Want a snippet to write your own story for? Here’s a fragment of a microfiction in need of an ending. It might even be in need of something more. Think about the following before you start…
- Is this the right viewpoint character?
- Should the story be told in third person or second person instead?
- Is there a disconnect between the title and the bit of text below?
- What would seem to be a natural ending to the story as it exists so far?
- How much longer should this story be?
How can you make this story your own before you end it? As a bonus, below that nub, you will find the start of a published story for you to finish…and then compare to the published version.
THIS PLACE IS FULL OF MONSTERS
I wrote another story late last night. It’s a tiny little one, and it’s very shy. It fits in the palm of my hand and it’s shaky on its legs. The story has large eyes that can see in the dark. It is covered in green fur. It has really large teeth for something so small…Now I’m thinking maybe I’m wrong and it’s not a story at all.
The story gnawed its way into my belly and then crawled up into my head, and now it’s making me navigate my way down the street, giddy and disoriented, shouting, “Make way for the Story! Make way for the Story!”
The tiny story that turned into a creature and invaded my brain sprouted out of the top of my head in a riot of wildflowers and weeds. It was uncomfortable but somehow it felt right. Even the bumblebees circling my head like a halo.
The field of wildflowers and weeds that had sprouted atop my head…this field that had once been a short story…now gave root to a sapling. I soon realized as I tried to balance despite this latest intrusion that the weight would soon be unsupportable. In the meantime, I would need a shoulder crutch that rose into a trellis lashed to the sapling just to walk around. I contemplated wearing a very tall hat to cover it…and then thought tall hats be damned! Let the neighbors see the full glory of my story!
The story that had sprouted from my head in the form of a sapling was restless. So I took long hikes in the woods so it could be amongst its own kind. Me, the sapling, and the shoulder brace with head-trellis that helped support the sapling. But still it grew, and still it wanted more wilderness. So I….
To be Continued by You…
THE THING IN THE HALL[This is the start of a public domain story by a well-known supernatural writer…you can read the full story as a downloadable file at the end of this beginning…once you’ve written your own ending…]
The following pages are the account given me by Dr. Assheton of the Thing in the Hall. I took notes, as copious as my quickness of hand allowed me, from his dictation, and subsequently read to him this narrative in its transcribed and connected form. This was on the day before his death, which indeed probably occurred within an hour after I had left him, and, as readers of inquests and such atrocious literature may remember, I had to give evidence before the coroner’s jury. Only a week before Dr. Assheton had to give similar evidence, but as a medical expert, with regard to the death of his friend, Louis Fielder, which occurred in a manner identical with his own. As a specialist, he said he believed that his friend had committed suicide while of unsound mind, and the verdict was brought in accordingly. But in the inquest held over Dr. Assheton’s body, though the verdict eventually returned was the same, there was more room for doubt.
For I was bound to state that only shortly before his death, I read what follows to him; that he corrected me with extreme precision on a few points of detail, that he seemed perfectly himself, and that at the end he used these words:
“I am quite certain as a brain specialist that I am completely sane, and that these things happened not merely in my imagination, but in the external world. If I had to give evidence again about poor Louis, I should be compelled to take a different line. Please put that down at the end of your account, or at the beginning, if it arranges itself better so.”
There will be a few words I must add at the end of this story, and a few words of explanation must precede it. Briefly, they are these.
Francis Assheton and Louis Fielder were up at Cambridge together, and there formed the friendship that lasted nearly till their death. In general attributes no two men could have been less alike, for while Dr. Assheton had become at the age of thirty-five the first and final authority on his subject, which was the functions and diseases of the brain, Louis Fielder at the same age was still on the threshold of achievement. Assheton, apparently without any brilliance at all, had by careful and incessant work arrived at the top of his profession, while Fielder, brilliant at school, brilliant at college and brilliant ever afterwards, had never done anything. He was too eager, so it seemed to his friends, to set about the dreary work of patient investigation and logical deductions; he was forever guessing and prying, and striking out luminous ideas, which he left burning, so to speak, to illumine the work of others. But at bottom, the two men had this compelling interest in common, namely, an insatiable curiosity after the unknown, perhaps the most potent bond vet devised between the solitary units that make up the race of man. Both — till the end — were absolutely fearless, and Dr. Assheton would sit by the bedside of the man stricken with bubonic plague to note the gradual surge of the tide of disease to the reasoning faculty with the same absorption as Fielder would study X-rays one week, flying machines the next, and spiritualism the third. The rest of the story, I think, explains itself — or does not quite do so. This, anyhow, is what I read to Dr. Assheton, being the connected narrative of what he had himself told me. It is he, of course, who speaks.
“After I returned from Paris, where I had studied under Charcot, I set up practice at home. The general doctrine of hypnotism, suggestion, and cure by such means had been accepted even in London by this time, and, owing to a few papers I had written on the subject, together with my foreign diplomas, I found that I was a busy man almost as soon as I had arrived in town. Louis Fielder had his ideas about how I should make my debut (for he had ideas on every subject, and all of them original), and entreated me to come and live, not in the stronghold of doctors, ‘Chloroform Square,’ as he called it, but down in Chelsea, where there was a house vacant next his own.
“Who cares where a doctor lives,” he said, “so long as he cures people? Besides you don’t believe in old methods; why believe in old localities? Oh, there is an atmosphere of painless death in Chloroform Square! Come and make people live instead! And on most evenings I shall have so much to tell you; I can’t ‘drop in’ across half London.”
Now if you have been abroad for five years, it is a great deal to know that you have any intimate friend at all still left in the metropolis, and, as Louis said, to have that intimate friend next door is an excellent reason for going next door. Above all, I remembered from Cambridge days, what Louis’ “dropping in” meant. Towards bed-time, when work was over, there would come a rapid step on the landing, and for an hour, or two hours, he would gush with ideas. He simply diffused life, which is ideas, wherever he went. He fed one’s brain, which is the one thing which matters. Most people who are ill, are ill because their brain is starving, and the body rebels, and gets lumbago or cancer. That is the chief doctrine of my work such as it has been. All bodily disease springs from the brain. It is merely the brain that has to be fed and rested and exercised properly to make the body absolutely healthy, and immune from all disease. But when the brain is affected, it is as useful to pour medicines down the sink, as make your patient swallow them, unless — and this is a paramount limitation — unless he believes in them.
I said something of the kind to Louis one night, when, at the end of a busy day, I had dined with him. We were sitting over coffee in the hall, or so it is called, where he takes his meals. Outside, his house is just like mine, and ten thousand other small houses in London, but on entering, instead of finding a narrow passage with a door on one side, leading into the dining-room, which again communicates with a small back room called “the study,” he has had the sense to eliminate all unnecessary walls, and consequently the whole ground floor of his house is one room, with stairs leading up to the first floor. Study, dining-room and passage have been knocked into one; you enter a big room from the front door. The only drawback is that the postman makes loud noises close to you, as you dine, and just as I made these commonplace observations to him about the effect of the brain on the body and the senses, there came a loud rap, somewhere close to me, that was startling.
“You ought to muffle your knocker,” I said, “anyhow during the time of meals.”
Louis leaned back and laughed.
“There isn’t a knocker,” he said. “You were startled a week ago, and said the same thing. So I took the knocker off. The letters slide in now. But you heard a knock, did you?”
“Didn’t you?” said I.
“Why, certainly. But it wasn’t the postman. It was the Thing. I don’t know what it is. That makes it so interesting.”
Now if there is one thing that the hypnotist, the believer in unexplained influences, detests and despises, it is the whole root-notion of spiritualism. Drugs are not more opposed to his belief than the exploded, discredited idea of the influence of spirits on our lives. And both are discredited for the same reason; it is easy to understand how brain can act on brain, just as it is easy to understand how body can act on body, so that there is no more difficulty in the reception of the idea that the strong mind can direct the weak one, than there is in the fact of a wrestler of greater strength overcoming one of less. But that spirits should rap at furniture and divert the
course of events is as absurd as administering phosphorus to strengthen the brain. That was what I thought then.
However, I felt sure it was the postman, and instantly rose and went to the door. There were no letters in the box, and I opened the door. The postman was just ascending the steps. He gave the letters into my hand.
Louis was sipping his coffee when I came back to the table.
“Have you ever tried table-turning?” he asked. “It’s rather odd.”
“No, and I have not tried violet-leaves as a cure for cancer,” I said.
“Oh, try everything,” he said. “I know that that is your plan, just as it is mine. All these years that you have been away, you have tried all sorts of things, first with no faith, then with just a little faith, and finally with mountain-moving faith. Why, you didn’t believe in hypnotism at all when you went to Paris.”
He rang the bell as he spoke, and his servant came up and cleared the table. While this was being done we strolled about the room, looking at prints, with applause for a Bartolozzi that Louis had bought in the New Cut, and dead silence over a “Perdita” which he had acquired at considerable cost. Then he sat down again at the table on which we had dined. It was round, and mahogany-heavy, with a central foot divided into claws.
“Try its weight,” he said; “see if you can push it about.”
So I held the edge of it in my hands, and found that I could just move it. But that was all; it required the exercise of a good deal of strength to stir it.
“Now put your hands on the top of it,” he said, “and see what you can do.”
I could not do anything, my fingers merely slipped about on it. But I protested at the idea of spending the evening thus.
“I would much sooner play chess or noughts and crosses with you,” I said, “or even talk about politics, than turn tables. You won’t mean to push, nor shall I, but we shall push without meaning to.”
“Just a minute,” he said, “let us both put our fingers only on the top of the table and push for all we are worth, from right to left.”
We pushed. At least I pushed, and I observed his finger-nails. From pink they grew to white, because of the pressure he exercised. So I must assume that he pushed too. Once, as we tried this, the table creaked. But it did not move.
Then there came a quick peremptory rap, not I thought on the front door, but somewhere in the room.
“It’s the Thing,” said he.
To-day, as I speak to you, I suppose it was. But on that evening it seemed only like a challenge. I wanted to demonstrate its absurdity.
“For five years, on and off, I’ve been studying rank spiritualism,” he said. “I haven’t told you before, because I wanted to lay before you certain phenomena, which I can’t explain, but which now seem to me to be at my command. You shall see and hear, and then decide if you will help me.”
“And in order to let me see better, you are proposing to put out the lights,” I said.
“Yes; you will see why.”
“I am here as a sceptic,” said I.
“Scep away,” said he.
Next moment the room was in darkness, except for a very faint glow of firelight. The
window-curtains were thick, and no street-illumination penetrated them, and the familiar, cheerful sounds of pedestrians and wheeled traffic came in muffled. I was at the side of the table towards the door; Louis was opposite me, for I could see his figure dimly silhouetted against the glow from the smouldering fire.
“Put your hands on the table,” he said, “quite lightly, and — how shall I say it — expect.”
Still protesting in spirit, I expected. I could hear his breathing rather quickened, and it seemed to me odd that anybody could find excitement in standing in the dark over a large mahogany table, expecting. Then — through my finger-tips, laid lightly on the table, there began to come a faint vibration, like nothing so much as the vibration through the handle of a kettle when water is beginning to boil inside it. This got gradually more pronounced and violent till it was like the throbbing of a motor-car. It seemed to give off a low humming note. Then quite suddenly the table seemed to slip from under my fingers and began very slowly to revolve.
Finish the story…then read the original, published version: Benson EF–The Thing in the Hall