The house looked at me and I stared back. The windows, lidless and dark, showed no other emotion than pure despise. I did the best I could do. I turned back to the street.
The streetlights glowed, nicotine-colored lights surrounded my black shadow like a shield.
And yet, they were not able to disconnect me from my fear. And my work.
My work was simple: You visit a house, you check out, who is the renter or owner of the house or the apartments of this said building and you ring and you ask questions. Its usually easy work, because most people are not there – or unwilling to answer me.
The problem are the people, who feel disturbed. They usually open the door, look down on you (even if you are, like myself, larger than 6 foot) and sneer or start to yell at you. And when they find out, you work for the town-council or worse: for the government. They look at you, as if hell had spit you out.
And sometimes, you visit a house of someone truly weird. Or evil. Most of the time, the weirdness only emanates from their clothes, but if you look deeper in their home, you see stuff, I mean real stuff, the bad stuff. Not only the basic skulls or paintings, the upside-down-pentagrams, nah, I am talking about the whispers in the twilight of their lightless rooms behind closed doors. I have seen shit, I tell you. And yet, its not my place to tell people, how they should live. I am just a person who asks questions.
And I am getting paid for it, pretty good. But on the other hand, sometimes, okay, rarely, you find yourself in front of a house, which reacts to your existence with despiction.
The house in my back was one of these buildings. It was just an address on my list, but in the end, as every other house or building, it lived. Every building lives, if you have time to look at it, look behind its walls and windows, behind the painting, the movements of the people, who live in it like cells from an unknown species. Every building is alive and most of this life is the sum of memories. I am not talking about ghost houses. Those are merely cracks in the fabric of space and time and emotion. I am talking about every building which exists for more than a decade. It suffers from its inhabitants. And it becomes alive because of them.
This house behind me was in a state of silent rage. And I knew, why. I usually ask questions and inform my superiors, if the house or the building looks good in a way, that people are allowed to live in it. Sometimes – and I try to ignore that – the police has to come and has to cut out the inhabitants like cells of a cancer. Its not my problem, but its still a problem. Those people are not able to live alone.
Now this house behind me was alone. Alone for quite some time. It was not the facade, the dirty windows, which were broken. It was the fear. Not my fear – and I know fear – but the fear of the house. Yes, it was scared by me. I am still not sure, how I should describe it. Houses have feelings and those feelings come from memories, from the blood which is shed behind its walls, the hair which is lost – and later found by spiders who weave their nets with it. Houses are full of dried tears and bad dreams. And this house, which I was too scared to ring at its door, it had survived more than that. And yet … it stood. It was not broken down, had not burned itself to the ground, which was always possible. No, it stood there and waited for its death. Did it know, that I was part of its demise? Or did it just not like me and tried to push me away?
As I turned around, a couple of people walked over to me and stood next to me and stared up to that house. Syllables were whispered, which I did not unterstand at that time. Some person even tried to lay its hand on my shoulder, but never reached it. I tried to find that person, but I could not. I did not ask, what they wanted from me, but I knew: They wanted to get rid of that house. Of its existence. They wanted to get rid of its symbol, its mad energy. I knew, that the buildings here, in this part of the town, were worn down, as if no one had ever tried to repair them. I wondered, that people still lived here, under the evil star of that house. Maybe they used its existence as proof, that they existed. In the twilight between two evils, the house was definitively a physical manifestation of everything, people were scared of.
So I went away from these people and I once again took the steps up to the front lawn, which lay in the pale moonlight, the overgrown gras almost blue, the bushes almost alive. My heart pounded heavily in my chest. I tried to ignore the stares of the windows in front of me and the prayers of the people behind me, but I could not. I felt like a magnet between two magnet fields, both created from despair and despise. I was a stranger. I was forced to go to the house and ring at that bell next to the door, while dozens of eyes, unblinking and eternal, tried to prove the existence of my soul.
A few trees from the house next to the one, I had to visit, painted black skeletons on the ground, which moved around, despite the fact, I did not feel any wind. Were those trees alive and were they trying to scare me away? Had the evil of the house already moved behind its broken fences?
Probably yes. This whole street, those people, who were now staring at my back, they all seemed to know things and now they wanted me to become part of them.
As my shoes stepped on the porch, the whole house let off a moan, less than a growl, but it felt, as if had awakened it from a deep slumber. Despite the »fact«, that it was already staring in my soul, now I knew, its powers were tearing my mind, probing my innermost, trying to open the coffins of forgotten memories. I felt its cold fingers crawling through my childhood, my adolescence, its spiderlike eyes, lidless and dark calculating my past and the pasts before me. Yes, I felt, that the house was trying to connect me to something, I had not known. Flashes of light, black and white pictures appeared in my brain, reminded me of my visits to my grandparents, whose pasts were only described in the symbolic anchors of their old pictures – if they had any. They had told me stories and now the house listened to those words, broke them from my petrified knowledge, from the stones of the streets, which I wandered alone in endless nights, between dreams and twilight. And I could hear the whispers of the house, where the powers, which held it together as an entity, as a life-form itself, tried to find a solution to a riddle, they had never imagined before. Was the house scared of me? I was not able to conclude that. At the moment, I put my finger on the bell next to the door, all the voices vanished. The probing fingers disappeared, as if they had never existed. Yet, I felt something different: the power, which had tried to keep me away, was now trying to pull me in. And its strength was brutal, as if chains, which were already connected to my flesh and my bones, were pulled. I had to use both hands to press me away from the doorframe. The old wood creaked louder than I expected. And there was still the ringing of the door bell, which echoed through the walls and rooms and the void, which lay between all of that, the place where the powers had slept.
And then I heard steps, slow and deep, as if every one of them was created to have an impact on reality. It sounded like a march of an army, precise and strong, yet slow, almost dead.
As those steps came nearer, the chains in my flesh became stronger and they started to burn, but they were not existing and I only imagined them, but in the end, my mind decided to feel the fire, the acid which was charring my flesh, melting my bones. And I begged the unknown gods of this world, I prayed for help, but in the endless void behind the stars nothing happened and I realized, that the gods were dead, as dead as myself.
The door opened. It clicked. Or the other way around. I am not sure anymore. Suddenly the door was open and behind the gap was nothing. No shadow, no whisper, nothing. The universe itself held its breath. The void, dark and musty from eternities of nothing, stared in my soul and I stared back.
But it was not that simple. The door was open and one of my hands pushed it as open as possible. No one stood there. No eyes looked at me, no mouth showed its teeth. Nothing. The floor was empty. And yet, something was there. If only that void, which stood before me, would go away, so I would be able to look at the person, who had opened that door!
Nothing. Not even an echo. Not a stirring of a mouse. Not one breath from the rightful owner.
Who was the owner? Why was I not prepared? I looked down to the tablet with the names and the informations, I had connected today and tried to decypher the words. I was not able to do that. I raised the tablet up, trying to get a glimpse of light from the streetlights, but there were only shadows.
»I am sorry, that I disturb you. I am from the city and we have a few questions considering this house. Will you be so nice and switch on the porch light or any light?«
Nothing happened. No, thats wrong. Less than nothing happened. I felt now the overwhelming knowledge, that even the lights, which were existing, the meagre and low lights, which had saved the street from total darkness were put out, sucked in. Yes, sucked in from a black hole, a black hole, which existed in this street, this town. I could not believe it. Yet, I still stood there and when I turned my head around, the shadows of the people still existed and were not sucked in.
When I turned back, the floor was still empty and the lines of the walls and the furniture still existed, as if I just had survived a nightmare.
My question was – again – not answered. And yet, I heard steps leaving the floor and then a door opened to the left. I was seeing ghosts. I was becoming mad. And I was not even cold from the terror in my soul. No, it almost felt normal now, looking at the nothing in front of me.
I entered the house. I still was sure to find the rightful owner of this place. I just had to find a light and read the name of the list and ask around. Asking around in a house, such stupidity. Well, here I was.
The carpet on the floor was as soft as a meadow. I could almost feel the patterns under my feet. My hands followed the line of the walls, trying to find a switch. And yet, when I found one, it did not work – or it worked but I was not able to see more. The twilight became stronger. I felt, that my mind was playing tricks with me, not feeling the threat anymore, which had surrounded me when I had been on the lawn, the porch, even the street. When I turned around and looked through the door, I still could see some shadows, the memories of the neighbors which had forced me to get into this building.
Suddenly, there was a sound and I jumped. My heart pounded in my chest and I knew, that I had been eaten too much lately. I had bad memories to block, bad encounters with owners of buildings were gnawing at my soul. And now I was here. This weird place felt like a grave to me, my grave.
I smelled the musk of old books. I felt the dust, every speck of it, while it travelled through the air, aimless and evil. I heard the sound of my heart and every cell of blood raging through my body. Every hair bristeled. My tongue felt older than the world.
And yet, I had work to do. My fingers had market the tablet in my hand with sweat.
My question was not answered. Again I made a step forward. Nothing. No one was here. Only the darkness and the night were here, waiting for me or for no one.
When I turned around, I saw, that the door had been closed. By whom? I was alone in that building. As I walked through the floor, I just started to see normal things and the twilight itself became almost not existent. I saw doors, which were shut. I saw an empty chair on the right side. I saw stairs going up and down. A few moments later, I was in the kitchen and there was food on the table, old food, rotten food, which looked like forgotten from time and space. The dutch oven was empty and cold. The furniture was ripped open. Plates and cups lay strewn on the floor. There was also a refrigerator, but I did not open it. I had read about things which lived in refrigerators and I was not willing to put my life in danger.
On the left side was a door and I went through it. Now I was standing in the living room. An old tv sent showers of light through the darkness, static mingled with half-forgotten channels. Pictures of dead men and women were shown on the screen. I sat down on one of the chairs. It creaked a little bit. I felt exhausted, stared at the television, waiting for some relief. My heart was almost silent now. My lungs had stopped burning. My mind was still not clear, but it was okay. Everything was okay. I was here. The building was here and … maybe I would just take break from my job. I wanted a vacation. I could not believe, I was almost 40 years old and still doing that job.
The television showed pictures behind the walls of noise. One was the world, standing on the brink of extermination. A meteorite was rolling down the lane from a point in space like a bowling ball and our world were the pins. Another picture showed a father and a son and they both went fishing, but instead, the fish was a human and the fishers were fishes. Another picture showed me myself, standing in front of the building, staring at the windows like a deer in the middle of the road during the night while a truck came nearer. And instead of that doe, it was me who was the truckdriver and the animal itself.
I did not know how I got up, but I heard a hammering on the door and it was wrong. It was wrong, because it was a ringing in my ear, like a bell. I went to the kitchen and the floor and stared to the closed door. I was obviously alone here. No one was here. But the ringing continued.
I went to the door and opened it, just a few inches. I looked through the gap, but no one was there – nothing was there. I only say darkness, a void, filled with a few stars here and there, like sprinkles on a black cake. As I turned around, I heard voices in front of me. They came from another door on the left side, a door which I had not seen before. As I opened that door, I could feel, that the other door to the outside opened more and more and I felt a chill running down my neck and my spine. I felt, as if something happened, but I was not sure, what. As I looked down the stairs, I felt something, a memory from a time, which had never existed before. I saw myself walking down the darkness. I saw myself leaving this house, but not today, but 20 years ago. I saw myself applyling for a job. I was working for the government, giving out orders. Then a few months ago, I would start to work with a man in his late 30s. I would give him the order to visit buildings and talk to people about those. I would give him, only hours ago, an address. Then I would follow him and watching him, while he was staring at that one house. I would become part of a group of similar persons, which would be versions of me from different times. And we would whisper words and one of us would try to reach the shoulder of that one man. But in the end, he would disappear. Again and again. And our group would grow and we would go to other buildings, enter them and appear again in old and new times. And we would never stop, because we could not stop. Maybe this was hell, but in the end, hell is only eternity gone wrong.