You’ve no doubt seen romantic relationships in which one side of the couple equation was really feeling warm and fuzzy, and the other side…well, just wasn't that into it.
This is the setup for my short story, “One-Room Schoolhouse: a quiet tale of terror”, which is excerpted below:
Samantha rolled down the passenger window of Dan's black Audi coupe, and laughed into the inrushing flood of warm, Indian summer air.
"I don't see why you always insist on air conditioning when we're driving," Samantha chided him. "The fresh air is so much more invigorating.”
Dan was about to tell Samantha, as he had told her many times before, that he preferred air-conditioning because this was the season in which his hay fever and allergies went crazy. Samantha, he knew, would not listen. She had not listened all those times before.
But that didn't bother him, not really. Nor did he overly mind that he couldn't really afford the Audi, even with his substantial income as an agent at the brokerage. He stole a glance at Samantha, as he so often did when they were together: She had long legs, and long chestnut hair, and her deep tan was beautifully accentuated by the white tank top and khaki shorts she was wearing. During his youth as the diffident son of a factory worker, Dan would never have dreamed that he might someday have a car like this, let alone a live-in girlfriend like Samantha.
As you can see, Samantha represents the fulfillment of a dream for Dan—or maybe multiple dreams. (As the story unfolds, we see that she doesn't necessarily feel the same way about him.)
The couple passes by a reputedly haunted location in the Ohio countryside, the old Lincoln Schoolhouse. Samantha wants to stop by and see it.
The school had reportedly been abandoned sometime during the 1920s, after something unspeakable had happened there.
The accounts varied, but the most common story held that a male teacher had killed two of his young female charges there, shortly before killing himself. After that, the Lincoln Schoolhouse was deemed unhallowed ground, and no longer appropriate as a place for educating the young.
Dan doesn't think stopping would be a good idea. He isn't quite sure what he believes about supernatural forces. He does believe that it wouldn't be wise to tempt such forces—just in case they actually exist.
But, of course, he doesn't want to disappoint Samantha. So they stop at the Lincoln Schoolhouse.
While they are inside the schoolhouse, his resentment mounts, and he has some not very kind feelings about Samantha:
At the front of the room was an elevated platform where the teacher would have stood. Dan supposed that there would have been a blackboard over the front wall behind the platform. But there was only a blank space there now, an irregular, excessively faded patch in the old wood. The furniture that the long-ago children had once used was also long gone.
Underneath the hole in the roof at one side of the room, Dan noticed the head of a pine tree, and some poison ivy poking up from a gap in the floorboards. He had not been wrong to warn Samantha about the reliability of the floor.
When she took a step toward the platform, he said, “Don’t. It might be rotted. And then you’ll fall through and we’ll be in a hell of a fix.”
She rolled her eyes at him and stepped up onto the platform, a deliberate act of defiance. She turned around and looked at him. “See, worrywart: No problem.” She added emphasis by pounding each foot on the boards.
For a brief moment he wished that the floorboards would crack and splinter, maybe not dropping her through (he couldn't go quite that far, even in his mind) but scaring her a bit. Samantha had never been afraid of anything, so far as Dan could tell.
There is a lot more to the story: What does Dan see inside the Lincoln Schoolhouse? Why has Samantha been sending secretive text messages on her phone?
This is a tale of “quiet terror”. There is no horde of rampaging zombies. I like to think of it as a spooky atmospheric piece.
But beyond that, it’s a story of what happens when one half of a couple cares more than the other half.
The short story “One-Room Schoolhouse: a quiet tale of terror” is available on Amazon Kindle for $0.99. (If you are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free.)