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Whispering Walls – A Mystery Short Story by Tanner Burke – Reedsy Prompts

Whispering Walls – A Mystery Short Story by Tanner Burke – Reedsy Prompts

Pan down from a gray sky. We see a large, gothic manor, a black wooden frame used to match the white that’s starting to peel off the siding. Some of the windows are broken in and there is ivy growing up the walls. Brief close up shots of the House tell us that it’s abandoned. Nonetheless, the boards that used the seal the door shut have been brought down. They lay on the deck in a heap.

We cut inside the house to Jack. He’s tied up, sat in a chair in the middle of a room. He tugs on his cords, bites on the gag in his mouth, but stays put. His voice has all but gone at this point, and he’s alone until the man starts to whisper to him. It’s a hostless voice. If you didn’t know any better you would think it is the wind calling to reassure Jack. It will all be okay, says the wind until you realize it’s a man’s voice, gruff and angry. You will never leave it’s hushed tones fill the room. The camera moves across overturned furniture, holes in the walls, a still shot on the stairs, all are brief. The source is unclear. And Jack is beginning to cry.

“HELP ME!!” Jack calls through his gag. A close-up shot zooms in and in and in on Jack’s eyes. The gray is shining, tears and sweat filling them. He stares straight into the camera. The whispers echo louder and louder. He sneezes and his eyes temporarily come out of the shot and when they return they are dry and frustrated.

“Cut! Son of a bitch.”

The Director had been working this scene for what was probably ages. He wanted to see Jack’s eyes roll back in his head and the whispers crescendo into a single voice. But, Jack was allergic to the blood dye the makeup team put on the gag (Stephen is that actor’s real name, but we will use Jack so you don’t get confused. He’s the one we have to follow through to the dreadful conclusion of this tale and his method acting doesn’t let him be anyone other than Jack for the next few weeks. Remember his real name, but I will still call him Jack.) The studio had really given the director the shaft when they hired Jack. This was not an art house, indie flick; this is horror, gaudy and bizarre and ridiculous, but really horrible. 

Jack was not suited for this. He had a familiar face and quite a knack for sinking into the skin of his characters, but he asked far too often what his motivation was and could never figure out how to just be scared.

“Look, I’m sorry, but you gotta find something else,” Jack complained as he pulled down the gag to his neck.

“No, dammit, this is all we have and you’ve gotta deal with it!” The director was rising from his chair as he spoke, then moved towards his actor as he continued to berate him, “This is not your movie, Stephen–”

“Don’t call me that, I need you to help me stay in character!”

The director’s frustration got the best of him. He kicked an overturned ottoman into the fireplace and one of the producers told me that was when they called for break. Jack didn’t like the director either, but he was trying. He spoke to Vanity Fair and said that he wanted to delve into the mainstream and show them art. Obviously the money is better, but come on, the world’s great art has been battered and abused. No one reads novels or goes to art museums, instead they consume their art in the theater. And they’ve been served drivel dressed in visual effects for far too long. Jack and this new film “Whispering Walls” were going to bring back cinema.

The crew resumed work 5 minutes later.

Jack is crying. We watch the tears leave his eyes and hear his screams. They mix with faint whispers. A wide shot shows him hunch over and yank on his binds. Shadows creep down the stairs and threaten to consume Jack. We see the ropes finally break. Jack crashes to the floor and immediately stands. He looks around the room. Another close-up of his eyes show them crying as he is studying the whispering walls.

The director was not in his chair. He was at home. The camera was in a case somewhere, probably in a van, maybe hidden in the same studio lot as that big house. He studied shot charts and storyboards while he sipped a small glass of bourbon. He was still shaking the feeling of the Ouija Board Jack had brought and made him use. Method should only go so far, he thought.

We see the moon through a broken window. A muted scream is heard, but Jack’s voice will never leave this house again. He beats on doors that he unlocked earlier. A tracking shot follows him from door to door, then a sprint up the stairs. There is a ouija board floating in the air, and the only light is blue from the moon.

Jack freezes. He stands at the head of the stairs and watches the ouija board turn over and over. Close-up of the board spinning, out of focus is Jack. When the focus changes, Jack is floating, too. Stephen…Stephen, you called me…

The director hated Jack. He couldn’t stand what he brought to a set, but what he couldn’t stand more was his attitude. This guy really thought he could change the whole world. Some things don’t change because they don’t need it. Jack needed to lighten up. He needed to listen. The director thought it best to teach him that lesson when he brought out the ouija board.

The best recollection of the first time the board was pulled out goes something like this: sometime after filming had wrapped, Jack asked for a moment alone with the director upstairs. By the time they climbed the stairs, they were alone in the house.

“I think this is how I can really fear,” Jack pointed to the ouija board on the floor.

“Get the hell outta here,” the director had said.

“I’m not joking. We need this,” Jack said, “We need to correct the course of this film and find our center.”

The director watched as Jack sat down and set his hand on the glass piece in the center. He stared expectantly at the director when the director had the idea to fake the whole thing. If he moved the magnifying glass around and scared Jack, he would bring out the “fear” in him and take control of the set. He was right; this is how they fixed it.

But, he lost control fast. He had grown scared. He left his house to go save Stephen.

A swirl of images cross the screen. Jack crying is the focus as we see a ouija board and another pair of hands that aren’t Jack’s on the board. They move and the second pair of hands panics and disappears. The whispers are growing louder as Jack runs downstairs. He is stuck in the house and sits in the chair to try and calm himself. He calls for someone to turn off the effects, but the whispers only get louder. A woman’s voice begins to scream. The final image is Jack screaming and a smash cut shows Jack floating. Not even he could act this well.

The director’s car pulled up to the lot with a screech. Security said that he didn’t even shut his door on the way out, but when they found his car abandoned later, the door was closed. He ran to the lot where the house stood and began to cry for his friend. He had to yell because the wind whipped through the cracks in the wood and whistled in the window.

“JACK!” he called. No avail.

He began to run towards the house and that was when Stephen was ejected out the attic window. He was like a projectile, landed and skid to a halt at the director’s feet. He covered his mouth at the blood that left every hole in Stephen’s body. Jack was left in that house. Stephen’s body lay in the dirt, lifeless.

The final shot is a still frame, wide, the living room. Nothing moves. The director bursts into the room and a slow zoom shows that he is not choosing to do so. Violent twitches consume him and he falls flat on the floor. Muffled cries are finally muted by a loud snap and the director’s mutilated body is seen in a medium shot on the floor.

The authorities claimed the director killed Jack in a fit of rage. After their last day of shooting, they had an altercation upstairs and the director strangled Jack and dragged his body out in front of the house and beat it. By the time he finished beating it, it was Stephen again. He ran inside and tried to put away his grief only to break his own neck on the chair in the room.

The voice of the woman was never verified. It wasn’t explained either, but that was unnecessary. No woman was ever seen at the studio that night. Cameras were not helpful. The case was closed as murder-suicide.

The house with broken windows and holes in the wood stands on the lot today. It holds all the secrets of that night, but refuses to tell us any. Instead, the studio cleaned out the bodies and Whispering Walls was scrapped in favor of Mr. Mangle’s Midnight Manor. It was filmed in 28 days, and cost less than 25 million dollars. Now, the house has been renovated, not to remove the breaks and cracks, but to freshen it up enough to sit in the amusement park the lot has become. Every Halloween thousands of people tour the house. None of them know Stephen’s name.

This post first appeared on Read Your Favorite Horror And Thriller Stories With The Convenience Of Your Home, please read the originial post: here

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Whispering Walls – A Mystery Short Story by Tanner Burke – Reedsy Prompts


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