The House

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“Are you listening?” Debby asked her. Outside was dark and cold, and the fire didn’t do much to help the draft. Alice was staring at old family portraits, the ones with pale faces, solemn looking men and women. She particularly liked the one of an older couple because they were actually smiling. They were housesitting, Alice and Debby, with their friend, Mike, for a week in the winter. Debby wouldn’t have come unless there was money involved, because she thought the house was haunted. But Alice and Mike shrugged it off, thinking that such a nice and relatively upkept house with the pink rose bushes lining the walkway were hardly ghost material. There was no graveyard, no suicidal history; no one had even died in the house, as Debby had found out while researching. Mike was out, picking up a pizza for dinner. Debby, not four hours into the job, was already getting scared. Darkness came early this far north, and by five o’clock the sun was long gone.
“Alice!” Debby said, exasperated.
“What?” Debby glanced at her watch.
“Were you listening?”
“Uh…sure. Party, restaurant, sounds cool.” Alice said. Debby rolled her eyes.
“No, I was saying that Mike left an hour ago. Why’s he taking so long?” Alice wadded up a piece of newspaper and tossed it at the fireplace, but missed by a whole lot. While she wadded up another one, Debby tossed the failure into a trash bin.
“He’s probably caught in traffic. Did you call him?”
“He didn’t answer.” Alice stood up from her chair, trying to reach the other stack of newspapers. “I don’t like it here, Alice.” Debby whispered, as if the old lady that owned the house could somehow hear her all the way on her vacation in Florida.
“Then just give me your money, and go home. It’s okay to be scared, Debby. This house is old, after all.” Debby scoffed.
“I am not afraid! It’s just…cold, in here, that’s all.” Alice laughed and started to leave the room. “Where are you going?”
“I’m thirsty and getting water. Can you handle two minutes by yourself?” Debby didn’t answer. “That’s what I thought.” As they walked down the hallway Alice was laughing. “You really need to grow up, Deb.”
***
The old car sped down the highway. The driver was testing the eight year old Camry’s limits, trying to get through the woods as fast as possible. Luckily, it hadn’t started snowing yet, and the roads weren’t icy, so he’d be able to get out of the forest that had always freaked him out. Mike liked to think of himself as a ladies’ man, and he liked to think that he was tough, rocking out to Beethoven in the little car he had gotten on his sixteenth birthday. His cell phone was dead, the pizza was getting cold, and oh, how he hated the drive up to the house. But Debby wouldn’t do it (too scared,) and Alice wouldn’t (better things to do.) He never noticed how dark it was until it was pitch black outside. Why did he listen to those girls? The people back in the charming little town gave him odd looks as if he didn’t belong. None of his friends, except maybe Debby, really belonged in the peaceful village, a popular retirement spot. It had won several botany awards and ‘Village of the Year’ at least three times. There was no room for troublemaking youngsters, so they kept their eyes on Mike and Alice but not so much on Debby. She was the only one who really knew anyone there, having lived in the town for a couple of years when she was younger. When he asked about the house, people would give him even stranger looks and wouldn’t answer. Their eyes would grow wide, and they would tell him ‘Good bye’ and be on their way. A few elderly women had only said, ‘God have mercy on your souls,’ and looked very sad. Something was up, Mike decided, and horribly wrong. But, he wasn’t the one to fix it and after the week was over, he’d never have to set foot in the house or the town ever again. He pulled into the long driveway, trying not to think of the imaginary murderers behind the topiaries. In all, their situation was just like a horror movie. Three college kids in a creepy old town, living in a giant, scary house - the perfect place for a ghost. Mike felt the top of the pizza box with his hand and felt that it was quite cool. He picked it up and nearly burnt the skin off of his hand. He knocked on the giant, mahogany wood door.
“Pizza delivery.” He cried. Something stirred in the wood nearby. The door slowly opened to reveal his two best friends. Alice took the pizza away to the kitchen greedily while Debby got him safely inside. She locked the two locks with a key and placed it back in her pocket.
“What took you so long?” She asked, giving Mike a hug. “We were worried sick.” Alice’s voice carried in from the kitchen.

“I wasn’t worried at all.” Mike couldn’t understand her very well because she had pizza stuffed in her mouth. Debby turned to him, rolling her eyes.
“She was worried. I could tell.”
“Was not.” Alice walked back into the main hall, pizza flopping in her hand. “And if you buddies want any pizza, you better be quick. I had to wait an hour,” she glared at Mike, “for food because all the old woman has in her pantry is cat chow.”
“Why didn’t you just eat-” Mike tried to say but was cut off by Alice.
“I will never be that hungry.” Evil Alice disappeared as she broke out into a grin. “Actually…if you hadn’t come soon, that chicken one might’ve looked somewhat appetizing.”
***
The trio was in the kitchen, and after only ten minutes, the pizza was entirely gone. They were trying to decide on a movie to watch. Mike wanted to watch Fight Club, but Alice wanted to watch Pocahontas. Over their arguing they couldn’t hear the knocking on the door. After a few minutes, Debby started to hear it. It was an uneven, grotesque sounding knock, as if someone was breaking their hand against the old wooden door.
“Mike, there’s someone at the door.” Mike listened for knocking, and something deep inside his gut told him that it was not a friendly neighbor. He left the cheerful kitchen for the silent hallway, his socks making the old floor creak. He unlocked the locks, and opened the door.





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