Aphelion Issue 253, Volume 24
August 2020
 
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The House on North Lane

by Swagato Chakraborty




The house on North Lane was an abandoned, creaky old house. Someone affluent used to own the house in the past, who exactly no one knew, and since the family left the town it had been like this. At least that was the common belief.

Our playground was just opposite to this house. After an afternoon of games and joy, tired and hungry, we would sit on the grass and tell ghost stories about the house to scare off each other. Most of the stories were bogus; some were a product of our childish imaginations. Although they were enough to prevent us from being anywhere too close to the house.

The adults in our town seemed to have the same disdain about the house. Not many people liked to walk on North Lane after dark and very few ever loitered near the property. Our childish infatuation with the house on North Lane died down as we grew older. Pressures of studies and securing a livelihood became our prime concern. Eventually, I left the town to go to college and finally decided to settle in the city itself.

That was till yesterday when I returned to the town. I was applying for a better job and needed some documents that were left behind with my parents. I was here to collect them and stay with my folks for a week. On the last day of my stay, I strolled around the town gathering up old memories. I passed by the ice-cream parlour where we hanged out during summers. I took a round of the old school, the gardens, the market, and the town park. Finally, I reached North Lane and found the new generation playing on the same old playground.

It was then that I suddenly remembered about the house and I turned to look at it. It looked older and more broken-down than what I remembered. Some of its windows have given up and the walls have started to lose bricks. Some trees have started to invade the walls with their branches and vines.

I don’t know if it was because I was an adult now but I felt no fear standing in front of the house. As kids we shared so many stories about it. I smiled thinking about them. Suddenly, I decided, to look inside the house. Who knows when I will get the chance to return here again and moreover, if I could snap some photos of the place and post them on social media, I could flex my courage in front of my friends.

So I pushed open the rusted gates and entered the premises, leaving a few astonished children behind me. It was dusk and darkness was enveloping the world. I made my way into the porch but found nothing of interest. I climed up three small stairs and reached the front door.

To my surprise, it was open.

Well maybe the previous owners simply forgotten to lock it? Or perhaps the locks got rusted and fell down themselves? I didn’t give it a second thought and pushed the door open. I was immideatly greeted by a cold gust of wind trapped inside. I looked but found only darkness. By now, it was night and the playing children have long left. Standing over there I felt a tinge of fear. However, I really wanted to snap those pictures and show connect my friends to a lost piece of collective nostalgia.

I turned on my phone’s flashlight and went inside. The owners seemed to have left in a hurry because the house was filled with furnintures. The ceiling looked as if it would fall down any moment now. Everything was covered in dust and the house was, overall, in a very bad state.

Suddenly, there was a scuffle on the floor above me.

I distinctly heard whispers, then some rapid footsteps and finally something heavy fell down upstairs. I jumped and looked around me.

Empty.

I made my way to the stairs and looked around. Nothing was out of the ordinary. What was the noise then?

“Who are you?”

The sound of another voice in this lonely place made me almost scream out. I turned around to find an old man standing behind me. Looking at me. The darkness made it difficult to discren his features but, in the flashlight, I saw he had an oval face. He had a crooked nose and wrinkles filled his face. He was wearing a hat.

“I am sorry” I said “I didn’t mean to be trespassing.”

“What do you want?” He asked me, his voice just above a wishper.

“Er..nothing serious really. Actually, I grew up in this town. As kids we used to be fascinated by this house. I came back after many years and I wanted to snap some pictures of the house and show my friends. Sorry” I said really meaning my words “I didn’t know anyone lived here.”

The man stared at me for some moments. I cannot say what those staring eyes meant, but he took his eyes off me soon and pointed upstairs.

“Come” He said.

“Where?” I asked.

“Upstairs. You wanted some photos.”

Upstairs, the condition of the house was more critical. Bricks were missing from the walls and the floor was missing in some places. I thanked the man for the permission and clicked some photos of the place. The man unlocked a door and beckoned me in. It was a small study room. He told me to sit in a chair and he sat on the opposite one.

“But really” I said “I didn’t know anyone lived here. Did you purchase the house recently?”

I was surprised when the man shook his head and said “No. I had always lived here.”

Always? That means even when we were kids? How is that possible? Our parents always told us that the house was empty. Did they not know the truth?

“Always?” I asked “If so, why don’t you mingle with the townsfolk? I have never seen you getting out of the house as a kid.”

The man sighed-a long prolonged sigh-and then said “He didn’t allow me to.”

“Who?” I asked.

“My brother.”

So the man lived here with a brother. Two men lived in the house and no one in the town knew. I felt bewildered.

“I mean” I began “I’ve never seen your brother go out of the house too so…” The man did something unexpected. He smiled. His lips curled up and he said “How will he go out? He is dead.”

A chill went down my spine.

Dead? Then why did he say his brother didn’t let him leave the house?

Before I could say anything the old man removed his cap and I shuddered. There was a deep scar going through his forehead all the way to the back of his head.

“Goodness” I said “What happened?”

“A scuffle” He said “My brother hit me on the head.”

“But your brother…”

“Dead. I know. I killed him with my own hands, made sure he will never breathe again.”

I felt paralyzing fear. The man was confessing to a murder. I started to look for an exit, it wasn’t safe to be here.

Suddenly, there was a shrill cry from the next room. Someone was screaming in pain. Then there was footsteps coming at our direction.

“Now” The man said “It will begin.”

Before I could ask the footsteps ceased. At our door stood the living embodiment of a nightmare that I wished I never encountered. I wasn’t sure if it was a person. A dangled, rotting piece of flesh was standing. The being had eyes and it was looking straight at the man.

“This” He said “Is my brother. I killed him with my own hands but see how he comes back to live every night. To take his revenge.”

I felt fear astonishment gripping every muscle of my body. I tried to scream; no sound came out. The corpse, brother, let out an inhuman cry and jumped at the old man. The old man fought back but couldn't overpower it. The being shoved and he hit his head hard on the wall. Blood splattered from same scar on his forehead. All was not yet over as he regained his composer and pushed the corpse out of room. The scuffle continued near the stairs, but they lost their footing, and fell down into the abyss below.

I staggered on my foot to the stairs but could see nothing. I could hear strange wishpers all around me and then the house boomed with wimpering of something in the dark. That was my cue. I ran. The darkness made it difficult to see but I didn’t care. I tripped on something in the dark and fell, loosing my consciousness.

I came to my senses in a crowd of people surrounding me on the porch. Apparently, my parents became woried when I didn’t come home and my calls didn’t connect. So they gathered neighbors and looked for me. I tried to tell them what happened in the house but no one seemed to believe me. Some people did get inside the house to look for the old man but found nobody. For all it seems, the house was empty just like it used to be when we were little.

I returned to the city a week ago. The city hustle and lights made me forget the horrors of the house. However, I decided to discard the photos I clicked that day. It is not because I was scared or anything, but because in the photos, just beyond my camera’s flash, was a mangled corpse looking at me and his brother from the darkness inside the house.



THE END


2020 Swagato Chakraborty

Bio: Swagato Chakraborty is an undergraduate student from Kolkata, India. He is currently pursuing a B.A. degree in English Literature and had a nag for literature and writing since childhood. He is specially interested in writing horror and literary fiction that convey meaning through symbols . This is his first ever publication.

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