My very first publication in 2005 was a chapbook Flashes of Fiction Poetry & Prose published by a small press. Flash and short fiction of the eclectic variety is a passion of mine even now as I’ve written a full novel. I’ll share old and new ‘flashes of fiction’ from time to time on this page.
This flash story ‘The Spiral Staircase’ was a finalist in the short-edition.com’s ‘Button Fiction’ Spring Contest in 2019.
The Spiral Staircase
“I can’t understand what you want if you won’t talk to me!” April stood in the middle of her bedroom looking at her husband Frank lying on the bed.
Frank pulled the comforter over his shoulders and turned to his side with his back toward April’s side of the bed. “I don’t want to talk.” Frank snuggled into his pillow.
“You come home late and can’t even have a conversation with me? You ignored my texts and phone calls all day. What if it was an emergency?”
“That’s not the point and you know it. Are you getting back at me for not getting the promotion? I thought you were making your peace with that. Dad will see your worth, you just need to pay your dues like everyone else.”
“You could’ve spoken up for me or tried to convince him.”
“That’s not how it works – and you know it. Dad wouldn’t give in to that. Just put in your time and show him you’re an asset. Put in the time.”
“That’s daddy’s girl. You sound just like him.”
“That’s a compliment.”
“I need to get to sleep.” Frank pulled the comforter over his entire head.
“How did we get here?” April’s voice cracks as tears form in her eyes.
“Stop talking!” Frank’s voice was muffled underneath his covers.
“I’ll be in the daybed.” April grabbed her pillow and the small blanket at the foot of the bed. She walked to the daybed on the other side of the large master bedroom.
“Good,” murmured Frank.
Early the next morning, April sat in her bathroom contemplating how she’d talk to Frank. The alarm on her cellphone rang, causing her to jump up quickly from the toilet. She grabbed the phone lying not quite within reaching distance on the far end of the sink.
“God forbid I wake Frank,’ she thought. After the blowout with her husband last night, she needed him to stay asleep for a while. She purposely set her alarm before dawn to have quiet time alone this morning. The vanity lights above the sink illuminated the dark circles under her eyes. She examined her not-quite-fifty-years-old eyes in the mirror. April felt exhausted and slightly depressed. She hoped this rough patch of her marriage would end soon. Frank was picking fights lately for little or no reason.
April tiptoed past the bedroom where sounds of Frank’s snoring could be heard through the closed door. As she approached the spiral staircase that led to the first floor, her mind wandered to the past. The spiral staircase was the first thing about the house both April and Frank would mention when describing their home. The solid oak spiral stairs gave elegance to what she called her dream home. The stairs are as beautiful as the day Frank and I bought the house, she thought. In those early years, April would pretend she was royalty walking down her palace stairs with her fingers lightly sliding down the banisters on both sides.
In her pajamas and slippers, April slowly descended the staircase to the floor below. Before she cleared the last few steps, headlights of a vehicle approaching the circular driveway illuminated the dark foyer at the bottom of the stairs. “Who could be visiting us at this hour? It’s not quite dawn,” April thought. She walked to the door and looked out the peephole and saw a white van parked in the driveway. She turned on the foyer lights. The van looked like the auxiliary vans used for package delivery she’d seen in the area. The vans were unmarked, and the drivers handled the overflow of deliveries for one of the large online retailers. She opened the front door and looked through the window on the storm door and saw a figure walking toward the door. As the figure got closer, she saw it was a woman with a curly brown wig that sat unevenly on her head. She wore an all-black uniform, sunglasses, and gloves which immediately struck April as strange on this late Summer morning. Even so, April unlocked the storm door and held it open.
“I didn’t know there were deliveries this early,” said April looking at the woman in sunglasses. Then, April noticed the woman wasn’t carrying a box or letter.
“I’d like to see Frank,” said the woman.
“Frank? He’s … I’m his wife. Do you have a delivery? I can sign.”
“No delivery. I just need to see Frank.” The woman’s tone was slightly demanding.
“If you don’t have a delivery, what do you want with my husband?” April was annoyed now.
All at once, the woman pushed April and ran into the house. April was almost knocked down on the floor but caught her balance. “What the hell? Get out of my house!” April ran after the woman that was now standing at the bottom of her spiral staircase.
“Frank! Get down here! Frank!” yelled the woman as she looked up the stairs.
“Look, I’m going to call the police. What do you want with my husband?”
“I just want to see Frank.” The woman said in a calm voice as she turned in April’s direction. “And no, you won’t call the police.” The woman reached in her pocket and took out a pistol and pointed it at April.
“Oh, my God!” April put both hands over her mouth.
The upstairs hallway light came on and Frank appeared at the top of the stairwell. He looked down at the two women. April noticed the blank look on her husband’s face.
“Hey lover, come on down here. We need to talk.” The woman had an evil smirk on her face and was now pointing the gun at Frank.
“Frank, who the hell is this?” April glared at Frank standing at the top of the stairs. She didn’t care for a moment the woman had a gun. “She called him ‘lover’!’ April fumed quietly to herself.
Frank didn’t answer right away. After a few seconds, Frank looked at the woman and said, “Hey, what are you doing? Do it now!”
April heard her husband’s words that didn’t make any sense to her. “Frank, what’s going on?”
“Come on down here, Frank!” The woman used the gun to gesture Frank needed to start walking down the stairs.
Frank started down the staircase and stopped after a few steps. “I don’t know what you’re doing but stick to our plan and do it now!” Frank looked at the woman with an intensity April didn’t recognize.
The woman fired three shots. April screamed as Frank fell on the steps and rolled down each step bumping the sides of the staircase as if he were a pinball. His body stopped on the last curve of the spiral staircase. One of Frank’s arms got caught between two balusters. His forearm was facing the opposite direction and bent upwards. April continued to scream and ran up the steps to where Frank’s body was lying on the staircase. He was unresponsive and blood oozed from his head and torso. The woman walked to the front door and slammed it shut. Still holding the gun that was now at her side, the woman stood at the bottom of the staircase looking at April.
“You’ll thank me one day.”
April had a look of terror on her face as she looked at the woman standing at the bottom of the staircase. “Why did you do this?” cried April.
The woman pulled a medium sized envelope from inside her jacket and tossed it up the few stairs at April’s feet. “Frank wanted you dead and had it arranged. He took out a large insurance policy on you. His mistake was hiring one of my associates to take care of me after my job was done. You just can’t trust people anymore, you know? He picked the wrong one, though. Consider yourself lucky. You’re welcome.”
April’s mouth was now wide open as tears streamed down her face. She watched as the woman hurried out the front door. Sounds of the van speeding away outside rang loud in the foyer. Partially in shock, April looked at the lifeless body of her once dear husband. She held Frank’s hand in hers for the first time in months. In disbelief at what happened only moments before, April cried as she sat on the step below Frank’s body. Her eyes moved up the once beautiful staircase that would now and forever be an ugly memory. The aimless blood splatters of the man she loved now tainted the memory of her beautiful spiral staircase.
©2019, 2020 R.H.W. Dorsey
The flash story “Spiral Staircase” was published in Papier-Mâché Dreams: Eclectic Short & Flash Fiction” available on paperback and eBook formats at various online retailers including Amazon here.