The wind whispered in the meadow before the hill. Sshh, it said. Rocks scattered about the dying grass, multiplying and enlarging towards the top of the hill and where the deep roots of the meadow disappeared; fewer and fewer were about as the grass grew taller in the slope downwards, into the valley where it stood. From the very start, it was clear: these hills demanded a heavy silence, to bear the weight of a hushed countenance.
I followed the rocky ground up the hill, towards the house frayed with darkness on all edges with my companions, keeping my stride of enthusiasm.
I cannot remember what drove us to the adventure of the house. Such temptatious victory, such eager horror reeked from its utter existence, from the boarded wooden windows, black and bleak. The smell of it wafted through my senses, intoxicating me in its steep slopes and swaying grass. It was seductive; it danced in the wind like the grass was its skirt, and the taste was one of lustful pride.
There were four of us. I, in the age of foolish bravery, was programmed to be interested in such a rumored house, fast to act but not to think. The most ponderous aspects of the home enticed me—the shuttering blinds in the gales, the empowering smell of blossom of the meadow contrasting against what appeared to be Death itself. Peculiar, how the stench of Death and Life are only a few feet apart.
Somehow, I persuaded three others: Stephen, the intelligent coward unwilling to commit any risk—we only convinced him to come because he was, in fact, our friend. His cowardly ways were overshadowed by his morality and intelligence. Next was Aaron—he was strong and brute, the arms of steel intimidating potential adopters. Though he was brave, his brain did not contemplate the laws of physics, mathematics, or logic—which is why Stephen and Aaron complemented each other greatly.
And so there was Alex. She was the most intelligent woman I have ever been acquainted with—and the most beautiful. Her bravery and her morality outweighed all others by a fortune.
We were at the age of dawn: adolescence and its courage our strength and pride. And so, at the dead of night, we stepped forward toward the house.
The house itself was built of crude wood. The dark ash brown boards were lined plainly, some even chipped at the bottom and scratched by invisible, sharp nail; and it was a surprise to see it standing in such gales as the moors gave. Its windows were boarded shut with cardboard and some even black, covered by some cloth or drapes; some lay undisturbed, though foggy with dust and the cold air: they had high arches that ended in a point, and rusted panes divided them into four sections. The roof was high, ending with a sharp point like the windows, along with a short chimney that never once emitted smoke. There was a guarantee of an attic hidden behind a staircase when we entered. I was ecstatic about this idea---what wonderful, stimulating excitement would arise from such an adventure!
There was a decaying porch in front, elevated by three cracked, splintered steps; on it was a three-legged table that rocked back and forth in the gales, thumping onto the wood. Beside it rocked a rocking chair. I could hear happy whistling while it squeaked slowly against the ancient porch. The others, I suspected, could not.
My soldiers and I stood in front of this dark porch emitting the stench of danger, fear, and death. But with this unknown fear came exhilaration in my veins, pounding through my senses: I was alert, and rightfully so; for this idea was mine, and I should carry through with it.
Yet none of us stepped through. Despite our adventurous spirits, the fear still pierced through our armor. I myself debated within, deciding whether the wise play would be to step through now or let Aaron bust through with his strength first. But Stephen decided first—surprising us all.
Stephen strode onto the ravaged porch; the wind shouting at us, attempting to pull us away, but in vain. He twisted the brass doorknob and pushed it open. It creaked through the anticipating air, and we cringed and touched our ears in the screech.
For two seconds, nothing occurred. Then, the inevitable.
The Earth opened with a lion’s roar, inviting young, helpless Stephen into the depths of Hell, the fire rising, caressing the boy in its deathly embrace, swallowing his screams of fear. It shut with a trembling snap, its teeth creaking into a grin just before, leaving us in shock and cold, precipitating fear, Alex’s hands over her mouth. Before that, I had never seen her in a more feminine manner.
His cries of alarms, gone. Gone, deep in the flames of excruciating Hell, the stifling heat of torture.
Aaron stood breathless as we stared at the empty spot where our companion once stood. Had my dignity not been powerful, I would have stepped away. Had my chest not bore a yoke of guilt and responsibility, I would have turned ran. Had Alex not been there, I would have acted as a wise coward.
Had sensibility been in my perspective, I would have stridden away from the damned temptation, no chance of redemption encircling the house.
No—instead, I said, “We shall not waste dear Stephen’s death. If we are men, then we move forward.” We jumped across the burial site, and into the open doorway.
Our footsteps weighed on the wooden boards, fragile, unsteady, threatening our collapse with each step. A chandelier swung in an unseen gale, the door closed violently by invisible hands. Our threesome froze; sweat collecting on our palms, trembling in trepidation. A marvelous set of stairs that looked as if it had once been lathered in gold spiraled ahead, magnificent in the drapes of cobwebs and its royally dust-filled steps. I longed to touch its cold, rusted marble; I wanted to see how the walls felt. How exciting this whole ordeal was!
Then: a wooden step creaked from above—yet, it was not us who moved.
All of us, in our foolish youth, mustered the strength to stifle a scream. A bloodcurdling screech resounded through the air; the hair on the back of my neck stood straight, and it was cold. A chilling, freezing temperature of tension.
Aaron clenched his fists beside me and gritted his teeth, his dark skin turning pale in the blackness of the night—no, in the blackness of the house. An obnoxious battle cry rose from his throat, shattering the silence it presented. He bounded up the stairs in courage. My chest swelled with admiration at that moment, at the thought of my companion’s bravery, his desire for vengeance.
Of course, we knew it would end horribly; our intelligence, though always muted, extended to the fact that once our feet creaked upon the house of death that either we defeat what lay beyond the wooden door or all of us would fall. But our folly fueled our excitement, the ecstatic anticipation of a warrior-destined future.
Alex saw it first, running up behind Aaron with a cry of warning, but it was, again, a vain movement.
A shard of glass shook and shattered from the chandelier with a brilliant sparkle and crackle, and before the boy set his foot upon the last step of the magnificent stairway, it connected with his neck. Not a sound escaped from Aaron. He was dead before the makeshift knife slit its sharp end all the way through his neck, producing an immensely slick noise of blood and liquid, a wave crashing down like a catastrophic tsunami doomed to end us all.
Blood splattered and squirted in a fountain from his headless body, his ebony colored head bouncing off and rolling down the stairway, stopping in front of my feet. It was no coincidence the dismembered head stopped in front of me; as I was guilty for it all. It confirmed my indirect murder.
His eyes stared at me. It stared at me. I stared back in wonder.
I could barely hear Alex, but I saw her through the barrier of denial that had immediately clothed me, covered in Aaron’s blood across her face in splatters, as if it was art hour and she was stuck in the drawing room. Crimson paint spread across her face, dirtying her blouse and skirt. Her mouth was open (no doubt blood also entered there), and she was screaming.
I awoke from my trance, shaking my head to clear off the hypnosis, and ran to her; I grasped her hand and scurried away from our fallen comrade’s body, his disconnected head, and his death place. Somehow, we arrived in the dusty dining room, lighter than the rest of the house.
There stood a long dining table in the center of the quarter, lined with silverware and china, cobwebbed in intricate spider traces. They looked beautiful in the moonlight spitting the occasional beam into the room, a silver hint here and there, sprinkled about the supper room. Unlit candles and pictures hung from the dusty walls, of families and children, none of the subjects smiling. And then—the largest one hung in the middle, of a child with cheeks a rosy red---and then, as we looked, it seemed as if---oh, God---her eyes popped out and instead they were black sockets revealing peeling, popping veins, and she grinned—her smile of pure white fangs, sparkling in an invisible glint of light, cackling away with hunger and thirst. It was famished, absurdly grinning as it looked down upon us, a meal in its eyes.
A terrible thunder arose and shook down from the level above us, and the roof fell down, and out from atop swung a rope, and with it, a hanged thing: it wore the countenance of a happy bride, with an elaborate, golden gown with intricate embroidery in its train, and her arms were spread about her lovingly, as if to embrace me. Her neck was twisted to an angle, and her bone jut out of the jugular; the rope was the only tool left keeping her still. Her mouth was open, and her tongue was red and bleeding. Her eyes, too, were missing; her teeth formed a rictus of pain.
A thump shortly afterwards heightened the time of our shock, and something crashed onto the dining table, smashing the glass plates to bits, stabbing into what dropped onto them: a doll-like baby, its eyes wide open and blue. Laughter came out from its open, plastic mouth.
Both of us shrilled and reeled away at the sights, clamoring and squirreling away from the horror; my heart beat uncontrollably in pumps and pumps of distinct drumming; my breath was ragged against the air and the wind and the howling. None of us knew where we were, but when we stopped, we embraced, gathered against each other, sharing a warmth that had the strength and power to comfort us.
Alex was weeping in my arms, but she was still beautiful. For a moment, it seemed to grant us mercy for young love; it seemed to stop and contemplate the possibilities of love, love in its purest naivety.
But, oh, what a deceiver it is.
The shadows—oh, the shadows, the shadows of dark and evil power whipping around us in a whirlwind of mystery and panic; no longer lurking and hiding, but harsh and rash; the sky and the house and our skin were all a dark shade of red and horrible insanity. And the voices, the voices whispering into my mind, convincing me that there was a way, there must be a way.
We were caged in a black tidal wave of trepidation and utter thirst, of peculiar poltergeists with a putrid stench of petrifying power, and the fear in the dark red mist besieged Alex and me. Is there no way out of this damned labyrinth of temptation that kills and overpowers?
The voices, the voices—the monster, the thing, whispering breathlessly to me; I covered my ears and screamed, closing my eyes, the palpitations multiplying greatly, thumping, thumping, thumping! through my veins—hearing it everywhere in the house, seeming to bounce back and forth between the walls, rapidly echoing in my brain and everywhere around me. We were in the master bedroom, the darkest room of the house, where it lived, where all should fall in its place and we should win. We should kill it, and win, and go home.
But it is not a win; not when we have lost two of our companions. Not when there is no hope in the blood stained house, locked of light and anything righteous.
There is, perhaps, a way. I became more and more convinced of this truth, that the only way to survive this Hell was to stay and bear it; the voices, the voices and the house and the thing told me it, they persuaded me---it saved me from my own tender destruction, that if I chose to fall with them instead of against them, I would be alive.
I told Alex, the only person I ever thought to care for, to live with; and convinced her, as well.
And it was so.
The house still exists—darkening evening by evening—immensely prodded and hunted by others lurking and attempting to defeat me—fools, to bear the thought of approaching me, of even meeting me! Each are marked from the moment they walk toward the house—designed deaths for entertainment---and for another purpose. At times, I may argue with myself—oh, what should I do to that adventurer—no, there is a better idea for that daring man!—but, it is peaceful at other times when none disturb me.
Alex is there, as she always is, with her long black hair and closed eyes, purple and black neck, wearing that gown I observed fit for a bride. She sleeps in the bed I guard in the very master bedroom we ran toward for escape. When I glance back at times of doubt, I ask myself, “What have I done?” But I reassure myself seconds later, it is for her that I do this. To resurrect her—to see if she will awake. She has been asleep since that midnight ages—ages, and ages—oh, centuries ago!
In that past, the house was an enigma, terrifyingly unknown; but now it is another part of me—no, perhaps I have become the enigma.
In all of this, reader, I have not told you my name. A name is a name—a powerful title by which we refer ourselves to. My name is…my name—oh! Have I forgotten already...My name is…It.