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Sold As Is

By Colin Milroy All Rights Reserved ©


Sold As Is

Despite their Realtor’s warnings about foreclosed properties, Daryl and Julie Grant included them in their home search. “The reduced price carries risks,” the Realtor said. They did see instances of “foreclosure rage” in some badly damaged houses. But after months of searching that lasted into the late summer, Daryl and Julie found a charming home on Chicago’s Northwest Side. They fell in love as soon as they saw it.

Unlike other foreclosed properties, the house on Summerdale near Cumberland Avenue did not have damage on the upper level. Summerdale Avenue was quiet, and the house was a fit for almost everything they needed. There was even a striking orange maple tree next door on an otherwise treeless street. The basement, however, was different. There were deep gashes in the concrete on every wall, even in the foundation itself.

Julie squinted at the damaged walls. Maybe it was the late afternoon light trickling in from the cloudy basement windows, but she imagined the angry slashes came from claws tearing the walls like flesh.

“Boy, that’s weird,” Daryl said. “I just got a chill.”

“Daryl, honey, I need to go sit down,” Julie said.

She walked upstairs and leaned against the basement door. A few deep breaths later, she felt better. There was a lingering unease, but the foreclosure price and the otherwise perfect fit for their needs drove all the dread away.

It was an easy choice, really. The foreclosure status knocked the price down 60 percent. They could get on I-90 to commute together into their downtown jobs. It was a quiet neighborhood and the house had space to start a family.

Julie and Daryl secured the property by early October. A surprisingly quick transaction, as if they were doing the Realtor a favor.

They patched up the basement walls. A coat of warm yellow paint made it look almost cheerful. The only issue had been the wiring. The fuses blew regularly with no warning. Even though the wiring was more than adequate.

The night before the electrician’s visit, the main fuse blew again.

They were reading in bed when the furnace shut down and their bedside lamp went dead. “How can this happen? There’s barely anything on!” Daryl groaned, rolling out of bed.

After 10 minutes, there was still no power. Knowing she married a man who could get lost in his own house, Julie decided to check on him.

The stairs creaked as she walked into the basement. It was cold, and she pulled her robe tighter across her chest. At the bottom of the stairs, she encountered a thick wall of darkness.

“Daryl?” she called. Her voice sounded muffled, as if she was talking into a blanket. No answer.

She turned, expecting to see the stairs, but there was only more darkness. How had she lost her bearings?

Her breath quickened a step. Why wouldn’t her eyes adjust? Putting her hands to her face, she could feel yet barely see them.

She was starting to panic. She was about to scream when the furnace suddenly burst to life next to her as the power turned on again. A low reddish light outlined Daryl’s form by the electrical panel.

“Jeez,” she breathed. “What were you doing?”

He didn’t move.

She smiled. “Okay, you got me. Can we go back to bed now?”

She took his hand.

Julie saw the stairs leading to the kitchen. Relieved, she walked toward them, gently pulling Daryl’s hand.

As she started up the stairs, the lights suddenly turned on in the kitchen. She froze.

“Daryl,” she breathed, “I think someone else is in the house.”

A voice from the kitchen said, “Julie?” Her chest tightened.

The voice said, “Honey? Are you in the basement?”

An approaching shadow slashed down the steps.

“Couldn’t see anything down there, so I got candles from the dining room.”

Daryl’s face appeared in the basement doorway above. “Oh, there you-“

The warm smile dropped from his face.

Julie looked down at the hand she was holding. It was pale with patches of gray, visible only to the elbow. The darkness swallowed the rest of the arm. The hand pulled her backwards with surprising force.

A boy’s face tore through the darkness, appearing inches from Julie’s face. She saw burning bloodshot eyes. Clammy, dead skin. A horrid stench invaded her nostrils and bile rose in her throat.

A whisper blew into her ear, “Don’t go. He’s up there.” A boy's voice. Terrified. In pain.

Julie felt numb.

“He’s coming back.” The voice was lower. Angrier.

The grip tightened. Julie’s fingers started to fold into themselves from the crushing force. She tried to scream but her voice was only a wisp of frozen fear.

Broken, blackened teeth appeared from the thing's mouth as its shredded lips curled into a crinkled whimper.

She never knew how Daryl pried her hand loose. She remembered outstretched fingers beneath a dessicated face as Daryl pulled her up the basement stairs. The boy's scream of horror and agony echoed in her mind and woke her screaming from nightmares for the rest of her life.

When the house went back on the market, the Realtor again failed to mention that it was the former property of John Wayne Gacy.

Reduced price carries risks.

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