This was a little tidbit that has been sitting in my brain for a while. I have been trying to work on a new aspect of my writing with each piece. This time I wanted to focus on the descriptive pieces and making my dialogue stand out. I wanted to find a different kind of balance. It took me a while to have it feel ready to go. I separated out the two focuses for myself which helped me see what works in each and what doesn’t.
It might be a quick story, but I hope you all enjoy!
Every step could be heard moving forward. The world was ominously quiet. Nothing moved without help from the wind, and nothing made any noise except for feet hitting the ground. One foot at a time the sound lent itself to the world. Dirt and dust kicked all around as the breeze turned into a powerful wind. Buildings could barely be made out in the shadows and as the feet falling got closer noises could be heard. The no name town was the one the world had been looking for.
There was a piano playing, glasses clinking, and voices singing out in joy. It was a celebration of sorts. There was a clarity as the wind seemed to just vanish. The buildings were old. Wooden homes and businesses lined the one small main road. The windows were all broken. Some cracked, some with holes through them, and some completely shattered. There were no lights inside any of the structures.
The music and laughter got louder until a fight could be heard breaking out. The footsteps moved closer to where the sound erupted from and as the swinging doors were pushed open the music cut out and dust and sand swirled around an empty and broken down old bar. Bar stools were laying on their sides or broken and missing legs, old jugs sat still open on the bar or tipped over with nothing able to get free of them, the tables were destroyed. The piano however, sat there, dust covered and beautiful.
The traveler, a woman of thirty, stood in front of the piano and let her slender fingers run across the keys. As she pushed the first key down the whole place filled with a breeze and erupted in sound again. She stopped and looked around with deep brown eyes assessing her surroundings. There wasn’t anyone there, but the noises kept growing. She hit a few more keys and once she stopped the air stilled again. The entire small town came alive and died within those moments.
The woman grabbed a closed bottle from behind the bar and carried it with her throughout the building. The stairs groaned beneath her as she moved up each stair. The hallway was stuffy enough to force a few short coughs from her. She felt a difference in the atmosphere from downstairs to upstairs. Her skin hummed as she passed a few doors with sounds of creaking beds behind them. She touched the old door knob and the sounds all stopped immediately. She found the brothel. She wasn’t sure where it would be, or how she got here in this hallway, but she found it.
“Hello?” Someone had to respond. Someone had to be there with her. The furthest door at the end of the hall opened and slammed shut. Her heart was racing and she backed up to the stairs. She turned to look down the stairs and take that first step and felt an aggressive shove hit her on the shoulder blades forcing her to roll down the stairs. Her head hit the railing and her ankle caught between the wooden bars and gave a quick pop. Once the world stopped spinning she freed her ankle, sat up, and tried to wipe the blood from her forehead onto her jean jacket. All that was really accomplished was sand in a cut, a foot she couldn’t get out of her boot, and the full feeling from the fall hitting her rapid fire.
“All I said was, ‘Hello’” She grunted as she pulled herself up. She looked to the bar only to find a clean bar rag. She wiped her forehead and looked around once more before heading back onto the main road.
The next stop was the small doctor’s office. There were flat tables with deflated pillows that wouldn’t do much good anymore. Cabinets that had been ransacked and emptied with a vial or two unmarked left behind. Metal instruments lay scattered on the floor next to torn up journals and photos that were drawn for research. There wasn’t much there that would help her now, hundreds of years later, but she thought she would give it a try.
When she got a closer look at the journals she realized that there was something in this town. Something came for these people. A sickness that couldn’t be fought. An evil that had consumed this place. No one who was here had left or been found again, so where did they go? They had to be here somewhere. If she had read her family history right then someone had survived otherwise her family wouldn’t have made it this far. All she could feel was that someone didn’t want her there.
There was a house tucked back from the main row. It was small. The place looked frail, as if a gust of wind could blow it over. The front door was hanging on by one hinge. The window next to it had a hole straight through the bottom panel. Someone had tried to break into this place before. Her fingers ghosted the broken glass and she moved to kick the door the rest of the way in. The smell of death hit her in the face making her reel backwards slightly, but her determination was strong. She wanted answers. She needed answers.
There was one large room that looked like a studio flat. It was all in one room. The ash from the firepit had been blown out into the room, but the wind had carried the sand and rubble in. There was a layer of dust that seemed to be an inch thick. She pushed her finger through a little and then wiped it off on her jeans as if trying to take measure. She looked to what seemed to be the kitchen next. There were old dishes strewn about and any trace of food had been cleared out. Probably coyotes, or whatever creeped its way in. The bed was made of mostly wood with nothing soft to lay on. It looked like it had been stripped and carried out for whoever needed it.
An old black and white family portrait lay on the ground in a gold oval frame. It was broken straight down the middle. There was a little girl on her mother’s lap. She had light hair and eyes. The little boy stood to the right of them with dark hair and dark eyes. The father was towering above them all looking like a cross between a cowboy and something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. He almost seemed sinister. It seemed like he was the one hiding behind the pictures. His wedding ring seemed small for the man wearing it. As she stared at it the glass shattered up at her. A small shard cut her cheek and another her forehead. She set the photo on the old table in the middle of the room and continued to search.
After what felt like hours of searching, she stumbled upon an old book. It had a black leather cover and the pages had been browning over time and being open to the elements from outside. She ran her hand over the cover a few times before sitting on the old bed of dust. As she flipped through the pages slowly she began to realize it wasn’t just a book, but a journal. She stumbled upon a piece of truth that someone had been here.
“They took the bare essentials, but they left what meant the most?” She flipped to the next page, “Why?” She shoved the small journal into the hip of her jeans for safe keeping and moved on checking all the nooks and crannies.
After some time the sound of glass being knocked over came from out back. She cautiously made her way outside. She wasn’t sure who or what she would find there. The last thing she expected was a man, no more than twenty-five, sitting on a barrel whistling to himself. It took her a moment to notice his clothes. The were definitely old. They had to be two hundred years old, at least. He looked over and eyed her clothes as well.
“Hello.” She approached him cautiously trying to take the friendly approach. She had a pistol with salt filled bullets and an iron chain at her waist acting as a belt just in case.
“Hello’.” Something was familiar. “Who’re you?” He leaned forward on the barrel towards her.
“Brylee.” He took in her appearance and stopped at her eyes. He held her gaze for a minute before extending a hand.
“Connell.” There was a prickling that started on the back of her neck and worked its way down as she shook his hand. There was no way this was real. “What brings you here?”
“Trying to figure some stuff out.” She felt the journal burning at her hip.
“This wouldn’t be the place to do that. People who come to figure things out search forever.” Brylee moved to lean against the house. Connell to her right still on the barrel.
“Like you?” He let out a chuckle.
“Yeah. Like me.” She took a breath of what she thought would be fresh air, but it was wrong somehow.
“What do you mean people search forever?” He looked her up and down before looking out at the barren land beyond.
“I came here looking for my family, fell asleep, and have woken up looking every day since.”
“Your wife?” He let out a hardy laugh before stifling it quickly and looking around.
“My little sister. No wife.”
“Oh, sorry. I shouldn’t have jumped to that.” He looked at her with a raised brow. “I shouldn’t have jumped to a conclusion that might or might not be false.” He nodded and continued staring.
“What exactly are you looking for?” The journal burned again.
“History.” She looked down and kicked a small pebble that she had been playing with. “Family ties.”
“No one has family ties here.” She smirked at that. It was a bold assumption for someone who hadn’t left here himself.
“I do.” She finally pulled the journal out and showed it to him. “Somehow this journal and that photo in there… I know I was meant to find it.”
“You were meant to find it, but were you meant to leave with it?”
“What do you mean?” He pointed down to the bar where the door was swinging in and out.
“How’s your head doing? Still hurting?” She couldn’t feel any pain. She just assumed that she walked it off. Then she looked at her ankle and it was as if the oversized ball wasn’t throbbing anymore. She dropped the journal and took off for the bar. When she got there she looked down to the floor to find drag marks. She tried to follow them but someone grabbed her arm. Connell pulled her back out on the street.
“You shouldn’t go there.” Brylee pulled back and took a few steps towards the door again.
“Where do those marks lead?” He shook his head trying to spare her what she already knew.
“It would be best to leave it alone. They aren’t so kind to the newcomers.” Brylee walked out of reach.
“I need to go.” Brylee took off at a run the way she came into town, but when she made it to the wall of dirt, dust, and sand she walked through only to be staring straight at Connell.