The dilapidated house stood proud on the neglected lot just on the outskirts of town. The land around it had died long ago yielding only to a plague of devil’s eyelashes. A barren valley oak erupted from the earth. It, too, had died long ago, but its roots ran deep, and no storm had yet to fell it. The twisted ancient corpse stood nearly as tall as the two story house itself.
Nearly a century ago the house had been filled with laughter, loved and cared for by a small farming family. The land was fruitful then, and the humble crops sustained much of the family’s needs. The patriarch of the family performed odd, and often humiliating, jobs around the town to provide for what necessities the farm could not.
Though the man was looked down upon by many of the town’s residents, he was nevertheless happy with his lot. He had a beautiful wife, two magnificent children, and a home built with his bare hands. As far as he was concerned, he needed nothing else in life.
One late October night, when the moon hung low and the air carried upon it the crisp scent of autumn, the family vanished without a trace. It wasn’t until early the following spring before anyone had noticed the family’s disappearance.
Marty Bucket, a stout business owner, would pay the man five dollars every May to clean up litter and debris around his store. Like clockwork the man would show up on the first of May asking if he could have a job for the month. Marty would oblige and often employ the man to clean up around the Civic Center as well -his way of giving back to the city.
This May, however, the man had not come. After two weeks, Marty asked around to see if anyone else had seen the man. No one had. In fact, no one had see the man in many months. This bothered Marty, and though he was not exactly a friend, his conscience burned in his stomach and he decided to pay the man and his family a visit.
Marty, one of an elite few car owners in town, road up to the man’s house in his 1916 Saxon Roadster. He was impressed at site of the home. He never imagined the man had built such an extravagant house. The vivacious crops surrounding the property were already budding with an abundance of produce. He believed the man to be poor and living in squalor, but apparently he did quite well for himself.
He walked up the dusty path, past the porch, and knocked on the front door. The door creaked open beneath Marty’s knocking.
“Hello?” He called inside, but no answer came.
“Hello?” He called once more stepping inside. “Anyone home? It’s me. Marty? Marty Bucket.”
The décor inside was simple. A couple of wooden chairs were nestled under a humble dining table in the corner of the room. Pillows laid strewn about the living room floor. An iron cauldron hung in the fireplace, and a kettle sat atop the mantle.
A rotting odor drew Marty to the dining table where four plates sat full of untouched decaying food. Glasses of sour curdled milk rested beside each plate. Fat white maggots wormed about feasting on the meal. Flies buzzed about the table in a thick black cloud.
The stench was overpowering. Tears welled up in Marty’s eyes. He gagged backing away.
“Hello?” He shouted trying to remember the man’s name. The man had worked for Marty for three consecutive springs, and for the life of him, he couldn’t remember the man’s name. “Anyone?”
The bedrooms upstairs were immaculate. The beds were made. Clothes were pressed and hung from closets. Even the children’s toys had been neatly arranged in their rooms. A thick layer of dust, and the heavy odor of mildew, indicated that the family had not been home for quite some time.
Marty descended the stairs and walked out the back door. On the simple wooden patio were four chairs surrounding a stone slab. Upon the slab were etched the letters of the alphabet, numbers, “yes,” “no,” and “goodbye.” A planchette, obviously made from the same stone as the slab, rested upon what Marty immediately recognized as a spirit board.
“What the hell?”
Something else caught his attention. Just before the small crop of rising corn was an assortment of bleached bones piled around a wooden stake which had been driven into the ground. Atop the stake sat the skull of a ram. Marty knew the skull had once belonged to a ram because of the curled horns protruding from the bone.
He drew near to the pile of bones and found them all to have varying line work burned into them. Upon closer inspection he could tell they were animal bones, and not those of the family as he initially feared.
A weight sat heavy in his stomach. Something wasn’t right and he knew had to return to town and report his findings to the authorities. He walked to the back door and went to open it when a slow scraping sound, like two stones being rubbed together, caused him to pause.
Marty looked back at the slab table. The planchette slowly moved across the stone of its own will. It picked up speed moving in a figure eight pattern just beneath the etched letters. Suddenly it stopped. The planchette vibrated and jerked forward stopping on the letter ‘H.’
“H” Marty said aloud as if by instinct.
The small stone repeated its figure eight motion, stopped, and jerked suddenly again, this time hovering over,
“E” Marty said struggling to speak. He could feel his heart beat fast in his chest.
The process repeated, more quickly with each pass.
“L-P-U-S” Marty spoke each letter the planchette stopped on. “H-Help us?”
The stone scraped across the slab so hard it left a groove in its wake as it circled about “yes.”
“W-where are you?” Marty stammered.
The small planchette slid over the letters, “H-O-U-S-E.”
“Inside? No one’s inside?”
The stone moved again, “W-E-A-R-E.”
“Are you trapped?”
“yes.” A heavy slap came at the back door startling Marty.
He stumbled over one of the chairs crashing against the patio. He regained his footing. Cold sweat beaded along his brow. Every instinct told him to run away and not look back, yet he stared at the slab unable to pull free from its draw.
In a quivering voice he asked, “H-how can I get you out?”
A beating drummed against the back door. He could hear the sobs of a woman and children crying out for help. The doorknob turned slightly in either direction as if someone was trying to open a locked door.
Marty could feel the blood rushing through his ears. His mouth was dry. His stomach clenched tightly. With great effort he willed his legs toward the rattling door. The sobs grew louder. The cries for help muffled by the barrier between them were nonetheless deafening. He looked back at the slab one last time.
He took a deep breath, shot out his hand, and ripped the door open. Before him was a thick inky darkness. Eyes, so many eyes, blinked in and out of being. His breath caught is his throat. A fleshy grey hand, contorted and fused like the claw of crustacean, extended from beyond darkness, catching Marty by the arm. With a sudden jerk he was pulled into the void.
Choking off a cacophony of screams, the darkness disbursed leaving only the empty interior of the home behind it. The planchette scraped along the slab once more stopping on “goodbye.”