Story Time: Haunted House

I’ve been sitting on this story for a few weeks, going back and forth on whether or not to see if I can submit it somewhere (magazine, look through anthology calls to see if it fits, nosleep) or just post it up here. I’ve figured I can post it up here because, hell, why not? I like to share.

~*~

Working title: “Haunted House”

There was a house down the street from where I lived as a kid that was known to be haunted. It’d been abandoned since before my parents were kids, or at least that’s what they claimed. I never saw a “For Sale” sign in the yard, so I don’t know what was going on with it. Like, I don’t know if it were owned by the bank or someone who just didn’t have the heart to get rid of it because it was some much-loved family member’s house.

It was a traditional haunted house. Dead grass was the yard, weeds growing over the pathway towards the front porch and where flower beds should be, front porch sun-bleached and slowly sagging, some of the window shutters either hanging askew or missing completely. It was a two-storey house, complete with attic and quite possibly a cellar.

Stories were handed down from older siblings to younger, elder neighborhood children told the younger bunch, and parents who knew the stories would laugh them off and tell the scared ones that their elder brother or sister was just telling tales to scare them.

Every so often, a group of kids would dare each other to go in and spend the night, but not much would happen. A squeak here, a groan there. Someone would scare themselves silly walking around an abandoned house in the middle of the night with nothing but a flashlight.

The summer I was 12, I remember it had been a handful of years since the last group of kids had decided to go in. Max, the guy across the street from my house, had gone in on a dare to go into the attic, and had wound up breaking his leg after stepping through a rotting step. The parents in the neighborhood had gathered us all up to give us The Talk about breaking into houses and, well, killing ourselves being stupid. It was a mild summer and the arcade had been shut down for some reason that my brother Ben refused to talk about besides muttering about “sick freaks.”

We were bored. Ben had been grounded and his keys hidden from him, so he was stuck with me.

“Hey Aaron,” Mikey walked up to the front porch where we were being lazy.

“Hey Mikey.”

“We’re going to go up to that house, wanna come?”

Ben frowned, putting his comic book down on the porch. “Why?”

“Max thinks he found something cool.”

“What? His balance?” Ben snorted.

Mikey laughed a bit, “He said we can look around during the day. No harm, no foul.”

I looked over at Ben, who shrugged. “It’s been a while since anyone’s been in there.”

“Mom said no.”

“Mom’s at work and won’t know.”

“No, Aaron.”

“Come on, Ben. I haven’t been in there.”

“It’s not like there’s anything interesting in there. Just a bit of dusty furniture.”

“But I haven’t been in there. It’s not fair.”

“Come on, Ben. It’s a haunted house,” Mikey added. “And it’s not like we’ll be there at night. Besides. It’s a group of us going so it’s not like anyone is going to get hurt.”

Ben sighed, no doubt remembering how loud of a high-pitch wail Mikey could still belt out when he wanted to and checked his watch. “Alright. Mom won’t be home for another few hours. I’ll leave a note for her just in case, saying,” he glared at the both of us, “We got bored and decided to take a walk around the block. Agreed?”

I nodded, “Yeah.”

Ben pointed at Mikey, “Agreed?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Mikey, if you tattle, I’m telling our mom and yours that you convinced Aaron to go with you when I went inside to take a leak and had to go hunt your asses down.”

“Ugh, fine.”

Mikey and I watched my brother go inside the house to write a note beside the phone. I remembered when Ben went inside the haunted house, a month or two before Max had gone in and broken his leg. He’d gone in with a few of his friends, but wasn’t able to stay longer than a few minutes since one of those friends wound up scaring themselves stupid with a flashlight and a mirror. Mikey was practically vibrating from excitement while we waited. It felt like an eternity had passed before Ben finally came out and shut the door.

“Why do you have a flashlight? It’s still daylight,” Mikey whined.

Ben rolled his eyes, “Not every room has windows, stupid.”

We started walking towards the house, and I saw a few other kids slowly making their way over as well. I guess Mikey or some other kid had gone and convinced others to come and explore.

Sure, it was daylight. It was only like 2.30, so we had plenty of time to walk down, search the house, and get home before Mom noticed we’d done anything. She wouldn’t be home until about 5.45, so that was what? Like just over 3 hours. That was more than enough time!

“If Mr B spots us,” Ben started, “we’re screwed.”

Mikey snorted, “If Mr B spots us, he’s not going to do anything.”

Mr B was an old man, known mainly for being grumpy against everything that wasn’t the roses beside his porch. He wasn’t like other people. If your soccer ball landed in his yard, he’d kick it toward you, mumbling about “stupid kids” with “terrible aim.” He was a harmless old curmudgeon.

I nodded in agreement with Mikey, “Ben, Mr B won’t do anything.”

Ben shrugged, “I’m just saying.”

“Whatever man. Max said to meet him around back. I think he was able to break off the new lock on the kitchen door.”

Ben and I nodded. One of the parents had installed a massive lock on both the front and back doors so kids wouldn’t break in. The cellar door had a large, rusting lock-and-chain wrapped around the handles that looked more like it belonged in some horror flick than in our neighborhood.

By the time we got to the back of the house, a small crowd of kids were gathered around Max. He had this smug, “I’m better than you” look on his face and seemed to be enjoying his extra-cool status from breaking the lock. I don’t know when he did it, it could’ve been days ago and he was just now telling people after setting up the house to scare someone. It could’ve been this morning and he just wanted to bask in the glory of being the bravest kid in the neighborhood.

“About time you showed up, Ben,” he called out.

“Some of us have responsibilities, Max.”

“Or you had to hype yourself up to come over,” he mocked.

I remember asking myself if Max really was older than us or just a tall five-year-old. He always had a knack for getting under my brother’s skin, but it’d be a few more years before Ben would break Max’s nose. I watched Ben push past Max into the dark kitchen and get halfway through before Max realized that my brother had taken the lead and was the first one in.

“You brought a flashlight? Are you afraid of the dark or something?”

“Not every room has a window, dumbass.” Ben didn’t even look behind him as other kids started to pile into the kitchen.

I heard a couple kids mutter an agreement and at least one girl lament not bringing one herself. A few kids just breezed through the room, ignoring us in hopes of finding something really cool further in. I guess Ben just walking into the kitchen helped dispel any fear that there’d be something lurking around the house during the day and then realizing that the room itself was just an old, faded room with an old iron stove and fridge that none of us had seen unless it was on tv, and an old, faded table pushed up against a wall.

It wasn’t anything special at first glance. Old, faded, white. White walls, white doorways, white table, white stove, white cabinets. No dust. No cobwebs. I remember looking through the old glass of the window, watching the world bubble and twist from where it was slowly warping itself, and noticing all of the dead flies. No spiders, no webs, no dirt or dust. Just dead flies. And thinking the whole thing was weird. It was like…someone came in to clean this area, but left all these dead flies just sitting there piled up against the sill.

I could hear other kids talking throughout the house, their footsteps stomping up steps or scraping against the floor above my head. No one bothered being quiet because, really, who heard of monsters coming out in the daytime? All ghosts and murderers came out at night, and almost all the adults were at work or running errands.

“Hey,” Max said near us. “Since everyone else is exploring, I want to show you guys something.”

He wasn’t being his normal self, acting like a stuck-up jackass. He sounded kind of confused, like he’d found something he wasn’t sure about. Sure, he could’ve just been pretending to lure us into some kind of trap or trick to blackmail us with later on. But, there was something about the way he said it that made us follow him through the doorway and down a hall that no one seemed to have noticed. It looked more like everyone else was pulled towards the areas with more light or the better possibility of finding something like lost treasure.

Ben cut the flashlight on, allowing Max to lead us deeper down this narrow hallway. It had a couple doors, which probably lead to rooms that had kids walking around them, and reminded me of our grandmother’s house, which had doors you just didn’t notice because they weren’t ever used. There were doors there that had been accidentally sealed by paint and no one was sure if it was lead-based didn’t want to have it tested, there were doors that were behind furniture that lead to bricked walls, doors that were locked that no one bothered with because there was a door like right beside it that lead out of the room.

Again, there was no dust on the floor or anything. The flashlight didn’t catch any dust floating around, and the air didn’t seem stale. It was like someone had just came in recently, opened all the windows, and cleaned the house maybe a few days before we came in.

Max stopped in front of a spot on the left and removed a large board to show another door.

“Wow, it’s a door.” Mikey deadpanned. “There’s like a hundred doors here.”

“Shut up.”

The door opened smoothly, like someone had oiled the hinges. Not even a click for the knob sounded, and Max just let the door swing to a stop against the wall. Ben shined the flashlight into the room.

“Wow. It’s a basement,” Ben’s sarcasm dripped.

“No shit. Look again.”

We stared down and I realized there was something off about it. The walls seemed unfinished, with a couple paint cans sitting in the edges between the exposed studs and empty blackness of the open area underneath. Ben’s light showed the top two or three steps, part of a handrail, and nothing else. It was kind of like when you’d open up the basement door and right before you turned the light on to go down the steps. But we could only see the top couple of steps.

I don’t think any of us wanted to go down. It was the first time I actually felt apprehensive about a part of the house.

Ben sighed. “Dude, it’s a basement. A basement with no windows. Big deal.”

“How good’s your light?”

“Good enough to read by.”

Max nodded and started pulling something out of his pocket. At first, it looked like a snot-rag, y’know? The light was weird and I only got a glimpse of red before I realized it was way too large to be a folded up bandana Max normally kept in his back pocket.

It was a flag. An American flag that had seen better days from what I could tell in the light.

“Dude, did you steal your dad’s flag?” Ben asked, not really believing it.

“We got a new one. No one’ll notice this one’s gone.”

“Your dad’s a vet,” I pointed out. I remember thinking about being told that flags have to be taken care of a certain way when they go out of commission by Max’s dad, who had very staunch views.

Max glared at me as he fished a lighter out of his front pocket. “No one will notice.”

“Uh, huh.”

He started flicking the lighter to life, trying to set the cloth on fire.

“You’re going to Hell for that.” Mikey piped up.

“Just keep your eyes peeled,” Max responded, not looking away from the flag.

A small flame had caught and was slowly gathering steam. Max had kept the small flag in his hand until he was satisfied that it was burning enough before tossing it through the open doorway. I heard Mikey gasp, like he was about to say something, but kept my eye on watching this little orange ball.

We stayed silent, watching it illuminate two more steps that Ben’s light couldn’t reach, before disappearing.

Yeah, disappearing.

There was no splash of water, no sizzle of the fire going out. Just poof. Gone. One second it was there, and the next it looked as if nothing had happened. The light didn’t even reach the bottom step far as we could tell.

“What the…”

Max nodded, satisfied that we’d seen what he did, and went to pull the door shut. Mikey went to grab him before realizing that Max had pull the door with the inside edge, near one of the hinges, in order to avoid stepping foot inside. The door shut, he put the board back over, and turned around.

“What do you think?”

“I think you set something up,” Ben was annoyed.

“Everything that’s gone past the third or fourth step has disappeared. You saw what it was like. You can’t see anything, lights or not. I don’t know if the steps end and it’s just a bottomless hole or what. I’ve lit firecrackers and dropped them down there. Nothing pops. No sound, no light. No nothing.”

Max left us standing in that hallway, shaking his head as he walked away from us. I didn’t know what to do and I don’t think Ben or Mikey did either. We looked at each other a minute or so later before Ben shook his head.

“We should go. Mom might be home early and I don’t want to think about what I just saw.”

Mikey nodded in agreement.

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Unfuck the house

Today is the day for Unfuck The House!

We’ve been doing super basic things (cleaning the dog room, mopping/cleaning up any accidents, doing basic laundry–work clothes and towels, doing the dishes, cleaning cat boxes), but we haven’t had a chance to do things like clean the windows, deep clean the house, dust, etc.

We’ve also decided it’s time to start fresh. Clean slate.

We’re going through out stuff while we clean. Trash, Donate, Sell (Allen and Nanny have decided they want to have a yard sale in the next couple weeks, so we can throw some stuff in there). I’ve found a toy to give Mom as well as my aunt Billie. I’ve also realized that apparently we like to hide blankets from ourselves (for real, 3 different totes had at least one blanket or duvet in it that we completely forgot about)

We’ve also agreed to move the craft room from the extra room to back into the basement. I’ll have more space and I’ll be less likely to lose anything else to the cats. Now I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to set up my fabric holders.

On the plus side, we emptied 2 totes of stuff already, found jackets we forgot we had (winter jackets that were given to us), the blanket my grandma crocheted for me (squee), we gave Firefly 2 of our toys (they have sewn on eyes instead of the plastic ones).

I told Jamie I want to keep the sewing table Dad gave me upstairs and he agreed. Mainly because that fucker is heavy and I hate moving it.

Hopefully I’ll be able to find comics that I’d made, or at least the tracers I need for bits. I don’t know if we’ll be moving all the notebooks downstairs too *shrug* Who knows.

I have a mimosa in my cactus cup to keep me going along with a Kickstart (woo, uppers and downers!)

But, we can do this.

Clean slate. Start fresh.

I feel great. I have energy. I hurt a lot, but I can get through this.

So much rain

It’s rained for like a week. I am wary of going into the basement to see how bad it looks down there (all those bolts of fabric I need to wash are piled up on the floor (because it’s so many bolts) and the pile of to-be-washed human laundry since the totes are filled with clean laundry. yeah, I’m super behind in adulting). At some point, hail happened, but I didn’t notice. A coworker pointed out that it hailed and she only knew about it because her husband got thwacked in the head.

The downside of so much rain is that it’s highly likely that half of our street will flood. Hopefully it won’t.

For whatever reason, Word has decided to not load onto the computer, so there goes poking around on some stuff I’ve already started typing up. I was going to work on some stuff, but I guess I’ll ramble in a notebook.

I have started reading both Last Days by Adam Nevill and No Hope for Gomez by Graham Parke. No Hope for Gomez gives me low-level paranoia.

Today is Galaxy Pants day because, while I don’t hate my job, I’m not ruining another pair of work pants because I have to splash bleach-infused cleaner on the floor.

 

sad and happy

Last night I got a text from a friend going “Dude, your mom’s dog died.” Wait, what.

I was in the middle of telling new-guy that I was going to leave so I could turn some stuff in when I got the message and then I just had to tell him that I had to go and make a phone call. At this point, a manager came up to give us crap and then told us to “lighten up” and I told him that I just got some really awful news and I wasn’t going to lighten up. I told him my mom’s dog died and I have to call her and he gave me the look I was expecting “Are you serious?” (I’m under the impression that he doesn’t give a crap about anyone’s feelings except his own). I’m now under the impression that he has never had any kind of bond with an animal.

I turned in the stuff that needed to be turned in, clocked out, and immediately called mom. And she told me that she was going to call me if I didn’t call her (we’re terrible at calling each other. I hate phones and deal with the public most days and she’s fairly “meh” when it comes to phones, probably from her 25+ years of working in an attorney’s office as the bookkeeper)

So, I’m talking to mom, and eventually get to the front of the store so the friend who told me could get rung up when the same manager comes up and starts making loud jokes. Friend goes off on him about how he’s rude because I’m in the middle of a “really important phone call” and here he is running his mouth.

I found out that Maggie Moo the ugliest, most adorable dog (she was a Shih Tzu with bug eyes and an underbite) was put to sleep on Friday because they found out she had multiple tumors in her abdomen and, while they could extend her life to maybe a year, mom felt it wasn’t fair to Maggie. She said she’s doing ok, washed the puppy dog toy we bought for Maggie, and keeps it on the table so it’s close by so she can hug it when she needs. Maggie is cremated and now hangs out in an apple orchard in Basset.

I’m thinking about asking a friend of ours how much she’ll charge me to make an amigurimi dog for mom. Or ply her with a bunch of stuffed animals that we have in the house. Mom swears she’s not going to get another dog any time soon, she wants to wait until they have a house again (they live in a house that got converted into 3 apartments) and she’s so disappointed that she couldn’t bury Maggie in the backyard of our old house so she could be with Burney, Heather, and Kelly (two dogs and a cat).

Onto some lighter things:

Jamie bought me some flowers because they are “Orange and super ugly” and he knows that I’d love them. Now I’ve just got to figure out a good place to put them so Snooch, Mewkis, and Carrot don’t eat it.

Jamie won a raccoon stuffie out of the claw machine (first go!) so now my garbage bear has a trash panda and I find it hilarious. He loves it. And I got him a bumblebee-bear (bumblebear). I know I shouldn’t waste the money, but it was $2.50 and too good to pass up.

For whatever reason, I’ve been thinking of Hermux Tantamoq lately (probably because of the heat) and decided to go ahead and re-read The Sands of Time (book 2 of 4 in the series). I love this little series of books and part of me wishes there were more but part of me is glad there’s only four. It’s definitely a series that I can read over and over again and not get tired of. I finished reading Time to Smell the Roses while on the bus to work yesterday and it’s still as enjoyable as the first time I read it. I’m really glad I stumbled upon the first book (Time Stops for No Mouse) while digging through the redacted children’s books in the library basement because it spawned a need to have all four books immediately and I have them.

I got in last night from work to find a sneaky, stinky, slightly green fake dog waiting for me. Bug not only busted out of her crate, but also busted out of the dog room. She’s learning.

I don’t know what it is, but I feel great. Maybe it’s the impending springy-storm that’s supposed to come, maybe because it’s getting warmer, I don’t know.

I know yesterday at work was filled with anger. One department manager spent about twenty minutes yelling into his phone to someone about someone else, one department manager has threatened to quit, one guy was going off about how people needed to “learn to do their god damned jobs,” and one person threw a temper tantrum to the point where they got reported by management (not by me. I only found out because I was pulled to the side because I was a witness to it)

We’ve already hit the 90-degree mark (it’s going to be awful this summer) so maybe it’s the heat making everyone lose their minds.

But hey, no worries. I got a new phone that won’t die on me if I play podcasts for too long, I’m working my way through a Charles L Grant novel, I saw where the wild rose vine behind the house is blooming (woo!), and I have donuts. It’s going to be a good day today.

Also: I’m trying to update more often, as you can see. I want to do more updates, even if it’s something like::

Have I written? No, but I did add a new idea to the list
Have I knitted? No, the green monstrosity still sits on the loom
I posted some new pics on IG, but still haven’t attached the account to fb, twitter, or tumblr (I am terrible at remembering passwords)
I need to update the “Things I have Read” list

hard to tell

The past few days have been a mix of little sleep, nightmares, and that nagging feeling that I don’t know what was part of a dream and what was part of reality. I don’t know if the reality/dream mixup is because of lack of restful sleep or I’m just due for another one of those “wait, did that really happen?” days. Maybe it’s stress causing the intertwining of reality/dream states and, frankly, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

But, I do know that:

+ the little hedgehog flowers Jamie got me the other day are still doing well. I’ve set them up where they can get natural light but not be eaten by Snooch, Carrot, or Mewkis
+ Hobbes is doing his “I’m a sad puppy” whines because he thinks he’s being ignored
+ I popped that really gross ingrown-hair/blackhead/dirt-pocket thing on Bug’s leg the other day and that was real enough (a great thing about pitbulls, if you’ve got to pop a zit or whatever on them, they might bonk you in the face with their nose, but they won’t retaliate. if you poke them in the eye by accident, they love you anyway)
+ The yard looks much better now that we’ve mowed/weedeated and picked up trash from the front yard (the downside to our house: everyone seems to believe we are a catchall for their trash)
+ I have a blood blister on my finger from a pair of scissors
+ Another one of my roses is starting to bloom and the rose vine looks awesome

I am a tired turtle

It seems my brain has decided to go through another bout of “no restful sleep sprinkled with nightmares” because, apparently, I do better when I look like I’m the walking dead. Yay.

Got a new phone, which Jamie’s kind of jealous over (faster processor, more space, better camera) and it’s taking a little bit to get used to. He wants me to download audible onto the phone so I can have audiobooks to listen to along with the podcast app I use (the podcast app I use is so different from what I’m used to and I don’t like it because I can’t see if anything’s updated). Getting used to a new phone is weird and it’s like…the same size as the Blackberry I had years ago, which is super weird.

I’ve realized that my anger issues have become worse as time goes on within the department I’m in. I explained to a coworker: I have worked very hard for many years to get to where it is hard for the anger to bubble up so people notice. I have worked hard to keep this down and this place is eating away at that work and one day I am going to explode and it’s not going to be pretty.

And it’s true. It isn’t going to be pretty.

I had to walk away from the department for a few minutes because I was getting so mad at everything. Coworkers not listening, coworkers talking over me, coworkers getting ridiculously close to me, coworkers not doing their jobs. It was a lot of things culminating into “I need to get the fuck away from this for a few minutes.” It helped.