doorways and the spiral staircase had sand piled up. Although an odd sight, Sylvia spotted footsteps leading up the spiral staircase, which is probably where Tommy and Tanner had gone off to.

Sylvia followed the footprints up the spiral staircase and stopped when she came to the second-floor landing. Other than sand and an oddly placed purple stuffed elephant, the entire house seemed to be completely empty and eerily quiet.

The footprints headed right down the hallway into the first door. Sylvia followed them and opened the closed door to find an almost completely empty room. There was a mirror hanging on the wall and two windows covered with a white sheet.

Sylvia opened the closet door, which was also empty and then noticed that both sets of footprints led to the mirror.

“That’s odd,” Sylvia said as she walked back out into the empty hallway. After checking each and every room upstairs and not finding the boys, Sylvia returned to the room with the mirror and walked up to it and to her amazement it was not her reflection that she saw. Sylvia looked at what appeared to be a white sandy beach complete with the bluest ocean she had ever seen. Sylvia quickly closed her eyes and reopened them to the same scene.

“That cannot be real,” Sylvia said as she reached her hand tentatively towards the mirror expecting to see her hand reflecting back, but no, the sandy beach was still there along with some sea birds that were flying low along the ocean’s surface searching for their next meal.

Without too much worry, Sylvia attempted to touch the mirror, surprisingly her hand went right through it pulling Sylvia through to the other side. Neither her nor the boys were ever seen again.

Things Remembered and Cherished.

Maureen Stradous was a small woman who lived in the massive Queen Anne house on Main street. She never married, bore children, and was rarely seen in town. Her hair was Auburn brown and her eyes were brown like western cornflowers, her skin was tanned beautifully which confused everyone in town. She hadn’t seen sunlight enough to get any type of artificial tan and we knew it wasn’t genetics. Her parents lived in that house just as she did.
The town was conflicted when Maureen disappeared one day. No trace, no evidence, and left her home in the hands of me. I was the girl who ran errands for her. She left me notes with small amounts of cash to hire me for tasks she needed to be done. A signed slip of paper left the home to me, a twenty-five-year-old graduate student.
I grasped the key in my hand, my feet shifted on the porch. The door was brown, the windows on the door were blacked out and everything was silent. People passed by the house, staring at me, curious as to what I’m doing. I slid the key into the lock and felt each click in the hole. I pushed the door open and felt the gust of dusty air blast me in the face. My heart froze, the house was unusually cold, and everything sat as if no one had ever lived there.
I was unable to hear the town, the home provided a sound barrier and it was completely silent. The house settled and let out a breath. I walked through the foyer and touched the coat rack. Dusty and unused. As if they bought it and staged it before leaving forever. I looked down the hallway and looked down at the footprints left in the dust on the floor. They were smaller than mine and had been there for less than a week. I looked around and followed the steps, the house was full of trinkets, like a poorly organized antique store. The footsteps led down to the basement, I never knew this house had a basement, none of the houses in town have them.
The furnace woke up and interrupted the silence of the home. Once I reached the bottom of the stairs, I froze when I saw a freezer. Hooks and sheets covered the walls and ceilings. The most disgusting scent filled my nose and I lifted a sheet that was laid over the table. There lied Maureen.

The heart is a splendid organ and capable of two of the greatest achievements possible in the world today. Sustaining life and love.
It is the issue of love that often concerns me, and exactly where in the heart it is held, and the empty, forsaken spaces left when love is lost.
You see, I feel my blood pumping rhythmically around my heart, in and out the various veins and arteries, through. the ventricles, the vena cava, and the brachiocephalic trunk. Thud, thud, thud. I think of the love I share with my daughters and that thudding speeds up fractionally. Thud a thud thud, thud a thud thud. Filling the voids reserved especially for them, blood humming through me full speed. Then my mind wanders to the loss of my beloved husband and my infant son who was only earthbound for five hours and that thudding almost ceases. Thud…thud…thud. My blood turns to pitch and oozes into forsaken spaces, deserted and lost, permanently damaged. Pieces of my heart that appear to be eternally smashed. However.
Then I met someone new and love began to blossom again. I feel those quickening flutters in my heartbeats and those forsaken parts of my heart start to grow pink and flush with fresh blood. Were those new feelings absorbing the dead, forsaken areas?
The heart it appears, is a mystery, a wonder. It beats continuously, it allows love to regrow, to flourish, yet holds place for loss, without ever growing in physical size. It pulses continuously. Thud, thud, thud.

A bed with a patchwork quilt that was made by her mother, one writer’s desk, art from her grandchildren and great-grandchildren dotting her wall and a closet full of pictures.
The pictures, of course, are all in boxes; but within those boxes are also some letters. Some are on old paper, handwriting nearly illegible. Some are nearly illegible because a child wrote them. Me— I’m that child and my handwriting is still illegible; but, at least I know how to spell now.
It’s weird, reading the letters posted so long ago. The recipient now gone. It’s half of a conversation, half of a combine memory.
I never really knew my grandmother. My grandparents always lived far away and we never connected. However, upon seeing how she kept every card and note I ever sent, I’m bowled over and slightly misty-eyes.
Echoing the me of the past when they said, “I lub u Nana.” And I know, for a fact, that she loved me.

Empty Nest
Juliet took a deep breath before entering her daughter’s room. The door itself was unchanged. It still had the sign on it in a child’s writing ‘ Kennedy Lane’. Juliet had to remind her self not to knock before opening the door. It wasn’t like Kennedy was still here. She’d left Apple Wood weeks ago.
The room looked almost like it did when Kennedy lived at home. Except it was cleaner. Kennedy had always been a bit messy unless she’d had a friend over. Same white wallpaper and red curtains. Same queen bed that replaced the old childhood twin bed. Same shelves above the bed and bedside table beside it. Same desk and chair where Kennedy worked on homework and her writing. Same dresser which looked bare without the usual litter of makeup and jewelry. Same closet built into the wall which probably still had the smaller dresser in it.
The room looked normal. A normal room for a semi normal girl. It was deceptive. Just like Kennedy had been. The romance and erotica books on the shelves were normal for a teen. Or a young woman in her early 20’s. The CD player and CD collection were normal too. Kennedy’s taste in music was similar to Juliet’s. They both liked Jazz, Swing, country, and even the same boy band.
If only Kennedy had been a normal girl. Juliet wondered where she’d gone wrong raising Kennedy. Or if Kennedy’s dad was more to blame. Ken had never been in the picture. He’d cheated on Juliet soon after Kennedy was born.
Kennedy used to be a happy beautiful normal child. She’d loved playing dress up and telling stories and reading. Taken dance classes. Juliet had tried her best to give Kennedy love and support. She’d always been proud of Kennedy and tried to make ends meet without being a distant mom. Had wanted her baby to have at lest one loving parent. Times had been hard , but they’d been happy. Each other’s best friend. Kennedy had been Juliet’s mini me.

Kennedy hadn’t changed her bed before leaving. Juliet smoothed the light blue pillow case. She wouldn’t have to worry about whatever was happening in this bed anymore. Not like she had for all these years.
Kennedy had been a troubled young woman. She’d sought out the attention and company of boys and men. Gotten herself a bad reputation as a temptress. Juliet had tried not to see what was happening. Not to hear what people were saying . But she had seen. Of course she’d known. Most mothers would have thrown a girl like Kennedy out at 18. Juliet could never have done that. Kennedy was all she had.
Juliet had to grabbed one of the boxes she’d brought with her. Time to get to work. The room would need to be emptied before she could use it as a guest room. She stood on Kennedy’s old bed and started pulling books off of the shelves. Most were romances and erotica. Juliet was more of a thriller reader. These books would go in storage until Kennedy asked for them. The same with her music and CD player. It took three boxes, one per shelf.
The high heat romances and erotica told a different story. The story of a troubled teen gone stray. When Kennedy had first gotten interested in makeup, and boys as a tween Juliet had though tit was normal. She’d been interested in those things too at Kennedy’s age. Hadn’t seen the warning signs of the type of teen and young woman Kennedy would become. If she had Juliet would have tried to save Kennedy from herself.
The heat level of the books was enough to show what Kennedy had wanted from boys even as a teen. Attention, passion and lust. She hadn’t been interested in an actual boyfriend, Had been more than happy just going from ‘friend’ to ‘friend’. Never taking any of them seriously. Kennedy would claim to like them best and even love them. Never meant it though. Treated the boys the way Ken had treated her and Juliet.
If any of the boys actually tried to take Kennedy seriously, or if someone else caught her attention it was boy bye. Kennedy became a terrible temptress and heart breaker. She’d left more than her fair share of boys and young men with broken hearts.
Juliet packed up the music and CD player next. She didn’t need to check Kennedy’s dresser. Her daughter had taken all her clothes. Jewelry and makeup too. Not to mention any money she could save. Only the small armor was left.
Juliet opened the door of Kennedy’s empty closet. It was bigger now. No longer stuffed with shoes and cloths. She’d never dared to open the armory before. That was saved for Kennedy’s ‘costumes and toys’.
Kennedy had started experimenting with kink at 16. She’d tried to explain in way that this was similar to playing dress up. Or telling stories as a child. Juliet knew better. Kennedy liked role play. She also liked it rough. Thought it was erotic to choke, spank, or restrain you partner. Or let them do it to you. The small armory was empty too. Kennedy must have known that if Juliet had found a single toy or costume she would have destroyed them.
The only thing left of Kennedy’s in the room were the boxes under her bed. There were eight of them. Each labeled by year number. Each box had 3-4 notebooks. Kennedy’s accounts of each ‘friend’. The stories of her conquests. Juliet didn’t know why Kennedy had bothered to write about it all, She knew Kennedy wanted to be taken seriously as a writer. Longed to do well enough as an author to quit her waitress job. Juliet hoped she hadn’t been using the ‘diaries’ as inspiration. If Kennedy had been writing from life that would only invite more trouble for her. Or lead more girls astray.
After collecting the boxes Juliet noticed an envelope on Kennedy’s desk under the window. It might have been an apology. Or at lest telling Juliet where Kennedy had gone. She opened the letter with shaking fingers. Hoping it didn’t contain any more of the hurtful words like their last argument about Kennedy’s behavior.
“ Mom, I’m not sorry about leaving. You just don’t understand. I had to go. Couldn’t stay here much longer.
A friend from work is letting me stay with her in New Strawberry Fields, It’s a suburb of South City. Which fixes the commute problem I’ve been having with work and school.
Don’t cry mom. Someday I might come back. If I ever settle down like you want me to. I’m sorry I’ve been such a disappointment to you. Made you ashamed of me.
If I do settle down I hope you’ll let us visit. I might get lucky and find a nice boy in New Strawberry Fields. If I do I want you to at lest meet him.
Don’t forget about me. I’ll never forget you Momma. I know you only wanted the best for me. You don’t have to worry now. Keep in touch
Love, Kennedy’
The letter sounded like the daughter Juliet had raised. Her sweet little girl. Her mini me. Juliet blinked back tears,” I’ll still worry Mini, It’s my job after all.” She was right about that. It was a mom’s job to worry about her child. Especially a wayward daughter with a taste for trouble.

The black ground

Silence returned the day the cars stopped. The irregularly irregular passage of cars sounded a noise of certain death on the black ground that split the world. This noise was no more. A fox emerged from sleep, his golden hour of light when the too bright light colored slowly and darkened quickly, thinking about the sound of silence and about almost sleep things like the smell of cold winter light. He knew about living and about different deaths: the certain death of the noisy black ground with fast heavy things or the uncertain death of a swim across cold water. There was also the slow painful death from eating long dead things and a quick sudden death when chasing prey and making a misstep into hard solid things. Things a young pup learned or did not learn and died. All these things he thought about while shaking off the foggy smells of sleep, the too bright day becoming glorious night.

He came out of his den and knew the world had changed. Noise had stopped and the world had become louder. He heard the regular sound of crickets and frogs. The wind blew without sirens interrupting the breeze. There were no people trampling the nearby grass. Stupid deer continued to walk onto the black ground of death like usual, but they did not die a sudden, certain death like in the past. He watched in wonder as he walked out of the trees and saw deer not dying as they walked onto the blackness of certain death.

Deer did not know about courage and the fox was uncertain if foxes knew about this either. He knew that deer did unthoughtful things like walking out into death and that foxes knew better. Foxes understood that the world was separated by a large black region of certain death and that no fox would hunt there. But the world had changed and perhaps the rules did not apply anymore. There was no fast moving death to be seen, only the cold winter breeze and a much larger world.

The fox smelled a delicious rabbit across the less certain death that split the world. He looked for death and knew that today would not be a day to die. So he took a breath and crossed the black ground to find a new meal and let the world become bigger.

Grant eased the car down the narrow track. With tall trees flanking either side, the car’s headlights flicked on full beam, illuminating a sharp right-hand bend at the bottom of the hill.

Without taking his eyes off the road, Grant said to Kane seated in the passenger seat, “Wouldn’t fancy driving up or down this in the dark, that’s for sure.”

The track stopped at on a flat patch of ground in front of a stone cottage with a slate-roofed. As he brought the car to a stop, Grant noticed in an open-fronted garage to the left of the house, a white SUV parked.

“That’s Val’s car, I’m sure it is. This could be it, Kane. Well spotted.”

“The place looks deserted though.”

“I’m going to knock.” Grant walked up to the front door.

“What are you going to say to her if it is Val?”

“I’ll say the same as I told Alec. That I’m looking for a holiday home over here. That we were passing and saw the sign, so thought we’d take a look at this place from the outside. I’ll act surprised to see her. Pure coincidence.”

Kane let out a small laugh. “Well, that’s almost the truth.”

Grant banged the door knocker twice. After waiting a few moments, he knocked again. Louder. He heard no sound of movement from inside so wrapped the knocker again.

No response. He pushed open the letter box.

“Hello! Anyone at home?”

Stooping to peer through, he could see a narrow hallway, three doors leading off, all closed. He called out.

“Can’t see any sign of movement.” Kane stood several feet away looking up at the bedroom windows. “I’ll walk around the back and take a look. She might be outside and can’t hear.”

Grant sidestepped to one of the windows, looking in, hand on his forehead, head pressed to the glass but could not make out much through the grime on the pane. He took a tissue from his pocket and wiped at it, smearing the mud and muck from a patch, then peered through again. He could make out a table covered in a lace tablecloth, a glass vase of dead flowers in the centre, a sideboard with a line of paperback books on it but little else.

Kane appeared from the side of the house. “No one there but come and take a look.”

“What have you found?” He followed after his friend.

The rear of the house opened on to a wide patch of grass in need of cutting. A woodchip path ran through the middle leading to a wire fence, beyond which lay a neglected vegetable garden, things running to seed. Beyond that, the forest.

There was a small wooden deck at the side of the overgrown lawn. Grant made his way to it and found himself at the side of the open garage, staring at a large industrial-garden shredder. A few feet away was a battered oil drum that had clearly been used to burn things judging by the pile of ashes around it.

Kane caught up with him. Together they walked over to the drum and looked in. Amongst the remains of wood, newspaper pieces and debris were bits of floral patterned material, a pearl button attached to it, and what looked like the heel end of a woman’s shoe poking out of the spoil.

“Looks like someone’s been burning clothes,” Kane said. He stared at Grant. “You don’t think—”

“We could both be jumping to conclusions. It means nothing yet other than someone’s been burning rubbish. Come on, let’s get out of here. No one’s home and if they return now we could be accused of trespassing.”

Turn out onto the main road, Grant put his foot down on the throttle and roared away in the direction of home.

Kane clung on to the armrest. “Surely the police have got to believe you now.”

The Not so Abandoned House

This was a memory from my childhood. Now my childhood wasn’t the greatest, but I do remember my 8th grade year in jr. high. We lived in a small town where everyone talked about everyone but us kids, we all knew about the abandoned house on Ruby Street. Our parents told us not to go near the old house, they said it was because it was falling apart, the truth was there had been a murder in the house. That summer was nothing different, lots of sleepovers and eventually just getting bored of everything. One late summer night my friend, we’ll call her Alice, decided that we were going to do something that no one had ever done, we were going to stay in the old, abandoned house on Ruby Street. When we got to the house the sun was setting behind the horizon and as we got close to the old house it looked rumpled with the old what must have been blue or green paint at one point peeling off in places and cracked in others. Alice had made her way to the front door, and I joined her though my “nothing can scare me” attitude had dwindled. She turned the knob and surprisingly it turned without a hitch, and she pushed the door open, it groaned on its rusted hinges and we both slowly walked through the thresh hold. The house was still furnished with some old furniture. The floral print was much outdated for these days but on it lay a thick layer of untouched dust. I moved through to the staircase its wood looked rotted as if something had eaten it from the inside out. I heard a small whisper in my ear making whirl around nervously. Alice came running back to the living room excitedly and pulled me into a back room that was filled with old toys. They looked like little girl’s toys a baby dolls, dress up clothes everything that was much too young for us at least that’s what I thought. A sudden sadness fell over me and I began to imagine the kind of fun the little girl had playing with her things so innocently. I walked out of the room unable to stand in the room any longer when I saw spots along the old, fractured walls, curiously I followed it to the staircase. I felt a cold breeze brush against me when I heard another whisper in my ear from behind me telling me to leave. I was stuck between my ever grown urge to run away and never look back to following those old dark brown spots that went up the stairs. Of course, the saying curiosity killed the cat wasn’t for nothing I slowly moved up the stairs with each step it was like the house groaned in pain and agony. I made it to the top and looked around, I saw an open door to what must have been the parents’ room, I slowly walked in. The dust was heavy in the air as I tried to move cautiously. The sheets that still covered the bed were a pretty white now more like a gray from the dust though on each side there was a stain of red on it. I suddenly felt my stomach sink further than it should have as a coldness took over the room, my head spun as I got flashes of blood and a knife and screaming. I screamed with fear, I can’t explain it any other way, I looked around and ran from the room I could hear Alice calling for me from downstairs and I made my way slowly down the old stairs. I nearly ran into Alice who was holding the doll that had been in the playroom. I had told her to put the doll back she had cocked her head in a way like she didn’t understand. Suddenly we heard the sound of what we assumed was the back door opening, the hinges creaked that only sent chills down our spines. Alice looked at me and I looked back at her. The footsteps were heavy and with each thud fear filled the whole house it was like it was awake and alive for the first time in years. I heard the whisper again though it was more of a command to leave. I slowly reached out to Alice and grabbed her hand tightly as we listened and when we heard the small shrilling scream of the little girl, I tugged Alice making her drop the doll and we ran for the front door, and we didn’t stop till we reached the end of Ruby Street.

Haunted knife

Bumpy and I exchange glances. “You go in first!” Our 8 year old imaginations are on fire. We have been told repeatedly to not go near this run-down old house. But since when did we ever listen to old people. We are looking for the missing blood stained hunting knife. Before we were born [so the urban rumor goes] a little girl was killed in one of the rooms but the knife was never found. People say that the knife is kept by the little girl to seek revenge on any one coming into the house.

Breathing heavily, we both set through the doorway together into a shadowy hallway. A startled rat scurries into a dusty floor register. the sudden noise raises the hair on the back of our necks. Peering into the darkness, Bumpy points. My breathe catches in my throat. There on the floor, a single ray of fading sunshine shining on it, the haunted knife.

We both stare at it. Suddenly, slowly, the knife starts to rise into the air. “She has grabbed the knife!” I scream. We both bolted back through the screaming all of the way out to the dirt road.

Looking back over the decades since that childhood incident, I think that Lilly May, that was her name, was hanging on to the one connection, that she lost so early, to the living.

Returning to Tsilenhru

The docks were falling apart, and what was left of the fleet had been charred. Ishana leaned over the boat as she pushed down the grief consuming her. She gripped the sides until her knuckles turned white. Cthelios reached out to hold her back, but even as he heard the splash, he knew he could not protect her any longer. She stumbled through the water toward shore. Salt burned her eyes as they swept over what remained. Over the years, the smell of burned cedar still mingled with the algae in a nauseating blend. He knew what she would find beyond the overgrown path would be far worse, and wondered if he should have warned her.

Cthelios secured the boat and caught up with her at the gate of Tsilenhru. She stood by it for a moment, unmoving. He remembered how resolute she had been about leaving, but now he wondered how much she feared returning. As she pulled the gate, the metal screeched as it waged its own minor war against the vines that grew around it. Cthelios leaned into it with her, lifting it slightly to alleviate it’s battered hinges. Once released from its foliage prison, it tilted as though mortally wounded and fell to the other side with a loud crash.

Then they were left in silence. Not even the dogs had returned to the ruins of Tsilenhru.

What had once been a city of architecture and art was a burial ground of ash and fallen stones. Green moss covered most of the city like a shroud. Ishana walked slowly down the road, rather a clearing that once provided a main passageway. She tilted her head this way and that, as though her mind questioned the reality of what she saw. Or maybe she was lost. Five years at sea could make anyone feel lost on land, but nothing here was the same to begin with.

Occasionally, she would stop and look one way and then the other – each place she stopped should have been a road but was filled with rubble. No, he was certain she still knew the city like she knew her own soul.

No matter how the enemy burned and battered, Ishana could still hear echoes of the laughter and the songs at night when the streets were filled with feasting. She could still see traces of the sea stones the women weaved into wire jewelry. Though the carts were overturned and trodden on, the stones shone through the dust at their feet. Fishing knives were stuck in doorways where even the old men picked up what they had and fought to protect their children. But she did not stop to grieve for them.

As the last priestess, Cthelios knew she was not allowed to shed tears for the dead, no matter how her heart ached for them. Born to reflect the solidarity of the gods, she was to mirror their perfection, void of any remnant of humanity, including emotions. Cthelios grimaced at how well she embraced her duties, despite her natural empathy.

But for now, she was searching for something. If she was looking for a sign of life, she would do best to seek elsewhere. They both knew what she would find under the rubble.

They walked for hours, often climbing over stones. They were working their way uphill, until a large building came into view.

It was still standing! Cthelios inhaled in disbelief. The Sanctuary of Tsilenhru was barely visible in the thick haze. On the outside, it hardly looked scathed. The white stone had turned ominously dark and slick under the heavy air, and a few of the stained-glass windows were broken. One of the doors leaned against the doorway, defeated, but Ishana took it as an invitation. She stepped over glass and into her haven.

If the outside spoke of hope, the inside laughed in a cruel mockery. The stone pews were overthrown – a monumental feat in itself. The shrouds that once lined the stone in graceful colors were tattered and falling. The last meal on the sacrificial stone had grown into a grotesque mold that even killed the mouse who tried to consume it in an effort to survive.

The hair stood on Cthelios’ neck. The stone church, stripped and exposed to the elements should have been cold and drafty. But it was warm. Too warm. He shifted uncomfortably in his boots. He realized that the smell of old ash he was getting used to did not actually smell old. Something was still burning, slowly smoldering, ready to rekindle with fresh oxygen.

“Ishana,” he whispered. His hand rested on the hilt of his sword, but he did not know why. He could not save her with a sword. Maybe he could have done something with it five years ago, but instead of saving Tsilenhru with a sword, he chose to save Ishana with a lie.

“Ishana,” he repeated, his voice louder, but less brave. She turned to face him.

For a moment, he saw her the same as he did the first time he saw her. Stunning in a quiet beauty, she carried herself with a virtuous strength, but with an untamed spirit that frazzled her hair and reddened her cheeks. But today, her eyes were different. Hauntingly different. A flame danced in her eyes. A rumble vibrated the ground as he pulled her toward his chest. He only thought of one regret as he wrapped his arms around her, resting his head over hers. Why did he always to this place? He swore he’d never come back.

The Empty Classroom

I stopped the car outside my old dark and abandoned school where no one has been here since the fire. “Well, here we are”, While I walk in with my best friend Charly, we both struggle to open the metal barrier in front of the school entrance, guarding the building as if telling anyone who descends upon the area to ‘go back’ but we walk in anyway.

Every step we take we’re walking on glass. “I can’t believe I’ve came here” I say as I sneak my head into my classroom, then walk cautiously in with Emma behind me. I wave my arm in front of my face, coughing from dust and cobwebs covering the air in front of what was once my desk.
I turn to see Emma, coughing into her sleeve and looking around of what was left of the once full of life classroom. I look around the dark small room and clock Emma looking at the timeworn class photo. A small single tear runs down her cherry red like cheeks as she looks at me then looks down to her feet in humiliation. Emma turned and walked out of the classroom. I could hear the break of glass under her foot as she made her way back outside. I glanced out of the window and saw Charly heading back to the barrier and the safety of the car. Moments passed until I could hear the faint thump of the beat of music coming from the car. I study my desk and reach into my pocket for my notebook and begin to write about the classroom for my new job. I start by writing about the old burnt desks, the broken windows and then I look outside the broken window. I tenderly walk to the window and stare down at the 50-foot building below. I shuddered as I remember where I first saw the fire… just outside this one window.

I glance to the barrier and see… nothing… my car was gone and along with Charly. I start to panic and run as quickly and careful as I can towards the stairs.
“AHHH” I plunge down the stairs. I land on the bottom step of the stairs and without hesitation I run towards the front door of the building. I push on the door, and it is blocked. I start to bang on the door unsure of what it will do but hoping it may free whatever is behind it. I turn to the small glass pane in the side of the door and see written in the dirt of the window the words ‘I’m Sorry – Charly.’ I let out a small gasp and placing my hands and head on the door I let out a low long sigh. “Oh, Charly what have you done” I say aloud to myself.
I take a step back from the door and wipe the sooth from my hands and winch at the pain coming from my ankle. Suddenly, I hear a car pull up. My car I think to myself and peer out through the glass pane in the door. However, getting out from the car is a police office and Charly. I brush the sooth from my clothes and as I settle myself to look somewhat presentable, I hear a loud scape from behind the door and watch as the light from outside breaks through the sooth, dark, burnt room.
“Oh, hello officer, what can I help you with?” I say confused as I look at Charly in hand cuffs
“Well ma’am this lady has been caught stealing and gave this abandon building as her address” says the office. I make eye contact with Charly over the shoulder of the office and watch in slow motion as she mouths ‘I’m sorry’ then she steps on the officer’s foot and runs for her life into the bushes.
The officer turning to run, spins back to face me and asks, “why are you here even?” puzzlingly.
“Umm well it’s my job, I’m a reporter with the local newspaper” I lie. The officer nods his head and yelling “Wait there until I am back while beginning to give chase to Charly. I walk to the door and watch as the office runs down what was once the building carpark. Suddenly the branches of the nearby bushes being to rustle. I look over and see Charly through the bushes mouthing the words “Follow me.” I shake my head and turning to close the door behind me, I grab the folded sleeping bag from the floor and make my way back to my old classroom where I lay the sleeping bag out inside of my dark cold classroom and rest.