Preface: I’d written this story as a part of an NPR contest. We were given the first and last lines and were required to use those lines to open and close the story. The story had to be short enough to read in 3 minutes on the air. The opening line had to be: Some people swore that the house was haunted. The last line had to be: Nothing was ever the same again after that. Here’s my story.
Some people swore that the house was haunted. I’d rather say it was cursed. There weren’t unexplained howling winds, thrashing tree branches against slightly raised paneled windows, or gusts of air slamming internal doors. Neither were there vapors rising through grating floors nor flickering lights revealing shadowy apparitions. No, I dare not say this house was haunted as so many believed. This place was cursed — from the ground upon which the foundation lay to the highest peak of its gabled roof. I know because it told me so.
You might think it strange that a house could tell me its deepest, darkest secrets – about the blood that oozed from the pores of its plastered walls, and the sweat which beaded upon the rusted pipes. This house had breath like you and I breathe. I heard the wheezing inhalations and the whistling exhalations. Even in Autumn when the leaves became blended hues of the sun and earth, the wind abducting them from their branches, each leaping from one breeze to another – not a single one ever falling upon the prickly blades of grass surrounding this house.
I know you think it odd that I said ‘this house’ or ‘the house’ rather than ‘my house’. After all, I bought it. My name, Montgomery Bettencourt, was on the deed. But, no one ever owns this house. It has no owner despite my deed — it owns itself. You see, before I bought this property – this house that calls itself Kiernan (which, by the way, means ‘little dark one’) – I had been told strange things happened to people who had entered. Some had gone in, never to be seen again, while others had left in a catatonic state. Even my realtor spoke about the rumors, yet I didn’t believe them. I thought my realtor and neighbors were nuts. But I didn’t know then what I know now about my realtor. She was inextricably bound to this house. It was her curse, as it soon became mine. It’s the price we paid, you see, to keep our lives – to exist in this world – or so we believed.
“I am what I am,” Kiernan told me the first time I walked through its regal red double doors. It felt as if it had been my own thought, yet it wasn’t. It was Kiernan. It continued invading my mind, giving me feelings I’d never felt before. I had been gripped by its abysmal presence, emptying me of all rational thinking. A dreadful pit burrowed inside of me. I neither wanted to stay nor leave. My desires were no longer wholly my own.
“I was a man!” Kiernan shouted. Then it whispered in a cavernous growl, “but no more.” It wasn’t an audible voice. Like I said, it was more of a thought – an invasion of my mind – as if the house… Kiernan, controlled my thinking. I felt its feelings. It was angry and sad, apathetic and pathetic. Most of all there had been a deeply pitted pain growing in my gut, but not of the physical kind. Instead, it had been more like the pain of helplessly watching the people you love being massacred one-by-one, screaming and begging for mercy that never comes.
I couldn’t move at first. My mind echoed with Kiernan’s thoughts ricocheting around it. It had been as if my head was in a vise. The pressure was unbearable and paralyzing. When I gained control of my body, I reached toward my realtor hoping she would snatch me out of Kiernan’s grip, freeing me from its incessant low-frequency buzzing. But she stood there staring into space with vacant eyes — catatonic. Perhaps Kiernan penetrated our minds, simultaneously.
I eventually fell to the hardwood floor from the stabbing pains all over my body, squirming in my own vomit that I hadn’t recalled expelling. Then, as suddenly as it all began, it ended. Kiernan released me, leaving me with an ultimatum – to live or die. Of course, I chose to live. And in that same moment, my realtor’s lifeless body had fallen to the floor like a Raggedy Ann doll, as if her spine had been instantaneously removed. Then, I had become inextricably one with this house.
Nothing was ever the same again after that.