It was a horror house, sitting low to the ground, its flat roof weighing heavily on the wood slatted sides. The whitewashed exterior hadn't seen a second coat since the day it was finished. Grey clapboard held it together. A porch of weathered pine worn by years of rain and sun was attached to the side of the house. Aged slats encircled the porch. Those withered little columns were topped off by a banister whose brilliant green of years past had dulled down to a powdery hint of that color. Three creaking stairs lead up to the grey path worn into the wood. The hungry path pointed to the sagging screens held to the outer door by rippled slats with protruding rust that had once been nails. Opening the door sent screams of metal against metal that made the neighbors cover their ears with their hands to ward off the pain.
I hated that house.
Maybe that emotion is unfair to that beaten down weathered old claptrap. It wasn't so much hate as fear. Every house since, I have felt safe locking the doors at night. That house? No. I always made sure the doors were unlocked, unbeknowst to my parents, so I could escape into the dark of night. Nothing on the outside was as frightenting as that which I knew to be on the inside. I just knew it.
The front door opened on the side of the house. The entire thing sat on the land wrong. An ill conceived floor plan was meant to disorient, I was certain of it. For a five year old it wasn't a conscious thought, it came from deep where terror originates.
Upon entering with the maniacal squeak and slam of the screen I was engulfed in the gloom. A blanket of darkness settled over me upon entry. Shadows moved in the corners. Scratching arose from the floors. Scuttling sounds came from beneath the lone chair draped in dust. A window with glass panes sat in the wall to the left stretching from floor to ceiling. On the other side was a bit more sunlight that filtered through the wrinkled window panes looking outside. It was a joke to me as I walked into the house. It offered light and safety. This room offered neither with the light expunged and the sense of safety whittled away by scrabbling claws beneath my feet. My time in that alcove was never lengthy. I was through there and past the second door into the main room followed by two nearly simultaneous door slams. Looking back I would see shapes billowing and merging with the shadows beyond the misplaced window. It always sent shivers up my short spine.
The gauntlet of darkness shut off by the door slam brought me to the long room. It stretched from the back of the house to the front like an alley. At the back was the kitchen which contained a doorway leading into my room. Just beyond that doorway sat another which led into my parents' bedroom. Down at the far end which faced the street half a block away was another room off to the left. It bordered the darkness of the alcove.
My room had another doorway leading into the bathroom. From the ceiling hung a dim yellowed light at the end of a long cord. The switch on the wall turned clockwise to allow the flow of electricity. I can only guess that the forces in the house slowed that flow to a trickle never allowing the bulb to incandesce enough to make tha shadows more than a haze against the floor.
And, to the left as you entered the bathroom with the cast iron tub sitting on lions' paws above the floor, was a door that remained locked at all times. From the outside in attempts to look in, I could only see reflections against a darkness so keen the window panes became mirrors. No other windows from back to front and around the sides were as pitch black. The room within seemed to be a black hole sucking light in with no way out. My neck hairs always stood at attention when near that room, inside or out.
I only remember that door being opened once. No creak emanated from the hinges. The warmth from the steaming tub was pulled into the darkness beyond the opening door. Silence and cold wormed its way past the door frame winding around me like a cocoon of cold. All sound began to die away. The chirping of the birds outside slowly faded. Sounds weren't being muffled. They were being lured into the room beyond the door. I was pulled forward to see what was there. Darkness. Sunlight sucked through the outer window panes played across amorphous shapes as it was extinguished slowly into that stillness.
I wanted to go in. I was drawn to the dark and quiet. With my towel draped around me I began to move forward into that unknown when my mother grabbed me, shut and locked the door, then began drying me off with a roughness I'd never known.
"Oh no you don't," she said. "I don't want you going into that room. You might get hurt.'
"What's in there?" I asked slowly coming back into reality. Dread and fear settled upon me. "It scares me."
"That's why we keep it locked up."
"It is a storage room for the landlord. He told us never to go into that room. He said he'd know if we had."
"But you just opened it."
"You've heard of curiosity and the cat, haven't you?'
"Well, it got the better of me. I just wanted to know."
"Do you know now? I didn't see anything."
"I think my curiosity has been quenched. Do you know what that means?" asked my mother.
"It means I don't ever want to go back into that room again. And I don't ever want you to go in there either," she said. Her hands were shaking.
"Are you cold, momma?"
"I think a rabbit just ran across my grave," she said picking me up and taking me to my room. She clicked the light off and slammed the door to the bathroom shut.
When I think back to that moment goose bumps rise on my arms. I was glad when the place burned to the ground years later. I would have thought the fire would have burned for weeks but it didn't.