The commandment was written in stone, engraved in the concrete slab of the driveway.
“Do Not Enter”
James looked at Kiki. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” He was pretty sure it wasn’t, but he wasn’t going to say that out loud.
Kiki’s attention was on the darkness in front of them. She leaned forward and peered up the driveway. James followed her gaze. The driveway wound up the hill into and out of view. The night was starless, but he could sense the building looming, darker than the black sky. He shivered.
James passed the old Freeman place every day on his walk to school. Even in the daylight it looked a little creepy. Victorian turrets peeked over the trees, shingles in disarray, trim faded and shingles askew. Weeds occupied the lawn, advancing slowly on the driveway. The concrete was making a valiant stand, but cracks were appearing. Maybe next year, James thought, the weeds would get a foothold on the concrete front. But not this year. The summer was gone.
Kiki reached down and grabbed his hand, tugging him forward. The touch felt nice. Kiki added a vocal urge to her tug, “Come on! This is so cool!” She looked at him, sharing her excitment, and James relented. He released his reluctance and followed Kiki’s energy up the driveway. As they passed the words in the ground, James was careful not to step on the commandment. It seemed bad luck.
Hunger. Thats what I feel. And loneliness. But those come arm in arm for those who feed on souls.
I know, that seems to invoke mystical superstitions, to claim that I am an eater of souls. But I don’t know how else to describe it.
It is what I have become, here in the darkness.
The moment that James had said that he knew where there was a haunted house, Kiki knew she had to go there. It was the first time since her family had moved to West Aurora that she had been excited about anything. She had left behind every friend, every band, every record shop, everything that she knew in the City. West Aurora was a wasteland of culture. People kept asking her if her piercings had religious significance, for Cthulu’s sake.
But this, this was cool–a haunted house. She shivered in excitement at the thought. James had said that it had once been a stop on the underground railroad. She could only imagine it was still haunted by those who had not made the entire journey, but remained here, one last sanctuary on earth.
What? The driveway bell? At this hour? Who could it be? Marsha already came by today, and meals-on-wheels doesn’t come until Monday. I can’t remember when I last had a visitor. Even those missionary boys stopped coming by. I wore down their souls with my need for conversation. There is a limit to their zeal to convert even the sympathetic blind man.
But this, this is exciting. I gather the energy to rise from my chair to answer the door. My guests will arrive soon.
They were close enough to the house that Kiki could see its outlines against the trees. The windows were dark, no light was lit in this place. Kiki could feel a sense of abandonment in the air. No living being was within these still walls. But that did not mean it was empty. Ghosts gathered in places like this.
Kiki knew you needed to announce your presence to the spirits within. It was disrespectful to sneak around their house unannounced. There were rules that must be followed.
She announced her intention to James: “Let”s knock!” James looked doubtful, so she fluttered her eyelashes at him. “Come on!” She stepped up on the porch, tugging his hand once again. He followed, but as she raised her hand to bang on the door and make her declaration to the powers within, he reached over and caught her fist before it struck the door.
“I don’t think this is a good idea, Kiki. We could get in trouble, it’s just not right.”
Spoilsport, thought Kiki. She tried fluttering her eyelashes again, but it didn’t work. He shook his head. “That’s just not right, this isn’t your house…” She pouted, a bit, but after two weeks in town James was the only person at school that talked to her. She didn’t want to lose her only friend.
She put her hand down.
James was relieved. He didn’t know what lurked within the walls of the Freeman place, but he didn’t want to find out. Kiki was cute, but he wasn’t ready to die for her.
He turned her around, and they walked out the entrance of the circular driveway to the upper street. They continued to hold hands, but rather than tugging each other on in a mutual dare, this time they strolled and swung their arms as they walked.
James told Kiki about the art teacher, Ms. Alma, who was a poet and had once met Allen Ginsberg. Ms. Alma was going to publish the lit club’s work at the end of the year. He was working on a piece, but he couldn’t really explain what it was about yet. But Kiki should join the club and do something too. She’d be good at it, he could tell.
The knock never arrives. I hear the creak of steps on the porch, a welcome sound in my lonely world, but no knock, no visitor, no conversation and no soul.
The driveway bell rings again. My hope dashed, I slump back in my chair.
Another night of darkness, loneliness, and hunger awaits.
Kevin Jewell lives in Austin, Texas, where he writes with the South Austin Writers Group. SAWG works to keep Austin weird one tale at a time.