I’d been meaning to get a place of my own for a long time. Even the best of friends can start to get at you after a while. Mine would moan over anything; from visitors to the weather, completely non-discerning. I have standards, but I hadn't really been looking for a new place because I was kind of comfortable. You know what they say, familiarity breeds contempt, and I had grown contemptuous of the same fields and faces. I set out one night without telling anyone. I traveled through the woods, and open spaces, and exulted in the wind through the trees.
Change felt good.
I looked for less than a night when I found it; a great grey Victorian abandoned for what seemed like a century. It loomed stolidly over an overgrown patch of wood and weeds. I had a vague recollection about the house, one of the others must have told me about it. A spooky story involving a mad, devil-worshiping patriarch who murdered his servants and kin in supplication to dark forces.
I fell in love immediately.
I moved in the next night and took my time exploring the place. It reminded me of my boyhood, long before the war, when father moved us out of our flat and into our first home. I remember the stoutness of it, the reality of all those rooms being ours to fill. The first two nights in the manor were bliss. I passed from room to room on the upper levels doting over all of the aged and familiar pictures that were left behind. I was drawn to the attic with its dormered ceiling and dusty alcoves. I inspected the cramped bedrooms that cluttered the floor just below the attic, probably servants’ chambers. There was a strong sense of history, toil, and spent lives up there.
On the third night that I heard sounds drifting up from the basement, and the noises frightened me a little, but I wasn’t ready to rush down there. The door remained closed, and the noise deep. The next two nights I spent on the main bedroom level, drifting from room to room, absorbing the dusty energies from those plush beds and rotting canopies. I wondered at how intact everything was. No signs of vandalism, no signs of squatting, every room rich with history. I considered taking the main bedroom for my own, especially since the framed portrait above the mantle reminded me so much of my old uncle, but no one room could be mine, not yet at least. It would be a long time before I would be able to imprint my own energies onto the house. A while before I could truly claim it for my own.
The next night at just about dusk I heard noises coming from ground level. A wind gusted through the opened front door and blew up the staircase. I ventured down to find a plump and elderly woman opening cabinets, clacking through the house, smearing the dust off of table-tops, taking inventory; a realtor in an offensive blazer.
As the sun went down I appeared at the head of the grand staircase, wild-eyed and furious, the bullet hole in my neck gaping obscenely. The realtor ran so quickly that she left a shoe and half of her papers behind. I didn’t expect any more visitors anytime soon, so I turned my gaze upon the basement. The noises were louder now that I was near the door, which was made to look like a panel in the wall, just to the right of the staircase. It would be nearly invisible were it not for the padlocks and bolts holding it fast from the outside. I stood close and let my fingers drift through the door as I listened to the sounds. Wet sounds, lazy shuffling, hollow clacking. I drifted back upstairs resolving to investigate at dusk the next day.
When it was time I made my way down to the cellar. A damp chill greeted me as I passed through the door and down the rudely carved steps. The foundational stone walls surrounded me in the darkness. The dirt floor stirred not with the tread of my step. The basement was empty of goods, decorations, storage, and furniture, but strewn with tragedy.
In a far corner, just below a thick plate glass window set high up in the rough stone wall and painted black, shambled three of the walking dead. They were shackled to the wall but their emaciated frames hadn’t the strength to move the heavy chains, not anymore. They let out shy grunts, and their exposed jaw muscles made wet noises as they gnawed at the air. Their useless ambling had tread a ditch in the dirt. They wore the tattered remains of well spun wool and aged silk, wealthy clothes. I stood and I stared into their milky, senseless gazes, confirming that this house could never be my home.
I turned and passed back up through the house, and out of it, back into the woods where I was killed during the war.
Just because I’m a ghost doesn’t mean I have to live with zombies.
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