The House

Whelp, I wasn’t a finalist this time around, but that’s ok — I still enjoyed writing the piece!  See below for the prompt from Writer\’s Digest and my entry.

Start  your story with: “I never would have purchased this house if I’d known that…” End it with: “That’s why tomorrow I’m setting it on fire.”  750 words.

            I never would have purchased this house if I’d known it’d be the giant’s snack, Tom thought, racing through the hallway as chunks of ceiling fell around him.   

            He barreled out the front door, dust puffing from his body into a milky cloud.  Sprinting blindly across the yard, his chest thrust out as if a massive fist was pushing at his back, he plowed into Harry and his terrier, Hound.  The three turned a clumsy somersault into the grass.

            Hound recovered first, snapping at Tom’s ankles.  Harry struggled to his feet, fighting for air and control of the terrier.  “Hound!  Leave it!”

            Hound whined but returned to his master’s side.  “You alright, Tom?  You came outta that house like you were running from hell itself!”

            The ground trembled violently before Tom could answer.  Tom stared slack-jawed as a chimney brick bounced off his roof and split open on the porch.  His shock broke abruptly when he saw what was causing the tremor.  Jumping nimbly to his feet, he spun Harry around until their noses were kissing.

            “We have to leave.  Now!” he shouted.

            Puzzled, Harry looked over Tom’s shoulder at the house.  His heart dropped to his feet, a scream caught and strangled in his throat.  A huge sphere with criss-crossed red marks was spinning straight towards them.

           “Run!” Tom bellowed.

            They raced down the street, feet barely touching the asphalt, and dove behind a sedan as the sphere whirred by.

            Harry turned to Tom with wide eyes.  “Now can you tell me what’s going on?”

            Tom sagged back against the car with the exhaustion of a battle-worn soldier.

            “It sounds crazy….hell, it is crazy, but my house”- he pointed a quivering finger up the street – “is food for a monster.”

            He rubbed a hand across his cheek, leaving flesh-colored stripes like war paint through the powder.

            “I moved in a week ago.  First night the whole place started shaking and there was a noise like thunder rumbling.  A piece of the ceiling let go in my bedroom and busted open on the floor.  Thought it was over, but…it kept happening.  Some mornings I would find a chimney brick or a piece of the window lying on the ground with teeth marks in it.

            “Then this morning I saw him…he tore off the entire back wall with a hand bigger than my whole place!  He chomped the wall like it was bread. And that awful thunder – it was him laughing…God, the sound….”

            Tom shivered and it rippled through Harry and Hound, too.  “But…”  He sat up straight and a fierce light ignited his eyes.  “If I can’t have that house, neither can he.  That’s why tomorrow I’m setting in on fire.”

              Harry was reeling.  “How?  Where you gonna get matches?  The general store was leveled Monday, remember?”

             “I don’t know, but I’ve gotta try.” 

              Both men fell silent, lost in thought.  Hound broke loose of Harry’s grasp and attacked a piece of glass twinkling in the street.  Light ricocheted off the fragment and hit Tom square in the eyes.  He squinted, but a thought was opening in his mind.

             “I think I have an idea…”

*                 *                *

             A flash caught Jimmy’s eye as he tossed his baseball in the air.  It was coming from his right — the Christmas village he’d been demolishing for the past week.  He bent down to examine it.  A lick of flame the size of a match head lapped at a gingerbread house’s doorpost, caught, and hungrily consumed the place in a giant gulp. 

             Cool!  The town and wax figures were boring him anyway – a barbecue was the perfect way to finish the job.  Some supplies from the kitchen were all he needed…

            Jimmy rested his baseball on the table, skewered a marshmallow, and held the treat over the fire.  Kumbaya, my Lord…

            The table jiggled as he laughed gleefully at the destruction.  His baseball tottered with the movement then rolled across the panorama, knocking the remaining figurines into the flames.

*                    *                   *

          Tom heard the sizzle of their flesh burning and from far away, himself screaming.  Grey smoke plumed in front of his face; a blackened cylinder on a stick loomed beyond that like an eclipse.  It had happened so fast…God, so fast.  One minute celebrating, the next writhing in agony. 

         His eyes began to melt as the fateful words echoed like a dirge between the walls of his mind, mocking him:  “That’s why tomorrow I’m setting it on fire.”



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