Housebound. Short Story + 50th Short Story extravaganza post!

That’s right, this is the 50th short story to be posted here! Wow, 50. Just wow.

I went through so many emotions when I realised that it is the 50th short story. First I was suprised, then excited, then a little hungry. A real rollercoaster of emotions. Then I had a sandwich and the rollercoaster included peaks of deliciousness. It was a good sandwich.

In honour of this being the 50th short story, I am going to do something special! What is this special thing I hear you ask? None of your damn business that’s what. Wait.

That came out wrong, let me start again. It’s none of your damn business. There, that’s better. Ugh. Fine. I’ll tell you. You’re really pushy, didja know that?

For today my ebook Asylum will be free for download here on smashwords all you have to do is use the code  DF68E and it you will be able to download it for FREE, FREE! MWAHAHAHA. *cough* sorry about that. This offer is only valid until the 13th of August 2011 and after that the code will no longer work, so if you want to read it, download it today!

Also, because today is a day of unrelenting awesome, I have three more things for you! One is expected, and one isn’t and one is kinda parcelled with the other. The expected one is the short story, which we will get to in a moment, the unexpected is a picture, specifically a picture of a painting. I know getting a little inception-y around here, but bare with me for a moment, the pay off is worth it and this post has a defined ending.

The painting was painted by none other than my mother (that wasn’t an intentional rhyme, though it was if you thought it was awesome)

The insperation for the painting was a short story that I wrote (which then became a part of Asylum) which I have not posted, however, I will post an excerpt because I am nice that way.

She had drunkenly made her way from the masquerade ball to the entrance of the Church, the large, oak doors met together in an apex, perfectly framing her body. Her dress was long, flowing, elegant and silky looking, the bright red contrasting with the deep stain of the doors. Her bag hung limply from its strap which wrapped around her wrist. It dangled carelessly as a slight breeze caused it to swing back and forth. Her long, dark hair blew back from her face as she looked into the breeze, seemingly enjoying the wind. Her dress stopped just above her ankles, revealing open-toed black high heels, her bare skin extraordinarily pale against the dark and garish colours which she surrounded herself with. The winds picked up, causing the large handles of the church doors to rock, emitting a high screech which pierced the silence. A pool of light was cast upon her, as if she was the salvation in a dark and dreary world. Her delicately painted lips and intricate, skilled application of make-up were obscured by a large, embellished mask, its bright, glittery surface covered her face, making it impossible to identify her, a strand of dark ribbon flowed from each side, meeting at the back of her head in a graceful bow. The shadowed eyes of the mask made her eyes appear black. A faint, unseen smile hung on her lips.  She moved from the doors, her high heels clacking against the concrete steps, echoing around the street. A delicate silver bracelet slipped from her wrist, unnoticed, and fell to the ground, twisting and glittering as it fell. As her strength left, the bag soon joined the bracelet, falling with a slight thud. She paused, wavering on unsteady feet, reaching up with one long-fingered hand, she caressed her locket, her carefully painted nails clacking against its metal surface. The fingers slipped passed the locket, cupping it in her hand, then with one swift motion it was torn from her neck. She looked at it, then, let it drop to the length of the necklace, she watched it dangle before hurling it from her. Its confessions of love were left on the ground, unheeded and unheard. She walked again, slowly and meanderingly, her fingers reaching up and adeptly untying the mask. It fell to the ground and she continued to walk into the breeze, breathing deeply she inhaled the fresh air. Her eyes were a dark green rather than black, her skin smooth and unblemished, her lips bright red. Her long, dark hair started to fall out in strands, the hair curled in the breeze and succumbed to its power. The curled, styled hair continued to fall as she walked. Her pace slowed as she felt a deep weariness rest upon her. Seeing a bench, she made her way over and sat down heavily. Still smiling she settled into it, breathing laboriously. Her eyes closed and opened, then closed and opened, tired and sore. Her head drifted back slowly on her shoulders, her eyes closing one final time, her breathing becoming slower, deeper, ragged then stopping as the final hair fell, the church bells rang, once, twice, then a third time before falling silent to her forever.

In the original, which was the insperation, she was wearing a gas mask, so that one can be blamed on me, the rest however, is all my mum. So, I shall let the painting speak for itself.

And finally, we come to the fabled 50th short story,

on with the show!



The flowers in the vase were dying, the flowers always died. A few petals had fallen but most still clung to the stem, dried, twisted imitations of the vibrant colours they once were. She would change them soon, but not now. Now she was too tired to be bothered by such trivialities. Normally he would have changed the flowers by now for her, but he hadn’t been around lately. Never mind, she could do it herself, it was only a short walk to the florist and, if she was too tired, she could always phone for a delivery.
The flowers that normally filled the house also filled it with their perfume, doing their best to hide the underlying scent of sickness. Sometimes even she found the smell overwhelming and needed to open a window, but they helped her forget. Their bright colours were attractive and it was so easy to just sit and look at them.

Sometimes when it was warm she would sit outside in the garden, in the sun, enjoying the warmth and the lazy hum of bees and they bobbed about, collecting pollen before taking off to return to the hive or to find another treasure trove of golden baubles. The gardener had left a few weeks ago and hadn’t returned. At first she was annoyed by the inconvenience, then, as the garden began to grow she could see the benefits of not having someone to keep it tidy. It looked almost magical now, the trees were overgrown and cast shadows, they obscured the back wall making the garden appear as though it could go on forever, it would be so easy to get lost amongst the trees and bushes and never return.

There was a fountain in the middle of the garden, it was created in twists of metal and stone, the metal gleaming in the light, the stone subduing the glare, the water would patter against the metal and drum against the stone creating a pleasing cacophony. It was a light sound, one that could only be heard if you really listened and on days when she sat out in the garden, she had nothing to do but listen.

She felt listless lately, aimless. She had nothing to do, after all she had left her job, people were visiting less, which was only expected really, but still, she missed their company. They all have jobs and families and lives and none of them stopped to think how boring it was being by yourself in a house, how alone it made her feel. She could have called someone, but she didn’t want to be a bother to them. After all, they all have things to do. So instead she roamed the house, reading books or watching television. She had preferred books lately, television became boring after a few days. All the shows were the same, insipid talk shows about people who were too outlandish to really exist. Books however presented her with complete worlds, she could dip in and out of the lives of any of them and they would be none the wiser. She felt better when she was reading, lost in another world that could be comfortingly similar or terrifyingly alien. She could travel to a thousand lands and go on a million adventures, all without leaving the safety and comfort of her home. She had always wanted to go on adventures as a little girl, go exploring the world, just take a bag and go on the first international flight. It seemed like such a romantic idea, going to an almost unknown destination, an exotic locale where she knew almost nothing. She realised that it would be difficult at first, but, if she really needed help there were always ways to get it. Besides, she could always give in and buy a guide book if she was too over her head.

That was before though. Before she got sick, now she couldn’t do that even if she wanted to. She had to stay here in the large house that at first was a comfortable resting place and was now an opulently furnished prison. She could leave, there was nothing stopping her, but where could she go? Driving tired her too easily, she couldn’t just sit in a café and drink coffee, that was too much. Instead she simply had the house, her books and her infrequent visitors.

She had settled unconsciously into a routine, always the same. If someone pointed it out to her she would have been horrified, but her memory was hazier now, the days began to run together. Was it last week that she had made that cake? Or the day before? Was it Tuesday or Thursday that the post came? Her days were simple but they provided her with comfort. It was easier to remember what you did yesterday when it was the same thing you did today.

It was getting to be too much for her. She had been in the house for what seemed like months now, there was nothing to do, it was infuriating. Books could no longer hold her attention, her mind kept slipping, she would reread the same lines a thousand times and still they would not make sense. She would turn the page and forget what she was reading, what was going on, who the hell was speaking. It infuriated her, but it also scared her, deep beneath the protective blanket of anger, she was scared. Something was happening to her, she was changing, she could feel it, that smell of sickness clung to her no matter how much she showered or how much soaps or perfumes she used. It was still there, underneath everything, a subtle but persistent reminder.

The flowers were mocking her. They died, faded away, faded away like she would. They stood in their vase and made her watch as they lost their beauty and youth, becoming desiccated husks of themselves. He was doing it on purpose. The flowers were not there to cheer her up, they were there to remind her, remind her she was sick. She had been so pleased when they first started to arrive, there were so many and they were so beautiful but now, now she saw they for what they really were. A tease, a mean-spirited joke that was being played on her as everyone tittered behind their hands at her stupidity. She grabbed the petals and felt a triumphant satisfaction as they cracked and crumbled beneath her hand, she ground them between her palms before reaching for the stems and ripping them from the vase sending shoots and droplets of water onto the counter. She flung the stems as far away as possible, then picked up the vase, without thinking, giving in to her anger. As the cold glass left her hands she realised what she was doing and wanted to take it back. It was her favourite vase, twisting columns and shining glass, it had been a wedding present from her parents and she had adored it the moment she had seen it. Time seemed to slow as she watched it tumble through the air, water pouring from it’s mouth as it spin, the light gleamed on its shiny surface, casing bright spots and rainbows on the walls. She watched as it slowly fell to earth, before time resumed and it hit the marble tiles with an explosive shatter. Shards of glass flew outwards, coating the floor, the sound of it breaking seeming a thousand times louder in the silence that had fallen. The lack of noise was deafening, accusing. Pieces of the vase glittered in the light, like a thousand tiny diamonds. She moved carefully through the remains, she was barefoot and didn’t want to cut herself. She felt numb, then a savage pain shot up her leg. Wincing she bent down and prised the glass barb from her foot, it hadn’t cut deep, a few drops of blood fell from the wound onto the white tiles.

She heard the front door open and gasped, she needed to clean this up quickly, before he saw, once it was cleared away she could tell him she knocked it over, her elbow had hit against it, that it had slipped from her grasp, anything but the truth. If he saw it on the floor, he would know what she had done, she wouldn’t be able to hide from it. There was murmuring coming from the front hall, he had brought guests, even worse. They would see what she had done too. Tears began to fill her eyes, she wiped furiously at them and took a breath. She just needed a second to compose herself. Carefully she picked her way around the minefield and when towards the hall. She would see who it was and tell them not to come into the kitchen, that she had broken a vase and that she needed to clear it up. If they didn’t see the evidence they wouldn’t know.

Standing just inside the door, she listen, trying to figure out who the person was. She didn’t recognise the voice. “It is a lovely house, you’ll get a very good price on it.” “I don’t care, I just want it gone.” that was Jonathan, but who was he talking too? Why was he talking about selling their house. Her house. It was left to her by her parents. He had no right. She felt anger bubbling up within her. “We can price it competitively if you want a quick sale, however, you will be able to get a substantial amount if you don’t mind waiting.” “I don’t care about the money. I just can’t live here.” “I understand, though I wasn’t told the details, may I ask how long it has been now?” “Two weeks. It’s been two weeks since Abby died.” “I’m so sorry for your loss, I do recommend you wait a bit longer-” “I know what I’m doing.” Abby stood back from the door, trying hard not to freak out. Two weeks, what did he mean. two weeks? That was ridiculous. She made her way back to the kitchen, shaking. Every counter was filled with vases of flowers, every one. They were all dying. They had come two weeks ago, as presents.
It had been the last time she had seen anyone.

She struggled to breathe, her chest wouldn’t expand, there was no air coming in. Oh god. Oh god was it true? She placed her hand against her chest, trying to feel her heart beat. Her skin was cold. But she was alive, she had to be. She couldn’t be dead. Feeling faint Abby closed her eyes, trying to keep hold on anything. A memory started to play, she had no way of stopping it. She was lying down, looking up at Jonathan. He was crying. “I love you.” her own voice, strained, weak. “I love you too.” her last breath, leaving her body as she closed her eyes, giving in. Abby opened her eyes, then, crouching down, she wrapped her arms around her legs and began to cry.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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