Our Write Side Dark Room Prompt Rules, because there are always rules:
1. The photo is here to spark your imagination. Use it as the landscape for your story, to remind you of a moment in your past, or the punch line to a joke. Use the photo as inspiration in any way you want.
2. Your submission can be fiction or nonfiction, memoir, poetry, dark or humor – your pick.
3. Please no adult content, no racial or political posts. Also, where applicable, please include a trigger warning introduction.
4. Keep your word count to 1000 or less. (Don’t worry if you go over, we won’t count.)
5. Link to your submission’s post URL in comments. If you don’t have a blog, you can add your entry to the comments below.
6. Link to this page’s URL in your post.
7. Limit one entry per person.
8. Submission deadline is Wednesday, midnight CST (Thursday, 5 a.m. GMT)
Her heart came to a full stop as she made her way up what was once a grand drive, but time and an obvious lack of care had diminished it to pebbles and rubble. The large Plantation-style house was being strangled out by Kudzu, ancient tree branches draped in moss, and other natural born killers. From what Imogene could tell from behind her dusty windshield and lack of sunlight, the entire property was so run down that it was hard to imagine anything was salvageable. She could only guess how it would look in broad daylight because dusk has a way of softening deep wrinkles.
“Some inheritance.” She felt like crying. Sight unseen, she sold everything she had in the city and made her way to the estate that had been in her family for generations and was now her charge. She felt a familial obligation, despite the fact that there was no family left to oblige. Her great uncle Randolf, an eccentric man whom she had only heard about but never met, had lived in the house until he died a month prior. He had been the one depositing her trust fund allowance into her bank account since she had been 18. Her guardian since her parents died, he never insisted she come for a visit and she never asked. Too busy with college and life, she took for granted money would always be replenished but she never considered visiting the man who made it happen. Now it was too late, and she was starting to wonder if inheriting this house was some form of punishment. “This place better not be haunted. But, omigod it wouldn’t shock me if it was.”
Slowly exiting the car, she inspected as much of the area directly around her as she could. Darkness was coming fast, bringing with it some seriously crazy looking shadows. Imogene figured she only had a few more minutes until it became pitch black. Based on what sprawled out before her, she couldn’t understand how anyone possibly inhabited this mess. It was such a dreadful wreck from the outside, she shuddered at what the inside held in store for her.
Sighing, she grabbed her luggage from the trunk and got the keys to the front door ready. She didn’t bring much in her car, a moving truck would be arriving within a week with the rest of her stuff. As she slowly made her way to the front door, a light snapped on, the vines across the window casting snake-like shadows over the rough driveway. Imogene, who didn’t consider herself to be a faint-of-heart-type woman, stopped dead in her tracks. As far as she knew, the house had remained deserted since the death of Uncle Randolf. Or, maybe the light was on one of those timer thingies to keep people from trying to rob the family jewels from generations of wealth.
A chill coursed its way down her spine as scenes from horror movies played in her mind. All the what-ifs floating around threw her into fight or flight mode, and flight was sounding really good right at the moment. “Oh, c’mon. You’re being stupid. It’s an old house, no one is waiting to slash out your heart and make dinner from it.”
With shaking hands, she tried to fit all the various keys in the lock until she found the one that fit. With a hard twist, the lock clicked. Extremely hesitant, she pushed open the creaky door. “Note to self, oil the hinges because this door is fitting for a Poe story.”
With one foot inside the massive, musty smelling foyer, she decided maybe she should announce herself. Just in case. “Hello?” Her voice was as shaky as her insides, “Anyone here?”
It was darker inside than it had been outside. The sound of heavy footsteps echoed from overhead causing her to drop her luggage with a loud thud onto the hard surface of the unseen floor. The only thing keeping her from a blood-curdling scream before a dramatic faint was that she was sure ghosts wouldn’t make as much noise walking as whoever was up there was doing. Besides, she had never fainted before in her life, and she wasn’t going to start now.
“Hey, hello.” Responded a husky male voice, “Hang on, I’ll be right there.”
Cautious relief replaced the violent chills, “Ok.” Her voice sounded like a squeak, but it was the best she could muster under these circumstances.
The shadow of a large man appeared at the top of the stairs. With a flick, lights illuminated a crack-filled, black and white marble foyer, and transformed the man-shadow into a living, breathing, all-male man, “Ah, Imogene. I was just getting your room ready for you.” He bounced down the stairs and came toward her so fast, it caused her to back up closer to the front door. With a hand extended, “I’m Luca, sort of the new-ish handyman around here.”
Before she could stop herself, a snort escaped as she looked around the less than well-kept house, “Well, you’re clearly not so handy!”
Luca’s dark eyes flashed for a second, then a slow smile showed off a deep dimple in his left cheek, “I actually haven’t started working yet, but I was hired to help you fix up this place. I guess you could say that I’m a part of your inheritance.”
Imogene paused for a moment, taking in his full form. He definitely wasn’t bad to look at, despite the scare he gave her. Dark hair, even darker eyes made him sort of mysterious looking. Well, as mysterious as a handyman named Luca could be. She wished she was better with clever responses but all she could come up with was, “Oh. Ok.” Before she picked her luggage up and held it out to Luca.
His dimple showed itself again, “You must be exhausted and starving after the long drive, I’ll show you to your room and then I’ll go order us a pizza. Sound good?”
He didn’t wait for an answer as he grabbed her heavy bag and bounced the stairs, two at a time. Trying to keep up, Imogene followed Luca down a long, threadbare carpeted hallway. She was too busy looking at all the pictures lining the worn, aging walls to notice he had come to a stop, and she crashed into him. Steadying herself on his thick arm, “Oh wow, sorry about that.”
He didn’t seem to even notice her hand remaining on his arm, “Lots of stuff to look at around here. Some of it is priceless, from what I understand. My old man worked for your uncle for years. Actually, someone in my family has always been around here, working for someone in your family.” They entered the room which was probably so grand back in the day, and now it just screamed to be refinished and refurnished. “This is the best bedroom, I scoped them all out. And, you definitely don’t want your uncle’s room, that one even gives me the creeps.”
Ghost stories started haunting her brain again, causing her heart to race wildly, “Will you be staying here, too?” The thought of being alone in the house with her crazy imagination, especially the first night, was enough to make that flight sensation come back in full form. A big, strong, good-looking guy in the house would probably make her feel a tad bit better.
He shrugged, “I mean, that’s the plan. I’m temporarily living here now, too. Just until we get the house in decent liveable condition for you, of course.”
She threw him a relieved smile, “Pizza sounds good, thanks. Just no onions or green peppers.”
Backing out of the room, Luca gave her the thumbs up, “Got it. This room is an en-suite, so do what you gotta do and I’ll meet you downstairs in a few minutes.”
Imogene nodded in agreement, and she could hear Luca dialing his cell phone to order their pizza. She glanced around her room and headed toward the window that had been the cause of her initial scare. The house was going to be a massive undertaking, her degree in English literature definitely wouldn’t be coming in handy. Hopefully, Luca was going to be some help.
Running her tongue over her hairy feeling teeth, she realized her breath must smell like something had crawled into her mouth and died there. Driving for eight hours could do that to a person. She had only grabbed her clothes, her carry-on had her makeup, toothbrush and other freshen up essentials in it, and was still in the back seat of her car. One thing she was super self-conscious about was speaking while under the influence of bad breath. Especially if it meant talking to a good looking male person.
“Oh well,” she groaned to herself as she turned away from the window, “This isn’t a date. He’s as obligated to be with me as I am to be at this house.” Too bad, he’s pretty hot, a voice that sounded nothing like hers whispered inside her brain.
Squeaking, she practically jumped out of her room and raced downstairs to where Luca was standing, waiting. She knew she must have looked terrified, but Luca let out a laugh, “Ah, so it seems you met our friendly ghost.”
“Ghost? There’s a ghost?” Her legs wobbled beneath her before buckling altogether.
Acting fast, Luca grabbed her, “Oh honey, you don’t know the half of it.”
That was the last thing she needed to hear.
For the first time in her life, Imogene dramatically fainted.