Flash Fiction: The Bushranger's Bedroom
Updated: Nov 21, 2019
I pushed the button on the caravan style latch and heard the click before the door bounced towards me. Alex flicked the light switch. The apple crumble Lucy had cooked for our Victorian themed housewarming was snug in my belly, but between the candles flickering in the hallway and having to put my hand into this ancient manse cupboard under the stairs, the homey feeling was dissipating into eerie.
The other new students peered over my shoulder.
Alex nodded to a high shelf close to the doorway. Tentatively, I reached up. My fingers brushed something soft. Resisting the urge to convince someone else to do it, I pulled the object down. It was a lock of tawny hair about fifteen centimetres long.
“Follow me,” Alex commanded. Running his fingers over the smooth banister, he headed upstairs.
He stopped at the first door: my room.
Inside, Joey was hammering down some loose floorboards I had noticed that afternoon.
“Long ago, a bushranger named Mark was apprehended here. He’d stolen coins and jewellery on the roads.” Alex pointed to the balcony door at the opposite end of the hallway. There was a small hole near the edge of the stained glass. “They tried shooting him…but missed.” He pointed to the opposite end. The window over the stairway also had a small hole.
Thump, thump, thump.
“They finally killed him. An officer cut off his ponytail as a souvenir, but left it in fear of being haunted.” Alex traced his hand over my doorway. Etched into the timber was Mark. A chill crept over my arms.
“This had been his childhood bedroom…”
“Well that was stupid of him to come back to his own house,” Hayley said.
“It’s true. Look it up,” Alex defended. He crossed his arms. “Well, if anyone can think of a better story, you don’t have to clean for our first inspection.”
“I’ll try,” said Hayley.
“The minister’s wife was a witch who was in love with her brother-in-law. When he was staying here, she went to cut off a lock of his hair for a spell, but he moved in his sleep, and she cut off his whole queue. She aimed to bewitch him to put poison in her husband’s denture jar. She etched her husband’s name in the door, so he’d find it. Fortunately, her husband knew her nature and was spying on the balcony. Pityingly, he tried to shoot her, rather than have her put in a madhouse…”
“Why not kill him herself?” asked Alex.
“Not witchy enough,” Hayley replied.
“What about,” Sarah started. “Mark was conscripted to Vietnam and gave his ponytail to his girl when the army cut it—”
She was interrupted by a loud cracking sound, followed by a clattering as something fell onto the dining table.
We scurried downstairs. The air was thick with plaster dust. Scattered over the table were coins and a rainbow of tarnished jewellery.
Written for Australian Writers' Centre's Furious Fiction, June 2019.