A modern Gothic haunted house story for my ‘Short Scary Story – Halloween Horror Challenge’.
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Hope you enjoy it,
Do you ever get the feeling that you’re not alone in you own home?
I do. I live one of those really old houses that were built in a previous architectural era. It’s pretty run down, and has been renovated piecemeal over years and years so that it kind of looks like a patchwork homage to the past century. The house creaks and groans like an old man, honestly it feels more like it’s own character than simply an inanimate structure. It used to belong to my grandparents before they passed on and for whatever reason I was the one they left it to.
I don’t really believes in ghosts or anything like that, but living in this house has opened my mind up a little bit to the idea that the there are other intelligences in this world that don’t resemble anything we think of as alive.
Think about all the legends across all the cultures of the world which describe the mountains as the bones of the earth, as a river being mother to the people who live on her banks. Of the consensus among sailors that the ocean is a living thing filled with mystery and power. That gods live in the sky, under the earth, in the forest, ocean and plains. Of course there’s an element of myth making to these stories but as the old saying goes where there is smoke there is fire.
In The Shining, the novel by Stephen King more than the movie, the Overlook Hotel is haunted. But not by ghosts like a traditional haunted house, but a broader evil presence which captures and manifests the spirits of people who had been there. That concept always resonated with me. The idea that particularly powerful and significant places could develop their own presence. Ancient Indian Burial grounds cursing the places white man built on top of them, The Pharaoh’s Tombs in Egypt murdering the people who disturbed their final resting place.
These stories are told again and again. You’ve probably encountered some in your own life, maybe as a kid you had a clubhouse that you and your friends hung out in that felt like time moved differently when you were there, like everything was more fun and that outsiders couldn’t come in. Maybe you had a convenience store that always had the perfect pie marked down when you went there drunk in the early morning. These are lesser examples, but they follow the same concept.
My Grandparents house is one of these places. When I was a boy, the house always terrified me. It felt like an oppressive force. Whenever I came to visit it felt like I was constantly being watched whenever I was left alone to play by myself by my grandparents. When I asked Grandma she said to her the house was like a mama bear jealously guarding her children, something I never understood until after they left the house to me. When I first learned that it was mine, I never intended to keep the house. It was the terrifying old presence that haunted my childhood, I planned on selling it the moment I could get away with it without being hated by the family for selling grandma and grandpa’s home. When I first came to collect the keys and visit the house, I understood what Grandma meant when she said it was like a mama bear. Somehow now that it was mine, or possibly that I was it’s, the presence of the house was entirely different. I no longer felt like an outsider to be watched, but safe and guarded.
I moved into the house not long after. The place was a little worn down, towards the end my grandparents weren’t properly able to take care of the place, and because of the oppressive vibe not many of the family were particularly forthcoming in volunteering to help. The first thing I did was set about fixing it up, cleaning the yard, removing any mold and replacing damaged sections of the house. It was like the house itself guided me in finding what needed work, and appreciated the kindness I gave it.
Before long the house felt more like my place than my grandparents. Light flowed more freely, the place felt less reclusive and more vibrant. My parents and family remarked on the change when they came to visit, it was my pride and joy. I delighted in hosting my family and friends for dinner, watching sports or just hanging out. Hell, it even scored me some points when I brought dates around.
But that vicious side of the house still existed below the surface. And I’m thankful that it did.
The neighbourhood my house was in was once much nicer, back when my Grandparents first bought the place. Over the years, there was a decline. The recession, the shift of industry away from this part of the country and simply the ageing of the buildings in the nighbourhood, lowered the value of the area and attracted a different crowd of people. Crime went up, violent crime towards old people in particular. Despite this, my grandparents never had any trouble in the area. My mother always said it was because the house looked like a murderer’s house.
Since I’d made the place so much more hospitable, the place didn’t radiate the same dilapidated menace it once did. Late one night I was woken by the sound of someone moving around down stairs. Realising there were burglars in my home, I grabbed the bat I kept by the side of my bed for protection and crept downstairs. I felt the familiar menacing presence from my childhood from the house. I didn’t feel frightened of it like I once was, I felt empowered. This time the mama bear was on my side. This time it was them who was the intruder.
When the police arrived to take him away, the invader could only babble in terror. I still don’t believe in ghosts, but I think I understand a little more now about the true nature of the world.
I keep the door unlocked at night now. This house has an ancient hunger, and an environment is shaped by its apex predator.