NPR had this contest where they gave you a first line and a last line and you tried to make a short story out of that. Here’s what I came up with.
Some people swore that the house was haunted. But I knew better. It was the cat. Mr. Winter hated that cat. He tried to get rid of it for years but it kept on coming back.
I was twelve when Mr. Winter died, right around the time I started to hang out with the boys. They weren’t so keen on a girl joining them until I told them about the crashes I heard coming from inside the house. At first, they didn’t believe me. But then they heard them, too.
We all knew it had to be the ghost of Mr. Winter. But then I noticed that the cat would run out of the house after each crash. That’s when I figured it was the cat that the ghost was haunting, not the house. I told the boys about it but they thought it was silly, the idea of a cat being haunted. Then one night, they caught the cat and dared me to break into the house. I told them to let it go but they wouldn’t unless I did it. I knew they meant it, too, and I was afraid of what they’d do to the cat if I didn’t go.
So … I went.
I never saw a ghost in that house. But I could feel something and I felt unwelcome. Something was watching me.
I jumped as the cat dashed past me. I could feel the air tense up around us. I thought the cat would bolt but it didn’t. It just looked at me and then, slowly, padded up the stairs.
I knew I should leave but something in me just had to follow that cat. I found it pawing at a door. On the floor, I could see books and bits of broken crystal from nearby shelves. But they were empty now. So I walked up to the door and opened it.
It was a knitting room.
There was dust everywhere. But the cat went straight for a shawl lying in the corner by the window, then settled down and started to purr. It was so peaceful for a few moments but then the house began to shudder. Behind the cat, I could see a bookcase start to tip. I shouted out and without thinking, I jumped to grab the cat. The cat jumped to safety, but the bookcase came crashing down on me.
Fortunately, a nearby chair saved me from being crushed. But the weight of the books held me down. I didn’t know what to do so I just started talking. “Mr. Winter, I’m sorry I broke into your house,” I said, “and I’m sorry I let the cat in.” I thought about it for a while and said, “If you get me out of here, I’ll make sure it won’t mess with any more of Mrs. Winter’s knitting.”
At first, I didn’t think anything was going to happen. Then the house started to shift. It was slow. But eventually, the books moved enough so that I could wriggle free. I grabbed the shawl and the cat and ran out.
The boys were so relieved to see me again. They thought I was a goner. They were real sorry that cat escaped. But I said it was okay, it wasn’t haunted any more. And sure enough, the house never made noises like that again. People started saying that I could talk to ghosts and I guess I kinda did, although this one didn’t talk back. But one thing was certain. Nothing was ever the same again after that.