Ever since I was small I’ve had a fascination with old things, buildings specifically. Something about things that rot and decay is beautiful to me, I don’t really know why.
As a kid I’d get into all the dark, dusty spaces I could. The attic, the crawl space in our roof; I’d hide under my bed and read legends about abandoned houses and the ghosts that lived in them. I told my mother that some day, I was gonna be an urban explorer. I’d fight ghosts and barely escape from crumbling buildings, take creepy pictures of grand stairways and underground tunnels, find the lair of the Phantom Of The Opera under The Paris Opera…and one evening in September I finally got my chance.
I’d been taking a class on architecture in the 18th century, and after a long day creating dust in our local library, I discovered there was a great example of some beautifully classic 18th century architecture right in my own back yard. According to Houses of New Hampshire, the place had been abandoned since the owner, Eric Hunter, had disappeared one night after shutting himself in his library to study an old book he had picked up at an estate sale.
He never came out.
When the house was finally searched, no sign of him was found except his coat, hurriedly thrown on a chair. The book was placed almost perfectly in the center of his desk, as if put there with great care. Strangely, the book had no words. All the pages where completely blank.
The house was never sold, never demolished and eventually all but vanished from the minds of everyone as if nothing had ever happened.
Of course, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that without at least poking around a bit, so the next weekend I twisted the arm of my girlfriend, Alex, to come with me to the house. We’d decided it would be best to go at night so there’d be less of a chance of getting caught. I’d packed my new camera and night vision goggles the day before, and had everything laid out and ready to go. I know, now, just how naive I was to think darkness would make me safer.
We drove about ten minutes to the outskirts of town and another fifteen or so to reach the old house. We pulled up and got out of the car. As I walked up the driveway, I stared at the house. It was tall, the windows shuttered and dark, the raspberry bushes in the garden had become wild and overgrown with no one to tend them, growing around the house like a short thorny wall; and there was a large tree in the front yard, one of its branches laying across the pathway leading to the house.
I started breaking branches off of it to make an open area to climb through when I heard Alex laughing. I looked up to see her standing on the other side of the branch watching me and giggling. “What?! How did you get over there?” I asked, snapping a few more branches and climbing through.
She pointed. “You could have just walked around it. It was out of the way a bit, but it was quicker than turning it into part of the pathway.” She continued to giggle.
I glared at her unable to think of a clever retort. “What if I wanted to make it part of the path?”
She smiled and rolled her eyes. “Then you succeeded.”
I laughed and took her hand, walking up the steps to the doors, “They’re pretty old,” I said. “Might take a few good shoves to…” The doors swung open with a slight squeak. The entry was large, with small pillars on either side of the interior doorway. There was a staircase not too far from where we stood that appeared to curve into a hallway, and a fireplace with a few chairs, a couch and coffee table; all the things you’d expect to see in an old house like this. A small chandelier hung from the ceiling, covered in cobwebs. It appeared to have broken years ago; one of its sconces laying on the floor in pieces.
“Wow! Look at this place!” I said, as we walked through the doors.
“Yeah… It’s kinda… run down. Are you sure it’s safe here, Connor?”
“Positive,” I smiled at her.
“Ok, but I could be home reading a good book with a cup of cocoa instead of whatever we’re doing here,” she said, as she rubbed her arms and shivered.
“We’re exploring,” I said, pulling out my camera to snap a few pictures of the entry and chandelier. “Besides, no one’s here anymore. And it’s not like this place is an abandoned Mental Hospital; we’ll be fine.” I wandered further into the room and took some pictures of a dusty mirror and fireplace.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. So, why did you want me here?”
“I don’t know, companionship? Someone to share the adventure with? You are my girlfriend after all,” I laughed.
“Well, that’s true,” she said, and laughed too. “But it’s kinda spooky in here; can we hurry and get out of here?”
“Oh, come on, Alex! Look at the furniture. It’s got so much character; the peeling wallpaper, the layers of dust everywhere….But if it creeps you out that bad, I’ll try and make it quick, k?” I continued walking around the room. I blew the dust off of some boxes on the mantle piece. I opened one.
“Huh, filled with ash. Prolly a long dead aunt or something,” I mumbled to myself, and opened the one beside it. More ash. On impulse, I poked my finger into it and dug around a bit. I touched something metal and pulled it out. It was a ring.
“Hey Alex, look at this!” I turned, still staring at the ring in my hand.
I looked up and started to speak. “It must have belonged to his…wife…” But she wasn’t there.
“Alex?!” I whirled in a circle, straining my eyes to see into the dark corners, but there was no sign of her. “Damn it! How did I forget a flashlight!?”
I looked around the room. Where the moonlight should have illuminated further into the house, there was now a wall of darkness like heavy black fabric that seemed to shift and groan, as if a great weight were being placed slowly on the floorboards. I put on my night vision goggles and continued walking, trying to get a better look into the rooms, but I couldn’t see anything.“What the…?!” I pulled off the goggles, starting to panic. I shook them violently before trying again, but still nothing. No light, no comforting familiar shapes, just black, empty silence.
I took them off again, shoved them in my bag, and walked hurriedly toward the stairs. I reached them and looked up. I couldn’t see anything past the top few steps; after that there was nothing but complete darkness.
I started up the stairs, but as I got further into the darkness my head started buzzing, like a crowd of people whispering, then shouting. I shook my head trying to clear my mind, and continued up the stairs, but the words kept getting louder and louder. I reached the top of the stairs and ran along the hall trying to outrun the darkness. At the end of the hall I could see a door. A pulsing, sickly light emanating from beneath it.
Then it started, the screaming.
An awful sobbing scream that went on and on, filling my head and tearing away at my chest…and I realized, it was her scream. Alex was screaming, sobbing; she needed me! I stopped at the door, having reached the end of the hallway, unwilling to run back into the darkness on the stairs.
I reached for the door, turned the handle and pushed. The screaming stopped. It was over; it was ok. I turned my head, looking around the room and saw It. The eyes were white staring orbs, its skin yellowed and cracking like old paper, ink dripping from its mouth, nose and ears.
It was Alex, a book at her feet.
I turned, and reached for the door, but my hand touched smooth wallpaper. I stared at the wall where the door had been; it wasn’t there. How the hell could it be gone?! I turned, panicking and looked around the room; there was the door on the opposite wall. I’d have to get past It to get out.
The door disappeared. I tried again, running from wall to wall, trying to reach the door before it was gone. Every time I moved, It moved the door. Laughter filled my head and then screaming, that horrible screaming.
My eyes darted round the room looking for some way, any way I could escape. I remembered the book; that had to be it! That had to be what had possessed her. If I could throw the book out a window or something, anything, I’d have her back. I’d have Alex back.
I lunged for the book, sprawling across the floor and snatching it. I turned on the ground and stared at what used to be my girlfriend. There were black inky tears running down Its face now, seeping into the cracks in Its skin; Its face turning gray, pieces of it starting to fall away like a wet paper doll.
I backed against the wall as It inched closer. Using the wall for support, I pulled myself to my feet and felt a handle pressed into my back. I didn’t care where the door led, but it had to be better then here. It might lead somewhere I could get rid of this horrible book. I pushed on what I thought was the door and suddenly air rushed in my ears, the cold night seeped through every inch of my clothing, and moonlight so bright my eyes hurt. Then horrible pain, as if every bone in my body was being broken and bent, then blackness. I could hear whispers, as if by a thousand people, driving me insane. I wanted to tear at my head, scream and run from it, but I couldn’t move. I couldn’t see or feel anything except the whispered words in my head as the book pulled me into its pages; and then waited, waited to be seen, examined, trusted. To seep into the mind of anyone who opened it, to take everything; the darkness takes everything.
Don’t. Go. Into. The. Darkness. You won’t be coming back.
Credit: Maihaa Hamend