Here I present my second entry in what apparently is going to be a series of writing prompts courtesy of my tribe. This one had two options, and while I fully intended to incorporate them both, I ran out of time. Again this is unedited (obviously) and very, very raw. Enjoy.
**Edit. I went back and finished the story after mulling it over a bit. So at least now it is finished, if not polished.**
I’d always been wary of the crooked house, sitting there across cul-de-sac, perpetually empty. Everyone who moved in never stayed for more than a few weeks, and yet the bank kept on trying to sell, refusing to demolish the building. Dad said it was because “they’re a bunch of stingy bastards” but I’m not supposed to repeat that.
I’d tried exploring it once, opening the rusty chain-link fence and actually stepping foot on the dirt lawn, but Jennifer caught me before I could make it much more than a few feet inside and yelled to Mama.
“Abagail Margarite Terbilcox! You DO NOT go in that yard, how many times do I have to tell you?”
“You’re gonna be sorry. Get your butt in here for dinner.”
I could have killed Jennifer for snitching. Ever since Mama has been watching me like a hawk, saying if she finds out I went over there she’d tan my hide. But I don’t really believe it, she’s never laid a hand on me. Plus, it only makes me want to go over there more. I want to look inside its crooked door, explore its crooked rooms. Maybe there’re even some crooked ghosts inside.
Today’s the day. Mama’s off shopping and Jennifer is at her friend Kiersten’s house. Kiersten with the stupid yellow bows in her hair, I don’t get what Jennifer sees in her. But no time to think about that now. Now’s my chance.
I creep across the street, trying my hardest not to look guilty of anything. You never know, one of the neighbors might see me and report back. But it’s all clear. The gate is latched like normal. A quick flick of the wrist and it swings open, creaking all the way. I glance around again just to be sure, then bolt up the sidewalk to the front door. Once I’m on the porch I’ll be safe, no one can see me from there.
It is way too dusty up here. And the boards creak with every step. Front door. Here we go. I try the handle.
There’s nothing inside, the whole house is empty. I try the light switch. Nothing. No wonder all those families moved out, the house is older than dirt. But I’m not about to waste a chance to explore.
Nothing in the kitchen.
Nothing in the living room.
Nothing in the backyard.
Maybe I’ll have better luck upstairs. At least I can choose my room. I could bring some of my stuff over here, hang out when Jennifer gets too annoying or Mom starts yelling.
Top of the stairs, there are four rooms. One ends up being a bathroom. The other three are bedrooms. And the one I want has a great view of our house across the street. Yep, this is gonna be my room.
Twenty minutes later I’m back in my own yard and no one is the wiser. I can’t help but give the crooked house a couple of looks every now and again, keeping the window to my room in view. I just love looking at it. It is such a pretty old house.
Mom comes home with Jennifer from Kiersten’s.
“Abby, you hungry honey?”
“Yep.” I head inside; my stomach is rumbling like crazy. I worked pretty hard today.
“Stop right there, young lady.”
I freeze. The young lady is never a good sign.
“Did you go in that house across the street?”
How could she know? Did one of the neighbors call her? Wasn’t I careful enough? I turn and face her without answering.
“Oh Abby,” Mom says, seeing my face.
“You’re in trou-blllle,” Jennifer teases, giggling. I shoot her the evil eye.
“Jenny, in the house right now,” Mom orders. She stares me down. “Let me see your neck.”
I scrunch up my face. My neck? She moves closer and rubs two fingers behind my hair, right where it hits my shoulders.
“What’s wrong Mama?” Now she’s frightening me. What is she doing?
“Abby. Oh, Abby. I wish you’d listened.”
“Mama, I’m scared, what’s going on?”
She turns around and pulls her own hair up, revealing a black symbol etched into her skin at the base of her neck. It looks like two triangles connected by a circle. I feel behind my hair. There’s something there that wasn’t there before.
“I made the same mistake when I was your age. I explored the crooked house too.” She says. “And now I can’t get rid of it.”
“Wh—what do you mean?”
“Wherever I go, wherever we move, one always follows. And now one will follow you too.”
I don’t understand. Follow me? How can a house follow me?
Mama glances back at the old house. “They use us like diseases use mosquitoes. It’s how they multiply.”
My heart is hammering in my chest and I swear now the house is smiling at me.
And the window to my room is winking.