Short story mystery – the Conclusion
This is the final chapter of my online journey to write a complete short story. Short stories are different from novels. They can range from 1000 up to 15,000 words. However, most publishers prefer between 1000-5000 words.
I have been working on various short story ideas for quite some time. This one ended up being 4032 words in its complete format. I hope my journey has inspired you to try your hand at your own short story too! If you missed the beginning of the story, you can find it here. Without any further ado, enjoy the final chapter.
Short story mystery – Part 3
It’s been roughly 24 hours since the wallpaper “incident” as Jewel now refers to it being. She was more motivated than ever to begin stripping off that hideous light green wallpaper. She had a sense of urgency to get it done. For some reason, she felt if she didn’t, there would be some horrible consequence to leaving it alone.
They had been sleeping in one of the other bedrooms, as Jewel could not allow herself to be vulnerable in the master suite while sleeping. She continued to hear the voices down the hallway, but Marco stated he did not. This was not reassuring, as Jewel was starting to think she was going mad. But she knew she wasn’t. She knew what she saw and heard.
One morning Jewel decided maybe more fresh air would help clear her mind. They were on 5 acres after all. She decided after breakfast to take a nice walk across the lot to the cabin where the prior owner lived.
She hadn’t even thought of it until today. She decided to snoop around and start cleaning it up. She grabbed several trash bags and told Marco her plans. He had been working from his home office and decided he too needed a break. So they headed out together.
It was a brisk walk across a tree-laden lot. It was relatively flat and easy to maneuver. They saw the cabin in the distance. It was an actual log cabin with a wrap-around porch and chimney. There were 3 steps to climb to the cabin door, which was unlocked when they tried to open it.
The inside looked just as Lewis had left it. An old worn sofa from the 1990s was next to his light blue Lazyboy recliner. A throw was draped over the back of the couch waiting for someone to be wrapped up in its warmth.
The fireplace across the room of the sofa still had the ashes from the last time it burned. Hunting magazines were strewn on his coffee table with older issues in the magazine wrack beside the recliner.
It was an open floor plan as the kitchen could be seen from the sofa. Not a dirty dish in sight. On the far right of the room were two doorways. One led to a bathroom, the other to a hallway. We followed the hallway down where another 2 rooms were located.
His bedroom was to the left and his home office to the right. We felt the need to go through his desk and files, more to see if he left anything behind that needed to be dealt with appropriately.
Jewel noticed a built-in bookshelf along the opposite wall of the door. She ran her fingers along the edge as she perused the titles. Then her eyes stopped. She found a ledger lying flat with the cover labeled “house tenants”. Intrigued, she picked it up and started flipping through. “Marco! Is this book showing all the people who lived in our house?” “Let me see” he answered.
He took the book and started reading through it. He went page after page, his jaw gaping more with the turn of every page. The book was dated from 1981 to the current year. “Jewel, this makes no sense. According to this ledger, he had a new tenant rent that house every month, some within weeks of each other!”
“You mean someone would go through all the hassle of moving in, only to stay a month or less? It’s not like this is the prime location to constantly house transient workers. It doesn’t make any sense”.
After a considerable pause, Jewel softly commented “maybe it does make sense”. Marco looked at her, shook his head, and said “no, there is nothing wrong with that house”. Jewel took the ledger and returned it back where she found it.
Without saying anything else, they left the cabin and walked back up to their house.
They had borrowed a wallpaper steamer from Marco’s brother. The equipment was in great working order. It was time to breathe deep and just get started.
With some hesitation, she entered the master bedroom. It felt warm and inviting. The walls were silent. She stood in the middle of their bedroom and slowly surveyed the walls. The sun was brightly pouring in from the large windows casting warmth along the faded designs of the wallpaper.
It all looks so harmless with its vintage patterns and lackluster colors. She decided to start on the wall directly across from the windows, as it held the greatest light reflection and warmth from the sun.
She stood on a step-ladder and held the steamer towards the top of the wall at the wallpapers’ edge. As she triggered the steam, hot droplets of water started dripping from the device, a residual from the puffs of steam into the wall.
Almost as soon as she turned on the steam, she started hearing a loud ringing in her ears. It was almost a painful, high-pitched ringing. She turned off the steamer and grabbed her earplugs. Once in place, she started up the steamer once again.
At first, it was going well. She slowly moved the steamer up and down in short increments, then used her putty knife to slowly scrape off the paper. She was impressed with herself as she stripped an entire row from ceiling to floor in only a matter of minutes.
The empty wall behind was yellowed plaster but in surprisingly good condition. It felt great to get rid of that horrible paper, but for some unknown reason, she started feeling nervous.
She stood on her ladder and began the same process again. She soon realized it was taking her twice as long to do the same amount of space. It was almost as if the wallpaper was gaining strength in texture. As the steamer rolled over it, she was losing control of it lying flat against the wall. “What the eff is going on?!” Jewel said to herself.
She buckled in tighter this time and pressed the steamer harder against the wall. It was obvious now that the wallpaper was becoming more and more resistant. At first, it was just a minor annoyance, but it soon became clear that the wallpaper was fighting back.
It was unforgiving and increasingly difficult to remove as if it were clinging to the wall for dear life. She tried using more tension and pressure to scrape it off, but it only became more difficult.
Then in an instant, it happened. The wallpaper finally came alive. The whispers that had been haunting her for weeks were back, louder than ever. The whispers were gaining strength in volume, yelling at her to stop the stripping!
The wallpaper started wrapping around the steamer and putty knife. They were trying to smother her tools! Jewel grew increasingly determined. She was not going to lose her grip! Unexpectedly, she felt something wrap around her leg, tripping her off of the ladder. She crashed down hard onto the floor, hitting her head in a loud bang. The room was spinning, the voices were angry. She was so confused and terrified.
As she lay on the floor, she felt as though the walls were closing in on her. The voices were shouting “get her!” while others were yelling “get up! get out!” Then she heard Marco’s voice, yelling “Jewel! get up!” He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Jewel was lying on her back on the bedroom floor with her hands covering her ears while screaming “help me!”
Marco tried to run towards her but was stopped by the walls! As he tried to enter the room, the bodiless heads from the wallpaper started darting forward, sharp teeth chomping loudly, trying to take bites from his face. “What the fuck?!” He yelled for Jewel to get up and run, but his screams were intercepted with countless attacks on his face and body.
Jewel finally looked up towards Marco and saw his face was bloodied as he still tried to push towards her. Jewel’s screams echoed in his head as he watched in horror as she started being dragged across the floor by some invisible force.
She managed to roll over onto her stomach and tried to grip the floors with her nails. She screamed for Marco who was now on his knees, fighting off the heads from the wallpaper, in total shock and terror.
Jewel was being dragged towards the wall, where she knew she would end up stuck forever, immersed among all the other nameless faces. As her feet touched the end of the floor and slammed into the wall, she felt teeth biting into her ankles and hands grabbing her legs. She looked behind her and saw the wallpaper wrapping around her legs, creeping towards her torso.
The voices were yelling curses at her for trying to destroy them as they pulled her in closer. She looked back towards Marco who was still on his knees, groping at his bloodied face, one eye half popping out of his socket, the other swollen shut. She screamed for him as her body was burning as she twisted and melted into the wallpaper. Marco took a final leap towards her, grabbed her outstretched hands, and held tight.
Jewel’s screams started to fade as did her grip, but Marco refused to let go. As he started to blackout, he felt the burning of his hands and the invisible force pulling him towards the edge of the room. His last feeling was of his skin melting into the paper.
The next morning the sun was shining brightly into the room. It was neatly decorated and looked as though no one had slept in it in weeks. There was a wallpaper steamer sitting on the floor next to a putty knife, but neither one looked like it had been used.
The vintage light green wallpaper was tightly in place as if it had been newly installed. As the day progressed and the sunbeam changed its focus and intensity on the walls, one can see start seeing hidden shapes within the antiquated patterns. Some might even say they look like faces.
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That’s a wrap!
I hope you enjoyed this adventure. Even though this exercise took longer than I had planned, I still finished with an entire short story completed. If you want more information regarding how to get started writing a short story, visit Jerry Jenkins, he spells it out really well. Feel free to leave any comments below. I wish you well with your writing adventures!