Short Stories


This story begins in the Summer of 1994. The world was bright and full of color, and everybody was looking for happiness. I was seven, and we were traveling to a family friend’s country house.

The air was heavy, and the fog became denser as we plunged through the thick trees. It was precisely 3 pm – I was told many years later – when the car tire blew up.

I can’t remember much, only the heat and the sticky dampness in my skin—also, the scream. A cry echoed for several minutes throughout the vegetation until everything got dark and silent. After that, I grew up without truly knowing what had happened. The only thing I kept from my mom was a magnificent gold ring with a turquoise on top that hung from a necklace that would never leave my neck.

I never went back to that place. I’ve never even looked at the dark woods again. Yet, every day, as soon as I closed my eyes, that squeaky cry would haunt me, and the darkness would come back into my mind. For years, I suffered in silence until the day I said to myself, “I have to go back.”

I woke up before the sun and packed all sorts of things, from the necessary clothes to flashlights, a first aid kit, and even some climbing stuff. Of course, I felt ridiculous with all that preparation, but it was good to keep me busy until Mr. Martin’s garage opened.

At 9 am, I picked up my incredibly full backpack and went straight to the garage. A grumpy assistant said, “Mr. Martin didn’t come yet.”

My frustration levels roused inappropriately, but I controlled the expression on my face and simply told him, “I’ll wait.”

I sat down on some old tires, which someone thought would be a good decoration item, and waited for 45 long minutes. When Mr. Martin finally parked his blood-red Fiat Punto near the door, he looked surprised. “Veronica? So early?”

“I need a car!”

He passed straight through me, entering the shop as if I had said nothing.

“I thought you said you would never drive.”, he said, finally turning in my direction. His eyes trying to read my face.

“I changed my mind.” I tried to look confident, but my voice wasn’t helping. “Can you find me a car or not?”

He stared at me with his filthy glasses. How could he see anything with that?

“Well, what kind of car do you want?”

I blushed. I knew nothing about cars.

“Just a car.”

He stared suspiciously. He then made a sign with his hand for me to follow him. At the back of the shop, there was what was supposed to be a junkyard. We walked amongst the sleeping cars until he stopped before a tiny, white car with a dented door.

“Well, here it is. It is light and works perfectly, despite the door.”

I stared at the vehicle. It was unattractive, but I only needed a box with wheels, not the last shining model.

“Are you sure it won’t stop in the middle of the road?”

“Pretty sure.”

I took a look at the mistreated piece of metal again. “I’ll take it.”

Mr. Martin closely observed me again. “Are you sure?”

“I am. Is this enough?” I asked, giving him a bunk of notes. He inspected the banknotes in my hand and confirmed with his head.

As I entered the vehicle, I could see his scrutiny look in the rearview mirror. After a few seconds, he shrouded his shoulders and entered the shop again.

On the inside, the car smelled like old mold. The seats had holes, and the radio was broken. The windows were manual. I felt like time traveling. I took a deep breath and turned the key in the ignition. It started on the first try. “At least that.”, I thought. Then, I reversed and pulled the car out onto the main street.

I drove for hours until I finally approached the cane field next to the forest. As soon as I saw myself amidst the trees, I took a deep breath and slowed down. The anxiety kicking me during the trip was about to become a panic attack. I couldn’t allow it.

The car followed slowly amongst the forest’s shadows. My eyes peered at every movement, every leaf cruising at the wind, every tiny animal running in the bushes. Then, a couple of hours later, the house was right before me.

I hit the brakes abruptly and stared at it. The outside seemed intact, except for some dark spots in the previously immaculate white wall. I put the car in movement again and parked in the front yard.

With my body shaking, I left the car, keeping the engine on. Its soft purring gave me a pleasant sensation of presence. I approached the entry door, where cobwebs covered the door handle and lock. No one had been there since the accident. I had no will to put my hands in the middle of the sticky webs and their owners, so I returned to the car and picked an old cloth. I wrapped it around my hand and tried to get rid of the disgusting cobwebs.

When I finished, I freed my hand from the cloth and threw it away, pulling it with my foot outside the yard. “I hate spiders,” I murmured while turning the key in the lock.

Inside, the house smelled like black mold in a closed space, and the darkness was absolute. I turned on my cellphone’s flashlight to look for the light switch, only to realize there was no electricity.


I went back to the car to pick a real flashlight. I needed to find out where the fuse box was and solve the problem before dark. While in the car, I looked at the key still in the ignition. I should turn off the car, but…

“Don’t be ridiculous!” I mumble to myself, turning off the car and sliding the key into the left pocket of my jacket.

I went back to the house and entered its sitting room. I looked at the walls trying to find something that looked, even remotely, like a fuse box. Nothing. I came back to the garden and looked around. Nothing. I exhaled in frustration. Now what? I wasn’t going to be at candlelight the whole evening! Then, suddenly I remembered that my dad entered the house and went straight to the kitchen counter.

That counter was the only thing between the tiny kitchen and the tinier living room with a dining table. So I went around the counter, and there they were, the power box, as well as the water. So I pressed the button, and the light went on.

Feeling more comfortable, I picked up my luggage in the car. Then, I returned to the house and closed the door behind me.

I looked around. Nothing had changed in all those years. I went straight to the room where I usually stayed, emptied my bag on the bed, and then put my clothes in the drawers. I didn’t know if I would stay for long, but that simple gesture gave me a sense of security and normality. After everything was put in place, I sat on the old lace quilt, once white and now yellow by the force of time. I smiled. It was strange to be there, but… not bad.

I occupied myself by making the house habitable for the rest of the day. I cleaned and organized every corner while childhood memories invaded my mind. I’ve been there for so many Summers that each inch of that house seemed to have a story. In the afternoon, I went to buy some groceries to cook a nice dinner.

It was pretty rare for me to cook. It is one of the problems of living alone. You don’t feel like cooking just for yourself. Yet, I felt particularly inspired that day. Perhaps because this house reminded me of my childhood and my parents. When dinner was ready, I turned on the TV and sat on the old couch eating while looking for something watchable on the ancient device. I quickly gave up on this plan. The TV was very old and connected to an antenna on the roof. It wasn’t working properly—a problem for the next day.

While finishing my meal, I was reading the titles of the old books on the shelf right next to me. Most were ancient editions, with the carved golden letters in the book’s spine already fading. I imagined they would fall apart if I tried to touch them, but I needed something to do until bedtime.

I was finishing the dishes in the kitchen when I heard that noise. I froze. I was in the middle of nowhere. It couldn’t be people, could it? Maybe some animal. I had closed the house properly. Didn’t I? I checked the door. It was locked, and, just in case, I locked all the windows as well. As I sited on the flourish sofa again, I realized the noise was the wind. I smiled at my absurdity and picked up a book to read.

The noise didn’t slow down, and I thought, “Is there so much wind outside?” It didn’t make sense.

All the doors and windows were closed, and the wind growled as it entered the house… I checked all the windows for broken glass, but it wasn’t necessary. Then, as I passed near a closed door, I realized the growl came from inside. That room was never used. I had never seen that door open in all those years we spent in that house.

I asked my father, and he said it was some cellar with no interest, except perhaps for a couple of spider webs, if you like them. I didn’t, so I immediately forgot about playing explorer in there. Yet, now, I needed to enter the room and close that window, or I couldn’t sleep all night.

When I tried to turn the doorknob, it was locked. Weird. I looked for the main key chain full of tiny keys. Among them, there was a large one that caught my attention. It looked ancient, and it could be made of bronze. I observed it closely. Maybe it was from a gate or something. Despite my curiosity, the howl of the wind was unbearable, so I put the key down and picked the one with the label “storage” and went to the door.

The key opened the rusty lock without much resistance. Before me, there was a dark and unorganized room where everything seemed dirty and out of place. A storage. In the middle of the opposite wall, a big window with curtains frenetically flying around. When I get to the window to close it… it was hermetically sealed. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I gulped and tried to remain logical, searching the window and the walls for some crack that would allow the wind to pass. I found nothing.

I was already in despair with the odd phenomenon when a shadow made me look outside. I screamed in horror.

Outside the house, a stranger, all dressed in black with a hoodie over his head, was observing me. I can’t see his face except for his black eyes fixed on me. My heart raced, and my legs seemed unable to support my weight. I took a step back. The house was closed. It was okay. I just needed to call 911. Where was my phone?

Under my feet, the floor roared, and in a second, I was falling. Then, unbearable pain and everything went black.

When I woke up, my head hurt so much. I opened my eyes slowly, and my whole body ached. I touched my arms and legs, scared, but nothing seemed broken.

I looked around. I had fallen into some basement. I didn’t even know that there was a basement. Around me, only shadows of unrecognizable objects. I put my hand in the back pocket, trying to reach for my phone, but the only thing in there were broken pieces.

– Greater and greater…

Being in there was almost as scary as being outside. The person could be watching me and enter the house at any moment. I looked up for some way out, but it was too high. I took a glance at my broken phone again. The lunatic outside could also be my only way out of there. The simple thought of it gave me the chills.

– What was I thinking by coming here?

I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself while reevaluating my options. Maybe, during the day, I could see a way out. Around the whole division, what seemed to be big objects. Perhaps I could move them beneath the hole and climb. I needed to wait for the sun to come up.

Then, the room became even darker. I looked around, trying to figure out what was happening when I saw it. There was a tiny window on the top of the wall, and it was now covered with… I put my hand over my mouth to try not to scream. Two black boots were standing right there on the other side of the window. I approached a corner to better hide from whoever that was and tried to observe. I couldn’t see anything other than boots and legs. Whoever was outside was watching. Well, at least they were still outside.

My body hurt, and I was cold. There was no place to sleep in there. Worst, that place would probably be infested with my worst enemy: spiders. I shivered.

– Stop it. Please stop it. It’s going to be okay. – I muttered to myself.

I sat on the floor and hugged my legs. How long would I be there? And the guy outside? Could he enter the house? Tears burst from my eyes and flooded my face.

I woke up the next day, kissed by the sunlight. I was cold, and the gentle heat felt good. I sat up and looked around. It hadn’t been a dream. I was still in a basement I had no idea existed, without a way out of there. I took a deep, slow breath and tried to remain calm. I needed to find a way to get out of there by myself. I got up, and my sore body complained. Around me, dozens of objects were covered in old white sheets. Slowly, I started to uncover them. Thousands of spiders began running in every direction. I bit my lip to prevent a scream.

– It’s just bugs. – I murmured to myself.

I tried to concentrate on the objects around me—dozens and dozens of books covered in dust, with titles in an unknown tongue. I opened a couple of them. The characters weren’t like any I had seen before, and the images on the pages confused me.

I turned to the next white pile. I pull out the sheet, and the dust spread in the air. Then, after coughing for some time, I saw a square table with drawings or words carved on its top. I bend slightly to see better. It seemed to be the same incomprehensible symbols in the books.

On the other side of the room, there was a closed cabinet. With some struggle, I opened the rotten wood doors. Inside the cabinet, there were bottles of many sizes. I got curious. Some of them seemed like objects you could find in an ordinary lab. Others were more unique. Some were filled with herbs and flowers, and others were full of liquids I could not identify. A chill run through my spine. What was this? Some sort of drug lab? How would people access it? I couldn’t see a door. Yet, those objects need to get in there somehow…

I continued to observe the room and found an ark. It was an old piece of furniture. Upon closer inspection, I noticed it had the same inscriptions I saw on the table. I immediately tried to open it but couldn’t lift the heavy lid.

At a closer look, I noticed that a considerable lock was keeping away prying eyes. I forced it again. Nothing. What could be in there that needed such heavy protection? I stared at the lock hopelessly, and suddenly I recognized the shape of the key that would open that lock. It was the enormous key in the entrance key chain. Whatever that room was, my parent’s friends were well aware of its existence. This notion gave me a bitter feeling of treason. However, at that moment, my biggest concern was finding a way of getting out of there. Since I couldn’t see a door anywhere, the ark, the table, or both would come in handy to help me lift myself to the upper floor again.

The ark proved to be too heavy to be dragged along the room, so I went to the table. I put it under the giant hole above me and prepared to climb. Putting my feet on top of that perfect and meticulous work felt wrong, but it was no time to think about property. Once on the table, I realized it wouldn’t be as easy as I had thought – there was no way of getting out of there alone.

Suddenly, a shadow lay down over me, making me scream and fall from the table. Terrified, I looked at the giant hole above me. There it was, the same dark, scary figure.

“Who are you?” I said, finding it hard to force my voice out of my throat. The stranger didn’t say a word and reached out his hand to me. I was frozen in the same place for a couple of minutes. He stayed still with his hand stretched out towards me.

I had no idea who he was. He could be some sort of psychopath, maybe a killer, but I had no choice. Nervously, I climbed up the table again and reached for his hand. The stranger grabbed it firmly and pulled me out of that hole.

I could barely believe it when I saw myself on the ground floor.

– Thanks. – I let the words come out of my mouth with pure relief. For a second, I didn’t think of the possibility of him being a serial killer about to torture me to death. Yet, the fear started crushing my lungs once this second was over.

– Who are you? What are you doing here?

– I saw you fall, and I thought you could need help.

The warm, almost familiar tone made me look at him closely. He was a middle age man with gray hair and blue eyes. His face was covered with lines, especially near the eyes and mouth. I looked away to help myself think.

– I fell in last night.

– The door was locked, and it wasn’t easy to come in. – I gave the door a quick look. Great, another thing I would have to pay for.

Then, my eyes found his again.

– This isn’t a touristic spot. – I said. – What were you doing here?

– I’ve been coming here for years now. Always waiting… – he declared while walking towards the living room.

– The house has been closed for many years.

He turned to me, and his look made my heart beat faster.

– Since your mother died. – A chill froze my bones.

– Did you know my mother?

– I did. – he answered with a change in his tone I couldn’t exactly understand. – And she had something that is mine. I want it back.

I felt my mouth open in disbelief.

– My mother… had something that belongs to you?

– Yes, I lent it to her years ago, and she died without giving it back to me.

– I have no idea what you’re talking about.

– Don’t lie to me! I feel its energy.

– What?

– The ring!

My hand went directly to my neck. My mother’s ring… wasn’t there. I pull the necklace out of the shirt. Nothing.

– No! No, no, no. – I was desperate. – The ring. I lost it!

He stared at me relentlessly. Then, suddenly, I didn’t care about this man anymore.

– My mom gave me that ring. She told me to take good care of it and never lose it, and I did! It’s not here anymore! – I was about to go down in tears, but his posture surprised me.

– No. Not after all these years. – he snarled.

– Why is that ring so important? – I whispered.

Suddenly, his hand was around my arm, squishing it.

– Find it. You must find it!

I was scared, and that made it hard to think.

– The fall. I may have lost it in the fall. – My curiosity had always put me in trouble. So why should this time be different? – I can look for it if you explain to me why it is so important.

In a fraction of a second, I was hanging over the huge hole above the basement floor, depending on the fragility of my wool sweater.

– If I let you go, you can look for it too.

I begged him not to let me fall. I would look for it. He aggressively pulled me back and left by the broken front door. He was crazy, and my breath was heavy.

After a few breaths, I went to the door to see the damage. It was severe, and I felt uneasy. After that encounter, how would I remain in the middle of nowhere, with a hopelessly open door?

There wasn’t much I could do at that point, so I picked a couple of old sofas and put them behind the door, hoping they would hold it close. Then, I sat on the kitchen stool to clear my mind. I was pretty sure the ring was on my necklace when I entered the house, so it must be somewhere inside it.

I went back to the fall place and looked down. It was the most probable place to be, but finding it from up there was impossible. I needed to go down again, but how? I went to the pantry, looked for a ladder, the bigger one I could find, and tried to use it. Laying on the floor trying to open the ladder and make it touch the ground below me, I felt ridiculous, but after some struggle, the ladder was ready. The top stair was about a meter distance from the floor I was on, but I could handle it. So I picked up the big old key in the keychain and flashlight and carefully went down the hole again.

The flashlight gave me a better image of the things around me. I stared at each one of the strange objects again. The table was the most spectacular. I also found an old piano totally out of tune. So, I went straight to the old chest.

When I opened it, there were many sheets of paper, notebooks, and ancient books, so old and frail I was almost afraid to touch them. They would crumble at the slightest touch. That’s when I notice a wooden stair right behind the chest. It looked like it went nowhere. I pointed my flashlight and climbed it. Nothing. In the end, only a wall of concrete.

I went down the stairs again. It was ridiculous. Maybe that room had an exit indeed, but someone had closed it. Why?

I couldn’t believe it when an intense glow caught my attention. On the floor, there was my ring. It looks like it had some sort of light coming from the inside. It looked like magic. I picked it up from the floor and slid it on my finger. A heat sensation startled me. I stared at my finger. The ring looked the same, but something was different.

I climbed the ladder again and sat on the living room floor, not knowing what to think. Finally, I leaned back and fell asleep to wake up a few hours later with strong bangs on the front door. Scared, I retracted myself.

“Who is this?”

It was a stupid question. I knew it was him again, looking for the ring. I got up, my whole body shivering as if I was cold, and I went to the door. I pushed the couch aside, and the door opened slowly… as in a horror movie. On the outside, the man dressed in black, with a stern look in his eyes, was standing.

“You found it.”

It wasn’t a question. The big ring was ostentatiously shining on my finger, and according to him, he could feel its energy.

“I did. Now, tell me, what’s its importance?”

The man stepped out the door again in silence. I followed, not knowing where we were going at all. We walked without saying a single word, turning around the house. Once in the back, he pointed at the wall. I looked at him suspiciously and approached the wall. I had spent many Summers in that place and never noticed the little defect on the wall.

I stood up and looked at him. Without saying a word, he took the ring from my hand and put it on the wall. It fitted! So, before my eyes, a door appeared in the middle of the previously immaculate white wall. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I touched the object appearing before me. It was a real door!

He smiled for the first time since we’d met and opened the door. Then, he looked at me and told me to go ahead. With uncertain steps, I passed through the open door. Before me, there was the mysterious basement where I had fallen the previous day. I looked at him. The stairs that seemed to go nowhere were, in fact, the way out the magical door.

“Haven’t you thought that everyone would fall from the first floor, have you?” I frowned.

“So… that’s it. The ring is the key.”

His facial expression didn’t need words. I walked into that room as it was the first time and touched each one of those objects with care.

“What are all these things?”

“Here are buried the secrets of life and happiness.”

I frowned. He didn’t look like one of those new-age hipsters, but this was a weird conversation. Then, it hit me.

“Wait a minute. This house belonged to some friends of my mom….”

“Who you never met.”

I was speechless. What was he telling me? I bit my lip for a minute.

“It was you….” I said at a volume I could barely hear myself.

His cold look was enough for an answer.

“Why did you come here? Did my mom know about this place?”

“Your mother came here to use this enchantment table and these old books full of powerful spells.”

I took a deep breath to avoid nervous giggling. After the door, I knew magic was real, but imagining my mom messing with it…

He didn’t seem to notice the amount the confusing thoughts that invaded my mind.

“I gave her the key to have what she wished. But she wished too much.”

“The power…”

“The power comes from the ring, and here…” he said, pointing at the room. “You learn how to use it.”

“My mom learned… How?”

He was standing still and in silence, looking at me.

“If she had that much power, why did she die in such a stupid way?” I couldn’t believe what I was being told.

“Because everything in life is a test, magic could make your life easier or a curse. It’s your heart that chooses.”

“My mother’s heart was pure.” I could feel the tears in my eyes.

“No, humans don’t have pure hearts. She didn’t, and you don’t. And power brings to the surface the worst in us.”

“What did she do wrong?” My voice was just a whisper.

His face was suddenly very old and tired. For the first time, I noticed the yellowish skin tone and the huge bags under his eyes.

“She wanted too much. She demanded too much. She didn’t know how to enjoy the gift given to her and turned it into a curse.”

I looked around. That was a weird story, but, at the same time… so much power…

The man came closer and held my hand. His hands were freezing cold, and I shivered.

“She didn’t know to channel the good.”

At this point, I couldn’t look away from his eyes.

“Will you?”

I stared at the ring once more, and a chilling wind agitated my hair. When I looked up again, the man had disappeared. The bright ring was burning in the palm of my hand.

Would I?



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