A house on the Edge

A tale from the lost Legends of Lazarus.

It is said the world between the living and the spirits is separated by a thin vale that can be torn or worn away allowing for small areas where the two become one. These places are known as Shining Spots. This term refers to stories of spirits appearing in these locations, it is said that the spirits give off a shimmery glow and when seen by the living from a distance appear as glimmering, shiny spots in the distance.

Shining spots are generally left alone by the living, they are steeped in myths and stories of children being snached by the spirits and taken across the Vale into their world to never be seen again. It’s hard to say how much truth lies within these stories, maybe it’s just a way for adults to scare children from playing in ancient abandoned locations to keep them safe, or maybe there’s some truth in these tales.

Kumi was 10 today, her mother had promised her an exciting present when she got home from school. She could barely contain her excitement. She sat watching the hands of the clock tick slowly away above the chalkboard at the front of the classroom, each second felt like it was ticking slower and slower. She couldn’t even concentrate on what the teacher was saying, all she could think about was her surprise. A bike, she thought or maybe a kite! She ran through all the possibilities imaginable.

RIIIIIIIINNNNNNGGGGG, the final bell of the day rang signaling home time. “Finally” she said under her breath as she started to pack her books neatly away into her little blue school bag.

Kumi ran home as fast as she could, through the dirt paths of the woods and out into the fields towards the village where she lived, keeping her eyes on her small house in the distance as it slowly grew in size on the horizon as she got closer and closer. At this moment her thoughts were full of happiness and excitement for the first time in a long time. Her father was a fisherman who was tragically lost at sea during a freak storm earlier in the year, this was the first time in a long time she hadn’t thought about that terrible storm that turned her world upside down.

Kumi had had a very difficult year with the death of her father, on top of this her mother had to get a second job to support them both so she had spent a lot of time alone recently whilst her mother worked to pay the bills and put food on the table. Kumi appreciated the small things in life, she didn’t need much, but she had struggled to find the same happiness she once had in these small things the way she had previously. Today was a special day, today she was happy and full of joy.

She burst through the old wooden door of her small country home. Her mother stood in the kitchen with an apron on, adding the final touches to the most magnificent birthday cake Kumi had ever seen. Icing, candles, chocolate flakes, this cake had it all.

She begged her mother for a slice, “not until you have had your dinner, anyway, don’t you have a surprise to open?” her mother replied. Kumi’s eyes lit up, “YES!” she quickly replied. Kumi followed her mother into the living room, in a croner a large box shaped object covered with a blanket, on a small note attached to it “Dear Kumi, I know I have not been around much to keep you company, I hope this helps make up for it”. She rushed over and slowly lifted the blanket and peaked under to take a look. Staring back at her, two giant yellow eyes surrounded by black fluff. “A kitten” she yelled with excitement. “What are you going to name her?” her mother asked. Kumi thought for a moment, she looked back at the kitten, “I will call her Midnight, because she is as black as the night sky and her eyes look like stars”. “I think that’s a perfect name for her, Midnight”. Her mother replied.

They all ate cake, even Midnight, and enjoyed Kumi’s birthday evening together. Later that night it began to rain, Kumi was still very much afraid of bad weather but this time she had Midnight to keep her company and keep away the bad thoughts that the rain would have normally brought. The next morning Kumi woke up earlier than usual, the rain was now pounding against her window, Midnight was curled up at the end of the bed still fast asleep. She went downstairs to make some breakfast and found her mother sitting in the living room watching the TV. She was watching the weather forecast on the news. “It looks like this is going to be a bad one, the storm is predicted to get worse later today. I’ll call the school to see if they are going to be open, I don’t want you going out in this weather to have to come straight back home”.

Kumi sat in the kitchen eating a bowl of cereal, Midnight had now woken up and was brushing up against her legs under the table. “Looks like someone else is hungry too,” her mother said, gesturing towards the kitten whilst holding the phone against her ear with the other hand. Kumi jumped down from her stool and took the cat food from her mother and poured it onto a small plate. She walked over to the kitten and placed it in front of her.

“Hello”, her mother said as the school answered the phone, “It’s Kumi’s mother, I saw the weather report on the news and was wondering if the school would be open, I know it’s predicted to become quite a storm later today. Yes, ok, sure, thank you for letting me know”.

“Well, it looks like school’s off”, her mother said as she hung the phone back onto the receiver. “I still have to go to work today, so whilst I am gone please stay in the house, there is plenty of food in the fridge should you get hungry. I will write down the number for my work, if there is anything you need whilst I am gone ring it and ask for me”.

Kumi and Midnight spent the entire morning playing together, Kumi would dangle a piece of string for Midnight to chase and catch, it kept them both occupied for hours. As the day went on the storm grew stronger and stronger, several of the plants in the garden had blown over and the what would normally be a gentle stream at the bottom of the garden had started to become more of a small fast moving river.

The clouds in the sky grew thick, a dark blanket blocking out any signs of blue sky and sun high above. Thunder rumbled in the distance and rain pelted down against the ground throwing up debris and water like miniature meteorites impacting the dirt. The light began to disappear as the sky darkened, the vibrant flowers and trees in the garden now took on a dull miserable grey hue.

Midnight lay on a blanket draped over Kumi’s lap whilst she sat on a large cosy chair watching cartoons on the tv. THUD THUD THUD! Midnight jumped into the air spooked by the noise. “It’s just the front door”, Kumi said, “nothing to be afraid of”. She got up and made her way to the door, she grabbed a small wooden stool so that she could reach the latch. She opened the door to see an eldery lady holding an umbrella, it was her neighbour from down the road. “My power has gone out, I see yours is still working, would you mind if I used your phone to call my son, I am hoping he will come and have a look at it for me?” the elderly lady politely asked. “Of course not,” Kumi replied. As she said this a huge boom of thunder shook the house, Midnight bolted towards the door but before Kumi had time to react and close it she was already gone. “Nooo!” Kumi cried out as she ran after her.

Kumi chased midnight round the side of the house as she disappeared into the long grass of the garden. She lost sight of her so followed in the direction she went. The long wet grass came up to her waste as she made her way through carefully looking for the frightened kitten as she went. Finally she made it to the edge of the grass at the bottom of the garden. She panicked as she saw tiny impressions made by Midnight’s paws in the mud leading towards the overflooded stream. She ran as fast as she could to the edge shouting her name. The stream has several rocks scattered across it which were now almost submerged by the dirty flowing water. She stepped onto one nearest the edge to see if her kitten was stuck along the bank or clinging onto one of the rocks. She couldn’t see her kitten anywhere. Stepping back towards the muddy back her foot slipped on the wet moss of the rock, hurdling her into the freezing water. She struggled to swim against the flow back towards the edge but with every effort she made she couldn’t overcome the water and was swept more and more towards the centre of the torrent. She kicked her feet in a desperate attempt to keep her head above the water as she saw her home rapidly moving away from her as the river dragged her away.

With all her struggling and fighting she began to lose against the current, tired and exhausted she blacked out. Kumi had no idea how much time had passed when she came around, she awoke washed up on the edge of the stream in an area she didn’t recognise. The storm above her was subsiding and the sun had begun to break through casting pillars of light down across the landscape. She pulled herself up onto the grassy bank, covered in mud and leaves, she wiped them off to try and clean herself the best she could. She climbed onto her feet and waded through the grass until she reached a small gravel path. Panic struck again as she remembered her lost kitten, she was nowhere in sight, had she also managed to save herself from the torrent that swept her away?

She followed the path for over an hour. The sun was now beaming down onto the ground, evaporating most of the water left from the storm, and thankfully for Kumi, had almost dried her clothes too. As she walked she noticed a large old house in the distance, she couldn’t see anything else around so decided this was her best option to find some help. As she got closer to the building she began to worry that it had been abandoned, moss grew up its walls, cracks spanned across its face and pieces of wood were missing from it’s roof. The house had a strange shimmer to it, almost like a mirrage. She walked up to the huge front doors of the house and knocked as loudly as her small hands would allow.

Faint footsteps echoed on the other side of the door. Slowly the doors creeped open. A tall person stood in front of her in a suit, she couldn’t quite see his face as the shadows from within the old house obscured her view of him. He looked like an old fashioned butler of some kind.

“Kumi” he whispered “I have been waiting for you, I am glad you made it here ok, please, come with me, you must be so hungry”. Confused but left with little other option but to follow, she entered the house and walked behind the tall figure as he led her to one of the several rooms leading away from the main hall. As she entered the room she was in shock and ore, the room was decorated with grand furniture, huge paintings on the walls of various people and creatures she had never seen before. Laid out before her a table stretched the entire length of the room filled with plates of food. Cakes, fish, vegetables, noodles, glasses of orange juice, enough food for a feast, not only for her but a group of several people.

“Please, help yourself” the figure whispered, “You’ve arrived just in time, I have your friend waiting here for you”. “MIDNIGHT?” she shouted enthusiastically. “Yes”, he replied. A huge wave of relief washed over her as she tucked into the food knowing that her kitten was safe and well. As she gulped down a glass of fresh orange juice she heard a voice behind her. “Kumi”, she turned, her father was standing in the doorway holding Midnight. “Dad!” she said in both shock and excitement, “how is this possible?”. “I will explain everything, but first eat your food”, he replied”. He walked over with the kitten and placed it on her lap, Midnight looked happy and felt warm. Midnight looked up at her with her giant yellow eyes, Kumi was so happy that everything had turned out fine, and she had her father back somehow. She didn’t understand how this was possible but right now, at this moment, she didn’t care.

Her father looked at her, “we must leave this place soon, you will come with me and so will Midnight”. “What about mother?” she asked, “are we going back to her?”. “I am afraid not”, he replied with a tone of sadness in his voice. “But she will join us one day, in the meantime we will wait for her, but we will all be together again, some day, I promise”.

A short story by Andy Williams

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