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Adventure Drama Mystery

My Uncle Bart was mad. And a hoarder.

I'd been convinced for years that his neglected mental health would be what dragged me back to his dilapidated house and into his troubled life. I never once considered a freak avalanche of real estate magazines, could do it too.

"Take the next left and a right at Hendricks." My sister, Layla, rotated the street map for the third time. I smirked and took a right. I could have found Uncle Bart's house with my eyes closed.

"Why you never had to visit the old coot when we were kids, I'll never understand." I huffed, turning onto Maple.

"Mum and dad loved me more; you were sacrificial." she hummed, balling up the map and hurling it into the backseat.

I gritted my teeth. "You have 10 seconds to fold that and put it in the glove box."

Layla grumbled, stretching to retrieve the bundle of paper as I pulled up to an intersection. "Your obsession with order is maddening."

"No. Bart's obsession with dis-order was maddening. If anything, my visits taught me that."

I pulled out onto Hatter Lane and chuckled. The irony of Uncle Bart's address wasn't lost on me.

Manicured lawns and low picket fences whizzed by. Smiling middle-aged men pushing lawnmowers and busy women in gardening gloves and aprons waved as we passed. Until I slowed the car and pulled into number 13, then their smiles turned sour, some even heading indoors.

Layla chuckled. "Look, Kim, neighbors still hate us."

"Speak for yourself, Mr. and Mrs. Roberts used to invite me over for dinner whenever I visited. I'm sure they thought I was being starved or fed rotten pizza from a decade-old carton." I said, stepping out of the car and craning my neck. Uncle Bart's house hadn't changed since I was a girl. Mould stained weatherboard, cracked paint, and soot-blackened windows. The place looked like it lived through the great depression. In truth, it was barely two decades old and severely neglected. I sighed; I really hated Uncle Bart's house.

"Layla, let's get this over with. Mum wants it on the market next week." I said, climbing the groaning steps to the porch. Chipped paint and years' worth of fall leaves crunched under my feet.

"Mum should be doing this herself. Bart was her brother." Layla pouted.

"Someone has to organize the funeral." I rolled my eyes, slipping an old brass key into the lock and jiggling the door until it finally gave way.

"Oh god." Layle reached, her hand covering her mouth as I shouldered the crumbling door open. The smell of rotten cheese and dampness slammed into me, and i suppressed a gag. Years of summers spent in the cespit that was Uncle Bart's house had conditioned me well. Layla pulled her bandana from her hair and secured it around her mouth. I chuckled. "You take the lounge, I'll start upstairs. Bart's room has the most potent smells by far." Layla grimaced and headed for the room to our right, every surface covered with newspapers, magazines, and cut-outs. Uncle Bart was something of a conspiracy theorist, hoarding any piece of script he believed could have an ulterior meaning. I dodged mounds of books, stacks of National Geographics and crawled through a browning tunnel of flyers before I emerged at the staircase. I clung to the rail and navigated the steps from memory. Every second stair had rotted through years ago when Uncle Bart insisted on pilling them with library books salvaged from a flood that drowned the town hall. The staircase groaned as I climbed to the landing and let out a whoosh of breath. The house was a death trap. Any buyer would have to be as mad as Bart to purchase it.

The second floor was in worse shape than the ground. Towers of newspapers and books created a tunnel to his bedroom door. As a girl, I had imagined myself in a castle. Hiding in the stacks and nooks for hours. As a woman, I only saw a troubled mind that had locked himself away. Denying help and his sickness. I ran my hands over the neatly stacked piles. Astrology, numerology, meteorology. Each scrap of paper and hardcover was categorised. At least Bart had some method to his madness. I pushed on, reaching his bedroom and forcing back the musky unwashed smell that crammed itself up my nose. The door swung open, and I stopped dead. His room was immaculate. Nothing like it had been when I was a girl. His bed was neatly made, the deep blue duvet tucked in, four pillows arranged on top.

A single, well-loved wooden chair was pushed into a similar-looking desk. Two books aligned at its corner, the titles glistening with filigree gold. I ran my fingers over each word. 'Beyond the Boarders.' 'All-Seeing.' Strange. Though Uncle Bart was fixated on theories that made Area 51 look like your everyday government funded program, he was an academic. 'Fiction is for those who can't.' he used to say. I never knew what that meant. But the titles inspired thoughts of something veiled, something science couldn't explain. Uncle Bart called such things 'a distraction.'

I left the mysterious texts, even as my fingers itched to turn each page, and walked to the window. The view was the same. An overgrown yard, the rusted barbeque that had never once seen use when I visited. Beyond that, a dense pine forest and snow-capped mountains. Suddenly I was a girl again, high in her castle, dreaming of fantastical beasts roaming that forest. I snapped out of my reverie as a breeze that smelt of pine and loam fluttered a white sheet draping a tall object to my right. Another gust, and the sheet lifted, floating gently to the pristine floor. A gleaming black telescope pointed out the window. At the mountain I loved from afar. Did my Uncle have curiosities about the landscape? or perhaps the skyline? I couldn't stop my mind as it turned to Mad Bart and his conspiracies. But it was my mountain, and I wanted to look at it. I crouched to peer into the scope, not touching a single button or dial.

I squinted through the lens, and I saw it. My spine locked up. I blinked. "What the...". I straightened, running a hand over my tired face. Hoping to rid whatever peculiarities my brain had brewed since being back in Uncle Bart's house. I lowered myself to the scope, and again peered through the lens. It's. It's there. I see it. I stumbled back, falling over my feet and onto the floor with a crash. It was impossible. Fiction is for those who can't. But. I saw it. Oh god. I screamed. "Laylaaaa."

February 22, 2022 06:01

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4 comments

Chris Campbell
01:13 Mar 03, 2022

Ooh, nice cliffhanger and a question that needs answering. Great descriptions of the dilapidated house and its mountains of junk. Well done!

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Kat. L Haywood
03:15 Mar 03, 2022

Thanks Chris! I wish I knew the answer myself

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Sheila Passey
12:10 Feb 27, 2022

I like this. You get the emotions being conjured up. Really want to know what she sees.

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Kat. L Haywood
03:35 Feb 28, 2022

Thanks for the comment and your time.

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