Saturday, August 13, 2011

Craven House Pt. 2


           The house was large and slumped. Gnarled, leafless trees crowded its sides. They wrapped around like ancient hands protecting the house from invaders.
The columns supporting the wrap-around porch and the wall beyond were covered in various shades and sizes of paper.  The screen door hung from a single hinge and had a faint memory of what appeared to be white paint turned gray.  Every window was intact, unbroken and spying the world in the moonlight.  As the moon made an appearance it reflected in the two top windows. The House leered at him.
            Will thought the tall grass whispered to him as it scraped his corduroys.
            “Go back. Go back. Go back.”
Will was prepared for that.  His Grandpa told him the grass was a test.  His Grandpa said the land around the house was there to stop people that lacked faith and love.  Other than falling at the gate and the grass trying to warn him away, Will experienced no problems. 
He heard a small voice in the back of his mind, “Lot’s of love for me Willy – Lot’s of Love…”
That warmed Will and gave him the nerve to move forward.  He stopped on the first step, feeling it bow beneath his weight.  The wind pick-up again and the trees moaned.  The hairs on his arms were instantly electrified.  Common sense screamed for attention but Will was dedicated to his Grandpa and had to see him again just one more time. 
Will made his way up the last four steps to the porch each one creaking and popping. He pulled a note from the nearest column.  He read it aloud, “Dear Craven House, please bring my cat Rascal back home.”  The writing looked like that of a young girl.
He grabbed a few others.  Some were typed and very long, others were written in crayon and barely legible.  Apparently he wasn’t the only one who had tried to use The House to get something back.
Will had never been this close to Craven House and couldn’t believe how many notes were glued, nailed taped and tacked all over the house.  Some asked for the hurt to go away after their child died.  Some were scorned lovers asking for Craven House to make life miserable for the one who had hurt them. Every note was about some deep longing, hurt or fear. They were prayers to a house that people were afraid to enter.
Grandpa had told him the notes would be here, but Will didn’t expect so many. He said the people posting their notes out here had no faith. He said they lacked love.  They were afraid to come upstairs to finish the job and ask the house to really do things.  The notes were for people to get things off their chest.  For some it was a last feeble effort to accomplish something they never really cared about in the first place.
Will pulled the note he had written earlier that afternoon.  He kissed it and spiked it on one of the columns.  In the note he asked Craven House to bring his Grandpa back for just a few days so they could go fishing.  He explained he didn’t care if it was cold or not.  He wanted the chance to tell his Grandpa good-bye and hug him one last time.
The clouds let loose with a rumble of thunder and a flash of lightning.  Will heard a branch crack somewhere near.  Rain fell in stinging sideways sheets and pelted him, even on the porch. 
Will ran to the door.  The knob broke off in his hand with only a slight turn.  He leaned hard into the door. It opened with a grinding sound, pushing something behind it.  Will entered and shone his light on the pile behind the door.  The light illuminated thousands of tiny bones.  They looked like rodent skeletons heaped together in a huge pile.
He flashed his light around the entrance. He saw low ceilings and molded paintings hanging askew on the walls.  The smell was old and sour like rotting vegetables and moldy bread.
Will felt uneasy and wanted to be back home in his bed.  He heard the wind screaming through the trees and the rain hammering the house.  He forced himself to walk to the staircase.
The shadows along the floors and the walls writhed like a basket of thick eels.  As soon as the light from his flashlight touched them, the movement would stop and he couldn’t be sure he had seen anything at all.  The ground crunched under his feet and at times felt like sludge oozing under his shoes.
“Grandpa, I hope you know how scared I am.  I’m coming but I want this to be quick.  I want to go home.”  Will was fighting his tears.
The stairs were soft like carpet but the light revealed a thick coat of reddish-brown growth.  The tips of the longest strands had putrid mucus dripping to the eager hairs beneath.  Puke rose in the back of his throat. He swallowed back the acidic burn.
Will wandered from room to room in a blur of fear and nausea.  He thought he had looked into at least twenty rooms before he found the one Grandpa told him he needed.
He pushed open a door with no screeching hinges and no scraping across the floor. There it was.  A large stone fireplace guarded by gargoyles carved into the massive mantle.  A tree was tapping the window like skeletal fingers seeking a crack in a casket. Shelves of dusty, cobweb-covered books lined two of the walls.  And there across from one of the walls was the rug and the closet door.
Will rolled the rug back.  The smooth, polished wood beneath was spotless and reflected the flashlight like a brown mirror. 
He took the glove-stuffed shoe and the dirt from the bag.  He placed the shoe in the middle of the polished area and poured the dirt on top of the glove in the shoe, making sure not to let any touch the floor.
Will pulled out his knife and removed the wings from his blackbird and wedged them into the shoe.  The legs he removed and laid them on either side.  He then shook the bird to get as much blood as he could onto the prepared area.
The house shifted. 
The closet door glowed. 
He heard his Grandpa, “The incantation, Boy.  Draw the symbols and start the speech!”
Will grasped the head of the bird, took the beak of his bird and carved a circle around the edge of the polished area following where the rug was only moments before.  The bird’s beak deeply scored the ancient wood with one pass.  He moved faster as the words tumbled from his lips, etching the symbols frantically. 
Will moved more from fear than anything.  He wanted to be home in his bed.  The house shook violently as if the walls would rip apart.  The closet door undulated with his rhythmic incantation.  Just as he made the final stroke in the last symbol the house became still.  The closet door continued to breathe.
Noise filled the room. The tree outside the window was not just tapping at the panes.  It was scratching, rapping hard against the side of the house.  Will stared in fright as the glass shattered and hundreds of daggers flew at him.  He instinctively raised his hands to protect his face.
The thin knobby branches slid across the floor to the circle and lapped at the specks of blood.  From behind the door he heard his Grandpa laughing. 
The laughter morphed into something unrecognizable.  The branches slid across the floor and chipped away at the heaving door. From the holes the branches created, sickly green light seeped into the room.
The light burned like sunlight through a magnifying glass when it touched Will’s skin.  He huddled in the corner, wishing he was home.  He didn’t know what was behind that door but he knew it wasn’t his Grandpa.  Fear paralyzed him.
The branches filled half the room. They tore the remainders of the closet door from its hinges.  The putrid light silhouetted a hunched form.  It stepped forward into the ritual circle.
A deformed and twisted half human form emerged from the hole that was once a closet.  It was lopsided and dwarfed.  One side of the body was muscled and covered with infected lesions.  The other side was partially formed with raw, atrophied muscles twisted tightly around a tiny skeletal frame.
The form hobbled toward Will, dragging one muscled arm, too long for its body.  Hatred told the story of its face.
“Boy!  What did you do?”  The beast demanded.
Will stared. A warm stain spread across his crotch.  He couldn’t speak or move.  Tears streamed down his face.  All he could do was silently call to his Grandpa.
“What’s that in your hands?  That’s no crow!  What have you done?!”  The beast was raging.
It reached out and snatched the partial bird corpse from Will’s clenched fist.  It buried its face in the birds gore, inhaling deeply.  It glared at Will over the black pile of feathers.
The beast’s mouth gaped, exposing several rows of needle-like teeth and he consumed the bird in one voracious gulp.  The hollow bones crunched in its massive jaws.  Feathers stuck to its chin and lips.
“Appetizer’s done boy.  Now you’ll be the meal.  I’m gonna make you intimate with pain for this screw up!”
Will closed his eyes and said a final prayer as he prepared to die.  Suddenly light flared and filled the room.  Will squinted as he heard the beast howl.
The light silhouetted a tall lean figure.  It was doing something but he couldn’t make it out.  The light turned warm and nearly blinding.  Then it was gone.
Will blinked a few times, then watched as the tree’s long fingers retreated out of the window. He looked around the room. The ritual circle was gone.  The rug was replaced and the closet was just an empty hole.
In a far corner he saw a faint spark no bigger than a tiny moth.  The spark floated lightly on the wind coming in from the shattered window. It came within inches of Will’s face.
He heard it whisper softly in his ear, “Go home Wee Willy.  Grandpa’s still with you.  I always will be.  Now go boy, go.”  The light floated on the wind and out of sight.
Will remembered nothing from his journey home when he woke up in his bed the next morning.  He looked out his window and saw a clear, blue sky. The horrors of the night before seemed distant and unreal.
He skipped breakfast and went fishing in the cool, bright day and missed his Grandpa.  But he could still hear his Grandpa’s voice saying they would always be together.
Will looked to the sky and smiled.

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