Hell As A Vacant Lot Some people swore that the house was haunnet. Me, I don't believe it. Never did.
NPR logo Hell As A Vacant Lot

Hell As A Vacant Lot

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."

Hands picking flowers. iStockphoto.com

Some people swore that the house was haunnet. Me, I don't believe it. Never did.

Why not?

Cause I remember when she was a pretty thing, all done up with flowers and shutters and a big tin star on her west side. Or summin like at.  Mighta been a sun. I dunno, but point is! Point is. The only ghosts ever taunt that little lady, ever, was her own.

You wanna hear the story, son?

I think I was about sevenner eight, the time.  Just a baby, really.

Sammy Rose was their little girl. It was her 15th birthday party, and I was invited, on accounta they was friends with my folks. They'd come over now and again to play cards, and they'd bring with'em their Sammy Rose, and usually she'd pick flowers from my mom's garden, or play with our barn cat. Inna summer anyways. Inna winter she never came with. I never knew why.

She was so damn pretty, with her shiny black hair and dirty blue jeans. Picking black-eyed Susans, or collecting four-o'clock seeds for my mom. After she disappeared from errown birthday party, nothing was the same. Everyone was scared.

They thought she got snatched up by gypsies, like her real parents was.

I know the truth.

It was a demon. A demon from hell.

I know, I know. That sounds real quaint, doesn't it?

You believe in hell, don't you son? As well you should.

Taint no fiery place, like the bible says. No. Hell is a dry place. Dry and empty. So dry you can't breathe, can't see, so empty you can't think, not without your knees shattering bloodless beneath the weighta your dried-up soul.

Aww, I'm sorry, son. I didn't mean to scare you. I get a little carried away sometimes, uh, you wanted to hear about the house, right?

I know, I know. I'll make it quick. I hear your schoolbus coming, I think it's just round the corner.

I never said she was killed. I said she disappeared. There's a difference. You can be gone but not dead, right? So can a little girl be dead, but not gone. It's alla same. All alive, all dead. You get me? Like flowers. They die, but they don't go away, do they?

I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm an old old man, rambling on. Here comes your bus. How about I tell you where she is? Come here quick and I'll tell you. C'mere. She dried up.

Yep. Dried up. Just like a pink carnation in hell.

And then, after she dried up, the wind took her away, like a dannylion. Now allat's left of her is across the street. In that vacant lot. See it? Alla them disgusting wildflowers?


Christ, boy, what'd you get into?

"Sir? Have you seen my little brother?"

Son? Where in hell are you going?

"He forgot his math book."

"Oh, hey. Gosh, little miss, I'm real sorry. I must be going senile. I didn't hear you.  Yeah, I seen him. Ika see him now, in fact. He's over crossa street. I see him waving."

"Oh? Where? I don't"

You don't see him? Oh. Wellat's a damn shame.

He musta dried up. Just like an old burr weed.

Like at little girl used to live in that old house, there. Bout your age, she was.  You wanna hear the story about that girl? Well Miss, one day she disappeared. And I'll tell ya, nothing was ever the same again after that.