Home > NaNoWriMo 2011, The Serial Box > Day One Hundred and Eighty-eight: Houseguests

Day One Hundred and Eighty-eight: Houseguests

My husband and I bought a haunted house.

We got a great deal for it, too. Even in this day and age, people have a thing about buying a house where – allegedly – the dead still walk and unquiet spirits roam free to terrorize the living. A good haunting knocks at least ten percent off the list price. More if it was due to something particularly gruesome.

Our house was the one where Willie Heckle killed fourteen young boys over the course of ten years.

I certainly wouldn’t make light of it. That kind of crime is… well, it’s unthinkable. In this city, his name is pretty much the go-to name for parental horror. Fourteen kids. He buried thirteen of them in the basement floor. The story goes that after the police raided the house, killing Heckle in a shootout, one of the officers found boy number fourteen. It’s said that the cop was so horrified by what he saw that he put a bullet in the kid’s head right before he put one in his own.

So yeah, this house has a history, and our agent tried to steer us away from it good and hard. But let’s face facts here. Hardwood floors aren’t easy to come by, and for all his horror, Heckle kept the place in great condition. Even after all these years, it doesn’t need nearly as much work as some of the other places we looked at.

But here’s the thing: there’s no such thing as ghosts. There’s no such thing as a permanent evil stain that resides in a place after the perpetrator is gone. Bloodstains, yes, but those were ripped out by one of the previous owners. But Ari and I were very firm on this when the broker brought it up, when the neighbors came around to welcome us to the neighborhood, when our parents called because they’d found out where we were living: there were no such thing as ghosts, and there was nothing there except the two of us.

We were, of course, wrong. But I’ve always said that’s the hallmark of a true skeptical thinker: when presented with evidence that inescapably, undeniably disproves your position, you have to abandon it and take up another. It just took us a while to figure it out.

The first thing we noticed were the footprints.

Ari mentioned it to me over breakfast one morning, about a week after we moved in. “Savannah, you forgot to put down the bath mat when you took a shower this morning.”

I looked up from my paper and then ran a hand through pillow-tangled hair. “I haven’t taken a shower yet, hon,” I said.

He looked at me and then glanced up, towards where the upstairs bathroom was. “Really?” he asked.

“Ari, if this is what I look like after I shower, then I hate to think what I look like before.” I went back to the paper.

“Huh,” he said. “There were wet footprints all over the bathroom. I thought that maybe you…” He stopped in the middle of his thought and then shrugged. “Probably nothing,” he said.

By the end of the day, I had forgotten about it, and I figured he had as well. But that wasn’t the only weird thing that happened in the house.

It was pretty textbook, really. Doors would close that we had left opened. I’d come downstairs and all the drawers in the kitchen would be sticking out. The TV would turn on in the middle of the night. And we had logical, rational reasons for each and every one of those occurrences. If it wasn’t the house settling or warped wood or a short circuit, it was probably just our own faulty memory leading us down the garden path. To our credit, neither one of us even thought about blaming a ghost.

My mother, on the other hand, had no problem with it.

She was supposed to stay for a week while she visited some friends in the city. She lasted very nearly twenty-four hours. As she threw her things back into a suitcase the morning after she arrived, she said, “I will not stay in this house a moment longer than I have to.” She spun at me and pointed an accusing finger at me. “And neither should you!” Her eyes rolled from one corner of the room to the other. “There’s evil in this house, Savannah. I saw it with my own eyes.”

I sat on the bed. “Really, mom?” I asked. I tried very hard to keep a condescending tone out of my voice, but judging by her narrowed eyes I was pretty sure I failed.

“I woke up in the middle of the night,” she said. “I heard something that sounded like crying. So I got up, and right there -” She pointed to a space next to the bedroom door. “Right there, as clear as I see you, Savannah, I saw a little boy. He was curled up in a ball and crying.” Her eyes started to shine, and that’s when I started to get worried. My mother has always been a paragon of self-restraint, and for her to get emotional like this would take a lot. Ghost or no ghost, she thought she saw something, and it really disturbed her.

“Okay, mom,” I said. “I’ll book a hotel room for you downtown. How’s that sound?”

She went back to the suitcase and snapped it shut. “That sounds fine,” she said. “But I want you and Ari to get out of here. This is not a good place to raise a family, Savannah.”

I very nearly rose to that argument, which was an old one. I wanted to have kids, but I just didn’t think we were in a good enough position to raise any. Ari’s teaching salary was low enough, and I wasn’t making a whole lot as a copy editor for an ad company. We had decided to put off having children until we were sure we could take care of them, and that didn’t look like it was going to happen anytime soon. No matter what my mother wanted.

I saw her off in a taxi and told Ari when he came home that I was worried for her health.

Pretty soon, the strange became the normal. There were no bleeding walls or portals to hell in the closets. Just little things – a toothbrush out of place one morning, all my clothes off hangars the next. Nothing dangerous, but a lot of minor annoyances that we learned to deal with. And we never, not so much as once, blamed it on ghosts. We were enlightened people, after all.

That made it all the weirder when we saw the ghost for the first time.

It was during Thursday night TV. Ari and I were on the sofa, as usual. He was grading essays, I was watching a police drama when the TV snapped off, as did the lights. “Aw, hell,” he said. He handed me the essays, got up, and headed to the kitchen. He came back a few moments later with a couple of flashlights and his cell phone. “It’s always something,” he said. He called the power company, and they said they’d look into it, but they hadn’t gotten any other reports of a power outage. Indeed, when I looked outside, all the other houses seemed fine.

When I turned around, there was a boy standing behind behind the sofa, watching Ari, and there was no way I could describe this boy other than to say that he was a ghost.

He was naked and white and glowing. Dark hair nearly covered eyes that looked blankly out of a face that seemed to be observing Ari with curiosity as my husband graded essays by flashlight. I hate to say it, because it makes me sound like a character in a bad horror movie – I screamed.

Ari jumped up, dropping the essays on the floor, and when he saw me and looked where I was looking, he screamed too. We stood there, holding each other, yelling over and over again wordless syllables of horror and shock. This boy – this thing – was in our house. What was worse, if he was what we thought he was, then he was proof that all we thought we knew was a lie.

That’s not a problem that you can really get over without some screaming.

When we took a breath, the ghost looked up at us, crossed his arms and said, “Are you done?”

No. We weren’t done.

A few minutes later, the ghost was actually looking bored. He leaned up against the sofa, his chin in his hands and his blank eyes on us. We were terrified, unable to move. Nothing we had ever experienced had prepared us for something like this.

“Hey,” he said, and gave us a wave. Ari and I both flinched.

The boy sighed, and walked through the sofa, which made me feel sick to my stomach just to watched. Then, casually, he sat down. It was hard to tell, but he looked about eleven or twelve, but of course was probably much older, if such a concept applied to things like him.

“Look,” he said. “If you’re going to just stand there and freak out, this is going to be a long night. So why don’t you take a seat and we can talk.” He patted the sofa cushion next to him.

I wish I could say that I drew myself up and faced my fear. That I put reason over emotion and vowed to face this thing head-on, whether it was a ghost or something entirely different. I wish I could say that I was brave.

Actually, I ripped myself out of Ari’s arms, bolted upstairs to our bedroom and locked the door.

I leaned against it in the darkness, as if to hold it shut against whatever might come through. I was breathing heavily and might have been crying.

It was only a moment before a new voice said from behind me, “Lady, you really need to pull yourself together.”

The boy sitting on the edge of my bed was like the first one, only a little heavier. He was tapping his foot against the floor and had a look of impatience on his face. He stood up and came towards me, and I backed up against the bedroom door. A few feet away, he stopped, put his hands on his hips and said, “So. You gonna help us, or what?”

And that’s where I finally passed out.

*****

Savanna and Ari Langhorn at 30characters.com

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  1. November 30, 2011 at 10:34 PM
  2. November 30, 2011 at 10:37 PM

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