It was a nice house, an ornate Victorian, but over the last three years it had changed. At first the change was subtle, but with each resident the house’s presence took on a more and more sinister aura, as if the Gingerbread latticework had turned to spiderwebs and the reflections caught in the glass of the windows were all faces staring out at her. On more than one occasion she had caught herself avoiding looking at the house, as if making eye contact with it could taint her and cause her to decay. With a shudder, she turned away from the windows and ventured into the living room.
She picked up the forgotten book splayed on an end table next to her favorite chair as she sat down, then pretended to read. Her husband rustled his newspaper to communicate he had no intention of starting a new conversation and she relaxed. They sat, unspeaking, while tinny music from the old radio filled the silence between them.
When at last he got up to leave for work, she rested her novel, still open to the same page, on her lap. He kissed her chastely, a peck on the polite upward tilt of her lips, and walked out the door.
She got to her feet and watched him from the window as he made his way to his office. A small, relieved smile played over his mouth and his bearing relaxed as he reached the sidewalk. With a sigh she locked the back door behind him and turned her attention toward the breakfast dishes piled in the kitchen sink. Somehow not having a job felt more like work to her than her husband’s desk job, but then she supposed if she was going to see her lover every day, she would smile on her way to work, too.
By lunchtime she had forgotten about the house across the street and was so engrossed in her book that she at first did not notice the low, vibrating hum emanating from beneath the house. As it grew louder it finally roused her from the story unfolding in the pages and she looked up. She felt it in her feet, coming up through the floorboards, possibly even coming from as deep as the basement, and she tucked her legs beneath her skirt in two swift jerks. A knock at the back door startled her and she leapt up when she noticed the time on the mantle clock.
The fear of the hum in the ground was overridden by her fear of the anger in her husband’s eyes as he watched her approaching and tapped at the glass panes in the back door again. Knock. Knock. Knock. The sound of the deadbolt sliding back was like a gunshot in the stillness.
“They need to cut their damned grass,” he growled, bumping her out of his way as he entered. “Can’t sell a house when it looks like it’s been abandoned for ten years.”
Her smile was tight as she nodded and made him his traditional gin and tonic. “How was work?” she asked as she handed him his drink.
His expression said it all as he grabbed the glass from her hand, sloshing some of the pine-scented liquid to the floor before sucking down the rest in one gulp, and her heart sank. He was ready to go on another bender.
When he stormed out of the house to go to the bar she let him go without a word of complaint. It was better to let him go and get it out of his system than–
The low vibration in the floor derailed her train of thought.
The hum was outside waiting for her when she exited the house and she bit her lips to keep from calling for her husband. She would find the source of the sound on her own, she decided, and set off around the house to investigate.
She walked around the one side of the house and the noise faded, so she retraced her steps toward the back door. Looking under shrubs and plants, she could discover nothing that would create the phenomenon, but found it grew stronger as she neared the street. She moved toward the noise until she was standing at the edge of her yard and looking across what suddenly felt like a paved chasm.
The house with the For Sale sign loomed over the sidewalks, staring down at her from empty black window-eyes. Swallowing her fear, she made her way toward it and her heels clacked over the asphalt as she approached the overgrown yard.
A third of the way across the street she stopped as every hair on the back of her neck seemed to stand on end. Something was very wrong, but she was unable to put her finger on the cause of her unease for several moments.
You’re being silly, she told herself and began walking again. She even went so far as to shake her head in reproach, but the sentiment was hollow.
Halfway across the street she realized what had set her on edge. The entire neighborhood had gone silent but for the hum. Even the birds and cicadas had stopped singing as if they could also hear and feel the noise. The neighbors were quiet. No one congregated on their porches or in their yards, she realized with a sinking feeling. Shouldn’t the entire neighborhood be outside, gathered in the streets, and asking what the noise was? But the streets were empty, filled only by billows of dust blowing in the hot breeze. Somewhere in the distance a single large dog barked then was immediately silent. Or it was silenced, she thought morbidly.
Her steps slowed as she drew closer to the house and the apparent source of the hum. Her shoes became harder to lift, as if the soles were stuck in the hot blacktop of the street, and several times she glanced down to ensure she wasn’t sinking into the road.
Purchase For Sale or Rent
Suzanne Madron was born in New York City and has lived up and down the east coast. Currently she resides on a house built over a Civil War battlefield in the wilds of Pennsylvania where she has been known to host some interesting Halloween parties. She has authored several novels and stories under various names including Suzi M, James Glass, and Xircon.