This house appeared every year for three days. Why did it do that and where did it go?
Once Every Year
A Short Story
Jasmine Landon brought a microphone up to her lips as she turned toward a large street. “As you can see, this street looks completely normal, but soon there will be a lighted house here.”
“Every year on this day, this lighted house appears,” continued Jasmine as she spoke into her microphone. “No one knows where it comes from and where it goes in three days from now, but when it does leave it takes whoever is in there with it.”
Jasmine’s smile was mostly hidden by her lips behind the microphone in front of them. “I will be one of those in there when it leaves this year.”
“If I will be leaving with it. This has been happening for almost two hundred years, and about two thousand people have left when it left over these years. A whole lot of them extremely young teenagers.”
“For a long time, the rumors have been these people are alive, and they are in that house every time to return here. That’s why I’m going in there. To show everyone they are still alive.”
Jasmine looked at her watch. It read four ‘til three. “In less than four minutes it will arrive. Something else we don’t have a reason for. Why does it appear at exactly three pm and leave at the same time three days from now.”
“Mostly what I’m going in there for is to verify that all these people are alive, but that’s not the only reason. I’m also doing it to get them all out of there if they are still there.”
“Even if I can’t get us out of there, I will have the proof we need that we are still alive. That will give you a whole year to figure out how to get us all out next year.”
Jasmine started taking baby steps toward the camera in front of her and her cameraperson. “Yes, I know a lot of people think I’m crazy to voluntarily go into this house knowing what will probably happen to me too. There is a very good reason why I’m doing this. Three years ago, one of those extremely young teenagers to disappear was my little sister. She was barely thirteen. I need to know if she’s still alive or not.”
“Besides, I’m not taking that big of a risk. That’s why I’m live.” Jasmine held up a thick rope attached to her in front of her camera. “The other end of this rope is attached to my cameraperson. If there isn’t anyone in there, he will pull me out before the door closes on me.”
Letting the rope fall to the ground, Jasmine pointed at her cameraperson. “Max Patton, say hello to everyone.”
Max grumbled as he turned the camera around to show his face. “Hello, everyone.”
Jasmine took the camera from Max and stepped back a few feet to get a full view of his muscular well-built body. “As you can see, he won’t have any problem pulling me out if he needs to do it.”
As Jasmine was giving the camera back to max, the whole area around her turned a blackish gray. Jasmine looked at her watch. It read three pm. “Here it comes. It always turns to near darkness before it arrives.”
A house appeared with the lights shining out of all of its windows. At least the windows she could see. It’s just like every other time it had appeared there. “Max, are you getting a good shot of this?”
“Yes, I am.” Max looked at the small viewscreen on the side of his camera. “So is the feed to our studio.”
“Is that true, Nora Dennison?” Jasmine asked.
Jasmine heard the voice of Nora coming through her earpiece very clearly. “Yes, it is. Are you sure you still want to do this? It’s not too late for you to change your mind. You do know as your Producer I can stop you from doing this at any time.”
“I know you can. Only you’re not going to do it because you know how important this is to me to know if my sister is still alive or not.”
“Of course, I know. She’s the only reason why you have this assignment. You’re only eighteen. You shouldn’t have an assignment like this for several more years.”
As Jasmine slowly started walking toward that house, she looked back at Max. “Be ready to pull me back out if I give you the signal.”
When Jasmine got to the front door, she open it without any problems except for a loud creaking sound. Jasmine very slowly walked in and stopped. Her eyes got wide, and her mouth dropped open. The look on her face said she couldn’t believe what she was looking at.
“It’s okay, Max. You can come in. You’ve got to see this. Everyone needs to see this.”
Max was only a few steps behind Jasmine. When he got inside, he suddenly stopped too. Using his camera, he started panning around inside there very slowly. “You’re right Jasmine. Everyone should see this.”
“Nora, can you see this?” Max asked after looking down at the viewscreen on his camera.
“I can. So can everyone else within our viewing area.”
Max stopped panning. Now he had his camera focused on Jasmine. “I don’t understand. How can this be possible?”
“It’s very simple to explain. What we are looking at is another planet. At least it appeared like one to me. The front may look like a house, but the door is some kind of a doorway to this planet.”
“The lights we see coming out the windows are just the sunlight from this planet.” Jasmine walked up to stand beside Max.
Jasmine started looking around the terrain of mostly trees below them. “I don’t see any people down there. Human or aliens, but it’s so thick they could be down there, and we might not be able to see them.”
“My sister may not be anywhere near here, but I think she’s still alive. I also think it’s going to take me more than three days to find her. Especially, if she still isn’t around here.”
“What do you want to do now?” Max asked. “We have three days before this house disappears for another year. So, we could look for her and the others if that is what you want to do.”
Jasmine started walking down the slope of the hill they were on. She only took a few steps before she stopped and looked back at Max. “What I’m going to do is look for my sister and the others. If it takes me longer than three days to do it, I’m still going to find her. I’m not leaving here until I find her.”
“If you want to help me to find her, then, that’s your choice for the next three days. I wouldn’t blame you if you went back through that house door right now.”
“I’m not going anywhere. At least not for the next three days. After that, I will decide what I’m going to do.”
Jasmine started walking again. Max was right beside her. “Even if we don’t find my sister, we may find some of the others who are here. You can take them back with you when you return to our world.”
“That thought crossed my mind too. I would prefer to take you and your sister back too, though.”
“I would like us all to go back together. Including the others here. Just don’t think we can do it within the three days we have.”
Jasmine and Max walked in silence for a long time. It wasn’t until they reached the large forest below them that they stopped. They both started slowly looking around them. The forest was so thick with trees, it was impossible to see if there was anyone there.
“It doesn’t look like there is anyone here, but this forest is so thick it’s hard to see anything. I haven’t seen any movement yet,” said Max.
“Neither have I. I don’t think there is anyone else here except for us.”
Max started walking again. Jasmine ran a little to catch up to him. “If there is anyone else, they must be hiding. Afraid to show themselves.”
“Why would they be hiding from us? Maybe they aren’t hiding. We may have been wrong about them being still there. They may be on another part of this planet, but they may not be here anymore.”
Just then Jasmine thought she saw something in the near distance. It appeared to be a blur of someone running among the trees there. “Did you see that?”
"See What? All I see are a lot of trees.”
“I thought that I saw something. It must have just been my imagination.”
Suddenly, it happened again. That time Max saw it too. Only it wasn’t just one blur. There were about a dozen of them. They were using the larger trees as cover, and they were darting between them as they got closer to Jasmine and Max. Within seconds they were hiding behind trees right in front of them. Slightly peeking their heads around them.
“You just came through the haunted house’s front door, didn’t you?” A young female asked.
Jasmine stepped forward once. Then stopped when the ones behind the tree weren’t peeking anymore. “Yes, we did.”
“Why would you do that?” A male asked. “Don’t you know what would happen if you did that?”
A female stepped out from behind a tree. “You look a little older, but aren’t you Molly’s big sister Jasmine?”
“Yes, I am. How do you know that?”
“I’m Heather Meyers. Molly is my best friend.”
Jasmine had a shocked look on her face. “That can’t be true. You can’t be more than thirteen.”
“I think that Molly did have a friend named Heather, and I think her last name was Meyers or something like that. If you are Molly’s friend, is she still here too.”
“Molly was here. She left here a couple of years ago to find another way out of here.”
Jasmine smiled. “That does sound like something Molly would do.”
That smile turned to a frown. “Do you know where she’s at now? Is she still alive?”
“Don’t know where she’s at, but she is still alive. At least she was about three months ago when she called me.”
“How did she call you? Your cell phones can’t be still working after three years. Never mind about that right now. How often does she call you? Is it at regular times like every three months?”
Heather nodded her head yes once. “She calls me about every three months.”
“That’s great. Let’s get back to your place. She may be trying to call you right now.”
“I don’t need to go back to my place for her to call me. Besides, my place isn’t anywhere near here.”
Jasmine and Max looked at each other with wonder on their faces. “If you don’t live anywhere near where we are, then what are you doing here?” Max asked.
“A lot of us come here every year to look out the windows to see who else would be joining us. We were on our way to do that when we came across you.”
“There have been rumors over the years of seeing people looking out the windows on the first floor,” said Jasmine. A few seconds later she continued. “Wait a second! If you were looking out those windows, then why didn’t you just leave this planet?”
Heather looked at the other behind her. Then she looked back at Jasmine and Max. “You don’t know, do you? Once you go through the haunted house front door and the door closes you are trapped here for the rest of your life, and since we don’t age, that’s forever.”
Word Count = 1,982