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I just found this in my old files. I absolutely do not remember writing it, but that's how it happens sometimes. As indicated both in the story and the file info, I wrote it around 2001 when I was 18. Little spooky story in the vein of Goosebumps or something. Presented in its original form, complete with spelling and grammatical errors. Enjoy!

 

 

FREE HOUSE

By Adam Loewen

               

We were driving through Colorado somewhere.  It must have been around 5 years ago.  That would make me nine and Greg fifteen.  Greg, his head squeezed onto the window in front of me, pouring out drool, had just begun to snore, and I could feel the soft buzzing in my ear.  I wished that I could snore.  I wanted to be fifteen.  To be in High School.  With girls and snoring and the promise of soon being able to drive around in the evenings instead of wallowing in the living room, eating pop tarts for lack of anything else to do.

            The countryside whizzed past us like a giant, boring painting.  Static.  The cows didn’t even move.  Darkness slowly crept in.  It was just cloudy and dark enough to look purple outside.  Dad never drove at night.  A big green sign passed by.  Boulder          20 miles.   Denver…  I knew dad would stop.  He was so predictable.

“I guess we’re spending the night in Boulder, guys.”

            Greg stirred a little, “monselm miffn pool, Weston?  Please?”  He stretched, and there were soft breaking noises, like he was so old that his bones were stiff, while my bones were soft little wussy bones that wouldn’t snap even if I bent back my knuckles untill it hurt.  There was a loud yawn, causing dad and me to yawn, and Greg sat up a little and began staring out the window.  His hair formed a neat little wave across the side of his head.  I couldn’t sleep against the window because it rattled my brain.

            He had started calling dad Weston a few months ago.  I wanted to treat dad the same way, but couldn’t call my dad by his real name without thinking about it.  When he called dad Weston, it was like they were fishing buddies, and not relatives.  I wanted to call dad Weston so he would quit babying me and treat me more like my brother.

“We’ll see, Greggy.”  I smiled.  It seemed funny to me the way dad called that big old behemoth anything-“y”.  To dad, Greg was still a little kid.  It iritated me when dad called me “Adzies”.  I felt young enough without that.  But when he pet called Greg it made it all worthwhile.  And I didn’t much mind “Adzies”, because Greg had made it up when we were little kids, and it made me feel like his buddy – this usually being a bad thing, as he often called me Adzies when he was trying to con me out of G.I. Joe guys.

 

In Boulder, dad turned off the interstate and parked in the first gas station, a Seven Eleven with arcade machines inside.  I tapped Greg’s arm, “dude, they have black tiger!”

Black tiger was the best game ever, but there wouldn’t be much time to play it.  Greg was really good.  He could get to the third level without continuing.

“Rad!  Let’s go play,” Greg said, not thinking about dad being done with the payphone and making us leave without dying, wasting that quarter that was so much money to me back then.  Maybe he didn’t care.  Dad gave him 5 bucks a week for allowance and more still for food if he went out with his friends.  I only got three.  Dad said you multiply the age by three, then divide by six, and that’s allowance.  He knew I couldn’t do multiplication and division.  I had made a note to check that out on pen and paper when I had the chance but I always forgot.

 

Back in the car, dad seemed in an OK mood, having been jerked from the interstate hypnosis for the short gas stop.  We were driving through the town, just to check it out, and because dad was afraid of the interstate.  He had had to buy me Reeses Pieces to pull me away from the video game.  I sat in the front, munching down.

Greg had taken the back, “you can ride shotgun, Adam.  Fair is fair.”  He knew we were almost done for the day.

Dad was sitting erect now, thinking and nursing licorice.  The black kind, even.  “I called grandma, told her we’re good.  She can’t wait to see how much you boys have grown.” 

I looked back at Greg and gagged myself with a finger and he smiled. 

“I also called around and there aren’t any rooms available anywhere, which was bizarre, so I guess it’s on to Denver.”  I heard a groan from the back.

            Neat little houses went by.  They were white and yellow.  All of them seemed to have old couples in them, watching the news by dim amber lamps, maybe a kitten on the lap, or some microwavable dish.  Gently rocking.  I was a little tired, despite the exciting residential area.  Every now and then we would pass a gas station and I would read the name and wonder if they had Icee machines and video games. 

I thought about the hotel in Denver as we rolled gently up a slight hill, the houses becoming thinner, the cross streets more scarce.  Maybe dad would let us hook up the sega.  We could play Sonic 2 untill midnight!  Maybe they would have a pool, and Greg and me could jump in with the big white chairs when all the other people left.

At the top of the hill, there was only one house.  The car slowed down.  As we passed the house, I noticed it was a spooky house.  I wondered if there was an old couple in it.  Or just an old lady who talked to herself about cats and such.  I shivered.  It was a medium-sized two story house, white with green shutters that were clinging by one hinge in some places.  There was a little A-shaped attic room with a window where I imagined little wide-eyed girls sitting, holding their teddy bears in terror.

The car stopped, and started backing up, back toward the house.  I gasped.  What was the deal?  I stood up on my knees, trying to see what dad was seeing around his seat.  And then I saw it.  A little wooden sign reading free house.  Abandoned. 

“No.”  Greg knew dad wasn’t serious

 

I stood there, on the lawn, staring up at the monstrosity.  There was a broken down white fence around the front lawn, stretching off into the back.  It laid mostly on the ground but some of it still stood up.  The house was longer from front to back than I had first thought.  The white paint was peeling, revealing splintered orange wood.  Even outside, it smelled like mildew.  There was a ruined little red tricycle over to the right, laying on its side and rusting.  The little colored streamers coming out of the handle bars were frayed.  I looked back up at that attic room.  It seemed like there was someone staring out at me, even though it was black up there. 

Dad, of course, saw absolutely nothing frightening here.  He told us to wait outside and jogged up the porch, disappearing inside through the creaky door. 

Greg seemed, to me, more iritated than alarmed.  He didn’t see little girls and tarantulas and zombies.  He saw dust and splinters and mildew.

We simply stood on that cracked sidewalk, staring.  Greg had his backpack slung over his shoulder, his headphones on, and was holding a pillow in his free arm.  There were bushes on the left.  The kind with thorns and sharp jagged sticks everywhere.  They stood taller than Greg, pushing me away from this horror.  One of the side windows was broken.  Probably some kid with a rock.  It looked as if rocks had hit the wooden siding and the shutters on the second floor, as well.  There were a few slight holes chipped in the yellowed grass.  I wondered why they were there.

I became aware of the moon behind us.  It was almost full and I was glad for it.  It was a beacon of hope.  Maybe dad would turn around.  The glow was eiry, though, the way it shined on the white house, making everything pale. 

Dad wouldn’t turn around.  This was his adventure of the year, going up to Grandma Marge’s for a week.  He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell his work buddies about how they stayed in an abandoned house.  I knew this.  Greg did too.  We never really asked dad if we could push on.  It was a test.  It was a test to dad, and a chance to prove my bravery to Greg.  My face must have been paler than the moon.  Greg socked me in the head with his pillow.  I pushed him. 

Dad came out, grinning dumbly.  “Grab your sleeping bags, guys.  It looks like we found the only vacancy in this town.”  He hooted once, then trotted over to the car.  Greg and I still stood, motionless.

 

There was a creak like in horror movies as the rusty door hinges turned.  Mrrrraaaiiiaaae.  Darkness seemed to shine outward from the inside.  The little light in the house was from the moon and stars shining through the two windows on either side. 

Greg’s hand touched the porch rail and immediately moved away, feeling thick, chalky dust.  Dad stepped inside and faced us with his arms out, presenting the house to us.  I had the flashlight from the glovebox and I shined it around. 

A stairway seperated the downstairs into two sections.  To the left there was what seemed a very long hallway leading to a half-open door.  The thought of travelling through that hallway made me shudder, so I turned the flashlight toward dad.  He was walking, to the right, into the living room.  There was a broom laying against a couch with plastic over it.  The couch was the only thing in the living room besides the carpet and the cobwebs all over the ceiling.

It smelled like a garage, mostly.  But it also smelled warm and slightly musty like old people and dead bodies.  Dad grabbed the broom and stepped toward Greg and me, concerned for once.  I looked behind his sober face at the kitchen area, where there was a yellow and olive green refrigerator and some peeling countertops.  One of the cupboards was open and I was worried there might be wolverines in them.

“What’s the matter, Greg?” Dad asked, seriously.  I looked at Greg, and for the first time wondered if he was afraid too.

“…Nothing.  It’s just… Adam pooped his pants,”  he said coolly.

“What!” I mugged Greg’s pillow and nailed him in the head with it.  Dad laughed and chugged on upstairs.  Greg socked me in the arm and it hurt a lot but I pretended it didn’t.  I hit Greg twice more, blinding him and making him stumble back.  Then I ran up the stairs, pretending to retreat but actually just trying to stay close to dad.  Greg ran up behind me on the creaky stairs.  I was afraid they might break and we would fall through, perhaps onto spikes.  At the top of the stairs, there was a short hallway with three doors.  All three were wide open.  There was a small bathroom with a brown peeling linoleum floor.  The metal on the sink was all rusty and there was a steady dripping.  The next room over was completely empty, except for a huge matted stain on the thick brown carpet and the large window, casting a square of moonlight into the center of the room, making the stain appear reddish.  Like blood.

The room that dad, greg, and I marched into was much the same.  The square of light was there, but only half because one of the shutters outside was closed, so there was a square and a series of slits.  This room had no carpet.  I shied over to the wall nearest the window and farthest from the closed closet door.

Dad began sweeping.  Greg watched.  I watched the closet door.  It didn’t move.  “Greg, would you like to sweep?” came dad’s voice.

“What do I look like?” 

Dad and I smiled.  Greg walked over to the closet door.  I wanted to warn him.  He threw it open.  Just as I feared, it was a long, narrow walk-in with some plastic covered suit hanging down from one of several cobwebbed hangers.  Probably a burial suit, I thought.  A little blotchy light bulb hung from inside.  Greg walked in and pulled the beaded brass string, but nothing happended.  He was inside the closet.  I couldn’t believe it.  What if a big hairy arm grabbed him and pulled him deeper inside.  Dad finished sweeping and shut the door, laying the broom against the door.  I wanted to set a chair against the door as well, but there was nothing in the room.

Greg left the closet open a crack and walked up next to me, looking out the window.  I felt like Greg’s shadow for the hundredth time that week and I wanted to do something brave, like Greg just did.  I thought about the closet, then looked out the window, too.

The backyard was very long.  There were crabapple trees and piles of leaves all about.  Someone must have raked recently.  I was half-fearing, half-hoping, that the person who raked the property would come and kick us out.

It looked like a fun yard.  I thought of kids playing in the yard and abruptly stopped.  There were a few wooden pallets laying out near the house.  There was a back porch and, nearby, a storm cellar with two doors at a slight angle from the ground, like in tornado movies.  I wouldn’t have gone down in that cellar if fire bullets were raining from the sky. 

There was a slight drop on the window and then the rain started drizzling.

Greg pointed out a little creek running through the field as far as I could see.  There was a road about a quarter mile away that I could just barely see headlights on.  If I strained, I could hear the car’s engine. 

Dad was laying out our sleeping bags and pillows when the house made a loud creak, as if someone downstairs had fallen over.  I jumped and Greg didn’t move.  Dad laughed.

“These old houses are funny how they do that.  It feels real homey, don’t you think?”

“Real fuckin’ homey,” Greg mumbled, just slightly louder than a thought.  Greg didn’t swear for dad.  It made me feel close to him.

 

I lay with my eyes wide open.  I had no idea what time it was, but I wanted badly for the sun to come up early.  Dad was snoring loudly, like a beehive, or a chainsaw.  I didn’t want to grow up and snore like dad.  Greg was breathing hard, too.  I was sure he was sleeping, but I tried to think he was awake.  I didn’t want to see ghosts alone.  I didn’t want to see ghosts at all. 

Hours earlier, I had laid with my sleeping bag over my head until I couldn’t breath and I started to sweat and I kind of had to pee so I lowered it back.  The site of the room was startling even when nothing happened. 

After glancing around, it wasn’t so bad.  The window gave me a sense of security.  I was laying near it, so I could monitor the two doors.  The closet was the worst.  That little crack seemed to open and shut a little bit, allowing what was on the other side to stare back at me.  Maybe it actually did move a little when a draft would come.  The other door kept getting thrown open in my imagionation and some unspeakably horrid thing would storm in with a knife until I could wake dad.  Then it would vanish and noone would believe me.

I thought briefly about the room downstairs.  The one on the left at the end of the long hallway.  That was the worst part of the house, save, of course, for the cellar, which was simply unthinkable.  It was too scary to be real. Like a movie.  The room on the left, though, was very real.  What had happened in that room?

Was that just a tickly hair on my arm or a brown recluse spider?  I wasn’t going to move and find out.

I was rapt with attention, waiting for the house to shudder or creak again.  The next axe being brought down.  The next footstep up the stairs.  The next whisper.  Dad’s next fart.  There was a siren somewhere far away.  Maybe they were coming to save me from a crazy hitchiker.

My arm was cocked like the hammer of a gun.  Ready to punch dad in the ribs as hard as I could to wake him up at the slightest noise.

The slightest noise came, and my arm didn’t move, but my abdomen flexed.  It was a long whisper.  Adz,” I shrieked inside, then realized it was Greg.

“Yeah?”  I spoke, trying to wake up dad.  He snored loudly and I knew it was futile.

“Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh… Come with me…”  He got up and walked toward the door.  I stood up on my knees as he slowly slid the door open.  The room was cold without my sleeping bag.  What could he possibly want?  Perhaps demons were controlling him.  Maybe he had a cigarette and he was going to go outside and smoke it with me.  I licked my lips.  Maybe we were going to tie dad up and drag him away.

Realistically, I wanted him to whisper, “let’s go sleep in the car.”  It never came.  

 

We joined outside the door, standing silently at the top of the steps.  “Let’s go explore.”  Said Greg.

Ooh, no.  Lets not and say we did.  “okay,” I said, “cool.”

“I have to go to the bathroom first. Wait for me.”  I just stood there.  I wanted to go in with him.  Surprisingly, he didn’t close the door.  I heard him unzip and aim carefully so as not to hit the water in the bowl and make a lot of noise.  Standing sentry there, I was afraid I would see some shadow walk by at the bottom of the stairs.  I heard the long awaited creaky thump from downstairs.  I was so afraid that I was actually starting to have fun. 

When he got out, I went too.  I really had to go bad, but I had placed my bladder before my heart and my sanity in my priority list.  The stream was thick, dark, and lasted a very long time.

“You pissin’ nails in there or what?”  I giggled and joined Greg outside.  We slowly crept down the stairs.  I didn’t want to hold the banister, which was dusty and oily, but I didn’t want to fall either.  Greg stopped. 

“Where are we going, dude?”

“Uh… (not the room on the left, please, god) Outside?”

“No way.  It’s cold out there.”

Then I did something unusual.  I called his bluff.  “Let’s go out the back and check out that storm cellar.”  His cool exterior made a quivering squishy sound as it broke down.

“Let’s check out the room on the left.”  He pretended to ignore me.  My plan had failed.

“You first.”  This was the first time I admitted my fear, realizing that it was obvious and seeing no further need to play this game.

“Okay.” At the bottom of the stairs.  We turned into the hallway.  There was a nail in the wall and the absense of a stain on the wallpaper made the sillouette of a crooked picture hanging there on the silloutte of a string, where once had hung, likely, the picture of a demented maniac and his lovely wife.

At the end of the hallway, the door still stood partiall open. We tiptoed toward it slowly.  Greg was leading by a few inches.  I admired his courage.  We could see the corner of a bed and above it, a small window, that was made of some plastic that was almost opaque. 

Creeping through the hallway, it seemed to grow longer with each step.  Longer to escape but the same distance to the grimacing door.  I looked back and knew at any second we would hear a scream and Greg would turn and trip over me, stampede me, and run out the door, leaving me to be screamed at.  My knees were locked in readiness.

The room was almost pitch black.  We were practically in the room now.  Greg’s nose passed the invisible field separating the room from the hallway.  A cobweb drooped toward his head and I swept it up boldly.  He noticed and thanked me with a little nod. 

The bed was well-made.  No dust on it.  That was very strange.  There were many pillows and a thick, dark green comforter, which was pulled back as if someone had just recently made it.  Maybe whoever had been in the bed was waiting around the corner for us.  Underneath the bed was a black mystery. 

We both were in the room now.  I kept trying to swallow my heart but I couldn’t keep it down.  We were arm to arm.  Equal.  For one second I was as brave as Greg.

Then he said, “I dare you to lay in it.”

“No.  No way.”

“Come on.  Don’t be a pussy.  I’d do it.”

“Do it then.”

“Let’s both do it.”

“No way.”

“Both touch it?”

“…no.”

“…Allright.  Fine.  I’ll show you who’s got balls.  Dad!” He yelled in a whisper. “Just kidding.”  I laughed hard but nervously.

He stood the most courageous older brother ever in that second.  His chest puffed out.  He took a step toward the bed.  I looked behind me.  Then at Greg again.

He took another step.  I could tell he was holding his breath, staring at his target intensely. 

I couldn’t believe he was actually doing this.  His foot came forward and he was about a third of the way across the room.  I looked behind me again, sweating despite the cold.

This time I noticed something new. On the wall behind me, there was a thick red splatter.  It was Blood!  Then I looked at Greg, who was walking toward the bed, and saw a crack form at his feet.  I stepped toward him.  Then I noticed he had stopped.  His eyes were wide like silver dollars, he was staring under the bed.  It was black, but I could make out the shape of a dark body, crunched up.  I saw the white eyeballs staring out at me.  It was rubbing it’s finger on the ground under the bed feverishly.  It’s head shook at us “Good night!” and the bed lurched.  Underneath Greg the crack grew wider and despite my instinct to flee I grabbed his hand as the crack spread loudly and completely gave way. 

We fell through, grabbing for the sides.  We fell through mud and plant roots.  I landed hard on my arm and heard a crack, but I couldn’t feel at all.  I heard screaming.  Most of it could have been Greg and me but it sounded more like the shrieks of ghouls.  I felt the ground and held up in utter pitch blackness some long slender object.

“Bones!”  Screamed Greg.  I stood up, pushing off something hard and round that had to be a skull.  We scurried and yelled.  My breath was caught in my throat.  Arms Grabbed me all over.  A large furry thing scampered over my lips.  We were in the cellar!

 

With a white streak and the stopping of my heart, I opened my eyes to bright sun and Greg standing over me.  Minutes later I realized I had been dreaming.  That had all been a dream.

No, not all.  We were still in the house.  It was spooky, but the morning sun lit up the room and made it feel almost cheerful.  The dust was everywhere, flying in the air in the sunlight.  Greg was smiling.  I could tell he hadn’t slept very much.  His eyes were very dark.  “Come on, bud.  Time to roll on outa here.”

“I was just starting to like it here,” I was, too.  Getting to leave that house was like winning a million billion dollars, or ten segas.

They had already put all the sleeping bags in the car.  Dad was in the backyard running amok like a fool, examining various things, trying to understand why the house was abandoned.  I wanted to yell “good morning, Weston.”  I didn’t, though.

At the bottom of the stairs, Greg and I stood staring out at the serene morning.  The ground was wet from the drizzle of the night before.  I thought of all the earthworms in the soil.  I remembered hunting earthworms with Greg in the early morning before fishing trips.

“You want to explore the house, Adz?”

“Sure,” I said.  We checked out the kitchen.  There was some exciting stuff in the refrigerator.  Beyond the kitchen, there was a fourth bedroom and a small bathroom.  The bedroom had a plastic covered chair that stank of cat piss.

Then we started toward the room at the left of the stairs.  I panicked, but Greg moved swiftly into the room.  Where there had been a bed last night, there stood only a frame with a completely corroded boxspring mattress that was seethrough.  Greg stood looking down at it.  I walked up to it and looked where Greg was looking.  Underneath the bed, drawn in the dust, as with a bony finger, were the words, Good Night Adam.  I turned away, shaken.  My heart leapt.

“Real funny, Weston,” Greg commented, trying to make me feel less frightened.  However, the thing that my heart leapt at wasn’t that horrid inscription, it was the reddish brown stain on the wall next to the door that I had seen the night before in my dream.