“You grew up here?”
“Yeah. It’s been in the family for generations.”
“I knew there had to be some reason for the way you turned out. I guess now I know. Brrr.” Addy shuddered.
“Ha, ha. Let’s go check if the keys work.”
Brandon got out of the car. He smiled at Addy as she got out of the passenger side, reassuring her that it was fine, then turned towards the house. He hoped that she didn’t see the slight shake in his hand or the worry in his eye.
It had been over a decade since his father had kicked him out of the house. He was just 17 at the time and didn’t know where to turn until his mom’s sister, Aunt Gretchen, took him in. In ways she was a second mother to him, so he thought it weird when he realized that he hadn’t seen, or thought about, Aunt Gretchen in years.
Brandon walked into the yard to take in a better view of the place before going in. He shook his head.
Standing in front of his childhood home after the funeral, he noticed that the old Victorian was in much worse shape than it had been when he had last seen it all of those years ago. But it wasn’t the faded grey wood, or the broken windows in the tower. Something intangible about the house made his skin crawl. It was as if a hundred voices were screaming at him to stay away, voices out of his hearing range, yet making the hair on his arms stick up.
He looked back over his shoulder. Addy was staring up at the house, wide eyed.
“Come on, there’s nothing to be scared of. Remember, I lived here for 17 years and swear I never saw a ghost,” he said, despite the butterflies in his own stomach.
“Your dad didn’t want to give you this house, and I understand why. I don’t know why you insisted. It’s awful.”
“He was just a spiteful bastard and wanted to stick me. Come on, let’s go in.”
He turned and started walking towards the house, but stopped short when Addy screamed.
“I..I..I saw someone, a woman. She was looking out of that window, shaking her head, disapproving.” Addison pointed to the window of his parent’s bedroom. Or it had been their room. His father moved to another room after his mother ran away.
“I’m sure it was just a reflection in the glass. Come on.” He put on a brave face, despite the fist that clawed at his gut.
Once inside, the house was much as Brandon remembered. Most of the furniture was antiques and hadn’t been replaced as long as he could remember. There were a few changes, such as the little items that his mom had brought in to make the house homier were all missing. Overall, though, most of the differences from his memory were minor.
Not only was the house for the most part unchanged, it was actually much cleaner and neater than he had expected after seeing the issues with the exterior. As a child his dad had been meticulous about cleaning, but Brandon figured it had gone away as the early senility had settled in.
He checked himself. “Senility” was not the proper word. His father, always eccentric, had grown strange, mumbling about secrets and conspiracies. Brandon typically only spoke to him every few months, but by the end he couldn’t stand even those infrequent calls. He always found an excuse to cut the conversations short.
A wave of guilt hit Brandon. His father had gone to the emergency room, but died before anyone could see him. He was on a blood pressure medicine and took two months’ worth in a single evening. His doctor had said it was an accident. He had been forgetful. Brandon wasn’t so sure.
“Hey honey, I’m going to use the little girl’s room. Don’t go too far without me.” Addison had calmed down significantly since they entered the house. It was strange, almost like a museum, but it was obviously just a house. Most of the spooky feelings were left outside.
“Fine. I’m going to duck into my parent’s bedroom here,” Brandon said.
Brandon tried the door to the bedroom and was surprised to discover that it was locked. He hadn’t seen the door open since his mother left, or whatever happened to her, but he always assumed his dad went in. Besides, he thought, that was over a decade ago. He flipped through the keys the lawyers had given him, trying them out one at a time before finding the right one.
The door squeaked and groaned as it opened. Brandon thought he heard his mother’s voice in the sound, “Get her out of here.”
He stopped, startled, and then slowly shut the door. He waited a second before he reopened it. The unused hinges still made a racket, but he didn’t hear any voices.
“Just imagining things. The old house is getting to me more than I realized,” he said.
The room was a shrine to his mother. Nothing had changed since he’d seen it, except, perhaps, the stack of women’s clothing on the bed.
“Is that a picture of your mom?”
Brandon jumped. He hadn’t heard Addy come in behind him.
She was pointing at the closet door.
“What?” he asked. “I don’t see anything.” He turned back to Addy as he spoke.
She backed up a step, the blood draining from her face. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Uhm, I’m hungry, yeah, that’s it. Let’s go into town and get something to eat. Now”
Addison was silent through most of the lunch. She turned down every attempt Brandon made at conversation. As they were finishing up, he finally brought up what had been on his mind through the entire meal.
“What did you see in my mother’s room?” he asked.
“That house had no female charm at all,” she said instead of answering. “Are you sure she actually lived there? I’m almost kidding. You never brought a date there, did you? How did it go?”
“Awful,” Brandon said. She nodded. “How did you know? Anyway, I brought a date in one night. My father was working late. We, uhm, you know, we had sex, my first time, and I fell asleep. When I woke up, she wasn’t around. She called a few minutes later and said she had to leave. I never saw her again. Actually, she called her parents and said she was leaving town and they never saw her either. The police had the cell company check and they found that the calls where both made in Millview, about thirty miles from here. One good thing, of course, is that it proved I had nothing to do with the disappearance. Still, it was pretty odd.”
“I think it was even odder than that,” Addy said. She bit her lip. “I don’t think she left the house.”
“I saw her. And your mother. And others.”
“That’s insane. I mean, at the end Dad kept going on about the corpses and the dead, but he was, you know, not well.”
“Did you bring any other girlfriends over?”
“Well, no. I started dating someone a couple of months later, but my dad kicked me out right after that, so she never stopped by.”
“He kicked you out to protect her. And in his will, he didn’t want you to have the house to protect me. Do you remember any other woman ever spending the night or even setting foot inside?”
“No, but I’m sure there was at least one. I mean, how can I think when you put me on the spot? Come on, let’s go back and take a look around again. If you still feel the same by evening, we’ll leave and I’ll take Dad’s advice and sell the place. OK?”
“OK?” Brandon said again.
“OK. But only for an hour.”
“This was Marla’s,” Brandon said. His face scrunched up in a question.
“Marla? Who’s Marla?”
“Oh, the girlfriend I told you about. She was wearing this the night she was here, the night she vanished.” He held up the shirt he had found on his old bed. He opened the closet. “And these shoes. They’re girl’s shoes, not mine. I think they’re also Marla’s. Why would they be here?”
“Are you convinced yet?” Addison said. Her voice was almost shrill, yet forceful. “Marla died here. I have to be out by dark. Let’s go! Now!”
“I always knew you had an over active imagination, but this is ridiculous. Just a few more minutes.”
“OK, let’s go back downstairs, but I’m not ready to go yet. This is my childhood! I mean, the memories.”
“Right,” Addison said. She turned and left the room.
Brandon went to the door and took another look around.
Marla was on the bed, still sixteen and as naked as she was when he last saw her. She winked at him, an over exaggerated, lewd wink. Involuntarily Brandon took a step back into the room. The door slammed shut behind him and Marla rotted before his eyes.
He spun around and fumbled with the knob. The door wouldn’t open. He heard feet hit the floor and knew that Marla was off of the bed. The door knob continued to slip through his fingers. He couldn’t get it. The footsteps grew closer. He’d twist the handle, and it would turn the other direction. He could feel her behind him, smell the stench of decayed flesh.
The door swung open.
“Are you OK?” Addison asked. “I tried to open the door but you kept pulling it shut and twisting the knob on me. Is this a game?”
Brandon turned around. The room was empty.
“The wind must have slammed the door shut. I’m sorry, I got a little panicked. It’s just…”
“Brandon, the windows are closed. There is no breeze. Do you believe me now? Let’s go. Immediately.”
“Yeah, yeah, sure, let’s go. I’m a little rattled. Hold on, though. I want to go in and wash my face off. It’ll be two seconds. Just don’t leave my sight, OK?”
“Of course not, but can’t you wait until we get back to the hotel? We have to get out of here.”
Brandon thought he heard his mother echo Addison’s words, “Get out of here, right now.”
“Right. Let’s go.”
They rushed down the stairs and were heading for the door when Brandon heard something.
“Crap, I left my phone in the kitchen. Hold on, I’ll be right back.”
“Don’t. We need to leave now!” Addison said.
“Leave now,” he thought he heard his mother say.
“But I need it. It’s ringing. I have to get it.”
He raced into the kitchen and picked up the phone, ignoring Addison’s pleas, ignoring his mother’s voice.
“Hello?” he said, answering the phone.
“I have left. You’ll never see me again.” It was Addison. Wasn’t she behind him?
He ran to the front of the house, but she wasn’t there.
A man walked into the room. He recognized his Great Grandfather Willard from an old photo.
“Thank you, Brandon,” Willard said. “It has been too long since I have had a new wife. Your father held out on me, but I am sure I can persuade you to bring me a new one when I have the need. Oh, you’ll have the drive, the urge to do my bidding for the pleasure I’ll allow you. I know you will. It’s your inheritance.”
“No,” Brandon screamed. He backed away from the apparition, but was stopped by the wall. Figures started to become visible around his great grandfather. Female figures. Many of them. He recognized his mother and his Aunt Gretchen, who both stared at him with sad eyes. Marla was accusing. And then there was Addison, a look of complete horror still on her dead face.
“No,” Brandon repeated, the word trailing off as he slipped down the wall to the floor.
Seasons of Imagination
US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/1520435282
UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1520435282
US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9UB5M1
UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N9UB5M1
US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/1522046488
UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1522046488
US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074MMH537
UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B074MMH537
I never decided what I wanted to do when I grew up. I compose and play music, draw and paint, take a lot of pictures, and yes, I write. I’ve written a couple of books that are sitting on my shelf waiting to go out and I write a new short story almost every week, which I often post on my blog, trentsworldblog.wordpress.com. I’ve collected some of the best short stories I’ve written and put them out as “Seasons of Imagination”. I also released a contemporary fantasy book, “The Fireborn“.
I also like to eat, so I work as a computer nerd during the day while I figure out what it is I really want to do.
If you really need details, I was born and raised in Ohio by the shore of beautiful Lake Erie and now split my time between mountainous New Hampshire and the coast of Massachusetts.
One thing to know about me is that I hate to write bio-blurbs in the third person.