Devil House: Chapter One
Sexy. The single word that pops in my head when I look at my new wife Kayla. Even though we’ve only been married just shy of six months, I couldn’t imagine life without her. I can’t help but watch as her silky auburn hair flaps wildly from the car window. A glistening emerald eye leaves the road long enough to give me a sideways glance. The frames of her glasses lift slightly off the bridge of her nose as she grins. I’m extremely attracted to women with glasses. I often joke that her glasses are the only reason I married her, to which she just scoffs playfully.
“Shouldn’t your eyes be on the map, navigator?” Busted, I think. I can feel my cheeks redden, heat rushing to my face.
“This road goes on for miles. I won’t miss anything. Besides, there are other more interesting things to look at.”
“Easy boy.” She winks. Her long lashes almost drag across her lenses. “Just don’t get us lost. I’d hate for you to die before you see this beautiful house.”
“Right.” I sigh, staring at the endless tangle of squiggly lines that snake over the paper. But I can’t concentrate, and my gaze returns to Kayla. The swell of her breasts pushing against her blouse. The firm muscles of her arm flexing gently as she grips and turns the steering wheel. The roundness of her hips and the long, athletic legs that bulge every time she steps on the accelerator.
“Stop staring!” She squeals, reaching over and running her fingers though my hair, roughing it like a child. I hate that, but it takes my mind off the discomfort in my jeans. “Your hair is getting long.” She gently wraps her fingers around the short strands and tugs.
“It’s barely finger length,” I protest.
“A trim wouldn’t hurt.” She smiles returning her eyes to the road.
I still don’t know how this wonderful woman picked me over the countless other men that had surely been chasing her. Especially when I told her my secret.
When things started getting serious, I had to confess that I could see spirits. The souls of both good and evil people, which for some reason or another, are unable to cross to the other side. Before Kayla, my mother was the only person I told. She was always over-zealous when it came to religion and she couldn’t handle the idea of her own flesh and blood seeing visions of the Devil. She concluded that something had to be ‘wrong’ with me and vowed to find out what. Despite the numerous specialists she sent me to, and the psychological exams I always passed, I became a disgrace. From then on, she always had this expression of disgust on her face when she looked at me. I can still feel her cold, gray eyes staring fiercely down her beak of a nose, demanding that I stop making up stories, or that my imagination was getting the best of me.
That was about the time Mr. Peebles started coming around. Mr. Peebles was the first ghost I ever saw on a regular basis. He always wore a nice suit the color of coffee beans, but I could still see right through him. I often wondered how his suit always looked so sharp. Even though I knew Mr. Peebles wasn’t a regular person, I still imagined him doing normal things. I remember how the room always grew chilly when he was present, and how my ears would ring when he was about to appear. I looked forward to his visits. Mr. Peebles was my only friend. He would always tell me I was special, that someday my mother would understand.
I was nine years old the day I found her dead and my friend stopped coming to see me. I cried more over my friend going away, than the fact that I was now an orphan. I felt betrayed. How could Mr. Peebles leave me alone? After I called 911, I was whisked away to live with the Mastersons. They were a middle aged couple who were unable to have children of their own. Mary Masterson was a short, plump woman with a headful of frizzy red hair that always reminded me of a scouring pad. She had the sweetest smile that made her blue eyes twinkle just a little more than usual. Paul Masterson was close to the father I always pictured. Even though he was tall and lanky, and his blond hair reminded me of a Ken doll, he gave me all the attention that I could ever need.
I quickly grew to love the two, and thought of them as my real family. Although, I still cried at night for Mr. Peebles. I wished that he would come visit me just one more time. Did I do something to make him mad at me? Or did he just not like me anymore? I only wanted to see him once more to say I was sorry for whatever I might have done to upset him.
The Mastersons treated me very well, showing me plenty of affection, including me in family decisions and supporting my every accomplishment. I remember seeing Mary weep the day I called her mom for the first time. It seemed like the natural thing to do, and I resorted to calling my birth mother by her first name, Susan. I trusted Mary completely. I truly felt like I could tell her anything. Paul was always quick to answer my questions about growing up or ‘manly’ things without embarrassment. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to tell them about my visions. I had a great thing with my new family, and I was afraid of what they would think of me had I told them. After all, things had started to turn sour with my birth mother after I told her.
“David!” Kayla’s call brought me back to the present. I turned to face her and saw her eyes go soft. “Are you ok? Where were you? I’ve been calling your name for the last two miles.”
“Sorry.” I let my gaze wander out the passenger window. “I was just remembering. . . “
“Her?” She finished my sentence.
“It wasn’t your fault.” No matter how many times I reminisced, she always did her best to console me. I must admit that I think about my mother more than I probably should.
“I know.” I replied, watching my reflection in the window. The memory of mother’s death still made me feel cold on in the inside. My heart still riddled with guilt, having convinced myself that I could have prevented it. Sure she could be a heartless bitch, but she was still my mom. I know I was young, but a spirit killed her, I know it. If my abilities had been stronger, I could have stopped it. I studied my reflection in the window, my normally vibrant brown eyes had lost their luster. My dark hair already showing slightly gray at the roots.
“Let’s change the subject!” Kayla interjected. “We’re almost there. I know you’ll love the house.”
“I still can’t believe I let you talk me into buying this house without at least letting me see it.”
“You had that editor’s seminar that you couldn’t get out of. Plus, this place was a steal! It wouldn’t have stayed on the market for long. It’s secluded, plenty of space and within our budget. Done!” Kayla has always been the practical one, even if she ventured dangerously close to the verge of being impulsive. I can feel that realist inside my head creeping up, whispering that this was too good to be true. There had to be something wrong with the building. A caving in roof, faulty wiring, crumbling foundation, a nasty color of paint . . . something!
“You know you can trust me.” Kayla grabbed my knee and squeezed it, trying to reassure me. “Don’t worry, you’ll love it.”
“I hope so.” Settling back in my seat, I returned my gaze out the side window and watched the forest race by in a blur. I tried not to let my anxieties build over our new home. Maybe I’m making a big deal over nothing. I do trust Kayla and her judgment. She wouldn’t have even considered making an offer if she wasn’t convinced it was perfect. Still, Kayla can’t sense the spiritual energies like I can. So who’s to say that the energy of the place isn’t tainted.
“There’s a turn off coming. Which way do we turn, navigator?” I looked at the map again, hoping that the endless markings would make a little more sense this time around. Fortunately, the turn was pretty easy to distinguish.
“Left,” I said confidently.
“That’s right. I should have known that, I guess my nerves are getting the best of me. I think it’s a straight shot from here on out. Why don’t you rest a little?”
I did just that.
I actually enjoyed a spirit free life until I turned thirteen and I got that all too familiar buzzing in my ears. Jeffrey appeared soon after. He wasn’t human compared to Mr. Peebles, he was just a charcoal gray shadow. He was around my height, which was just a touch over five feet at the time, and stick thin. But what I feared the most were his eyes. They were florescent white, glowing like bite sized full moons. When he spoke, his voice traveled like a raspy whisper that rippled as if underwater. Jeffrey only came at night, and it seemed like I hardly slept. Mary and Paul noticed the change in me as I became more irritable and my grades started to fall. I ached to tell them. Maybe Paul knew some trick to make Jeffrey go away. Or perhaps Mary knew some sort of potion to banish the shadow. I just didn’t have the heart to confess the truth to either of them. I’d rather be haunted and never sleep again then have them turn their backs on me.
After about three weeks, averaging two hours of sleep a night, and several inquisitions of drug use, I decided it was time for Jeffrey to get out! I decided on Saturday as the Mastersons always went to a midnight matinee. In the meantime, I studied every book on ghosts and demons that I could get my hands on. I noticed three things in common with each removal technique: salt, sage and white candles. I was able to smuggle the salt and sage from Mary’s spice cabinet, and pulled a lighter and six white candles from our emergency supply kit.
That Saturday at 10:00 sharp, Mary and Paul announced their departure and I went to work preparing. I set the white candles in a circle just wide enough for me to stand in the middle. I lined the room with a single layer of salt where the wall met the floor, except for the space under the bedroom door. I didn’t want to make the salt impure in case I had to leave the room. I dumped the bottle of sage into a ceramic bowl. I took a hot shower to try to scrub away any foreign contaminants. I’m not sure why, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. As I pulled on some clean clothes, soft cotton sweat pants and a white t-shirt, I glanced at the clock, 11:45. Only fifteen more minutes to wait. My heart hammered in my chest, and my mind raced. What if this doesn’t work? What happens to me then? Will the Mastersons be alright? My hands trembled and I started to sweat. The cool liquid tickled my skin as it ran like a stream down my face. The clock became my enemy, reading only 11:50. Time flew quickly since I was afraid to perform the cleansing ritual, yet too slow because I wanted Jeffrey gone. I said a silent prayer asking God to protect me and to guide my soul to Heaven if I failed. I also asked forgiveness for the ritual I was about to perform.
With a tremor in my hand, I tried to light the candles, but the flame danced all around the wicks. I grabbed my shaky wrist with my other hand and steadied myself just long enough to light each candle.
I walked to the doorway and sealed it off with the last layer of salt, and returned to my place inside the candle circle. Picking up a single candle I lit the dried sage flakes and let them smolder.
The room quickly filled with the strange, smoky aroma.
Taking a deep breath, I called to Jeffrey. “Jeffrey! I know you’re out there, come to me!” I commanded, my voice quivering. My ears started buzzing, like a swarm of bees were in my head. A frigid breeze blew my fine hair, making the candles throw their flames wildly. Just as my head felt like it would implode, Jeffrey appeared outside my protective circle. His floodlight eyes turned blood red when he saw what I had prepared.
“What are you trying to accomplish, little human?” his rasp croaked.
“All evil must relinquish their power on this place!” I cried. Jeffrey growled, and my shelf of books tipped over untouched. Each book took to the air as if attached to strings, circling the room in a great cyclone. I watched wide eyed, trying to take in everything I was seeing. I blew sage smoke into Jeffrey’s direction and he roared again. Books continued to swirl around my head, but never entering my protective barrier. “Your presence is no longer welcome in this house!” Jeffrey’s outstretched hands clenched as he continued to bellow curses and shrieks of agony. A navy blue aura surrounded his form and his feet lifted off the ground. “The white light shall watch over this dwelling. Be it ever protected from any evil and negative energy! Be gone!” Another beastly growl escaped his throat followed by a low hiss. I pulled a handful of salt from my pocket and hurled it at Jeffrey screaming “Let all that is pure banish you back to the depths of Hell where your lowly soul belongs!”
The room starting quaking. The books all plunged to the floor and a warm gust of air rushed into the room. It felt calming as it brushed past me, extinguishing the candles and wrapped itself around Jeffrey. With one more painful cry, the warm force dissipated and Jeffrey was no more. My ears ceased the incessant buzzing and the room fell silent. A calm swept over me and I felt as if I were finally free of the demon. I kicked the candles and the sage bowl under my bed and let exhaustion overtake me. I slept for two days straight. Mary tried to wake me several times the next day for meals and to check my pulse and temperature. Each time I replied that I was alive and just felt sick. She must have taken the hint, and I woke up naturally Monday afternoon. My room had been cleaned. The books were returned to their proper place and the salt had been swept up. The candles were also missing from under my bed. Mary never asked about her spices, and I never brought it up.
The sudden jerk of the car jolted me awake. Looking around, I reminded myself where I was and relaxed to be surrounded by dense forest. Rows and rows of thick pines stood watch on each side of the road. I dream of cleansing Jeffrey’s spirit often. I’ve seen several spirits and helped several cross, but that memory always seems to resurface.
“What happened? Everything ok?” I asked groggily.
“Sorry babe, I need a pit stop. I can’t hold it anymore.” I nodded and the car door slammed shut behind her. Kayla’s movements were quick as she ran in front of the car, and was swallowed by the forest. The pressure on my own bladder announced that I should find a nice tree myself. Laying my head back against the headrest, I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate on something else. I considered just leaving the car, but decided against it. I didn’t want Kayla to worry if she came back before me. Or worse, come back to a stolen car. I wanted to go back to sleep, in the hope of a peaceful, dreamless slumber that eluded me most days. My mother’s face staring at me with cold dead eyes also visits my dreams often. Strangely enough, I have yet to see Mr. Peebles’ familiar visage behind my closed eyes.
“Sorry, but that had to happen! I thought I was going to burst!” she said closing the door.
“No problem. Are you doing okay? Need me to drive now?” I asked Kayla as she checked her face in the mirror, smoothing her lipstick.
“Thanks, but I’m okay. Besides, we’re only about an hour away.”
“Really? How long was I out?”
“Two, maybe three hours.”
“Wow, doesn’t seem that long!” I yawned and rubbed my eyes.
“Are you ready to go?” she asked me, her face still attached to the rearview mirror.
“No, I should probably take a quick break too.”
“Okay, I’ll wait here.”
My stiff muscles pleasantly screamed as I stretched outside the car. The warmth of the sun on my skin felt blissful, and the breeze carried the earthy smell of pine as I stepped off the road. It wasn’t a long walk to the edge of the forest, and my working muscles enjoyed the strain. Feeling the full force of pressure on my bladder, I stepped behind the first tree that hid me from the road. I unzipped and relished in the freedom of my constricting jeans. The heavy pounding of my stream against the tree’s trunk echoed against the silence of the environment. Each tree stood watching like a sentry and I felt overwhelmed by the feeling of their eyes on me. My ears started buzzing. Oh God, not here! I pleaded in my head. The intensity in my ears grew. Bracing myself for the inevitable, I zipped up, closed my eyes and spun around. Slowly, I counted to three and pulled my eyes open. The wide middle of another massive pine was all that stared back at me. A wave of cold brushed against my skin, prickling it instantly. My ears continued ringing. This wasn’t making any sense. All the signs are here, something is trying to make contact, but I stood alone. I swept the landscape. Looking first to the right, then left, and then returned to the center. Nothing. My heart thudded. My breathing became shallow and my breath fogged.
“Quit playing games!” I stammered. “If you need to communicate, fine! Stop with the hide and seek!” The cold front dissipated, and my ears found some relief from the insistent buzz. “That’s what I thought.” I said, all my patience gone. I turned to walk away and paused. Before me stood a man, who was pale as a stick of chalk. Stringy brown hair lay flat against the side of his head. His face was that of a young man. The skin over his forehead was smooth, his cheeks taut. Gray eyes, the color of ash, bore through me. His lips stretched into a thin line. A trickle of bright blood slid down the right side of his face. His face was grim, but I felt no fear. The apparition ended at the base of his neck. My ears finally stopped ringing.
“What do you have to tell me?” I asked cautiously. His protruding Adam’s apple bobbed as he whispered a warning.
“Beware the wench.”
“. . . What? . . .” I was confused.
“Devil House will consume you.”
“What do you mean? I don’t understand.” I’d spoken to several spirits, but none had mystified me like this. He’s just a head, for crying out loud!
“The wench watches,” he replied, his face fading into thin air. His choked voice resounded in my head.
Devil House? Wench? What does it all mean? Is it a threat? A warning? Is it directed at me? Or is it just the ramblings of a wandering spirit? In the distance, I heard the honk of the car horn.
When I returned to my seat and buckled in, Kayla looked at me carefully before speaking.
“You okay?” Her eyes had lost their usual sparkle.
“I was worried you had gotten lost.”
“Nope.” I forced my best smile. “Just looking for the right tree.” She nodded then started the car and we started moving again. I resumed my usual position staring out the window, my head spinning.
Beware the wench.
Brian Keene is one of my favorite authors. His horror novels inspired me to start my own novel.
Did you like chapter one of Devil House? You can thank Richard Laymon. It was he who bestowed me with the love of reading and writing.
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- 'Devil House' Chapter Two
With such an overwhelming positive response to the first chapter of 'Devil House', here is Chapter 2 for your enjoyment!