We were driving
through Colorado somewhere. It must have
been around 5 years ago. That would make
me nine and Greg fifteen. Greg, his head
squeezed onto the window in front of me, pouring out drool, had just begun to
snore, and I could feel the soft buzzing in my ear. I wished that I could snore. I wanted to be fifteen. To be in High School. With girls and snoring and the promise of
soon being able to drive around in the evenings instead of wallowing in the
living room, eating pop tarts for lack of anything else to do.
countryside whizzed past us like a giant, boring painting. Static.
The cows didn’t even move.
Darkness slowly crept in. It was
just cloudy and dark enough to look purple outside. Dad never drove at night. A big green sign passed by. Boulder 20 miles. Denver…
I knew dad would stop. He was so
“I guess we’re
spending the night in Boulder, guys.”
stirred a little, “monselm miffn pool, Weston?
Please?” He stretched, and there
were soft breaking noises, like he was so old that his bones were stiff, while
my bones were soft little wussy bones that wouldn’t snap even if I bent back my
knuckles untill it hurt. There was a
loud yawn, causing dad and me to yawn, and Greg sat up a little and began
staring out the window. His hair formed
a neat little wave across the side of his head.
I couldn’t sleep against the window because it rattled my brain.
had started calling dad Weston a few months ago. I wanted to treat dad the same way, but
couldn’t call my dad by his real name without thinking about it. When he called dad Weston, it was like they
were fishing buddies, and not relatives.
I wanted to call dad Weston so he would quit babying me and treat me
more like my brother.
Greggy.” I smiled. It seemed funny to me the way dad called that
big old behemoth anything-“y”. To dad,
Greg was still a little kid. It iritated
me when dad called me “Adzies”. I felt
young enough without that. But when he
pet called Greg it made it all worthwhile.
And I didn’t much mind “Adzies”, because Greg had made it up when we
were little kids, and it made me feel like his buddy – this usually being a bad
thing, as he often called me Adzies when he was trying to con me out of G.I.
In Boulder, dad
turned off the interstate and parked in the first gas station, a Seven Eleven
with arcade machines inside. I tapped
Greg’s arm, “dude, they have black tiger!”
Black tiger was
the best game ever, but there wouldn’t be much time to play it. Greg was really good. He could get to the third level without
“Rad! Let’s go play,” Greg said, not thinking about
dad being done with the payphone and making us leave without dying, wasting
that quarter that was so much money to me back then. Maybe he didn’t care. Dad gave him 5 bucks a week for allowance and
more still for food if he went out with his friends. I only got three. Dad said you multiply the age by three, then
divide by six, and that’s allowance. He
knew I couldn’t do multiplication and division.
I had made a note to check that out on pen and paper when I had the
chance but I always forgot.
Back in the car,
dad seemed in an OK mood, having been jerked from the interstate hypnosis for
the short gas stop. We were driving
through the town, just to check it out, and because dad was afraid of the
interstate. He had had to buy me Reeses
Pieces to pull me away from the video game.
I sat in the front, munching down.
Greg had taken the
back, “you can ride shotgun, Adam. Fair
is fair.” He knew we were almost done
for the day.
Dad was sitting
erect now, thinking and nursing licorice.
The black kind, even. “I called
grandma, told her we’re good. She can’t
wait to see how much you boys have grown.”
I looked back at
Greg and gagged myself with a finger and he smiled.
“I also called
around and there aren’t any rooms available anywhere, which was bizarre, so I
guess it’s on to Denver.” I heard a
groan from the back.
little houses went by. They were white
and yellow. All of them seemed to have
old couples in them, watching the news by dim amber lamps, maybe a kitten on
the lap, or some microwavable dish.
Gently rocking. I was a little
tired, despite the exciting residential area.
Every now and then we would pass a gas station and I would read the name
and wonder if they had Icee machines and video games.
I thought about
the hotel in Denver as we rolled gently up a slight hill, the houses becoming
thinner, the cross streets more scarce.
Maybe dad would let us hook up the sega.
We could play Sonic 2 untill midnight!
Maybe they would have a pool, and Greg and me could jump in with the big
white chairs when all the other people left.
At the top of the
hill, there was only one house. The car
slowed down. As we passed the house, I
noticed it was a spooky house. I
wondered if there was an old couple in it.
Or just an old lady who talked to herself about cats and such. I shivered.
It was a medium-sized two story house, white with green shutters that
were clinging by one hinge in some places.
There was a little A-shaped attic room with a window where I imagined
little wide-eyed girls sitting, holding their teddy bears in terror.
The car stopped,
and started backing up, back toward the house.
I gasped. What was the deal? I stood up on my knees, trying to see what
dad was seeing around his seat. And then
I saw it. A little wooden sign reading free
“No.” Greg knew dad wasn’t serious
I stood there, on
the lawn, staring up at the monstrosity.
There was a broken down white fence around the front lawn, stretching
off into the back. It laid mostly on the
ground but some of it still stood up.
The house was longer from front to back than I had first thought. The white paint was peeling, revealing
splintered orange wood. Even outside, it
smelled like mildew. There was a ruined
little red tricycle over to the right, laying on its side and rusting. The little colored streamers coming out of
the handle bars were frayed. I looked
back up at that attic room. It seemed
like there was someone staring out at me, even though it was black up
Dad, of course,
saw absolutely nothing frightening here.
He told us to wait outside and jogged up the porch, disappearing inside
through the creaky door.
Greg seemed, to
me, more iritated than alarmed. He
didn’t see little girls and tarantulas and zombies. He saw dust and splinters and mildew.
We simply stood on
that cracked sidewalk, staring. Greg had
his backpack slung over his shoulder, his headphones on, and was holding a
pillow in his free arm. There were
bushes on the left. The kind with thorns
and sharp jagged sticks everywhere. They
stood taller than Greg, pushing me away from this horror. One of the side windows was broken. Probably some kid with a rock. It looked as if rocks had hit the wooden
siding and the shutters on the second floor, as well. There were a few slight holes chipped in the
yellowed grass. I wondered why they were
I became aware of
the moon behind us. It was almost full
and I was glad for it. It was a beacon
of hope. Maybe dad would turn
around. The glow was eiry, though, the
way it shined on the white house, making everything pale.
Dad wouldn’t turn
around. This was his adventure of the
year, going up to Grandma Marge’s for a week.
He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell his work buddies about how
they stayed in an abandoned house. I
knew this. Greg did too. We never really asked dad if we could push
on. It was a test. It was a test to dad, and a chance to prove
my bravery to Greg. My face must have
been paler than the moon. Greg socked me
in the head with his pillow. I pushed
Dad came out,
grinning dumbly. “Grab your sleeping
bags, guys. It looks like we found the
only vacancy in this town.” He hooted
once, then trotted over to the car. Greg
and I still stood, motionless.
There was a creak
like in horror movies as the rusty door hinges turned. Mrrrraaaiiiaaae. Darkness seemed to shine outward from the
inside. The little light in the house
was from the moon and stars shining through the two windows on either
touched the porch rail and immediately moved away, feeling thick, chalky
dust. Dad stepped inside and faced us
with his arms out, presenting the house to us.
I had the flashlight from the glovebox and I shined it around.
seperated the downstairs into two sections.
To the left there was what seemed a very long hallway leading to a
half-open door. The thought of
travelling through that hallway made me shudder, so I turned the flashlight
toward dad. He was walking, to the
right, into the living room. There was a
broom laying against a couch with plastic over it. The couch was the only thing in the living
room besides the carpet and the cobwebs all over the ceiling.
It smelled like a
garage, mostly. But it also smelled warm
and slightly musty like old people and dead bodies. Dad grabbed the broom and stepped toward Greg
and me, concerned for once. I looked
behind his sober face at the kitchen area, where there was a yellow and olive
green refrigerator and some peeling countertops. One of the cupboards was open and I was
worried there might be wolverines in them.
matter, Greg?” Dad asked, seriously. I
looked at Greg, and for the first time wondered if he was afraid too.
“…Nothing. It’s just… Adam pooped his pants,” he said coolly.
“What!” I mugged
Greg’s pillow and nailed him in the head with it. Dad laughed and chugged on upstairs. Greg socked me in the arm and it hurt a lot
but I pretended it didn’t. I hit Greg
twice more, blinding him and making him stumble back. Then I ran up the stairs, pretending to
retreat but actually just trying to stay close to dad. Greg ran up behind me on the creaky
stairs. I was afraid they might break
and we would fall through, perhaps onto spikes.
At the top of the stairs, there was a short hallway with three
doors. All three were wide open. There was a small bathroom with a brown
peeling linoleum floor. The metal on the
sink was all rusty and there was a steady dripping. The next room over was completely empty,
except for a huge matted stain on the thick brown carpet and the large window,
casting a square of moonlight into the center of the room, making the stain
appear reddish. Like blood.
The room that dad,
greg, and I marched into was much the same.
The square of light was there, but only half because one of the shutters
outside was closed, so there was a square and a series of slits. This room had no carpet. I shied over to the wall nearest the window
and farthest from the closed closet door.
sweeping. Greg watched. I watched the closet door. It didn’t move. “Greg, would you like to sweep?” came dad’s
“What do I look
Dad and I
smiled. Greg walked over to the closet
door. I wanted to warn him. He threw it open. Just as I feared, it was a long, narrow
walk-in with some plastic covered suit hanging down from one of several
cobwebbed hangers. Probably a burial
suit, I thought. A little blotchy light
bulb hung from inside. Greg walked in
and pulled the beaded brass string, but nothing happended. He was inside the closet. I couldn’t believe it. What if a big hairy arm grabbed him and
pulled him deeper inside. Dad finished
sweeping and shut the door, laying the broom against the door. I wanted to set a chair against the door as
well, but there was nothing in the room.
Greg left the
closet open a crack and walked up next to me, looking out the window. I felt like Greg’s shadow for the hundredth time
that week and I wanted to do something brave, like Greg just did. I thought about the closet, then looked out
the window, too.
The backyard was
very long. There were crabapple trees
and piles of leaves all about. Someone
must have raked recently. I was
half-fearing, half-hoping, that the person who raked the property would come
and kick us out.
It looked like a
fun yard. I thought of kids playing in
the yard and abruptly stopped. There
were a few wooden pallets laying out near the house. There was a back porch and, nearby, a storm
cellar with two doors at a slight angle from the ground, like in tornado
movies. I wouldn’t have gone down in
that cellar if fire bullets were raining from the sky.
There was a slight
drop on the window and then the rain started drizzling.
Greg pointed out a
little creek running through the field as far as I could see. There was a road about a quarter mile away
that I could just barely see headlights on.
If I strained, I could hear the car’s engine.
Dad was laying out
our sleeping bags and pillows when the house made a loud creak, as if someone
downstairs had fallen over. I jumped and
Greg didn’t move. Dad laughed.
“These old houses
are funny how they do that. It feels
real homey, don’t you think?”
homey,” Greg mumbled, just slightly louder than a thought. Greg didn’t swear for dad. It made me feel close to him.
I lay with my eyes
wide open. I had no idea what time it
was, but I wanted badly for the sun to come up early. Dad was snoring loudly, like a beehive, or a
chainsaw. I didn’t want to grow up and
snore like dad. Greg was breathing hard,
too. I was sure he was sleeping, but I
tried to think he was awake. I didn’t
want to see ghosts alone. I didn’t want
to see ghosts at all.
Hours earlier, I
had laid with my sleeping bag over my head until I couldn’t breath and I
started to sweat and I kind of had to pee so I lowered it back. The site of the room was startling even when
around, it wasn’t so bad. The window
gave me a sense of security. I was
laying near it, so I could monitor the two doors. The closet was the worst. That little crack seemed to open and shut a
little bit, allowing what was on the other side to stare back at me. Maybe it actually did move a little when a
draft would come. The other door kept
getting thrown open in my imagionation and some unspeakably horrid thing would
storm in with a knife until I could wake dad.
Then it would vanish and noone would believe me.
I thought briefly about
the room downstairs. The one on the left
at the end of the long hallway. That was
the worst part of the house, save, of course, for the cellar, which was simply
unthinkable. It was too scary to be
real. Like a movie. The room on the
left, though, was very real. What had
happened in that room?
Was that just a
tickly hair on my arm or a brown recluse spider? I wasn’t going to move and find out.
I was rapt with
attention, waiting for the house to shudder or creak again. The next axe being brought down. The next footstep up the stairs. The next whisper. Dad’s next fart. There was a siren somewhere far away. Maybe they were coming to save me from a
My arm was cocked
like the hammer of a gun. Ready to punch
dad in the ribs as hard as I could to wake him up at the slightest noise.
noise came, and my arm didn’t move, but my abdomen flexed. It was a long whisper. “Adz,” I shrieked inside, then
realized it was Greg.
“Yeah?” I spoke, trying to wake up dad. He snored loudly and I knew it was futile.
Come with me…” He got up and walked
toward the door. I stood up on my knees
as he slowly slid the door open. The
room was cold without my sleeping bag.
What could he possibly want?
Perhaps demons were controlling him.
Maybe he had a cigarette and he was going to go outside and smoke it
with me. I licked my lips. Maybe we were going to tie dad up and drag
wanted him to whisper, “let’s go sleep in the car.” It never came.
We joined outside
the door, standing silently at the top of the steps. “Let’s go explore.” Said Greg.
Ooh, no. Lets not and say we did. “okay,” I said, “cool.”
“I have to go to
the bathroom first. Wait for me.” I just
stood there. I wanted to go in with
him. Surprisingly, he didn’t close the
door. I heard him unzip and aim
carefully so as not to hit the water in the bowl and make a lot of noise. Standing sentry there, I was afraid I would
see some shadow walk by at the bottom of the stairs. I heard the long awaited creaky thump from
downstairs. I was so afraid that I was
actually starting to have fun.
When he got out, I
went too. I really had to go bad, but I
had placed my bladder before my heart and my sanity in my priority list. The stream was thick, dark, and lasted a very
“You pissin’ nails
in there or what?” I giggled and joined
Greg outside. We slowly crept down the
stairs. I didn’t want to hold the banister,
which was dusty and oily, but I didn’t want to fall either. Greg stopped.
“Where are we
“Uh… (not the room
on the left, please, god) Outside?”
“No way. It’s cold out there.”
Then I did
something unusual. I called his
bluff. “Let’s go out the back and check
out that storm cellar.” His cool
exterior made a quivering squishy sound as it broke down.
“Let’s check out
the room on the left.” He pretended to
ignore me. My plan had failed.
“You first.” This was the first time I admitted my fear,
realizing that it was obvious and seeing no further need to play this game.
“Okay.” At the
bottom of the stairs. We turned into the
hallway. There was a nail in the wall
and the absense of a stain on the wallpaper made the sillouette of a crooked
picture hanging there on the silloutte of a string, where once had hung,
likely, the picture of a demented maniac and his lovely wife.
At the end of the
hallway, the door still stood partiall open. We tiptoed toward it slowly. Greg was leading by a few inches. I admired his courage. We could see the corner of a bed and above
it, a small window, that was made of some plastic that was almost opaque.
the hallway, it seemed to grow longer with each step. Longer to escape but the same distance to the
grimacing door. I looked back and knew
at any second we would hear a scream and Greg would turn and trip over me,
stampede me, and run out the door, leaving me to be screamed at. My knees were locked in readiness.
The room was
almost pitch black. We were practically
in the room now. Greg’s nose passed the
invisible field separating the room from the hallway. A cobweb drooped toward his head and I swept
it up boldly. He noticed and thanked me
with a little nod.
The bed was
well-made. No dust on it. That was very strange. There were many pillows and a thick, dark
green comforter, which was pulled back as if someone had just recently made
it. Maybe whoever had been in the bed
was waiting around the corner for us.
Underneath the bed was a black mystery.
We both were in
the room now. I kept trying to swallow
my heart but I couldn’t keep it down. We
were arm to arm. Equal. For one second I was as brave as Greg.
Then he said, “I
dare you to lay in it.”
“No. No way.”
“Come on. Don’t be a pussy. I’d do it.”
“Do it then.”
“Let’s both do
“Both touch it?”
I’ll show you who’s got balls.
Dad!” He yelled in a whisper. “Just kidding.” I laughed hard but nervously.
He stood the most
courageous older brother ever in that second.
His chest puffed out. He took a
step toward the bed. I looked behind
me. Then at Greg again.
He took another
step. I could tell he was holding his
breath, staring at his target intensely.
I couldn’t believe
he was actually doing this. His foot
came forward and he was about a third of the way across the room. I looked behind me again, sweating despite
This time I
noticed something new. On the wall behind me, there was a thick red
splatter. It was Blood! Then I looked at Greg, who was walking toward
the bed, and saw a crack form at his feet.
I stepped toward him. Then I
noticed he had stopped. His eyes were
wide like silver dollars, he was staring under the bed. It was black, but I could make out the shape
of a dark body, crunched up. I saw the
white eyeballs staring out at me. It was
rubbing it’s finger on the ground under the bed feverishly. It’s head shook at us “Good night!” and the
bed lurched. Underneath Greg the crack
grew wider and despite my instinct to flee I grabbed his hand as the crack
spread loudly and completely gave way.
We fell through,
grabbing for the sides. We fell through
mud and plant roots. I landed hard on my
arm and heard a crack, but I couldn’t feel at all. I heard screaming. Most of it could have been Greg and me but it
sounded more like the shrieks of ghouls.
I felt the ground and held up in utter pitch blackness some long slender
“Bones!” Screamed Greg. I stood up, pushing off something hard and
round that had to be a skull. We
scurried and yelled. My breath was
caught in my throat. Arms Grabbed me all
over. A large furry thing scampered over
my lips. We were in the cellar!
With a white
streak and the stopping of my heart, I opened my eyes to bright sun and Greg
standing over me. Minutes later I
realized I had been dreaming. That had
all been a dream.
No, not all. We were still in the house. It was spooky, but the morning sun lit up the
room and made it feel almost cheerful.
The dust was everywhere, flying in the air in the sunlight. Greg was smiling. I could tell he hadn’t slept very much. His eyes were very dark. “Come on, bud. Time to roll on outa here.”
“I was just
starting to like it here,” I was, too.
Getting to leave that house was like winning a million billion dollars,
or ten segas.
They had already
put all the sleeping bags in the car.
Dad was in the backyard running amok like a fool, examining various
things, trying to understand why the house was abandoned. I wanted to yell “good morning, Weston.” I didn’t, though.
At the bottom of
the stairs, Greg and I stood staring out at the serene morning. The ground was wet from the drizzle of the
night before. I thought of all the
earthworms in the soil. I remembered
hunting earthworms with Greg in the early morning before fishing trips.
“You want to explore
the house, Adz?”
said. We checked out the kitchen. There was some exciting stuff in the
refrigerator. Beyond the kitchen, there
was a fourth bedroom and a small bathroom.
The bedroom had a plastic covered chair that stank of cat piss.
Then we started
toward the room at the left of the stairs.
I panicked, but Greg moved swiftly into the room. Where there had been a bed last night, there
stood only a frame with a completely corroded boxspring mattress that was
seethrough. Greg stood looking down at
it. I walked up to it and looked where
Greg was looking. Underneath the bed,
drawn in the dust, as with a bony finger, were the words, Good Night Adam. I turned away, shaken. My heart leapt.
Weston,” Greg commented, trying to make me feel less frightened. However, the thing that my heart leapt at
wasn’t that horrid inscription, it was the reddish brown stain on the wall next
to the door that I had seen the night before in my dream.