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What makes a house a home?

By D.K. ShepardPublished about a month ago Updated 29 days ago 2 min read
Top Story - June 2024
Photo by Thomas Bormans on Unsplash

Author's Note: This was originally written for the first round of the 2024 NYC Midnight 100-word Microfiction Challenge, but has been revised into a longer microfiction. My assignment included the following: Genre - Horror, Action - Signing a guestbook, Word - trail

January 8, 2024

The sign flickered, but Joel glimpsed enough to know he was at the right place: Wight’s Funeral Home.

His Great-Uncle Stuart had nearly reached his ninety-eighth birthday, so Joel hadn’t exactly been shocked to receive the notice from the funeral home about the visitation. But he had no idea Great-Uncle Stuart had fallen ill or taken a bad turn.

Since Joel’s grandparents had already passed, his parents were away on vacation, and Great-Uncle Stuart had no descendants of his own, he figured he’d make the trip so there’d be a family member in attendance. But as he looked around at the parking lot occupants, his own car and a single hearse, it appeared he might be the only attendee.

He pushed open the large front door which creaked eerily. The air inside was stale and warm like a blanket of morning breath. An attendant with a drooped head and a shuffling gait led him to a table where yellowed pages of a guestbook were illuminated by a dim light. Joel added his name to a short list. Glancing at the trail of ink forming the entry above, he paused.

Michael Parks. October 12, 1973.

Fifty years ago! This place clearly didn’t get much business.

He read the words scrawled another line higher:

Samuel Jenkins. December 2, 1949.

How could such a place stay open if they only held a funeral every few decades? Joel thought about asking the attendant, but the guy kind of gave him the creeps.

Joel made his way into the main room, walked past rows of chairs and approached the casket. An old man was displayed within, but it wasn’t Great-Uncle Stuart. He looked at the nameplate: Michael Parks.

Why would the last person to sign the guestbook have his funeral here so many years later? Where was Great-Uncle Stuart? Something was wrong with this place. Joel backed away. “There’s been a mistake.”

The attendant raised his head, his eyes were solid white. Joel felt fear grip his heart.

“Without someone to live in it, a house is just a house,” the attendant chuckled. Manic laughter echoed all around. “And as you can see, we’re in need of a new tenant."

Joel sprinted back through the rows of chair, past the guestbook, and to the door. He grabbed the handle and pulled with all his might. It was locked.

He turned to find the attendant had materialized soundlessly behind him. The feeble lights were growing dimmer and glowing eyes began to take shape in the darkness.

The attendant smiled wickedly, "Welcome home, sir. We’re so glad you’re here.”


About the Creator

D.K. Shepard

Character Crafter, Witty Banter Enthusiast, World Builder, Unpublished novelist...for now

Fantasy is where I thrive, but I like to experiment with genres for my short stories. Currently employed as a teacher in Louisville.

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Comments (28)

  • Dr. Jason Benskin28 days ago

    Congratulations on having your story featured as a top story on Vocal! This is a remarkable achievement, and it's clear why your work has received such recognition. Your storytelling is truly exceptional. The narrative was not only compelling but also beautifully crafted, holding my attention from start to finish. The way you developed the characters and plot was masterful, making the story both engaging and thought-provoking. Your unique voice and perspective shine through, setting your work apart. It’s evident that you poured a lot of passion and effort into this piece, and it has certainly paid off. I look forward to reading more of your incredible stories in the future. Keep up the fantastic work! Best regards, Dr. Jay

  • Fly Alone28 days ago

    This story gave me chills—perfectly captures the eerie atmosphere of a haunted funeral home.

  • Mark Gagnon29 days ago

    What a novel way to drum up business. I like NYC Midnight competitions but I've been too busy to enter lately. How did this story do? Congrats on Top Story!

  • Paul Stewart30 days ago

    Boom. Well done on Top Story for this!

  • reminds me of Vivarium , same creepy vibes and very intense scene at the end, well done

  • D. J. Reddall30 days ago

    A chilling world woven from few words--nice work!

  • Babs Iverson30 days ago

    Fantastic microfiction!!! While horrific, your story pulled the reader through and locked in at the close!!! Congratulations on Top Story too!!!💕❤️❤️

  • Caroline Cravenabout a month ago

    This gave me Hotel California vibes. Great stuff. Good luck in the NYC microfiction challenge.

  • shanmuga priyaabout a month ago

    Congratulations 🎉 on top story.

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Donna Fox (HKB)about a month ago

    DK this certainly had a great creep factor!! Great work and congrats on Top Story!!

  • Carol Townendabout a month ago

    I love how you have crafted an extremely mysterious story into 100 words. It's also quite scary. This is a brilliant, yet carefully created piece.

  • Kingsley Gomes, PhD.about a month ago

    Wow, D.K.! This story is seriously creepy and suspenseful! The way you built up the tension from the very beginning with the deserted parking lot and stale air had me hooked. The twist ending with the creepy attendant and the glowing eyes is fantastic! It leaves the reader with a shiver and wanting more. This is a fantastic microfiction story - you packed a lot of punch into a short space. I'd love to see more of your writing in the future! Especially if it's just as creepy as this!

  • Alexandria Stanwyckabout a month ago

    Oh, creepy! Congrats on your Top Story!

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Omggggg, now that'd some creepy shit!! All of the questions that I previously had have now been answered! You modified this soooo well!

  • Rachel Deemingabout a month ago

    Excellent! So chilling! I loved the build in this, D.K..

  • Paul Stewartabout a month ago

    I think it's great that you listened to feedback...adjusted it...but didn't full circle reinvent it...still kept that air of vagueness to the whole thing. The spoon is definitely in the room somewhere...and you made us look for it. I love these kinds of stories...where until there is any more information...we can draw our own conclusions. I kinda feel like he was lured there to become the new resident of the funeral home. But that could be simplyfing it a little! Either way, this is sterling writing, in my humble opinion!

  • Dr. Jason Benskinabout a month ago

    I was particularly struck by your ability to convey the quiet yet profound moments that make a house a home. The characters and their interactions felt genuine and relatable, adding depth and authenticity to the story. Your storytelling evokes a sense of comfort and belonging that lingers long after reading.

  • John Coxabout a month ago

    This is Twilight Zone wonderful, DK! Loved it!

  • D.K. Shepard (Author)about a month ago

    Read the room and revised the 100 word version! Thanks for the feedback! Hopefully I put the spoon in the room this time even if it still isn't a spoon-fed tale! Haha!

  • Shirley Belkabout a month ago

    Apparently, Michael Parks wasn't home, and somebody took his place...or Joel hadn't been there in so long, he couldn't recognize his uncle? You did a great job emoting an aura of the hesitancy one feels of anticipating a funeral scenario.

  • Gabriel Huizengaabout a month ago

    Chilling!! Loved it, a very worthy microfiction...would've made it to the next round if I was a judge! :)

  • Dawnxisoul393artabout a month ago

    The attendant's cryptic remark adds to the mystery and leaves readers with a lingering sense of dread. Thank you for sharing!

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Yes, I am kinda confused but don't wanna elaborate more because I'm sure the judges already did that. Looking forward to reading this again when you expand it!

  • Alyssa Nicoleabout a month ago

    Very interesting! I like how the "trail" is in the form of ink and not blood, as you would expect for a horror story. It does leave a lot to the imagination!

D.K. ShepardWritten by D.K. Shepard

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