Odyssey of a Novice Writer

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time… ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?

Week 20 Flash Fiction Challenge: Different Kinds of Horror

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It was September 1918.

The Brownie made a clicking noise. I quickly turned my attention from the house and stared at my intruder.

“I’m sorry,” he said, confronted with the tears on my face, “forgive me… I saw you from the road. Something in the way you looked at that house spoke to me… I felt a need to capture the moment.” He gestured to his box camera, his face apologetic.

Wiping away tears, I struggled to my feet with his hastily offered assistance. He noticed my leg, but averted his eyes.

“My name is Wyeth. I’m a painter.” He pointed to the house. “You live there? Here, let me help you back home.”

“Not yet,” was my strangled reply. “I came out here to get away… needed some thinking time. The ambulance wagon will be coming soon.”

That took him aback.

“Charles is up there… Pa, too.” The horror of the night before came back to me, the two men I loved best in the world, lying in fever-soaked beds, their eyes glassy with delirium. Neither recognized me at the end.

Not knowing what to say, the man bit his lip, looking down at the ground.

“Charles loved this old place. Worked it with his Pa.” I looked at my visitor. “You would’ve liked Charles, everyone did – had a gentleness to him. Best day of my life was our wedding day.” I looked at my crooked leg and heavy shoes. “He was able to look past the infirmity and see the woman instead.”

The reality of my loss hit me then, and I almost stumbled. The man reached out, steadying me, his face sorrowful.

“Oh, Jesus!” I cried, unable to bear the grief without divine assistance. “I thought we was safe when Charles didn’t have to go fight that foreign war! I thought we was safe!

“Lord, I wish we could go back in time… before the sickness!” My arm reached out toward the house, begging mercy for unanswered prayers.

At the sound of the approaching wagon, the man touched my arm. “I’ll be going now, Missus…”

I could see he was at a loss for words. He turned, hurrying through the field to his automobile at the edge of the road.

****

That was a long time ago. I’m an old woman now and lots of things have changed since 1918. I met another good man, married, got myself a bunch of kids.

Today one of my great-grands came by the home, bringing an art book from her trip to a museum. After she left, I flipped through the pages, stopping suddenly in surprise.

I remembered again the kind man, the clicking noise of an old box camera.

There are different kinds of horror in this life; the longer you live, the more likely it is you’re gonna face one. Still, there’s a special kind of horror in seeing your dreams and hopes slip away. That’s what mine did that terrible night in 1918, the year of the Spanish Influenza.

__________________
Author’s Note: Apologies to Andrew Wyeth for my creative license in utilizing his painting, ‘Christina’s World,’ and giving it my own twist, one he didn’t have in mind. Also, I took a little liberty with the time line; Mr. Wyeth was born in 1917, and would have been an infant at the time of the events recounted in this tale.

This piece was written in response to the 500 words only prompt, ‘Staring at the painting in the museum, I was horrified to discover…’ from ThainInVain’s weekly flash fiction challenge. I took a bit of creative license with the prompt, too. Sometimes a story takes you in a direction you hadn’t anticipated, and this one certainly did – and I had to follow.

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24 thoughts on “Week 20 Flash Fiction Challenge: Different Kinds of Horror

  1. I have a cooy if this painting!! It is a favorite of mine…

    Beautiful story, Kate. Heartbreaking.

  2. Wonderful take off on Wyeth’s painting. I got to see his work and his son Jamie’s at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine. It’s worth a visit and we will go again.

    • Hi Noelle, I like Andrew Wyeth’s work; I’m not as familiar with his son’s. I love museums! I love to look at paintings and imagine the stories that they might tell.

      I’ll have to see if I can talk my husband into a trip to Rockland in the future. :)

  3. Amazing! The painting and your tale weave perfectly together. I very much appreciated your take on this prompt! And thanks for the prompt! TiV

  4. Very imaginative and well written. Poor thing. I felt so badly for her. Lucy

  5. Beautiful, haunting, and heartbreaking. What a wonderful angle to come at this prompt from. The mood of the piece and the painting work perfectly together and I very much like the flashback way in which the story started and how it ended, many years from that horrible time in Lucy’s life when she lost the two people closest to her.

    Brilliant. <3

    • Thanks, Heather. The painting has always been a favorite of mine, and the woman’s body language as she looks toward the house has always touched me. I believe the true story behind the painting is that Christina (the woman in the painting) had polio… and the house was, indeed, ‘Christina’s World.’

      The great flu pandemic of 1918 is also a subject that has always fascinated me. It seemed a good opportunity to merge the two interests into a short story. :)

  6. Kate love this, especially since I taught art for so many years. I have always been fascinated by that painting. Very creative!
    Karen

  7. Hi Karen – so nice to hear from you! I’m glad you liked the piece and found it creative. I didn’t know you once taught art. You’re the person I should take along with me on trips to museums!

  8. Pingback: Flash Fiction Challenge – Week Twenty Submissions | Thain in Vain

  9. This was an outstanding piece, and came at the prompt from a very different angle than so many others took. This is the horror of history, of memory, of loss. It’s amazing, powerful, and oh so real. Wonderfully done.

    • Thanks, Mark – you saw exactly what I meant by horrors of a different kind! Is there anything more exciting for a writer than to have someone say they saw exactly what you were getting at? I don’t think so! You made my day – thank you! :)

      • The pleasure is entirely mine! You delivered your intended vision with expert precision, and I feel very lucky and honored to have gotten a chance to read it. I feel doubly so to have had so positive an impact on your day – that brightens mine as well! :)

      • “Aw, shucks,” she says, shuffling her foot and grinning with pleasure and not a little embarrassed. :)

  10. This is a very emotional story Kate. I love that you were inspired by the painting, probably art is one of the biggest ‘kickstarters’ for my ideas. SD

  11. A beautiful response to the emotions you had from the painting. You painted as vivid a picture as Wyeth and took me into that painting.:)

  12. Thanks, Irene! :)

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