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Short Story 24

Updated: May 8, 2023

The Sudden Death of Mr. Brake

He was a slow-moving man. That was just one of those things about Mr. Brake that most people found oddly charming, so when he died rather quickly it came as quite a surprise to all those who knew him. The funeral was a simple thing, and oddly enough there were a lot of people there, though none of them could say they knew him well enough to do so. It was more that they were curious to see if anyone else did. Everyone was disappointed to see that no one had any personal knowledge of Mr. Brake and his life. And so, the mystery that was he would further disappear from the world.

Though he would be gone, and much, if not all, of his beguiling life story, there was still another mystery that was left to understand. How his estate would be settled. He owned a little shop that sold goods from around the world. It was nothing like the larger chains, there was no mass production and fair trade, which he understood as being as fair as a stolen penny. It had charming relics and things not known to the wider world. There was also the matter of his house, which was a very large baroque style thing, which no one had any idea of when it was planned, built, or completed.

The matter of inheritance was an overwhelming subject amongst the inhabitants. It buzzed for the next three months as his attorney, who no one knew, because he was from out of town, kept it even more tightlipped than the old man had while he was alive. It was imagined that it couldn’t be a friend, no one in the town could be persuaded to admit to being his friend, nor could anyone recall ever having seen him with anyone that could be called his friend.

There was the idea of family. It was possible, maybe, that somewhere down the line he could have been associated with some great house at some time or it was possible that it could be rather more mundane and he could just have become estranged. Then there was a possibility that there was no one at all. There were those poor souls that were bequeathed a desolate life in this world.

Time waned. There was no change. The property gradually began to overgrow. The old estate with all its loveliness fading behind a memory. The gate was locked, there was no estate sale, no for sale sign, no auction.

The shop was shuttered. The great window backed so only the golden letters could be read, ‘McMurray Antiques’. It was a sad little stain in the line of old buildings. A derelict forgotten little friend. It had never stood closed for more than a day and now it appeared its eyes would be shut for an indefinite amount of time.

One year passed. Then two. People stopped asking when something would happen. They moved around the old sleeping wonders with a sense of great pity for the old man who had made it all and loved it all. That was one thing that was not in question with any of those who had known him. They might wonder if McMurray was his real name, or where he got all those mysterious things to sell when he never went anywhere, or any number of little nuances about the man. But, they always knew he loved all the things he was surrounded with and in a strange way loved all the people of the town who he had been serving for such a very long time.

It was a fall day when a car was seen before the lonely old mansion gate. It was the fourth year, and the weeds that had grown through the first, second, and third appeared brown and weather worn amongst those that were now cropping up to celebrate the fall growing semester. This same car was later seen before the old shop. There was never observed a person getting out, or any action being taken before this same vehicle left the town.

The following day a sold sign was affixed to the bars of the old mansion and a for rent sign tapped to the front window of the shop.

The curtains had been drawn away from the windows of the antique shop exposing the cleaned and empty visage of the once pleasantly cluttered interior. Not a relic left of its old life, even the golden letters of ‘McMurray Antiques’ was scrapped clean from the glass.

The mansion, too, underwent a great transformation back to a previously unknown glory. Its thick cream walls shinning, cleaned, and then repainted. All the weeds had been cleaned out and the pebble drive had been replaced by crisp concrete. There was not an ounce of rust on the gate, nor smudge on any of the windows. The new in habitancy used the lovely place as a summer home and cavorted very infrequently with the local populous, bringing in provisions, furnishings, and even staff from some undisclosed location.

The old man who had been so notable for his slowness and mystery had kept true to himself, though not in his eventual end, but in the execution of his estate. No one learned or really knew if his name really was McMurray or Brake, or how he came upon all the antiques he sold, or when his house was built, or if he had any living family.

He was a mystery. A legend to the town. He was coated in additions and flourishes. Stories were devised and rebuilt and redevised. He became something not altogether human in the hearts of the town he had inhabited for seemingly his whole life. For no one could remember when he came to be there. He was a beautiful enigma and would always exist as part of their lore. Truth and fiction didn’t matter really, not in his case, and though nothing was answered he would always be remembered.


Thank you so much for reading everyone!!

Prompt Sentence: He was a slow-moving man.

Word Count: 1000

©DecemberKnight 2023

Special thanks to Thomas An from Pixabay for the use of the image!

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