The Cassette

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about a mysterious letter and a hidden past...

Submitted: May 02, 2009

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Submitted: May 02, 2009

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The sea smashed into the cliff, tirelessly hurling itself against the rocky outcrop. Far above, a solitary house sat perched precariously on the edge. As the seagulls swooping round watched, part of the cliff tumbled off. The house gave a mighty lurch, then was still.
 
*
 
Richard set down the letter with a puzzled sigh. It had come in the mail yesterday, but he had only just noticed it today as he left for work. Now it lay impassive and aloof in front of him, its simple message staring at him defiantly.
 
Richard Lumley was an expert on 18th Century buildings, particularly official ones such as courtrooms and government offices. He had an average job at the local university, and was a member of the Chess Club. His father and mother had died while he was a child, involved in a riot. They had both been police officers, rising stars. He knew little of his past, as the government had immediately taken many documents shortly after their deaths. He sat, reflecting on how little he knew of his family and himself.
His parents had occasionally, in their angrier or gloomier moments, mentioned two relatives-cousins? uncles?- who they had had to arrest themselves. Richard was only a kid- he hadn’t really listened- but he had sensed that these relatives had really never forgiven his parents. He shook his head, as if to clear the memories.
 After a few minutes he looked at the letter again:
 
Dear Richard,
We would like to invite you to our house on the coast for the weekend. You may not remember us, but we’ve always been watching you. And waiting for this day to come.
Hope you can make it
Your Cousins
PS The directions are attached
 
It was anonymous and vaguely unsettling, yet Richard found it had an irresistible attractionabout it. Despite himself, he wanted to go. As he walked to his car on Saturday morning, he saw himself as if from the outside. In a trance, he stumbled inside and clumsily fumbled with the ignition. And drove.
As the hours passed by, the landscape grew ever more desolate and barren. The haunting cries of the birds occasionally punctuated the dead silence. Richard stared at the bleakness surrounding him. It looked like cheese grater’s surface, with regular pits and numerous crags rising out of the godforsaken earth. The sky was washed out, a dull dishwater grey with a hint of tension in its murky heights. Dark shapes glided across the land, only visible out of the corner of the eye.
The sun even seemed to lose its bright power in this wasteland, merely casting shadows, hiding more than it revealed and emphasising the almost alien make up of the ground and sky as they blended together in grey.
As the sun began to set, Richard found the house. He stared uneasily at it. It looked as if it had been deserted for some time and seemed, frankly, dangerous. Richard walked up to the front door, which was ominously ajar.
‘Hello?’ he shouted nervously.
Then he screamed as a flock of seagulls, frightened by his cry, barged out and flapped over his head, clawing at his hair and shoving their wings in his face. He staggered back, as the last of the creatures soared away. Picking himself up, he staggered into the abandoned house.
‘Help?’ he whined. ‘Anyone?’
Richard looked around the living room. It was caked in bird droppings, and all the furniture was ripped and filthy. He moved onto the next room. Suddenly, the house gave a shudder and tilted on its side. Richard was propelled into another room. As he lay on the mouldy floor groaning, he espied a cassette player on a table. He groped towards it. The cassette said, ‘Play Me’.
Finally! An explanation for the madness Richard was going through! He shakily inserted the tape inside. As he listened to its contents, his bruised face became more and more pale. He stared aghast at the middle distance. The tape clicked to an end. Startled, he rushed to the diagonal door just a final boom shook the structure. Richard was tumbled around like a lottery ball, and his last sight before he hit the water was a cable, connected to he knew not what.
*
A week later, two neighbours came up the slope to find nothing left but a few timbers and a solitary cassette. As they packed it into their bag, Joanna Lumley remarked to her husband,
‘I always said it was a death trap, that old prison…’


© Copyright 2020 underwood. All rights reserved.

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