The Calm, Quiet Whisper of Graves
By Jeff Baker
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The draws for this month’s Flash Fiction Draw Challenge were a ghost story set in a tulip field involving a key.
The field was quiet, green and dotted with multicolored blooms. Chuck stared at the ornate key in his hand. The house had been here once at the edge of the tulip field in the middle of the Kansas nowhere. The key was all that was left of the house. Now, there was just the land.
“And you’re worth something,” Chuck said. “Maybe oil, maybe farming. Maybe a big hotel with a view of the open prairie.”
Chuck strode out among the tulips, not caring if he crushed any of them. What was it he heard about the house? His distant cousins had left Holland for America in the 1880s; they had built the house and planted the field, intending to raise tulips, and everything had gone wrong. The wife had killed the husband and then herself, or maybe the other way around, nobody was sure. The children had fled, they only found the daughter, and she never discussed what happened. Some of the family had tried living in the house, but had not stayed long; there were reports of strange whispering, odd lights in the house and, in a hastily-scrawled note found on the kitchen table by an aunt who decided to move back to St. Louis after only a week, a reference to “the faces in the flowers.” The house had burned just after World War One.
Stories didn’t bother Chuck. This would be only the latest property he had taken over, by hook or by crook. An oil well would fit well here. It was too bad he hadn’t had this land a month ago; it would have come in handy to bury his cousin when he’d…
Chuck smiled. The tulips did remind him of flowers he’d once seen in a cemetery.
“What the hell?” Chuck stopped and stared. The clear blue of the daytime sky stretched to the horizon, and for a moment it had parted like a fog and he had seen a Victorian house, three stories high with plenty of decoration and an awful purple color of paint. Then it was gone.
Chuck shook his head. He just wanted to inspect the old foundation which he had been told was still there. He took a breath, glanced back at his rental car and walked forward. He heard the crunch, crunch, crunch of his feet in the dirt but stared straight ahead at the blank blue sky. He glanced downward as he walked.
The flowers were bending and moving out of his way. Not uprooting, but still moving of their own volition. It couldn’t be. He stopped and glanced apprehensively behind him, expecting to see a pathway of crushed blossoms. They were standing untouched, undamaged, un-trampled. They were waving in the breeze but he couldn’t feel a breeze but he could hear a breeze. What sounded like a breeze. Whispering.
He looked down at the flowers. What had the old note said about faces? Instead he saw the flowers puckering, saw tongues licking. He began to run back the way he came, it was a shorter distance. But the field stretched on, further than he had ever seen. He dropped the key. He started screaming as he ran.
“Mommy! Come quick! There’s a man out in the tulips!”
Mrs. Van Dall turned and went over to the window, her big skirt making a breeze in the Kansas heat. She looked out the window. Nobody.
“There’s nobody there, Peter,” she said. He stared out the window.
She sighed. She had married for love, but love had vanished when they moved into this house. She hated it here.