The House Told Me
The house menaced in the harsh sunlight. The yard was a barren plot of dry grass, and the broken windows looked like hollow eye-sockets.
“Isn’t it great?” Miranda giggled and bounced on her toes.
“Um…” I tried to stammer out a supporting response but couldn’t, for the life of me, fathom why anyone would buy this house.
“It’s my first fixer-upper,” she squealed with delight, “it’s got real potential and I think we can turn a good profit.”
“Does Oscar agree?” I asked, knowing my sister’s penchant for pies in the sky.
“You bet!” She said and beckoned me to follow her.
I stared at the hideous building. It didn’t have the charm of a bygone architectural style most old houses had. It was square, dilapidated and bleak, but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything.
“Let me show you,” Miranda took my hand and hurried me across the arid yard.
Charm and beauty weren’t on the inside either. It was like walking into a box with low ceilings and no decorative features. Debris lay strewn about on the floor, lost and mismatched objects, broken glass and, in the corner, a creepy doll slumped against the wall.
My heart skipped a beat when I beheld it. Only a bare rag of what may have been an apron covered the doll. Its arm was scorched black and it was missing an eye. Someone had pulled out most of its hair. To whom had this toy belonged?
“Do you know who lives here?” I asked Miranda, unable to peel my eyes off the unfortunate doll.
“Um, no, it’s abandoned.” Miranda answered, oblivious to the anxiety in my voice.
I cast one last look around the room as she led me towards the stairs. Eerie warped sunlight entered the window, and for the first time, I noticed the walls. My heart raced as my mind sought an explanation for the reddish brown spatters and streaks that lined the shabby wallpaper. What could have done this? These stains peppered every wall, and though they didn’t look like blood, I had the strange sensation they pointed to something.
“Elise!” Miranda called from the upstairs landing.
Reluctant, I climbed the stairs that creaked and cracked under my feet. Miranda stood at the top, arms akimbo, waiting for me as I dawdled. Shadows danced on the walls and ceiling behind her. I paused. Were they the distorted shapes of children?
I gulped. My mind was playing tricks on me, but…
I reached the top of the stairs and entered the gloomy and messy second floor.
“It doesn’t have the greatest view,” Miranda chatted as we crept down the hallway, “but we’ll figure something out.”
We entered one of the smaller bedrooms. I gasped and held back a scream.
“What?” Miranda asked.
“Who lived here?” I breathed.
She followed my gaze and shrugged.
“So the windows have bars,” she stated with that annoying nonchalance that often made me want to punch her.
“On the inside?” I exclaimed and pointed at the iron bars that ran from the ceiling to the floor.
“Why not?” She shrugged; I gave her an annoyed glance.
A draft blew in this dreary, ugly house and sent a chill up my spine. I whipped around, certain I’d heard a child’s whimper in that gust of air. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a shadow run into the adjacent door, but I didn’t dare look. Instead, I invited Miranda to lunch, the sooner to hightail it without hurting her feelings. She was so damn sensitive and so excited about this horrible house any objection would fall on deaf ears.
As we turned to go, I glanced down the hall towards the master bedroom. In the fuzzy sunlight streaked on the wall, I saw, just for a moment, the dangling silhouette of a hanging man. I hurried my sister along and sped through the ground floor and its stained walls and into the dead yard.
This house is dead, but the shadows live. The words pounded in my brain and it took me a while to compose myself. Miranda never noticed.
“I’ve heard some stories,” Oscar whispered when I voiced my concern over the telephone the next day, “I heard the last owner, decades ago, hanged himself in a bedroom. They said he was heartbroken when his wife ran off with their kids.”
I said no more; in the background Miranda’s excited voice mixed with the rattle and boom of heavy machinery.
I hung up and went about my day, trying, and failing, to get that house out of my mind. Oscar’s story rang true, but there was something…
Night fell; the phone rang.
“Oh my God, Elise!” Miranda yelled before I could say the customary hello.
“What? What’s happened?” I said alarmed.
“You won’t believe what the workers found!”
“The skeletons of a woman and children entombed in the stained walls,” I blurted out.
“How did you know?”
“The house told me…”