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A Word of Warning · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Rock Mansion
I stepped into the abandoned house with the crack of thunder. The stale atmosphere was perfect to escape the cold rain outside.

I haven’t been in my parent’s home in a long time. Since their death, no one in my family had ever spoken a word about them.

I walk inside. A golden piano sat in the middle of the large room, just under the similarly styled chandelier. Surrounding the piano were priceless pieces of fine art.

My parents didn’t appreciate a sense of gratitude, which reflected directly on their lifestyles. It was one of the main reasons why I left home.

I stared at the painting of my mother. The young woman looked below as if she intended to look directly at me.

A knock rang from above.

“Is anyone there?” I yelled. Silence returned, just as I expected. Is someone up there?

I turn back to the painting. It was as if her eyes had eerily followed me as I made my way toward the stairs. I ignored it. I'm now focused on a different task.

I ascend to the second floor and find nothing. I decided to check the attic. I came here for what was up there, anyways.

It was exceptionally cooler than the rest of the house. I gave a deep breath to cool my nerves. I witness the cold gas escape from my mouth.

A box laid on its side in the attic with paper sprawled against the floor. I eventually found the paper I was looking for.

This is the Last Will and Testament of both Michael and Susan Rock.

We, both Michael Rock and Susan Rock, declare in our sound state of mind that all of our property, all of our land, and all of our space are to be sold to no one, to be given to no one, and to be redistributed to no one.

We state, upon our own appointment, that only with the birth of our first grandson, given by our son, Caden Rock, will any of our land, property, and space be inherited.

With no time to reflect on my disgust, I hear something from behind. I spun around, stunned with shock. A translucent, ghostly, image of my young mother floated in front of me.

“Mother?” I said, cautiously.

“What a disgusting little cretin you’ve become, Caden,” she spats. “No class and no pride left in you. Look at what you’ve become. Pillaging the dead for their belongings.”

I was shocked and curious at first with the sudden appearance of my mother, but with her onslaught of words, I come to the sense to end this as soon as possible.

“Too afraid to speak?" She continued. "Seeing that document in your possession, I guess the surprise has been spoiled for your eager hands, hasn’t it?”

“How do you plan to have my child live in such a horrible place like this? You know--”

“Please do not bore me with your words any longer, even if I am deceased.”

Anger rode a course through my body. I clench a fist to ease myself.

“Your son will come to us, regardless whether you want him to or not.”

“How do you know that?!” I shout.

“Lower your voice! I will not listen to your loud tone.”

I ignore her statement. “My child will be kind. He will appreciate all that comes to him, and I will foresee to that! I am the parent of the child, not--”

She interrupted me once more in an explosion of laughter. Anger filled me once more to the bone as I grit my teeth.

“Enough!” I shout. A crack of thunder roars in the background with me. She became silent. A brief pause expanded between the two of us, letting me calm down. She continued.

“There is no way for you to stop your child. If you think so, you are only delusional. Take yourself as the spitting example of what your child will turn out like. He will become fueled by anger, just like how you are with your father. He will become unempathetic, just as how you are with I.”

She continued. “You are no more fit to be a parent as were we, and because of it, the same will happen on to you as what happened to us.”

“I am not--” I try to reply, but with a blink, she disappeared.

“-- like you...”

I stand alone in the dark attic. I'm not at all like them, am I?
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#1 · 2
The conflict here is interesting, and if you plan on continuing with this story, I would like to know more about the estate. I'd like to know what was so worth holding on to even after death, where someone is willing to badger their son and somewhat curse their grandson to be a spoiled brat, and is simultaneous wicked enough for this ghost's son to abandon it at some point. It would be interesting to see the rest of the aristocracy or people who populate that area. Did these two affluent people who've recently passed away live by themselves, snubbing everyone else around them, and Caden is a kid that wanted to socialize; or were they a part of their community, and Caden is an outcast in the community? I think that would be interesting. The warning that the grandson would come, whether Caden liked it or not, makes me want to know how she knows that, and how the grandson will come to be.

I want to motivate you to continue on with this. If you want to know my thoughts on this small story itself, here it is: it suffers from tell-don't-show, telling us a lot without giving us a scene to appreciate.The reactions honestly happen way too quickly, and the setting feels stale. I wanted to know how the setting changed since the last time he was there, what was taken, what was destroyed, what was locked up, and why, if at least one person knew they were dead, their will was still at this place (perhaps he knows something everyone else doesn't? /OoO\). Your portrayal of the mother is menacing enough, and the conflict you set up, while lacking in background I feel is necessary, is interesting.

Take my comments for whatever they are worth.
#2 · 1
The cosmology of this story is troubling to me. While I like the fundamental concept and it is, in many respects, well executed, the fact that there is a literal ghost here seems to be given a pass. Likewise, the fundamental conflict of the story is suitably vague that I'm not really sure how to interpret it. Did he hate his parents because they were greedy? Because they were cold? Is he not worried about the, again, literal ghost trying to posses his child?

Would love to see more about this, but as is, it's not as solid as I might have hoped.
#3 ·
Now, I'm not going to claim to know much about writing, but I'm pretty sure switching between past and present tense that much is something I can ding you for. If anything, it bothered me.

Otherwise, I echo the previous comments.
#4 · 1
While I feel like the core idea here is one I can get behind (and Philip Larkin says it pretty well, too) the details in this story are kinda... loose.

I mean, what's the point of the piano? Is it important that it's gold? If not, why the attention?

Things like that. There's lots of little details in here that don't really seem to tie into... anything very well. It's a good start, but it needs a good coat of polish, besides the mechanical problems like tense and what.

Oh, but my first thought on seeing the title was: "People tend to prefer paper mansions for the cost-effectiveness, but a rock mansion is still much better than a scissors mansion." :P
#5 ·
Rock Mansion — C+ — Starts off a little clunky. Really needs a better hook. Short and chunky sentences that don’t flow well together. Interesting concept. It really doesn’t show the parallelism between the POV character and the ‘bad parents,’ and how it was inherited.
#6 ·
There was something off about the writing and tense slips/typos that makes me think the author is not a native speaker.

I want to give props for the effort. This story is going for that classical haunted mansion horror movie feel. It's good to know the feeling you want to instill into your readers from the get go. Unfortunately, I think what ended up happening is a story that is merely mimicking the texture of horror instead of its core. You are invoking imagery - a stormy night, old creaky house, creepy portraits, ghostly apparitions - but missing the essence.

Horror hinges on the experiences of the characters in the story. It's their refusal to accept the unthinkable, their struggle to rationalize away the mystical and their shock at discovering that the world is not as they know it that guides us as readers. Some characters will even question their own sanity, because accepting that their entire worldview is a lie is scarier. Finding out little we actually understand the world around us is horrifying.

In this context, the way you wrote the ghost encounter was completely lacking in these themes. It sounded like an argument one could be having on the way back from the movies, and almost no dialogue would need changing. No one should brazenly accept: "Oh, hey, my dead mother's spirit is talking to me... Welp, time to start the grandson argument again!"

The central theme you seemed to want to evoke was the horror at being as bad as your parents. Of having their emotional torment turn out to be right. Of ending up validating everything they accused you of, in the worst possible way.

Those sound like very internal, personal sort of fears, and I feel like a less literal approach might have been better suited. Instead of a straight up confrontation in the attic, maybe make this hazier. Maybe the protagonist comes to the house to arrange some affairs, finds the letter, gets angry and drunk. In his dreams, his mother appears before him. All the memories of abuse and pain rush in. He's again that little boy, crying and pleading, but being silenced at every turn. He lashes out, and then sees himself as the abuser of his own son. Then he wakes up in a cold sweat.

Something alongside those lines would leave a bit of a mystery - were his nightmares just that, or was it really his mother's spirit invading them to torment him again?

Because, hey, for him rationalizing that it was just a nightmare is easy. After all, the alternative... well... that would be horrifying.