The Room That Swallows People

Experimental and suffering the usual self doubt. Feedback appreciated. Thanks for reading :)
“What are you doing in my house?”

The words stirred Amelie Hamilton from a dream about a dog she had grown up with as a child. Griff, a golden retriever and long walks in fields where it always seemed to be sunny and cool. One of those memories where hay-fever didn’t exist, it was sunny but not sweltering and being an adult was a long way off.

“Excuse me” she managed trying to shake off a mind groggy with sleep.

“I said, what are you doing in my house?”

Amelie sat up. How curious, not the sort of thing a burglar would confront you with she thought. It was dark and her alarm clock revealed it was 12.01 a.m., barely into the next day.

“This happens to be my house thank you very much so what are you doing in it?” She was speaking to an empty room which was even more curious.

Just to make sure she switched on the bedside lamp. The darkness retreated leaving peripheral shadows. Definitely no-one in the room. She blinked and got out of the bed. Slowly she turned around, just to be sure.

“Is there anybody there?” Rather clichéd, she thought, just knock once for yes, twice for no.

There was no response. Her light went out.

She cursed and mutter under her breath, “Another power damn power cut.”

From under her door there was a flickering orange glow and voices.

The woman spoke again but sounded far more distressed.

“What are you doing in my house?”

Amelie paused. She wasn’t talking to her at all and it appeared there was more than one person in her house and downstairs. Creeping quietly back to the bedside table she picked up her mobile. No signal. Dammit. Returning to the door she quietly opened it and moved to the top of the stairs to peek over than bannister rail. Things looked different. Her modernised Victorian semi-detached house was no longer modernised and the wall that made it a semi was missing. In fact the stairs she was at the top of were absolutely not hers at all. They were central for a start and far more in keeping with a Victorian manse. No wonder the voices carried.

The under the door glow was coming from gas lighting that ran at intervals down the landing. Panic was setting in. She stepped backwards and into her room and then came out again; my house, not my house. Her palms were getting clammy and she was resisting hyperventilating. Long slow breaths, stay calm this must be a very bad dream. She returned to the top of the stairs but held back out of sight.

“But I love you Elisabeth.” A man’s voice, desperate and pleading.

She heard a chair move. The woman, Elisabeth was more urgent.

“Jonathan, you can’t be seen here…my husband will be home soon.”

The man spoke again, his voice cracked. Emily imagined he was crying.

“But you are carrying my child.”

Elisabeth grew angry and insistent.

“Never say that.” The words were spat out with vehemence. “Get out now and never come back.”

Amelie felt there was a degree of horror in the tone.

“Or I shall call for the Peelers.”

There was a thump as something hitting a table. The man Jonathan’s fist perhaps thought Elisabeth.

“Very well” he said, “but I shall not be held accountable for my actions.”

A door slammed and Amelie could hear crying. Quietly, she returned to her room and sat on the bed shaking. This time the door was left slightly ajar so she could see if things outside reverted to normal. They did not. Settling back she felt her own baby move slightly; third trimester, she was agitated too. Her own husband was at a conference in Holland presenting a paper on something to do with particle physics. She was never quite sure what exactly, especially lately owing to a more scatty memory than usual. Interrupted sleep wasn’t helping.

Downstairs she heard a different male voice.

“My apologies for being so late Torrie, the meeting ran over slightly.”

“Not to worry Alfred, these things happen”

She lies well thought Amelie.

There was the sound of breaking glass and a scream. Amelie moved back to her vantage point, this time daring to look over the bannister. What she saw made her heart beat a shade bit faster.

Flames were expanding across drapes that were drawn across two windows to the left of the front door that sat proudly opposite the base of the staircase. Glass was strewn across the tiled mosaic floor and the curtains flapped in a breeze from outside fanning the flames which were now spreading rapidly.

Alfred was moving toward the door but staggered away as he opened it falling backwards onto the floor his head covered in blood. Jonathan stepped through, a hammer in his left hand; it was stained red and dripping leaving a trail of bloodied drops.

Elisabeth’s mouth opened and closed. She was entering shock and stumbled against a table that offered temporary support. Her face was white. She spoke in a terrified whisper;

“What the hell are you doing Jonathan?”

He just glared back, eyes filled with the red mist and staggering with the gait of a mad man riddled with liquor wielding a raging slur,

“If I cannot have you then no-one will.”

He moved toward the table; Elisabeth backed off. The flames were moving down the room and behind her. She turned quickly and tripped crashing her head against the corner of the table before landing on the mosaic. A pool of red liquid grew from her hair.

Jonathan dropped the hammer and fled.

Amelie could feel the heat as her own escape route was cut off. Thick smoke was driving up the stairs forcing her to retreat back into her room. The window was jammed shut and her room was filling with smoke. In desperation she smashed the glass. The ground was a long way off and 30 weeks pregnant was not making things easier. She began to cough and the smoke made the decision. Her world went black as she slumped to the floor.

Across the road, and most definitely in the present, Allan and Joseph Carmichael were surfing the web looking out at the old Hamilton place; as they had done for the five years since Amelie Hamilton had gone missing. Both sides of the semi-detached large Victorian house were boarded up and had been for three years. James Hamilton had originally bought them both hoping to renovate the house back to it’s original state prior to the fire in 1875.

Being paranormal hobbyists they were renting this particular house on the basis the local population believed the old Victorian place opposite was either haunted or possessed. Urban myth had it logged as a place people went into and sometimes never came out again. They said it woke up every five years and wanted feeding. To date the brothers had found numerous accounts of missing persons that either owned or visited the place. Evidence was less numerous; the police had been unable to trace any of the absent inhabitants and had even held James Hamilton in custody whilst exploring the possibility he may have disposed of his wife. Eventually they had let him go whereupon he was admitted to a psychiatric ward for treatment. The Carmichael’s had managed to interview him but retrieved very little apart from a series of notes from a disturbed mind.

“The place is possessed by the devil.”

“There is a room that swallows people.”

“It’s alive with ghosts of the dead.”

And so on. Eventually James gave up and had the place boarded. Some say he boarded it from the inside and was never seen again. Certainly after the interview Allan had been unable to locate him and since the police had received no missing persons reports little help came from that direction.

Allan was currently staring at the house opposite. The more he looked the more unsettled he became.

“Who’s watching whom?” He was talking to himself.

His brother startled him from the reverie.

“Al, look at this.”

Joseph stared into the screen displaying an archive for local news relating to the fire. “WTF, Amelie Hamilton was pregnant!”

Local businessman Jonathan Webster was, today, accused of setting a fire with intent to incapacitate and murder Albert and Elisabeth Beechworth and their unborn child. In addition the remains of an unknown female, also with child, were discovered in an upstairs room. Being of unsound mind the accused was spared the hangman’s noose and admitted to an asylum for the remainder of his days. When inquisition as to motive was applied by the prosecution the only words uttered by Mr Webster were

“Get out of my house.”

About Gary

Former research scientist the became the primary stay at home Dad for two children. Writing has always been factual in the previous life but always had a fascination with fiction but never been brave enough to develop it further. A comfort zone thing. Science writing is familiar, fiction is not. Hopefully the courses will provide more confidence and lead to a change in career working from home around children!
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13 Responses to The Room That Swallows People

  1. freckles says:

    Gary, firstly, please don’t doubt yourself… You have no reason to. YOu have a gift for writing and telling stories. I bet your children get some wonderful stories told at bedtime :)

    From the title — The room that swallows people, you intrigued me with this one! I absolutely loved it. Gosh, the supernatural is another genre I love to read. I love how you have all those little stories intertwined. You dragged me into your story. I so want to know more, what drew Elizabeth to Johnathan, Alfred the unsuspecting husband. Then, there’s Amelie and James, how sad. The paranormal brothers! Oh, they have quite a story to tell too. THEN you pop in something/one called The Peelers!! MORE… Please more :) :)

    • Gary says:

      It would not be the first time one or other has given me a curious “you just made that up” look.

      Supernatural I like too and myths. It is vaguely possible you might like my main project as that has an element of these things in it. The Peelers are what The Victorians called the police, named after Sir Robert Peel who was instrumental in setting up a force. That or Bobbies. Since Amelie was moved into 1875 I thought (try??) to use period terms..ish lol

      I never thought about sub stories. It kind of wrote itself. However, now you have mentioned it I suppose there are things that have made their way in asking to be expanded on. I thought Amelie ended up badly. She was with it from the idea that spawned on Sunday. I though she was supposed to just witness the intrigue with Elisabeth and Jonathan, wake up in her room with one of those this day in… Websites where an un resolved fire killed two people in her house. More of a ghost story…. It went wrong though (for Amelie at least)

      But more??? Seriously… It was but a ramble lol

      Too kind :) :)

  2. freckles says:

    You know your stuff. Great use of period terms :) It really helps with making real for us readers. I knew the term for Police as bobbies, but I much prefer The Peelers! (Although they could be made into quite the mean type — like the peel skin! Or something) yuk ;) However, thanks for jogging my memory on that one. I swear having 7 kids, I have serious mammy brain! LOL

    A ramble!, Gosh, if that’s your ramble, your book/s will be amazing :) :)

    • Gary says:

      I meant to ask. Which other courses did you do? I got an e-mail saying there is a sale on and there seemed to be more there than I remembered.

      • freckles says:

        Story Structure (Although, I don’t think that’s on there anymore)
        Essentials of Fiction
        Irresistible Fiction & of course, this course :) I did those courses from Dec 2012 / Last spring 2013

        • Gary says:

          I’ve done

          Irresistible fiction
          Bringing Characters to Life
          This one.

          Really considering

          Essentials of Fiction Writing
          Story Structure (seems to be on lol)
          Through your Characters Eyes

          Last one probably next :)

  3. Gary says:

    I got your take on Peelers lol. At first I was thinking giant crabs that were shedding their exoskeleton but that takes me to the lobstrosities that attack Roland in a book you will be drawing close to in September…shhh spoilers…. Actually you might want to look up Robert Brownings poem entitled Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came…. That was Kings inspiration for Roland Deschain and said tower. But things that peel your skin off… proper gore story… Not sure I can do gore lol.

    It is my belief if you enter a subject with solid footings (eg period drama, science etc) you have to get the nuances right as some blighter will pull you up on it sooner or later and take one to task.

    FYI, thanks to you…I have part completed a snippet with the Paranormal Brothers…. About half way through. I thought of these two as personal mini challenges. Pick a line and use it to craft something and post it within 48 hours. It was going to be 24 hours but I forgot I have children :/

    If we ever get to a writing blog it might be fun to set something similar where one person picks a subject and the chosen “victim” has to write a short scene on it..working to a deadline just to spice it up for the real world lol

    I was also pondering if you might like to see the short story that inspired the book?

    Yes it was a ramble…the next bit is more difficult as it rolls on from the previous one. I have less than a day left to finish it now… I blame you :p

  4. freckles says:

    I’ve spent my morning reading about Childe Rowland, which led me to look up the fairy tale based on it too! I loved that. I may incorporate elements into a story/maybe my Anwen & Dylan one.

    So, it’s my fault is it? Ok, I’ll take the blame, (slap my wrist) although I got you to write more about the paranormal brothers:) I look forward to reading it. And… Oh, wait, children. Heck no gosh forbid we forget we have some! My too little ones just finished drawing their crayon masterpiece on their bedroom wall!

    I would be honored to read your short story that inpsired your book :)
    I also look forward to reading the follow on from your little rambling :) I’m sure it will be wonerful. Again, slap my wrist, for making you write more ;)

    • Gary says:

      Might have to e-mail that one. Not sure it fits into here. It’s also a bit different to what I’ve knocked up for this blog. I am also not qualified to pass judgement on it so I will leave that to you.

      Will ping you a test e-mail first if thats OK?

  5. Anna says:

    So, I didn’t see this post and read the part 2 version first. However, it made things quite interesting! I love this. It’s an amazing story and such a eerie feel to it. I love how, once again, the reader is challenged into wondering what is actually going on. Such a cool story concept. I want to know more!!! Well done. :)

    • Gary says:

      Thank you Anna :)

      I’m already doing part three. It seems the chatacters want more. Sometimes I feel like a biographer writing their conceots down rather than me creating them. Might sound odd but sometimes they just come forwards in my head and say “oi, get this down now” lol

      It all started with one of the lines given in lesson 7. I looked at it for ages wondering where to go. Then Amelie just appeared. Her ending had two paths but it went toward the more reluctant of the two. I rather thought she had potential.

      Really appreciate the positive comment though. Don’t know about you but I always wonder if I am on the right track…self doubt and all that. I suspect it is a common problem with budding writers like us!!!

  6. Anna2987 says:

    I totally feel the exact same way! I doubt myself constantly. So many times have I started writing, absolutely loved it, then later on think “This isn’t good enough.” The important part is to just continue to push on through! How I like to do it is just make it through the first draft, no matter how bad it might sound. Once you get the story out you can rewrite/correct as many times as you want! The hardest part for me is just getting all my ideas down on paper while sounding coherent.

    One of the prompts from this class actually helped me get an entire novel started, which I’m actually quite excited about. If we get a blog going…not if, lets say when..I would love to share parts of it with everyone.

    • Gary says:

      Thats one reason I’d personally like somewhere to share things. Like minded people that are prepared to say actually I don’t like that bit or yes its really good. On your own its not so easy if everything seems rubbish !!!

      Agreed wrt first draft… I have punched through mine with no chapter organisation or anything. If it flows it flows. I consider the next bit harder… Getting it structured properly. Trying to find a publisher might be equally problematic too :(

      I think moral support is essential to overcome the stuck points… “When” it is then. To wit I have registered with WordPress already. Just need to get it looking ok. Schools out might present a hurdle though !!!

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