Excerpt from draft –
Finally, the chill of the house got to him, and he decided it was time to restart the furnace and warm the house once again. He donned his jacket and used the scarf to cover his mouth and nose. He stood, walking to the door and unlocking it. Carefully, he opened it enough for him to peer into the darkness. The transient had turned off the light, and Joseph now realized he couldn’t even see the bed where the man should remain. Joseph reached down, grabbing a flashlight he kept by the door, and clicked it on. He shined the light down the stairs and followed the path toward the bed. The stairs were coated with ash, as was the floor. A smoky haze still filled the room, and a mix of dust and ash danced in his beam of light. As he tracked the light, he could see the man lying on his side, facing the wall. Moving the light, Joseph saw the empty mason jar next to the cot.
Joseph opened the door a little more, the stench of the smoke filling his lungs despite the scarf. He gave a shudder as he took a step into the room. He kept the light shining on the man. Although certain he was dead, Joseph maintained his caution. He stepped down onto the first stair, feeling it creak as he shifted his weight forward. Looking down, he could see a puff of ash rise with his step. Slowly, he stepped down each stair, one at a time, the beam of light never leaving the man on the cot.
When he reached the bottom, he paused a moment, listening. He couldn’t hear any snoring, like he did the night before. Watching the man, he didn’t see any movement. His confidence increasing, he took a few more steps toward the cot, the beam of light holding firm on the body. One step after another, carefully, quietly, he walked until he stood at the foot of the cot. The man on the bed never moved.
He continued to watch the body, looking for any signs of life. After several minutes, he slowly reached a hand out toward the man’s feet. He placed his hand carefully on one of the shoes and waited. There was no response. He shook his foot, pulling his hand back quickly after doing so. Still, there was no movement, no answer from the man. Joseph grabbed the shoe of his top leg and yanked him over. The man rolled over, his arm flopping over the edge of the cot, his eyes closed, his mouth open. There was no life emanating from the man and Joseph smiled, now knowing for certain he was dead. Joseph stood up straight and sighed. He looked at the dead man’s face for several minutes before retracing his steps back into the kitchen. He closed the locked the door once again, relieved it was finally over.
Smokehouse is one of the short stories coming via Dark Moments, a collection of twisted tales featuring the dark side of the human psyche.