The Whistle

Submitted into Contest #64 in response to: Set your story in a Gothic manor house.... view prompt


Horror Suspense Mystery

This old house—chips from the ceiling fall and scatter like rain clouds of dust; the floorboards cry in ache; the pipes squeal like a rusted train car.

Between his slowly decaying house and the thoughts racing through his mind, There is no silence to be found for Robert. He lays in his bed with a deep longing—a longing for the quiet peace of death; to be buried beneath the rotting floorboards; to be one with the mounds of dust in the cobwebbed corner of his bedroom. 

When he is not being tormented by his own mind, it is by the sounds of rodents capitulating in the basement— which has long been vacant- ever since the last tenant killed herself, and is now a moist graveyard for her old possessions—grease caked cookware, a moth eaten wardrobe, damp rugs, disintegrating photo albums, mold infested tiles and air filled with asbestos, the likes of which, Robert, the landlord, has not bothered to do anything about. 

But, even now being completely alone in the house, Robert never gets a break from his feverish brain, the sounds of the deteriorating house , and on top of all that,  the sounds outside his bedroom window— the comings and goings on the busy street corner below. 

Each morning, Robert hears coughing Hank, as he named him, a man who shows up early for the bus, chain smokes over a newspaper, and goes into violent coughing fits. He yells about the news to whomever will listen, in between puffs of smoke and heaving coughs

"This is the end of a--*Gack*--I'm telling ya, this is the end of an era..."

The neighbour, Ms Aster has a house full of pets. The cats crawl into the alleyway between their houses and they hiss and meow. The dogs howl sporadically around the clock. And Ms Aster will generally howl right back at them, or at the cats for their vicious scratching, or at the Parakeets who bite her whenever she feeds them. 

During the afternoons, Robert hears George, the corner store owner laying into his wife with harsh words about the unswept storefront.  

“Can’t cook a decent meal, can’t sweep a goddamn porch, are ya good for anything? What the hell do I keep ya around for anyway?”

And at night, in the most still, quiet hours, Screaming Elizabeth Hughs walks the streets in search of drugs, or someone to sell her body to in order to attain them. She often suffers severe psychotic breakdowns, screaming herself to the point of collapse,  just beneath Roberts bedroom. The screams pierce through the night sky, up to the hollow moon, and then into Roberts bedroom,  penetrating through Robert’s skull and resonating in a strange harmony with the frantic, cataclysmic whirring of his brain. 

Robert doesn’t leave his bed aside from relieving himself in the toilet and then replenishing his empty, frail body just before it withers away entirely. As he lays in bed, all through the day  the moans of the house echo the continuous refrain of  repeating thoughts circling through his plagued consciousness. 

“Kill me”

“I’ve had it”


“I can’t stand another day... “

The thoughts play on a recurring loop like a frozen record player. 

Even during the small moments of rest from his spinning mind he so seldom attains, it isn’t long before the silence becomes awash in the sounds from the frenzied street below Robert’s window. The chorus of bells and horns and freakish people; the whining wooden aches and the manic thoughts, and the grinding of streetcars and hammering construction workers—they all  carry out like a never ending parade, one day after another. 

It is an April morning, and Robert has resolved to kill himself. The thaw has begun— a ray of sunlight shines against the icy sidewalks and melts a reflection which shines a glaring colourful prism of light through Roberts window and onto the ceiling. Robert stares at it, pondering the quickest and most painless suicide method at his disposal given the supplies he has around the house. Even the promise of death isn't enough to make Robert willingly leave the house. As he begins to get off of the creaking spring matteress, Robert hears a sound from the street below which stops him cold. 

It is the sound  of a man whistling. He whistles a song which Robert cannot identify, but the melody penetrates into the swirling backwaters of Robert’s psyche. 

Robert is a child again, at a carnival on a hot summer day, sitting on a ferris wheel—face buried in a cherry snow cone. 

He finds himself in the backyard garden from his childhood home, holding his mother's hand, looking up and around at clouds and butterflies and bumblebees; sniffing daisies and lilacs and freshly cut grass. 

Robert is a teenager, locked in embrace with Wendy in the back of his Mustang—the radio is quietly playing beneath their heavy panting and the steady pattering rain on the rooftop, and the drumming fluctuations of their hearts, fluttering in unison. 

Robert and Wendy, on their honeymoon, walking through cobblestone streets in Europe, the aromas of restaurants and wine and Wendy’s chestnut hair being sucked into Robert’s nostrils. The sun setting over the mountains and the glorious horizon of a glowing skyline reflecting in Wendy’s big adoring pupils. 

Robert is standing at the pearly gates of heaven, greeted by a dozen of winged Madonnas. There are velvet clouds of azure and crimson and topaz. Robert is light, cut free from  the prisons of body and mind.  He is galaxies away from his chamber of horrors; released from the confines of that awful, dreaded sewage dustbin of a home. Robert has been elevated to a higher dimension. His soul has been redeemed. The chorus of angels pull him like a current- higher and higher and-  

And then, Robert finds himself back in his bedroom. The magnum is in his hand; The whistling in his ears. 

“Just one more moment”

He says to himself. 

“One more moment of that precious sweet song, before the silence of eternity.”

And as he listens closely, Robert is once again transported; once again his entire being is flooded with all the memories and sensations of celestial bliss. 

But then, the whistling trails off. 

Robert blinks as he looks down at his feet against the dusty and cracked hardwood. For a moment, he contemplates reaching for the magnum, before he instead finds himself getting dressed with haste. Robert leaves the door in pyjama bottoms, an overcoat and unlaced boots, Stumbling throigh the streets in a stupor— in search of the whistling he had heard from beneath his window. 

Eventually, his ears detect the faint trace of the sound off in the distance, and Robert tramples off in the direction, slipping along the icy sidewalks. The midday sun is on its way down. People are leaving from their day jobs. The streets are becoming increasingly busy with workers racing to get home to their supper, but Robert manages to follow the sound despite the developing crowds, pushing with brute force against every single body which stands in his path. 

Robert closes the gap enough to see the hunched and hooded figure emitting the heavenly whistles walking at a brisk pace. He keeps a distance so as not to be noticed by the hooded figure. Robert follows the whistler all the way across town, until the hooded figure, still whistling, walks up to the steps of a house. As Robert looks up at the house, he freezes and trembles with fear. He recognizes the house, because it looks exactly the same as his. 

The hooded figure stops at the door and turns his head around, his blackish eyes falling directly on Robert’s. The whistling ceases and the silence is deadening. Robert is stunned by the old and lined face of the hooded man. His face is an older, almost identical version of Robert’s. 

Robert’s heart sinks with trepidation. He stands staring up at the old man on the steps, unable to speak, let alone, move his body at all.

“Aren’t you going to come in?” Asks the old man. 

As Robert tries to turn the other way, the old man begins to whistle again. Robert feels his body melt, the whistle oozing over him like honey. The sound rushes over him and starts to pull him towards the door. With every ounce of strength and desperation, Robert tries to pull himself away, when a gust of wind blows, and Robert loses his footing on an ice patch. 

The old man turns towards the door. 

“I’ll leave the door open for you”

He says. 

“Just incase...”

He closes the door behind him. Inside, the house his damp and dark. The sound of moaning voices can be heard from every room of the house. 

“He’s here” 

The moaning voices call. 

“Master! The master is here!”

All through the house,  feeble, naked men are locked in cages. 

The old man walks close up to one toothless bald man with yellow eyes and scabs across his body. His lips are cracked and bleeding. His fingernails are worn down to nubs.

The man falls to his knees as the master approaches. 


He begs

“We’ve waited all day.”

His voice trembles. 

“Please master....

Won’t you please,

Whistle for us?”

And suddenly, the front door opens...

October 22, 2020 16:55

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