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My House is Their House

This is a short story I wrote in January, 2017. 

I thought getting murdered was bad.

This was worse.

Ninety years after Elaine stabbed me, they paraded into my house with their drums, guitars and keyboards, scraping up the hardwood floors. Dust that’d gone undisturbed for decades danced in the September light as they threw open velvet drapes that’d faded from burgundy to fleshy pink.

And then they set up their instruments and played until I could hardly remember why I haunted the place.

One of the many disadvantages of not having a physical body is being able to hear even while covering your ears.

Obviously, I had to turn poltergeist.

I tore the covers off them while they slept, but they always went to bed so drunk they barely noticed. I pushed over their drinks, and they fought about each other’s supposed clumsiness, but then began tipping each others’ beverages in earnest, making a game of it.

“Good thing this place is such a dump,” the bass player said as the four of them loitered in the living room one evening. His name was Alphie. “It’s perfect for us.”

It wasn’t always that way. When Walter carried me over its threshold, the house had gleamed with mahogany and silk.

“Big and ugly, just like you.” Alphie tipped his Budweiser at the fat drummer, who smoked a skunky cigarette on the antique rug, unmindful of the ashes. They called him Boz. I didn’t know why.

“I might be big, but you’re the ugly one,” Boz shot back, inhaling deeply before passing the cigarette to the mop-haired singer, whom they called “Trick,” though I hadn’t seen him perform any.

“You know who’s ugly?” Trick said, nodding at a silver-framed picture on the mantle of me in my wedding dress. “That bitch. Look at her jaw. It’s humongous. Her poor husband.”

If I’d had nails, I’d have dug them into my palms, but all I had was a diffuse energy.

I threw the entire force of my being into a tasseled lamp and toppled it onto Trick’s head.

Boz pointed and laughed a vile cloud.

Man, this place is drafty,” Trick said. He righted the lamp and rubbed his head. “But I guess that’s what you get when you rent a mansion for $900 a month.”

You want drafty? I thought. I’ll give you drafty, and I whirled around, tossing books and papers. I flicked the lights off before drifting into stillness.

“And the electrical sucks,” he added, sauntering to the switch and flipping it.

I switched it off again. He shrugged and flicked it on. “C’mon guys, let’s practise.”

Nooooooooooooooooooo!” I howled.

Super drafty,” said Dale, the keyboard player. He shook his head and led them to the basement, which they’d rigged with speakers that made me pity the neighbours almost as much as I pitied myself. They’d tacked blankets to the walls in a futile attempt to absorb noise.

“This has to stop,” I said to their deaf backs as they descended the stairs. But I’d tried everything. Hadn’t I? I followed them, determined to think of something. If I could destroy their instruments, my problem would be solved, but most of their equipment was too heavy for me to move. I’d already tried pushing over Trick’s microphone. He’d just picked it up and kept singing in that horrible screamy voice.

His amp squealed.

“Jesus. Move that thing, would you?” Dale said, covering his ears.

Trick frowned and kicked it. “Piece of junk.”

I realised there was something I hadn’t tried: going inside the equipment.

“One, two, three!” Trick yelled, and the ensuing cacophony would’ve made me want to disembowel myself, if I still had innards.

I dove into the speakers and felt for connections to break, but an energy like nothing I’d felt ⸺ visceral and pulsing with sexual frustration  ⸺  sent me flying to the attic, where I cowered until they’d finished.

Things went on like that for weeks. Silly with skunkweed, they ignored or laughed at my attempts to frighten them.

Then the girl came.

When Trick brought her in, I sunk to my hips through the floor.

She could’ve been Elaine’s twin.

I pulled myself up.

She tensed her heart-shaped face and bit a candy apple red bottom lip. “I think this place is haunted,” she said.

“Oh, c’mon, babe.” Trick put his arm around her. “It’s just an old house. We’ve been here for almost a month. Nothing’s happened.”

“Nothing? Nothing?!” I moaned. All that effort. He was as bad as Walter. Towards the end, my husband had noticed very little; he’d been too busy spending my inheritance on a woman who looked like this one.

“No, I’m serious. I feel something,” she said.

“Then let’s exorcise it.” Trick nuzzled the girl’s neck and pulled her upstairs.

It wasn’t that I wanted to see what happened next. My form (such as it was) followed the movements of my thoughts in the house whether I liked it or not, which was why I followed the pair to the bedroom.

The moment superimposed on 1927, when I ascended the stairs in green crushed velvet and a long string of pearls, trailing the sound of a woman yipping like an angry rodent as she wrapped her limbs around my husband.

Though I’d been alive at the time, I’d wailed like a ghost when I found them. Elaine dismounted, clutching the sheet. “Whoa,” Walter said, palm facing me as if to calm a spooked horse. I grabbed a silver mirror from the vanity and beat him with it while Elaine clambered off the bed, and then my heart ripped open. Pain stopped everything. My breath left my slumping body, and so did I.

I hovered near the ceiling as Elaine stumbled backwards, clutching a dripping crimson letter opener. Blood poured from a hole between my corpse’s shoulders.

“Jesus,” Trick said, his face white. They’d stopped fondling each other and fixed me now with petrified stares.

“I told you.” Elaine’s doppelganger trembled.

“You can see me?” They nodded. My rage must’ve caused a burst of energy so intense I’d turned visible. Audible, too, it would seem.

At the sight of their terror  ⸺ although causing it had been my objective for weeks  ⸺ I felt sorry for them.

My sigh was soft as a moth’s breath, but somehow, it was enough to open a gate in me that’d been closed for almost a century.

I wept, real tears.

The woman rose from the bed, slipped into her panties and Trick’s T-shirt, and took me in her arms.

For the first time since my husband had wanted me, I felt the warmth of touch.

I leaned into it, and dissolved.

Featured image by Enrique Meseguer, CC0 via Pixabay.

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  1. Claire says

    Excellent story! I’m inspired.

    Love the ending, a little love and validation can do wonders 💫

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