15 Sep New Home
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"New Home"Written by Ismael Zuniga
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Estimated reading time — 12 minutes
With his new bride in his arms, Gavin stepped across the threshold of their new home.
He set her down carefully on her feet and steadied her balance. Between her puffy wedding gown, the three inch heels she wore, and all the champagne she had drunk, Gavin figured his new wife could use his support. She smiled brightly despite being tipsy and marveled at the exquisite foyer.
“Darling!” exclaimed Victoria. “This had to cost you a fortune!”
As Victoria stepped deeper into the foyer and admired the marble floors, high ceilings, and rich mahogany furniture accents, Gavin loosened his bow-tie and congratulated himself on finally making it.
For a man in his early 40’s Gavin had been through several hardships. He had been raised on welfare and never knew his father. His brother had died in a drug overdose when Gavin was in high school. And, most disturbing, his mother had disappeared when Gavin was in college and was never found. It had been difficult finding a bank that would grant him a loan to attend college, but when one did, Gavin made the most of it. He had studied hard, rose to the top of his class, and earned a prestigious internship at one of Connecticut’s top law firm’s upon graduating and never looked back. But in all his years of success, he never dreamed he’d fall in love with a woman as beautiful as Victoria.
Like other love stories, he had met her at a coffee shop. It was a ‘mom and pop’ establishment in the heart of Bridgeport. Gavin had always loved small cafes and had been growing annoyed with the bad attitudes of the baristas he usually encountered from others, so when he drove along Water Street and saw a new place, he all but slammed on the brakes.
Victoria had been setting out fresh pastries when Gavin stepped in. She immediately caught his eye. Her black hair cascaded down in loose tendrils, falling sensuously on her shoulders and chest. Its hue contrasted her milky tan skin so dramatically that to Gavin it was purely stunning.
He had asked her to dinner right then and there. She had said no. In fact, Victoria had said no to Gavin more times than he could count, but he had to have her. He kept showing up at the coffee shop, kept asking, and eventually she said yes. This made Victoria his most prized possession. Not that she was a possession, but in terms of all the things Gavin had wanted, worked hard for, and received, this woman was by far the most important.
So it gave him great joy to watch as Victoria fell in love with this house. As she strolled through the 15,000 square foot mansion, Gavin followed her and smiled to himself. It greatly pleased him that the realtor closed escrow just in time for the wedding. The realtor had been stalling for mysterious reasons, and when Gavin finally pressed using a sharp tone in his voice, the realtor mentioned some kind of problem with the house regarding a mishap with the prior occupants. “There may be hazards,” were his exact words, but Gavin had found it completely ridiculous and threw his attorney contacts into the situation. The realtor had drawn the papers up within an hour. That’s how Gavin got things done, and he was glad that’s how he did.
From the center of the master bedroom, Victoria turned around and around, arms stretched out like a joyful little girl. Gavin laughed sharing in her joy. She ran to the bed and hopped on it. The smile on her face ran from ear to ear. She ran to her vanity desk, and opened the drawers. All of her favorite brands of makeup were already stocked inside. She looked at herself in the mirror smiling for joy, and then she looked at Gavin’s reflection.
“It’s a dream. It has to be. I love it,” said Victoria, and she popped open a small container of Chanel blush. She plucked a brush out from a side drawer and began to paint her cheeks. Her most treasured shade: apricot.
Gavin embraced her from behind and kissed her neck. He then lifted her in his arms and carried her to the bed. “Wait!” she chuckled out, “Let me put my make-up back!”
As he laid her down, he whispered, “You’re the love of my life, I’d do anything for you.”
That night they made love more passionately than either thought possible. But in the weeks to come, Victoria became consumed by her boredom. Ever since Gavin had proposed, he’d insisted she not toil away at the coffee shop. She was the significant other to a high powered attorney. He stated that there was no reason to degrade herself by serving coffee.
Most nights Gavin would get home around 10:00 pm with little energy to do much besides watch the evening news and turn in, but Victoria seemed so dissatisfied by that. She complained to Gavin that he didn’t have time for her, and when he wouldn’t listen she went on about how the house was playing tricks on her. When she placed an item down, she’d say, it was gone by the time she returned to it. She wanted his company and she wanted to go out.
“There’s new restaurant that opened downtown,” she often said implying that she’d like to go, but Gavin brushed it off apologizing that he had an important deposition in the morning.
“I loved my life before you, Gavin,” she revealed to him one night before bed. “Don’t give me a reason to go back to it.” Gavin lowered his reading glasses to question her, but Victoria had already turned off the light.
The next morning Gavin woke up and found Victoria’s side of the bed was cold. He rose and went downstairs for coffee. Unlike every morning since they’d moved in, there was no coffee in the pot, and Victoria was not in the kitchen. A sharp pang of guilt hit Gavin. He should’ve listened to her and taken her out. Why can’t she understand their livelihood depends on his long hours? Assuming his wife was off sulking in the living room, he went there, but it was empty. He walked briskly to the exercise room, but she wasn’t there. He checked the library, billiard room, study, and finally the laundry room and secondary bathrooms, but his wife was nowhere to be found.
Gavin contemplated taking the day off from work when he realized his favorite mug was not on the third shelf of the cupboard like it should have been. He opened the adjacent cupboard door, but his mug wasn’t there either. Gavin quickly threw open all the cupboards in the kitchen, and then the dishwasher before he finally accepted that his mug was not in this kitchen. He was dumbstruck.
Hours later the police were swarming about his apartment. Gavin sat on the couch and thanked the lead detective. “We really shouldn’t consider this a missing person case until 72 hours,” said Crosby, who was the lead detective.
“I’m aware, I really appreciate it,” said Gavin not fully meaning it. His law firm had represented a number of crooked cops in Det. Crosby’s department and Gavin felt they owed him, and owed him big.
“When did you last see Victoria?” he asked.
“Last night,” answered Gavin. “You don’t understand. It’s not like Victoria to go anywhere without my knowledge. She left her purse with all her cards and her I.D., and even keys. I’m worried.”
“Can you think of any place she might’ve gone?” Gavin wracked his brain, and then he began to shake his head when something caught his eye. It would’ve been overlooked by anyone else, but to Gavin it was alarming. On the marble floor not ten feet from the couch where he sat was a small pile of powder.
“What?” asked Det. Crosby, but Gavin didn’t answer. He rose out of his seat and knelt down. He placed his index finger into the powder. “What is it?” Det. Crosby asked again.
“It’s rouge,” said Gavin.
“Rouge?” The detective rose an eyebrow.
“My wife’s makeup. Her blush. What she wore on her cheeks,” answered Gavin as he rubbed the apricot powder between his fingers. Some of the officers exchanged glances and snickered, which Gavin noticed. “You think this is funny?! My wife is missing!”
Det. Crosby closed his eyes for one imperceptible second, “Not at all, Gavin.” He cleared his throat. “Sorry.” It seemed comforting to Gavin until the detective rose, preparing to leave the mansion.
“Please give me a call if anything else seems promising with respect to finding your wife.” And with that, Det. Crosby rounded up the officers on his detail and followed the entire task force out of the mansion.
Gavin sat by himself on the couch. The house fell silent. Then, he saw it – another pile of powder.
Once again, he knelt by the pile. Then saw another pile a few feet ahead. He knelt and touched his fingertips to it. It was Victoria’s rouge as well. He looked up searching the floor for more. He found one a few feet away. A trail, he thought. He knelt near the next pile, searched around, and then he knelt near the pile he found after that. This went on through the living room, and into the servant’s quarters, where Gavin had never stepped. These old colonial houses had all kinds of secret staircases, corridors, and chambers. The very thought of it had always given Gavin a creepy feeling, which is why he never came here.
Gavin followed the powder trail up a hidden staircase he had never noticed before. As he ascended the staircase, paranoia came over him. When he reached the fifth floor, another powder trail led him through a corridor that connected a children’s play den to the servant’s quarters. Gavin proceeded, his heart racing. He had been in love with Victoria long enough to know when she was near. He began to greatly fear where the powder trail may be leading him.
With his eyes glued to the floor, Gavin spotted pile after pile of powder until he found himself face to face with a wall. Gavin’s hopes plummeted. The wall ran the entire length of the corridor. Gavin looked ceiling to floor and could not understand how something so promising as a trail of Victoria’s powder could lead him to a random wall. He despaired and slammed his head against the wall as all hope escaped him.
Gavin felt a slight sinking movement from the wall. Just then, a secret door to the right of where he stood slowly creaked open. He looked up surprised. He waited a long moment until the door finally stopped opening and peered inside. What he saw was a confined space, perhaps 8 by 8 space, generously speaking. All four walls of the room contained shelves that ranged from 6 inches to one foot, by Gavin’s estimation, and every inch of shelf space was occupied by porcelain dolls.
Gavin’s heart began to race as he stepped inside the room, his head filling with thoughts. Why was it filled with dolls? Whose dolls were these? And why did the realtor not know about it, and clear them out? Most importantly, why did my missing wife’s rouge lead me here?
Gavin’s gaze landed on one doll in particular. The doll had black hair and tan skin. Unlike the majority of dolls in the room, this one was not dressed in a turn of the century gown and bonnet, but rather a contemporary red sweater, and blue jean skirt. Gavin picked the contemporary doll up in his hands and stared into its eyes. When the doll was upright, its eyes were open. And when he tipped it on its back, the eyes fell shut. Gavin played with this for a moment, tipping then elevating the doll. Suddenly, it’s right eye fell into its skull cavity and jingled around.
“Christ,” Gavin said to himself. “That’s damn creepy.” Then, for reasons even Gavin didn’t understand, he lifted the doll to his nose and inhaled. He closed his eyes. It smelled just like Victoria. He lowered and once again looked at the doll. It was on its back and it’s eyelids were closed. It looked peaceful, and Gavin wondered if he would ever have a child. If he finds Victoria, would she want to have a baby? As he deeply considered this and stared into the closed eyes of this porcelain doll, the dolls eyes opened. To Gavin, it seemed the doll was looking at him dead in the eye.
An hour later Det. Crosby stood in the center of the doll room as Gavin waited in the hall. “I don’t care what it costs, her powder trail led me here, test everything for prints and D.N.A.”
“Yes, of course,” said Det. Crosby as he instructed his team to follow suit. Each officer exited the room with a handful of dolls. Each doll was bagged in plastic. By the time the last officer left, Gavin keeled over drawing his hand to his eyes to hide the tears.
“We’ll find her,” assured Det. Crosby.
“Call me as soon as you find something.”
After Gavin heard the last of the officers’ footsteps descend the servants staircase, he stepped back into the room and turned around again and again, studying the empty walls. Impatience overcame him and he extracted his cell phone from his pants pocket.
Meanwhile, on the street outside, the officers loaded up their evidence van. One by one, each officer carried a handful of porcelain dolls into the van and dumped them in a pile. When the last officer was allowed sole access inside, he placed the four dolls he had carried onto the pile. But just as he was about to back up and hop out of the van, he noticed something peculiar. The eyes of all of the dolls floated open. He leaned forward to lift one of the dolls up and see what kind of mechanical dysfunction it had, when suddenly a porcelain doll plunged down onto his back. Alarmed, the officer grabbed the doll off his back, but it was too late. The army of dolls jumped onto him one after the other, and began to envelop the officer. Soon they smothered him, covering his nose and mouth, and eventually collapsed gasping for air.
Inside the mansion, with his cell phone pressed to his ear, Gavin listened to ring tone after ring tone, as he walked down the hallway.
Tap tap tap.
Gavin swung around and looked into the room, but the outgoing message in his ear distracted him. The realtor wasn’t picking up, so Gavin left a message:
“Hi, Gavin here, I know it’s late. I love the house, just wanted to call about… well, you had mentioned the house could be hazardous, and I didn’t understand what you meant, but it’s imperative that you call me back. So… please do.” He hung up.
Tap tap tap tap.
Gavin pivoted again. The sound had come from behind him in the secret room. Hearing a noise like that caused the possibility of rats to cross his mind. That’s the last thing he needed. Suddenly, he was struck by a paranoid feeling that reminded him of how he felt climbing the staircase earlier. He never felt paranoid. Was this his instincts taking over? He turned around inside the secret room. The north wall was empty just as it was when the cops had left. The west, south, and east walls were all empty, too. But when Gavin turned slightly to the north wall with intensions to leave the room, he saw the black hair contemporary doll sitting on a shelf.
His eyes widened and his heart began racing. That doll wasn’t there a second ago, was it? Gavin looked closely at the doll and saw that on its cheeks was a thick powder. Apricot blush. Gavin grew irate. He didn’t know what was going on, but it wasn’t funny. He wanted his wife back. A sharp anger came over him, and he raised the porcelain doll above his head ready to slam its face into the lacquered wood floor when his cell phone rang.
Gavin lowered the doll and reached into his pocket. He fumbled slightly, but accepted the call. “Hello?”
“Sorry to return your call so late, but this is important,” it was his realtor. His voice sounded grave and shaky.
“Not at all. Besides, I called first,” said Gavin, who was fully alert to receive any information the realtor may have. “So?” He heard a long exhale on the other end of the phone.
“Look, I don’t know how to say this, because it’s, well…I never thought it would affect you or your wife.”
“Just say it,” Gavin pleaded.
“The previous owners of the house…Well,” the realtor paused for a few seconds, “they… disappeared. Not at the same time. First the wife went missing. Then, after, I think a day or two, the husband disappeared. Neither of them was found. To this day, they remain missing.” Gavin stood in silence. “Gavin? Are you still there?”
After a long moment, Gavin screamed, “Why didn’t you tell me this?!”
“I was trying to tell you beforehand, but-!” Gavin threw his cell phone against the wall. It shattered on impact.
He screamed and cried, pulling his hair out. “Victoria!” In a rage he had never before known, Gavin grabbed the porcelain doll by the head and smashed it against the wall. It fell to the ground, and he stomped on it in a fury. Then he stormed out of the room and down the hall.
On the floor of the secret room, the shards of the porcelain doll reassembled themselves into the milky tan head of the contemporary doll. When all of the pieces found their proper fit, the doll’s eyes opened and blinked rapidly. The doll sat up.
Once in his bedroom, Gavin sat on his bed and a deep despair crept into his heart. What if he really never did see Victoria again? After brushing his teeth and changing into his night clothes, Gavin turned out the light and lied down in bed.
Tap tap tap.
Gavin hadn’t reached sleep when that odd sound of feet tapping across the floor occurred again. He paused, holding his breath. Then soon enough:
Tap tap tap tap.
Gavin opened his eyes and waited patiently as they adjusted to the dark.
Tap tap tap tap tap.
He couldn’t see anything except the far wall and the curtains on the adjoining wall. Annoyed, he threw the covers back and was about to get out of bed when a porcelain doll landed on his chest.
“What the hell?” He grabbed the doll and threw it off of him across the room. When he sat up, three dolls jumped onto his back and head. He sprung out of bed, spinning and throwing the dolls off one by one and screaming. He ran to the other of the bedroom where the light switch was located, but before reaching it a dozen dolls jumped on him, taking a hold of his limbs. It knocked him off balance and he stumbled forward. Dolls lined the floor, causing him to trip. He fell head first into the bed frame. His forehead cracked against the hard mahogany corner of the footboard.
From the ground Gavin shook his head, but the blow had severely disoriented him. He rolled over onto his back and took a deep breath. When he opened his eyes and cocked his head to the side, he saw in his periphery dozens of dolls with an evil glint in their eye. They crept towards Gavin, and just as he was about to sit up, the masses of them leapt onto him. He screamed, and tossed them off, one by one, but there were far too many.
The porcelain dolls smothered Gavin to death.
By the time moonlight shined, the dolls dragged his dead body across the bedroom floor and down the hall. They dragged him through a secret corridor and into the servant’s kitchen, where they had been keeping the dead and rotting corpse of Victoria. The dolls propped Gavin up on a kitchen stool. Then posed Victoria with a teacup. They staged a scene where Victoria appeared to be serving Gavin morning tea to his favorite cup.
Throughout the night, the dolls took turns playing with their life-sized toys.
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🔔 More stories from author: Ismael Zuniga
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