It was already dark when I arrived in the Town. My memories of the place have long since faded, so I stood in the middle of a street with no idea of which way to the Family House. The air was cold, but it was somehow pleasant. Unlike everything else. The mood of the buildings around me was dismal, scary even.
A man approached from the shadows. He was neither old, nor young. Not very tall and a little over-weight. Although he seemed obviously poor, his clothes were tidy. His appearance reassured me he meant no harm. It was clear he knew I wasn’t local, not anymore at least.
He greeted me and told me his name which I immediately forgot. Somehow he knew who I was. The man might have been expecting me, maybe he was even sent by my mother, but he didn’t tell. Grabbing my bag, he showed me the way to the House. He talked about the Town and my family on our way up a mild hill. I didn’t really pay attention. The way the Town looked at me made me feel uncomfortable. Somehow, the man made me promise to help him find a job in return for him looking after me while I was there. I had no access to the power of my family, but I needed his help. Still, I had no idea how to keep my promise.
We reached a tiny triangular plaza with a strip of grass and a tree in the middle. The House stood to the left, hiding behind a vast garden of ivy and roses. It looked recently abandoned. On the other side of the plaza stood an older house, even bigger than the Family House, yet I couldn’t recall it ever being there. Some of its tall neo-gothic windows were broken and it was all surrounded by trash. There were no lights on of course. The whole plaza felt dead.
The man helped me settle in the House and told me about the other one. He said that only drunk teenagers dare to go there, that everybody knows it’s haunted. You can see lights flickering and voices talking inside in the night. It comes from a hidden room nobody has ever found, he told me. I was starting to feel quite welcome. With everything set, I went to sleep. Terrified what other surprises the Town has prepared for my house-watching stay.
I woke up feeling strange. I was dizzy and couldn’t focus, couldn’t even see clearly. What I saw clearly though was that I wasn’t in the House anymore. I was in a white-painted, well-lit clean room which appeared to belong to a hospital. I didn’t panic, in fact it made sense to me at the moment. I was free to leave the room. At the end of a hallway there was a bigger room, with seats, a fridge and a wide window through which I could see the silhouette of a giant tree.
I was still feeling dizzy as I met the people in the room. There were four of them. A security guard who didn’t pay any attention to me whatsoever, some other man who did exactly the same, a girl and a young man. The young man was my childhood best friend, the one I used to know while living in the House. He recognised me as well and we started talking about the old days. The girl was listening to us and smiling. I could never recall her features, but I can recall how I felt when I saw her. She was beautiful. This is what the love of my life looks like, I thought.
For a reason that made sense only at the time, the friend and I knew we had to move the fridge to get something from behind it. The security guard continued to pay no attention as we moved it and found nothing behind. We sat back and I began talking to the girl. I started to feel my consciousness fading away very slowly. I managed to fall in love, talk some more and kiss her before losing it completely.
This time I woke up in my bed in the House with no memory of being anywhere else. The sun was shining as if it was summer, so I took my breakfast tea outside, to the garden. It was warm, the grass was green and the roses were blooming. Suddenly everything felt a lot more pleasant than the day before. The day passed on with its dull happiness and the evening came quickly. The poor man arrived with dusk, asking if he could be of any help. An unexpected curiosity surfaced in me, so I asked him whether he would show me the haunted house. Surprisingly, he agreed, given we didn’t venture too far in. I had no objections.
The night already fell when we entered the house. The first room was a small lobby with a closed door to the left and an open one straight ahead. The amount of garbage in the lobby was astonishing, it seemed that the ghost stories didn’t actually scare people off. The man told me to follow him through the open door, saying he would show me something. We went through a narrow hallway into another open room. It appeared to be a storage room filled with old cardboard boxes and a couple of tall closets, as well as large amounts of trash.
Up above one of the closets was a small opening into a ventilation shaft or something of that kind. The man told me that this is the place where I would experience the haunting the most. Light, sounds and cold air uses to come through the opening. I was thinking about what I could stand on to reach it and look inside, but some unknown force had me decide otherwise. I instructed the man to clean the building. That was to be his job for which he would get paid. Then I turned around and went back to the lobby.
In the lobby I took the closed door. It was an old wooden door which gave in with a screeching sound. Behind was a pitch black hallway. The man didn’t follow me. On the far end of the hallway I reached another door, underneath which a strip of light was shining. Behind this door I found a young man sitting in a chair, bored to death. My arrival didn’t impress him in the slightest. He looked at me with a sleepy face and told me to continue at my own risk.
I felt I had to go on, so I did. I went through a maze of rooms until I stopped on a doorstep of a large room. The moving force was hit by something other, which sent chills down my spine. But I kept moving, entering the room. On the enormous chandelier in the middle, I discovered two corpses hanging by their necks. One male, one female. They were young at the age of their death, teenagers or maybe in their early twenties. The state of decay of the bodies and their clothes suggested they have been hanging here for a while now. There was no smell, it felt almost artificial.
Avoiding the corpses, I pressed on. There was another door with light shining around its frame in the next room. As I made my way towards it, cold air surrounded my body. A person in a dress appeared in front of me. In the next second I realized it was floating above the floor, speeding towards me. My heart stopped and the only thing I could do was put my hands in front of my face to defend it. Nothing hit me. The person disappeared. Something made me believe it was the girl from the previous room.
I opened the final door and realised this was the secret room the poor man has told me about. It was also the room on the other end of the ventilation shaft. The chandelier in this room was on, shining brightly. There were two beds inside, a smaller one on the right, next to the entrance, and a larger one under a big, wide open window across the room. A pleasant breeze lifted the curtains up every now and then. There was a pair of girls, one sitting on each bed. They couldn’t have been over twenty. Both had dark hair, pale skin and big, curious eyes. The one closer to me was prettier than the one further away, but the other one seemed nicer, even just on the first sight. Next to the nicer girl sat a young man, he was around the same age as the one I met before. He was holding the girl’s hand and I didn’t need anybody to tell me they were deeply in love. I knew both girls were dead.
Unlike the man on guard, they were surprised to see me, but chose to be friendly. We talked. The lovers told me that they couldn’t be without each other, no matter what happened to any of them. So the girl stayed even after her death. Her sister stayed with her. Her love was different, but as strong as the lovers’ one. I wondered who the hanged people were, but they didn’t know as well. Their ghosts never did any harm and as the girls weren’t able to leave this room for some reason, the man just got used to walking past the corpses.
We continued to talk, I sat on the bed by the girl closer to me. For a moment I got lost in thought while the prettier girl said something that hurt the nicer one. The lover hugged her to comfort her. Silence emerged as the prettier girl realised her mistake and didn’t know how to make up for it. I didn’t say anything as well, instead, I looked at the prettier girl, sitting next to me. She looked me in the eye and I got a sudden urge to kiss her. So I did. She didn’t pull away. I continued to kiss her passionately, moving my lips down to her neck. Her skin wasn’t cold.
Just as my brain decided to wander off towards ideas of her turning into a rotting carcass, I heard a sound of flapping wings. I turned my head to the window to see two giant talons come out of the darkness outside. One of them grabbed both of the lovers and the harpy carried them away with another loud flap of wings. Trying to comprehend what had just happened, I heard one or maybe both of us screaming. I felt my mind leave my body and soon everything turned into nothingness.
I wake up in the hospital-like facility again, my mind as muddy as before. I get out of the bed and reach the room with seats and fridge. It’s dark outside, the tree silhouette feels unreal. The girl I fell in love with is there, but she doesn’t talk to me. My childhood friend comes and they begin to converse. She seems thankful to him, for what I don’t know. She hugs him tightly and stays that way for a brief moment, than she looks up and they kiss. A wave of irrational emotion surfaces inside me. Rage, despair, fear, hatred. I drop down on my knees, feeling my heart-rate rising, I begin to cry. I have to get away. Pulling the fridge aside, I crawl out through the hole behind it.