(Not based on a true story - just for Halloween)
Oblivia was very excited to move into her late great-aunt’s dilapidated Victorian mansion. Sure, it was a bit of a fixer-upper and needed to have such modern conveniences as central heating, central air, and central plumbing installed, but the house was all hers. After 20+ years of sharing a three-room apartment with 10 people, she was willing to do some interior decorating in exchange for that glorious concept called personal space.
She arrived by taxi on an overcast day that threatened rain without ever following through; she only brought an overnight bag so she could get a feel for the place before stuffing it full of useless furniture. From the outside, she already could see the house’s non-existent paint, missing roof shingles, broken chimneys, and the other criteria required for condemnation. She paid the taxi driver, who managed to throw her bag onto the house’s front steps without even leaving the driver’s seat before screeching the tires back to the main road, then turned to survey the property. There were some blades of grass and a few dead plants, but she knew that she could get advice on landscaping from the three extremely close neighbors (one on either side and one behind the tiny backyard), all of whom were currently staring at her from their respective windows, through which she could hear their television sets as clear as bells. She waved with both hands in friendly greeting at all of them until they slunk back to their boring lives behind their curtains; what caring people, she thought to herself.
She climbed the fragile front steps, nearly losing a foot when one board broke, and unlocked the rusty front door with the ancient key that she had inherited. The door ominously creaked open, so she took care of that issue immediately with some oil she carried for just such an occasion. The electricity either had been disconnected or had never existed here in the first place (she could not remember which), so she had brought a bag of candles and matches along with a flashlight to assist. Slowly turning in a circle while holding the flashlight, she took in the main hall with its dusty furniture, cobweb-ridden walls, moth-eaten drapes, rundown master staircase, and sounds of rattling chains, moans, groans, and screams.
She gasped. “This place – is – disgusting!” she exclaimed to no one in particular. She feared the mold, mildew, and possible asbestos she was now breathing in, but she could not dwell too long on such thoughts, for this house literally screamed “Disaster!”
After tossing her overnight bag onto the opera house organ, she explored the other rooms of the house. The constantly creaking floorboards, the grandfather clock chiming 12 on every hour, and the little children choir that followed her wherever she went were all driving her up the wall with the noise pollution. She now understood why Great-Aunt Eccentra had willed the house to her: she was the only one who could take on such a DIY project and actually like it.
In the attic, Oblivia switched from flashlight to candlelight just because and she walked gingerly, since breaking through the floor here would result in a fall of five stories into the basement. She saw an ancient trunk in a corner and approached it carefully, accompanied by her singing entourage. The trunk had been locked, but oxidization had taken care of that nuisance and she opened it easily. Inside was a massive amount of correspondence between her great-aunt and some guy named “Beloved,” to whom she had written daily for 16 years, it seemed. The gist of the letters ran along the lines of “Why don’t you return my calls?” and “I don’t care that you already have a loving family,” and “You’re been dead the whole time I’ve been writing these, haven’t you” – in essence, the usual boring tripe.
Oblivia made her way downstairs to the kitchen and managed to find some unspoiled canned goods that she could scarf down for dinner, in-between the utensils flying away from her and the drinking glasses being thrown against the wall. The drafts in these places can be such a bother, she thought as she washed and dried the wayward dishes as fast as she could before they could be destroyed.
That night, she made her way by candlelight again (her flashlight batteries had long since died and she had forgotten to bring replacements) to the master bedroom on the third floor, shunning the more conveniently placed guest bedroom on the second floor because she was the master now, and the servants’ bedrooms on the fourth floor were jail cell quality. There was a fireplace in her bedroom, which she tried to light with her matches until the bats flew out; she opted for the extra quilts that were kept in the closet along with the glowing eyes and the growling darkness. Much cozier after wiping the quilts and mattress down as much as possible, she curled up with her book and a bottle of room-temperature water. Nodding off, the book slipped through her fingers and fell to the floor, where a scaly hand reached out to grab it and pulled it under the bed. She jerked awake when a loud crash resounded throughout the house – grabbing her pepper spray and cell phone, she ran out of the room and down to the balcony above the main entrance hall.
She had to blink a few times to focus her eyes: the main hall was filled with all types of ghosts, goblins, and bogeymen who seemed to be having a party. She unobtrusively dialed 911, hoping they had not seen her.
“Hello? I’d like to report a break-in,” she whispered to the dispatcher. “I think they’re drunk teenagers.”
“What’s the address?” Oblivia gave it. “Oh, that’s the haunted house. Yeah, you’d better get out of there.”
“Haunted? Oh no, these aren’t ghosts; these are very obviously deranged children.”
“Want us to send the exorcist over? It’s worked a few times in the past.”
“No help whatsoever!” Oblivia disconnected the call and ran to confront the gathering as she stood mid-staircase.
“All right, you delinquents!” Everyone stared at her. “There’ll be no squatters here, so begone from my sight!”
The ghouls collectively moaned as they shuffled off; she heard one mutter, “Eccentra was never that mean.” Satisfied that all had gone, Oblivia returned to her bedroom. She found her book on her bed with a note attached to the cover: “Loved the setting, hated the protagonist. Three stars out of five.” Shrugging in puzzlement, she tossed the book onto a chair, got into bed, and almost immediately fell asleep.
She dreamt of her plans to extensively renovate the dank and dirty house – all these silly distractions such as the howling she now heard coming from the basement would simply need to be ignored. She relished the challenge.