This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
The house on X Avenue stood staring at me in the afternoon light. It seemed to have known that I was coming back to my hometown of La Grande, Oregon. At least, what lay inside knew I was coming back. I was compelled to confront the question that had always bothered me: what is inside this house? I remember the time my mom told me that when she was a child, she had seen a scary, multicolored face appear on the wall, staring at her in the middle of the night. She told me how she had to ask her sister about it and was taught The Lord’s Prayer, which seemed to give her some relief. I remember other family members telling me about voices in the night and apparitions. Everyone seemed to have come in contact with the spirits of the house. I felt in my heart that it was time to end the haunting for good.
A 1980 F150 pickup pulled up to the curb next to me. And an old-timer in his sixties climbed out. He wore a white t-shirt, tattered overalls, and white sneakers. He walked towards me with a slight limp, perhaps from years of working at the lumber mill.
“You Johnathan Campbell?” he asked, with a raspy voice like an ungreased cog.
“Yeah, that’s me. And you’re Bob Fraker? The property manager for the bank?
Bob’s blue eyes twinkled.
“Yep, but don’t let appearances fool you. My limousine is in the shop. The term property manager is used loosely. I prefer the title “caretaker” since I ain’t making no manager’s salary after my retirement. I just make sure the grass is cut and chase off any squatters.”
I laughed. I was already beginning to like Bob. “May I take a look inside?”
Bob’s eyes narrowed with concern. “Sure, but I can’t imagine why you would want to. You were a little vague on the phone.”
“The house was in my family for a few generations,” I explained. “I…. thought I would take a trip down memory lane.”
Bob just handed me the key with a sour look. “You’ll have to go in by yourself. I don’t go in that house anymore. There is something wrong with it. It stayed unoccupied for fifteen years. One person who rented it was found dead in the living room, sitting in her recliner.”
Bob walked with me to the porch, as he continued to explain. “The last renter moved out after three months. He said he felt unwelcome. He said the place scared him. The bank took it over after the last owners couldn’t afford the taxes on it. The police stopped responding to calls from the neighbors who kept reporting they were seeing moving shadows inside the house at night.”
I smiled patiently. “May I go in?” Bob gave me a silent nod, and he stepped aside, acquiescing to what he clearly thought was my foolish choice.
I turned and headed up the two steps to the front door. The grass in the yard looked like it could’ve used a machete, and then a weed whacker. The paint on the outside of the house was badly weathered. I thought about all the times that I had been in the house as a kid. I’d never actually had any bad experiences, but I could remember the reports I’d heard from various family members. Some saw spirits at night; others saw demonic faces on the wall. The fact that people had been and were currently affected by the entity in this house made me determined to find out what it was and how to stop it from hurting anyone else. I took a deep breath and inserted the key through the lock on the front door, then stepped inside.
A strong smell of mildew caused me to step back, covering my nose and mouth. I proceeded slowly in, still covering my face, and saw cobwebs everywhere—on the walls, the ceiling and over the furniture that had been left behind.
The house was a small two-story structure with one bathroom and two bedrooms upstairs. One of the bedrooms had the chimney to provide a divider in the middle of the room. I moved through the living room cautiously, then entered the kitchen where there was an old electric range oven. I’m not sure what I was really looking for. I guess I hoped something would just jump out and say, “Boo!”
I entered the bathroom and like the rest of the house, everything was dusty and covered in cobwebs. I walked to the mirror to see if something spooky would be in the reflection, like in the movies. But I saw nothing. I know enough to avoid provoking things to happen, because it is basically an invitation. If you walk by a dog’s yard, the dog will bark at you while you pass by. But if you stop and roar at it, the dog will come out of his yard, bite you, and chase you away.
Feeling a little let down by the lack of any activity, I climbed up the stairs to the bedrooms. The air became heavier, which naturally made me hesitate. I said a little prayer under my breath for protection. My Christian friends would approve, and my new age friends would say use a light shield. I reached the doorway at the top of stairs and entered the first bedroom.
As I stepped in through the door, it felt like I was entering cold water, very unwelcome. In my peripheral vision, I saw movement and as I turned to face it, there was nothing. The house was well lit due to the light coming through the windows, and I could see quite well. Despite the brightness, I turned on the flashlight I had brought with me. I was doing my best to ignore the gnawing fear in my belly. This was the room that always had the most activity. I pressed forward, fighting the intense desire to run. My legs felt as if they had been filled with lead and I was treading through waist-high water.
Just then, my hip buzzed—startling me for a second—and the generic ring tone of my phone went off. I pulled the phone out of its case. For some reason, the display wouldn’t show me the caller ID. I answered hesitantly. “Hello?”
“Honey?” it was my wife, Lisa.
I breathed a sigh of relief. “Hey sweetie, how’s it going?” “Okay. We’re making lunch. When are you going to be ba….?” The phone cut out and started crackling; it reset. Then my flashlight flickered out. I tried to turn around and leave, but my feet were planted to the floor. A shadowy head rested intimately on my right shoulder from behind. Black arms wrapped around my waist. The sensation of cold pressed into my back. I would have screamed if I had a voice, or even breath, but the air was sucked out of my lungs.
My eyes darted up and saw an old vanity mirror, most likely from the previous tenants, leaning against the wall to my right. I could see myself with the shadowy form wrapped around me. As I focused on where the face should be, it began to visually solidify into view. It had a slightly longer nose than should be normal for a human. Its eyes were cruel and full of hunger.
The face shimmered and undulated with iridescent colors. The body of the spirit was like boiling black tar, kept in place by invisible skin. It pressed its face against my head and began pushing itself into me. In that moment, I thought about a video that I had watched from a new age speaker, who claimed that “what we focus on through faith is what we manifest due to our own deity inside us”, and I came to the realization that to a certain extent, it was all a load of crap. I had a demon trying to jump into my body.
The faith part is very true. My logic immediately recognizes that I hadn’t invited the thing, therefore, it couldn’t have me. I became angry, and I visualized the dove of the Holy Spirit in my mind as I invited it to illuminate the room. I heard a scream of rage and terror, and I suddenly wasn’t sure if it was me or the ghoul that held me in place. I realized I could move again, so I turned around and ran down the stairs like a frightened rabbit.
Outside, Bob Fraker had his tailgate down, and he was sitting on it, reading the newspaper. He saw the terrified look on my face as I ran out the door and he started on his feet. “What happened to you? Did you kick a bear in the balls? What was all of that noise?”
I panted, shaking my head. “Let’s just say you were right to avoid going into that house.”
Bob patted me on the shoulder and said, “Why don’t you go home and try to shake this off. Let me buy you a cup of coffee in the morning at Denny’s and we can talk this out.”“Sure, I’ll see you in the morning.”
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Jasmine Chow: As I read this story, I was reminded some what of Terry Pratchett, especially some descriptions of politics and economics. The sci-fic setting is quite intriguing. Writing style is quite lovely and grew on me slowly. I was also slightly reminded of Mark Twain, especially his book A Connecticut Ya...
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