FP275 – Dwelling, Part 1 of 1
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and seventy-five.
Tonight we present Dwelling, Part 1 of 1
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Dead Kitchen Radio.
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight, a young boy finds himself unable to fully escape a haunted house.
Dwelling, Part 1 of 1
The trouble began late one Halloween evening.
Under the uncaring gaze of a flock of plastic ghosts hung on an elm across the street, a trio of fourteen-year-old boys were sizing up the rotting shutters and peeling yellow paint of 186 Bunten Road – and, unknown to them, the house was taking their measure in return.
Two of the youths were dressed similarly, having adopted the personas of Jake and Elwood Blues, while the third, Samuel Curry, was dressed as Clark Kent. The costumes had been hasty choices made only once they’d realized their growing desire for maturity had yet to outweigh their need for candy. Church suits, cheap sunglasses, and Jake’s father’s fedora collection had simplified matters, and Sam had but to mousse up, and expose the Superman t-shirt he was already wearing, to perfect his attire.
It was perhaps his too-handsome looks which brought the Blues Brothers to challenge Curry with a dare of entry into the reputedly haunted property.
“Sure, if it isn’t locked tight,” was his final reply, and the hat-wearers smiled.
The false Kryptonian was somewhat disheartened to discover the door ajar, but he moved on nonetheless.
Digging his key chain from his pocket, the boy engaged the small flashlight which he’d long ago hung on the ring, and pushed through the tight antechamber which preceded the front hall.
The second entrance provided no more resistance than the first, despite its heft.
The building was a remnant of another age. Its armour was red brick, and its gilding, from frames to wainscoting, were of heavy oak. Even its innermost entryways held a bulk unheard of in modern construction. The occult symbols which crowded its woodwork were rarer still.
Inside, Sam was provided with a pair of choices – a passage to the left, which seemed to lead to a darkened living room, or, on the right, a set of stairs rising to the second floor. The agreed objective was the solitary unshuttered window facing the street, a pane on the story above, and the boy lay his sneaker on the gray carpet which ran down the center of the flight.
As he did so, the exterior most door slammed shut.
Sam decided it was only the wind – and held to it when the nearer slab also closed.
It was this tenacity that goaded the house.
In the kitchen below, a vodka bottle – abandoned atop the counter some years earlier by a startled drunk – shattered on the dusty linoleum.
The lad, at the head of the steps, ignored it.
He could see the opening that would lead to the end of his quest, and his focus was completely on his goal.
With a steady stride, he passed into the former bedroom. He had no time for the black and white leaves that filled the wallpaper, nor the constellation of unidentifiable stains which littered its floor – his eyes clung firmly to the square of illumination from the streetlamps beyond.
When he peered out, however, he discovered that his companions didn’t have his stomach for unexpected slamming.
They were gone.
Turning, Sam readied himself to retrace his route. Ten strides carried him to the cusp of the hall, and an eleventh would have put him safely outside the bedchamber, if it had not been for the sudden closing of the exit.
The hinged weight landed solidly on his leg, snapping bone below his knee, and the adolescent screamed.
Pinned in place, he had no option but to watch the corridor’s thick carpet writhe with mirth.
It was all too much for Samuel, and the teen lapsed into shock-induced unconsciousness.
He awoke to fresh agony, when the oak frame impacted twice more. His position shifted slightly with each hit, so that, though no blow landed in the same place, the shards of his tibia were churned into fragments, then splinters.
The boy realized, with horror, that the door was chewing on him.
The maw again swung wide, but, before a third bite might be taken, Sam dug his nails into the roiling carpet, and pulled himself forward.
Emitting a mix of grunts and tears, he crawled to the stairs, then down them.
The structure briefly considered heaving the rug to toss the child the distance, thus assuring an abrupt snapping of his neck at the bottom, but there was too much risk of becoming a known danger to the public.
No, it decided, permitting an escape would ensure its reputation – ensure the fear it needed.
Sam had made it to the lower-most step when flashing red lights began to pour through the no-longer-shuttered windows of the first floor.
Within moments, dual flashlights were probing the boy’s ashen face.
“I fell,” was the extent of the explanation he provided as the officers transported him to Capital City General.
No one doubted him.
* * *
For a time the house was content.
On another Halloween, four years later, it had scared away a similar group of explorers through simply swinging wide its front-facing slats while their backs were turned. Six months following that, it had allowed a stray Boston Terrier to enter its basement, only to hold it prisoner until it collapsed from starvation. The residence felt its carcass would make a nice surprise for some future adventurer – but none came till the second summer following, when a bored man in a fine suit made his way inside.
Having grown bored and hungry, the trap set itself to its best behaviour, as if laying out its tongue to await a meal.
A parade of workers followed, all instructed to maintain as many of the original fixtures possible. The cacophony scraped paint, varnished surfaces, and peeled the gummy fur from its cellar floor, and, in the end, the presence took some pride in the remarkable nature of its restoration. As they departed, it found itself hard pressed to want to murder this latest batch of subservient intruders.
On a later June morning, a smartly dressed woman carrying a clipboard lead a recently married couple over the threshold. The bride’s belly was growing heavy, and the twosome cooed at the flood of natural light that filled the room at the top of the stairs.
They lasted but three weeks – on a quiet Sunday evening the dwelling’s intelligence had exposed, to the expecting woman, every drawer and cupboard in the small kitchen. It had then silently shut each while she breathlessly retrieved her husband.
The house had not anticipated how seriously the young family would take the incident, and after their premature departure it still yearned for a more satisfying result.
As such, it again allowed the woman with the clipboard to tour the floors and prattle on about its historic beauty.
Eventually, a group of five attempted to nest within; a middle aged couple, their teen twin daughters, and the matron’s drooling mother.
This time the predator took a subtle approach. Tensions flared over missing money and mysterious injuries appearing on the senile gran. The old woman was an invalid, and the corruption took no end of pleasure in terrifying her awake upon a rocking bed – it enjoyed how she screamed endlessly behind her unmoving mouth.
After a half-decades careful effort, the situation was a primed powder keg. The wife was sure the husband was beating her increasingly frail mother, and the husband was progressively obsessing over the notion that nocturnal shutter creaks, and the sounds of shifting furniture, were signs that his beloved daughters were running rampant with their ne’er-do-well boyfriends – and yet he could never seem to catch them in the act, finding, instead, that when he entered their rooms they would claim they had just awoken, even if their clothing seemed freshly strewn across their floors.
His freshly purchased shotgun did little to reassure him, though the home viewed it with a sense of impending glee.
Then, one Tuesday morning, the sleepless nights, and air of constant suspicion, were unexpectedly interrupted by a phone call.
The malignancy could not penetrate the depths of the conversation, but the family had left together, chattering excitedly.
Much to the entity’s disappointment, they did not return.
* * *
Early Wednesday, a dozen broad-shouldered men arrived in boxy trucks.
Being familiar with the migration of movers, the house was content to lay silent as the paintings were stripped from its walls, and the furniture emptied from its living spaces. By noon only that which couldn’t be carried away remained.
As the rumble of engines drained from the lane, a black sedan pulled to a halt at the curb.
It was then that the lurking hunter realized the sudden departure was a greater threat than it had fathomed.
The sole of a well-built black shoe set down upon the sidewalk, followed by the stout nose of a masterly crafted oak cane.
A grown Samuel Curry stepped from the car, then removed his dark suit jacket.
He left it on the rear-seat as he retrieved his tools.
Despite his years of planning – his years of panicked awakenings and secret confessions to his psychiatrist – Sam made no speech.
He peeled the shutters first, plucking off the lowermost with crowbars, and using a ladder to reach those higher.
The doors came next, without subtlety: Guessing where the hinges might hide within, the avenging form simply laid his sledge against the barriers until they no longer stood. The rush of adrenaline made his stints away from his supporting cane all the more bearable.
Long planning had lead to caution, so Curry retrieved a pair of sharp bladed scissors, and dropped to his knees, before entering.
He immediately took to slicing wide shards from the carpeted surfaces, which he then carried to the lawn with meticulous care. As each passed through the house’s maw, it ceased its wiggling protestations. As the path of destruction advanced, the material increasingly bucked and jerked beneath his blades, but a lack of leverage left the complaints useless.
Every cupboard cover was stripped, and every shelf removed.
Sweating, the entrance which had left him with a permanent limp was the last tooth that Sam plucked.
Wandering from room to room , he then pummeled the plasterwork with his walking stick. The walls groaned with rage, but the lack of reprimand was proof enough to the bright-eyed man that the danger had passed.
As a last insult, Sam unfurled a sleeping bag and slept the night, soundly, upon the kitchen floor.
He was awoken by the sound of an arriving backhoe, with whose clasping bucket he would chew the house to rubble.
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