They had only just moved in to what they hoped would be their forever home.
It was an old detached property, possibly Victorian, and had decoratively carved eaves and a covered porch. She could imagine putting a swing in the porch and sitting there on warm summer evenings. It was a cold March day and the wind was far too biting for any lingering on the porch today.
They were still moving in, there were boxes and chests everywhere and the furniture was just dumped randomly around when the doorbell rang. Jessica put down the box she was carrying, that was headed upstairs to the second bedroom and the doorbell rang again as she walked towards the front door.
Thinking it was a bit early for the neighbours to start calling and sussing her out and slightly irritated at the way the person rang the doorbell twice and hadn’t given her a chance to answer it, Jessica aggressively swung the door open.
On the doorstep was a small old man with a large nose and big ears and a rather alarming glare in his eyes. He had on an old plastic mac over dungarees and a check shirt.
“Yes? Can I help you?” Said Jessica slightly tersely.
“Maybe, are you the mistress of the house?”
“Yes, I am Mrs Lee. What can I do for you?”
“Just a warning for you. You’re new to the house so no one will have told you yet. Don’t go messing about with the house or the garden. They won’t like it.”
“The Spirits, they aren’t resting easy, you mustn’t disturb them. Don’t go changing things around too much, or they’ll come for you.”
“Well, thank you for visiting, I’m sure you have some more people to see and I’m rather busy. Good day.”
Jessica slammed the door. “Bloody Crank“. She said. “Why do they let them out?”
She thought no more of it. They had so much to do and Keith, her husband only had today off work to help and Tom, her son wasn’t really much use now he had reached those teenage years. He just liked to find somewhere quiet and play games on his phone or snap chat the friends that she’d wanted to get him away from. Their old neighbourhood was way over the other side of town and this was supposed to be a nicer suburb. She hoped he would start to mingle with some nicer kids who would actually engage in the real world rather than just talk though a phone all day.
It had taken them until the sun was well and truly below the horizon to get things in a semblance of order. Even Tom helped in the end, mainly getting his own room sorted so he could lay in his bed instead of on the floor.
The living room, Kitchen, their bedroom and Toms were pretty much done. The other bedroom held random stuff for upstairs that she could sort out in her own time and the dinning room held downstairs stuff.
Jessica put the kettle on and made them all a nice cup of tea. As they sat down on the sofa, still covered in its dust sheet Jessica remembered about the strange man and told Keith and Tom about it.
“Sounds like a right nutter to me.” Said Tom. Echoing Jessica’s own conclusion.
“That does seem odd. It reminds me a bit what they said to me at the estate agents when I went to pick up the keys.” Said Keith.
“Really, what did they say?”
“They said the house had been empty for some time, because the house sometimes didn’t like people, like it had a mind of its own.”
“Really, it doesn’t seem to be a creepy house to me. It has a nice feeling about it. Cosy.”
“Well maybe that’s because it likes us.” Said Tom. “Maybe if it didn’t like us it would be all cobwebby and like something out of a horror, but if it likes us, it’s cosy.”
That night, Jessica slept soundly. There is nothing more exhausting than moving house and she was knackered. As she drifted off into a lovely deep sleep, she’d felt somehow that someone was holding her hand, comforting her. She felt a waft of air though her hair, like a soft and gentle caress.
As the weeks went by, Jessica felt more and more like there were others living with them. Not so much when Tom or Keith were with her, but when she was alone in the house or in the bath or lying in bed. It was like having a team of invisible admirers constantly smiling and giving off comforting vibes at her. It was comforting and strange at the same time.
When they’d been in the house a couple of months they decided to host a dinner party and invited one or two of the neighbours they had got acquainted with and Keith invited his boss and her husband. Mr and Mrs Atkins lived in the new house opposite. She was a schoolteacher and her husband was a football coach. They seemed a very nice middle-aged couple. Mrs Saunders lived two doors down and Jessica had met her in the supermarket and had struck up a conversation in the queue. Mr Saunders was a rather quiet mild-mannered man who probably didn’t get a word in edgeways as his wife was loquacious in the extreme. Keith’s boss Siobhan Edwards was a tall and elegant lady, exquisitely dressed in a dove grey high-necked gown. She was very intellectual and loved talking about the Opera that she had been to in Milan, or the last performance of the London Symphony Orchestra that she’d seen on her last business trip. Her husband was a nervy pale thin man. He had been in the Navy and it had left him a little bit shell-shocked. Jessica found him actually to be a nice person to talk to. He would talk about the places he had been to around the world, but not in a boastful way like his wife.
“I have wanted to see inside this house for such a long time.” Said Mrs Saunders. “I had heard so many rumours about this place, I was dying to see it.”
“Oh Really? What rumours are those?” Jessica inquired.
“You mean you haven’t heard? This house is supposed to be full of spirits. It has been simply ages since anyone lived here. The last owners were the Schuylers. Mrs Schuyler died not long after we moved here and then her Husband was taken away. He was losing his faculties apparently and they put him in a place where he couldn’t be a danger to himself, or anyone else.”
“Yes I heard that.” Said Mrs Atkins. “It was before we moved here though, we’ve only been here ten years. I do remember someone bought the house briefly though and moved in at the same time we did. They left suddenly after just three weeks and it went back on the market.”
Siobhan then told them all about a trip to Edinburgh when her and her husband had gone on a ghost tour. “Remember Henry? I didn’t feel anything at all. It just smelled damp and I think that’s why people thought it was haunted. But Henry swears he saw something, Don’t you Henry?”
“Yes dear, I definitely saw a man, dressed in armour with a grisly expression on his face. It gave me quite a nasty turn. I didn’t sleep well for a while after that.”
“He’s so sensitive, poor thing.”
“Excuse me Mrs Lee, do you mind if I used your bathroom.” Asked Mr Edwards
“Yes of course, Its right at the top of the stairs and the first door on your left.”
Jessica was just serving the after dinner coffee and mints when they heard the loud scream. It was a mans scream, a deep bellow, but it was the scream of someone scared out of their wits.
Jessica put the coffee pot down and ran out into the hall, several others had followed her out.
Mr Edwards was walking backwards towards the top of the stairs. He had covered his mouth with one hand and his other hand pointed to the other end of the landing toward the attic stairs. He looked as white as sheet and was sweating profusely.
Siobhan rushed up to grab her husband, just before he nearly fell backwards down the staircase.
“Henry, what’s wrong?”
“I saw her, it was horrible. A woman with blood pouring down her face. She was there on the attic steps.”
Siobhan helped her husband down the stairs.
“I think we should be off home now. Thank you for a lovely evening Jessica, See you on Monday Keith.”
The guests all left after that, mumbling their thanks.
After that no one ever came to dinner. Excuses were made, no one ever said outright that they were scared, but nevertheless no one ever came in for more than a cup of tea and never when the sun had gone down.
A few months later they decided to do something about the eyesore at the bottom of the garden. There was a pile of brambles and vines and a collapsed structure that was probably an old summer-house. They also decided to make use of the Attic. Up until then they had used the spare bedroom for their junk and so hadn’t bothered going up there. Now they’d had word that Keith’s Sister was coming to stay from England for a whole month, bless her, and so they would need the spare bedroom for her to stay in. They discovered the door to the attic was locked and none of the keys they had been given worked on it.
The two things happened simultaneously. Odd that sometimes that happens.
They had workmen clearing the mess at the bottom of the garden and at the same time, they had hired a locksmith to open the door to the attic.
Tom and Keith were down at the bottom of the garden helping clear away the brambles and vines. She was with the locksmith as he finally managed to get the door open.
Nothing could have prepared her for what they found.
The door opened and the attic was bathed in a dim light from the round attic window. The room was covered in cobwebs but had clearly decorated with dark velvet drapes covered in occult symbols. Inverted pentagrams and other demonic devices. There was a long altar like table and lying on it was a decayed corpse. It still wore remnants of a long gown, which indicated it had been a woman. The skull looked like it had been hit with an axe.
Jessica prided herself on never having screamed in her life, but she could barely contain herself. Then she heard someone come running up the stairs. It was her son Tom.
“Hey Mom, Mom, they’ve discovered something horrible down at the bottom of the garden.”
Her protective instincts kicked in and she moved to block the view of the room from her son.
“They have found six bodies buried there. Small bodies, they look like children. It was awful.”
Jessica began to close the attic door but the locksmith was kneeling in the way, his face staring at the horrific scene in the room. He was frozen in fear and disgust.
With some difficulty she managed to move the man out of the way and closed and locked the door.
In a shaky voice she said.
“I think we should call the police.”
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 16/April/2018
via Daily Prompt: Crank