The house sat in the middle of the neighborhood. It was a white brick with wooden trim, three bedroom ranch, built in the mid-50’s. The landscaping was over-grown and full of weeds. The house had been vacant and on the market for years before me and Chelsea happened by it while on our way to an open house further in the neighborhood. I asked Karl, our realtor, to look into it. He said we should just keep looking elsewhere.
I called the seller myself. They were asking far less than any house we had seen in that area. He met with us that evening. He suggested that we arrive early, before dark, because we will not want to be in the house after that – he claimed that there were no lights in the house and the shadows would dance around too much with flashlights. We would miss its true charm.
The interior looked like it had never been touched; the carpeting was beaten down; walls were yellowed; everything about it was dated. However, with it being so inexpensive, we could afford to make this house ours – and we did much to Karl’s disapproval. He just wouldn’t tell us the reasons why.
We had a couple of weeks for our apartment lease to expire. In that time we were able to paint, replace the carpet, and start work on the kitchen. It never struck me as odd that tools were moved or missing. Chelsea thought maybe someone was breaking in but the doors were always locked and every window latch was secure.
On the day before the movers were bring our belongings, I intended to paint the final touches on the living room. I painted the first coat the night before – Chelsea’s favorite: sage. When I arrived, I noticed a handprint, about waist high, dried into the paint. Next to it were markings like a tiny finger tried to spell a word out. I assumed it was Chelsea playing a joke on me. But when I asked her, she denied it. As I recall, that whole day I felt as if someone was watching me. A shadow moving there, a peek around the corner there, a soft footstep in another room.
It was our very first morning that it began to happen. I was taking a shower. The bathroom was full of steam. The mirror was fogged over. I heard a noise on the opposite side of the white curtain. A shadow flashed by. I nearly slipped I was so startled. I knew Chelsea had gone on an early morning jog. When I yanked the curtain back, I was hoping she would be there but all that was there was a tiny handprint left on the mirror and the word, hello. The worse part of it: my towel was gone.
My heart raced. I thought about what Karl had said and the clues the seller mentioned. Then, I understood why he said, “you won’t be reading Bukowski in your underwear here.”
Copyright © 2015 E.F. Olsson. All rights reserved.
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