The Winter in Oxford

February 3, 2009
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It was a dark wintry day. The fog outside created a layer of moisture on our car windows as Mom, Jessica, and I drove to our new house. Words could not describe how unimaginably unenthusiastic I was about this move. There was nothing wrong with our old house, but Mom's boss's business had moved, and the tedious task of moving to this disgustingly ominous town had been forced upon us.

I despised it the second the tires of our car crossed the border line of Dudley and entered Oxford, Massachusetts. Unlike me, Jessica favored the move.

'It was time we moved out,' she said, 'I hope there'll be new excitement here.'

'Oh sure, new excitement,' I answered. 'The most excitement we'll get is the morning paper at our door everyday. But you'll probably be thrilled about that too.'

She just looked at me.

'Stop your back talk,' Mom yelled in a clearly effortless attempt to get me to be quiet.

I just couldn't believe how positive Jessica was about everything. She never complained about the horrible lifestyle that engulfed our existence, killing any reason for an attempt at a happy life. With divorced parents and little money, I didn't even want to think about being optimistic.

As on any other day, Jessica's long, light chocolate-colored hair hung loose to her back, and she sat gazing out of the window, a feeling of amusement dancing atop her face. For a sixteen year old, she was unusually preppy.

'Heidi! Stop pouting, sit up straight, and get your hair out of your eyes! You know I don't like that!' Mom yelled at me.

'Well I don't like it when you nag me about how I wear my hair,' I thought, 'but I never complain like you do.'

The long, unsteady ride seemed to last forever. When we finally got to our new home, all I was thinking about was getting inside, sitting down, and thinking about nothing. Though as I exited the car, some new thoughts entered my mind. How was life going to be like here? Was it going to change for any better? I doubted it, and then regretted wasting my time even thinking about.

The area wasn't exactly what I'd call a neighborhood. It was deserted. There were only four houses, no trees, and no activity taking place. From the incredibly bright descriptions my mom had given me about this town, I had pictured a lot of green yards, numerous ideal houses standing next to each other, and many happy-go-lucky neighbors calling friendly 'hello's' to each other as they passed.

'Must have changed from what I see. This looks nothing like what the catalogs offered,' Mom realized.

'No kidding,' I mumbled to myself, too low for her to hear and start yelling at me.

The interior of the house was horrible. It smelled like a barn, and looked the part, too. It was composed of thick, almost rotting wood panels, dark brown in color. It was such a coincidence that the entire house just had to be painted this color that I despised so much. I didn't even think about heading to my room to see how horrendous it was.

The size of the house also played a role in its repulsiveness. It was small and unbelievably cramped. For a second I thought that it was originally made as a doghouse, then poorly increased in size.

'Heidi! Start unpacking so we can settle in!' Jessica called from outside.

I guess I couldn't avoid the room any longer. Well, I had the choice, but I didn't feel like arguing with Jessica again about how much I loathed this move.

I moved around the house to find the smallest room that my mother would no doubt thrust upon me. There were only two, so it wasn't hard to decide which one was smaller.

I walked into the room and looked around, my distaste falling into place, my expectations fulfilled.

But when I walked to the small window and looked outside is when it happened. This was the first time I saw his face. The first and definitely not last time that the mere components of his face sent chills down my spine, and flipped my stomach upside-down.

He was behind the window of the house next door. He had cold, stony blue eyes that glared into mine with no expression. On his head sat thin strands of off-white hair, and around his eyes were drawn faint wrinkles. His skin was pale. He was standing upright, inspecting; looking into my window as if searching for something. He wasn't so tall, probably Jessica's height, and probably in his mid-forties. I stared back without comprehension for what seemed to be an ever-lasting moment. Then, without thinking, I turned around, and ran out the door.

Out of unconscious fear, I started helping Jessica unpack instead of going back into my room. Her and Mom's window faced the other side of the house, the side away from him. At first she was curious as to why I decided to be helpful all of a sudden, but then probably just realized that she should cherish it while it lasted. The next time I went into my room, I made sure Jess was with me, and closed the curtains tightly.

That night during dinner, there was a knock on our front door. Upon hearing this knock, my heart skipped two beats, then starting running wild at eighty miles per hour. It couldn't be him, I thought. It wouldn't!

It was.

As I saw that gruesome face once more, I stopped breathing, and had to remind myself how to inhale and exhale. I think Jess noticed, but that was the least of my concerns.

'You've only seen the man once!' I said to myself, 'Nothing happened! Don't be so paranoid and prejudiced. Nothing happened!' I had to keep repeating it, but it didn't erase the images that entered my mind, or shooed the butterflies from my stomach.

'Why hello there,' Mom said in the friendliest tone she could manage.

'Hello,' the man replied, looked around the room at Jess, then for a longer second at me. 'I couldn't help noticing that you moved in here only today,' he said. 'Are you new in town?'

'Yes we are actually'having some trouble adjusting here with my teenage daughters. That's Heidi there,' she said, gesticulating to me as my heart went wild, 'and that's Jessica.'

'Hello,' he said to both of us without taking his eyes off of me.

'Would you like to join us for dinner?' Mom asked.

'Please say no, please say no,' I thought to myself, 'Please say you have something better to do than sitting around with some uninteresting people from a different town!'

But my hopes were shattered as soon as he said, 'I'd love to. Thank you.'

He sat down, sending more chills down my spine, accelerating my heartbeat further. I wondered if it was possible for the human heart to fly out of one's chest, but we hadn't covered that in science yet.

There was just something about him. Something mysterious. I couldn't quite tell'I just had a feeling.

The night dragged, and I counted every second of every minute until he left.

'He sure was friendly,' Mom inquired, 'See? I told you this new town wouldn't be that bad.'

I was too horrified to make a remark about her judgment. Jess just nodded her head in agreement as usual.

That night I lay in bed, terrified of looking toward the window. I was even afraid of keeping my eyes open, scared of the dark. I kept them shut, though that didn't help much either. It was still dark beneath my eyelids.

Who was he? What was he doing? Was he so truly jaded with his life as to have dinner with people who just moved in?

I tried not to think to myself. I never really have had this willpower, but I guess it worked. I turned off my brain, and gradually fell into the arms of unconsciousness.
* * *

Starting from the morning after that night, every day seemed to pass slowly. Eventually, it was the third week of our move to Oxford, and almost the end of our winter break. Our neighbor, Leonard Hoffman, had been forcing his presence on us almost every day, seeming more and more horrifying in my eyes, but more and more friendly in Mom's and Jessica's.

'He's a nice man,' they'd say, 'it's nice to have some company for once.'

Whenever he was around I'd find myself extremely quiet. I wouldn't say a word, hoping to detract attention from myself, but I seemed to do the opposite. Mom would usually say something like, 'Heidi? Why aren't you participating in our discussion, honey?' Then she'd turn to the man, embarrassed of me, and say again and again, 'She's just shy. You'd have to excuse her.' After this she would give me that familiar disappointed look, and continue the conversation.

Every night before going to sleep, after overcoming my fear of the sight of his house, I would look out of the window at it as if waiting for something horrifying to happen. It was just so large, especially for housing only one person. While observing, I noticed two things that I found extremely peculiar. First, the light toward the front of his house was on at all times. Even through the night while he was supposedly sleeping, it flickered, sending particles of mystery into the atmosphere. And second: every night at exactly 11:11 pm, a light in the back of the house would flick on, then exactly ten minutes later, at 11:21, it would turn off again. I kept mental notes, and realized that this examination of mine never failed.

My curiosity grew stronger and stronger as the days and weeks progressed. One day, I couldn't hold it off any longer. This is the day I still regret with all my soul until today. The day that changed my view of life forever. The day I still have nightmares about in my sleep'

On this day, Jessica and Mom were out grocery shopping, and I noticed Leonard leaving his house, and leaving his back door unlocked. I was so thoughtless as to deciding that I would sneak into his house from the back.

'It's only going to be for a minute,' I said to myself, 'I'm just going to go in, look around, and get out.'

I exited our house from the back, and with my heart thudding with so much force that I could hear it, I ran and reached the door of his temporarily abandoned residence. With one tremorous foot, I stepped into his kitchen.

The first thing I noticed was what touched my nostrils and caused them to want to close. It was the repulsive smell of rotting metal. I could hardly breathe. The smell was so strong, that I waned to jump back out of the door and start running home. But I hadn't gathered my strength and come this far for nothing. With my fingers holding my nose tightly shut, I continued into the house.

The living room and dining room areas seemed normal enough. The only component of his house that seemed strange to me was an abnormally large painting of a woman on his wall. She had a mysterious smile on her face, and her eyes were squinting, looking out of the frame surrounding the painting. It seemed like those dark, beady eyes looked at me from every angle. My heart beat louder, my legs moved faster.

At this point I was only focused on having a quick glance at the rest of the house and leaving, doing the thinking at home (in Jessica's room of course).

There were two more rooms left, or so I thought. One of them was his bedroom, empty except for one bed and one dresser. 'Nothing to see here,' I thought to myself, and moved on, a drop of relief landing in my system that I was almost through.

This next room was the most unusual of all. It was the furthermost room, extending to the back of the house. The uncanny smell of metal was even stronger in this room. I held my nose tighter, feeling my skin turning red. What was ironic was that this room was completely vacant. No couch, no bed, no dresser, not even a speck of dust. Nothing.

The only object apparent in this room was a door that was left ajar. I walked near it and reached for it tentatively. I opened a minute crevice in the door, and despite the smallness of the crack, the sickening smell kicked even harder at my tightly shut nostrils.

I opened the door further. I recognized the smell.

My heart started racing. Faster. Faster. It eventually jumped to my throat. My mind worked through a billion thoughts and images. Shivers were sent down my spine as I struggled to stand upright. My stomach flipped and rolled a hundred times before it fell, crushing my intestines with great force. I couldn't breathe. I turned around to run. To run like the wind; like my life and the life of the members of my family depended on it. But when I turned around, I bumped into something. Something hard. Something not very tall, but very pale and very horrendous.

'Nice of you to visit,' he said with a cunning smile. I pulled back, trying to escape him, but couldn't. My only choice was to enter the secret room, and that was definitely not what I had in mind.

'You know' I was aware that you were a clever little girl,' he said, rolling up his sleeves, taking small steps on the ground that seemed to be shaking below me. 'I knew you were going to be a problem some time or another. You have a gift. You can sense the abnormal. Am I not correct?' he said with a dark, villainous chuckle. 'The picture you were examining on my wall. Beautiful isn't she? She was my wife. Before I disposed of her, of course. She turned out to be useless. Oh'and Jessica and Rose. Such sweet people. Yes, I have them. Tied tightly in the trunk of my lovely car. I cannot wait to feed on their breathtaking flesh. But before I do, I want to get to know you. We can still be friends right? I mean, those bloody corpses in the room behind you don't change our relationship, do they?'

I stared at him, horror washing through my body, speechless.

'Alright,' he said, 'if that's the way you want it, then I guess I'll get my utensils now. I'm guessing you'll taste just as good as they will.' His sly smile spread across his face, but he didn't move. I tried to run past him, but he caught me. He was awfully strong for someone his age.

'Ah, ah, ah,' he said, 'you'll stay right here.'

I didn't know what to do. My mind worked faster than I could manage to keep up with. At that moment, my leg flew up with the most force I could exert, and hit him hard in his stomach. As he crouched down, I circled around him and made a dash toward the door.

I was out. The smell of the blood triggered my senses no more. But I knew it wasn't over. He would be coming after me. So I ran. I ran as fast as my legs could handle. I didn't know where I was going, but I kept moving without looking back.

As I ran, I thought. Going to one of the other two houses on our abandoned street would be a waste of time for two reasons. One of them was that the houses were too close, and he would catch up too quickly. Though the most important reason was that the residents of all those houses were stored in bloody bunches in the secret room of Leonard Hoffman.

I ran for ten minutes without looking back, terrified of seeing him running after me with his 'utensils.' Eventually I was forced to look back though, to see how far he was from me. I was extremely relieved when I noticed that he was at a very far distance. I was so preoccupied with running for my life that I didn't notice that I had reached civilization.

I came up to someone that was using a cell phone and took it from her hand.

'Sorry!' I yelled back, 'I'll return it later!'

I used the cell phone to call the police and told them everything while panting. I assumed they hardly understood what I said. When Leonard was out of sight, I hid in an alley and told the police where I was. They came, and I was saved.

As I watched them take him away, the only thing on my mind was Mom and Jessica.

He looked into my eyes, his solid blue irises flaring, squinting as he was handcuffed and put into the back of the police car.

The expression that burned from his eyes into mine said, 'I'll be back for you.'

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Bella-Faye said...
Oct. 7, 2009 at 5:34 pm
i used to live in oxford, MA...
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