2017 minus 55: The Fireplace

Posted: 7 November 2016 in 2017 minus, elephantwords, fiction
Tags: ,

As I’ve mentioned previously:

Elephant Words was a fiction site to which I contributed stories, on and off, for several years. The idea behind the site was simple, based on the old tale of several blind people describing an elephant based only on touch; one described the animal as a long snake, another that it was hard and bony, still another that it was like a tree trunk. Every week, one of the participants would put up an image, and over the following week, people would write a story inspired upon the image alone.

Occasionally, a story didn’t need the image to contextualise the tale, but I always tried to use it to the point that if the image wasn’t there, I’d have had to change something about the story.

Here’s another one of them; an image, and the story it inspired me to write.



“You know there are two bodies behind the fireplace, don’t you?”

She didn’t wait for an answer, but pressed back a blond hair or two that had escaped from behind her ear and then pulled her mini-skirt straight. The tale of the dead bodies was apparently well known to the locals, and indeed, the real estate agent had made it clear to us with unfettered glee as soon as we’d entered the cottage.

“Oh yes,” she’d said, grinning in a manner that seemed almost malicious and pointing. “She was walled up right there. Right along with himself.”

We’d shown the required polite astonishment and after that, she’d needed little encouragement to tell the story.

“It was eighty-three years ago,” she began, and it was obvious she’d told the story many times before.

“Eighty-three years ago,” she repeated, “there was a couple who lived here. A doctor and his wife.”

She paused, and I nodded, friendly but not overly so.

“Well,” she paused. “Some say, you know, that she wasn’t actually his wife, but his mistress, but that was never proved. Anyway,” she took a breath, “one day he caught her with her lover – a local lad – so he bludgeoned them, sliced their veins and then walled them up before they’d died. He told the whole village they’d run away together, but everyone knew.” She looked pointedly at us and said the word again: “Everyone,” she emphasised.

“Really?” I asked, and looked at my watch, showing how mildly bored I was.

“Oh yes – and then six years ago, the police forensics people checked out the wall with their new special equipment and… well, there they were, the two of them.”

We looked at the wall. And shivered. Behind that wall were two bodies. Two bodies who had died horribly injured, a race between bleeding to death and starving.

I could feel the sudden cold and I wondered whether any of the rest of the story had survived; how he’d cursed the two of them before walling them up.

And suddenly we were outside, and a woman was coming towards us, finishing her conversation on some piece of plastic and metal. She snapped it shut, then tossed back her long raven hair and smiled at us.

“Mr and Mrs Jones? You’re here to look at the cottage yes?”

She opened the front door with a large metal key and gestured around the room, ending – as I knew she would – by gesturing at the fireplace.

She paused, giving us a conspiratorial look.

“You know there are two bodies behind the fireplace, don’t you?”

© Lee Barnett

See you tomorrow, with something… different. I’m not quite sure yet, but it’s Election Day in the US, so I’ll try to make it something a bit lighter in tone. I’ll try, anyway. 

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.


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