It was a dark and stormy night. A typical, though not overused starting line. Why is it not overused? Because it is so typical that as soon as people think of it they dismiss it. There're must've been someone though, that first thought of it. It's quite a nice line though, it certainly sets the scene, which is what any writer should hope to achieve. The atmosphere is already established now, just by that one line. Are you sick of me telling you about that line now? Well, I will stop, and continue with this story.
On this night an owl hooted forebodingly in a nearby vicinity. Mansion in the middle of nowhere perhaps? Or a small cottage with lightning snapping shadows against the wall? Which would you prefer? Well I will take the mansion, you can take the cottage if that's what you want.
Somewhere deep in the darkest depths of a forgotten lagoon, a house stands ready. Ready for what you might be asking, or then maybe you're not. Well this ready, it is ready for this story, ready to be the setting. Now let's go back since it's ready.
Inside this mansion five whole people sit, playing cards by the nearby cracking fireplace. It's narrowed to a room now. Does this story perhaps, fit a particular convention of a genre? Maybe it doesn't, maybe not yet, maybe not ever.
One woman, never into cards, watched the fire grow and dwindle. Oh I am one for interruptions, but are you tired of my interrupting yet? Most likely. Do not fear, I'll try and do my best to not interrupt from now on.
It did not take long for her mind to dwindle with it.
"Mable, it's your turn."
The woman stunted out of her daydreams. "Two threes rummy up." I am sorry but another interruption here. Do you know what game she plays? It is a common enough game for these folk, very unlikely for you. You see, these folks are all made up, this setting, this scene, none of it is real. So this game easily can be common to them. Anything can.
She played the card.
"Darnit Mable how do you also manage to win?" In exasperation a well-suited man threw his cards down.
"Oh James you just need to pay more attention." They all knew Mable's tendency to drift off. "Or you need to concentrate less."
"Another hand? Ethel you in?"
Ethel sighed. "No I think I'd rather go to bed. You should too James, sleep on your luck."
"Why it's barely 10 o'clock. Jonathon?"
This second man shook his head. "I've had my fun for the night." Now, now, this could mean too things. This could be a sign of foreshadowing, that there will be more fun to come. Or it could just be an indication of how Jonathon's feeling. There's still one more character left that you may be wondering about. Well don't worry, they're coming.
All eyes turned to the final person sitting there, waiting for them to say something. "Woof." No they're not a dog, they just like to pretend to be.
"Oh Mark stop being so childish, what are you going to do now?"
Mark paused, an extremely thoughtful pose on his face. "Maybe I'll go for a walk around the grounds. Or maybe I won't." Wondering if anything's going to happen yet? You'll just have to wait and see. Seriously, you will have to wait, I interrupt so much.
"Well if no one's going to play, I'm going to go find something else to do," and James rose quickly and exited the room. Now there's only four people left in the room. Or three people and a man who likes to pretend to be a dog, but had progressed to a cat now.
"I might take suit, see you all in the morning." Ethel exited the room with a graceful air. The wistful stare of Jonathon looking after.
He barely felt the slap on his cheek, only the sting afterwards.
"Stop staring at her Jonathon, remember who you're engaged to." Mable's pointed out swiftly.
"And who's that, the beautiful grace of Ethel has made my fiancée slip my mind."
Mark slipped his arm around Mable's waist. "Don't worry darl, if he won't marry you, I will."
She slung his arm away. "Leave off Mark."
Now does this small conversation mean something? Jonathon is engaged to Mable but finds something appealing about Ethel. Or is that just with all women? Mable is not ignorant to this, and does not pretend to be, and she does love Jonathon. But is he infatuation for other woman becoming too much? Mark, well he could be many things, we're not talking and dogs or cats here. Is he serious, or just having some fun? Keep reading to find out.
Jonathon remained silent, all the while wanting to punch Mark in the face, even though he knew he was just messing around.
Mark could easily see the silent fuming. "Well I'm going for that walk, or then again, maybe not." Exeunt by the funny guy.
Mark walked from the room, leaving Mable and Jonathon alone. Except for this all-seeing narrator that's still watching them. I'm watching everyone, maybe even you…
"Mable I'm sorry, you know it didn't meant anything." Here comes the make-up speech.
"You always didn't mean anything Jonathon."
"You know Mable, if things between us…" What is this secret things that he's trailed off onto. Any guesses? Well I know. Nah, I'm just trying to sound smart aye.
"Well things aren't like that between us, and you know it's never going to be." Mable moves to near the dying fire. "Jonathon, don't you think it's all come too far between us, maybe we should just…"
"What, move things away so that I'm allowed to stare at other women. You know Mable…"
"Well yes, but don't you think people will start to think themselves." Why would people think, I wonder… "We don't want anyone…"
"Don't worry, no one will. Just two more weeks, and then we'll get out of…"
"I'm done after that Jonathon, you hear me. Two more weeks, and then I'm done."
Outside the lightning crackled through the air, releasing the tension inside. Nothing more to say, both Mable and Jonathon left the room, thoughts on each mind. And now all that's left in the fading room is me. Everyone has gone, and here I am alone, on this dark and stormy night. With the lightning, and the shadows…. I gotta get out of here. Quick quick, where can I go. Ethel's being boring, James' sleeping, Mark's being a cow, and the two lovebirds are still only up the stairs. I think this is time to fast forward. xzxzxzzxzzxzxz, walking, snoring, and I said, crow outside could be a magpie, that fogs coming in, a bit of this and that, scream, more snoring, swat away the moths, the fire needs stoking. Wait a minute, was there a scream back there. Give me a moment, I'll go back. zxzxzxzxzzzxxz, gnikots sdeen erif eht, shtom eht yawa twas, gnirons erom, maercs. Scream. There we go there was a scream, let's go there then, screams are always interesting.
Through the snores of Jonathon Mable was the first to hear it. Quickly she shook him awake. "Jonathon, something's wrong."
Ethel heard it from her book, the tense moment building in her mind. It took a few more pages for her to realise the scream wasn't in her book. Quickly she rushed from the room.
At the same moment, they had all bounded to the living room, five people staring quizzically at each other.
"So I guess we all heard it then?" James clarified.
"I think so," Ethel replied.
"Who was it?" James asked. He likes speaking this one.
No one replied, all looking at the other.
"Oh Mark stop being immature," Mable scolded. I'm being to wonder if giving him a tendency to animal noises was such a good idea. But, no, there is no doubt here! Never doubt, always... not doubt!
"I guess no one screamed then. Must've just been outside, it's a bit windy." Jonathon pointed out, swatting away the moths that had come to his face.
They all nodded in agreement, though none were easy to believe.
"It's cold in here don't you think." James shivered.
"Stoke the fire then." Anyone you want could have said that, this one's up to you.
Talking a bit more they all reluctantly went back to bed, each one slipping over the possibilities. It was with quicker reaction that they heard the second scream, and all came tumbling down back to the living room.
"Just getting it out of the way," he said fixedly.
James was looking around, "that was definitely a scream this time, we all heard it."
"Someone must have made it. Whoever's playing this joke stop, it's not funny." Mable said, arms crossed.
"Yeah, fess up."
The room remained silent.
"B-" I think Mark's made enough animal noises for the night.
Ethel was considering. "Maybe it's a ghost."
"Oh don't be silly Ethel ghost don't exist." James returned from stoking the fire. "And they don't scream either, they wail."
"Everyone," James retaliated. "It's common knowledge." If it's that common why didn't I know about it.
"Maybe there's someone here that we didn't realise about."
Ohhhhhhh. This is a crucial point in the story now isn't it. What is this thing that keeps screaming, is it a ghost, or a person, or something else entirely? And what will they do about it? Well to answer a few of those questions, a good narrator always does that right? The thing that keeps screaming is something, or nothing and what they will do about it, who knows? I'm a great narrator right, right? There's many possibilities they could do. Perhaps they'll go searching, perhaps they'll leave it. Perhaps they'll find the secret with Mable's and Jonathon's relationship, or maybe why Mark likes making animal noises? Perhaps they'll find something to do with Ethel, or (and this is the biggest of them all), maybe they'll find how James' can win that card game? Whoever knows, whoever knows. Well actually, it is possible to know, you just got to read on, ain't that a simple thing to do. Buckle your seatbelt folks (if you are in a car, please, do buckle your seatbelt), and enjoy the ride.
"It's probably just the wind," Jonathon put it. "It's bucketing outside."
"This was a scream Jonathon, and we all know it," Mable said.
It was Ethel's turn to look around. "Yes, well, we never-" You know what, this story is getting too long. I've got to do something about that. Oh I know what. And anyway, weren't we always told to leave on a cliff-hanger.
You wake up and it's all a dream.