Below the Surface


Okay, so here’s what I have. I have actually written quite a bit so far, so I am going to have to do this in installments. I’m not used to sharing my work in any fashion whatsoever, so be kind. According to copyright law, all the text on this page is created by me and can’t be used without my permission. Please don’t make me have to go through the registration process to prove my ownership of this material. It’s time-consuming and expensive. Okay enough, with the legalities, here it is:


Steven Willis didn’t mind living out in the middle of nowhere, even on night’s like this. His Uncle Louis (he liked to be called Louie) offered up his old summer home for Steven to use after he had graduated from college. It was sort of like a graduation gift from Louie and his wife Linda. They had been like parents to Steven practically every summer from the time he was twelve on, when he would spend the summers with them instead of with the housekeeper at his own house. Steven’s parents were both successful lawyers who traveled extensively and Steven ended up spending more time with the housekeeper Stella than he did with his parents. He often thought they had him just to satisfy their friends that they could actually have a child, and beyond that they weren’t really interested in the rest of it.

Steven was glad that Louis and Linda had offered him the use of the house. While the house hadn’t been used as a summer home for a few years now, it offered Steven something that he couldn’t turn down – free rent. It afforded him the opportunity to take his time with his job search after school was completed (they all told him a degree in English wouldn’t lead to many job prospects) and it allowed him to spend some time back in the small town where he had spent many summers with Louis, Linda and his cousin Harry. he spent most of this current summer just straightening up the place and making minor repairs, re-painting, repairing torn screens and hauling some long forgotten junk from the basement.

The house itself was old but it wasn’t really run down at all. Uncle Louis had always put time, effort and money into the place that he saw as a proud family legacy, one that showed he had done well selling cars for the last twenty years, from being a salesman at a small Ford dealership in the seventies to eventually owning 6 varying dealerships of his own across the county. The house was a simple colonial with three bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs, a standard living room, dining room, den and kitchen on the main floor, and a full size basement. It had a nice sized patio right off the kitchen that led out to an expansive lawn and a large, well manicured garden with a stone walkway through the gardens to the rear of the yard. Aunt Linda had spent many hours tending to the garden, picking out particular flowers, vines, shrubbery and even vegetables and herbs, so that the garden always looked abundant and beautiful. When she wasn’t spending time outside in the garden, Louis made sure that the lawn was taken care of, hiring a local landscaping service to take care of the lawn and the garden for all the time the house was unoccupied.

Steven had moved in after graduation in late May and spent the last month and a half fixing the place up, having parties with his college friends (he became quite popular once they knew he had his own house) and working on his resume and following job leads. He wasn’t looking too hard for work knowing he was living rent free and could always hit his parents up for money. The guilt they felt for their absence in Steven’s life added up to a tidy allowance for Steven whenever he wanted it. Besides, he figures he could always get a job substitute teaching at the local high school while he sought out something more permanent. He had heard that some of the people he hung around with during his summers here had jobs over there; perhaps one or two could put a good word in for him at the school to get him some work. In retrospect, Steven thought, he had it pretty good. He was young, he had money, he was a reasonably good-looking guy,and he had a nice house rent free. Louis and Linda had insisted on this since he was always such a good friend to Harry.

Steven awoke on a warm July morning, the sheets sticking to his legs thanks to the sweat the uncomfortable humidity had produced all night last night. Twice he got up to check and see if the windows in the bedroom were even open since the air was hanging so heavily in the room. He rolled to his left off the pillow, feeling the stubble on his cheeks tightly peel off the damp cotton of the pillowcase. Even the cool shower he took in the morning didn’t make him feel good and he knew it was time for him to drag the air conditioner up from the basement so he could put it in the window today and perhaps sleep comfortably tonight. He couldn’t deal with another night like last night. He had tossed and turned from the heat and humidity all night long, praying the cool side of the pillow would be enough to comfort him. Besides the two times he had checked the windows, he had gotten up a few times just to sit up and cool off, listening to the quiet of the evening, although a few times that seemed to be broken by noises outside. Finally, at about 2 AM, he broke down and took an Ambien to help him fall asleep. The Ambien always produced vivid surreal dreams for him and last night was no different. He didn’t remember much of the dreams often and he usually quickly dismissed them from his mind, but the dream from last night lingered and he couldn’t seem to shake it as he showered.

He dreamt he was in the kitchen of the house with Amber, his most recent girlfriend who had only just broken up with him days before. She was taking a job in Seattle and had wanted to end things early in the summer to make it easier (“Easier for who?” Steven had thought more than once, and eventually he had said it out loud to her in a knock down, drag out they had last Saturday at Steven’s last party). In the dream, amber had stormed out of the house after another one of Steven’s smart ass, half drunk remarks, most likely something about her leaving, and she went out the back door of the kitchen to the back patio. Steven had sighed and followed her out, knowing he had to try to apologize, but when he got out there, she wasn’t there. All that was there was the fire pit, well-lit, with some empty chairs around it and a few stray beer bottles and the sound of the tiki torches surrounding the patio, flickering in the night breeze.. He glanced around the backyard, peering out into the darkness, calling her name. He heard a rustling out towards the pathway in the garden and made his way across the lawn to the path. The small solar lamps that lined the walkway offered very little in the way of light in comparison to the moonlight that shone brightly through the trees onto the path. Steven called out to Amber each time he heard a noise or thought he saw her shadow moving, but it always seem to move further away and around a bend. he picked up his pace, trying to keep up as the path worked its way towards the rear of the yard. And then the path veered off suddenly and led him back towards the house, bringing him right in front of the basement access doors next to the house. Aunt Linda had insisted on having them installed so she could easily move her gardening supplies in and out to the yard. Steven reached the access doors and noticed both doors lay wide open, leading to the stone cellar steps and into the darkness of the basement. He stopped and looked at the doors, feeling oddly puzzled since Uncle Louis had the access sealed up when…

He didn’t want to think about it, not even in his dreams. A scream came from behind him, cutting through the night silence and turning him away from the basement. It had obviously come from the garden path. Steven whirled and ran towards the scream, positive that it had been Amber calling out. He reached a bend in the path where there was a group of large sunflowers growing. Steven saw her as he came up to the sunflowers, shadowy arms draped over her shoulders, as if holding her in a deep embrace. She struggled to try to look over her shoulder, to turn where she knew Steven was, but the figure held her close, gripping her long brown hair in its  dark, claw-like hand. Her body shook with fear and Steven heard the meekly uttered words of “No, please” and then she was gone. Nothing but the sounds of the night filled the void and the moonlight shone directly where she stood, revealing nothing but a patch of broken sunflowers and stems and a patch of scorched earth.

4 Responses to “Below the Surface”

  1. I like your story so far. Check out my work-in-progress at

    • 2 MikeG

      Thanks for the comment. I did check out your blog just now and am reading through it. I like what you’ve done. Thanks for checking out my work.

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