Chapter | 1
It wasn’t long after my father’s death that my mother decided we needed a change of scenery. That’s what she called it, a “Change of scenery,” she said, “Yes, I think it’s exactly what we need, and a friend of mine says there’s a beautiful house in the country side.”
I knew my mother wasn’t taking my father’s death very well, and I didn’t plan on fighting her about the move. A change of scenery suited me just fine. The only thing I wanted was for my mother to come to terms with what had happened, and if prancing around in the country side was what it would take, then I would go willingly.
For a while, nothing much was said about the move again. I almost started to think that my mother had said it only in the spur of the moment, but two weeks later she made the announcement as we were having dinner.
“I bought the house,” my mother simply said.
“Oh, when do we move in?” I asked.
“I already have a buyer for this one, all that’s left is the papers and then we go.”
That was the sum total of the discussion, and it was more than a little vague.
But, two weeks later we packed our bags into our little Ford Figo and moved to the country side.
Now, I’ve lived my entire life in the city. You know? A convenience store around every corner, and at least one person to spend boring afternoons with. But, as we left the concrete buildings, I quickly started to notice the gradual decline of pretty much everything; not just convenience stored.
By the time we passed the sixth town, I was starting to wonder whether I would really make it in the country side, but I pushed the thoughts away, rather focusing on the fields that flew past my window as we drove.
After seven hours of driving the same pot-holed road, my mother finally flicked on her indicator and turned onto a dirt road. My hand instantly flew to the handle of the door, clutching at it as the car shook.
I could see the house in the distance, but only the roof as it stuck out above the tree line. If anything, it was definitely big. The rest of the house came into view as we rounded the last of the trees.
My mother parked the car at the side of the house, and I had a feeling that it was the country version of a garage. I waited until the dust settled before I shuffled out of the car.
“Smell that, Daniel?” my mother asked, making a big show of inhaling the air.
I had to admit, the air smelled much better than in the city, but in a way I missed the different smells that you could find on every street corner; vendors selling their food, people from all walks of line, smoke puffs from cigarettes, and even the mouldy smell coming from the pavement on a hot day.
“It’s nice,” I muttered before turning to look at the house.
My mother had shown me a few pictures, but none of them held any truth compared to seeing the house in person.
Wooden panelling covered the entirety of the exterior, the brown colour darker in some spots. It was two storeys, and from outside they appeared to be completely symmetrical- windows perfectly aligned and the front door right in the middle of the first storey. The porch that ran along the first storey was protect from the shade by a white shed, the pillars holding it up not looking too stable after a few years of neglect.
The garden was nice enough though, as if someone had been tending to it even after the previous tenants left.
“Well, the movers should be here any moment now,” my mother announced after a few moments of silence. “Why don’t you have a look around while I get the ball rolling with them?”
I thanked her, and took off in the first direction my feet pointed. I didn’t think there would be too much to see, but snooping around sounded much better than watching the movers abuse or belongings.
Stretching in an L-shape around the house was a pretty extensive garden. Different kinds of trees grew all around the property line and flowers that probably wouldn’t survive in the city flourished freely under their shades.
In the midst of all the nature I found a pool, and with only one glance I knew we’d have to drain it first. I try to imagine what it must have looked like with blue water, but the murky green contents made it pretty hard.
A few meters away from the pool was an old shed, looking even more dilapidated than the house. The hinges of the double doors were skew, meaning that I could see in through the gaps left where the doors didn’t touch anymore. I didn’t spot anything exciting, but I would definitely have another look was I found the key to the giant lock that stopped me from entering. It wouldn’t surprise me if one good shoulder-push brought the doors down, but my mother would probably have my head for it.
Behind the shed was a trail that led into the thick expanse of trees and undergrowth, but I could barely make it out as it continued into the woods. I wanted to see where it led, but the fading sun made it clear I would be stuck out there in the dark, and that wasn’t a soothing though at all.
Instead a backtracked to where my mother was still frantically calling out instructions to the movers.
“Honey, do you mind picking out a room? I need to tell the movers where to put your things,” my mother asked, at the same time keeping an eye on everything.
“Sure!” I called out, bounding up the steps of the porch. For some reason I came to a stop in front of the door, a chill running down my spine.
Moving jitters, I convinced myself, shaking my head as I stepped into my new home.
The first room, clearly a living room, was much bigger than the one in my old house. Most of our old furniture was already in place, but they didn’t quite fill up the room.
I could see the entrance to the kitchen in the right-hand corner of the room, and what appeared to be a sun room to my left, but I didn’t pay much attention to them as I made my way up the stair directly across from me.
The first room I turned into already had a few of my mother’s things packed into it. I continued down the hallway and quickly found that the second biggest room was the one at the end, and it sure was impressive.
Two massive windows gave me a view of the side garden, but the rest of the view was still blocked by trees. There was a built-in cupboard across from them and the only piece of furniture was covered by a stained white sheet.
Suppressing my curiosity about the stained sheet, I quickly went downstairs and told the movers which room I had chosen. With a curt nod from the leader, they started unpacking my things from the truck.
I didn’t get a chance to have a look under the sheet until much later that night. My mother and I spent a good two hours rearranging things in the house after the movers left. By the time I got around to decorating my own room, it was well into the early hours of the morning.
Slowly running my hand along the sheet, I tried to imagine what was underneath. I’d tried observing from it from my bed, but the shape didn’t make any sense. Finally I settled for counting to three and pulling it off.
Dust flew everywhere, floating in the air before drifting down. I shut my eyes and sneezed a few times. When I managed to open them, it became clear why I couldn’t guess what was beneath the sheet.
The vanity table was in a terrible state; the white paint peeling off and the wood chipped in some places. If you didn’t look at the black oval suspended by two posts, it looked almost like an old desk, with two sets of drawers on each end, as well as drawers beneath the surface of the desk.
It was clear there used to be a mirror where the black oval was, someone must have taken it off before they left.
In a sense I was a little disappointed, but at the same time I told myself that it’s not like the chances of it being something amazing were very high to begin with.
Rolling the sheet into a bundle, I placed it in the corner of the room, hoping I’d remember to ask my mother if there was any way we could still save it.
Lying in bed, I found the silence to be a little eerie. I grown up with the noises of the city, but now the only thing I could hear was the wind rustling through the trees outside and the house moaning sadly.
I figured a trip to the bathroom might get rid of being too awake, and I soon found myself walking down the hallway. The hallway felt much longer in the dark.
Sticking my hand into the bathroom, I searched for the light-switch. The lights flickered a few times before coming on.
After I was done, I stopped in front of the sink and rinsed my hands off with cold water.
On my way back to my room I looked at some of the old portraits that hung on the walls- more random pieces of property that previous owners left here. All except for one was landscapes, and I couldn’t stop myself from halting in front of a painting of the older woman.
She was beautiful, the woman in the painting, with dark brown hair. But her eyes were cold, as if something horrible had happened before that day. It was hard to make out any other detail in the dark, but by then I was getting too tired to care.
By the time I managed to slump back into bed, I was beyond tired and ready to sleep for the next few years. But that didn’t seem to be the higher plan.
With the covers drawn to my chin, I tried to get comfortable. Just as I was drifting off, a scratching sound from under my bed caught my attention. Ignoring it, I closed by eyes again, only the sound was getting louder. Finally I decided to turn onto my other side, not really convinced it would do anything.
As soon as I turned my body froze, my eyes stuck on the figure lying next to me.
My breathing escalated halfway to hyperventilating, but I couldn’t seem to stop looking at the girl. She seemed to be asleep, her dark hair covering the side of her face. Her lips were slightly parted, but I didn’t feel any air come out when she exhaled.
Slowly her eyes opened, blinking a few times before they settled on me. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting them to be grey, almost as if the colour had been sucked out.
Her eyes held mine, almost as if a spell that wouldn’t allow me to look away. I tried to speak, but my brain was still in a state of shock.
The girl’s lips started moving, but nothing came out. She looked like she was waiting for me to respond, but all I could manage was a meagre, “Wh-what?”
The bed didn’t even shift as she moved closer to me, until her nose was practically touching mine.
“She’s standing right behind you,” the girl whispered, her voice sending shivers down my spine.
“Who is?” I managed to whisper back.
The girl didn’t say anything, instead her eyes shifted past me, focusing on something behind me.
Swallowing, I started to turn around. A cold sweat broke out on my forehead, but I couldn’t stop myself from wanting to know who else was with me in the room.
But there was nothing behind me, only the curtains billowing lightly in the breeze coming from my open window.
“She’s coming for you,” the girl whispered right into my ear, causing me to shoot upright and turned to her, but there was nothing there. I was alone again.
With shaky hands I switched my bed lamp on, hoping that the light would somehow help me calm down. I looked at the side of the bed the girl had been lying, but there was no sign that anyone had even touched it.
“A dream,” I muttered, “It was just a dream.” I settled back down, continuing to repeat that single phrase until my heart calmed down and my muscles relaxed.
I kept the light on that night.