Fun House (Flash Fiction)

How can something that brought so much happiness to people also bring so much pain and sorrow? Such was the peculiar fate of the Fun House in Hallow Woods. Once a place bubbling with joy and laughter, it was now a silent reminder of a terrible tragedy. Everybody in Hallow Woods shivered at the memory and anyone who had been in the area at the time of the accident avoided the house at any cost. People claimed the place was haunted. It wasn’t possible, they said, that a place witness to such violence and horror would not be haunted by the tortured souls of its victims.

Sam had just arrived in town and remained –as often happens to those blissfully ignorant- oblivious to any such superstitions or fears. So, when someone dared him to go to the Fun House and fetch a “souvenir” as proof, he didn’t even think to hesitate. Janet, who had a bit of a crush on him, had whispered to him in a panic, “The place is haunted.” Sam laughed it off as it only added to his sense of adventure and vowed to bring back something from the wreck of the house.

The day had risen moody and full of gloom. The sun struggled to make its way through the clouds to no avail. Grey clouds and heavy fog blanketed the skies of Hallow Woods and even the buildings in town seemed to tremble in apprehension. Sam seemed untouched by this bleak atmospheric mood. At 10 am sharp, carrying his backpack (where he had stuffed a myriad of snacks and beverages) and little else, he set out to find this spooky old house and whatever surprises may come with it. In spite of his nonchalant attitude, Sam was a little taken aback at the first sighting of the Fun House. He didn’t expect it to be so- together and yet, so destroyed. The house façade was well preserved down to the colorful letters over the front doors and pigmented tin stars that speckled the entire outside wall.  Even the lively tin banner that edged the roof seemed newly painted and not at all what you would expect it to look like after 10 years of exposure and abandonment. However, even from a distance, he could guess the destruction inside. Through the broken windows, Sam could see what remained of the collapsed roof and was now nothing but a pile of broken wood.

Regardless of his surprise, Sam was determined to accomplish what he saw now as his “mission” and after a few moments of contemplation, he marched forth. He had not taken ten steps when something caught his attention and made him abruptly stop. Was there someone in the house? Another adventure-seeking fool like him searching for tokens of their bravery? Maybe it was just an animal – of which there were plenty in these woods, he heard- moving around the inside. As he, now more cautiously, approached he realized that there was no inside.  What he previously thought was the inside of the house had long blended in with the outside. The structure was a perfect rendition of a dollhouse; all front façade and sides but no back or roof to speak of. Taking another couple steps towards the front door, Sam had to stop again. The ground in front of him was boiling like lava in a volcano, thick, red, and dangerous. It took him a few moments to figure out that the moving ground was not really moving. In front of him a bed of red, dangerous looking slithering snakes blocked the entrance. His feet moved of their own accord and he stepped backwards a few feet. He hated snakes! He had once dreamed of falling into a pit of red snakes just like those and he had woken up shivering in a pool of his own sweat. How strange that those were also red snakes, something he had always thought to be the product of his over-active imagination.

Well, he told himself, he had to circumvent the snakes somehow. Since the house had no back wall, he might as well just go around the back. Walking a bit more gingerly than before, Sam gave the front of the house a wide berth and circled around the grounds into the back of the house. That’s when he saw it again; a movement caught just on the edge of his sight. He turned his head sharply toward it but it was gone. All was quiet and still again. Must have been a bird, he told himself, or a big bug. He continued walking around the side. The place was a wreck. There was so much broken and rotted wood jammed into what used to be the inside of the house, that Sam wondered for a moment how he was going to actually get in and look for something to prove he had been there. It looked like the hair of a giant who had just woken up from a fitful sleep, all tangles and knots.

Then, he saw it; the perfect souvenir. Under a jumble of wood and iron, something pasty white stuck out. If he was lucky it may be the bone of an animal. He could really sell it as a human bone left in the wreckage all these years. If that didn’t make him famous in town, he didn’t know what would. Briefly forgetting about the snakes, he took a couple long strides toward it. Something caught on his right foot and he was sent headfirst into the ground. Momentarily dazed by the fall, Sam shook his head and started to pull himself up. The movement was so swift and so covert, Sam almost missed it. But there was no denying. There was something or someone in there with him. The fog, which had been increasingly becoming thicker, made it very hard to see things clearly but Sam thought he had spied something just a few yards in front of him hiding behind a particularly tangled mess of wood. Maybe the other locals were trying to scare him off his quest and make him look like a weakling fool.

The plan was to pretend to be hurt and then, jump and surprise whoever was hiding there. He braced himself with his arms, ready to push himself off the ground, took a deep breath and counted to ten. In a giant strong leap, Sam pounced forward faster than even he thought himself capable of. In less than a couple seconds he was face to face with what was hiding behind the giant pile of rubble. Sam was never to really see what he was facing because a thick murky mist suddenly rose from the rubble and enveloped him in its cold creepy arms. Darkness fell over his eyes and he collapsed in a puddle of his own body and there he remained for some time.

People in town saw him emerge from the woods later that day, empty-eyed and voiceless, staggering aimlessly around town wearing a sign around his neck written in blood-red ink that said, “Let the dead lie in peace unless you want to join us.” Red snakes crawled out of his pockets and a great big white bone stuck out from his backpack. People stayed away from him for days until finally Janet’s fondness of him won over her fear. She took him home and tried to mend him. But Sam never spoke again and was given to wonder the streets with hollowed eyes or curling up into a whimpering ball when the sun set in the evening. The Fun House still stands in Hallow Woods, undisturbed and silent, holding its tortured souls and their secrets inside and keeping the living out.

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