My Grandparents House

A modern Gothic haunted house story for my ‘Short Scary Story – Halloween Horror Challenge’.

If this interestes you, you can follow the halloween challenge here.

Hope you enjoy it,
– Zairron


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.

Childhood Memories

It’s overcast when the taxi drops me off outside my family home. The storm-clouds which had held off on raining for the entire day finally broke open and drench me in the time it takes to hurry up the path and take cover on the front porch. The outside light is left on, illuminating the late afternoon gloom and allowing me to see one of Mom’s trademark note, hanging on the front door. I shake my head, chuckling under my breath at the sight of it, already knowing what to expect. I deposit my suitcase by the entrance and take the note, quickly opening it and regarding its contents. It reads;
“Dear Kris,
Welcome home sweetie, sorry I couldn’t be here when you got in, work called. Left you dinner in the freezer and your room is all set up and ready for you.
Love, Mom”

I crumple up the note and put it in my pocked. Retrieving the spare key from its usual spot under one of Mom’s potted plants I let myself in, locking the door behind me. I head straight for my room to drop off my stuff, hitting every light switch along the way in the hope of making the place feel less empty. The only thought on my mind is getting out of these soaked clothes and into a warm shower.
The instant hot pressure of the shower is heavenly compared to the shitty dorm showers at college and in that moment I decide to stay in here forever. From my new steamy shower home I think about how good it feels to be back, my freshman year of college had been the first time I’d been away from home for any extended period of time and I’m happy to be back for the holidays. It’s lame that Mom had been called in to work and couldn’t meet me at the airport, but at the same time it was kind of nice to have the house to myself for a few hours.
In the end my hunger forces me out of the loving embrace of my shower home and I quickly dry myself and dress, heading downstairs to investigating the freezer dinner, I’d been promised. And as expected there’s another note from Mom attached by a magnet that I read as I the leftover lasagna reheats in the microwave,

“Was going through your kid stuff in the attic, if you wanted to go through some of the stuff and help me decide what to keep I’d appreciate it, Mom”

I’m a little surprised, ever since Mom and Dad split she hadn’t been particularly interested in going back to old memories. I mean, she wasn’t being unhealthy about it, she just preferred to keep her focus on moving forwards. I really respected that about her, I could never let anything go.
I figured I should probably do what I can to help out while I’m in town, so after washing my plate and leaving it to dry, I made my way up to the attic. Mom never let anything get too out of control around her house, and the attic was no exception. There was no layer of dust you might expect in storage, instead I could see the handiwork of Mom’s cleaning and two big boxes marked “Kristian’s Kid Stuff” had been separated from the rest and waited for me.

Opening the box I start going through plenty of nostalgic books, toys, clothes and more. It’s not long before I’m sitting there, surrounded by piles of stuff, completely having forgotten what I was there for. I’m flicking through what was once my favourite book when I notice a photo album at the bottom of the box. Putting aside the book for now, I pull the photo album out and open it on my lap.
I don’t think I had ever seen a photo album from when I was a kid before, neither Mom or Dad had ever spent much time taking photographs that I could remember, so this was certainly an interesting and unexpected find. The first page has pictures of my parents when they were younger holding a newborn baby I assume was me at the hospital. It’s nice seeing how they used to be happy together, I have fond memories of a birthday party when I was something like six when Mom and Dad first let me try to ride my bike without training wheels. The memory is hazy because I was so young, of course, but I can remember being super proud of myself when I managed to ride from Dad to Mom unaided on the road.
I flick forward through my early years, continuing to be surprised by just how many pictures there are, relative to how rarely I remember seeing a camera. My first day at pre-school, a trip to the zoo, five birthday parties and finally I find my first day of school. I don’t remember anything really from then, but somehow the pictures still bring a nostalgic smile to my face.
Next comes the pictures I’ve been looking for, my sixth birthday party. I’m surprised by how accurately I remember everything; the cake, the decorations, and even the type and size of the bike are exactly like I remember. There were some things that I don’t quite remember, like who this one beautiful couple were that showed up in number of the pictures. The final picture documenting the party is an absolutely stunningly beautiful picture taken from behind. In it I’m holding the hands of the beautiful couple and we’re walking away from the camera through a door I don’t quite recognise.

And that’s where the album finishes. I flick back and forwards through a few of the blank pages that followed expecting to see more, but the remaining pages are completely blank. I’m more than a little confused by this sudden and dramatic change, but there’s nothing I can do until Mom gets home so I can ask her about it.
I pack everything away, sorting the boxes into the important stuff and everything else. I keep the photo album with me, carrying it back downstairs under my arm. I’m still leafing absently through it when Mom gets home. I’m so engrossed in the album I don’t hear her come in and startle at the sound of her voice greeting me. We hug and talk, about college for me and how work was for her, when I turn the conversation towards the photo album.
Mom seems just as surprised as I was by the existence of the album, telling me she has no memory of it and that it must have been my fathers doing. We sit together in the lounge and go through the album. Mom is getting all sappy and maternal, telling me about how cute I was as a baby and filling in the blanks in my memories of the pictures. At last we make it to the pictures for my sixth birthday party and Mom suddenly starts crying uncontrollably. I ask her what’s wrong but she says she doesn’t know, and that she can’t explain why she’s suddenly so distraught. I close the album and comfort her, she quickly regains control now that the pictures are out of sight and apologises.

We decide to put the album aside for now and look at them again in the morning. Mom suggests we could call Dad and ask him about them, but I tell her I’ll wait for another time. It’s strange, I think to myself as I turn the light off for bed. The doorway in that last picture kind of looked more like my wardrobe than any of the other doors.

Ringer’s Night

It’s been fifteen years, but I still regret what happened at the lake that night. It wasn’t supposed to play out that way. 

Every year on the last week of summer break, my hometown has its annual county fair which around here is called the Lake Festival. For the duration of this week its like our whole world revolves around the festival. If you grew up around here you saved your allowance all year round for the opportunity to ride the rides, experience the sideshows, and gorge yourself on carnival food with your friends. When I was younger it was the highlight of my life, it was everything I could have dreamed of.
Now I can’t bring myself to enjoy it, and not because I’ve grown out of it.

The festival is always accompanied by an unspoken tradition passed down through the generations for as long as anyone could remember. On the last night of the festival a secret party is held by the senior class. This tradition is called “Ringer’s Night” and though all the local adults know about it, its organising is always hidden and attendance always necessitated sneaking out. It’s not something anyone ever speaks about, that’s just how it’s always been.
The first time I went to a Ringer’s Night I was a junior, most of the kids my age had already been to the party as sophomores, my friend Justin had even managed to go as a freshman thanks to following his older brother sneaking out. For our first invited year I’d been sick with a fever and for the whole year I was known as the only kid who’s missed out, there was no way I’d miss out again.
In preparation Justin and I had each organised to sleep over at the others place on that night. In retrospect our parents probably knew about the ruse but didn’t say anything, tradition being tradition. Whatever the case, the final night of the festival came and went, the closing fireworks display had wrapped up and Justin and I were hanging out at the show ground waiting for midnight when the party began. Justin was already drinking his first beer, I was climbing the bleachers and asking him about what to expect.

“It’s like, every other party you’ve ever been to,” he starts, sipping at his beer and acting like he was so much older and cooler than me, “But more intense. It only goes for about three hours, but its mental, everyone just goes completely nuts for those three hours and when its over its over.”
I scoff and throw an empty can at his pretentious face and laugh as it causes him to spill some of his beer on himself and glare at me, “Yeah, yeah, Justin, you’re just talking it up because I missed it last year.”
“Shut up, El, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m serious, it’s something else. I can’t explain it any more than that.”
“Oh yeah? So why aren’t there any stories?”
“Because, I told you, when the bell rings, it’s over.” He snapped back condescendingly, “It’s like Vegas.”
I laughed and jumped down, tipping his drink up to shut him up. He managed to chug the whole thing, earning a nod of respect from me. For the next couple hours we just kicked around the place, drinking and, in Justin’s case, smoking, and just generally being bored delinquents. Eventually midnight was approaching and we started along the Lakeside walkway heading to where the party was planned.

 

“Hey Justin! El!” Ryan voice shouts out from behind us as he runs to catch us, throwing and arm over both of our shoulders, I can smell the alcohol on his breath, “Great to see you could make it! You two lovebirds just come from getting a little something something?”
I shove him off with a laugh, “Fuck off Ryan”
“Yeah Ryan, fuck off” Justin echoes, before giving me a sidelong look he thinks I don’t notice that reminds me he’s thought about it before.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever you two,” Ryan laughs, his honest charisma dispelling my glare, he gives me a playful wink “If Justin’s not your type, how about partying with me tonight?”
“In your dreams Ryan,” I retort, rolling my eyes and looking as sickened as I can muster.
Not missing a beat Ryan smoulders at Justin, “How about you, J-baby?”
He shoves Ryan away a little too aggressively, Justin’s pretty defensive about being called gay, having a girl as a best friend has directed some teasing his way. I feel a pang of guilt.
Ryan’s got no time to waste on negativity and straight away he’s back walking with us, animatedly describing some girl from out of town he’d made out with at the festival. Ryan’s a good guy, even Justin can’t stay mopey around him.

One colourful retelling of Ryan’s conquests later and the quiet serenity of the lake is replaced by the sound of dampened music and partying voices, as we round the rocky barrier that surrounds Ringer’s cove the volume suddenly kicks up a number of notches. The natural privacy of the cove nestled secretly beneath the lip of the rocky cave system on the edge of the Lake makes it the most perfectly suited party spot in existence.
I can’t remember much from that night, I drank way too much, everyone did, but when I look back on that night, it’s strange. It feels like the hours from midnight until when the bell rang weren’t real. I’ve been blackout drunk before and after that night, and it’s different. It’s been fifteen years since that night, fifteen years I’ve scrapped and clawed at my memories trying to peel back the fog and remember what happened to Justin. It’s only tonight, fifteen years later, as I watch in horror from the woods that I understand. I’m sorry Justin, for what it’s worth…
I now know why the Ringer’s Night ends when the bell rings.

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