Write a piece of flash fiction each day of February with the February Flash Fiction Challenge, led by editor Moriah Richard. Each day, receive a prompt, example story, and write your own. Today’s prompt is to write about a mystery.

I hope this challenge is serving you well! I’ve been finding some of the prompts a little bit difficult, but hopefully the further we go, the easier the stories will come!

For today’s prompt, let’s get mysterious! Whether it’s a mystery about to be solved, one that will never be solved, or one that’s just beginning, let’s dive right in.

Remember: As mentioned yesterday, these prompts are just starting points; you have the freedom to go wherever your flash of inspiration takes you.

(Note: If you happen to run into any issues posting, please just send me an e-mail at mrichard@aimmedia.com with the subject line: Flash Fiction Challenge Commenting Issue.)

Here’s my attempt at writing a mystery:

r/mystery

Something happened, and I just kind of hope you guys have answers.

So I recently got laid off from my job (damn pandemic), and my parents put me in touch with an older couple they knew of who were looking to pay someone to stay at their place for a few months. Their daughter was getting ready to welcome her first child, so they were planning to go and stay with her.

I get to their house in Ashland, and it’s a pretty standard one for rural PA—white, two stories, creaky wooden stairs and kitchen border with little roosters on it. First couple of weeks there and the most exciting thing to happen to me is that I go up the road and take a selfie with the Centralia sign. It’s a small town, you know, there’s really not a lot to do here. I spent most of my time applying to jobs online and trying not to stress eat.

Anyway, one night I wake up out of a dead sleep convinced someone was in the house. I lay there, listening. Nothing. Then I get up and go to open the bedroom door and the handle is HOT. I mean, I could feel the heat coming off it before I even put my hand on it. Thought maybe house fire, but I put my face to the doorjamb on the floor and there wasn’t any smoke coming through. Sat on the bed and sort of waited a while before going to the door again, and it was fine.

The next thing I start to notice is this smell like—bear with me—a fart. Not like a polite one either but like one that hits you mid-afternoon after you had too much to drink the day before. Just awful. And I swear, it’s not me and it moves around the house. Like, I’ll smell it in the living room, it’ll disappear, and then I go into the kitchen and it’s hanging out in there. I tried to follow it once, but all I got was taken down to the basement where there was some kind of root cellar or something. It was like one of those double-door basement entrances, except it was IN the basement and it had a big padlock on it.

Couple of days after, I’m making myself lunch, and there’s this noise. I don’t really know how to explain it. Moaning? But not something a person would do but maybe what a house would do before it fell down on top of you. The house started shaking. Some pictures fell off the wall. Then it stopped. Went outside but everything seemed in order. Googled it and there wasn’t an earthquake or anything. I thought maybe there was something wrong with the house, so I call up a local contractor to come and check it out, and he said there wasn’t anything he could see. I even showed him the weird root cellar, but he got kinda squirrely and left like he didn’t want to have to report these people for a code violation or something.

Anyway, I’m not really sure what to do and the people who own the place haven’t picked up my calls in weeks. Anyone else know what’s going on?

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