She bit her lip. What she was about to do was a felony, or at the very least, a crime. But she simply had to do it. All these years had been leading up to this point, and tonight was the night that it was going to happen. No question about it.
The house had stood on the corner for as long as anyone could remember. Built in 1840, it was a two story colonial style house. What white paint that was still visible was chipped and mottled with the years of abandonment. Adding to the sense of dilapidation were the rotting wooden planks boarded across each of the lower windows, creating the effect of a blindfolded monster.
Movement. She blinked. Nothing. For a moment, she thought she had spied something moving through one of the unobstructed windows on the top floor. She shivered.
It was a mid-autumn night. All throughout the day, foreboding gray clouds had obscured the sun and sky. These clouds had clung to their location for a week now, occasionally watering the earth with their effluent, which the dry earth had thirstily drunk until a cloying dampness covered everything. This only stood to make the cold all the more oppressive, cutting through to the bone.
No car had passed by the house in nearly an hour. Steeling herself, the woman crossed the street. Still, she couldn’t help but hesitate before stepping off of the sidewalk into the overgrown lawn.
The dampness clinging to the long, dead grass easily soaked through the fabric of her clothing, only serving to add to the discomfort. The grass blades parted easily enough as if the very grounds were accepting her trespass. Within the space of moments, she was in the backyard.
The trespasser frowned. She didn’t recall passing through the gate. Turning, she saw that the gate was closed. How had that happened?
Before she could fully realize, her hand was on the doorknob to the back entrance. It was too late to abandon her task. These bizarre gaps must just be her anxiety. She exhaled, trying to regain control of her own mind.
A mudroom. The door opened without so much as a complaint, and she was greeted with garden tools, a shoe rack holding three pairs of boots: a man’s, a woman’s, and a child’s, each caked in mud from a lifetime long since passed. Igniting the blinding beam of her flashlight, the woman stepped through the next door, this one leading to the foyer. The ceiling sagged under the weight of the years, culminating in a grotesque bulge where presumably a pocket of water had collected. The bannister had fallen inward into the stairwell and now hung limp, inverted from its original intended position.
She ignored the lower floors and turned her attention to the stairs; for the first time the house complained at her presence, each step loudly groaning under their burden. She knew that the house wanted her here but not upstairs. The house desperately wanted to keep those secrets hidden.
On the landing were three walls, a door set into each one. The woman stared at the rightmost door. She was rooted to the spot. Something within her wouldn’t take her feet any closer to the darkened entrance.
The spell was broken as she turned and approached the door opposite. This one opened easily. As the door swung open, the earthy scent of decay assaulted her senses and her head spun.
A man stood at the window.
A gust of wind from nowhere.
She shut her eyes.
He was gone.
Any sense of clarity she had maintained up to this point was long gone. The world spun about her, and she swayed. Stumbling forward, she tried to find the familiar shape of that man. A crunch from beneath her feet as she stepped on abandoned needles.
She recoiled in terror. Something was wrong. An empty bed frame occupied the center of the room, the windows showed no light from the street, and the floor was littered with discarded needles.
The intruder vomited on the floor and rushed out of the room. Slamming the door behind her, she braced her shoulder against it as the tears began to flow. She shuddered with the sobs and felt her knees give out beneath her. Sliding down the door to that accursed room, she fought to keep her breath.
Then came the whisper. “Come home. She blanched. The voice was all too familiar, but somehow… wrong. The woman fought to regain her feet. Holding onto the wall for stability, she stumbled to the center door, now inexplicably open. Whispers came from everywhere as she crossed the insurmountable distance of a few feet.
The room was well lit, white lace curtains blew gently in the summer breeze, and the smell of dandelions and freshly cut grass wafted in from the open windows as sunbeams illuminated the woman seated at the vanity. She smiled.
The illusion vanished when the trespasser kicked a discarded glass bottle. The room now stood as it truly was, bearing the abuse of 20 long years of abandonment. The wallpaper was peeling off of the walls, revealing black mold which grew unhindered from beneath the veneer. The room itself had been abandoned in place, everything from before was present, but decayed.
After an indefinite amount of time, the woman nodded. No longer was she in control of herself. She smiled as she returned to the landing, joining her mother and father, now dressed in their Sunday best.
“It’s time for bed,” her mother cooed. The woman nodded dumbly, and the family passed into her bedroom.