Six friends are playing tag in an old house when something bad happens to two of them.
Almost Ready to Fall
James Wendell steps to his left to avoid being touched by Victoria Lance. Her hand sails right past him. But she spins around with her leg up to tag him in his lower back just above his legs. “You’re it,” says Victoria.
“No, I’m not.” James into a push-up position. Then he finishes it by hitting the floor. Dust and dirt filter up all around him. As he rolls over, he sits up. “You never tagged me. At least you didn’t just now.”
“I know all the rules about playing Tag,” says Victoria as she looms over James with her hands on her hips. “And nowhere in them does it say that you have to be touched by a hand.”
James sighs as he shakes his head slowly. “I don’t agree with you about that. But if you want me to be it, I will be.”
Slipping slightly from the dust and dirt James gets up. He slowly looks at his five friends who are staying a safe distance from him. They all look ready to bolt if he comes near him. James stops scanning when he gets to Amanda Appleton. He points at her. “You’re next.”
Amanda starts running around that old broken-down basement trying to avoid being touched by James. She ducks under his outstretched arm several times. And runs past him a few times before he traps her in a corner. James stops and smiles. Amanda quickly looks around her for a way to escape. She slides just past him on his right.
After her slide, Amanda rolls over and quickly gets up. She starts to run again. But only takes a few steps when she looks over her shoulder and stops. James isn’t moving. Amanda takes another step forward as she continues staring at James. His attention is at her feet. Suddenly, James dives forward knocking them both to the ground.
“That doesn’t count as a tag,” says Amanda as she pushes James off her. “You can’t tackle someone to tag them.”
James continues to slide from the push as he says, “I wasn’t trying to touch you.” He points to a piece of wood with a nail sticking out of it next to Amanda. “You were about to step on that nail.”
Trying to stop his slide, James grabs part of the steps leading into that basement. But he just snaps it off. Sending the left side of the stairs down on top of him and Amanda. He covers Amanda as a large piece of stairs land on top of them. The others see this and come running over to them.
“Are the two of you okay?” Martin Harrison asks after he gets there.
James tries to push himself off Amanda. But he can’t do it. “I think we are both okay, but we are trapped. Someone needs to go and get us some help.”
“Someone already is,” says Patricia Young. She looks up at Adam Appleton as he runs up the right side of the stairs that are still mostly there.
Amanda and Adam are leaning slightly forward on a couch with their lower arms on the legs and their hands clasped together. Both are looking at the floor as their dad, Alan, paces in front of them and their mom, Alice, stands behind them with her hands on the back of that couch. “What were you doing in that house? You know you’re not supposed to be in there,” says Alan.
“You know better than to do that,” says Alice. Amanda and Adam continue staring at the floor beneath them. “Especially, you Amanda since you are the oldest.”
“Why did you do it?” Alan asks. “Is it because of us?”
Amanda and Adam look up at their dad. “No, it’s not because of you,” answers Amanda. “We were just playing tag there. there isn’t any other place to play except for that old house ever since the tornado came through here a few years ago.”
Alan stopped pacing and faced Amanda And Adam. Alice came around to his side of the couch and joined him. “Our little town may still be an almost disaster, but it’s not as bad as that house,” says Alice.
“You are thirteen Amanda,” continues Alan. “And Adam, you are twelve. Both of you know you shouldn’t be playing at that house.”
Amanda looks at Adam. Then they both lower their sad faces toward their feet again. “Where are we supposed to play?” Amanda asks. “Besides, it’s not like we were trespassing.”
Alan clinches his fist. He points at the opening behind Amanda and Adam. “Go to your bedrooms. We will discuss your punishment and let you know what it is.”
Adam stops just after he and Amanda leave the living room of their house. Amanda grabs his arm. She starts dragging him toward the stairs behind her. “Are you trying to get us into even more trouble than we are already in?” Amanda asks.
“I just want to know what our punishment is going to be.” Adam pulls away from Amanda. But she grabs him again and squeezes his arm to force him to leave.
“Of course, I want to know what it is too. But it’s not worth getting an even bigger one.”
Alan peeks around the corner of their living room and smiles. Then he returns to help Alice sit in a chair next to the couch. It’s hard for her to do it on her own in her condition. He sits down on the couch nearest her. “They were listening to us again,” says Adam.
“They always do. At least they do until Amanda drags her brother away.”
“What are we going to do with those two?” Adam asks.
Alice shakes her head sadly. “I don’t know. But we need to do something. And I’m not just talking about Amanda and Adam. It’s every kid we have in this town. I’m surprised it hasn’t fallen on someone before now.”
“It has, but I didn’t want to tell you because I know how you feel about the place. Parts of it have been falling for decades. In fact, it has been ready to fall for almost thirty years.”
“No matter how I feel about it, you should have told me. It is my family home. I’m responsible for anything bad that happens there.”
Alan leans forward and takes Alice’s hands into his. “No, you’re not. I am more responsible than you are. I’m the one who keeps convincing you to keep it.”
“I know how you feel about the place too. But it is all my fault. After my parents died, they gave the house to me. I should have sold it then. But I couldn’t do it. Too many memories.”
“That’s why I have been trying to convince you to keep it. But let’s face it. We both need to let it go. The memories will still be there. We’re just not going to be remembering them while we are looking at that house.”
Mitch Wendell peeks through the door-length window next to his front door in response to who is knocking on it. He turns his head to see Grace walking toward him. “It’s Alan and Alice.”
Grace suddenly stops. “Don’t you dare open that door. I’m still very, very mad at them for what they let happen to our son James.”
“I’m also angry at them. But I think we need to find out why they are here. After all, they know how we feel about them. How everyone in town does after what happened three months ago.”
Mitch opens his front door. But he looks at the street beyond Alan and Alice. “What do you want?” Mitch asks.
“I know you still hate us. But can we come in for a few minutes,” Alan answers his question? “We need to talk to you about something.”
Grace walks up to stand beside her husband. “Are you sure you want to risk coming in here after what your house has done to James.”
“That’s one of the reasons why we are here,” says Alice. “We want to know how James is doing.”
Alan continues a few seconds later. “We haven’t seen him since you forbid him from hanging out with Amanda and Adam.”
Mitch and Grace look at each other. It’s Grace who speaks first. “Physically, James is going to be okay. But emotionally that’s going to take a lot of time to heal.”
“We did forbid him from going anywhere near your children,” continues Mitch. “But he’s the one who has chosen not to do it.”
“James is still having nightmares about what happened to him at your house,” Grace takes over the conversation. “They aren’t as bad now. But they are still there almost every night.”
This time it’s Alan who speaks first after he and Grace look at each other. “That’s the main reason why we are here. We’re going around to tell everyone that we are going to finish what our house has been doing for years.”
“It has been almost ready to fall for a long time,” continues Alice. “We are finally ready to see that it happens before anyone else gets hurt or worse.”
Alice gripped Alan’s hand even tighter as they looked at their house. “I still can’t believe that it hasn’t fallen on its own yet.”
Alan looks over at Alice as he whispers to her so that only she can hear it. “You know why it hasn’t done that. Your parents don’t want that to happen.”
Amanda pulls her hand away from her mother and starts shaking it. “Ouch. Why did you do that? Are we still being punished for what happened here?”
Alice looks at Amanda. “I’m sorry about that. I didn’t mean to squeeze her hand too.”
Adam also stops holding hands with his father. He looks at his parents. “It’s still not too late to stop this.”
“Yes, it is.” Alice looks over her shoulders at everyone else standing behind them. “Besides, I don’t think that they will let it be stopped now anyway.”
“You haven’t done it in all these years,” responds Amanda. “I don’t like to admit it, especially out loud, but Adam is right. If you wanted to do it, you could still stop this from happening.”
Alice turns to face the crowd behind them. Alan, Amanda, and Adam join her. “No, we can’t.” Alice takes their newest addition to their family off her back harness and cradles him in her arm. “And this is another reason why.”
Alan glances at Alice and smiles. Then he returns looking at the crown in front of them. He shouts to be heard by everyone. “Yes, it’s true. We are about to bring our house down. But it’s not all bad news, though. You don’t have to worry about this land being an embarrassment to our little town anymore.”
“With the addition to our family, we need a bigger place to live.” Alice takes over a few seconds later. “So, we are going to build our new house here.”
Alice returns to looking at her house. Adam joins her. She looks at him. “Give me a few moments alone with them before we bring it down.”
After handing Aaron over to Adam, Alice steps a little closer to her family house. “It’s okay mom and dad,” says Alice softly so that only they can hear her. “I know you are the reason it’s still here. But you don’t have to worry about that anymore. We are going to rebuild it exactly like it used to be.”
“It’s not your fault and it never was.” Alice continues after taking a deep breath and letting it out. “It wasn’t your fault that you died to save me during that home invasion. You can stop haunting our house and move on with your afterlife.”
Word Count = 1,978