Hello everyone and a warm welcome to PART 10) of the entries for my weekly: “Fiction in A Flash Challenge” Week #15. Today I’m featuring a contribution from Roberta Eaton Cheadle
Last week I set the following Challenge:
Hello everyone and welcome to my new “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week I’ll be featuring an image and inviting you to write a Flash Fiction or Non-Fiction piece inspired by that image in any format and genre of your choosing. Maximum word count: 750 words.
Here is the image prompt.
This contribution By Roberta Eaton Cheadle.
Rex Bacon was a real person and he did die as described in the book. His ghost is said to haunt one of the inns in Bungay. I fictionalized the circumstances surrounding his death in this extract:
THE MAN UNDER THE STAIRS
As he set off along the pathway towards the town, Rex Bacon could feel the rage building inside him. It was a balmy summer afternoon and it was Saturday. He had finished his milk deliveries in record time and had a rare half afternoon free.
“Alfie saw them going up the stairs to the bed chambers,” Tom had said. “It’s not the first time he’s known them to meet at the Inn.”
All along the path, the wildflowers grew in a profusion of bright colours: blue, purple, yellow and white. Breathless, from his tightly constricted chest and fast pace, he remembered the last early afternoon he had walked this path. He had bent down to gather a colourful bouquet for Katheryn, binding them together with the pink ribbon he kept in his pocket for this purpose.
At the top of the rise, he stopped. The woodlands fell away on both sides of the path. On the right he could see the town including the two Market Crosses, St Mary’s Church, the Grammar School, and all the principal houses and shops that comprised the town centre, and on the other he could see his cottage – their cottage. It was tiny and ramshackle, but it was theirs. It looked just the same as it had that morning when he left home before the sun rose. There was no difference, none at all.
He swiftly descended the slope and walked to the door, the summer crickets jumping around his shoes. “Katheryn,” he shouted as he entered the one roomed cottage and stopped. A part of him hoped she would be there, that it was all an elaborate lie. She wasn’t.
Rex walked over to the pegs inside the cottage door and deliberately took down a coiled rope. He bent and grabbed a couple of the sharpened stakes he had leaned against the wall, in readiness for the weekend’s planting. Slinging the rope over his shoulder and with the stakes held loosely in his hands, he stepped through the doorway and closed the door gently behind him.
Ø Ø Ø
“Well, this is a surprise,” a harsh voice rasped.
Katheryn sat up in the bed, her dark eyes wide with shock. The blanket was pulled up over her chest and her shoulders, plump and white, rose above it. The young man lying next to her in the bed also sat up. He had a mop of vibrant and lustrous dark hair. His cheeks were flushed and his naked skin glowed with vigour and life.
“Rex,” said Katheryn. Her voice was soft and timid. Rex’s eyes rolled in their sockets, filling with hideous rage.
An inhuman force seemed to have taken over his mind, roaring in his ears, commanding him to destroy the figures in the bed. He lunged forward.
“Don’t!” whispered Katheryn. Her lover’s face drained to an ashy white. He had not moved but was whining, deep in his throat. The sound seemed to go on and on.
Rex’s eyes locked with the man in the bed as he drove the sharpened end of the stake into his neck. The man’s attempt to shout out was cut off as Rex wrenched the stake free and a fountain of blood poured from the resultant hole. The body toppled slowly sideways.
He turned to Katheryn, sitting frozen with shock and horror, and drove the stake deep into her heart. She gasped, and her eyes rolled back in her head as she died instantly.
Ø Ø Ø
Richard looked up as Rex, huddled in an enormous coat despite the warm day, walked into the hall and sat down at a rough wooden table in the corner.
“Strong ale, Rex?” he called. Normally customers had to approach the counter to order but, as the hall was empty at this time of the afternoon, Richard didn’t mind taking Rex’s mug over to him.
Setting his drink down on the table, Richard noted the younger man’s darkly glittering eyes and straight, unsmiling mouth. He watched Rex overtly as he drained his mug.
“Are you okay?” Richard asked. Rex smiled, a horrible twisted smile, and looked at him out of eyes that looked years older than his actual age.
“I’ve had some bad news. It will pass. All things pass in the end,” he replied.
Richard was to recall these words later.
Ø Ø Ø
Thirty minutes later, Rex left the hall. Picking up an ale barrel that stood discarded in the entrance, he walked purposefully towards the stairs that led to the upstairs chambers. It was dark and dingy in the narrow landing at the top of the stairs. Shrugging off the dead man’s coat, he exchanged it for the coil of rope he had hidden there earlier. His shirt and trousers were a mess of blood.
He bled like a stuck pig, thought Rex as he threw the rope deftly over the heavy wooden ceiling beam. Reaching up, he grabbed the end and threaded it through the loop he had made on the opposite end. He pulled gently and the loop ran up the length of the rope and drew tightly around the beam. Standing back, he admired his efforts.
The barrel shook as he clambered onto it. He formed the loose end of the rope into a noose and placed it over his head. Closing
his eyes he pictured Katheryn, his darling, and kicked out his legs. The barrel wobbled and fell over.
Death did not come easily. The drop was short and Rex dangled helplessly from the end of the rope as it compressed his trachea and the arteries and blood vessels in his neck. The excruciating pain was unexpected as his survival instincts took over and his body struggled for air against the compression of the noose and the weight of his own body.
As the darkness descended over Rex’s mind, he heard a voice calling, “Rex, look at me, Rex.” It took all of Rex’s will power to focus on the apparition in front of him. Thickset and powerful, the monster had vicious teeth and claws. Its eyes struck terror into Rex’s fading heart. The glaring, red eyes were the last thing Rex recognised as he slipped into unconsciousness.
Ø Ø Ø
His heart blackened with rage and resentment as his spirit hovered above the stairs, listening to the black dog’s convincing lies and watching his body being roughly hacked down. The naked bodies of Katheryn and her lover had already been discovered and the men were making ribald comments about Rex and his inability to satisfy his wife’s needs. The glowing red light that flowed up from the depths of the Underworld faded as Rex shambled after his new master.
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