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3-DAY NOVEL CONTEST 2011
TITLE: The Other Grandfather
WORD COUNT: 28,328
SUMMARY: A new curator discovers that the natural history museum holds some old, dark secrets.
I woke suddenly as a clap of thunder shook the air. The text that I had been reading slid off the comforter and landed on the floor with a thump. Groaning, I twisted my body so that I could lean over the side of the bed to retrieve the book and place it back on the nightstand. Lightning flickered, washing the room with brief intense white light before thunder struck again.
Otherwise, the room was dark; I didn't remember if I had turned off the light before I had gone to sleep. It seemed unlikely since I had fallen asleep while I was still reading. The clock next to my pile of books, a modern digital affair, was dark. I reached out to find my watch and saw the hands when another flash of lightning briefly illuminated the room. It was just past midnight. It would be sensible to just stay in bed until the morning. But I could never sleep during a thunderstorm. I didn't think this would be any different.
Getting out of bed, I hissed as my bare feet hit the cold wood floor. I fumbled for my slippers which had somehow ended up on the other side of the nightstand. After I got them on, I pulled on a robe and hurried over to the window. The snow continued to come down even with the lightning and thunder. A rare thunder-snowstorm. And the power was out.
I exited out of my room and was greeted with absolute darkness. Only the occasional bits of lightning lit my path. I managed to make my way to the landing and slowly walked down the stairs with my hands gripping the rails. To my ears, my footsteps creaked unnaturally loud. I passed Virgil and Freddy's bedrooms, but their doors remained closed.
Once I was in the kitchen, I found the drawer with the emergency supplies and grabbed a flashlight, a couple of tea lights, and a pack of matches. I stuffed the candles and the matches into the pocket of my robe and switched on the flashlight. A warm beam of light pierced the darkness and I sighed, suddenly feeling relief. I must have been more rattled about the storm than I had originally thought.
I swept the light around the kitchen and the beam landed on something that I hadn't noticed before when I had stumbled down to the first floor in the dark. Dark cloth covered covered an object sitting on the central counter. Did Freddy bring something from the library back to the kitchen after he had finished reading the papers for the evening? A vague sense of unease manifested as a crackling tinnitus in my ears. I moved forward and lifted the cloth. Light glinted on glass. When I pulled the cloth all the way off, I discovered it was a large preservation jar with yellowish fluid inside although there wasn't anything else in it at the moment. There was a white label on the lid of the jar, but there was nothing written on it.
Lightning flashed. Thunder rumbled. And something hissed my name over the tinnitus in my ear. Reflexively, I whirled around and swung my flashlight wildly, trying to catch whoever had made the noise. The kitchen appeared empty.
“Who's there?” I asked aloud.
No one answered.
Feeling somewhat unsettled, I pulled the cloth back over the jar and headed back upstairs to my room. I would have been more reassured if the power came back on, but it was pointless to wake Freddy and Virgil just to start the emergency generator in the middle of the night. Morning would come soon. Hopefully. The tinnitus seemed to grow briefly worse as I crossed the threshold from the kitchen to the servants' quarters. Clasping my free hand to an ear I hurried back to bed.