By Samuel Edwards
The house was certainly haunted.
Dark, twisted spires adorned the roof, a carpet of foul mist lingered on the front lawn, and bats flew en masse from open windows while a disembodied voice wailed stark warnings—
But Crooked Manor was a bargain, make no mistake. The realtor only wanted a two and a half percent deposit, and mortgage payments were well below the average for the area. There was a Starbucks down the road, a rear garden walled off with hedges, and don’t even get me started on the public transport connections.
“There *is* a housing shortage,” I said, signing the contracts.
“The economy is in tatters,” my wife Mycella said, “and this housing bubble just won’t burst.”
We moved in on a Friday. By Saturday, the walls were dripping in blood, the grandfather clock was floating on the ceiling, and the television flickered between *The Late Late Show with James Corden* and *Fox News.* The poltergeist in the bathroom kept trying to sell me a time-share, demons from another dimension mocked the size of my manhood, and the Wi-Fi was spotty at best.
I called a family meeting in the living room. In our old place, family meetings were held in the kitchen, but here, the garbage disposal unit churned in defiance, and the fridge kept laughing at us.
“As first nights in new houses go, it could have gone better,” I said. I glimpsed a detached hand floating behind my children’s heads but chose not to mention it. “But we’re just going to have to last it out.”
“It’s just like that dreary little apartment we lived in in New Jersey,” Mycella sighed. “You couldn’t catch a wink of sleep with the train tracks over the road. After a few weeks, we just got used to it.”
“And it had mold,” I remembered. “I don’t see any mold here. Let’s count our blessings.”
“I’ve always liked red for a living room,” Mycella said, looking to the walls. “It’s so vibrant! And we didn’t have to paint.”
“Spiders crawl out of the bath tap,” our daughter Susie mumbled, playing with her hair.
“Well, little lady, looks like you’ll need to have showers like a big girl from now on.”
We implemented a few house rules, which I stuck to the fridge. After the fridge ate it, we instead put it on our phones:
- Buddy system, no one goes anywhere alone.
- If you look into a mirror and see a face behind you that doesn’t belong to anyone living, just don’t turn around.
- Absolutely no going into the attic for any reason. Unless it’s to retrieve Christmas decorations.
- If furniture floats to the ceiling, just ignore it and leave the room. It’ll get bored.
- Not built on an old “Indian Burial Ground,” so stop asking.
- The howling witch made of bones and boils is more afraid of you than you are of it.
- Beloved pets who pass away will not be buried in the pet cemetery at the back of the garden, but instead will be cremated without prejudice. Start paying your respects to Felix now while he still breathes.
- No cursing allowed, possession or not. An exorcist is too expensive, so cut that shit out.
- No dolls allowed in the house. That’s just obvious.
- If you open a wardrobe door that leads to an inescapable, hellish dimension that consists of flame and torture and doesn’t obey the laws of physics, please close the door and don’t put anything in it. Especially a sibling.
- No screens or internet after 10:00 p.m.
Mycella and I lay in our bed after a day of dodging ghosts and applying for solar panel leasing (one more terrifying than the other) holding each other’s hands in a moment of quiet contemplation.
“I think we’re going to be okay,” I said softly, kissing the back of her hand. “I think Crooked Manor will be good to us.”
And when I looked at her, and saw her skin was peeling and her eyes sockets hollow, and her mouth opened in a banshee’s lamentation that shook the walls, I replied, “How could I forget the school within walking distance? We’re so lucky.”