Author's Note: Before you begin reading, I would like to point out that this story is purposefully sleepy. The descriptions are detailed, and some might say there are too many of them. It is meant to be a story that creeps up on you from time to time to scare the buckets out of you. It is meant to bring you into a world you can believe to be true, and the description therein hopefully shows you this world so vividly that your imagination can take the day off. It is deliberately a slow moving story, but I believe it will be a good one. I hope that doesn't discourage you from reading it anyway.
A slight shudder tingled up my spine as I slowly parked in the driveway of the old white house. The paint was blistered and peeling from the years of weathering, and a few shingles were missing from the roof. The small outside light was broken; someone had thrown a rock at it, and shards of glass still clung to the metal of the light. A part of the wrought iron railing still stood, rusted with age, on the small cement porch. The stairs crumbled at the edges, eroded with time.
The yard was overgrown, the pampas grass in the corner of the chain link fence waving silently in the breeze. The rhododendrons, long neglected, tangled with blackberries and ivy, their flowers struggling to bloom beneath the overbearing weeds. My eyes sought out the climbing rose beneath the old maple as I stepped out of my car. It was there, tangled in the maple's branches, its scarlet flowers blooming in the green surrounding like blotches of blood on the wide leaves. The front gate was caught open in the overgrown grass; not that it had ever latched properly anyway. The old street lamp still stood in its short brick base, a sentinel over the gate, though the flowers that had once bloomed around it were dead.
I pushed aside the slender green grass as I walked over the moss-covered cement path, studying the empty windows, almost reluctant to look inside should I see the ghost of… him. I tried to chuckle at myself for my superstition, but the feeling that there was something or someone watching me crawled up my back, and I could not help but glance around nervously as I unlocked the front door. A waft of musty air assailed my nostrils as I stepped in; the house had always smelled like that; a smell that was once comfortable and familiar, but now sent another chill down my spine. The click of the door behind me was loud in the almost empty house; I tiptoed into the living room, my eyes darting around.
The deep red Victorian-style rug was still there, covering most of the hard, wooden floor, as well kept up as it had always been. There were no holes in the thick patterns, no unraveling threads in the white fringe. I only glanced towards the metal fireplace; the metal grate still stood, guarding against young inquisitive fingers. The set of black metal shovels and rods stood to one side, clean as if they had never been used, and dusty, as was everything within my sight. I stood for a moment in the dining room archway, studying the small gold chandelier, beautiful with its many faceted crystals and the tapered candle- lights. The window seat still had its ugly old brown cushion, soft to the touch but alien in the Victorian-style farmhouse.
Turning around, I moved towards the guest room that had once been my room, pushing through the door that made it possible to go in a complete circle from the kitchen, through the dining room, through the living room, through the small but open hallway, past the stairs and back into the kitchen.
With only a slight tremble in my hand, I slowly opened the closet next to the bedroom and peered inside. It was empty but for a bottle of cleaning liquid. Shutting that door, I passed through the open bedroom door and stood in the middle of the floor. The old piano, once in the kitchen's breakfast nook, sat forlornly in the corner, its keys uncovered and dusty, its bench standing apart and askew. I pushed a few keys and winced. It was badly out of tune, but then, it always had been. I left the windows and the window seat for later and peered into the closet which had once been mine. It seemed bare without all of my dresses and blouses; the shelves were covered with dust and a few dead moths. I sneezed as dust drifted from a shelf and I closed the door.
Leaving the room, I pushed open the bathroom door. It was tile-floored, as it had been, and no one had replaced the window next to the shower, its frame molding green on the otherwise white wall. I shook my head. There never had been a curtain over the window, and one had to be certain no one was outside before using the shower, as the window was medium sized but clear. Still tiptoeing, I moved over to the wall-width mirror above the small sink and tried to switch on the light below the mirror to see if it still worked. It didn't. I ignored my gray haired, wrinkled, old lady reflection in the mirror and popped open the shelf that reached all the way back to the outside wall. It had been hard to reach things that had been pushed to the back, especially for me, as I was petite, and my arms would not reach past half of the shelf.
I didn't touch the door to the laundry chute; I never wanted to again. It had served as something far, far more horrible than even I could have imagined a laundry chute would be used for, and I could still see the slight stains below the chute's door. I quickly turned away and scuttled out of the bathroom. For a moment, I paused at the bottom of the stairs, but I decided to tackle the upstairs later, licking my lips as I wished that the wood floor weren't quite so loud under my steps. Passing through another door, I beheld the floor to ceiling cabinets dominating the entire north wall of the kitchen, excepting the long counter separating them in the middle. The stainless steel sink was just as I remembered it, almost; it had lost a bit of its younger shine, and was now dull and slightly scratched. It bore no stains of the foul deeds that had been done in its deep basins, and lounged in the middle of the counter like an old, tired thing. Red handles, with a button at their tops with which to unlatch the white cupboards, were worn from much handling, and light colored metal showed through the red paint.
The floor in here was badly scuffed; it had been the favorite place to sit and talk, and had made an ideal runway for the boys' speedy race cars and the girls' fashionable dolls. I could still smell the slight woody scent that this floor had always gently released, and I walked into the cute little breakfast nook, complete with two tall windows and a corner cupboard with a glass windowed showcase in the top, a triangle drawer under its middle shelf, and secretive white wooden doors, containing more shelves, in its bottom. I turned to the blank wall, where the piano should have stood, and closed my eyes, remembering it as it had been.
I could see the children, playing with their toys, their mother softly pushing the keys of the piano, and suddenly, he walked in and… I quickly opened my eyes and edged out of the nook, glancing into the small back porch/pantry before setting my hand on the door to the basement. For a moment I just stood, feeling the cold metal of the handle, taking a deep breath, blinking away memories before I pushed myself to open the door and navigate down the concrete steps. Three steps down was a landing, and another back door with a window in it, and then the steps, painted red down their middle like a carpet running down the concrete, slid down into the musty smelling basement.
It had been flooded several times, and had a more mildew must to it than the upstairs. It was separated into two rooms, the one to the right having been a playroom, and the one to the left a workshop/laundry/canning room. I looked into the playroom. The old green carpet had been removed, along with the paneling, due to the flooding, and now there was no more in it than an old blue couch and the stack of paneling leaning against the cement wall. I swallowed as more memories assaulted my mind, changing the happy scene of playing children into something much more gruesome. I turned around and walked around the furnace into the workshop; the walls were marked with the shapes of tools, each marking a bright, blood red against the white-painted wood back. The workbench, old and brown, was covered with dirt, oil stains, and cobwebs, and an old dollhouse, cheery blue with white trim, sat on the end, filled with cobwebs as well. Its carpet had been torn out, as I remembered, and all that remained of the pretty floors was the cloth mimicking tile in the tiny bathroom.
I turned from the workbench, avoiding the six-foot long freezer, glancing towards the shower head and the molding curtain to pull around it, the two clothes wringers and two washing tubs, and the other long freezer. I didn't let my eyes travel to the space under the stairs, where the laundry chute ended, but I turned and walked beside the furnace, glancing into the tight room of shelving on either wall, covered with dirt and cobwebs, and the room which had once held canning and now was filled with a white door, a large brown rug, and a few wooden shelves. I didn't bother to pull the string for the light in that room, but walked past it, for some reason curious to see the shelves on the back wall, shadowed by the furnace. No light reached them, and I almost didn't go back, but overcoming my shuddering feelings, I walked back and beheld…
…Dusty shelves. I don't know why I had expected to see more; I suppose because these shelves had always been full of canned goods, right up until… I turned away and hurried up the stairs, a creeping sensation on my neck as if he was watching me with his colorless eyes; the eyes rimmed with black lashes and tight red skin, their irises nearly white, speared with the black of his pupils. I swung open the door at the landing and stepped out into the fresh summery air. All of the sudden I was sweating, though the basement had been cool and dry. I followed the walkway to the little house; its door was still white amidst the barn-red sides, but the paint was peeling there just as it was peeling on the house.
The inside of the little house was lighter than I remembered, and it was occupied by a dresser, paintings stacked against the wall, a few baskets, a lamp, and several other objects. I walked over to the dresser, my attention more captured by the doll beds on top of it than the furniture piece. I fingered the smooth dark wood of the larger bed, and lightly caressed the smaller bed's rails. The girls had fought over these beds, each one claiming that the other did not need the larger bed, or that her doll had been sick lately, and needed a larger, more comfortable bed. I remember many days in which I had to settle the arguments by removing both beds entirely. I turned away from the dresser and eyed the stairs. The fourth and fifth up were missing, but I climbed up to the third step and peered into the loft, relieved to see that all it contained was a few mattresses and some metal poles. Not to mention a lot of bird feathers and more cobwebs.
Carefully stepping back down the stairs, I glanced briefly out of the window beside me and then considered whether or not I wanted to go into the basement of the small building. I did, even though my senses picked up a strange smell as I tested each stair, and I could not see much at the bottom beyond the light around the door that led outside. I pulled open the door, smiling at the blackberry vines, and turned slowly around, surveying the room. The dirt floor was growing a few weeds, and a little white cupboard, the old medicine cabinet, stood on the ground, its white paint peeling and its slightly open doors tangled with dirty webs.
Beyond the small cabinet was the back of the basement, and I ducked to miss a rope hanging loose from the floor above as I walked towards another cabinet and a few shelves. To my right was another room, and I poked my head in carefully. Nothing but some old boards and more shelves. I stepped back, anxious to get out of the confined, dark area, and walked towards the stairs when I caught sight of the tool.
Its handle was wooden, and as long as a rake's would be, but the metal prongs coming from the metal base at the end were not used to rake. I picked it up. It was heavy, and I lifted the end to peer more closely at the prongs. They looked like the sharp ends of nails, and there were four of them; used properly, the tool served as something with which to poke holes in the tilled earth before planting seeds. But in the wrong hands, it was deadly. I dropped the tool, not caring to shut the outside door, and panted back up the stairs, almost tripping out the door as I whirled and shut it. The feeling that I was being watched grew stronger as I explored, but I shook it off and headed down to the barn. The grass around me was nearly as tall as I was, and I let my hand lightly push over the tops of the grasses as I trampled it on my way to the barn.
Outside, it looked to be a sturdy structure, painted the same barn red as the little house, its one window that faced me blocked with shelves and sporting a motor oil can. I stepped in and looked around. It was as I remembered it, aside from the dust and spider webs. The old shop, to my right, the rusty old tractor, the shelves, and a few whiskey bottles, all covered in dirt and bird droppings; the more open space to my left, where the floor was falling through and the large opening at the end displayed the neighbor's barn. I walked towards the open space, hemmed into a sort of room by feeding troughs, and wondered, as I had before, why there were so many windows, most of them now broken, leaning against the walls. The frames were of every shape and size, and there had to be at least fifty of them. Two old couches, both overturned to rest on their backs, sat haphazardly around the inside edge of the room, against the feeding troughs. I dared not walk on the floor; it was rotted through in many places, and I didn't want to risk my neck walking over it.
I went back to the workshop area, looking up to the loft above, and edging up the ladder leading to it. A cot, the springs devoid of any covering, and the metal bed frame rusted, lay up there, along with another couch, some old trim, and a jumble of wood, metal and chairs. I turned to go back down the wooden ladder, but a sparkle of glass caught my eyes. I bent a little closer; an old whiskey bottle, the one he had drunk from, lay broken near the stairs. Almost unwillingly, I lifted my eyes to the ceiling. Sky broke through the shingles, webs hung from the beams; it would not have held out any rain. I swallowed and my eyes found what I'd not wanted to see. The ropes still hung from a beam- two of them, broken off now, but they still hung. I took a jagged breath and climbed back down the ladder hastily, hurrying back to the house.
I still had not gone upstairs.
I slowly walked through the house, and even more slowly started up the creaking stairs. Turning at the landing, I bit my lip as I stepped on the groaning wood. As I moved up the last stairs, I stared out the window to my right, not seeing the sunshine, just feeling the oppressive heat that had always plagued the children. Turning my face, I stopped and surveyed the hallway.
It was a wide hallway, though short, and the wood floors were darker here than they were downstairs. An old pastel pink and white rug still adorned the floor, and the brown trim was nicked but still beautiful against the white walls. To my left was the boys' room, to my right the girl's room, and straight ahead was another room- his room. Also, next to that door, was the door to the bathroom.
I turned first and slipped into the girl's room. It was all white, excepting the closets, which were the unpainted brown of the wood floors and lath and plaster walls. The closet ceilings were slanted with the roof, and no one over five feet could stand up straight within them. There were two closets, one immediately to the right of the door, and the other on the left wall, close to the windows. I peeked into the right closet and saw nothing, as I had expected. This was where the little girls had kept their clothes and their dolls, along with their "secret" things, closed into the small attic space which was reached by removing a panel in the wall. I touched a shelf lightly and wiped the dust off of my fingers on my slacks. The room seemed so empty, so bare of anything feminine.
Here, in the middle of the west wall, they had had their white four poster bed, complete with a ruffled bed skirt and pink and white quilt and shams; there, on either side of the bed had been white nightstands, simple yet beautified by pink and purple doilies beneath a simple white lamp. Then, at the foot of the bed had been a dark, wooden trunk, filled with blankets and dresses that were too large and would have been worn later. In the corner of the inside walls had been an upholstered Victorian chair, made of dark wood and light, rose patterned fabric. At the windows had been frilly white curtains, tied back with a pink ribbon and adorned with a rose at the ties. And on the floor beside either side of the bed had been matching red, pink, purple, and white rag rugs, little slippers laid out upon them for the two girls in the morning.
On the walls had been several different sized watercolor paintings of flowers, each one contained in simple white frames. I walked over to the other closet and pulled the light chord; it was just as empty as the other one. They had been afraid to use this closet, and had kept the door tightly shut. I swallowed as I remembered how I had admonished them for the waste of space, only to find out later why they did not use it.
Shaking my head, I crossed the hall into the boys' room. The old green rug was still in the middle of the room, beaten and worn from much padding across by rambunctious feet. On the inside wall, to the right of the door, had been the bunk beds, always messily made with their white sheeted pillows and colorful tied quilts. I still remembered tucking in a stray blanket corner or straightening a pillow as I searched to make sure that no frogs or snakes had been hidden in the soft beds. Beneath the windows, which had been curtain-less, had been two matching trunks, both battered dark wood, containing a blanket each, and many toys. A tall dresser had sat against the west wall, its highest drawer too high for the younger boy to reach, its top unadorned and gathering dust.
To the left of the door was another door, an attic room, where the boys had spent their days plotting, and the girls had demanded entrance to, and where all of the children had played with kittens, read stories by the window, and played with their friends. And hidden when they were startled awake by screams in the dark and did not want to travel the long stairs down to safe and comforting arms. Backing out of the hot attic room, I turned into the hallway and stood, staring at the last bedroom door. I did not bother with the bathroom, I had seen it too many times and knew that it would hold nothing, even after all that had happened around it.
The door at the end of the hall was dark, unmarred wood, still pristine, though what had been behind it was terrifying. I slowly walked towards it, drawn though I did not wish see into the room. I had promised myself that before I died, I would relieve these memories, or relive them, and perhaps then I would die in peace, after I saw that what had been done was long gone, after I relieved my memories to see that the rooms were empty now, the house abandoned, the horror of it all gone with age.
Reaching out a hand, I touched the door and then pulled back. There was still a latch near the top; it was the only door in the house that had a latch on the outside. The precautionary lock had been futile. I took a deep breath and forced my hand to rest on the doorknob. It was cold and slightly damp, as if the blood of all those years ago still lingered on the metal. I pushed away the thought and turned the handle.
It was a white room; bright, harsh white, and the windows were thicker than in any of the other rooms. I took sharp breaths and listened, my mind projecting the screams and wails of the past into the present; I shuddered and forced my hands to stay at my sides instead of coming up to cover my ears. My eyes darted around the walls; though they had been painted over, I could still see, in my mind's eye, the bloodstains. Coming from raw fingers, they had been all over the room, deep scratches cutting into the plaster beneath the blood. The heavy blankets that had covered the window were gone, but the nail holes were still in the wall, deep into the plaster and lath wall. Marks on the windowsill suggested that it had been gnawed on; though it was painted over, the teeth marks were unmistakable.
The marks on the floor could not be painted over; yellowed wood and browner spots in the corner from human waste, deep grooves from the single piece of furniture, a metal bed, being drug around, and small drops of rusty red from scraped up skin. I held my breath. Though the years had gone by, I could still smell the terrible stench of filth. I moved from my spot on the floor and slowly pushed the door closed to open the closet. Shaking, I could not move any further than to stare with wide eyes part way into the long closet. Shocks of memory flashed in front of my eyes.
The nail marks on the wall; the dents from pounding fists; the gnaw marks on the door frame; the crouched figure in the back of the closet; him. His eyes as he uncurled slowly, staring at me, those blank, colorless eyes; his hand, bloodstained fingertips stretching towards me; his confusion as he stood and hit his head in the tight space; his anger as he maniacally jumped at me; his pitiful, waling, cry as I slammed the door. His wavering, deep, high pitched laughter as he pounded on the door. The thuds of his fists; the scraping of his nails; the small trickle of blood from beneath the door; his screeching, raging scream when he could not get out.
Then, the horror of watching as the door slowly opened,; the dark haired head slowly popped out; the bright, childlike happiness as the colorless eyes saw me standing there; his tall frame towering over me as he picked up his bloody hand and softly touched my cheek; the feel of his blood on my face, sticky, trickling slowly onto my neck; my terrified mesmerized stillness as he gently fingered my hair …
I snapped open my eyes and ran from the room. I could not stand the suspense of being in his room. I sped down the stairs and out the front door, but something stopped me on the porch, and I looked around. The evening sun was filtering over the trees, and the house's shadow stretched across the street and onto the trees there. The scent of roses wafted from those beside the garage, a building I had never been in, and I breathed deeply as something made me sit down on the steps. It had been a day like this, I remembered, an innocent day filled with soft summer beauty. In that fateful day, I was drawn into a seemingly normal family, and now, years later, I had the secret past of this house locked in my heart, almost too horrible to recall. I looked up to the blue sky, softly dotted with fluffy clouds. And the memories began.