During 2019, as a kind of literary experiment, I plan to publish a new piece of flash fiction during the first week of every month. These pieces are called The White Rabbit Stories.
Here's May's White Rabbit Story:
In Our Town
Somewhere in our town – I won’t say where – there is a small, abandoned one-storey house. The windows are boarded. The doors are sealed shut. At the back of the house there is a tree, and beneath that tree there is a pit covered by a sheet of corrugated steel.
Lift the steel sheet and lower yourself into the pit, and you will find a stairway carved out of the hard earth. That stairway leads down and around, under the foundations of the house.
Follow the passage and you will end up directly beneath the house, in a large, hollow chamber with a low roof though which the bottom side of the concrete foundations of the house protrude. The chamber is lit by torches set in shallow alcoves around the walls. Those torches never go out, but nobody ever lights them.
In this chamber, right at the centre in fact, there is a large black box. The box is made of timber, painted and lacquered. It glistens in the gloom. A master craftsman constructed the box; he carved it by hand from the oldest tree in the forest on the outskirts of our town.
We are very proud of our craftsmen.
Inside the box there is a key. The key opens a lock that will only appear when the key is taken out of the box.
The lock is in a door. The door was carved from the same wood as the box; it is painted and lacquered in the same way as the box. It glistens in the same way in the light of those undying torches.
Behind the door there is a child. Nobody can remember if the child is a boy or a girl. The child has been there too long for anyone to remember, and over time its appearance has altered so much that gender is impossible to assign.
The child is silent. It is blind and mute and deaf; its eyes, mouth, ears have fused shut.
The child must eat once a year, but it is always hungry.
The child feeds in its own strange way.
We, the town councillors, provide what is needed.
We, the lawmakers, send people like you to the house, to the pit, to the chamber, and, finally, into the room.
You are the food that the child needs so that our town will continue to thrive.
You are the food. The drink. The sustenance.
You, or someone just like you.
A lone traveller lost on the road outside our town.
A camper who wandered off the path in the hills or in the deep, dark woods that border our town.
A salesman whose products we didn’t want or need.
A teenage runaway.
A rough-sleeper looking for a quiet little town like this one to lay his head.
Here, take this map – the route is drawn upon it in blood.
It will show you the way.
© Gary McMahon 2019