This story won third place in the Aspiring Writers March flash fiction contest. The challenge was genre: mystery, theme: buying an old house in the country, focus: a worn hand-written letter found in a safe hidden behind a picture.
The Green Monster (711 words)
“I can’t believe this house is all ours,” Kate sang out as she danced the length of the old-fashioned porch. “I know it will take more upkeep than those cookie cutter suburban boxes, but we’re in the country! No pollution, no crime, and just look at all this nature.” She skipped away while Alan carried in the three suitcases and four boxes that had been deemed sufficient to sustain them until the movers arrived in the morning. He had to admit, this place was a heck of a deal. It came with several acres–all the land between the road and the river. Their nearest neighbors would be across the highway.
The door slammed as Kate scurried in to warm her hands at the fire, “Brrr, it’s like an icebox out there. But just think how beautiful it will be in a few weeks, when everything turns green.” Alan gave his usual ‘yes, dear’ grunt and continued pumping the air mattress. “The first thing that has to go is that UGLY painting. It’s not even hung at the right height.”
“That’s because it covers the wall safe. Didn’t you pay any attention when the realtor walked us through?”
“What do I care about a stupid wall safe? Can we just get rid of it?”
Alan examined the safe, using the combination provided. It was too small to be of much use, best to yank it out. Maybe an antiques dealer would buy it, it was ugly enough. The only thing inside was an envelope, addressed “to the new owners”–curious. There was a note inside, written in crabbed Spenserian script. The ink had turned brown and spread in small purple blotches. He had to take it to the fluorescent lights in the kitchen to be able to read it.
“K. returns every Spring–cannot be killed. Creeps from woods. Keep windows closed, or be strangled in your sleep. Keep guard!”
“What does that mean?” Kate said, “It sounds like a warning. Who is K.?”
“I’m sure it’s just some practical joke on the city folk—that’s us.”
“You said we got a real deal because the owner had died…how did he die?”
“How should I know? Ask the neighbors if you’re that curious.” Alan took her by the hand and led her to where he had spread sleeping bags over the air mattress. “Let’s hit the sack, the movers will be here early and I have a longer commute from here.”
Kate was unpacking wardrobe boxes when the voices of two movers carried up the vents.
“Say, this is the old Kinsler place–you know the ‘Green Monster’ guy,” said the first voice.
“Him? My ma always said he was crazy. Didn’t he die of a heart attack?”
“Some say . . . , I heard Doc said Kinsler died fighting the Monster.”
“Ya think these new folks know?”
“Naw, they’re city folk. They’d never believe it. They’ll have to see it for themselves—won’t be long now.”
“Hope they got a good price, doesn’t seem fair to hide something like that.”
Too embarrassed to ask the movers about what she had overheard, Kate was standing on the porch when a station wagon pulled up.
“Hey there,” the driver called, rolling down the passenger window, “I’m your neighbor, Mary Lou. We’re the blue rancher down to your right. Gotta run, but wanted to drop off some cookies and wish you luck with the Green Monster. I’m sure glad it can’t cross the road or we’d have to deal with it too.” Kate was left holding a plate of cookies as the woman sped off.
She was afraid. What kind of creature was living in their woods? Had it murdered the previous owner? “Strangled in your sleep” the note had said. So much for no crime in the country. Kate shivered, but not from the cold. She called Alan, but got his voicemail. She left a long, teary message about what she feared. Maybe they could still reverse the sale.
Alan arrived home and waved away Kate’s tumble of words. “I found out who ‘K.’ is,” he said, “according to the Farm Agent, K. refers to Kudzu–It’s a vine that grows really fast. Folks hereabouts call it the Green Monster.”