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Invisible Strings

For Round Five of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction that began with the line, "Some people swore that the house was haunted," and ended with the line, "Nothing was ever the same again after that."

Illustration of a junk in sunset.

"Some people swore that the house was haunted," the TV said.

Brad and Cecelia were sitting in their living room, watching the news. A man was being interviewed about a recent house demolition.

"People are so ignorant," Brad said, smirking.

Cecelia knew what that smirk meant.

It meant I have a five-year plan.

It meant I make six figures a year.

It meant I’m more clever than that (read: you).

The silver-framed picture of them on their honeymoon, kissing under a Hong Kong sunset, catches Cecelia’s attention.

"I thought that house was haunted," she said, frowning.

That frown meant I hope your five-year plan doesn’t include me.

Nothing was ever the same again after that.

A few miles to the north, a little boy, holding his New-Mommy's hand, walked past a man as he spoke into a TV camera.

"Some people swore that the house was haunted," he said as they passed.

The little boy fumbled with the postcard he had hastily shoved into his pocket that morning as he’d done every morning for as long as he could remember, the image on the front an artist’s gaudy rendering of a Hong Kong sunset.

On the back, in tenderly crafted characters: "Someday you will understand. I love you, Mom."

The little boy pulled the postcard out carefully. He kept glancing down at it, catching a flash of red, the hard line of a building, the splash of a boat.

New-Mommy looked down after the little boy stumbled again and saw the scrap in the boys grip. "May I see that?" she asked.

His hand, holding the piece of heavy paper, extended cautiously. He placed his treasure in her opened palm. She opened the postcard, which was folded into a neat square. The edges were thin and weak, and threatened to break.

New-Mommy ran her fingers over the writing, rendered in stark black ink.

She handed the postcard back to him. The little boy refolded it and put it back into his pocket.

Nothing was ever the same again after that.

"Some people swore that the house was haunted," Gary said, speaking loudly into the microphone the reporter had thrust into his face moments ago.

He didn’t know if people thought that. Really, he just wanted to make people think. They can’t just go around blowing houses up. Even if they think it’s for the best. Even if they really only tear it down. Even if they own it.

Gary had grown up looking at that house.

"Right across the street," is what he’d told the reporter when she'd asked him where he was from.

He’d been standing on the sidewalk in front of the now vacant lot, imagining how the shutters used to hang. The way the crooked porch used to lean to the left. The precise shade of sun-bleached red of the front door.

As a child he’d dreamt of owning the house.

Then we can be neighbors, he told his dad.

Later Gary included his girlfriend in the dream.

We can raise our kids there, and build them a sandbox. I'll mow the lawn on Saturdays, he’d told her when they sat on his front steps looking at the house across the street.

Then they started fighting about whether to paint the front door Hong Kong Sunset or Ladybug.

Nothing was ever the same again after that.