Monday, December 29, 2008

Dark House, Part 4

Read the second draft of this story here.

Martin reached the bottom of the stairs in the dim light with little trouble. He had, after all, been walking down stairs since he was a little boy, and house’s stairs seemed in no way abnormal. At the bottom his hands felt along the wall for a light switch and again found an old fashioned push button that brought on fixtures along the hallway ceiling similar to the ones upstairs.

He trodded lightly down the hallway trying not to squeak the floor and wake up Molly. The winds that had been so loud earlier in the evening had died down, leaving the house gripped in silence. Martin could hear his own heart beating in his ears. All the doors along the hallway were closed, but Martin assumed the kitchen would be in the back.

At the end of the hallway he pushed gently on a rough wooden door. The hinges cried softly as it swung open to reveal a kitchen unlike any Martin had ever seen. He could just make out an ancient refrigerator with a large chrome clasp holding the door shut. A small speckled counter top disappeared into a large free-standing porcelain sink. Martin could see the reflection of the hall light in the u-bend of the pipes. The air smelled old.

He suddenly became aware of how cold his feet were against the bare wooden floor. He could feel the cold wrapping its way up around his legs embracing his entire body. Standing there, he nearly forgot why he’d come downstairs in the first place. Ah yes, his driving maddening thirst. He swallowed a dry sort of swallow and locked his eyes on to the faucets of the sink.

Martin crossed the room quickly and turned on the faucet, not bothering to look for a glass. The pipes sang as the water sputtered out, but not as loudly as they had upstairs. He cupped his hands and just as he felt the cool refreshing taste of liquid wash down his throat, the door closed behind him leaving him in complete darkness. He barely noticed, the water felt so good in his mouth and on his lips. He refilled his hands, bent down and drank directly from the faucet feeling the metallic taste on his tongue.

After he turned off the water, Martin stood there for some time breathing heavily the way one does after drinking a large sum of water, as if making up for the air not breathed while busy drinking. His hands grasped the cool sink supporting much of his weight, so he could lift most of his feet up off the frigid tile floor. He could see nothing. He could hear nothing. Again, as he had the other night in the front yard, he began to lose all perspective on up and down. He felt his feet lift more off the ground as if his head were now falling towards the sink. As if he was about to fall into the hard porcelain.

But then a sound brought him right again. It was a soft wisp of a sound. A familiar sound he had heard once before, but as his ears searched through the darkness he could just make out enough of it to know it came from over his right shoulder, out the hall, and into another room, enough point of reference to remind him his feet were on the floor and that way was down and not the way his head was pointed.

He stood up and sighed a satisfying sigh, his thirst sufficiently slacked. He turned around and stuck out his hands towards the door through which the wisp of a sound still wafted.


He pulled his hand back and sucked a splinter out of his finger from the rough wood door. Dammit. He spit out the tiny piece of wood and sucked his finger some more. In the morning he’d have to look at it in the light and make sure he got it out. Reaching out, he found the door knob and pulled the door open to the light.

Martin tried to shake the pain from his hand as he walked towards the stairs. He paused at the bottom and put his finger on the button to turn off the light. The wisp of a sound caught his ear again. What was it? Where had he heard it before?

His ears led him back down the hallway to the door just next to the kitchen door. It was like a wimpering, the soft crying of a small wounded rodent or something. Maybe a rat stuck in the walls.

The wood of the door, not the door to the kitchen, but the door next to the kitchen, had knots on it. So did the paneling along the bottom of the walls. Martin stared at the knots on the door. They seemed to make a little face. Two knots for eyes, another for a round mouth. A screaming mouth. A frightened mouth. He saw another on the door and another. More on the paneling. The wallpaper on the walls, the paisleys made grotesque frightened faces too, screaming at him, crying. Everywhere the screaming faces stared at him through hollow eyes. Spinning around him. Knots on the floor. Shadows on the ceiling. If he stood on the ceiling, they couldn’t get him. The screaming faces couldn’t…

A child. That’s what it sounded like. A simpering child. He’d heard it the other night as they left the house. A child crying on the wind. He pushed the door open and the hall light struggled to fill the room but gave up about a third of the way in. The edge of a large table jutted out into the light. He could see no chairs.

The wisp of a sound had grown initially louder and then stopped suddenly as if silenced by the light. Martin held his breath, but could still faintly hear the wheezing sound of breathing. He checked his lungs. It wasn’t him. Softly and tentatively he whispered “Hello? Is someone there?”

He heard a sharp intake of breath and a sniffle. “I’m sorry,” said a voice as fragile as a snowflake, “Was I too loud?” Sniffle. Snort. “I’m sorry. I’ll be quieter.”

Martin stepped into the room squinting into the darkness. “What?” His hand groped the wall for the button.

“I’m sorry if I was loud. I didn’t mean to bother you.” Snif. Gulp.

“Who are you? Where are you?” He couldn’t find the switch.

“I’m sorry?” The voice started to break.

There it was. He pushed the button into the wall and a dusty chandelier flickered to light in the center of the room. Only a few bulbs lit casting a dull brown light down on the room below. Martin scanned the room for the source of the voice, but only saw a series of dishes and platters set on a shelf around the room. “Where are you?”

The voice, now nearly shattered into tears, eked out “Oh my god. You’re not the lady. You’re not… Can you help me? Please, can you help me?”

At the end of the table, no taller than the chair sitting next to her, stood the dirty, tear stained face of a young girl with curly brown hair.

“What’s wrong? Are you lost?” Martin walked towards her around the table. Something looked odd about the girl. Her face seemed flatter than it should be and her unkempt locks fell about her shoulder in a pattern that reminded Martin… Well, it didn’t remind Martin so much as look strikingly like the weaved pattern in the back of the old dining room chair next to her.

“Please, can you help…” she babbled on, tears continuing to jump from her red blood-shot eyes.

As Martin came around the head of the table, the girl came into full view. He stopped and looked at her. Her legs were bent out in front of her as if she were sitting, but she had no chair. Her abnormally long arms clung to her sides with her hands reaching out for the ground below. She didn’t seem to have feet. No, she was on her toes, but her legs were all skinny and smooth below the knee. How could she balance like that? Her toes seemed rooted in the floor.

“Help me.”

Martin looked at the chair next to her. The front legs were the same, or almost the same. The back ones seemed skinnier, like stretched out arms. The weaving. A face in the back of the chair. Faces in the plates, in the table. The girl sobbing. The cold floor on the bottoms of his feet made him stand up on his toes. He tried to grab the table. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t think.

A scream snapped the world back into view and his feet back on the floor, but it wasn’t his scream. The girl. A high pitched warbling “Stop!”

Martin caught his breath.

“Don’t let it get you too!” She sniffed and snorted. Snot shot out of her nose.


“The house. Don’t let it get you too. Once you’re feet get stuck, you can’t get free. I tried. I tried and tried and tried to free Ana, but I tried too long. My feet got stuck too.” She turned her eyes and her head as much as she could to the chair next to her. “Now she’s gone. Please, can you help me? I don’t want to become like Ana. Please, I don’t want to become a chair. Sometimes… Sometimes I can still hear her crying.”

“Of course. Of course I’ll help you.” He leapt at her feet and tried to pull her up off the floor. “Of course. How do I help you?” He pulled at her feet.

“I don’t know. I don’t know. Oh please.”

He heard thumping down the stairs and a distant call of his name. He scratched and clawed at the girl’s feet, cold and hard and stuck to the floor.

“Martin!” Molly slid into the doorway, her robe trying to continue down the hall. “Martin!” She yelled again, straightening her robe out and closing the front.

Martin stood up next to the girl. “Molly quick, we have to help her.”

“Martin,” Molly screeched, “Get out of there. Get out of there quick.”

“Molly, we have to help her.”

“No, Martin. You can’t. Get out of there.”

“We have to help her.”

The screamed at each other from across the room. The girl sobbed. The house groaned a loud shuddering moan that shook dust down from the ceiling and shocked them all into silence. The large door started to swing shut.

“No!” Molly thrust her shoulder into the door and stopped it with a loud crack. “Not him!” The house answered loudly.

“Molly, we have to help her.”

“You can’t” she screamed back. “You can’t help them Martin. The house will have them.”

“Them? How many are there Molly? You know about this? You knew she was down here.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, lady. I tried to be quiet. I tried.”

“Shut up!”

“Molly! She’s just a child.”

“You can’t help them. I tried, Martin. Believe me, I tried.” Tears now stained Molly’s cheeks. “When I first moved in I tried, but the house almost had me too. I couldn’t save them. I couldn’t. You can’t.”


“What would you have me do? Saw off their legs? You can’t… Just ignore them. Just leave the house alone.”

“But Molly, she’s just a child”

“I know. Martin…” The hinges screamed as the door pushed against Molly’s shoulder. “Martin, I can’t hold the door forever. Please…”

“How many, Molly? How many since you moved in?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know Martin. I had to stop. I had to leave them alone.”

“I’m not leaving without her Molly.”

The door heaved against Molly’s shoulder, pushing her feet back in to the hallway before she regained her traction. “I can’t hold the door forever Martin!”

“I’m not-“

“The house will have you too. No!” She forced the door back a few inches. “I won’t let you take him. I love him.”


The house screamed and the floor boards shuddered.

“I love you Martin.” They looked at each other from across the room. No woman had ever told Martin she loved him, no woman other than his mother.

“I love you Molly.” He said it without thinking. He did love her, with all his heart. He could look at her beautiful face for the rest of his life and die a happy man. Her robe fell away slightly, and he could see the soft slope of her creamy skin leading down to breasts naked beneath the terrycloth. He wanted to fly across the room and kiss her and carry her up to the bedroom. But the girl sniffed and snorted beside him, and the house started to rumble from deep below their feet. Molly slammed her weight into the door.

“I’m not leaving without her, Molly! You can’t just let her die.”

“I can’t let you die.” The hinges of the door let out a screech as the door pushed Molly back into the hallway. She could just see Martin from around the door. “No. No!” The door slammed shut and threw Molly against the wall.


The light of the chandelier flickered out, and the room went black. The girl’s scream split Martin’s ears as the cold floor gripped his feet.

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.