Tuesday, January 16, 2024

WIP Excerpt: The House at Black Tooth Pond

Not very long ago, I wrote a haunted house story, titled "The House at Black Tooth Pond," for an upcoming anthology, which will be appearing later this year. I've made blog posts about the place I call Black Tooth Pond, which is inspired by an honest-to-God location here in Martinsville (the most recent blog being "Black Friday at Black Tooth Pond," Friday, November 25, 2023). For the story, I combined that real-life setting with another: an ancient, crumbling house my brother and I discovered not far from Martinsville in the early 1990s. I called it the House of Cabiness because, inside the place, I discovered a massive cache of old mail, all addressed to members of a certain Cabiness family. I suspect that place is long gone, since so little of it remained intact even then, but the memory of it has haunted me ever since.

The drawing above is one I did back when Brother Phred and I found the place.

I believe the story makes for a fine stand-alone tale, but the more I contemplated the idea, it felt like one that could be expanded into a full-length novel. So, quite recently, I set about scheming and plotting and plotting and scheming, and I came up with a workable novel project. At the moment, I'm roughly 30k words into the writing, so I thought I'd offer a little excerpt. Here she be:


As Martin sauntered along the walkway, mostly looking at his feet, he heard a deep, booming voice rising above the soft student babble around him. The voice was shouting, “Sinners, take heed! The end times are near! Take heed, all of ye!”

Oh, hell. One of the endless supply of proselytizers that seemed to target the campus more and more lately. They’d always been around, maybe even more so back in his university days, but there recently seemed to have been a resurgence.

The voice came from a huge, black-suited man, with wide, glittering eyes beneath a heavy brow. He stood on the walkway just shy of the stairs to Reynolds Hall. Unless Martin diverted around to the side door, he couldn't avoid walking directly in front of the fellow. In one hand, the man held a thick sheaf of papers—flyers or tracts, no doubt. None of the students passing nearby appeared to take even the vaguest notice of him.

Good for them.

As he approached, he kept his eyes down and walked by without the fellow taking any special notice of him.

Until he reached the stairs of Reynolds Hall. And then the deep voice bellowed, “Beware, Dr. Pritchett, the doom that came to Eden, the country of the snake!”

Martin whirled around, incredulous, and saw the figure standing on the walkway with one arm outstretched, pointing directly toward him.

“Do you not know what you have disturbed, Dr. Pritchett?"

He took a few steps back toward the towering figure. He’d never seen the man before in his life. How could he know his name? Maybe a former student? No. He didn't think so.

But those words. Martin knew them. They came from the pages he’d taken from the House of Cabiness. But no one besides his brother could be privy to what he’d done. No one else could have been out there to see him. Who could possibly know what was written on those ancient sheets?

No one.

No one alive.


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