The House (Part I)

Description: James has just inherited a house from his aunt. He and his cousin are visiting it to asses it’s shape, but once a storm breaks loose they can’t leave, and they are not alone.

Diary of James W. Woolman, 26.02.1890
Today we have examined the house and it seems like a wretched place. It stinks of old planks and reeks of dead rats. Also I am pretty sure that something must have died in the basement, otherwise the door to it wouldn’t have been shut and nailed with metal chains hanging around them. The smell coming from it fills the entire house

I hope to god that it will subside soon, otherwise I really would have to hire a company of men which will clean this place up for me instead of doing it on my own.

Now that I have told you about that which concerns me most, let me unveil my day to you. I stepped of the train at 12:30 which led me to have amble time to sleep while I was in the train and even more so to have a filling breakfast, and I have to commend them on it. I would have never guessed that train food would be of such excellent quality but here I was proven wrong. The journey here was delightful, seeing how the landscape changed from the industrial cities of our modern days to a land without any cars and smog clouding the sky gray. It was quiet an experience.

When I stepped of the train I could smell it right away. It was the smell of the air around me, so much cleaner than the one in New York which reeks of niggers, immigrants and the homeless.

Right away I spotted my dear cousin which I embraced with joy. I hadn’t seen him since last years Christmas party. After we greeted each other we went to his car. It’s wheels were very dirty because of the rain in the last few days. It seemed as if something might be building up but I don’t thing either of us had to worry. Not that we did, we were to joyous to have seen the other. As we were driving to the house he told me that he was the only one in the village to drive a car and how some of the country folk still looked at it as if it was the work of the devil and not the most modern of engineering. We both had a good laugh about it. Sometimes the ignorance of these people would amaze even brightest scholar. However afterward the air was filled with silence, we both knew what we had to talk about but didn’t want to.

At last he was the first to talk. “So, you are excited to see it?” He asked me. “Well, I am curious to say the last. I never imagined that aunt Daisy would give me her house after she had died. I always thought us to be on the worst of terms and even now I can scarcely believe it.”
“Maybe she wanted to clean the slate between the two of you, some kind of last way to go from this earth without anyone scorned.”
“Maybe, dear cousin, maybe.”

We then both talked about how things were in London and how my job kept me pretty busy. Being a lawyer can be time consuming as you know, especially in this day and age. My cousin had actually moved away exactly because of that reason. He loved living on the country, watching the cows feast on their grass, writing fiction novels about other worlds and creatures. I’ve never had much respect for writes, they are a penniless folk with no sure future. Sure, some of them are actually able to support a certain kind of lifestyle with it, but they would never amount to great wealth. However I could never say that to him, he was just too good of a man to let him know of these thoughts. It might poison his mind and he would stop writing, and even though I consider it a waste of time it makes him merry and that in turn made me merry.

The house was located deep in the woods and one had to go through mud and tall grass to reach it. “Let us hope it won’t rain today.” My cousin said. “There is a river nearby and when it gets flooded, no one could leave this place.” Not the most comforting thought. Of course the car couldn’t handle this exploit so we had to leave it behind. It was a sad sight to me when we left it. I knew that it would somehow be missed.The worst part was, however, the luggage. I had two bags with me and my dear cousin also. As I asked him why he carried them with him, he replied “Don’t concern yourself with them. You will see soon enough.”

After we had fought ourselves trough this jungle of inconveniences, wondering how this women walked through here every day, we finally reached the house. Looking at it gave me shudders and made me think of horrible things, like ghosts and murder. It was almost a wrack. Green moss was hanging from the roof and it looked like it could barely support its four corners. A sad sight for any architect. Yet it looked still functional, with which I mean that one could live inside without freezing to death.

My cousin opened the door without a key. A surprise for me, I thought she would have locked it. Then it came to me. What thief would fight himself through these woods and then enter a house which was such a ghostly place just to steal from a women that didn’t have any luxuries in the first place. We went inside and found that it was still decorated. Not beautiful and not newly, but definitely decorated. I started to smile. That would mean that there would be a bed upstairs, and one which wasn’t only a mattress. Oh happy day, I thought, I knew now that I wouldn’t have to sleep in a house which was on the verge of breaking down by the slightest touch.

“It isn’t heaven but you can still live in it.” My cousin commented, and how right he was. After looking around some more, we found that the kitchen and the living room were cleaned and only some leaves were lying on the floor, probably caused by some open window in the house. Then wanted to go up the stairs and examine the bedroom, but we noticed something behind the staircase. It was a door which was nailed shut with chains hanging around them. Very peculiar. We didn’t know what to make of it. It was evident that this was the door to the basement but there was no way of going down unless we found something to break the door open with it.

The door itself unnerved us. It seemed like it was shut for some horrible, creepy reason. So we left the looks of it and went up the staircase to look at the other rooms. There were only two, lying right across from each other. One of them looked like the room of a child while the other for an adult. It was clear which one our aunt slept in but neither of us knew what for the children’s room was. It had a big bed and many toys lying around. Even a large collection of puppets with small cubes with letters written on them in front of them. “Maybe she had often children here.” My cousin suggested. We both knew however that this didn’t make any sense. The women was mentally unstable and never quiet easy to get along with, even on her good days.

So we left the rooms and went down to the beginning of the staircase again. Then we had another look at the basement door. While it was scary at first, it now had a certain appeal to it. Curiosity had struck us both and we wanted to know what was behind it. We looked through the entire house for a crowbar but there was nothing to be found. Not one item which could be used to pry the door open. We were both disappointed.

However while we were looking through the house, my cousin found two nice bottles of whiskey, and we sat down on the couch in the living room to enjoy this tasty treat. I have to say it did taste quite different than anything that I could remember from London. Over there the whiskey had a taste that was quite strong. This one tasted of whiskey mixed with some kind of other mixture. Maybe something medicinal drug? Or maybe it was mixed with another drink. Anyway we both looked at each other with a face of disgust but still decided to swallow it. A bad idea because it left a taste on the tongue which I can’t even imagine to define. It was quite rancid.

Still we kept drinking, after a while neither of us could really taste how terrible it was anymore and since we both didn’t feel like we had too many spirits inside us, we kept at it. After the bottle was done we both lay our heads back to rest and what happened next was the most curious thing.

Now I like to call myself a hardy drinker. Before becoming a lawyer, I was working on the docks to pay for my tuition and there we drank multiple times during the day. A habit which faded once I was working for a firm, but never really stopped to let go of me. So it came to me as a shock when I closed my eyes for a second and fell into a deep and relaxed sleep. I think I only woke up when I heard the rain bash against windows. At first I imagined to be dreaming but after stretching my muscles I saw the rain quite clearly. At once I woke up my cousin. “Man, wake up at once! It’s raining outside.” At first he did not feel like leaving the dream he was inside but after I pressured him a few more times he finally looked up to.

“What? Why are you keeping me from my sleep?” He asked. Clearly he had forgotten where he was and why. “Wake up, I think you might have a problem.” He rubbed his eyes to get the sleep out of them. Then he cleaned the saliva from his face. During sleep he always had some dropping out of his mouth (a truly disgusting habit) and looked outside. Heavy rain was bashing against the window. His eyes widened. The area was know for its hard rain and once it started it usually didn’t stop for a while. “No.” He exclaimed loudly and ran to the door. I already knew then and there that it was too late. As he opened the door, almost ripping it from its angels, he saw in terror that there was a large body of water that had started to fill everything below the doorstep. He shouted cries of anger towards the heavens, none of them mild enough as to write them in a diary.

Once he had calmed down I told him to come inside. We both walked back to the couch and sat down. “My wife and child are waiting for me at home. They will worry and I won’t be able to assure them that I am of good health.” This made him quiet angry. There was no way out of the woods. The rain had taken every route and turned it into small bodies of water. One could only imagine what had happened with his car. “By tomorrow the rain will have subsided, don’t worry.” I gave him a pat on the back hoping it would cause him to relax. As I saw bury his head in his hands I felt as if he was calming down a little. “At least we wont suffer from cold.” I then told him, took the second bottle of whiskey and held it close to it’s face. He pushed it away. “It’s a disgusting thing, really. I can’t imagine how our aunt could have drunk something so terrible.” I had to agree with him, it truly was wretched. At least the taste had disappeared from my tongue. “But it’s quite strong isn’t it?” I looked at the bottle again. “We were down faster than a blackie under a whip.” I chuckled a little, it was a pretty good joke I thought. “Shut up, I hate it when you say things like that.” He said. My cousin didn’t like my ideas about Afros. He says they are “racist” and “sickeningly conservative”. I disagree with him, it’s only the truth I am speaking. But never mind that, I had to calm him.

“I’m sorry my dear cousin, now wont you pick yourself up and let us get back to talking about merrier things.” So he pulled himself up. “Very well. Let me have another drink at least.” “That’s my boy.” “But not that again.” He assured me and walked back to his bag. He opened it and pulled out a large crafty bottle of gin. My eyes gleamed with happiness and his too, he was back among the living and ready to heighten his joys

After we had a few more drinks we felt very high among the spirits, and mumbled to each other about women and what we would like to do with them. We had a lot of fun about it. Then our conversation turned to another matter entirely though. We wanted to know what was behind the door. This old crafty thing. “I wager she has a bunch of dead cats there.” He said and we both chuckled at the notion of her being a collector of felines which she kept neatly folded in the basement. I walked over to it and looked at it. It seemed to look old, or maybe it was made to look old? There were deep cracks at it’s corners which seemed to have been filled out with some black color or something like it. I turned around and gave my cousin a look and he laughed a little. I put my hands on the knob and pulled. Nothing moved, it didn’t bulge at all. So I pulled at it again, with more strength this time. It was as if something in the back of the door was pulling on it too. Then I let it go and started to shake my arms, stretching my muscles.

I then put my hands on the knob again and put my foot behind me. I pulled with the strength of a thousand lions and could see how the muscles in my veins showed through my skin. It seemed as if nothing moved at first but then the door budged a little and this gave me motivation to go on. I felt how the nails were moving away from the door and that it slowly opened. “There we go, there we go…” I said to myself. Then I saw how the door opened. My cousin stood up to see more clearly what was happening. As if I was pulling on a horse that only slowly stepped forward. Then my cousin moved around me to look inside. His eyes widened. His jaw dropped. “Jesus..” He said and I moved my head a little too. I wanted to see what was inside and more importantly, what was holding me back.

I wasn’t sure of what I saw next. It must have been a trick of light which caused my elevated mind to perceive something that wasn’t there. It must have been, the contrary, it would be too frightful to imagine. What I saw was a hand, holding the knob on the other side of the door. An old wretched hand, covered with dirt and mud. As I saw I released my hold of the knob and let it slam shut. The both of us, stared at first at the door and then at each other. “I think we had enough to drink.” I stated. I wasn’t sure if I truly believed this though. “We should go to sleep.” I said and my cousin agreed with me. So we both let the door be and hastily went upstairs. Then we both noticed a matter we both hadn’t settled, who will reside where? “I want the children’s room.” My cousin said, he had no intention of sleeping where our aunt had lain. I agreed without protesting, he wouldn’t have changed his mind anyway.

So we both went into our chosen rooms and I lay myself onto the bed. Even though I though that it might make discomforting sounds or cause me back pains, the opposite was the case. Her bed was not too soft and not too hard, a perfect bed for any man. As I lay there I felt a calm coming over me, making me tired and oh so very sleepy. I am sure I would have slept if it were not for the smell which suddenly invaded my nostrils. A disgusting smell, which woke me from my quasi sleep I was in. It stunk and the suddenness of it made me almost vomit. I am sure a lesser man would have but I could stay strong. I jumped of the bed and hastily went to knock on my cousins room. As he opened the room I could see him with wet hair. I asked him what had caused this and he told me that his room had suddenly started smelling so terrible that he had to open a window to relieve himself of anything that his stomach had was harboring and so the rain had dropped on his head. I smiled a little to myself. I must say I was proud of how strong my stomach was at this moment.

“It is in my room too. A ghastly smell, it almost made me empty myself too. Where do you think does it come from?” I asked him. He looked at me with a face that might have very well been a question mark. Then we both started to smell the air again to maybe find another clue as to where it’s origin was. “It must come from downstairs, when you had opened the door.” My cousin said and it made sense. It hadn’t smelled anything like this before. As the night was deep now, we took a candle with us and journeyed both downstairs to inspect the door from where this disgusting smell might come from. It was a frightening experience, it was almost as if the black was trying to reach out and engulf us completely were it not for the light in my hand. We both could barely see more than an arms length in front of us so going down the stairs was more of an adventure than a casual walk. With every step I could hear the creaking of the floor, a reminder that this house was older than any two of us had thought. It almost felt as if some angel or child was crying every time the floor creaked, but this was only my imagination playing tricks to me in the dark. I felt again as if I was a small child, wandering through the dark, my small heart beating at the speed of light, trying to find my parents bedroom, my safe haven, where nothing could get me.

As we reached the door we saw that it was a bit open, letting a green smoke exit it slowly. We both wondered at first what it was, it smelt so terrible grotesque that my cousin could just barely keep himself from falling out again. “What is this green smoke?” I asked him, I had never seen anything like this before. “I don’t know dear cousin, but do me the honor of closing this devilish door.” I obliged him and put my hands on the knob to close it. Then I saw another imagination, when I closed the door it seemed as if I saw a many yellow eyes watching me. Just siting on top of each other, staring in the dark. Since I was already in motion I closed the door before being able to assure myself that it was just a play of my vivid psyche. For a minute I then stared into the dark. I wasn’t sure what I had seen and even if I had seen it. Once I had gathered my heart again I put my hand upon the knob again to see if my eyes had played tricks on me. When I slowly opened the door again I was assured that there was nothing since there were no more eyes that watched me as I looked through crack of the door. I breathed easier now, all of these horrible things my mind I had imagined, were only plays and tricks of my mind. Everything seemed easier now, even the darkness didn’t seem like something to be afraid of anymore.

“Everything in order?” My cousin asked. “Everything in order. Now the smell shan’t bother us anymore. Let us visit our beds and sleep.” I told him and we walked up the stairs again to our rooms. When we had reached them I turned to my cousin. “You know what still lingers with me? Last time I tried to open it, the door wouldn’t budge. Now it was almost open, only bound by the chains. What could have caused this I wonder?” My cousin looked at me with open eyes, he hadn’t thought of this until now. “Well I wouldn’t worry. Whatever it was, we will find out about it tomorrow.” He said. This assured me and we both said our good nights and went to bed. However the smell still lingered a little in my room. I opened a window to quicken the process of its departure.

Now I am sitting here, not being able to sleep. At least I could still write to you dear diary, I feel now as if the world is again round again. I have to say however that the events of tonight will probably lie with me longer than I wish them to. I wonder how my cousin is doing right now? He doesn’t have a diary and only a notebook where he scribbles notes about how his day went. I once took a peek into it when we were young and it was only singular sentences. When I asked him about it he replied “I have a great memory, I do not need more than a little note to remember me of what had happened that day.” A curious gift I always thought. I hope he rests in peace at this moment, not suffering from sleeplessness as I am doing right now. But let me sleep now dear diary, the night is late and I am tired. Good night and sweet dreams.

Diary of Jimmy Tobianski, 26.02.1890
Slept good this morning.
My cousin came over to see after the house of our aunt.
He was nice, a little racist but still a nice fellow.
We drunk tonight.
Found a bolted door.
Can’t get into it.
Then rain came.
Can’t go home because of it.
Fear for wife and child.
Love and miss them.
We go to sleep.
Ghastly smell comes, doesn’t leave.
I bend outside the window letting my stomach empty itself.
Cousin comes over.
We investigate.
Darkness seems to want us.
I am scared.
When we come to door, door is a little open.
Green smoke.
I almost vomited again.
Cousin looks weird.
I see skeleton hand trying to grab him as he stares into darkness.
Don’t tell him, he would call me crazy.
We go up.
Smell still there.
Can’t sleep.

Note added later in the night:
I feel watched and nervous.
Is something behind me?
Is something in the room?
Something had moved now.
Examined cubes with letters on them.
End is written on them.
A sign?
I turn to look outside window.
Something moves again.
Turn around.
I think puppets moved.
Every time I turn around puppets seem to move.
Alcohol is playing tricks on me.
I lay on bed.
Puppets to my left.
I close eyes, sleep almost.
Open eyes, puppets stare at me.
Have they always?
Stare at them.
Afraid to close my eyes.
Every time I do, puppets move close.
Can’t sleep tonight.
More alcohol.

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