From the author: When his reclusive uncle commits suicide in a mansion full of curiosities, Jamie Lawson is left to clean up his dusty estate. As Jamie peels back the layers of his uncle’s life as a semi-famous horror author, he discovers an eerie connection between his uncle’s works and real life tragedies. Now, he must uncover the truth behind his uncle’s books while trying to rebuild his life in a new town. But, the bizarre facts he uncovers may just threaten his new life and everyone in it.
The house was nothing special, just another modest prefabricated one-floor in the middle of a cookie-cutter subdivision. Lilly pulled the car into the driveway, and they walked the path to the front door. Jamie was still unsure of what was happening, but the empty house in Cincinnati and Lilly’s odd mention of an aunt gave him a clue. His lack of sleep had made his mind fuzzy.
A woman was waiting for them behind the screen door. As soon as they got close enough, she pushed it open and ran to hug them.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” she said, throwing her arms around them and letting out a sob.
“I’m so sorry, Theresa,” Lilly said. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
“I just can’t believe he’s gone,” she replied.
The bland color of the walls brought Jamie back to their apartment in Pittsburgh. The place was modestly decorated, and the shelves were stacked with books.
They walked through the hallway to the kitchen, and Jamie stopped to look at a picture frame on the wall. It held several photos that reminded him of those that had fallen from T.J.’s journal, with one major difference. Jamie was looking at his college commencement. His dad stood to one side of him, arm wrapped around his shoulder, and T.J. stood on the other. The photo next to it was of T.J. holding him as a baby. Several other photos sat in the frame, all of Jamie and his uncle.
He stepped back into the living room. A framed wedding photo sat next to the armchair, showing Theresa and T.J. at the altar. Although the room was devoid of any macabre collectibles, it was sprinkled with the artifacts of a well-lived life.
Lilly sat at the kitchen with Theresa, who looked up at Jamie as he walked into the room. “He made the paper today,” she said as he sat next to her. She slid the newspaper over to him.
Local Man Dies in Explosion after Saving Vacationing Family
Local steel mill worker, Thomas Joseph Lawson, perished in an explosion on Nathaniel Hale Bridge yesterday afternoon, but not before escorting three to safety. The explosion resulted from an overturned tanker truck; however, the driver of the truck also escaped unharmed.
“He went for a walk on the bridge and must have seen the accident,” Theresa said. “The police told me that he had gone in and helped the family, but there was an explosion when he went back in for the driver, who’d apparently already made it out.”
Jamie stared at the picture of the blaze. He must have gotten to the bridge a short time after the explosion and had missed T.J. by mere minutes.
They sat at the table and talked for quite a while. Jamie had to pretend that he already knew most of the things that Theresa said, but it was all completely new to him. This was not the same man who had locked himself away in a lonely mansion on a hill. T.J. had chosen a completely different life for himself, and evidence of that was reflected in the objects lining the walls and shelves of his home.
As they stood to leave, Theresa touched Jamie on the arm. “Your uncle left something for you. Hold on just a minute.”
She disappeared around the corner, returned with a yellow file envelope, and handed it to him. On it, his name was written in T.J.’s handwriting.
“I didn’t open it,” she said, “but I think it’s the book that he’s been working on. He’d been toiling away in his office for the last few weeks. I found the envelope when I was going through his drawers to look for a copy of his will.”
The three hugged and said their goodbyes.
“We’ll see you at the funeral on Monday,” Lilly said, opening the door to her car. “Let us know if you need anything in the meantime, and Mom’s right up the road, so don’t hesitate to give her a call.”
Theresa waved to them as they pulled away.
“It’s so sad. I can’t believe that he’s gone,” Lilly said. “What did he leave you?”
Jamie dumped the contents of the envelope onto his lap. He picked up the thick stack of papers, loosely bound with packaging twine, and turned it over in his hands. It looked like an unpublished manuscript.
“Well?” Lilly asked impatiently.
“She was right. It’s a manuscript.”
Lilly pulled off at a gas station to fill the car. Jamie flipped through the pages of the manuscript, but it was a story with which he was already familiar. It was his own. As he started to tuck the pages back into the envelope, he noticed a smaller one inside. He slid it out and ripped open the seal. The paper was slightly yellowed, as if the note had been written a long time before. He recognized T.J.'s wiry handwriting and signature.
Thanks for showing me the way. I think that I've finally figured it out! Never did go to Colorado, and life has been a lot better for it. Emily’s all grown up now, and you should look up Louise sometime. I knew that you’d given me another chance to save them, but I had no idea that I would have a chance to save myself as well. Thanks for everything. And if all of this is gibberish, pay this letter no mind. Hope you enjoy the book.
The pieces were starting to come together. Just as Jamie had relived this day, T.J. had been able to go back to the beginning. Instead of buying the house in Cincinnati, he must have moved to Pittsburgh to be close to the bridge. Without the typewriter to change their lives, his characters were saved, but this left T.J. with no way to prevent the crash that would kill Lilly. The flat tires were an insurance policy that she’d be nowhere near the bridge when the crash occurred.
Jamie scanned the note for several minutes. As the feeling of resolution set in, he realized he'd been holding his breath for some time and exhaled deeply. The muscles in his chest relaxed, and he sank into the car seat.
This story originally appeared in The Dreadful Objects.
When his reclusive uncle commits suicide in a mansion full of curiosities, Jamie Lawson is left to clean up his dusty estate. As Jamie peels back the layers of his uncle’s life as a semi-famous horror author, he discovers an eerie connection between his uncle’s works and real life tragedies. Now, he must uncover the truth behind his uncle’s books while trying to rebuild his life in a new town. But, the bizarre facts he uncovers may just threaten his new life and everyone in it.
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