Fiction Friday – Balancing the Books – Part 2

Welcome back to another exciting Fiction Friday!

This week it’s Part 2 of Balancing the Books. Next week will be the concluding chapter, and if you’ve enjoyed this, there should be an eBook available on Amazon in time for Halloween. Until then, turn down the lights, and enjoy the story. 


The path down beneath the floor was unstable. The wood in most of the room was rotten. It was dark, but with each move he made, more of the floor crumble away and yielded to the moonlight. Eventually, he decided on the staircase.

“Hurry,” said the woman.

A small strip of plaster and exposed metal supports lined the wall to the staircase. He pushed his back to the wall and inched, slowly nearer the stairs. They were as rotten as the floor, but the supports had held their shape as they’d fallen. Now it was almost as if the stairs had always gone down into the black pit. His heart beat loudly in his chest, and he scared himself. Against it all, he was enjoying it. Only the woman spoiled his good mood. If she was here, if she wanted it to, then he would have to do something about that. Maybe she could be reasoned with, oh but if she ever told anyone else. He scared himself again. He didn’t know he had it in him.

He sidestepped slowly along the wall, once or twice he slid his foot a little too quickly, and plaster crumbled out from underneath him, but before long he was gripping the ornate bannister of the staircase. He couldn’t tell how far the flow below was, perhaps he could have jumped, but he wasn’t going to risk in.

The old bannister has separated from the wall, but ornate wooden supports fixed it to the stairs. It trailed down into the darkness like a snake. The rotten wood could not take him, but if he gripped the rail tight and kept his feet between the supports, he could probably go to the bottom safely.

Once again, Walker descended deeper into the house. His footing felt unsure, but now he had something to hold on to, he kept a tighter grip of his sanity too. Even as he dropped beneath the floorboards and the only light was the night sky above, his iron grip on the rail was like a beacon of shining light. Once or twice, a childish urge struck him. That this would all go so much faster if he straddled the rail and slid to the bottom like he had done as a child. He resisted the temptation. One bad decision was enough for now.

“Are you here?” Said a voice.

“Nearly.” Walker shouted. “How far down is the floor?”

“Oh not far,” she said, sounding further away than she had before. “I’m in the next room, follow my voice.”

Walker reached the end of the rail. The woman’s voice was distant now, he didn’t want to lose her. Gently he lowered his feet, but they touched nothing. He stepped around, trying to find some trace of the stairs but there was nothing around him. He was suspended, gripping the remains of a bannister and a trail of plaster and iron struts. The biting urge to retreat came to him again, but he didn’t dare. The climb had been bad enough, and the woman. She got down there somehow, she knew another way out. He was certain of that.

Walker let go of the rail.

The floor could only have been inches from but the drop felt huge. He lost his footing as he landed in the rubble. He braced himself, but felt a sharp pain in his shoulder. He could feel a trickle and blood. He ran his hand inside his shirt, the blood was bad but the cut didn’t feel deep. Nothing he had to worry about. Once on his feet, he stared at the darkness around him, ahead was a pale light. The woman had to have gone that way, or else stumble into the dark.

“Hello?” He called out but there was no response. He felt his way with his hands until he came to the edge of the room. There was a clank of bottles. The wine cellar? He was close. She had known the way. The light was coming from a doorway up ahead.

“I’m hear. He hear the woman whisper but he still couldn’t see her. “I thought I heard someone.”

“Yeah,” Walker dusted himself off and entered the next room. It was lighter in here, the was a window that led to the surface, this had to be the cellar under the gardens.

“No, someone outside.”

“Shit.” He followed her voice. “Did you tell anyone you were here?”

“Nobody.” She said. “Let’s hurry, it’s this way.” Footsteps shot off in the darkness, he tried to remember the plans. She was heading exactly where he thought she would.

“Here,” she hissed. “It’ll take two of us, if we find it quickly we can be out before they find us.”

Walker saw the woman for the first time. She was in the corner of the room, a little light came through the window but she only caught the edges. She was tall, young, but she hid her face. He saw a hint of scarring. Another of the family’s victims? He felt a little sorry for her. Not sorry enough. He’d worked too hard to share.

“It’s down here.” She slipped into a gap beneath the bricks.

“What’s back there?” He shouted, but there was no answer.

He braced himself. Fished the lighter from his pocket. It started first time and he got a good look around him for the first time since he pushed open the gate. The gap in the bricks was old, it led to a short passage. He couldn’t see the woman, she must have gone on ahead. He closed the lighter, if she could make it without the light, there was no point wasting the fuel. He slipped off his jacket. The shoulder of his shirt was stained with blood. The colour made his stomach turn. He placed a foot inside the gap in the bricks and pushed through being careful of his shoulder. He thought he heard her footsteps ahead but he couldn’t be sure. Placing his hands on the side of the passage, he went to claim his prize.


That’s all for this week, tune in next Friday when it our tale comes to a close. 

Fiction Friday: Balancing the Books – Part 1

Bruce-Castle

Fiction Friday is back!

I’ve been posting short stories online for a few years now, but the run I enjoyed the most was when I first started Fiction Friday. The goal was simple. Approximately 1000 words written, edited, and published in a single day. It’s where I developed my love for Flash Fiction and it’s when I wrote some of my favourite stories. Since I stopped Fiction Friday, updates of writing have been a little bit more sporadic. I’ve wanted to bring it back, but I’ve also wanted to move on from shorter flash fiction. With that in mind, things are going to be a little different. Writing will be going up on Fridays, but it will be serialised. Today’s piece, Balancing the Books, is part one of three. I hope you enjoy it. 

Owen.


Balancing the Books

The old Manor was even uglier in the night. Its crooked spire seemed to hunch against the moonlight like the building itself wanted to huddle in against the cold. At least it was a clear night, Walker hadn’t thought to bring a flashlight and the building’s electrics were probably ancient. He didn’t bother with the gate, he’d tried it earlier in the day. It was slow, it was noisy, and anyone but Alfred Hitchcock could squeeze through the bars. The house was empty. He’d checked the records in the library. Nobody had lived there since the thirties. Before that, it was little more than a vacation home on the coast. But it was here. It had to be. He’d traced the family tree back five generations, there was nowhere else it could be.

Once through the gate, he felt a little safer. He’d been here in the morning, but some kid on the street had spotted him. He didn’t want to draw too much attention to himself. God alone knew why. He only wanted what was rightfully his, after all. The cops wouldn’t see it that way. Cops never did. So he’d beat it, decided to come back when all was quiet.

He walked the long walk from the gate to the house a younger man. Secluded behind overgrown hedgerows and ancient walls, he might as well own the place. He laughed. He didn’t feel like it, but he laughed anyway.

He’d memorised the layout, but even so it was disorientating in the dark. He’d been heading for the old servant’s door. The staff quarters were far from the cellar, but they were also likely to be the least well maintained. If there was a rotten window frame, or an ancient lock then this would go a little smoother. Things hadn’t gone to plan, however, and he’d ended up fumbling his way to the front door. He placed a hand on the wood. It was cold as steel, but aged and rough. It was ugly too, heavy and oppressive. It loomed over him, daring him to try and feel equal to a door. He didn’t. God damn them, he didn’t. So he kicked it. It wasn’t locked.

Two steps from his goal, all that time spent, and he felt hesitation. Was it really worth it, after so long? Would it even make a difference? He thought of his father, dying in the hospital. Penniless and rotting away. Would it change anything? His father would not want him to waste his life looking for retribution. Hell, the old man died in blissful ignorance. Who was he kidding? The argument was over the minute he saw that crooked spire. He had come so far, he could not go back.

The entrance hall was illuminated by a large gap in the ceiling. The floor was damp and at least one of the walls had been torn down in some previous expedition into the dying house. Walker peered around him. His hand reached for his old lighter, but he stopped himself. He might need that later. His eyes were adjusting, and even through the dank gloom he could see the outlines of a glamorous home. The urge to explore was strong, but he pushed it down. There was no time for that. He recalled the plans in his mind.

He needed to get towards the cellar. The old manor had been built on the house before it, burned down in 1843 by the old General’s mad wife, or so the story went. Once there would have been a staircase beside the left wall, but that was demolished now. If the staircase remained, it did so under two tonnes of bricks, mortar and dust. He would need a new route. The stairs would take him to the family’s quarters, from there he could walk around the building and come down near the entrance to the gardens. He smirked. Lucky they were so rich, most people didn’t have two potential routes from the front door to the back.

He stepped on the first stair and knew instantly it was a mistake. He tried to withdraw as soon as he heard the wet creak, but it was too late. His foot went through, then it went through the floorboards below. The pine might as well have been wet newspaper, but the nails and the beams weren’t. They collapsed with the floorboards, but they held together and pulled their neighbours with them.

Walker had only a second to roll away from the collapse, and he made it, but half the staircase didn’t. He was starting to see what had happened to the other wall. He cursed himself. It was a stupid mistake. He shouldn’t even be here risking his neck. He got to his feet, part of the roof had caved in with the floor. There was a little more moonlight now. He could trace a line along the debris, piles of bricks holding their own. Piles of debris that held tight, maintaining the illusion of solid ground. A short climb and he could be back outside. He started to shift some of the wood, doing his best to brace the remaining structure in place. Anything that didn’t brace, he tossed down the hole. He didn’t need the extra weight.

“Going already?”

Walker spun around. A woman’s voice. “Who’s there?” He called.

“Oh, no one in particular.”

Walker laughed. “I should have known someone else would beat me to it.”

“You want it too?” she asked. He couldn’t see her, the voice seemed to float up from the newly created hole in the floor.

“You bet I do.” But he didn’t want to share it.

“Follow me,” said the voice. “I know the way.”


Balancing the Books continues next Fiction Friday.

Countdown to Octopus: New Book Celebrations Begin!

The Octopus of Suspense will be released on Friday.

This will be my first new book since 2012, it is a collection of Short Stories previously published on this blog, and it is a book I’m very proud of. I’ll be posting direct links to buy the book on Friday. Until then, here’s some information about the book:

The Octopus of Suspense Cover
Arriving on Friday.

The Octopus of Suspense is a collection of eight little stories that will take you somewhere new. Exploring a range of genres, each story enters the world of a unique character. From the desk of troubled pulp writer, to a starship in the distant future, The Octopus of Suspense offers a surprise at every turn. Originally written for weekly release online, they have been revisited and expanded for this new collection. Each story is between 1000 and 1500 words long.

Owen Adams is a writer and blogger with a love for short fiction. He is the author of the Time Travel stories; Christmas Past and Time Trial.

As usual, I’ll be celebrating the release of a new book by making some of my other books free for a few days. I’ll be posting more information about that tomorrow!

Watch this Space!

Owen