1885 - 3:30am
Lightening illuminates the upper story bedroom in a sickening crack. He swore the world had split in two, only it did not, for it was only the rising of darkness in the dead of night. With a crack of an eye, the old oak tree reaches a hand steadily across the wall to the mans sleeping partner, grasping with eery intention. The man scrubs a hand over his sharp features, slick with sweat from his rude awakening before sitting upright. A giggle announces itself through the small hallway outside his bedroom door, and with a sigh he slides out of his pine bed and makes for the hall. Each step placed cautiously on the wooden floor as if unwilling to wake the already awakened children. He takes hold of the the small candle on the cabinet, striking the match and lighting the halls. With a palm pressed to the door he creaks the door to his daughters bedroom, revealing her in the mids of a peaceful slumber. He thinks he must have dreamt the ghost of her laugh, for it had been some time since he had seen her smile as he had been called away for business. Quietly backing out and closing the door with a soft click, the man heads for the bathroom, blowing out the candle and flicking the switch to the overhead lamp. His eyes catch the mirror where the words “they’re already dead” drip crimson streaks into the basin below. The lights flicker, his breath comes in rapid fogged pants, he runs, feet slipping on the hallway rug as he comes to a stop before his sleeping partner. With hands shaking he reaches down to wake her. His hands grip her shoulder in desperate attempt, his fingers slip against her skin in a silky substance. In panic he pulls the bedside lamp cord to reveal a gashing slit across his partners throat. He cries her name out into the night in utter shock removing his blood stained hands. His eyes flicker around the room as he kneels to the ground screaming. The walls are coated in the woman blood, “guilty” and “where’s your wife?” are sketched into the walls, streaks of blood pooling in between the cracks of the floorboards below. The word “Wife” begins to scratch itself into the floor as the furniture flies from their designated positions. The windows explode bringing a shower of rain and shards of glass pistoling into the scene of destruction. The children’s laughter draws closer, louder, deeper until the ceiling begins to crack with terror. He reaches into the bedside draw pulling out a 45 and drawing the trigger.
They say a house with no mystery is surely not a house worth buying, at least in the town of Shadow Valley. A single mansion placed solely on a cliff edge, beneath it, a 500 ft drop to where the ocean clings its fingernails into the dusted land, begging to stay. With views as these, a mansion like such could never be considered unworthy of residency. The man, dressed in a pair of black formal pants, a white undershirt and a vest pushed the door open with a twist of the key before gesturing a hand into the now open doorway.
“After you sir” he states ever so politely as Steven nods and steps inside tenderly.
The harsh creak of the front door draws bumps to the surface of Stevens skin as the real-estate assistant closes the door. The door of life Steven thinks as he takes in the age and abandonment of the house. The stairs, rubbed raw, scratched and unpolished. The windows hold thick blankets of dust and grime. This place hasn’t been touched in God knows how….
“You know this house use to belong to the Mayors son?” Stevens thoughts lost there train of thought almost instantly.
“Forgive me sir, I’m not from around here” The elderly man nods in apology as he slurs tiredly,
“Mayor Damian King’s son ….Jonathan” Steven appears lost, almost apologetic, unable to see the point in the mans story.
“Jonathan had a lot of issues son. I’m sure you’ve heard the tale….” Still nothing, he thinks to himself “The house of sorry hill?” No.
“I’m sorry?” Steven asks, a little unnerved. The man waves a hand, with a soft smile
“Don’t mind me son, let’s get into this” Steven nods, almost grateful for the change in subject as he watches the old worker walk towards the staircase.
“Now obviously, i can’t get up the stairs, but you’re more than welcomed to go up. Upstairs you have the main bedroom last on the corridor to your left, the bathroom beside the bedroom and three spare rooms down the right hand side of the corridor.” Steven chuckles at the mans inability to climb stairs thinking how much it must hurt to grow old.
“Any attic?” he asks curiously.
“indeed, just above the children rooms”
“Children’s room?” ok now why would he assume that for a man of my youth, Steven thinks.
“my apologies, the last residents had children but i assure you, the rooms are fit for any purpose.”
He apologises smoothly in his soft British accent.
“I might head on up and have a look around if you’d excuse me?” he nods and gestures a hand towards the dull and scratched staircase.
“of course sir” Stevens feet make landing on the first step before he turns and asks
“ i must know, how old is this fine house?” The elderly man smiles and replies with a quick clearing of his throat.
“why yes, of course sir. This house was build in 1615 , so 348 years. It’s the oldest house in Shadow valley.” Steven smiled at that, this house sure had some history to it then and perhaps thats why he liked it so much.
The rooms were clean, though it was obvious to Steven a slight paint job might be in order, but the size was great, the antique was perfection and he didn’t need much more convincing. He strode down stairs to be shown the kitchen, living room and study before they made there way outside to take a walk around the cliff edge.
“The gardens are and have been maintained by Jenny or local florist, so you don’t have to worry to much about the outside maintenance.” The cliff was open, no fence, no boundaries. To think anyone could come wandering back here and possibly fall to there death sent chills down Stevens spine.
“How long’s the drop?” Steven asked with raised eyebrows
“500ft” With hollowed cheeks, he blew out a breath, followed by a slight whistle.
“hate to fall from that.” He jokes smiling.
“Some people have sir, it’s a tragedy” Steven’s blood runs cold, mentally slapping himself for making such a dark remark.
“my apologies” he gives Steven a stern look before walking across the garden. A leafless tree stands alone, stretching up adjacent tot he main bedroom on the second floor.
“Huh eery” Steven murmurs before following the elderly man around the front of the house to the pavement where their cars are parked narrowly upright, perched on the hillside.
“So what do you think son? for 1.3 million it could all be yours” Steven flickers his gaze back to the house, taken in the beauty of its white and blue painted veranda, the high rise roofs, the massive double-arched windows and the ocean-wide views. Sheryl will love this, he thinks to himself before glancing back to the suited man, and extending a gracious hand.
“You’ve got a deal sir.” He shakes my hand with a weary smile, the crows feet standing out on the corners of his greyed eyes. His smile faded as his eyes filled with sympathy.
21st OCTOBER 1963,
The engine roars to life, pulling out onto the highway, heading west interstate to Louisiana.
“This house is beautiful. High-risen ceilings, room for ol’ Butch to run around….You’ll love it, I swear.” He places his hand attentively on Sheryl’s upper thigh.
“Honey, this house is old. I mean, aren’t you worried about the repair cost? Steven…” She pauses on a huff of frustration, pinching the bridge of her nose, “Why’d you even buy it without consulting me first?” With that Steven smiles, looking into his side mirror where stretches of road narrow into non-existence. His knuckles grip the wheel tighter, clenching and unclenching the soft leather to sooth his sudden rise of frustration.
“Because honey……I wanted it to be a surprise.” She scoffed and mutters ‘it’s going well so far’. Steven clears his throat at the red haired woman’s insult, biting his tongue as he continues, “i’m sure you’ll love it….just trust me on this one.” His newly wedded wife of six weeks, reluctant on voicing a response, turns her head towards the ever passing scenery before he repeats.
“Just trust me.” Only he didn’t know who he was trying to convince; himself, his wife or his gut feeling.
Dirt swarms the air as Steven pulls the car to a halt on the dirt driveway. Sheryl and Steven look up at the house through a dust clouded windshield.
“There’s no place like home” He smiles, slapping a hand affectionately against Sheryl’s side. She smiles as she jokes
“ you’re right …maybe the house was worth both our arms and legs.” Steven laughs before kicking open the door in a rough creak, metal grinding on rusted hinges. The tyre-swing sways gracefully in the front yard, suspended by a worn down rope, hitched to the lowest branch on the ancient tree.
“That’s a little creepy” Steven chuckles, gesturing at the frayed display. Butch barks gruffly, starling Sheryl from her thoughts before slapping the steel cage confining the black German Shepherd.
“Sit down! you stupid mutt.” She exclaims causing the dog to bite back a bark and whimper instead, circling in its cage before surrendering.
“Come on” Steven all but bounces running for the door rustling the keys hanging from a rusted old ring, with a roll of her eyes Sheryl follows him up the two steps onto the dirt covered veranda. With a twist and shove of the key into the worn lock, Steven pushed the door open ready to enter when Sheryl lets out a short scream causing his head to snap to the open doorway.
The words guilty and where’s your wife are scratched repeatedly in red paint up the walls on the staircase, across the living room walls and into the main hall. With tentative steps Steven and Sheryl stepped inside.
“Properly just some kids messing with us ….besides..” Steven begins, his heart pounding with fear.
“Steven, is there something you’re not telling me. Kids wouldn’t be able to do this …would they?” Stevens mind races through the day of inspection.
“You know this house use to belong to the Mayors son?” The smirk flashes across the sellers features, crows claws emerge from the dark shadows of his eyes.
“Forgive me sir, I’m not from around here”
“Mayor Damien King’s son ….Jonathan”
“Jonathan had a lot of issues son. I’m sure you’ve heard the tale….”
“The house of sorry hill?” No.
“Steven!” he blinks to the fingers snapping abruptly inches from his face.
“Yes honey?” He takes in her features cautiously, one would say she’d appear to be a deer caught in the headlights.
“Honey are you sure this house is safe?” He nods despite his uncertainty and shuts the door behind them.
“Yes honey I’m positive….” He walks in shear hidden fear to the stairs, taking two steps and swiping a finger along the still wet red substance before holding a reddened fingertip up to his wife.
“See….only paint. It’ll wash off with bit of hard labour. Nothing to be overly concerned about.”
“We should call the police Steven, If it’s happened, it’ll happen again.” Sheryl begins, voice thick with anxiety.
“Perhaps we should.. See if there’s any evidence of force entry.” Steven suggests as she nods and makes her way to the kitchen to spin the dial on the telephone, calling the police.
The police delved into every nook, crane, dust and fibre of the house but came out with nothing in return.
“I don’t know what to tell you madam, there’s no sign of forced entry. Whoever has entered your home Mrs. Sheridan has done it with precise skill and care. We’ll be keeping an eye on the matter until further reports.” He tips his hat in a friendly departure before taking the two steps off the veranda admiring the way the tyre-swing swung hypnotically in the summer breeze. She closes the door, leaning back heavily against the old frame staring miserably at her husband.
“It’ll be fine ..” he begins before she starts twisting her wedding ring
“I trust you, i do but …it’s just” her eyes glisten with fresh tears as she presses her finger tips into her eye sockets.
“It’s what honey ?” Steven pushes, taking her to his chest and rubbing her back soothingly.
“It’s just we’ve had issues with kids before and look where that got us.” Steven sighs in acknowledgement remembering the various rocks thrown through their windows to the pizza’s thrown up on the roof that would rot and waffle down their living room chimney.
“Come on” he said, “I found a jukebox in the back room. help me bring it out here.” Sheryl pushes back and stops his sudden movement with a hand to his sternum.
“Honey why don’t you head out, give me time to unpack. Go check out the villagers, maybe you could pick me up some more potatoes while your out?” She asks. He bites his bottom lip unsure of leaving his wife alone before nodding softly.
“Alright sure thing darling.” He kisses her attentively and grabs his black suit hat and his jacket before heading out.
The town clock struck six o’clock in the town square with a ringing of six bells echoing across Shadow valley. Women and children walked gracefully down the streets hand in hand, their shadows crawling high across concrete paths and climbing sandstone buildings as the night slowly set in. Men walked with a cane in hand and a pride in there step as they made there way into the Black Moree hostelry. Steven sat by his lonesome in a corner booth, casually drinking his beer when he overheard the waffle of conversation spewing from the table beside the window.
“The beast has residency.” A young man with no front teeth hissed and chuckled, swallowing the remainder of his beer.
“They wont survive to see the light of day.” Another chuckled. The table was made from and old keg with stools made of old plastic and worn down linen, the stuffing now exposed through tears in the material. Who were they to say such things Steven thought, what would they know.
I’m sure you’ve heard the tale….” Still nothing, he thinks to himself “The house of sorry hill?” No.
The sellers voice croaks loudly within the walls of his mind, his crows eyes never far from present behind the shade of his mysterious smile. With a final swing of his beer he clunks the empty glass down against the wooden bench top and decides he must know as he strides over to the small group of intoxicated men.
“What is this tale you speak of gentlemen?” The three men looked guilty of speaking the tale and swallowed thickly.
“Ya sure you want to go there son? Young men like yourself shouldn’t be messing with this type of thing. Best to stay innocent.” Steven smiled at the elderly man in his late 50’s and placed a fifty dollar note on the table-top.
“I’m twenty-five, not five ….I think i can handle it.” Steven replied smugly. The wrinkled hand of the man grasped the note in tense fingers, nodding respectfully as he stuffed the one-hundred dollar bill into his coat and began with a harsh clearing of his throat. Steven lent his elbows on the table to lean closer.
“The house was built by Mayor Damien King in 1615. Mayor king was married to Marie Pebblestone, a fine young lady from out west..Mississippi if i am correct… He worked locally in Shadow Valley. She stayed in Mississippi to care for their only child Jonathan. As far as anyone knows he used the house to lure women in for the classic one night stands. For many years it worked, until two years later Marie came door knocking and caught him in the act. He begged and pleaded for her forgiveness telling her ‘it was just a mistake, will you ever find it in your heart to forgive me?’ but she was unforgiving. His cries beckoned through the town when the media caught sight of him, he pleaded for the allegations to remain silent. Unable to control her fear, his dearly beloved returned the following night, supposedly she snuck in through an open window and butchered both the Mayor and his partner in there sleep before throwing herself off the cliff into the ocean below. The house was handed down to his only son Jonathan King who moved into the house upon marrying his beloved partner of 12 years in 1675, 30 years after his fathers murder and mothers suicide in 1645. The story goes that Jonathan never made it through the night before he slaughtered his wife and two children later turning the gun on himself. The police say it was a mental relapse of what happened to his father and in a psychological sense he properly didn’t want his children to go through the suffering he went through. Ya know. Upon entering the property, the police stated the walls were coated in blood with the words “where’s your wife?” and “guilty” written everywhere in sight, on the walls and throughout the halls, you couldn’t escape it. Police report screaming through the neighbourhood as well as loud laughter. She lives in the walls, She’s very well so alive. I have seen her, I have heard her. She will not be treaded, cast out or wronged, she is of sorry hill….and forever will be.”
Steven swallowed thickly unable to hide the way his skin prickled at the thought of such a tragedy. It’s just a silly folk tale, no need to worry. It’s just a speculation, I’m not going to die, my wife …my wife wont die…my wife he thought to himself.
“Whoever is game enough to step foot in that house is a brave, brave man.” The elderly man chirped taking the remainder of his beer in one chug before setting the glass down.
“i best be on my way. Thank you for your time.” Steven nods and steps foot for departure. The elderly man smiles as the third man in the corner shifts to look at Steven. With recognition Steven realises the third man crowed against the window is indeed the elderly seller who showed him through the house.
“Be careful son” he warns and Steven flashes an uncertain smile before straightening up and preparing to leave. Can’t show them fear Steven, don’t be a pussy.
“Yeah …of course” He scoffs out, brushing off the town tale as if it were dirt upon his shoulder before departing the small bar.
You didn’t cheat, you’ve got nothing to worry about. It wasn’t cheating.
“Honey, I’m home” he announces loudly, flicking his suit hat onto the thin wooden hook watching it swing to a stop on the top peg before making his way to the kitchen where Sheryl is peeling potatoes gracefully over the sink. He noticed as he passed the halls, the walls have been scrubbed down to their original state, white. The jukebox is now in the hallway beneath there newly framed wedding picture. Could it be home? he thinks to himself as he engulfs his wife around the waste, she startles with a gasp, clasping her potatoes peeler to her chest.
“Steven ….God!” He laughs, amused by her sudden anxiety. Watching as he skin begins to form bumps.
“Honey why are you so freaked out?” She turns and shoves him harshly in the chest, tears welling in her eyes.
“Because Steven, this place is fucking haunted and you know it! Weird shit has been happening while you went out ok!” She steadies herself on a shaky breath before heading to the hallway arch “I just….I just don’t…I’m going upstairs to take a bath…ok” Steven sighs listening to the heavy and rapid footsteps as she makes her way up the stairs, before picking up the abandoned peeler and continuing peeling the potatoes. His mind races, staring out the kitchen window, so clear he can almost see it.
The bitter smell of red wine and beer.The way she held him, like no one else had before …not even Sheryl. No he didn’t cheat.
If awkward was a taste, it would most certainly taste like this. Dinner is silent, Sheryl sits across the table jabbing her mash potatoes beneath the flickering candlelight but never consuming. The storm is beginning to set in as thunder begins to rumble in the east. The tyre swing can be seen from the kitchen window above the sink, swinging aggressively in sudden wind change. Leaves begin to fall from the trees sending debris scattering the open plains of the outdoors.
“Storms closing in” he says, attempting to cut the layer of awkwardness in the atmosphere. She just sighs and harshly responds.
“Hopefully it’ll blow this piece of shit to smithereens and we can leave first thing in the morning” Steven sighs, ready to argue as the lights flicker, sending the house into darkness, the wind smashing against the front door and surrounding windows in a particularly harsh bang. Butch begins to bark, growling, his tail at full attention. She screamed, jumping out of her chair as the lights flicker back on. There eyes search around the room, hearts hammering in there chests.
“Steven” she shakes as she points to the kitchen window where he immediately stands and paces towards it, unsure of what it is his eyes are seeing. A small imprint of a small child’s hand is printed against the kitchen window, and with uncertainty he rubs a finger against it, it does not disappear.
“It appears to be on the outside” Steven clarifies, voice shaken with fear, his heart beating so far he feared it might break free of its cage and run away into the night.
“Fucking kids, messing with our wiring.” Sheryl breaks, visibly shaken and holding herself tightly as if it would hide her fear and make this home safe again. She knew deep down inside that nothing could ever shake her feeling of fear and disgust for this house, this was not her home and she wanted out the moment the sun rose in the morning.
“Babe it’s ok, it’s just some kids messing with us…” He turns, striding across the room to elope his new wife in his arms.
“Nothing to worry about, i promise.” He rested his chin on top of her scalp, swaying her slightly as she began to cry.
“ There’s a haunting here Steven….Why won’t you listen to me?!” She sobbed and punched her fist repeatedly to his chest in frustration, suddenly loosing all the strength she fought to keep. God save us all Stevens mind raced as he explained
“Honey after a long nights rest, it’ll all be alright, it’s all in our heads ok ….There is no kids, there is no haunting….it’s just you and me up here my sweet….just you, me and lil’ old butch in the corner over there.” She lays motionless against his chest as butch growls and cuts off a final bark. She nods and surrenders.
“Ok fine.” Pushing away from his chest she begins to clear the table, her appetite suddenly deceased, much like the house, she scoffs at her own remarks before running the tap. She jumps in shock, the water flows crimson over her hands. Steven jumps at her sudden movement.
“What is it?” He makes his way to her back as she turns the tap off and on again, the water now clear.
“The ….The…the water it was red…like blood.” She stutters, trying to piece together her thoughts like a forcing the pieces of a puzzle into their wrong places.
“Honey, go to bed….I’ll get the dishes.” She nods unsteadily before turning around to face him, his eyes hazel green, standing out in the moonlight shining through the kitchen window.
“I love you.” She chokes out before giving him a kiss goodnight.
“I love you too.” his voice cracks as he watches her disappear up the stairs before he finishes the dishes. Washing off the final dish, the lights begin to flicker again.
“You’ll never take her alive you son of a bitch.” Steven murmurs harshly under his breath as he hangs the dish and turns around. His breath seized in his chest as lightning erupted through the room. The walls flashed red and white, the words “watch” and “I will” are repeated around the kitchen, only the kitchen. The words gone when the lightning surrendered to the darkness. With fear beating in his veins he rubbed one of the walls not soon before covered in crimson streaks. His skin began to ripple, something was not right, he needed to leave, grab Sheryl and run, take her as far away as he could. Suddenly the tale was no longer a folk but a unexpected reality he could not grip. Could it be true? Surely not, he refused to believe such a silly tale. Flicking the lights off, he ascended upstairs, commanding butch to follow in his steps as he made it down the the small hallway, to the closed bedroom door as the thunder rumbled in the distance. Butch whined backing away from the wooden door. His hands gripped the metal handle, shaking the metal as he turned it in fear of what he might find.
“Come on Butch.” The bloodhound growled before leading the way into the bedroom, his tail never once surrendering it’s attention as he made his way, snout to ground to the back left hand corner, nosing up the corner of their old Persian rug. Steven silently shut the door and made his way to the bed, pulling back the sheets and laying down to put an end to their first night.
She lives in the walls, She’s very well so alive. I have seen her, I have heard her. She will not be treaded, cast out or wronged, she is of sorry hill….and forever will be.
His mind raced, the voices in his head got louder, remembering the older man’s tale. He clenches his eyes as sleep begins to take him. Deeper, deeper.
“You did this to us” a female voice rings strongly, overpowering the many voices, overlays that run through his mind, fighting his ability to fall into unconsciousness.
The clock in the towns centre strikes midnight, sounding the twelve bells of a new day, a new darkness.
“We are one.” She repeats, her voice is the last thing he hears as he slips away.
The soft giggling of children awaken Steven from the depths of a decent slumber. Through the slits of his eyes he can see the crimson pills flashing the time, 3:30 am. He rolls over as thunder rumbles through the house, wind clashing and shaking the windows softly. Sheryl’s bed lays empty beneath the moonlight pouring through the windows. Sheets crumpled and grey.
“Honey” He calls, voice unwilling to work to full capacity having just woken up. With a clearing of his throat, he tries again
“Honey where are you?”
The voices in his head suspect the worse, instead he filters them to the back of his mind and makes his way towards the hallway.
Don’t let em get to you Steven
A small white flutter of a dress captures the corner of his eye from on top of the old oak stairs as the giggling makes itself present in the dead of the night.
“Who’s there?” Steven quivers. There’s always something about ghostly children’s laughter in a dead of night that never fails to chill the air deep in someones lungs. Nothing. Thunder sounds in the depths of the skies, north over the seas, Steven notes. Anything to keep his mind off his suspicions. His mind kept racing back to the day his hand collided in a final deal with the auctioneer.
“You’ve got a deal sir.” The crows feet standing out on the corners of his greyed eyes. His smile faded as his eyes filled with sympathy. Something was off.
“Jonathan had a lot of issues son. I’m sure you’ve heard the tale….”
“The house of sorry hill?” No.
No it cant be true.
I should’ve seen the signs.
A woman begins to sob.
“Sheryl!” He sprints, feet slipping on the hallway runner nearly sending him down in a crumpled heap as he grasps the bathroom doorframe smacking the light switch in a sickening crunch. His eyes refuse to adjust to the overhead lamp as he squints and rubs his eyes in the pinch of a hand before his eyes meets the horror. The tap turns in a rusted twist as steam gathers in the bassinet. Steadily, heart throbbing painfully, he makes his way over to the small vanity and roughly turns the tap off. Every instinct told him to run, go find Sheryl and leave, but the pit in his stomach told him otherwise. We are safe. Sleep deprived eyes, rimmed red from the blinding light glanced into the steam fogged mirror unable to see past the shadow that was himself. Lifting a hand, he pauses, anxiety setting in before he roughly wipes a hand through the window. A woman stands alone, hair red in a formal white gown, torn into shreds, with her back facing the mirror sobbing. He turns abruptly fearing the figure lurking behind him. Nothing but the shower curtains. Turning back to the mirror, she stands before him, head down as he begins to back away from the vanity. She begins to laugh, soft sobbing, broken and caught in the mix of satanic laughter.
“Steven help me.” He glances at the mirror as she looks up, her eyes, her face, her hair now belong to Sheryl. Her neck slit and bleeding steadily down her chest. No it cant be.
“You’re not her.” He begins, his eyes sting with emotion as his voice begins to break.
“You’re not her.” This cant be true.
“I trusted you!” She screams. There he feels it, the pressure, the fear as the bathroom explodes, cabinets flown open, the mirror now fine diamond like sand as a force pulls him to the floor, glass embedding itself in his arms as she tears him out of the bathroom, door slamming, the light exploding. Crimson runs in streaks down his forearms.
He scrambles, nails digging, leaving streaks in the wooden floors as the walls begin to crack at the skirting. A force grips him at the base of his right ankle, forcefully removing him from the bathroom.The stairs bounce evenly against his back and sides as he slides to a heap at the front door. Lightening illuminates the house in a thunderous crack. He lifts his head to see the walls are coated in crimson streaks, words dripping unsteadily, “Hills have eyes” and “Hide your lies” rubbed into there surfaces. He spits the copper gathering in his mouth to the floor letting it soak through the cracks of the newly polished oak floorboards. He can feel the blood dripping in streaks across his forehead and into his right ear. His mind races in a daze as he glances up to the top of the stairs. His vision doubled in a haze as he watches her stand up onto of the stairwell. Sorry hill, she stares back at him. Face whole and skin white as the winter snow. She was beautiful, he thought to himself. She turns almost as if to retreat into the hall as her white gown flutters. Lightning illuminates the room in a shade of white, her body glitches like that of an old television lacking reception before she vanishes into the night.
“As far as anyone knows he used the house to lure women in for the classic one night stands.” The old drunk’s voice churns through his concussed mind.
“I didn’t cheat.” He gasps out, voice thick with quickly setting confusion as he struggles to stand up, legs unsteady and head pulsing to the beat of his own heart.
“Sheryl!” He calls into a house of nothing but lifeless air. Desperate hands grip the door knob in an attempt at freedom before a gush of air rushes past his back, children laughter echo deep within the hallway. Stiff fingers, stricken with fear twist the door handle before shoving the screen door wide, rebounding it off the outer wooden panels of the house as he stumbles backwards into the front garden. Long strains of uncut grass tickle against the back of his calfs. The rain is torrential, soaking Stevens clothing within minutes, if not seconds as he watches the darkened door waiting, watching. Preparing. His eyes captured on the soft swinging of the screen door as it cries on its hinges. In the distance the waves crash viciously against the rocks, hissing before retreating back into the depths of the sea below. Stuck in the madness he wonders just how many secrets the ocean has kept, just how many bodies it has taken. Will I be one of them? Above the hammering of his heart caught the isolation, he felt nothing but fear, skin prickling anxiety and heard nothing but the wails of the world around him.
“Sheryl!” He screams glancing rapidly around his surroundings as if it was going to swallow him whole. Don’t take her please this is my mistake. The tyre swing rotates on a sudden wind change as the rope cringes against the old oak.
“Sheryl!” He cries, glancing to and from the house to the swinging tyre, voice hoarse with the desperation to find his beloved. Take me, not her. His feet heavy and heart hammering, he commands his feet to move forward. From the hollow darkness of the front door, her dress flashes as he makes a run for the back of the home. His feet lift the now mudded turf, leaving holes in his wakening. The world stops. No wind, no rain, the tyre swing that was once on the borderline of snapping, now still, that’s when he hears it. Her cries echo throughout the house, like a weeping child, she cries into the silent world around him.
“Hills have eyes, hills have eyes …..” Goosebumps rise in the eery silence and with the tune of her sweet voice. His brow furrows in confusion as he screams into the silence.
“who are you to judge?!” Tears sting his eyes as he looks around for his paranormal judgement. Nothing. The wind begins to pick up as her voice sways around him, brushing from his right ear to his left.
“Hide your lies, hide your lies.” Stephen’s head snaps from side to side trying to put a finger on the location of the presence, only he was alone with no one in sight.
It was a mistake.
In the distance he can hear her say faintly
“Only you can judge.”
“Stephen.” His head snaps to his left to see the back of his wife sitting beneath the willow tree, knees drawn to her chest, gown soaked and her red hair a knotted heap.
“Sheryl.” He begins as he treads through the soaked grounds with caution. In the silence he can hear her wails in the world around him, a presence he can no longer deny. For a moment he can almost believe this is his wife and they can escape.
“You did this to me.” She begins, voiced strained like it had been screaming for hours.
“Honey what are you talking about?” His feet stop in their tracks as his heart begins to pick up speed.
“You lied….you told me nothing happened between you and claire and.” He paces forward as he begins.
“Honey nothing happened between us …” Her head snaps towards him, face distorted, eyes sunken in dark pits and throat washed with crimson.
“Liar!” She screams, voice deep and not longer Sheryl’s, before vanishing in a black twist of mist and uplifted dirt. In fright his skin prickles, his face burns in disbelief as he stumbles backwards, tripping on a stubborn rock, landing with a thud on his back. Through the dead of the night he can hear her shout echo from the cliff below. In a soundless roll he pleads desperately.
“Who are you?!” In a forceful manoeuvre, hands grip his chin lifting it up. She kneels before him, long pointed dirt caked fingernails dig into the soft stubble of his cheeks.
“You did this to me….how could you do this to me?” Her sad eyes, her red curly hair, her night gown belong to Sheryl. The depression swirling in her blue eyes tears a steady hole in his heart as he gasps out, tears now falling freely into the dried grass beneath.
“What did i do to you my sweet?” Something changes in her eyes at the nickname, almost as if to soften the blow of his deceitfulness he so desperately tries to hide in the darkness of his own lies. She kneels, mud adding to the stains on her soaked dress as she looks deep into his eyes before tilting his head to hers and crashing their lips together. Stephens eyes close on instinct.
Through the darkness of his eye lids, her shadow of white dances in his mind. The way she danced on top of the staircase so vividly caught in his mind. With a raise of his eyebrows his eye lids refuse to open. His heart skips a beat in his chest as his vision blurs in a burst of white before his mind begins to race in flashes.
Her lips against his, the bitter smell of red wine and beer. behind the white shade of the tent, shadows dancing in an alcoholic trance. The twelve bells of midnight, the clouds covering the moon in a silent retreat, unwilling to watch the way she held him, like no one else had before …Her eyes sad, tears staining her cheek as she leaves in horror.
“You did this to us.”
Her lips detach themselves from his in a soft release as his eyes open in lust to reveal nothing but silent surroundings. No wind, no rustles in the trees, just himself and the dirt beneath his knees. Steven’s heart collapses in its captivity at the flooding memories, finally realising why Sheryl has been avoidant since the move. She saw, she remembered everything. He had been blind. Voice strained, throat tight in remorse he croaks out.
“I’m sorry.” Standing up he see’s her swinging on the tyre swing. Her head turns at the hollowness of his pleading voice, she smiles, presence glitching between Sheryl and a very young blond haired woman. Her eyes sunken and skin pale, her voice begins to wail inside his mind.
“Fall, free her …free me Steven. Help us.” Her smile widens, lips unmoving as her head begins to twitch between figures.
“Hide your lies.” His mind begins to collapse as he backs away in self defence, unable to cope with the accusations.
“I trusted you.” She wails through the walls of his mind.
“Im sorry, I’m sorry” his throat closes up as his eyes spill and his voice box shatters in a whisper “I’m fucking sorry.” Closing his eyes, he begged for this world to stop. Internally he begged to wake up. It wasn’t a dream.
Steven runs for the front of the house with fear heavy in his chest. I must leave, get away from this madness. He collapses as his hands fondle for the door handle, heart sunken and lungs refusing to suck in oxygen he slides down to the muddy drive way, back pressed against the rusted blue door of his holden ute. Where the fuck are my keys? Unable to locate his keys his eyes dart back to the front door.
“s’Too risky Steven, don’t be stupid.” He mumbles quietly to himself as the tyre swing begins to creak in the blowing breeze capturing his attention. She no longer sways with it. She is gone.
Gripping the door handle of the old holden he draws himself to stand as he quickly removes his white t-shirt before wrapping it tightly around his hand and plunging it through the drivers window. Glass showers the interior scattering over the combined leather seats and embedding itself in the carpet below. With a flick of the wrist he pops the lock and shoves himself inside. Reaching beneath the worn leather wheel he grabs the wires, roughly snapping them and bringing the two together. Through the darkness the colours of the wires could not be distinguished, he mentally hopes for a quick resolution.
“Come on, come on…” As if on cue a final spark ignites the engine in a sickened grumble. Tears of gratitude sting his eyes, but he must not be weak now. The headlights ignite the open doorway of the house showing nothing but destruction of its inner walls and the furniture they once called their own. It was only him now and now he must run. The tyres spin out in a hurried and swift reverse as his stomach sinks at the harsh drop at the end of the drive way. Shoving the car into first gear he sails away to the sound of his own rumbling engine. With a hurried shoulder glance the house stands still in the silence. Dark clouds roll over above, it almost looks like a normal house. It was a normal house Steven thinks to himself. His eyes dart back to the road as he takes the slow decent into the town of Shadow valley. In the distance the headlights catch on a rusted street pole, globed sunshine exposing the location of where he sat, Main St. Here he stood, caught between staying and leaving, this was his chance, leave it all behind and start fresh. Start new, but what about Sheryl. She’s gone, he thinks quietly to himself as tears dwell at the thought of his loss. This was all my fault. He takes a left turn to head out of Shadow valley for good up the steep mountainside. It was dark, the sun refusing to rise like it normally would this time of morning. His headlights his only guide through the darkness he calls his life. Black and white zigzags captures his attention as the road wounds to a stop. Dead end. Shit. The engine splutter and his stomach sinks as the headlights flicker before shutting off to complete darkness. His breath comes heavy in rapid pants, ice cold and white in colour. When did it get so cold? Ice cold fingers grip the door handle as he wrenches it open on rusted hinges and stands to face his isolation. Drawing his robe closer to his body he shuts the car door and turns back to the road he just arrived down to find he never truly left at all. His house stands at the end of the street, staring dead into his soul, almost as if serving a cold a reminder for his lies and broken promises.
“Never leave…” She calls in the darkness. A quiet eery scattered tone almost as if it got lost over a connection line.
“Can’t leave ….You can never …leave.” He can feel it, his heart excessively heavy and pounding in his chest.
“Why can’t I leave ..” His voice breaks as he begins to walk towards the house, almost talking to it as a deranged madman. “I want to leave.” Her figure appears before him, distilled and glutting smiling as Sheryl emerges from the front door, looking confused at her husband.
“Honey what are you doing?” She calls, Steven stares as if in shock at the figure before him smiles.
“Sheryl ..” He breaks, eyes streaming. Stepping towards his wife he smiles, she’s alive, she’s alive. He begins to jog, a steady pace as his feet carry him closer to his beloved. He stands metres from where Sheryl stands on the porch. Why isn’t she moving? Doesn’t she want to see me?
“Honey it’s me, whats wrong?” Steadily he walks towards her, her eyes are casted downwards amongst the grass. Unmoving, un-watching. Reaching out he grabs for her hand, his lengthy and calloused fingers circle her wrist as he looks at her in wonder of what she is feeling. For a moment he feels nothing at all. Blood begins to run between his fingers as he stares in horror. Her chest begins to soak as he lifts her head in shock, her head begins to separate in his hands from a deep cut in her throat. He cries and pleads for it not to be real. He backs away, blood caking beneath his fingernails as he makes a run for his car. From the depths of the house She screams and suddenly his legs fall out from beneath himself. Chest smacking on the turf in a rough thud, he begins to dig his nails into the dirt, scrambling to get up. Hunks of dried grass and dirt now scattered on the remains of the lawn. He feels a force grip the base of his ankles. No no no no. Unable to save himself from her force, she drags him back towards the house with no remorse. His head collides harshly with the concrete step of the veranda causing flashes of pain and periods of darkness. The children laugh through the dazed hollowness of his mind as he lifts his head to see the white shade of the doorway to his escape become consumed by darkness with the slamming of the door. Her laughter the last thing he hears as the feeling of intense pressure at the base of his skull gives way to the sound of a rough snap.