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Home Sweet Home

by Crystalwizard

“I hear tell that there’s treasure hid in that old house. Gold, I heard.”

Mac shot a sideways glance at the short, fat stranger dressed in a black velvet shirt and grungy, yellow-and-black striped pants perched on the barstool next to him.

“Ain’t no treasure in that house.” The bartender smeared a dirty rag around the bar-top. “Rumors is all that is.”

The stranger let out a belch that smelled sickly sweet.

Mac clapped a hand over his mouth and shook his head to clear the sudden buzzing. “Look” — he turned toward the stranger and put a semi-friendly hand on the man’s shoulder — “don’t go messin’ with that empty house. The wood’s eat up, floors are rotten, stonework’s falling off. It’s a death trap.”

The stranger turned dark eyes toward Mac. “I’m just sayin’ what I heared.”

“Well, ferget ya heard it.” Mac picked up his drink and downed it. A rumbling belch forced its way out of his gut, followed by a short coughing spurt.

“Shouldn’t drink good beer so fast.” The bartender took Mac’s glass out of his hand and slipped it into a pan behind the bar. “Go outside if yer gonna be sick.”

“I’m” — Mac cleared his throat loudly — “fine.” He turned back to the stranger, but the bar stool was empty. “Where’d...” He glanced around then shot an accusing glare at the bartender.

“I ain’t got no idea. Don’t blame me.” The bartender set another beer in front of him, and then walked off toward the far end of the bar.

* * *

The full moon cast silvery rays across a deathly silent landscape. Mac swayed as he wobbled down the sidewalk, his thoughts spinning in circles. A light pole ran into his nose with a jarring thud. “Ow!” He glared at the pole, then took firm hold of it and carefully walked around it. The pole didn’t seem to notice, so he let go and continued on.

“Where was... oh yeah. Ain’t no treasure in that house. Ain’t no gold. Ain’t nothin’.” He tripped over a shadow and stumbled several steps before regaining his balance. He attempted to shake his finger at himself but settled on shaking it at the air instead. “If there ain’t no treasure in that house, then how come yer goin’ there?” He grabbed his finger with his other hand, shaking his head firmly. “I aint goin’ there. I’m goin’ home.” His right hand cracked softly against his cheek. “Mac, yer drunk. Home’s the other way.” The sidewalk ended and he stepped abruptly into the street.

“There ain’t no treasure in there,” he muttered as he stood looking at a two-story Victorian house half-hidden by bushes and trees on the other side of the intersection. The moon chose that moment to slide behind a cloud.

A shiver ran up his spine and he peered at the house, but nothing moved.

Yer a fool, Mac. Probably full o’lotsa rats, ’n snakes, ’n who knows what. Let’s go home. Something in the attic window captured his attention. He blinked and stared. Behind the glass, a small, yellow light was moving.

“Someone’s up there,” Mac muttered, squinting up at the window. “That’s a candle sure’s I’m standin’ here. Bet that stranger done gone in there! He’s gonna get hisself killed!”

He turned and looked around at the silent streets. “No cops. Never a cop when you need ’em. Bar’s closed. No lights anywhere... ’cept the streetlights.”

He turned back around and peered at the upper window of the house. The small, yellow light was gone; the house was silent and ominous. He grimaced. “Bet he fell down the stairs... or worse.” He shook his head and sighed. “Can’t leave him. Can’t jest let ’im die.” He straightened his shoulders, took a deep breath, and started across the street.

A low rumble sounded in the sky overhead as he took his third step and the clouds opened. He snarled, threw his hands over his head in a vain attempt to ward off the rain and dashed for the shelter of a large tree beside the old mansion’s half-closed gate.

The rain intensified as he reached the tree, soaking him to the skin. With muttered curses streaming from his mouth, Mac struggled through the gate, fleeing up the long path toward the promise of a dry porch. He only ran into four trees on his way there.

At last, nose smarting, a bruise blossoming over one eye, and both knees aching from the cold and wet, he gained the porch and huddled against the wall. The wind changed, driving the rain in at an angle under the porch roof. Mac snarled, jerked open the front door, and stumbled into the entryway.

Then he stood motionless, staring around. “Gold,” he whispered, awestruck. “There’s gold everywhere!”

Soft light emanated from oil lamps attached to the walls in sconces, glittering off furniture, paintings and various decorations covered in a shimmering, golden substance. Even the walls were coated with gold, wavy in places as if it had been poured from the ceiling.

“The whole dang inside of this place is gold!” Mac’s shout bounced off the walls, echoing into the distance. He gulped and stepped backwards into the door which had somehow closed without his notice. He whirled around and grabbed for the knob. His hand closed around it and stuck.

He tugged, fighting to pry his fingers open then grasped his wrist with his free hand and pulled harder. As he fought to free himself, a faint buzzing sound came to his ears, soft and far away, but rapidly growing louder. As the buzzing intensified, the gold coating the door began to flow up his arm. Mac screamed, but it was cut short by a flood of thick, sticky goo that poured into his open mouth and cascaded into his lungs.

“Sweet?” he thought in surprise; then all went dark as a hundred thousand honeybees broke through the ceiling and lent their stingers to the attack.

* *

[Author’s note: an audio version is available at WRFR, Portland, Maine.]

Copyright © 2012 by Crystalwizard

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