One Last Visit

Posted on October 14, 2010

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Jane stood on the front lawn of her childhood home. It was midnight, and only the streetlamps gave it any light, but the house seemed smaller than it once did. Its large picture window glared blankly at the street. One of the panes was broken and covered with cardboard. It had been like that for twenty years now.

She unlocked the door and went in.

There was a deeper darkness than the night at large inside the house. No matter what time of day it was, the gloom was always there, lurking in every corner, waiting.

She felt a shiver trill up her spine. Go no further, her instincts screamed. Turn around, leave, never come back here. She took a deep breath to steady her nerves.

“This is the last time,” she told herself and the house. “After this I’m done for good.”

She was standing in the living room. This was where her mother Trudy endured until she died fifteen years ago. Here Trudy had arguments with her brothers and sisters and enforced her will upon her husband, Jim, and on Jane. She could picture Trudy sitting in the dining area, staring out the window with that eternal scowl on her face. Jane closed her eyes for a moment and went to check the bedrooms.

She hurried through the narrow hall. Even now after ten years away, she could hear voices whispering here. She had always heard them, late at night when everyone else was asleep. They murmured just loud enough to be audible, but just beyond understanding. It didn’t matter what the words were. Jane knew the whispers were a curse on the house and everyone in it. They always had been.

This was her parents’ bedroom. Even in the dark she saw the charred black hole in the floor where her father Jim had once fallen asleep in bed with a lit cigarette. They’d covered it with a rug, as it had been too expensive to repair. Jim had died here three weeks ago, in that same ancient bed. The doctor said he’d had a massive stroke, but Jane knew it was just part of the house’s curse. It was the only thing that could ever bring her back here. All the furniture was gone now, and the shadows filled the room. They stared at her; they knew her. She turned away.

Here was Jane’s old room. It was cramped even without furniture, and still had that fungal smell that no cleaning could banish. She was five years old when they moved into the house, and she had been afraid in this room ever since. She felt the old fear clutching at her now, floating in on the disembodied voices from the hall.

She’d tried at first to tell Trudy and Jim that there were monsters living in the hall, in the dank little closet in her room. Of course, they hadn’t believed her. When she was seven, Jim had whipped her with a switch and told her to stop being such a baby. She never mentioned the monsters or ghosts or whatever they were again, but they got bolder after that. She still remembered the nightmares, and all the other nights when she was too afraid to close her eyes.

“I got away from you, though,” she whispered to the voices. “I have a life now. You lost.”

Laughter drifted around her head, mocking her. She heard Trudy’s hysterical giggle and Jim’s broad chuckle among them. She turned away, trying not to listen.

At the other end of the hall was a walk-through den leading to the kitchen. This was where Trudy’s brother Dan slept on the old sofa bed when he passed through town. It was the darkest room in the house, pine-paneled, its thousand knotty eyes forever staring.

Dan was the only one who’d believed Jane’s stories about monsters. He said he saw them, too. But Trudy heard this and had a pure, full-fledged fit. He’d always been crazy, she said. She blamed him for putting these ideas in Jane’s head. She called him names; she said he was a loser and would never amount to anything. And so she laid the house’s curse on him, too. He never came back after that. Five years later, he killed himself down in Florida. When Trudy got the news, she said, “Well, that just proves everything I said about him was true.”

Now Jane was the only one of them left alive. If she wanted to sell the house, it would pass to its new owners and be someone else’s problem, someone else’s curse.

She went into the kitchen, thinking about that. She could attach a disclaimer to the deed telling potential buyers the place was haunted. That would be the fair thing to do, but it might leave her stuck with this property for years to come. All she wanted was to be rid of it.

The appliances were gone. There had always been a faint gas smell in here. The stove’s connections and gas line stuck up out of the cracked floor like fingers. Jane’s eyes lingered on those connections. She reached into her purse and got her cigarettes. She lit one and tossed the match into the sink.

No, she wouldn’t sell it. She was going to end this curse.

The voices crowded around her, trying to distract her.

“Hush now,” she told them. “Just one last smoke, for old times’ sake.” She took a long drag from the cigarette, and the nicotine made her lightheaded. She took a few more puffs and tossed the cigarette, letting it land where it may. She went out the back door, slamming it on the voices for the last time.

Jane walked down the street to her car. She drove away and didn’t look back.

She was only two streets away when she heard the explosion. It shook the car.

Relief washed through her. No one else would ever have to live under that curse again.

The voices were silent at last.

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Posted in: #FridayFlash, Horror