DANG - I'm on a roll tonight, three prompts in one night!
The house was too big, with not enough windows. It was over a hundred years old, with most of its internal structure grandfathered in and passed by house inspectors carelessly. It didn’t matter to them that the stairs creaked, or that the doors squealed, or that the wiring was shot and made the lights flicker without warning. The home heating fuel would clog constantly, making it cough and sputter back to life before blowing hot, dusty air through the stagnant rooms. The hallways twisted and turned, quick additions thrown together over the years, that were nothing but dark tunnels that led to various dead end rooms used for storage; filled with crinkled, rotting boxes full of whatever my great grand aunt had left me when she passed.
My mother told me not to come back here.
Three days, that’s how long I’ve been here. My name is on the paperwork, but I feel like a stranger, unfamiliar with the scarred and stained walls that surround me. I haven’t been here since I was young, and even then I barely recognized the place…
Night shift, that’s the reason why I got this place. Ever since I graduated high school, I worked night shift and took night college classes. My great grand aunt Rosy and I had that in common. We were night owls, the only ones awake and on the Internet at the same time. Though I barely talked to her, she often liked the content I posted on my social media accounts. Ghost stories, conspiracies, folklore, myths, and legends… all old stories passed down by tradition. I didn’t wholeheartedly believe in any of it, but it was something oddly romantic to me, something often ignored by my friends and family… except for my great grand aunt Rosy, who’d like each story like clockwork.
Now she’s gone, dead and buried in the town cemetery, and I’m left here, in this giant, quiet, creepy, old house…
I should be grateful… twenty-four with my own home and a leftover inheritance I can access when I turn twenty-five. The amount in it I won’t know a moment before then, but it had to have a decent amount in it since great grand aunt Rosy was loaded…
But still, my mom begged me not to take the place, just as she often, almost feverishly refused, to visit this place for the holidays. That’s why I can’t remember being here much.
I have been here for three days, and constantly I felt the sudden feeling of chills down my arms, snakes up my legs, bugs weaving their way through my hair and biting at my scalp. But every time I tore at my clothes to check, nothing was there.
Nothing, I tell myself, is here.
I take a deep breath, already accustomed to the smell of the old wood and stale carpet. I pull on the sleeves of my hoodie, sensing the cold coming in through the cracks of the split window sills. I can’t see outside into the dark night, the windows are pitch black because of my great grand… no, it's not hers anymore... because my house is now a beacon of light; with every room I enter illuminated, just as is every room I exit.
Never have I ever been afraid of the dark, not until I started to sleep in this place. I tell myself, over and over again, that the house is old. It has a personality all on its own. It speaks to me every time I shift my weight over the floor boards, up the stiff stairs, through the thresholds of every room. When I sleep, the wind and the house constantly bellow and wail at each other like an old married couple.
I can’t sleep unless the sun's light is pouring into the house.
The night, once my closest friend, is now a distant, scary, stalking stranger who’s upset with me for staying here.
The teapot whistles and I grab it before it can scream against the silence. I need to hear, straining my ears against the quiet, as I pour the hot water into the mug. Something bangs near the back door, and my body goes rigid. My teeth clench, my innards start to shake, and my face is a strained mask of indifference.
Don’t let them see your fear, my mothers whispered to me when I left. Don’t let them know you know. Ignore them, then they can’t hurt you. They won’t bother you then.
Never had her words shaken me so hard to the core, because they were downright silly… but her eyes were wide, her body so sprung she looked like she was about to pounce on me, hold me down, and never let me go. Never let me come here, to this place she feared so much.
I have been here for three days, and never have I seen proof or witnessed anything to tell me this place was dangerous or haunted, or god forbid, possessed by some strange entity. Those were claims left for my social media accounts, for the stories that said, ‘Top Ten Myths Hardly Disproved’.
But there was a feeling…
Clutching my mug, I left the kitchen and swatted the light switch as fast as I could, nearly jumping away from the threshold and into the dining room.
I felt it, something breathing down my neck, a cold sweat breaking on my back, and my heart started fluttering wildly. I practiced my breathing, keeping it slow, steady, and even, and I pass the grand dinner table, beautifully polished red oak, and reach the base of the stairs... I keep my head forward, refusing to turn it, for fear of what I may see in the darkness of the kitchen from the corner of my eye.
Don’t let them know you know, my mother's warning hisses in the back of my head.
There’s no one here, I tell myself, and I feel my back strain against what I sense behind me. My hand shakes as I reach for the light switch at the base of the steps. I flick it on, illuminating my path upwards to the second story. My fingers tense as I reach for the next switch, the one that’ll turn off the dinner room light. My body is stiff, my lungs straining, and I bite my tongue against the scream I feel crawling up my throat. My legs quiver with anticipation, and I can tell from the crooked hands that slowly touch the small of my back, that I’ve stood here too long, straining to hear what was coming up behind me.
My fingers snap the light off and I launch up the stairs. Me feet stomping up the steps sends the house groaning at my unnecessary roughness. I can feel it, oh god, it’s right on my heels! I get to the top, grabbing the next switch to turn on the hallway light. The shadows instantly disappear, and I spin around to see that the steps behind me are empty.
I feel like something is laughing at me, hidden in the shadows below, and the hot tears in my eyes flow gently down my cheeks. I gasp for breath, my hands shaking. I lost nearly half my tea on the steps, but I don’t care. I won’t go back to clean them until the sun is shining.
I turn my back on the steps, switching off the light and sending the shadows downstairs. I’ll leave the hallway light on tonight, I can’t bare to think of what could be hiding outside my bedroom door while I wait for dawn.
Three doors down is the room I call my own. Whether it was my great grand aunt's room, or a guest room, or a servant's room, I didn’t know nor care, but it was the only room I felt the safest, and yet the most trapped.
I enter it and close the door behind me, wiping the tears away with one hand, and setting my mug of untouched tea on the night stand with the other. I breathe deeply, feeling the anxiety and paranoia that has plagued my family for generations dissipate from my very skin. I know there’s nothing in this house. There’s nothing out to get me. It’s as clear as ever as I stand here, in my personal safe haven.
But I know once I go back outside this door, I’ll feel those eyes on me again, feel their unseen hands somehow phase through my clothes and touch my skin.
I shutter at the thought.
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Hey, I'm Maryah Stevens, a 25 year old, self-published, college graduate, married, 1st time mom! Phew!