This is for the flash fiction contest over at Surrounded by Books and is a slight departure for me, in that I don't really make any jokes. I hope you enjoy it anyway:
The first time Jessica discovered the hole in the wall of her parents’ basement, she was ten. She stared into it, ignoring the cobwebs and the mouldering plaster, because it never occurred to her that a crack like that might not be the doorway to another world. She wasn’t surprised to see fields beyond it, and creatures wheeling in the sky that she didn’t know the name for.
By the time she was twelve, Jessica had watched travellers pass, and seasons change. She had claimed that small patch of basement as her own, and her parents couldn’t understand why she cried when they put their new washing machine in front of their home’s most unsightly patch of wall.
By the time she was sixteen, Jessica had decided that things she thought she saw as a kid didn’t count, and that boys were more interesting in any case. She knew, with the certainty of someone who wasn’t sure that she could live with the alternative, that cracks in walls didn’t lead anywhere. She once went down to the basement, just to prove it to herself, but she couldn’t move the washing machine on her own.
Jessica was twenty when her parents died, away at college when her dad was just a little too drunk to keep from pulling out in front of a truck. She let herself cry for a day, then drove down with her roommate Amy, who was there partly because she’d heard that was what you did for friends, and partly because she couldn’t think of anything to write for her final term paper anyway.
On the first day, they looked around, and Jessica tried not to cry too much as they cleared away things that wouldn’t be needed again. On the second, Jessica found herself making decisions, fielding sympathy, and talking to people she didn’t really know, but who seemed as determined as she was to grieve.
On the third day, she went back to the basement, ostensibly to wash the few clothes she’d brought. But washing clothes didn’t involve moving the machine. It didn’t involve crouching down and tracing a familiar line in the wall. It certainly didn’t involve hesitating, just momentarily, before putting her eye to it.
Afterwards, they said that she ran off, dropped out, and probably ended up as dead as her poor parents. Amy’s story, that she’d gone to get towels, and that Jessica was gone by the time she came back, told them that much. Of course, it wasn’t the truth, but what could Amy do? Tell people that she’d seen Jessica half in and half out of some split in the wall too narrow to fit a finger through? Tell them that she’d slipped through completely?
She went back to college instead, where they said not to worry about the term paper. Not after her friend had disappeared. Amy did it anyway, remembering the most important point about that moment.
For the first time in days, Jessica had been smiling.