The Scream is the work continuing WEP’s art theme for this year’s flash fiction prompts.
Edvard Munch was a Norwegian born artist who split much of his working life between Berlin and Paris. Mental health issues ran in the family, so Munch had occasion so observe its effects from close proximity. He was much influenced by Impressionists and post-Impressionists such as van Gogh. [writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com]
This is one of the characters I’ve been thinking about since August, before the lady at the book fair suggested I needed more female protagonists. I’m trying JoJo Madeira out on you for the very first time. I suspect I need to write myself into a character, and I don’t mind if you see her early embodiment. If embodiment is the right word for her. It’s 1006 words. I apologise but I can’t find six more to remove without upsetting my sense of character for her. Ignore the bit about the phone signal, if you like.
And I know you like flash fiction, so please check out the festive murder mystery book I featured on Monday,
We’ve been invited to give a tagline this month so:
A haunted house mystery with added cheese on toast
The Scream (JoJo Madeira #0.1)
It was bad enough being in a lonely, half-boarded up hotel for the night.
Mum’s car broke down on the gravel track that led to Nan’s care home. The AA said they’d be right out, but phoned back to say they had a multiple pile up to attend, and gave her a pass for this hotel, only a mile back down the road. A mile plus the mile we’d travelled along the track.
So we’d walked, carrying our overnight bags. And the hotel…half-boarded up was the start of it.
Mum got a taxi to the care home: I’d be okay here with my books, wouldn’t I? And wasn’t it a lovely view from the lounge? And she’d be back before nightfall.
You can guess, can’t you.
Nightfall came. No Mum.
The lady in charge of the hotel was ancient. I mean, she made my Nan look like a teenager. But she made a decent bowl of tomato soup, right out of the tin, and she had bread to defrost and toast. I found the cheese, and scraped off the mouse bites and grated some to spread on the toast and grill, so it wasn’t bad. All’s well when there’s cheese on toast involved.
Even a half-dead haunted hotel.
Haunted? Yes, well, maybe I should introduce myself properly. I’m JoJo Madeira, and I see ghosts.
So after saying not much to the mumbling ancient, who had the decency to light the fire in the lounge and bring me some cocoa after dinner, I ticked off the signs.
A little whisper here, and rustle of wind in the curtains there. They were shy, not wanting to come out in the open. I understand that. I don’t generally come straight out that I can see them, either. And I never, ever tell live humans that I can see dead ones.
So, by eleven o’clock I was in bed, like a bored teen would be when her Mum’s away and she’s been dumped in a haunted… well, you know where I was. I flicked through my messages and had the usual number. I put it down to a poor signal, but three bars was pretty good for a hotel in the middle of nowhere, wouldn’t you say?
I read the next few chapters of Escape from the Forbidden Planet, which I’ve read before, but it’s really good, especially when you’re in a strange place with suspects around.
Suspects, as in G…..
The scream was more of a wail.
I wondered if that was the last of it, and things would settle down by midnight.
Had anything else gone right tonight?
Okay, the cocoa was a nice touch.
Apart from that…?
After the third scream, I decided to investigate. I dressed properly, although I’d only taken my sweater and jeans off anyway, strange house and all that.
The third floor corridor was quiet. I’d wondered why the Ancient One couldn’t have put me on a lower level, but after supper and before bed I’d discovered a distinct increase in temperature at higher levels. Whatever heat was left in this house rose, according to the laws of physics. So up on the next floor, or the attic, I should be reasonably comfortable. Unless some of the ghosts had the chill factor.
Signs of frost crept along the banister from the attic level: there was a chilly one, or more, up there. Was this the source of the scream?
A maid brushed past me, and I heard a little giggle, like she wanted to play, so I smiled and waved at her. “Maybe later?”
That created silence so still I thought everyone had frozen.
If these ghosts had never met someone who could see them it could prove awkward. It could even get nasty. Maybe I should return to my room. They seemed friendlier down there.
The scream came again. A bit more lost and lonely than the last time.
I crept along the narrow passageway, my breath freezing in front of me. I hate getting frost up my nose.
I tried the handle of the door I reckoned she was behind.
It turned, well-oiled, and opened a crack. I opened it a little more, and peered through.
Imagine Alice in Wonderland—that was who was in there. She was about my age, thirteen, and had disgustingly golden hair tied up with a satin ribbon. I wished I’d brought my cap to push my stringy mousetails into. She sat on a bed, with a nice bedside lamp and an overhead light full on. She had one sock off and was rubbing her foot.
“Er, excuse me,” I said, poking my head into the room so she didn’t get too much of a fright.
Fat chance of that. She screamed again and jumped up onto her bed, like there was a mouse loose or something.
“I’m JoJo, and I heard you scream. Can I help?”
She stared, and then: “No you can’t. I’m Alice and I have to share this room with my baby brother and when I find him, I’ll kill him.”
I considered that. Alice appeared to be a ghost, and I suspected her baby brother was too. There was no sign of another occupant, ghostly or not, and no second bed, cot or crib.
“What’s he done?”
“Look! Just LOOK!”
I looked. Toys everywhere, all over the floor. “Um, not put his toys away?”
“Exactly! Every night it’s the same. Every night I come to bed, wander round barefoot, and suffer torture indescribable, all because of him!”
“But why do you scream?”
“Have you ever trodden on Lego with bare feet?”
I beat a retreat, returned to my room, and snuggled down with more reasonable ghosts reading me a fairy story called The Raven.
Mum came to fetch me in the morning, all apologies, but she’d stayed the night with Nan, so we could go home again.
Kind of sad leaving my room ghosts so soon, though. Maybe I’ll meet them again, some day.
© J M Pett 2021The Scream | Flash Fiction #WEPFF. In which Jemima presents the first adventure of her new MG heroine, JoJo Madeira #mglit #hauntedhouse #flashfiction Click To Tweet