I don't know why I felt the need to go there, some sense of morbid curiosity, maybe? It didn't matter, because I was there, and I couldn't turn back. You can't un-ring a bell, and once you walk into the ruins of your childhood home, you can't pretend you didn't. Childhood, that's a nice idea. A little foreign to me at this point, but still, it's a pleasant thought.
The house didn't look at all like I remembered it. It was cold and dark, white sheets were draped over everything, dust covered every surface. Technically, this disaster was mine; I owned it. There was no one left except me to own it. I sure as hell didn't want it, though. There was this chill throughout it, it was in every room, and it didn't change, just this unyielding bone chill. Pictures of my family were still on the walls, and sitting on little tables and decorative dressers. The picture of the four of us that always sat above the fireplace wasn't straight, it kind of hung at a soft diagonal.
Mom, Dad, a ten year-old girl, and a seven year-old boy, all wearing suits and dresses, and smiling brightly at the camera. My hair fell to my shoulders, and my eyes were lit, life dancing inside them. My eyes hadn't looked like that in almost fifteen years, a couple months after that photo was taken. A large picture of the four of us had been there the entire time I lived in the house, a new photo taken every year. We were always happy.
I honestly don't remember much of that night, only the snippets that appear in my dreams, and that's plenty horrible. I don't want to remember, I don't want to know what killed my parents. I don't want to remember what traumatized my brother so badly that he couldn't get away from it, even after eight years. Ryan killed himself when he was fifteen, found our foster father's gun and put it in his mouth. It was my last year in high school, days before my graduation. I went to his funeral, and than ran like hell to college.
I've never had any desire to come back to this house, to see where my happily little family once lived. I never wanted to revisit the past, but I was about to sell it, and had this compulsion to see it before I let it go. I would have rather they sold it for me when I was ten, I wouldn't have had the choice to come back now.
A shrink at college once told me that returning, facing this house, might help me let go of the past. I told her she was fucking nuts, and that I saw enough of the house in my nightmares. She then suggested the closure I'd gain from seeing it again would stop the nightmares. I politely informed her that I'd rather have my intestines yanked out through my navel. She said I'm angry.
No shit, Doc.
Yet, here I am, standing at the bottom of the stairs I used to run down every morning to kiss my dad goodbye before he went to work. He left for work just as my brother and I were getting up for school, and we'd always race to catch him. After he left, we'd race back up the stairs, still in our pajamas, and try to be the first one to the bathroom. More often or not, we'd end up tangled on the floor, after someone tripped and brought the other down too. Our mother would just shake her head, the edges of her lips turned up in amusement. By shear miracle, we always got to school on time.
The stairs were smooth wood, beige wall to one side, cobweb infested banister to the other. I stayed close to the wall, spiders and their webs cause me to dance around and whimper. It's not an attractive sight. The step two from the top still creaked if you leaned on it. I found it strange that I could remember that, that one sound.
The dust was making my eyes itch and water, and I'd already sneezed a few times. As if I needed more incentive to get out of the house.
I passed by the master bedroom, not ready to go there yet. Ryan's bedroom was the next closest, and I planned on going in, I just had to work myself up to it. I stood just outside the door, staring in at where my little brother used to sleep. Everything was in bright vibrant colors, his bedspread had cars on it. A pair of his pajamas, white with little rocket ships and planets, were still laying on the floor, as if he'd discarded them this morning. I stepped in, and studied the half-finished puzzle on one of those low kiddie tables, and the fire truck and train engine discarded and forgotten by one of the bright yellow chairs.
There was a picture of Ryan decked out in his full little league gear. His huge smile showed missing teeth, and his shirt proclaimed him as one of the Badgers. He looked like my father: dark, nearly black hair, and dark brown eyes. I had dad's dark hair too, but my eyes were a lighter brown, like mom. Ryan even had dad's nose and smile, and still looked a lot like dad when he killed himself. There were no trophies with little fake gold boys holding bats—Ryan never got through a full season.
I picked up a soft, brown stuff bear from on top of the blue toy box, where all his stuffed animals sat. It smelled stale and musty, like the room itself. None of the windows had been opened in years, and the dust owned the place. There was a loose black string on the bear's nose, and it's shiny, plastic eyes were as lifeless and empty as that of the dead. I rested it back on the toy box, with it's eternal companions.
The carpet in my former room was a dusty rose color that matched the drapes, a thin white curtain beneath them. The bed was covered in the baby pink, white and ruffles people feel the need to put in little girls' rooms. I don't think I liked it that much even back then. A shelf stood off to the side with three porcelain dolls on the top shelf, another row of very breakable figurines and knickknacks beneath it, and then finally a couple rows of books. I liked ghost stories a lot as a kid. I don't like them anymore.
The toy box here was pink and purple, of course. It was also covered in stuffed animals, and stuffed dolls. In one corner there was a white and pink play kitchen, and a tiny white crib beside it. There was a little baby doll inside, staring up with wide-open eyes, as it had been the last fifteen years. It was a boy baby, thank god. The little doll wore the only bit of blue in the entire room, even if it was pastel. I don't know why, but I didn't want to touch anything in my room. It didn't feel like my room, and I didn't want it to be.
My skin was already starting to crawl, so I decided against delaying any further. I bypassed visiting the kids' bathroom, which I knew had a curtain with yellow rubber duckies all over it, and a matching toothbrush holder and soap dispenser. The whole damn house came out of a Sears catalogue...maybe JC Penny.
I stopped halfway to the master bedroom, my feet reluctant to go any further. This was where it began, and ironically where it had all ended. It was why I couldn't go in there now, I couldn't face that, and damn it, I shouldn't have too. I could hear that shrink in my head, telling me that this was good for me. I wanted to go back to campus and deck her. Finally, I got my feet to move; figures anger would get me to move.
As soon as I walked in the room I felt it—evil. I'd never felt evil before that day, and I wouldn't have believed you could before then. But, you know it when it hits you, because that awful feeling just couldn't be anything else. It felt like someone put ice cold slugs on my spine, and let them crawl up and down. It felt like there was a ball of acid burning in my stomach, and icy kisses on my throat. But, I didn't turn around.
I had to look, I had to see if it was the same as in my nightmares.
The bed sheets were tossed haphazardly around the bed, hanging down to the floor. One pillow had large gashes through it, and feathers leaking out. That was right. In my dreams, the feathers were glued to their skin by blood. There was still blood splashed on the bed, and on the floor. Red spatter polka-dotted the thyme green walls—just like Christmas.
I walked around to the other side of the bed, where their bodies had lain; there was a lot of blood over here to. It's amazing that much blood came from only two people, and I struggled to keep mulling over that fact, and not the memories. Their wedding picture had an translucent red layer of blood coating it, and...oh god, how is that possible? It should have been dried and flaking off, but it ran down the picture, like fresh blood. It ran. I swallowed a painful lump back down my throat, and turned away.
I knew, even after fifteen years, exactly how their bodies fell, exactly how they looked on the blood soaked carpet. Blood had pooled in their empty eye sockets, and trickled down the corners of their eyes, like tears. Raw, gaping holes exposed the flesh in their chests where their hearts should have been. Two of my mothers toes had been gnawed off, and my fathers left hand was left discarded on the bed. Her body was sprawled over his, both at unnatural angles, and there was the feathers, pinkish from the blood. My baby brother and I huddled together off to the side, he was covered in blood. I suppose I was too.
I was ripped from the horror show in my mind, by the feeling of hot, moist breath on my neck. I spun around, but nobody was there. I turned to leave, but then felt it again, the same feeling of heavy steam on my neck. Before I could turn, a stench caught my nose. Decomposing flesh, nothing else even comes close. And, you don't have a choice, as soon as it hits your throat you begin to gag. I thrust my head around, trying figure out where it was coming from. I wished I hadn't.
Dear old Mom and Dad were standing there, staring at me. Heads cocked to the side, looking kind of curious, hollowed out eye sockets directed right at me. As if that weren't bad enough, pieces of them were falling off. An ear hanging off there, a clump of hair and scalp missing there, flesh falling off in rotting clumps.
I leaned over and vomited on the bed. Movement out of the corner of my eye, oh my god, they were moving toward me. I hauled ass out of the bedroom, on the verge of pissing myself. My heart thudded in my ears like the bass from hell, and I struggled to keep breathing. Thank god, I wasn't asthmatic. I went for the stairs, grabbing the webby banister, and charging down. Except the banister wasn't webby anymore—it was slimy.
The stairs were slimy too, and I struggled not to slip. I turned to look behind me, and suddenly stopped. They were gone. Just like that they were gone. But, that smell of rotting flesh was still strong as ever. I finally took the time to look at what was around me.
Liquefied, decomposed human remains dripped down the stairs, and on the banister. Maggots had suctioned themselves to a couple of the juicier stairs, dozens of fat, tan-white maggots.
Why does scary stuff always have to be gross? It isn't bad enough that it scares the crap out of you, it has to make your stomach churn too? I shook my hand desperately, trying to get the dead person liquid off me, and went barreling down the stairs as fast as I could. I wanted out of the house, away from the grossness and death.
I stumbled, heaving into the living room, and stopped dead in my tracks. A shadow in the corner of the room moved. With the curtains drawn, the whole room was cloaked in shadows, but this shadow was alive. It scurried from behind the floral-print couch, into the nearby corner. I should have run like hell out of there, but I was paralyzed, watching it. It began to come closer to me, scurrying into the little nooks the furniture created.
It was barely a foot from me, but I still couldn't move; I just watched. It was pulsing, matching my erratic heart rate beat for beat. My heart was thudding so fast, I thought it might burst from my chest. The shadow attached itself to my leg, and seemed to grow over my legs. I didn't move, I was stuck, and my heart was going even faster. It was painful now, the faster it went, the more my chest seemed to tighten against itself. I looked down at the shadow, and saw one of my hands drip red liquid. I brought them up to my face, turning them over palm up; they glistened red, as they had that night.
Then I felt the moisture over my body, I turned my head slowly about, as if I were drunk. Blood dripped off my body, not my blood, I wasn't bleeding. I remember being ten, and seeing the exact same thing, blood soaking my clothing, sticking like syrup to my skin. But, I couldn't dwell on it, my chest still tightened, hurt so bad. I fell to my knees, hands clutching at my chest, and struggled to breath through the tightening.
I crawled toward the door, struggling to keep moving. My limbs felt heavy, as if I were moving through a sea of marshmallow. I nearly fell on my face, my hands barely catching me, before my face planted in the wooden floor. Ordinarily, I should have pain from the scrapes, but my chest was aching so badly, all I could feel was that. I managed to get myself over to the door, and struggle to stretch my body up to reach the knob.
I didn't even want to stand, I wouldn't ask that much. I just wanted to get to my full height on my knees. Every time I got close, a shot of searing pain zapped through my chest, and I fell back down, struggled just to breathe. My hand got close to the knob once, grazed the faux gold, but I was back on the hard floor before I knew it. Then the impossible happened.
The knob twisted on it's own, and I backed up quickly, afraid what was going to be thrown at me next. The door came closer toward me, pushed in by something I couldn't see. Then I did see him. The realtor had come to check out the house, and he was staring down at me in horror. I used the little strength I had left, renewed with the promise of hope he brought. I ran at him, pushing us both through the door, and out onto the porch. The door slammed shut behind us, and I scrambled awkwardly away, collapsing in the cool green grass.
The realtor kneeled down beside me, eyes still wide in shock. Had he seen it? The shadow crawling up my body, causing my chest to strangle itself? He leaned toward me, already dialing 911 on his phone. I grabbed his lapel, and pulled him close, whispering to him.
"Screw selling it...just torch the fucking thing." Everything started to go dark. I released his lapel, and noticed that my hand was clean. There was no blood. I turned toward the house in wonderment. Then I lost consciousness.