It was a witchy house: the low-slung roof, that quiet gray paint; those squinting, shuttered windows; ad the empty porch rocker that rocked, rocked, rocked day and night.
The first time you approach the house, you walk with trepidation up the four wooden steps to the porch landing, careful not to run your hand along the splintering banister. Each footfall makes a creaking sound as the wood porch floor boards protest. You glance at the large picture windows on either side of the front door – warped, greenish hued glass reflects your visage in a shadowy manner. You tuck a strand of hair behind your ear, swallow, blink and approach the front door.
You knock out of habit.
There is no answer. Of course, you do not expect an answer, since this house has been abandoned for years and years. You grip the doorknob, turn it to the right and push inward.
You cough into your sleeve as you inhale a puff of dust from the musty interior. Feeling along the inside of the door, you find the light switch, flip it up and the front room – a sort of parlor – becomes illuminated in the hazy semi-darkness. When the house was shuttered, LED lights had not come into fashion.
You begin walking down the hall, taking stock of the iron light fixtures with dead bulbs inside, the dark severe portraits on the walls, thought perhaps they only look dark and severe as a reflection of the room’s dismal and unkempt state. The floors are wood, echoing your foot steps, covered here and there with dirty embroidered rugs. They’ll have to be cleaned or, if that is not possible, replaced with brightly hued area rugs.
The walls once were white, but now are a pale bluish gray, streaked with cobwebs and what appear to be water stains. You touch a bubbled wall lightly. Sure enough, your fingertips sink into the water-softened surface. You look up at the ceiling to find the telltale dark stains dotting the spaces between the wood beams.
You peek into the bedrooms and bathrooms noting more of the same dark and stained furniture, dim lighting and dingy wallpaper. The kitchen, with its old-fashioned appliances looks serviceable. Once the gas is hooked up and the water is turned on, you’ll have no trouble making this the homiest room in the house.
The kitchen door is ajar; you spot a thriving herb garden, lush and full with rosemary, basil, thyme and other herbs that you cannot identify at the spur of the moment. The plants are so healthy is seems as if someone – or something – has kept the plants growing even as the house fell into disrepair.
“Well,” you think. “I have my work cut out for me.”
You make another note on your ever-expanding “to do” list. Your plans for renovating and reinvigorating this house that was bequeathed to you by your late great uncle seem never ending.
Frankie will be happy; he loves a challenge.
A mournful howl interrupts your pensive note-taking, startling you. Your head jerks up as the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and a chill runs up and down your spine.
A second howl permeates the air as you notice that the porch rockers, which have been creaking incessantly since you arrived have stilled.
Your eyes grow larger as you spot the source of the howling – a pale, wan hound standing beside the side gate leading into the garden.
Trembling visibly, you step backward, slowly up the kitchen stairs until you stand in the vestibule. With your eyes on the ghostly hound, you push the kitchen door shut and slide the bolt into place.