Commissioned by: Cheral Tophagin
Length: 5.6k words
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I don’t believe in ghosts.
More often than not, what’s assumed to be a ghost ends up being much, much worse.
This had been in my mind lately, after coming across rumors of a manor I had laid eyes on being haunted. A manor coincidentally too cheap to be trustworthy. I bought it anyway. Not like I had a choice; as cheapskate as I was, I honestly couldn’t afford any other house around.
A few days in, I started seeing the signs. Noises. Items misplaced. Food missing. Little things that anyone would assume are in their mind, but today I ended up with a confirmation.
The beer can I had put on the fridge disappeared. A can I specifically put there to see if it’d eventually disappear, one I’d not have simply forgotten about.
Silence. On one hand, it felt soothing. On the other, unnerving. Was whoever – or whatever – was in my house not doing anything? Was it watching? I couldn’t tell. Only my footsteps echoed in the manor, walking room past room with my gun just in case.
I had to figure out what was happening, though. I don’t know what it’d do were it to find out that I knew of its presence. The manor was big enough as well, it had a lot of places to hide in; though I had already spent ten minutes ‘clearing out’ the place, I still had quite a few places to go. This manor wasn’t for a single person, it was for six or even seven.
I remember now, what had been gnawing at the back of my mind. It was a story I read time ago, of something similar. A man lived in his house normally, spotting missing food and other things, and when he set up a camera, he found that another person was hidden in his house, coming out at night to eat.
Maybe the same thing was going on here. I didn’t want to believe it, but I had no reasons not to. For each room I stepped into, part of me feared coming across a person. And then, a chill ran down my spine:
To think that I had been sleeping while that person walked about. So defenseless, at its mercy.
How things had turned out, when being out of that manor gave me a greater sense of safety than being within. Days had passed since that beer can experiment, and I still found nothing. Either that person is pretty stealthy, or I’m dealing with something else.
I wasn’t completely lost at what to do, though. One of the previous inhabitants seemed receptive when I called him, if his greeting comprised of a shout was anything to go by. A shocked disbelief at that house getting sold so soon. Charming fellow, kind enough to arrange for us to meet.
That’s how I ended up walking into a coffee shop. Looking around, I saw someone fitting the description by a table; him spotting me and waving my way only confirmed it. Not too terribly well dressed, but what’s one going to expect from people who’d buy too-cheap-to-be-true places?
“Hey.” He greeted me as I sat down. “Enjoying your new place?”
“Beats sleeping on the street.”
“Believe me, you’ll start thinking the opposite.”
“We’ll see. I heard you ran away.”
“I did. I couldn’t wrestle a refund out of that asshole either. I’m guessing you’re starting to see some things if you ended up calling me.”
“Yes. They’re nothing to run away from, though. What happened to you?”
I saw him pause, his face turning expressionless for a second and his eyes losing focus.
“It was the haunting.” He answered. “Weird noises, stuff missing, the usual, but it kept getting worse. Things started falling over on their own, lights started malfunctioning, something kept interrupting my sleep. I swear I saw things in the shadows at one point. I wasn’t about to stay there to see how bad things would get.”
I don’t know what felt worse. Coming back ‘home’, or specifically doing so this late in the night. I guess I now know how kids in a movie feel when they enter a haunted manor. I’d say that they knew what they’d be getting themselves into, but so did I. I have no right to whine, despite how much I want to.
Not a second after locking the door, I heard a crack. Something fell, shattering to pieces. Sounded like a vase in another room, pitch black from here. I had to check, but I still remembered what that fellow had said. No way I’d venture there unprepared. I walked over and took my pistol from where I left it on the table, and then rummaged a drawer by the corner of the room for a flashlight before setting off.
Once I reached the doorway, I hit the lightswitch. Funny coincidence: It didn’t work, leaving the room in darkness. Frankly, I’d have been surprised if they did work.
Turning my flashlight on, I found what fell. Sure it was, the vase which had stood on a table. Had to be intentional from whatever was around; it had been at the dead center of the table, and there was meant to be nothing around to make it fall. Still, looking around at all ends of the room, I saw nobody within. Not even footsteps of whoever might’ve done it.
This is getting ridiculous.
That fellow said he couldn’t wrestle a refund, didn’t he? Taking people’s money, people run off, no refunds, and selling the manor to the next. Too convenient. Had to be the seller trying to scare me off, somehow. If he had a way in and out of the manor that I didn’t know of, then it only made sense that I’d not find anyone within.
I can’t let myself get played like this.
Couple nights passed. I had a plan in mind. Pretend to be sleeping, and wait for whoever it is to show up. Ideally, I’d be able to sneak up on him. This wasn’t the first night I tried this; two nights ago I had begun, but got no result, making this one the third attempt. Whether that person didn’t show up, or I fell asleep before it acted, I didn’t know.
Easier said than done, however. I kept drifting off, almost falling asleep for good. Who’d have known that lying immobile on a bed with eyes closed for hours on end would do that?
But, something woke me up. ‘Something’, best I can describe that noise, making my heart skip a beat. Sudden, loud noises of objects destroyed, like a rabid animal growling and gnawing at garbage, tearing it apart like its life depended on it.
It wasn’t human. Whatever was inside, wasn’t human.
I couldn’t move. I had been petrified in fear, unable to do anything but listen to the chaos in what must’ve been the kitchen.
Until, it stopped.
Lord knows where it went. With my heart in my throat, I forced myself up and took the gun under my pillow and flashlight on the nightstand. I also tried to turn the nightstand’s light on, and surprisingly enough, it worked, as well as those of those rooms I crossed on my way to the kitchen.
When I got there, I saw it all with my own eyes. What I imagined, had actually happened. The trash bin had been destroyed, claw and bite marks visible on whatever still looked like parts of a trashbin, and all its contents scattered about. I felt my soul almost leaving my body at the sight, at the implications, and the knowledge that whatever did this still lurked in the shadows.
It didn’t sound like a dog, nor could a dog destroy that bin to such a degree in that short a time. As stupid as it sounded, I couldn’t even picture it being a tiger or beast of the same calibre; that growl had been too… unworldly, as if. Something out of a nightmare.
Paranoid, I glanced around. Nothing. Only dark doorways and corridors, with no signs of the creature.
I didn’t sign up this shit.
Cops. I could call them. I’d have to bullshit my way through to get them to come, though; chances are they knew the rumors of a haunted manor and would laugh it off, coming here only to do the bare minimum. Well, chances are they would interpret anything I tell them as caused by the haunting. If they did come, though, they might find that thing and deal with it.
Had to try my luck. I quickly stepped over to the living room and grabbed the phone, but just as I did so, I spotted the kitchen lights flicker from the corner of my eye.
I already didn’t want to check the kitchen, but I forced myself to anyway.
When I crossed the doorway, I saw it… clean. All clean. As if nothing happened, with the trashbin intact, and all the garbage within. Not even a speck of dust on the kitchen floor.
“We had a call about someone on the roof.”
They had taken their time. Still, at least they came. Two cops, one of which remained by the car.
“Yeah.” I answered. “I don’t know if he’s been trying to figure out a way in or something else.”
“I see.” He said, looking upwards. “Is there a way to get to the roof?”
“Yes, I have a ladder in the backyard.”
Had to play along. Maybe that thing would show up on the way there.
What the hell is even going on, that I’m hoping that thing will actually show up? I’m supposed to be terrified of that possibility.
After inviting him in, I closed the door and made my way to the corridors with him following behind. Though in other cases I’d have given some chit-chat to liven up the situation, my mind was too busy fearing something jumping out of the shadows at any given moment. I couldn’t say a thing, and most of my effort had been put on appearing normal and suppress the bullets I’d be sweating at the moment.
But nothing happened. So far, nothing showed up, and nothing could be heard other than our own steps.
Eventually, we reached the backyard. A wide spacious area, somehow granting me a serene feeling of safety purely over no corners so close, no places to hide in unlike that labyrinth back inside. Although, with how I could see that the creature was not here, all I could do was play along to what I called them for. I took the ladder, laid it against the wall and stepped back. In short notice the cop climbed over, reaching the flat top with his flashlight inspecting the scenery for a while, and as I already predicted, he climbed back down.
“Can’t see anything. Must’ve jumped to the neighbouring houses.”
“Shame.” I said. “Here’s hoping whoever it was never comes back, then. Sorry for bothering you.”
“It’s fine. Not like we were doing much other than patrolling around.”
Once he stepped off the ladder, I took it and placed it back where it once was, before the two of us walked back inside.
Again those corridors, again those dreaded corners, and again nothing happened. It left me uneasy. Did that thing know to hide in these circumstances, rather than spook us both? It was already bad enough, and that beast having human intellect would be adding insult to injury. Or maybe it hid simply because it didn’t find me alone.
As much as I dread the latter once the cops leave, I can only hope it still is a simple beast.
Eventually, both cops left.
This is a mess. A big fat fucking mess.
Hell, I was a mess as well. This tasted worse than life, but I’ve somehow devolved into eating out of a can rather than cook my own food. Laziness? Paranoia? Exhaustion? Couldn’t tell anymore. I’ve been getting less and less sleep each night as well.
I wanted to get out. I didn’t want to come back. But it simply couldn’t be done. Walking through unknown alleys in the dead of the night felt safer than this place, but I’ve spent too much to get it, I couldn’t leave. Homelessness felt more and more tempting each day, but I had to keep this house as mine. There was simply no other option.
Is… Is that…
In pure reflex my hand snapped to my pistol on the table. Distant and, at the same time, so close. I have no idea how it managed to be that way, but how it felt otherworldly in some manner froze me completely solid.
It was that thing again.
It’s there. Somewhere, lurking in the shadows. I’d have to go investigate, but for all I know it’d end badly. Walking into an ambush wasn’t a terribly favorable situation for me. At least, that was what little bit of reason my mind had left. In reality, I was scared shitless and wanted nothing to do with it on a primal level.
What else can I do, though? Run away? That’s out of the question. Sooner or later there’d be a confrontation, and all the luxury I had was to decide whether I’d start it, or let it kill me in my sleep.
…I hope I’ll still get a tomorrow to hate myself in. I made myself stand up, leaving the can and grabbing the flashlight in the meantime, and made my way to the corridor.
As I had imagined, turning the lights on ended in failure. Like I needed any more confirmation of that thing being so close by. Guess it’s gonna have to be the hard way.
Turning my flashlight on, I looked at the corridor with my gun aimed. Though having such a little field of illumination with everything else basically invisible unnerved me to no end, I saw nothing of that thing. It all was as it ever was.
More noises. Steps, violent and messy like claws hurriedly dragging over wood, echoing throughout the house before falling into silence. It came from further ahead, but I couldn’t really tell from where exactly. Above? Below? Past the walls? Hell, it didn’t even sound like it had been over the surfaces I knew of the manor. Granted, the place was so big that I couldn’t even fully memorize the place, though having to go into unknown parts only made it all so much worse.
Swallowing my fear, I pressed onward. Slow steps, as silent as I could make them, partly over wanting to hear in full clarity should it try to sneak closer, and partly over terror of being heard by it.
It felt nostalgic, in a strange manner. Sometimes, some horror games I’ve played had a segment of a lengthy corridor and nothing else. The problem was that, since the developers would specifically choose to have a long corridor, chances were something would happen. I had gotten so used to that train of thought, that despite the luxury of knowing that whatever came would do so from up ahead like a choke point, it still terrified me greatly.
The lack of action wasn’t a relief at all, either. It felt like my heart was getting closer and closer to caving in. Something was lurking in the shadows, and the problem wasn’t finding it, but rather never finding it.
Still, I kept moving. I didn’t imagine having a whole lot of time; the sleep deprivation from the previous nights on top of it being this late would make anyone conclude their hours are numbered before they pass out. It was quite the difficult situation: If I walked faster, I’d risk being heard or even running into that thing unprepared . If I took my time, I’d only be risking my sleep deprivation get wors–
…Did I step on something?
Halting in place, I brought the light downward. The floor shone partly. When I moved my foot and saw the ripples, I came to realize what it was. Puddles of water had built up on the hallway. How? From where? Did that beast break a pipe or something? It must’ve been like this for a while; the wooden floor was already showing that characteristic form of decay. Problem is, I’ve seen with my own eyes this corridor in mint condition not long ago.
A cockroached passed by. It almost startled me, having completely forgotten about insects entirely over never seen one in this house so far.
If these weren’t red flags, I don’t know what would be. Any logical mind would immediately turn around and leg it. Nothing good would come out of pressing onward. That’s what my mind screamed at me. I could hardly move my legs. My hands shook, reflect in the aim of my flashlight turning unwieldy. Still, despite body and mind protesting. I forced myself to slowly move forward again.
Though once my steps had been silent, I couldn’t prevent the squishing of water and the drops as I lifted each foot from creating noise. With how silent everything else was, the clarity of the sound made it feel deafening in comparison. I wanted to be silent, and it all made so much fucking noise. It was gonna hear me. It was gonna hear me. It was gonna hear me and run straight at me.
At times I was almost begging for it to appear. End this suspense keeping me on the verge of going nuts. If I was gonna be screaming and shooting in any case, might as well end it quickly rather than drag it out.
I kept seeing more puddles, though. More insects as well, on the walls. Not long after, it stopped being puddles, and more a continuous thin layer. The decay got worse as well; the wood was turning rotten, and it looked as if years of humidity had seeped through on the union of the walls and the floor. Moss in some parts, as well.
There was something on the wall. Way too many insects crept about there, too. When I got closer, I saw it for what it was. Planks had been broken off, though rather than revealing the core of the wall itself, it showed nothing but pitch black darkness behind it. There was nothing. Walking up to it and shining the light past the still standing planks, I came to realize:
A passage, of sorts. Intentional or not, it led somewhere. The condition seemed even worse on the other side, as even plants had grown despite it still being part of the manor’s interior. Overgrown, in fact. Looked like a jungle. I could hardly see the walls past the vegetation, and the ground had turned so ruined that it resembled soil. I don’t think I’ve ever come across this place. Was this where that thing hid? The prospect of going in already made me feel like screaming.
I’ve gone too far already. Looking back, I couldn’t even see the living room anymore from where I was, only a dark corridor in decay. Still, that way was the front door of the mansion.
I could leave. I could leg it. I could save myself of this bullshit.
Or I could tell that voice in my head to shut the fuck up, as it only made this mess far more difficult than I needed it to be. Instead, I mentally prepared myself for an awful lot of noise, and then kicked whatever planks remained standing. They broke with ease, leaving a giant hole I could sneak through.
Despite the cockroaches, ants, and God knows what else which lurked around it, at least there weren’t any spiders. Taking a deep breath, I took a step inside, and crossed to the other side.
Another corridor, strangely enough, and parallel to the one I had just come from. The overgrowth and soil-like floor extended farther than I could see. There was a stench of humidity, as well. I had never been told of this part of the manor by the seller, though at this point I doubt even he knew of it. Regardless, there was something about it. It seemed too big to even fit with the rest of the manor: looking aside to both ends, the light wasn’t strong enough to reach, but I could swear that there simple wasn’t any space available for it to be this way.
That noise again. Rabid panting, scratching of the soil, running away, all further ahead. So that thing was here, after all. Was this its den, that the previous inhabitants never found?
Stepping forward, an eerie feeling bugged me at the back of my head. This place unnerved me way too damn much. At least, until I got far enough to realize what was happening. I could see the living room, eroded, decayed; was this a mirrored version of the manor itself? When I got there, I saw that all had decomposed almost ruin. There wasn’t even a functional lightswitch to try anymore.
When I caught glimpse of the windows, I got morbidly curious; was the outside world affected as well? Though part of me didn’t want to know, I moved closer nonetheless and peeked out.
…The cops were there, leaning against their car, lazying around looking onward to the otherwise unchanged and mundane streets.
I didn’t call them. I saw them leave, as well. They had no reason to be here. Even if they had one, they’d sooner knock at my door rather than stay there without even letting me know. Pursing my lips and lightly shaking my head in disbelief, I concluded that I’d make zero sense out of anything going on. Looking aside, the door still stood in good enough shape to be opened. Though my common sense dictated it was a bad idea, I had grown desensitized to stupidity, as stupidity got me here in the first place. I walked to the door, and when I found it opening properly rather than the hinges giving in and flattening me against the floor, I crossed it, closing it behind me.
The cops didn’t seem to notice me, though. Or rather, they ignored me. They didn’t even take a glance, apparently more concerned by how long their cigarettes would last. I had made no attempt to sneak up to them either, so surely they heard me as I arrived to them.
“It’s a… quiet night, isn’t it?” I forced the words out of my mouth. Part of me must’ve thought I was going nuts, if being truthful about what was going on felt like risking getting seen as a madman.
“You lasted more than the others.” One of them said. What he said, how he said it, nonchalant as if mere chit-chat sent a shiver down my spine. “They’d have run off by now.”
“You really seem to like that house, despite what goes on there. How much longer do you plan on staying?”
My heart was stuck in my throat again. I could not do a thing. It no longer felt like the cops were… ‘people’, in the usual sense, but coming to realize that it was the same ones who I let into I house only made it so much worse. I had thought they were normal, back then.
Or were they normal, and I’m stuck in some dream-like state? Is this mess even real anymore? Did I get knocked out, am I still sleeping?
“It’s getting pretty cold, isn’t it?” He said, slowly turning his head towards me with an eerie smile. “Why don’t you go back inside?”
As soon as he finished, I heard the creaking of the front door. Turning around, I saw it already wide open.
‘Go back inside’. His words felt like taunting. Still, already being outside made staying here so much more tempting. I was already out of the manor. I didn’t have to do anything to end this mess, I had to just walk away.
…But where? That manor was the last place I could call home.
Why are there so many situations that test me like this? Being cornered like a rat felt like a luxury in comparison. I wouldn’t have to question whether I want to do something or not, I’d just do it. Freedom from choice, as if. Now, somehow, even fate itself made me walk out of the manor despite telling myself I couldn’t leave.
It’s challenging me. It has to be. It wants me out, but invites me in. Gives me the illusion of choice, so that I can’t blame anyone but myself.
With one last glance at the cop, I still found him with that smile staring at me, though frozen in place.
I have to end this. Soon.
Forcing my legs to move, I walked back the way I came from, and the door closed behind me on its own. Yeah, no going back now. Whatever is making this happen might have finally gotten tired of me.
Although, I spotted differences. Sure this was still the living room, but the doorways to the sides were gone. It was only wall, decayed, eroded like the rest of the room, but only the doorway to the front remained.
I nearly jumped in place. I heard a voice whispering my name. A woman’s, echoing throughout the mansion. I couldn’t pinpoint where it came from, as if it came from each and every nook and cranny of the damn house. How did it know my name? Could it always speak? Was the beast connected to it? Questions I’d probably find no answers to. Here’s hoping bullets would work for whatever waited for me. There was only one path to take, and so I took it, flashlight and gun aimed down the hallway despite how badly my hands shook.
After a few slow steps, though, I saw more differences. A gradual change in the decay. Little by little, the further I got, the more I began to notice the vegetation and overgrowth replaced by… things, if I could even find a proper way to describe them. Vines and leaves replaced with tendrils, the floor and walls looking more greasy, the floor–
Christ, what is this? The water had changed. Now it was more… sticky. Slime, as if. Thicker, sticking to my shoe as I lifted it and dripping down ever so slowly. Illuminating farther down the hallway, it only seemed to get worse and worse.
There it was that voice again. But it only said my name. Where was it? What did it want? If it could talk, why the hell did it not make contact way, way earlier?
The hallway started looking straight out of a Lovecraft book. Vegetative growth turned into organ-like collections. The greasy walls had even begun showing vein-like patterns, texture appearing softer like flesh. The soil began to show the same signs, my footsteps letting out a loud squish as the surface gave in slightly under my weight. Was I in a jungle, or was I in the belly of a beast?
‘Belly’. I felt it a mistake to describe it like that. My mind suddenly snapped to thinking some stupid, but stupider still was how it almost made too much sense. The idea that the culprit could be the entire house, rather than a beast within altering things. The house, as an organism.
And I had willingly walked into it despite so many chances to leave.
I saw some manner of end. A wall of similar traits, with a normal wooden door uncannily clean and maintained. It shone, though seemingly through polish rather than the saliva-like slime covering every other surface; though I’d have been glad to see something not horribly decayed, the contrast made me feel like it’d have been better for my psyche if it had been just as decayed.
Before I arrived to it, though, the handle turned. I immediately pointed my gun expecting the worst, but as I caught glimpse of the interior, I saw that it had opened on its own.
The silhouette of a writhing mass of flesh behind it shook me to the core. I wanted to scream. My throat ached, choking me, asphyxiating me, wanting to turn tail and run, but like deer caught in headlights, I couldn’t do even that. The light wasn’t strong enough for me to see what it was, but it remained in place all the while I stood my ground petrified. It did nothing.
Gulping down with a dry throat, I stepped forward in morbid curiosity. By the time I crossed the door – half-surprised that it didn’t shut on its own – the light illuminated what lay ahead.
Flesh, it was not. Unnatural color, unnatural texture, unnatural everything, and an uncanny shape resembling a humanoid partly. Could not even tell if it was a liquid or a solid, sharing a consistency between the two, and though tendrils, teeth, eyes, and tongues adorned most of its nightmarish sickly blue and greyish physique, still it had a torso, arms, and head, at least in shape. A melting woman, united with the floor, as if it was part of the manor itself.
“Why have you not run away…?”
Now I knew where the whispers came from. It was that thing. It was the house. The manor. The beast. I couldn’t dislodge my jaw; it wouldn’t even open in catatonic horror. I was stuck there, like a statue. I couldn’t even shoot; the thought simply never crossed my mind.
“You were not welcome… None were welcome into my domain…”
My fight or flight instinct surely broke. I must’ve been sweating bullets, and I could not notice.
“I…” I spoke. I don’t know why. It felt like instinct. A last ditch attempt, as if. “I-I had nowhere else to go…”
Did it hear me? Most likely. Did it care? That was the question. It didn’t seem to react, or do anything at all. It only stared, with all its eyes pointed at me.
I should’ve run away. I should’ve taken the first chance. I don’t think I’m getting out in one piece, but if I do, I’m never returning. Maybe I should’ve listened to those voices in my head telling me to stop being stupid.
“Do you care so much for this place…? To walk to your doom for…?” It whispered.
Taunting. It must be taunting. It’s a damn shitty house, why am I risking so much? Am I that much of a cheapskate that I’d risk my life just for a roof?
I’m fucking dead.
Come on, shoot you miserable piece of shit! Pull the trigger! Stop being petrified and shoot!
“I see…” It whispered.
Oh Christ, my flashlight went off! Work! Work, dammit! Turn off, turn on again, but nothing! I hit it with my gun, but it still refused to work. I hit it twice, thrice, even against my knee despite the pain, but it wouldn’t turn on! I couldn’t see a damn thing. What could that thing be doing? What if it was surrounding me with tendrils about to crush–
I could’ve just shot! Shit! In haste I took aim and–
The room’s lights turned on.
I found myself in the kitchen, about to shoot my fridge to death. It was all… clean, as well. No flesh, no overgrowth, just a pristine clean kitchen. Glancing aside, even the living room’s light was on.
What?! I saw it! I saw it with my own damn eyes, it was right there in front of me! The walls were flesh! The manor was almost falling apart! I saw it! It was real, it was all real!
My head, it felt like it was gonna pop. I brought my hands up to my head and let out a loud cry in agony. I could not tell what was happening anymore.
It’s been a few days since then.
That hole in the hallway disappeared. There’s no signs of the build-up of water or insects either. It’s as if it never happened. As to the cops, I never heard any names, otherwise I’d have called the police department and asked if they even existed. I already imagined they didn’t.
The noises had stopped for good.
My food had stopped disappearing, as well.
I met up with that fellow yesterday, just in case everything about this place was in my head. He was still terrified of the manor.
I guess it wasn’t in my head. Strange things still happen, though. Like how I had thought that I had left the dishes in the sink overnight, to find them already clean and put in their place. Had I not gone through the mess of days ago, I’d think it was only in my head, but I still believe it happened. Somehow.
But if it did, then it only made me wonder about what that thing had said. About its change of mind. About what it was thinking. Did it allow me to stay? Is it expecting something from me in return?
I don’t know. All I know is that I still have my life and a roof to sleep under.
Still, I can’t tell how things are gonna be from here on. That thing didn’t leave. It’s still in the manor. It still is ‘the’ manor, if my hunch was right. Ever present. Watching. I guess I can only be thankful that despite all that, I’ve been allowed to recover my proper sleep.
Although, curiously enough, my bed has become exceptionally comfortable lately.