At first he’d assumed everyone could hear the past. He’d learned quickly that his parents couldn’t. When he’d mentioned the voices to them he’d been frightened of the looks they’d given him. They’d chalked his experiences up to a vivid imagination and a desire for playmates, imaginary or otherwise. He’d wondered why anyone would want a man screaming in pain or a woman gasping for air as hands tightened around her neck as playmates, but he’d kept quiet. From then on, he’d never mentioned the things he heard again. He’d merely listened.
But now he realized that just listening was no longer going to be an option. Soon after he and his parents had moved into the loft apartment in Paris’ Montmartre neighborhood for the summer for his father’s work, Pierre knew that something was different in this place.
The apartment was old and spacious, and his mother had declared her love for it the day they had moved in. She’d visited a woman who ran a flower stall on the corner and purchased white rose bushes for the front window box. His mother told him a white rose symbolized innocence. She loved flowers and their meanings. Pierre remembered that at one point she had told him that dried white roses symbolized sorrow.
That would be more appropriate, as the apartment was a place of sorrow. Of grief and fear and death. Pierre heard a woman crying for her lover, a World War I soldier lost forever to the trenches. He heard a Jewish family frantically trying to plan an escape from Paris now that the Nazis had taken over. He heard a man sobbing at his wife’s bed as she lay dead following the birth of a stillborn child.
Pierre was used to these sorts of voices. Tragedies from the past. But this apartment held something new for him. Voices of those whose stories had not yet ended.
He’d first heard the women’s cries when he’d gone to bed on their third night in the apartment. His room was small, with a strange extra closet built into one wall. The landlady had explained that the previous tenant, an architect, had built the closet himself and added a padlock to its door. When he moved out, he didn’t leave her the key to the lock. She was defensive when questioned about the locked door, saying she’d meant to get a locksmith to unlock the closet but we all know how busy life is, don’t we? Not wanting a fight, Pierre’s mother had dropped the issue.
Pierre wasn’t totally sure why the padlock had been left on the door, but he knew it wasn’t for anything good. He’d known that as soon as he’d heard the women’s voices that third night. So many different voices. Pierre couldn’t keep track of them all.
“Help find us, please.”
“Our families don’t know what happened to us. Won’t you help?”
“He killed us. But no one knows. Please, please help.”
Pierre heard the pleas, and he was unable to shake these voices off like he had all the others. Because their stories weren’t over. They needed him to help. But what could he do?
He was determined to find out. Unfortunately, he knew he couldn’t pressure his mother to make the landlady hire a locksmith. If he told her why he needed it to be done, she’d fly off the handle. His parents both thought Pierre's "imaginary" voices were a thing of the past.
He ventured to the library and checked out books on how to pick locks. He’d open the closet door himself. How hard could it be? Pierre had always been a smart boy, and good with his hands. He was sure he’d have no trouble.
He stopped at the hardware store to buy a small lock picking kit. Now he was ready to solve the mystery. As he returned home, he noticed that in spite of his mother’s best care, the white roses were drying out and dying.
Pierre shut his bedroom door and got to work at once on his new project. He tried every suggestion in his books and used all of the tools in his kit, yet nothing opened the padlock. Night after night Pierre heard the voices begging for help. And day after day he tried to pick the look. Nothing worked.
Before he knew it, the summer was drawing to a close and it was time for Pierre and his family to leave the apartment. The voices weighed heavily on his mind. He still heard them, and he knew that there was something they wanted him to see in the closet. Something that would tell their stories
On his last day in the apartment, Pierre sat at the closet door. Frantic, he tried one last time to open the lock.
“Pierre!” his mother called. “We’re leaving. Get down here!”
Pierre sighed and stood up from the floor, staring at the locked door.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I tried.”
He dropped his tools on the floor and let them roll away. There was nothing more he could do now. The mystery of the closet would be someone else’s to solve.
“Pierre!” His mother’s voice had turned shrill.
He ran down the stairs of the loft and went outside with his parents to their waiting cab. As the cab driver pulled away from the curb, Pierre looked up at the empty apartment.
The voices were silent. The window box roses had turned black.
This story is a companion to my WIP called A Windowbox in Paris. It's not part of the book but the adult Pierre is one of the WIP's main characters, as is the apartment. I never intended to write anything about Pierre's childhood though until I started thinking about a story for the October hop.
Big thanks as always to Denise and Yolanda for hosting this great hop. 😊
Oh, creepy! Full of atmosphere and melancholy. Well done. :)ReplyDelete
Sometimes gifts can be an incredible responsibility and burden. This is going to stay with me. Thank you.ReplyDelete
I'm so glad you liked it, EC, thank you!Delete
Wonderful story, such a large burden for someone so young. Very spooky, I can't wait to learn the whole story.ReplyDelete
I'm thrilled that you were led to write this for the WEP via your current WIP. That's why I fell in love with the RFW and now the WEP, the prompts always took me somewhere new and was always a lovely surprise.
Thank you so much for participating! Happy Halloween!
Thank you for hosting, Yolanda! How cool that you have had unexpected stories come out of the prompts too. I am so excited about this because it's given me new inspiration to FINALLY get my butt in gear on my WIP.Delete
Hi Julie - that was excellent and could be so many stories ... tying in to things of the past ... and that closet. I hope you have the rest of the story for us sometime ... and I'd better check the Window Box in Paris ... horrible thought of the roses dying so dramatically ... as he pulled away. A troublesome gift to have ... loved reading it - cheers HilaryReplyDelete
Thanks, Hilary! I hope I can have the rest of the story soon. Fingers crossed. :)Delete
So many nuances to this tale. Well done!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Donna!Delete
Love this story. It really makes me interested in reading A Windowbox In Paris!ReplyDelete
Thanks, MJ! I am so thrilled to read that. I am going to try NaNo again and hope it helps me get the book done.Delete
So sad - those dead souls behind the lock will never get peace.ReplyDelete
Or maybe they will? Thanks, Alex!Delete
A very good story--I want someone to come along to unlock that closet. Maybe that would set the spirits free so they can have peace.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Janie, I appreciate it and I'm so glad you liked it.Delete
That was wonderful...chilling, but an excellent read. I can't wait to read about adult Pierre.ReplyDelete
Oh, thanks, Elizabeth!! I already kind of have a crush on adult Pierre and hope I can get him written the way I want LOL.Delete
Fantastic story. I want to know more. Did he ever solve the mystery of that closet?ReplyDelete
It's such a thrill to read your comment, Olga. Makes me want to hurry and write more. Thank you!Delete
Great story. I'm so curious about the padlock and who is in there. Loved how you ended with the flowers in the flowerbox.ReplyDelete
The dead un-helpedReplyDelete
still lost in pain
for locks was
not Pierre's game
Still what if
did get unlocked
Ooh, fun comment, thanks!!Delete
How sad he never got to open the closet and release the souls trapped in the closet! Great use of the symbolism of flowers, awesome take on the prompt.ReplyDelete
Enjoyed the excerpt, thanks.
Thank you, Nilanjana! So glad you enjoyed it.Delete
All I can say is wow. I'm devastated at the cruelty man does to man. You drew me into the story immediately. Excellent joy.ReplyDelete
I'm so glad you were drawn in, Pat. Thanks so much for your comments!Delete
Wow! This line - "At first he’d assumed everyone could hear the past" - is awesome and perfect. Well done, I'm creeped out now!ReplyDelete
You know how I love your creepy stories so I am thrilled you were creeped out! Thanks so much.Delete
Chilling! I love how Pierre just stops telling the adults about the voices, but he doesn't stop listening to them. And the ending is excellent!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Madeline! I thought that seemed like something a kid would do, just keep it to himself.Delete
So well done, Julie! I want him to go back right now and get that lock picked! That's what made it such a fantastic ending. You pulled me right in. :) Now, let me find your share button...this was too fun not to share with everyone.ReplyDelete
Enjoy the rest of your week!
Aww, thanks for sharing, Elsie!!Delete
I'm so curious as to what is hidden in that closet! I love Pierre's gift, that he hears the past rather than just seeing ghosts. Great idea!ReplyDelete
Fantastic job! Hmmm, I wonder if grown-up Pierre will be so haunted by memories of that closet that he has to return to break that door down...? (Or, um, hire a locksmith. Yeah, that's it. Much more civilized...)ReplyDelete
LOL yeah a locksmith would probably be the better bet but knocking the door down seems more fun. :DDelete
Sad and creepy at the same time. I'd hoped he managed to get the door opened in the end, and now I really need to know who or what's in the closet!ReplyDelete
Very nicely written story. I wondered why the landlady wanted to keep the door locked and why couldn't Pierre get it open, although I worried for his safety.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Deborah, I'm glad it had your interest. :)Delete
Is there more to the story? How do I get your book? I'd love to read more. This drew me right inReplyDelete
Thanks, Birgit!! I am working on the book now and I hope to have it finished by the end of the year. Thanks so much for your interest!!Delete
Great story, I wonder if he kept his ability as he grew older.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Sally. I think he does. ;)Delete
Definitely a Six Sense vibe going on here which is very cool. I love that he doesn't get through the lock. Not releasing the tension makes the story stronger. Great job.ReplyDelete
I'm so glad you liked it, thanks! And I loved the Sixth Sense so that comparison makes my day.Delete
Sure sucked me in. Having him keep it to himself was a great touch. Just like a kid. Some gifts may just be curses.ReplyDelete
Definitely. Thanks so much!Delete
Loved the creepy vibe, and I always enjoy your stories. This was no exception.ReplyDelete
I was totally drawn in and that isn't easy for anyone to do. I read so many chapters from my critique partners I'm always looking for a flaw. I feel very sorry for the dead women and even more sorry for Pierce. To have such abilities and not be believed is terrible. I have a ten year old grandson who tells me everything, not that he hears voices, thank God. Great job.ReplyDelete
Oh, thanks, Nancy! That is a thrill to know you were drawn in. And I'm glad your little guy isn't talking about hearing any voices!Delete
Hi Julie. Sorry it took me so long to limp over here and read your story. I've been trying to come out of my jet lag fug and it's taking too long this time. But anyway, it's quite a good state to read these creepy stories.ReplyDelete
I LOVE this! It also struck me as sad how as parents we can ignore our children's fears. Poor Pierre. So alone with these voices, his not-so-imaginary friends. Of course, the fact that it's set in an apartment in Montmartre where my book is set, helped my enjoyment. The dead roses were a nice touch.
Thanks for a great entry inspired by WEP and written with aplomb.
Thanks, Denise!! I thought the same about Pierre being alone, I think his parents were too self-involved. I need to read your Montmartre book, adding it to my Kindle now. I loved being there!Delete
A most excellent entry, Julie, and I like the idea that you have written it to go with another story. I do side stories on my main science fiction, to explore minor character's backgrounds. I really enjoyed this, well done.ReplyDelete
Oh, that's cool you do side stories like that, DG. This was a first for me but I really enjoyed it so I may try some more. Thanks!Delete
Creepy. Good story! It's fun to explore different times in a character's life, even if it doesn't end up in the book.ReplyDelete
It was fun! Thanks, Melissa!Delete
Love your creepy story. I'm a big fan of little spin off stories, even if they never see the light of day. Helps round out a character in your mind, at the very least.ReplyDelete
That's how I feel about it too, Jay. It rounded out my character in ways I didn't expect. Thanks!!ReplyDelete
Ooh, that was eerie. Excellent stuff, and now I'm very interested in this WIP!ReplyDelete
Great story, Julie! Very engaging. :)ReplyDelete
Thank you, Loni!!Delete
Huge congratulations for the recognition of your amazing talent in the WEP awards. And yes, I am still haunted by this.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much, EC! And congratulations to you again!!!Delete
Oh, wow, I absolutely love this. Such a wonderfully tragic ending. And I'm excited to see that this is actually a companion piece to another project--definitely looking forward to meeting Pierre's character as an adult!ReplyDelete
Oh, thanks, Heather!! I am excited to work on the full story now, going to do it for NaNo. This challenge really helped with my inspiration!Delete
Congratulations on your win - this was such a great tale!ReplyDelete