It held the land, the house.
It squatted upon a foundation of fieldstone; walls held straight by thick lengths of timber cut from the fresh bodies of trees. Floors, windows, stairs, and rooms crowned like a king with gables of ornate grey slate. And, like a king, it held the land. Nothing grew from the dirt in its cellar. Nothing was kept safe or secret with its doors. Nothing mattered save the house.
But what is a king without servants? How can a king force its will, without a force to will? The house called for knights. Many heard the call.
Shortly afterward, the husband and wife who lived in the house, the young pair who built it from a dream of what their future together might be, died. A tragedy, it was called.
New people came to the house carrying their boxes and their hopes. The knights watched. The house waited. Until, finally, both stopped watching and waiting. The family left the house in dripping bags of cloth and boxes of wood. A crime, pronounced the shaking heads. The knights danced around pieces that were never found.
New people came. They placed thin strands of copper within the house’s walls; strands that were married to larger strands coming from the outside. An odd box, strange and heavy, flashed to life. The king and its knights watched the box. It gave the house thoughts that hastened the march of its red knowledge. Such a wise king to see what it saw was very, very old. The house went upon the people slowly now. The name of this new land was “terror”. Terror for the man. Terror for the woman. Terror, first and foremost, for the two small ones. The king burst with generosity, overspilling upon its knights and seeping into the smallest hiding place. It painted the walls with its generosity. This time, many people came to carry away the work. The crowd milled in angry whispers. The knights begged to be released. Their king said no. They obeyed.
Time passed. Memories tinted red resisted fading.
People did not come back.
The king squatted perturbed upon its fieldstone. Something felt wrong. Emptiness was not what it was built for. Eventually, some people did come, but only slowly and in secret. Most spoke low and fearful about IT. The house liked this. Its knights scratched and itched longing to act. The king allowed only the sport of screams. Aim your weapons at their eyes and ears, it declared. Gift me screams. The knights did as commanded fashioning new edges. No blood, said they king. No blood cried the knights. Its kingdom grew from the whispers of those who walked or ran away.
Unless, of course, it was a time for blood.
A stumbling loner. A lost child. A collared animal. For these things, the king unleashed its knights. It was a generous king, after all.
Time passed. Bloody memories piled like stone.
A person came to the house. The knights pranced and gnashed. The king, IT, the house, watched. Then more people followed the first. They walked through the house speaking of the king’s deeds. Some mulled in and out of rooms opening doors and peering in closets. Some carried in boxes, just like those in the past always did. The king liked the familiar. When they removed the front door, this puzzled the king. When they removed the back door, the puzzlement grew. The king, however, was patient. It squatted, watched, and waited. Large lights were carried inside. Shovels and pry bars were passed from person to person, while collared animals sniffed throughout its halls. The knights hesitated for they had never seen people act in such a way. Floorboards were lifted, too easily. Holes were dug, too deep. A hush followed each bundle carried outside.
They will leave, said the king. More will follow. This is the way of the world. The knights quickly agreed with their king. Faster, thought the king. Yes, they must leave faster so the old can replace the new.
On the second floor, a door suddenly closed into the face of a man. His nose CRACKED. He stumbled to the floor in red surprise. The king, had it a face, smiled. The people, however, brought in axes and splintered the door. And another. And another. A knight pushed a woman down a flight of stairs. Angry cries rose from the people as they scurried her away. A basement window was smashed out. Then more. A sharp command rose above the din. The king turned its attention beyond its walls.
An old man, a young woman, two men with arms entwined, and several others stood shoulder to shoulder facing the house. The king looked at them and they at IT. They SAW the king.
I have seen eyes like those. That one’s nose. That one’s stance. But where? wondered the king. The knights felt their king’s confusion. But lo! Look! The people were leaving. They fled leaving their boxes behind.
They are people, these people. Candle flickers and nothing more. I was before them. I will be after them. My knights will roam to twist and tear! Drinking in the force in its voice, the knights lifted their own knowing what would come next.
The king let slip its hold.
The knights screamed red rage as they raced through halls and rooms toward the rabble. Those crawling out through the broken basement windows heard a popping sound from an abandoned box, like the ring of a joint pulled apart.
In name and action burst hungry from its hidden cage, biting for purchase in anything it could find.
Poured out from all the other boxes, smothering floors and climbing walls. The people had seeded the house with flame.
The king slammed open and shut what impotent doors or windows it had left while orange mouths boiled and ate its wooden body. The king cried out while unmoved human eyes watched the marching consumption.
The house felt itself disappearing. Parts were, then weren’t. It was not pain as the eyes knew it, but from being to unbeing.
Its form, its self, melted away without hope of reprieve. Helpless, walls shuddered, free finally to bend and fall. Its crown collapsed. The knights shrieked and cursed as they faded back into the thin shadows they were before they held the anchor of their king. They piled upon each other grasping the shrinking handholds. Their din and ranks fading forever beneath the panicked weight. The house pulled desperately unto itself. The king clutched at its slipping existence trying to remain, to be.
The house, alone, died under the steady gaze of the familiar people.
Hello, gentle reader. There's more to the story
Click here - "The Haunting's House" is a sequel, I think.