inspired by The Haunting of Hill House.
AS IT STANDS
It had her.
It had her.
It was a simple truth but one which stood just as the house had, tall and straight and unwavering, and unwilling to bend. The house was a hard, cold, bitter truth, and it stood proud amidst the ruins of a dying city. The house, a child beneath the shadows of the other remaining houses on its block, had retained its eyes, its teeth, and its skin while all around it decay had set in. While the other houses had given up, this one refused. This one remained. This one, by pure will and an unwavering hatred stood. The first taste it had had of blood came when this city was thriving and this neighborhood was expanding to match the growth. It was a worker, a clumsy, drunk man named Malcolm who had gotten careless and had severed a finger with a table saw and that first taste was all it took. After that first taste the house needed blood.
And it did whatever it took to have it.
These were the tricks it used. These were its weapons. It drew people to it and as soon as they made it their home it began lying to them, whispering to them in their sleep, and at their most vulnerable times. It was in no hurry so it would chip away at the people, day by day by day until finally their pedestals collapsed and the inevitable happened.
And then came the blood.
Ah, but when the city began to die, the people stopped coming, and the blood finally dried up. And in the darkness, the house raged. Its anger had set the houses to either side of it ablaze while the heat never touched the house itself.
The years passed the house slept, waking only to stop those that might harm it, then dozing again, dreaming of the people, and of a time when the people would come again. Ah, but then it had an idea, and the house woke with renewed life, and with a dark grin within its walls. And it called, called to the lost, the desperate, the alone, and especially to the children.
And they listened.
And they came.
One by one the children came, one by one they came to the house, which stood strong and proud amidst so many dead houses, a safe place away from their lives, their pain, their tears, and as soon as they entered the house they felt happy, they felt safe. And the house would nurture them, would love them, for a time, and then it would devour them, swallowing them whole and leaving nothing behind save for the echoes of their cries. It lived this way for many years, watching as all around it the world fell apart. The house knew an end was coming, but it was still a long way off, and it had its plan, it had its escape, but for now, now things were good. Things were good, and then came the girl.
Her name was Mary, and she wasn’t much of a girl, but the house didn’t see that, the house saw past her skin, past her age, and saw the little girl deep inside. She was taking pictures of the neighborhood, of the ruination of a once proud city, and the house, though it had fed but a week earlier, wanted her, and wanted her in a way that bordered on the sexual. So it called, and as the woman was taking pictures she stopped, stood up straight, cocked her head, as if hearing something, then turned to the house and smiled.
It had her.
And within its walls it smiled.
The girl began walking towards the house and it felt that she was the one, the last one, then it would begin the Push, it would begin the Move. Brick by brick it would have them tear it apart, it would have them move it slowly, and it would take years, decades, but it would move, in the hands of the children, until it found its new home, but now, now it would be here. It would be this.
The girl, who hid in the body of a woman of forty, stopped short of the house though, going instead to her car. With the distant grin on her face the girl opened the trunk of the car and placed her camera in and then looked to be grabbing something, though the house couldn’t tell what it was and her thoughts were filled of faces, faces of a man and woman that seemed somehow familiar. She finally closed the trunk and her smile was wider and in her hand was a can.
A gas can.
“Do you remember the Milton’s, you awful, monstrous thing? Do you remember my mother and father? Do you remember my family? No, there have been so many over the years you don’t, do you. Oh, but you will remember them, just as you’ll remember me. I only saw you in photos they had sent me but when they died I knew there was something more. I knew they’d never do that to themselves. To each other. I knew there had to be something more. And there was. There was you. It took a long time but I found you. See, I am patient too, and I can be just as cruel. And my friend, I will make you Hell.”
The girl tipped the gas can forward and turned her back to the house and began leaving a trail as she backed her way towards the house. And the house screamed at her. And the house cast stones, and sticks, and broken glass at her and though her skin split open, her resolve did not waver. On she came and the house creaked and grown, and in its rage its eyes shattered, in its rage its skin cracked, and in its rage its teeth fell out. It screamed and the houses that remained along the street burst into fire. The girl reached the houses steps and stopped, blood pouring from her nose and ears.
“I cannot be stopped monster. Didn’t you see, can’t you see – I am dying. I am dying and will take you with me. Are you ready?”
The woman let out a shrill laugh and started up the steps and then pushed the door, which stood open, in and walked inside as the house stood muttering to itself now, refusing to believe it can end like this. The girl disappeared into the home and now it was her laughter that filled its walls, and her whispers that filled its rooms, and in a matter of moments, it was by her hand that the last house standing on this street took to flame. And for one night, the world became Hell, and she the laughing devil at its center.
By morning there was only ash.