Monday, October 12, 2009

you see something that convinces you the house is haunted

I am laying on my mattress which rests on the floor. I haven’t had time to put the bed together yet. I only have the necessities out of boxes. It is my first night in my new home. The house is everything I have wanted since I was a child. It is an old Queen Anne style Victorian home, beautifully maintained with gorgeous rosebushes that grow along the white picket fence and an herb garden just outside of the kitchen which you can smell if you leave the windows open. I love how the creamy colors of the exterior seem to rise out of the bold blues of the porch and window boxes. It is an unexpected touch, but very attractive.

The floor plan is what you would see in a movie. Small rooms with ancient hardwood floors and ornate crown molding flow together in the downstairs area, but are carefully sectioned off into three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. A wide stair case links these spaces together in the foyer. A much narrower stairway leads from the middle of the upstairs hall to a dining room downstairs. The house looks much bigger from the outside than it is inside. Saying it is small would be a mistake. Cozy is what struck me when I walked through it before making an offer.

Why, then, do I have a heavy feeling of uneasiness? Why do I feel like I am being watched? Why have I been trying to convince myself that my house is not haunted ever since I did the few dishes I have unpacked. It’s because I cannot convince myself that the glimmer was a reflection of a tea pot. Everything about that shape tells me that my house is haunted.

I can’t shake the memory of something very deeply evil from when I lived in my parent’s house as a young child. I remember lying in my bed, always putting my back to the closet, certain I would see something dark emerge if I ever looked toward the door. I remember feeling as though I was drowning in fear as soon as my parents turned off the light and closed the door for the night. I would become colder every moment that passed. I held my breath for long periods of time, afraid that if I exhaled or inhaled too loudly I would summon whatever beast or spirit waited in the closet. I stayed awake clutching my pillow and shivering under my too thin blankets until fatigue overtook me and I fell into a fitful sleep, often filled with nightmares. And now I lay in my room, once again afraid to sleep or move too much, trying to absorb my fear between sips of tea. It is not working.

I don’t know what to do. I moved here to Lebanon, Il after my youngest child married and moved to Florida, choosing to live in a town quieter than the hustle and bustle of Chicago. My father's inheritance wasn't much, but it was enough to purchase this old house. The rest of my income comes from free-lance work as a writer and my love of restoring antiques. None of that helps me now. It leads to the fact that I have nowhere to go.I don’t know a soul whose door I could knock on. I am cut off from the outside world as my cell phone is useless in this remote location and my internet service won't be set up for a few days. I am stranded by my own need for serenity and history.

I say a silent prayer. “Good Lord, please see my through this. Keep me safe and give me peace. I need you in my hour of great need.” I have begun to chant these same lines over and over, as if I have a rosary. I am not Catholic, but I am finding this ritual calming. I am trying to disappear into these words, to bury my terrifying thoughts with beliefs that I have questioned for many years. Perhaps this experience is supposed to open my eyes to something I have missed for years. To bring me back to a religion that I keep a very loose hold on. But deep down I know that singing the Hokey Pokey would probably produce a similar affect. It just seems too childish and inappropriate for these overwhelming feelings.

I know I must get some sleep, but I dare not turn off the TV or release the cup of cooled tea from my hands. I cannot remove the sheet or my grandmother’s afghan from around me to reach for the lights. They too offer some solace in this night. In this night that feels as if it will never end. I want fatigue to take me away. I want to wake up in the morning to bright sunshine with a rested mind, one that will allow me to think logically and come up with a way to avoid this the next night. I wonder, can I avoid a repeat? Or will I be thrust into facing this demon that I have unknowingly taken up residence with? Would it be better to know who my demon is? What it looks like? To ask questions? To see why this glimmer is here? To help, if possible?

I have so many thoughts racing through my head. There is so much tension in my body. My back muscles ache. I want nothing more than to stretch out my legs, to let my toes slip over the edge of the mattress and just brush over the cold wood floor. I need to relax. I am making a conscious effort to set my cup down. I sit back up and pull the afghan tighter around my shoulders. Slowly I slide myself into a prone position. I am clutching my pillow, staring at the TV. It flickers a moment and then the reception returns. I have made progress. The heavy feeling is still present, but it is not pressing on me as hard as before. I will sleep with the TV and lights on. I suspect my hand will hurt in the morning. It will be difficult to put pen to paper.

It is only a matter of time. Sleep will be coming soon. I can feel it tugging at my consciousness. The edges of my awareness are fraying. Take me. Please. I want you to. And sleep does take me. I dream odd dreams. Of times before I existed. Of a young family with three cherub faced children. A father with the rough hands of a farmer and pride of an honest man who loves his children dearly. There is also a woman. I assume she is the mother although I never see her with the children. She is sad. There is a feeling of longing and bitterness. She appears restrained in her movements in front of the man. Always cautious of every action and ensuring that the slightest movement holds great meaning. Even with this slowness of life, she is very kind and gentle.

I open my eyes and am disoriented. They burn. It is so bright that even though I have closed them I am forced to shield the light with my hands. I hear something too. It is high pitched, tiny, and smooth. There is more than one. Slowly, it dawns on me the sound is birds singing. This sound is more soothing than the deep car horns and sharp voices from the Chicago streets. It is morning in the countryside where I live. I have made it through the night. I stretch and slip the afghan off of me, rolling to the far side of the bed and pushing myself to a standing position so I can stumble into the bathroom. The water will be cold and I am looking forward to the refreshing rivers running down my body. I have a lot to think about today and many decisions to make.


  1. Firstly let me say I see the merit and where this is coming from but It is not my favorite piece. I think it is because it feels disjointed and not in a way that is purposeful. I think there might me a tense conflict in some place. yes all present tense but the subtle difference between perfect, progressive, simple etc. ect.
    For example I found myself asking what happened to the tea did she manage to set it down.
    Everything else in that paragraph seems resolved (I am not sure if that is exactly what I mean)

    OK I am shutting up now. Sorry

  2. Lots of descriptive words. This piece made me hear the noise, "see it." I feel the tension that the writer feels, seeing and hearing these things in the house.

  3. Ways to expand....
    Why "you" moved. You mention it in the 5th paragraph, play it out. May be as a before the story starts. Describe the town. What is Lebanon like.
    Describe your bed room in more detail. Maybe make plans for it.
    What are you going to do the morning after research the family you saw in the dream? Who are they are they in your house or a house that was there before?
    Who sold you the house did they have any tidbit of history to tell you.
    How about meeting you neighbors are they small town weirdos or Bedroom community commuters. A Stay at home Mom with too much time on her hands while the kids are at school?