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The House At the End of The Street

There are two rules when entering the house at the end of the street. First: Do not come into the house empty handed. A gift is expected. Flesh is best. Second: Your eyes are the seat of the soul. Do not make eye contact, if they see your soul they take your soul.

Those are the rules my brother gave me before entering the house at the end of the street. The house with the dead yard and live weeds. The house where the gate creaked like a drive-in movie clichť but still managed to injected ice into your spine. I couldnít imagine anyone going into that house with any sort of stable bravery. It was never bravery though that drew the neighborhood children into the house at the end of the street. It was ego. Loss of face was a fear stronger than that which the house could inspire. It kept us coming. You couldnít be a bitch in front of all the other kids. Especially the ones that knew better. The ones that had been in the house before. The ones that had earned the right to laugh at those that had tried and failed, or those that never tired at all. It was ego.

Most of the kids refused ever go in again, but they told you that it was nothing. ĒNo problemĒ, they would say with a cocky half smile that made you want to hit them. ďItís just some flaking paint and creaking stairs.Ē The ones that hadnít been in the house saw it as a sadistic older brotherís bed time story made real.

And it was that. The house was old. Really old. Nothing like what they build now. It wasnít like going over to a friendís house knowing exactly where everything was going to be because it was just a flipped version of your own. That mustíve been the mystery of it. It was alien. It wasnít like any house you had ever been in before, but it was everything you were ever taught to fear. Especially at dusk. Thatís when you were supposed to go in. Right at dusk. It held the best possibility of seeing something that shouldnít be there. Someone that used to live there but long dead. Someone that your parents told you about before bed. It was the moment of promise.

Of course none of the kids understood what you were supposed to see in the house. None of them ever told us what they did see either. They just passed down the two rules that had been passed to them from kids grown and moved long before. Who knows how long the ritual had been honored. Probably all the way back to the original owners, shortly after they had deserted the house for whatever reason. Before the house began to look sinister and tattered. Like something rotting but not yet dead.

All these things I had heard a hundred times. I never understood them though. Not until I stood in front of that corpse of the house at dusk, shivering with an unnatural chill that was not a part of the summer evening. A shivering that could only be the mellifluous trepidation of the moment. I stood outside the gate an expectant step behind my older brother waiting for his singal to enter the house.

My brotherís name was Michael; like the angel. Thatís what my mother always said. She said he would be as strong as an angel when he got older. But he already had the eyes; ice blue eyes. That was an expression that would always return a wooden smile. It didnít seem to bother him on the outside when someone used the phrase, but you could see his muscles twitch just beneath the surface. Iím sure his muscles didnít know why they twitched. Just for release I suppose; or maybe for something to strike at. But his muscles never found their release.

It was dusk and it was time. I followed Michael through the creaking gate. It was cold when you touched it, as if it was created by the essence of a winter night. Made of black iron and intricate floral designs just like it was supposed to be. Entering the gate was wonderful; it was just like you would expect these kinds of moments to be like. The steps groaned mournfully as we walked up them. The light of the setting sun threw shadows against the flaking paint that twisted into the peering faces of the tormented souls the house had already trapped.

It was perfect.

I remember asking Michael what we were supposed to do. What it was that we were supposed to see. He wasnít much older than me, but I felt he should still know. I felt his age gave him an insight that would clear the fog of my own expectancy. His guidance would point out when the houses promise had been fulfilled. But he just shrugged. His sanguine shirt ring and falling on his shoulders as he walked ahead. I donít know if he shrugged me off because he didnít know the answers or because I was an annoyance. It hardly mattered because neighborhood legends and bedtime stories told me what to expect.

The door to the house was locked, or rusted shut. No one really knew. We had to crawl through a broken window that someone had replaced several times before theyíd finally given up. You could tell it was new because it was the only window that you could still see through. The rest of them filtered sunlight like cigarette smoke, thick and wispy all at once.
This half clean window was a portal for the neighborhood children, and we had come to expect it to always be open. It was a maw tempting us into another world.

I cut myself on the un-cleared glass that evening just inside my left thigh. Nothing nearly as traumatic as it should have been, but it was something to show everyone. A wound and a badge all at once. It filled me with elation as I wiped my hand against the bloods spreading warmth to bring to my mouth. Reveling in the taste of salt and metal I inhaled deeply, but the smell was ushered out by the real denizens of the house; must and mold. It was a strangely comforting smell. Like an ancient relativeís home that you were never forced to meet until just before they died. They werenít healthy enough to clean, and no longer healthy enough to make a mess. It was limbo, the edge of life. This insight was a comfort to me as I pushed into my perfect image of horror.

The house had a large stair case situated in the middle of the living room. It was ornate and wonderful in its decay. The wood had long ago lost its luster to a natural cracking that was even more extravagant. The cracks writhed across the surface of the wood. Sometimes light and spidery, sometimes savage gouges that swallowed the light around them creating dark pits. Things the creator had never anticipated when he had lathed and shined the wood.

The rest of the house was just as you would have expected it. Nearly empty aside from a few small pieces of furniture. Regalia that thieves or relatives didnít see the trouble in moving, now too decrepit to make it to the door. Appliances had been displaced, inexplicably moved away from the walls just enough to catch and hold your eye. Little oddities like these scattered the living room and kitchen robbing you of any comfort you still clung to. Like a picture tilted ever so slightly on a wall, or a scratch just under your eye that you couldnít stop rubbing.

The house was so far gone even the spiders had given up. Their webs long since abandoned. They were left hanging in flowing strands from doorframes and archways, devoid of insect corpses. Michael walked through one, sweeping a hand over a panicked expression. Panic pooled in his blue eyes, but it was a shallow terror. Something easily forgotten and not even worth relaying to the children waiting for our story outside. It was a disappointment. A cut and some spider webs were not enough for such a house.

My brother pushed through his fright, motioning for me to follow him up the stairs. It was obvious that whatever dwelled on the upper floor of the house was my only chance to fulfill the promise implied when my brother dared me to enter. I hadnít backed down. Instead I retaliated accusing him of never entering the house either. He couldnít take it back. He couldnít lose face in front of his friends. Especially when they realized how eager I was to take up the dare.

We walked up the stairs, my brother moving cautiously as if he didnít want to hear the creaking of the stairs. As if he didnít want to see the upper level of the rotten old house. I knew bedrooms always played heavily in horror stories, and bathroom mirrors doubled as gateways for the dead. These were the tools of demons.

Michael made it to the top of the stairs after me. I had moved ahead in eagerness to find three doors. All of them made of hardwoods no longer used in the construction of houses, tarnished by attrition and abuse. I chose the one that was half off its hinges; as if some tragedy had befallen it and none of the others.

It was special.

I pushed into the room, glancing around in what little light made it through the dirt glazed window. The room was wonderfully bare. Stripped of any evidence of a former occupant. The wood floor shared the same fate as the stair case that lead to it; cracked and dull and creaking. Despite all of this it would not fulfill the houses potential.

Michael peered delicately over my shoulder and after finding nothing moved onto the next room alone. I followed quickly behind, nudging him to the side so I could enter the room first. It contained no more than a cigarette tortured carpet that someone had neglected during the stripping of the rooms. No apparition, no blood spattered walls.

Michael moved ahead of me , and I pushed past him into the third room. This room was also barren, lacking even the pleasure of the void that the two former rooms held for me. It contained nothing but razor disappointment.

I turned around to look into Michaels ice blue eyes. They were flat, emotionless things. Any of the fear he had felt before had dissolved along with the mystery of the upstairs. I found in his ice blue eyes the confirmation that the house held no promise, no real horror. I felt my muscles twitch underneath my skin. They curled like smoke from a sneer.

Michael shrugged at me then. His shoulders rising and falling in that sanguine shrug he had given me instead of an answer. He smiled his wooden smile and my muscles uncurled in sudden release. And I pushed him.

Hard.

He wasnít that much older than me and you could tell by how fast he fell. How he stumbled back towards the ornately cracked stairs. He flew down the stairs with a powerful bellow fit for one of his angelic nature. His cry mixing melodically with the mournful groaning of the ancient steps sent quivers of splendor rippling through my body.

It was perfect.

I ran to the edge of the staircase when my mind finally caught up with my joy. But I didnít run to catch my brother. I ran to watch him fall; to intentionally watch Michaelís fated descent.

He landed in such a way that the curve of his neck and shoulder came flush with the floor. I couldnít hear the crack but I imagined it. It was my gift. I had not come to the house empty handed. And I was rewarded for it.

Flesh is best.

I emerged from the house that night unlocking the front door that was never rusted. I walked slowly and with purpose into the warm summer night. Savoring the moment and the story I would tell the children that waited outside. The rotting house at the end of the street had a tragedy. Its own horror story. The promise it made to me was satisfied. No child would enter the house at dusk again without something to expect. I was happy to add to the ritual. I was pleased to be a part of the house at the end of the street.


------
"It is considered rude to silence a fool, but cruel to let him go on."



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by SoulShade





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