It’s My House

I’ve been staring into the sink now for twenty minutes, I am petrified to look in the mirror.  I’m holding razor blades, I’m just afraid they’ll be too slow.  My arms are still shaking and the sweat accumulating on my brow is ice cold.  What the fuck am I going to do?

#

Two days ago we, my wife and son, moved into this house, our dream house, a seventeenth century stable, converted into a three bedroom home.  Thick stone walls.  Old windows that bulge out at the bottom where the glass had hundreds of years for gravity to drag it inevitably downward.  An awesome piece of heritage, I almost died when our offer was accepted.

One truck load was all that was needed, our meagre possessions barely filled half the vehicle, only the bulky furniture made any sort of dent.

This was the first time in my life I would own something substantial, proof that I was not a failure.

The first night, Jenny and I sat at the oaken kitchen table, a magnificent piece of workmanship, it was just left here by the previous occupants.  We sipped Champagne, feeling like royalty, reminiscing and laughing while Junior played XBox in his room.

I smiled at my wife and she smiled back knowingly.

I raised my glass, “A toast, to you, my Queen and the marvellous kingdom you now rule.”

“My Queen?  Someone’s angling for something.” she said with a wink.

I was over the moon, this whole fucking place was mine.

Around 1:30am, Jenny stood up and staggered, a little more tipsy than she gave herself credit for.  Her face flushed from the alcohol, she ran her hand through her hair and giggled.  I watched as her eyes tried to focus on me.

She pointed an unsteady finger, “I’ll see you up in the bedroom!  Don’t be too long, you’ll miss your chance.”

Stumbling, she made her way to the stairs, using the walls for stability and disappeared out of view.

I poured myself another glass and listened to the footsteps above me until they ended with a squeak as Jenny flopped out on to the bed.

I wandered around the ground floor, going from room to room, a grin from ear to ear, holding my chalice as I surveyed my domain.

There was not much to see, mostly boxes, but I let my imagination run wild about what I could do with the place.  An Aga cooker there, right next to a fuck off Smeg fridge.  But who was I kidding, I could barely afford the bricks and mortar I was standing in, never mind filling the place to some sort of capacity.  The decor was going to be minimalist for a long time, I was ok with that, I’d tell people I didn’t like stuff, that stuff was for the insecure and needy.

I entered the living room, a modest size, painted sunburst yellow, the wall mounted lights complementing their colour.  At the far end I noticed something I’d not clocked before.  Not when we put the boxes in here and not when we viewed the place.  A most peculiar door.  I tilted my head to the side, perplexed I’d missed it.  It was short, an ideal height for a hobbit, but not a fully grown adult.

The door was made from vertical planks of wood.  A large black wrought iron latch held it shut securely.  I placed my hand on the ring that held the latch in place, curious to see what secrets it held, but it didn’t budge.

Using both hands, I wrenched the handle through gritted teeth and with a satisfying metallic thunk, the latch released.  The door creaked and it opened under it’s own steam.

A musty odour oozed out from the darkness, I wondered how long that air had been trapped there.  The smell almost tangible, it took on a life of its own as it morphed between a mildewy whiff and into a rotten stench.  I winced as the emanation filled my nostrils.

The light from the room did a good job exposing the inside, a small cupboard-sized space of red bricks and grey limestone cement.

Four large hooks protruded out of the far wall, on which metal objects hung.  Things made of the same metal as the latch, some heavy duty equipment.  The first two were pretty much identical, cage like artefacts that look like they could fit over a human head, similar to those that slaves were forced to wear.  Rings dangled from the back, and small fibres of what could have been rope were still tied to them.  The next item was a mace, the rounded heavy ballast ominous, light glistening off its glossy surface as it swung from side to side.  The last, pliers, the type you’d expect to be used to remove nails from wooden beams.

Shocked and fascinated, I made a mental note to show Junior tomorrow.  I closed the door and savoured turning the handle to slot the latch firmly back into place.  I returned to the kitchen and noticed the empty bottle of wine and decided to head bed-ward.

#

Standing at the threshold of the bedroom I watch Jenny sleep, her arm locked at the elbow and dangling off the bed.  Her mouth agape, sucking in the night air, snoring, dead to the world.  Alcohol always went straight to her head, so I wasn’t surprised; I wouldn’t disturb her now.  I proceeded to slide myself under the covers, the bed soothingly cool.

I lay there, listening to the impeccable silence of the country night, so quiet the beating of my heart filled my skull, an experience that was somewhat disturbing to an urbanite.  I sigh and allow my aching muscles to sink into the mattress, the slight pain somewhat comforting, trophies of a day well worked.  I breath in time with Jenny and soon dropped off to sleep.

#

3:30am, fucking sleep paralysis.

I usually get afflicted with this in times of stress or when I’ve not been sleeping well, today was definitely the former.

With hazy vision, I stared at the ceiling, unable to move.  The unfamiliar surroundings distressing at first, until I remember the day’s events.  A little melancholy creeps into my consciousness, a poke of homesickness for the city.

Usually, I close my eyes and tried to relax, but I didn’t feel comfortable; the long and jagged shadows drawn above me are foreboding, like spirits ready to descend and devour my body as soon as it succumbs to sleep, keeping me on edge.

Whispers from afar, incredibly quiet at first, start to fill the room.  Raspy and unintelligible they glide around the room like wisps of smoke that fade away just as quickly as they were formed, I can almost see them.

The murmurs drift to the left of my side of the bed and merge with the dark shadows that now lurk in the corner of my vision.

The shimmering, slightly transparent shadow leans over me.  I felt it’s cold presence on my face, its hollow eyes look through me.  The stench is repugnant.

It’s my house.

It says in a deep and bassy tone before dissipating into the night.

The room appears to lighten as it fades.  My arms are released from their paralysis and heart quickens as I consider the possibility that I was being held down.

I snuggle up to my wife, my icy flesh causing her to jump, I hold on tighter.

The clarity of the vision fades and I smirk at the ridiculous notion that I was visited by a spectre; fucking sleep paralysis.

#

It’s 9am when my wife wakes me up.

“Hello hun, I’ve made you a cup of coffee, your first in the new house,” she says as she hands me over the mug.

I shuffle upright and accept the drink, “That’s brilliant, thank you.”

“How are you feeling today?”

“Not too bad, I can still feel it in my muscles, you know?  That was a lot of lifting we did.  How about you?”

“Okay, I’ve been trying to clean that stain out of the carpet, I swear I didn’t see if last night,”  she points to the scrubbed black mess on the floor next to the bed.

A blurry memory of my night visitor fluttered through my visual cortex, a sudden release of adrenaline and a single heavy heartbeat soon follows.

“Are you sure it wasn’t there before, we were very tired yesterday?”  I said.

“I guess it could have been, ” Jenny got down on her knees and resumed scrubbing, “I’ve never seen such a stubborn stain, nothing’s coming off.”  She showed me the unsullied white rag.

“Don’t worry about it, we can get new carpet, in fact you said you’d preferred hard-wood floors anyway, we can get that.”

She shot to her feet, “Where are we going to find the money for that?”

“We have a little spare, it would be nice.”

“Hmmmm,” She looked at me quizzically.  “I’m going to make you a fried breakfast, I’ll see you downstairs in twenty?”

“Have I got the best wife ever?” I say and she smiles as she leaves.

I take the opportunity to have a shower.

#

The water heats up slowly as the journey from tank to shower-head apparently goes to Scotland and back.  When the temperature is right I jump in and close the curtain.

The steamy atmosphere brightens my mood and I stand there, allowing the hot pressurised liquid pummel my face, enjoying the massaging effect it has on my skin.

I hear a barely audible shout, “Honey!  Breakfast’s ready!”

“Just a minute,”  I reply, genuinely shocked twenty minutes had passed.

I fling open the curtain and the cooler air from the rest of the room wafts in and covers me.  I look for my towel and freeze.

My eyes lock on the mirror.  In the condensation something is written.

As I read, I hear a deep voice fill the room.

It’s my house.

I hurriedly get out of the bathtub, pick up my towel and rub the message away, in some impotent effort to undo the dread that fills me.  I give myself a slapdash dry, put my clothes on over my damp skin and leave the on-suite.  I slam the door behind me, a chill runs down my spine as I do, symbolically imprisoning my fear.

I take a deep breath and with renewed vigour I march towards the bedroom door.  I give a cursory look back to the bed and notice the stain has gone; my eyes widen as I take in this information.

#

I plop myself down in the dining room chair and look at the meal that has been lovingly prepared for me.

“Are you okay?  You look awful.  Did you have a shower?”

Jenny looks at my unkempt hair, which I instinctively try to flatten.

“Yeah, I’m fine, this looks good.”

I smell the food, scented steam rises and beckons me to eat it.  I pick up a fork and start to shovel in the pork and dairy products into my salivating mouth.  The salty goodness melts in my mouth and I begin to feel grounded.  It’s amazing what bacon can do.  If I was religious, I’d worship bacon.

“Junior not joining us?”  I ask.

“No, he’s still in bed; teenagers!”

I chew the last bite and throw down my fork, “Damn woman, that was the best fry up ever.”

Jenny got up from her seat and kissed me on the cheek, “Thank you very much,” she said with another smile, picked up the plate and make her way over to the sink.

Kill her!

“What the fuck was that?” I say shocked.

“Sorry, hun?”

The faint whispers from the night before fill the room.  My eyes dart around, trying to find the source of the voices.  I feel the weight of a hand on my right shoulder and warm breath in my ear.  My eyes wide with fear  as I stare at my wife washing the dishes, too scared to shriek.

“Boo!”

“Fuck, son!  You almost gave me a heart attack!”

“Language Jeremy!” scolds Jenny.

Junior shuffled by, looking back I caught the huge shit eating grin painted on his face.

He rubs his hands, “Any chance of some grub?”

Jenny turned and gestured to the stove, “There’s a bit of everything on the plate warming in the oven; be careful, it’s hot.  If you give me a minute I will make you some eggs.”

“Thanks moms.”

KILL THEM ALL!

Concerned lines highlighted Junior’s brow, “Dad, are you ok?” he asked, inspecting my face, as I stare at the shadowy figure standing in the doorway.

#

“Your temperature appears to be much better, your colour has come back too,”  Jenny says as she checks the thermometer.

“I’m fine, it’s probably stress.  This place is a big deal for me.”  I say as I sit up on the couch.

“Don’t get up,”, Jenny puts her hand on my shoulder and pushes down, “We have all the time in the world to get things sorted out, just get some rest.”

“I assure you, I feel much better.”  I say as I stand too quickly and feel a head rush come on.  I stifle the feeling and hold my footing.

“If you insist on getting up, don’t do any heavy lifting and being a hero, you’re no good to anyone if you make yourself sick.”

“Thanks mom.”  I say sarcastically.

Jenny left the living room and I remember the little discovery from last night.

I approach the door, kneel down and open.  The air that escapes is fresh, free from the odour of last night.  I unhook one of the metal skull cages.  The item opens from the back like an S&M ribcage.  I slowly place it over my head, the metal cold on my nose, it snaps closed on my neck easily and I jump.  I pick up the mace, it’s heavy weight unexpected in my hand.

I trot upstairs and knock on my son’s door, I hear the sounds of warfare coming from his room.

“Son, I have something to show you.”  I say excited as I wait for him to answer.

“Come in!” he shouts distractedly.

I open the door and see the TV lighting up his face as he mashes buttons on his XBox controller while barking commands down his headset to his team mates.

“Check out what I found!”  I say as he tells his friends he will be back in five.

I swing the mace to the side of me.

He turns and stares directly at me and his face turns to pure horror.

#

My head hurts.  Where am I?

I find myself cleaning my hands with a brush, mud is caked underneath my fingernails.  I appear to be in some sort of rush.  I look into the mirror in front of me.  Dirt streaks my face.  I splash myself with water and pick up a clean towel and watch as the dirt transfers to the towel.

I rest my hands on the sink and try to catch my breath; I feel exhausted.  I have a headache and my hands and knees hurt.  I clench my fists, the fresh pain in my forearms all too evident.

Looking down, I see my clothes are also as dirty.  On the toilet I notice I have prepared myself a change of clothes.

I strip, my T-shirt smells of sweat.  I get in the shower and start to wash.

The cold water is soothing and I try and focus.  I have no recollection of how I got here.  I replay the day in my head.

I remember the shower this morning, I panic and pull back the curtain to reveal the mirror, it’s clean, no evidence of the message from earlier remains.  I return the curtain and allow the icy water to spray my face.  I’m going crazy!

Where was I last?  I recall going to see Junior, SHIT!

I turned off the shower, dry and leave in much the same way I did before.

I race over to Junior’s room, the door is ajar.

“Junior?”  I call as I burst into the room.  The light from the TV still fills the room, his controller blinks as the battery begins to die.  He’s not there.

The front door opens.

I double step the stairs to see who it is, “Junior?”

“I’m back!”  Jenny shouted into the house.  I hear her keys being thrown onto a counter.

“Oh, there you are,”  she says as she sees me emerge from the staircase.

She looks at me funny and asks, “Did you have another shower?”

“Uh, yeah.  Thought it may, you know, make me feel better.”

Jenny shrugs as she places groceries on the sideboard.

Hesitantly I ask, “Do you know where Junior is?”

“Didn’t you say he went out?”  Jenny responded puzzled.

“Did I?”

“Yes, before I went out to the shops.  You sounded a little on edge then too.  Are you still feeling off?”

“I’m not sure, I think I’m just going to lie down.”

Slowly, I trudged up the stairs to the bedroom.  I lazily push the door open and the black stain comes into view.  Shit!

Drained, I flop exhausted onto the bed and close my eyes.

I hear the whispers as I fall to sleep.

#

I wake to the sound of neighbour kids playing in the dying sunlight.  I check the alarm clock, it’s coming up on 8:45pm.  I feel genuinely refreshed and spring out of bed.

I smile when I see the stain beneath my feet has gone.  I walk down the stairs and smell freshly brewed coffee filling the air.

“Jen, you down here?”  I call out.

“I’m in the living room.”

“Do you want any coffee?”

“I’m fine, thanks.  Come, see what I’ve done.”

I pour myself a mug and make my way into the lounge.

“Wow!”  I say as I see that my wife has unboxed the living room.  “You even got the TV hooked up?”

“Just because I am a woman I don’t know the difference between an HDMI and an optical cable?  I even set up the Playstation,” she says as she sticks out her tongue.

I lean over and turn on the TV.  “It actually works!”

“Sarcastic fucker!  Come, sit.”  Jenny taps the couch cushion next to her.  “Do you like then?”

“You did a wonderful job.”

“Thanks.  You weren’t feeling very good, so thought it would be something nice to do.”

“It was and looks brilliant.”  I said as I put my arm around her and she leans into me.

“Have you seen that door over there?”  she asked and pointed.  “Looks very small, must me some kind of storage cupboard.”

“Yeah, ” I say hesitantly, “There are some very strange things in there.”

“Really, I want to see.  I couldn’t open the door.”

“You sure?  It’s actually quite horrible.”

She unlocked our embrace and pushed me playfully.

“You can’t say that and then not show me.  Open it up!” she demanded with a pout.

“Okay!”  I relented and made my way over.

The latch opened easily.  One of the skull restraints was missing.  I slammed the door shut.

“Hey, no fair.”  Jenny whined and got off of the couch to join me, “Let me see!”

“No.”

“Jeremy, come on.  Look at all the effort I spent today.”

I could see she was getting upset.

“Okay, okay.”

I reopened the cupboard.

“Wow!  Are these for real.”  she said as she grabs for the mace.

“Don’t touch them!”

“Why not.”

“Let me get them out.”

I notice one of the skull cages is missing.

I reach for mace, the handle feels sticky on my palm and I smile.

#

I gaze down at my hand, it grasps a tumbler full of what appears to be whiskey.  Ice cubes, half melted, the bottle of single malt, half empty.  I bring the glass to my mouth, my arm trembling and down the liquid, it sends a soothing burn down my throat and all the way to my stomach.  I wince at it’s strength and let out a gasp.

What the fuck has happened?

“Jenny?  Jenny?”  I call out and receive no response.  My mind is fuzzy, I must have been drinking for some time.  The windows are vacant of light, night had long since drawn in.  I refill my cup to the brim and bring to my mouth, spilling some in the process; I finish half the glass before I push myself up.  I feel a little uneasy on my feet.

“Jenny?”  I continue to shout.

I check the living room.  The TV is still on, but my wife is not there.

I stumble my way upstairs, to the bedroom.  The bed is just how I left it, empty.  The black stain on the floor is back and it’s bigger, my heart sinks.

I take another large mouthful of the scotch and notice my fingernails are, again, covered in mud.  Looking at my T-Shirt, I am covered in blood and filth.  What the fuck have I done?

I run stumble down the stairs and trip, tumbling the last of the stairs.  The glass goes flying and smashes on the flagstone floor of the kitchen.  I lie on my back and mentally check my body for damage; good enough.  Gingerly, I get up and stagger, carefully stepping around shrapnel of the smashed glass.

I see muddy foot prints on the floor enter through the front door and end in the kitchen, congregating around the table I had been sitting at, next to my sodden shoes.

Opening up a box labeled ‘under the stairs’, I rummage around inside looking for a flashlight.  My hand comes to rest on the barrel and I pull it out.  I open the front door, put the latch on the deadbolt and exit the house.

The security light floods the driveway with daylight, I see and follow the muddy tracks to the back of the house.

The yard is in pitch darkness.  I turn on the flashlight and see the dirt lines that resemble drag marks enter the lawn.

I move the torch from side to side, I stop when my light comes to rest on mounds of freshly dug soil.

My breathing quickens as I contemplate the contents of the piles.

I let go of the flashlight, fall to my knees and begin to scrap hurriedly at the soil with my hands.  It’s barely two inches before I touch the cooling flesh of my wife.  I locate the head and remove the pitiful amount of covering of her shallow grave.

I pick up the torch and shine it on her face, the wrought iron skull cage constricts her face.  Blood glistens up at me from her temple as I see the right side of her face has been caved in.  I turn and heave.  Her eyeless face gazes vacantly into the starry sky.

I cry as I see the arm of my son draped over my loving wife’s chest, his hand gripped on her blouse.

I collapse on the muddy grass, broken.

#

I’ve been staring into the sink now for twenty minutes, I am petrified to look in the mirror.  I’m holding razor blades, I’m just afraid they’ll be too slow.  My arms are still shaking and the sweat accumulating on my brow is ice cold.  What the fuck am I going to do?

I pinch open my eyes, I am greeted with a cheshire cat grin slapped onto my reflected face, but I’m not smiling.  My doppelgänger looks me in the eye and gloats.

It’s my house.

Averting my eyes, I grope for the razor blades and enter the bath.  I take deep breaths as I peer at the blade and then at my arm; from wrist to elbow I say to myself.  I steel myself and plunge the razor into my left wrist and drag it; blood spurts out and hits me in the eyes, it’s surprisingly painless.  I blindly swap hands and repeat the procedure on my other arm.

I push the blade deep into my windpipe to make sure.

I suck in air through the hole in my neck and sink into the bath and let out a gargle filled with warm liquid.  I feel the blood coat my clothes and cool rapidly.  Carbon dioxide forming in my bloodstream, making me gasp for air.

I hear whispers from the hallway come closer as my mind gives in to the reality that I am bleeding out.  I’m okay with that.

I rest my eyes and wait.

I hear the bathroom door creak open.

“MOM!”  I hear Junior cry.

My eyes open through the slick and sticky coagulant that heavies my eyelids.  I see my son in search for towels.

He wraps them around my arms, “Dad, keep the pressure on.”  But it’s too late.

“Son?” I try and say through my shredded throat but I’m too weak now.

The shadowy figure stands at the end of the bathtub and smiles.

One down, two to go.

*As seen on Reddit’s No Sleep

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