The car pulled up to the new bungalow about ten minutes past three in the morning. This probably disappointed many a specter who liked their victims to be punctual.
“I didn’t mean to miss the witching hour” I could have cried but they would have probably just wailed indignantly and faded into the walls.
The taxi driver was a young chap who seemed to age a few decades every minute he spent near that house. He flung me and my luggage out of the car, rather rudely if I might add, the moment we stopped. I made sure to take an extra few minutes to find my wallet just so I could see him sweat. I eventually did find it; he grabbed his money and took off, leaving me alone in the long, dark driveway.
The bungalow loomed before me. The moon was behind a cloud and the whole area was shrouded in inky darkness. This was obviously an intentional move, for dramatic effect, on the moon’s part. The wind whistled in my ears and I could swear that it was wailing. I put my mufflers on as it was also a bit nippy. I can handle anguished cries, but I can’t abide the cold.
The lawn was unkempt and even charred in some places. Out of the corner of my eye I could see lights in the undergrowth, glinting eyes. I felt like I was being watched and that whatever was watching me wished me grievous harm. In high school, I was once picked to be a referee for my own school’s basketball tournament. Our beloved team really didn’t bring their best that day and I couldn’t exactly turn a blind eye to all their fouls. Walking through the school’s hallways the next day felt something like what I was feeling that night.
I walked up to the bungalow and fished out its old rusty key. I’d basically been paid to live here as nobody else wanted to. The most haunted building in the whole county. I pushed the door open and sneezed. It clearly hadn’t been dusted in years. I switched on a flashlight and walked in.
I could sense an intense hatred emanating from the walls, the ceilings and almost every fixture of the old house. There was no power, so I fumbled around in the darkness as I hauled my luggage up the central staircase over to my room. Every wooden floorboard creaked in a way that sounded like a cruel insult. This building, that hated me so dearly, was quite big and spacious. It came to me completely furnished (Anyone who tried to renovate it usually lost a limb) and though it didn’t have power (No electrician would volunteer), it had a large fireplace and running water.
I set myself up in the master bedroom. It had a nice four postered bed, king sized. It was a good thing I’d brought my own sheets as the ones already there were all stained a murky red. I dusted a bit and brushed my teeth. The bathroom mirror cracked as I was brushing so I had to squint at myself as I flossed.
I settled into bed and heard a loud crashing sound from downstairs. Now, my mother had always taught me to let loud crashing sounds sort themselves out and I took her advice to heart. I felt that foreboding sense of something wanting me dead again, I chuckled and patted my four postered bed.
I drifted off into what was then the first of many comfortable nights.
I never know why ghosts seem to avoid daylight. Is there something about the morning that lacks the horror and intrigue of the night? Anyway, the house wasn’t any better in the daylight. I walked over to the main room and stood in the centre, taking it all in. I breathed deeply, sneezed, and went to work.
I started with the carpets. Rolled them up and took them outside. Scrubbing them carefully to get out all the gunk and grime. I took care not to let the colour run or the patterns unravel, caressing them like they were alive. Underneath the dried, clotted blood, matted hair and dirt was such beauty. Every stitch in those carpets seemed to come alive after that washing. The water revealed an intricate tapestry of red, gold and bronze. Animals danced in beautiful symmetry amidst ornate designs that looked like they belonged in some mosque or church. I hung them up to dry and I swear I could almost hear them purr in the sunlight. This took the better part of the week and I went back into the house everyday looking like a corpse someone had just dug up. The house seemed confused by this; its hatred seemed milder almost as if it were wondering whether I’d somehow died already without it’s help.
I had to heat the water for a bath over the fireplace in a cauldron! The fire was aggressive and hot coals kept bursting out into the room and I had to keep swatting at them as I waited for my water to warm up. In hindsight it was probably a poltergeist trying to burn me alive in my own room. I could have cared less, as I must have mentioned, I can handle the occasional malevolent spirit, but I can’t abide the cold.
The next week I did the floors. I’d brought one of those new-fangled mops and a bunch of cleaning supplies, but it still took me most of that week and a bit of the next to get through the whole house.
It’s remarkable how much difference a cleaning can make. When I rolled the rugs back on the now clean floor, it was like walking through a palace of some disgraced Russian monarch from a forgotten century. I couldn’t help but notice as I walked back to my bed, exhausted, that the floorboards seemed to creak a little bit less.
The curtains were next. They went into the wash a sickly green and came out the colour of woven emeralds, sparkling in the firelight. Many of them were torn as if someone had clawed through them. I took a trip down to a couple of nearby fabric stores and searched high and low for the closest fabric to the original curtains that I could find. The wind seemed to pick up as I sat down to sow them up, but it wasn’t harsh or nippy. Somehow, I knew I’d gotten the right string.
I did the ceilings next, extracting dry rot and repaneling some rather mangled sections of the walls. I took care to oil and grease every hinge and axle I could find.
The fireplace I rebricked, taking care to remake the original style as faithfully as I possibly could.
When I heated the water for my bath that day, it seemed to take half as long as usual and the water was just the right temperature.
I don’t know when the house stopped hating me. One day I woke up and it just like I was in the company of a mean old grandmother or a bitter uncle of sorts. They grumble and gripe but they’re still family and they don’t mind your presence, even if they’re too proud to admit it.
I remember that day when I cleared the ivy that was strangling the top of the bungalow. Light poured in and swept through the house. As I dusted off the various antiques, that I found lying in the attic and around the house, I often found myself staring at how the dust curled and rose up through the air, suspended in the sunbeams that hadn’t been there the day before. Now I’ve always felt like I wasn’t alone in the house but that day, watching the dust motes, I didn’t feel lonely either.
That was ten years ago. I’ve replanted the garden since then. I found a rusty old swing set in the cellar which I obviously threw away, but I did get a new one and installed it in the lawn. This is still the most haunted house in the county and most people steer clear, but I’ve seen kids peek through the gates on their way to school. I make it point to leave the gate open and now the once silent courtyards are filled with noise and laughter, they run through the orchards that are now in full bloom. Some of the kids have gotten older playing near the house and I often stumble into them, lovers in arms, stealing kisses behind the rosebushes where they think nobody will find them.
Over the years as these children grow up and use their experiences to rebuild the world, people may forget this home’s dark past. This is the lawn they used to play tag in after school. That’s the orchard where they had their first kiss. That’s the swing where they all took turns on the last day of college (for old time’s sake) before setting out into the world.
These days I sit by the porch and read. Sometimes I’ll sneeze and I’ll hear a creak from inside the house in response or I’ll set out a chess set before going to sleep and I’ll wake up to see that the other side has made it’s move sometime in the dead of the night.
One of the first kids who “graduated” from these lawns has just been elected mayor and he returned grinning ear to ear offering to turn the bungalow into a school so that it would be well-taken care off even after I was gone. We both felt the warm breeze that ruffled through our coats as he mentioned the idea and I knew that everyone present thought it was perfect.
The future looks bright but for now, I live in the most haunted home in the entire county and I wouldn’t move for the world.