In a small town, nestled in an old quiet neighborhood, there is a house.
On the front lawn stands a white sign with metal stakes. The words painted on it announce to the few cars that pass by that the house will soon be for sale. Many of the properties in the neighborhood have the same kind of sign in their yards. The block was once filled with the sounds of children playing. The smells of outdoor cooking wafted through the air on warm summer evenings, and cheerfully twinkly Christmas lights illuminated the deep snow during the long winter nights. Now there is only the rustling of dead leaves and the whistling of the wind between the buildings.
Three stone steps lead up from the overgrown sidewalk. A rusting metal screen door is leaned up against them, its hinges broken and an empty space where the handle once was. When the police arrived they hadn’t been able to get it open, and they had been forced to tear it free from the doorframe. The weeds growing in the flowerbeds have begun to claim it. They grow not only around it but also through the small gaps in the screen.
The house’s front door is closed. The white paint is peeling from the wood, and the two rectangular windows are smeared with grime too thick to be seen through. Sections are splintered outward or otherwise warped. The door had withstood the battering it had taken from inside the house, but it hadn’t escaped destruction without its share of scars.
The realtor purchased the house for next to nothing at a bank auction last month. She hopes to be able to flip it for four or five times her investment. She’s hired workers to perform repairs and updates next week, and the first thing they’ll be doing is replacing the front door and removing the screen door entirely.
Beyond the front door is the living room. It’s dim inside even during the day despite the blinds having been torn from the windows. The light that does manage to penetrate the gloom casts shadows across the floor and walls.
The walls and ceilings have brown stains in many places. The stains resemble an abstract created by a manic painter. When they were fresh they had been a combination of bright and dark red, but as the thick blood had seeped into the wood and dried it had slowly turned brown.
Next week, the blood will be covered with two coats of fresh paint. The paint will be a bright color, one that is inviting and pleasing to the eyes of the people that tour the house. Light blue, maybe, or perhaps something with a hint of green. The realtor hasn’t decided yet.
The carpet was originally light gray. It is now almost black from the dust and decay. Large areas are rotted. Multiple places are stained with the same color as the walls, and those sections of the carpet are hard and stiff instead of soft like it was when the family had lived there.
One spot in the middle of the carpet is different from the rest. It has miraculously avoided most of the dust, and the original color can still be seen. This is most likely due to a slope in the floor or some trick of how the air flows through the room. Someone with a romantic streak and knowledge of how the bodies were found, however, would be quick to note that this is the same spot where the man and woman’s fingertips had been touching from their final act of reaching out to one another.
The carpet will be completely replaced next week. The new carpet will be very similar to the old, just clean and fresh. There won’t be a single hint to prospective buyers that two people had died in the room.
A doorway leads out into the kitchen. More of the stains can be found here, although they are fewer and farther apart than the ones in the living room. The dust-covered counter is missing large chunks along one side. A long crack runs down one section near where the oven used to stand.
The hardwood flooring has a series of deep scores leading away from the counter and towards the glass doors overlooking the backyard. They had been gouged into the floor when the oven had been torn from its place and thrown across the room. Two indentations mark where the appliance had come to a stop.
Less noticeable is a small gouge in the flooring in the corner of the kitchen. It is barely an inch in width, but it goes nearly twice that far down into the wood. Bits of sharp metal from the tip of a carving knife are still embedded at the bottom of the gash.
The realtor got a good deal on a new countertop and flooring at a local supply store. The store was going out of business due to the owner’s retirement, and everything was heavily discounted. She had to pay retail for the oven, however, and she still isn’t happy about that.
Half a dozen carpeted steps lead down from the kitchen into the family room. The walls lining the stairs are covered in scratches. The over two hundred pound man had tried to brace himself against them as the small girl had dragged him with one hand up the steps, the fingers of her right hand digging deep into the flesh under his chin. It had been in vain. The only results of his attempt at stopping the inevitable had been the scratches on the wall and broken fingernails.
Scratches on a wall are easily repaired, of course. A small amount of spackling paste applied with a putty knife, some time to let it dry, and some light sanding is all that it will take to get the wall ready for repainting. Half an hour’s worth of work to hide all evidence of a man fighting for his life against the impossible strength of the girl.
The room at the bottom of the stairs was originally a basement, but the family had turned it into a family room soon after moving into the house. The air smells musty and stale, and dust hangs in the air in the feeble light let in by the half window near the ceiling. The carpet is hard from absorbed moisture and crunches loudly when weight is put on it.
The walls appear black from a distance, but they are actually a deep red. They are stained like the walls in the living room, but unlike those they are completely covered. It is so thick and uniform that it looks like the blood was applied with a paint roller.. They have absorbed so much of the ichor that they remain red rather than fade to brown.
It was in this room that the house had wept blood. The thick liquid had run down from the ceiling and along the walls in wide streaks, coating and violating everything that it touched. The smell of iron still saturates the room.
This room will be the most difficult for the workers to prepare. The blood has tainted the walls too completely to cover up. The workers will remove the existing drywall and install paneling instead. The paneling won’t be as sturdy as the removed drywall, of course, but most of the potential buyers won’t notice the difference and it will save the realtor the additional cost.
Once that is done, the workers will replace the trim along the bottom of the wall before stripping out the carpet and replacing it as well. The smell will be an issue. The scent of blood tends to linger. It will take several days of airing the room out to be rid of it.
The door on the far side of the family room connects the inside of the house with the garage. Seven concrete steps flanked by a wooden hand railing lead upward to the ground floor. The garage is large, wide enough for two cars to be parked inside and still offer storage space. The realtor considers it to be one of the house’s biggest selling points.
The chain from the automatic garage door opener hangs down from the track. It is looped in the shape of a noose. The skin that had been stuck between a number of the links was removed by the police as evidence, but there are still a few individual hairs that were missed.
The workers won’t need to do much to get the garage ready. They’ll reattach the chain to the opener, sweep up the scattered nails and broken glass, and make sure that the electrical box in the corner is up to code. At the end of each day they’re on the job they’ll meet up in the garage to smoke and drink beers, and none of them will notice that a small section of the concrete floor to the right of the stairs is just a bit darker than the rest.
In the living room is the final set of stairs in the house, the ones leading up to the second floor. These are the steps that the woman was thrown down as she begged the girl to stop. Her body was thrown so hard from the top that she missed the steps completely and landed with a sickening crack in the living room, so there’s nothing that needs repaired.
The upstairs hallway appears to be in good condition. Behind the walls and under the flooring, however, are countless cracks that hint at the structural damage it has suffered. As the woman backed away in horror towards the stairs, the hallway twisted and contorted as if it was a living thing trying to envelope her. The realtor doesn’t know about this damage, but even if she did she wouldn’t want to spend the kind of money it would take to repair it. There’s a reason the house will be listed “For Sale, As Is” when it is officially put on the market.
There are four doors in the upstairs hallway. No matter how many times the realtor has opened them, they are once again closed when she leaves and comes back. She’s sure that it’s due to uneven flooring, and she’s made it a point to pick up door stops before the first scheduled open house.
The room closest to the stairs on the right is the bathroom. The workers will need to treat it for mold, as there is some growing at the base of the bathtub and along the bottom of the sink. The seal around the toilet will also need to be replaced.
Water had flowed from the sink, toilet, and bathtub. It had gushed out with great force, like a geyser bursting forth from the bathroom. The water had been dark and murky, filled with sewage and oil. It had splashed up onto every surface, and it had shorted out the electrical outlets just below the mirror. The realtor had needed to call in an electrician to fix the damage before she had been able to schedule the workers.
The second door on the right side of the upstairs hallway leads to the missing boy’s room. Although it’s now very faint, a hint of the smell of rotten eggs still permeates the room. The realtor is hoping that it will be completely gone by the time the workers arrive, but if it isn’t, she’s going to have them scrub the room floor to ceiling. Nothing turns off potential buyers like a bad smell.
The workers will need to clean at least the ceiling even if the scent has dissipated. Black markings resembling giant cigarette burns cover it. They form an intricate pattern of interwoven circles and triangles. There’s something disconcerting about the designs. Looking at them too closely makes a person nauseous. Both the realtor and the police have experienced that firsthand.
The workers will wash off the markings as best as they can before painting the ceiling. Once the paint has dried, they will apply stucco over top of it. That will help conceal the burn marks that remain.
The master bedroom is through the first door on the left in the hallway. This is the strangest room in the house. The paint is missing from the tops of the walls, but it covers the wall trim and the edges of the floor. It gives the impression that it had somehow slid down the wood, or perhaps melted right off of it. The realtor has no explanation for it.
The pair of windows are permanently fogged over. Although at a first glance it looks like they’re simply covered in a filth, it’s the glass itself that is too hazy to see through. The frames are warped to the point of not being able to be opened.
Black handprints are visible in multiple places throughout the room. They are the hands of a child, small and thin with short fingers. Many of the handprints are smudged, but a few of them are so intact and perfect that all the lines and curves can easily be seen. Even the spirals of the fingerprints are exact and unblemished.
The walls will be repainted. The windows will be replaced. The handprints will be scrubbed off. The wood will be swapped out as necessary. Nothing will be left to suggest that anything out of the ordinary had ever happened.
The final hallway door opens into the girl’s bedroom. Unlike all the other rooms in the house, there’s nothing that can immediately be pointed to as being out of place or in need of covering up. It’s the smallest of the bedrooms and it can feel a bit cramped, but otherwise it looks just like any other bedroom in any other house.
Against one wall was where the girl’s bed had once stood. She had loved to jump up and down on it even though her parents had told her a hundred times not to. Next to that had been her little two drawer dresser; the unicorn lamp that had been placed on it was her favorite thing in the whole wide world. A pile of stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes had stood against the opposite wall. The largest of the toys had been a pink elephant that her father had won for her at the fall festival.
Inside the closet had been her nice clothes. Her mother had referred to them as the girl’s fancy clothes, the ones that she wore only on nice occasions. She had enjoyed the feeling of the soft dresses with the flower patterns, but her fancy shoes had pinched the sides of her feet and she hadn’t enjoyed wearing those.
During the day her mother had played tea party and dolls with her. Each evening her father would tell her a story before kissing her on the head and tucking her in. Her brother hadn’t come into her room often, but when he did they would give the stuffed animals silly voices and take them on even sillier adventures.
There had been happiness in this room. Laughter had bounced off of its walls. Smiles had been housed beneath its ceiling. Love had been shared.
Just beneath the room’s single window and nestled under a removable floorboard, inside of a metal box with a broken lock, is a book with a black cover. There are markings cut into the cover with a razor-sharp blade, markings that form shapes and objects that are both nonsensical and meaningful at the same time. Some of them are similar to the pattern of burn marks in the boy’s room, but most of them are different, more complex.
The material of the cover is torn in places. The pages are yellowed and crackle with age as they are turned. The book has been in the house for decades, and it was written much, much longer ago than that.
It is a book that should never have been opened, especially by little fingers.
In a small town, nestled in an old quiet neighborhood, there is a house.
It is a house of madness and death.
In two weeks it will look like any other house, and it will be for sale.
Credit : Tim Sprague
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