Some Houses are Haunted…Some are Alive
The house had a rambling thrown together look. There was something a little bestial in its squat center room and long hulking side areas. I had been afraid of it (as I had been afraid of my Uncle Randal) since the first time I had been brought there. Both house and man stared at me with hot angry eyes whenever my aunt wasn’t looking.
There were ghosts in the place. Oddly though, these didn’t scare me. In fact, I loved the woman in the old fashioned gray dress. She sometimes sat in the rocking chair at the foot of my bed–swaying softly forward and back. On nights when she visited, the house was still and at peace. But, on other nights, the walls crept close and spiders with long crooked legs darted across my pillow. They tested my flesh with tiny bites, injecting pale liquid that raised oozing red bumps on my neck and shoulders. The floor boards stirred under my bed and panted eagerly if my fingers strayed near the edges.
During the day, I was away at school and tried not to come back too early because Uncle Randal didn’t like me living there. I was his wife’s niece and he grudgingly allowed me to occupy space but he let me know how he felt whenever we were alone. One evening, Aunt Melanie had been in the kitchen for a long time and he had been particularly sarcastic with me as I struggled to do my school work. When we sat down to dinner together, I hesitantly asked my aunt if she thought the Grey Lady would come that night. I couldn’t stomach facing the darkness without my ghostly watcher. Before my aunt could answer, my uncle raised his thick black eyebrow at her.
“Oh, Randy,” she smiled tentatively and placed a soft hand on his, “the child thinks there’s a ghost that comes to her room some times. Amy’s such a funny little thing. She says it makes her feel safe.”
He didn’t speak to me anymore that evening but I felt him watching and hardly dared move. When it was time for bed, I slipped quietly off with only a touch on my Aunt’s hand (when he was around, we never cuddled, he didn’t like it) but he noticed even this small bit of affection and lowered his paper sharply to stare darkly after me.
Sleep didn’t come easily that night and I listened to the sounds of my aunt and uncle readying for bed. After all was quiet, the curtains began stirring and muttering indignantly. The walls moved in and the floor tiles shifted in a surly manner. I held myself as still as possible, fearing that even breathing might bring the whole structure pouncing down on me, devouring me as if I were a particularly succulent tidbit. Moisture formed on the dark walls and slid like silver saliva into damp patches on the floor. I ached with the effort of holding myself motionless.
Then, reassuringly, I heard the gentle bumping of the rocking chair. Carefully, I eased my head to one side. The Grey Lady was smiling gently. The house retreated from her comforting presence and the rhythmic bumping of her chair had almost put me to sleep when Uncle Randal strode into the room. He was carrying the scented candle my aunt kept burning in the bathroom some evenings. The light shone up under his red swollen jowls and turned his face into a collage of twisted shadows and crooked flames.
He opened his mouth snarling, “Will you be quie..” and then he saw something in the chair. I know it wasn’t the something that I saw. I think it was something terrible, more terrible than he could bear. His eyes bulged and widened horribly. He threw his arms in front of his face and, in the process, flung the candle. Like fire on gasoline, the whole corner disappeared into a burst of searing blaze that stretched out a burning arm and ran hot flaming fingers down his face. His screams galvanized me from the bed and I ran. As I scuttled past, my flesh singing with the heat of his burning body, his eyes never wavered from where the Grey Lady had been. He stared, gargling with inarticulate agony, writhing in terror and pain, into the fiery column that was engulfing him.
My aunt was standing in the hallway in her nightclothes. “What’s happening? Where’s Randy?” She darted past me, paused, and screamed. My room was an inferno that stretched hot hands towards her long pink nylon gown. Uncle Randal was already curled and blackened on the floor.
“Oh, my god! Amy… child, come here!” She grabbed my hand and we fled weeping up the driveway waiting for fire engines that took hours to arrive.
The next day we went back and stared at the smoky blackened ground where Uncle Randal and the house had been.
“Where is It?” I asked.
My aunt told me the house was burnt down, gone forever. But I didn’t believe her. And I still don’t believe her.
Now that I am older, I drive her old Chevy up the road and look across the twisting muddy Eel River. I see where the house crawled, hauling its wounded burned bulk into the shelter of the gnarled oaks and thick firs. Its sprawling rooms are a little truncated but still in place. It lurks in the shadows like a spider, nursing its grudges, and awaiting an unwitting occupant.