Oh, I decided to try something new and challenging, and it turned out to be really fun too. I visited Chuck Wendig’s “Terrible Minds” blog, and got the flash fiction prompt for his weekly writing challenge – using a random plot scenario generator to get a seed for an idea. Once I found one I liked, a story came into my mind straight away. It is 991 words long and is below. (And the prompt follows the story in case you’re curious.) Enjoy!
It all started when I decided to expand my basement. There was a wall blocking off part of the basement; the floor plan showed it was where the building’s old heating system had been. I guess they’d put up the wall to keep people from messing around down there, keep kids from getting hurt.
I wanted the space as a gym, I’m a contractor, and decided to tear it down and make over the space. I’d bought the house a few years ago, before the divorce, as a kind of project. That may be why I ended up divorced, now that I think about it. It’s an old house, built in the 1890s or so. A project house. I’m a kind of quiet person, you understand, and like to do my projects on the weekend and vacations. I’ve replumbed the house and done a good bit of rewiring as well. The wood floors have been refinished. I’ve put in new windows and keep up the yard.
But I digress. The wall I was planning to take out sectioned the basement in half. It was time to tackle the old furnace room and reclaim the rest of my house. The unfinished basement held a workbench, a washer and dryer, a utility sink, and a little room with a toilet. Not much else there but a few boxes and those tiny basement windows.
I had long ago figured out where the support beams were, two sturdy brick pillars marched down the center of the basement; well, one and a half. The second pillar was where the wall intersected the basement. I presumed there was another behind that wall, or I would certainly have had trouble with my livingroom floor by now.
I put in my headphones and turned on my iPod. I readied the sledgehammer and took aim at the weakest part of the basement wall, wound up, and swung. The sledgehammer hit with a satisfactory cha-thunk, scattering chips of brick and mortar. I swung again. This was good work. Satisfying in some elemental way.
Bricks started to fall, at first mostly through the wall to the inside of the room, but once I got a hole in the wall, I could pull bricks to my side too. I was careful because I intended to save as many of the old bricks as I could so I could reuse them around the place.
Manual labor like this puts me right in the zone, and that explains why I didn’t notice at first. The bricks that fell on my side of the wall made a nice clunk, brick on brick I could feel through my boots. But the bricks that fell on the other side of the wall, something felt off, and even with the music on, I knew it. I pulled the plugs out of my ears and pushed another brick through the hole in the wall. The sound of the brick falling was considerably muffled. Strange, but maybe the other side had a dirt floor. Good thing I was saving bricks.
I kept it up a while longer until something different caught my attention. I heard breaking glass. I put down the sledge, and went to the workbench for a flashlight. Maybe there were old bottles or something behind the wall, anything could be there, really, up to and including dead bodies. And don’t think that hadn’t crossed my mind.
I shone the light through the sizeable hole I’d made, and whistled low. This was no unfinished basement. The glass I’d heard had come from the sledge knocking down a framed picture that had been hanging on the other side of the wall in my basement. And that wasn’t all. It was fully carpeted, with nice, expensive looking carpets. There were club chairs, cigar humidors, a pool table, a fully-stocked bar; I was looking at a gentlemen’s club. And the weird thing was, it all looked completely up-to-date. It all looked like it had been in use just yesterday. Hell, I could even smell stale cigar smoke.
I felt like I’d won the lottery.
Later, after I’d cleaned up the brick dust and mortar and evened out the hole in my wall, I was sitting in the dark, comfortably ensconced in one of the leather club chairs, cigar in one hand, some very expensive scotch, no rocks, in the other. I knew if I waited long enough I’d find out who’d been keeping the place so well stocked.
Sure enough, once it had gotten dark, a trap door flipped up beside the far wall, and a tubby little man came puffing through, hauling a clinking paper bag. He didn’t notice me and went straight to the wet-bar, quite familiar with the layout. He lit a gas-lamp on the nearby wall and began unloading his bag. Huh. Apparently the original gas fixtures still worked down here.
I didn’t want to scare the little man, so rather than just start talking, I lit my cigar. The man started, then noticed the hole in the wall.
Turning, he said, “Ah, you must be the, uh, homeowner.”
“Let me explain…”
“No need. I get it, man. You’re married, busy job, busy life…”
“Yeah, a judge. And you needed a place to really relax, right? Really get away from the ball and chain? I totally get it. I do. How’d you find this place?”
“My father and grandfather knew it. Used to be a speakeasy.”
“I will certainly pay you, of course I’ll pay you. You just…you haven’t met my wife.”
“Oh, I’ve been there, man, I understand. But you know you can’t just …”
“I agree! But I would hate to give up my only refuge. You have no idea how much this place has comforted the men of my family.”
“Ha! Well, pour yourself a little something, and let’s get to know each other.”
“Don’t mind if I do.”
(The prompt used for this story was as follows: The story starts when your protagonist tears down a wall. Another character is a judge who wants your protagonist to hide him/her.)