It felt like there were spiders crawling all over me. The heavy glass door rolled open with ever such silence, like some kind of unseen force was standing there to open it. I was there. This was home now.
The faltering daylight cast shadows in imitation of every shape of every object in the place. My throat twitched. The hanging lamp above the oval dining room table was gently swinging, I guess because the house was settling again. I pulled the chain to turn it on, my imagination expecting to see anything. I listened and held my breath.
The clip clop of the antique clock's pendulum around the corner in the den was like drops of water hitting my forehead. She must have wound it up right before she left. If she left. That was what I always hated about this house. I always knew I could never escape from her presence. And that was why I wanted out of here as soon as possible.
One lone cricket chirped somewhere outside in the distance. Soon there would be millions, bellowing a deafening chorus of demonic, high-pitched laughter. That was another thing about her: Everything was demonic. It was her obsession. After all these years, I couldn't help but wonder if she herself was one of them.
I dared not disturb the back bedroom.
"That's where Grandpa keeps his guns."
The door was always closed, and even now that Grandpa was long gone - his ashes scattered and his guns passed on to my father - the door remained closed. I wasn't about to touch the knob to find out if it would turn, for fear she might be standing right behind me. The house, with its twenty acres of untamed farm land, was supposedly mine now. But it didn't feel like it, and I knew it never would.
I crept past the furniture in the stagnant "living room", needing fresh air and a change of scenery. Why she called this a living room, I've never known and always been afraid to ask. It looked like a snap shot of a house scene from the fifties. The giant box television set, with its carved wooden casing, never once was used as far as I know. The room was always kept immaculate, though no one ever sat on any of the sofas, turned on any of the lamps, nor opened the mustard-yellow door except to go sit on the porch swing.
I closed it behind me, feeling lighter as I sat down on grandpa's favorite chair and began to move to-and-fro. The wood was charcoal-gray now and starting to rot, and the supports were caked with rust. I knew one of these days the whole thing would come crashing down, taking what few happy memories I have of being here with it. I tried to do as grandpa always did: gazing out at the overgrown remnants of his favorite garden while ignoring grandma's rock garden.
I couldn't avoid it. Her ceramic cherubs burned through me with their cold eyes and white bodies, always seeming deliberately placed where they were. Guilt and shame coursed through my conscience as the day grew darker.
You're just like your sister: Wicked and ungrateful! The Bible says to honor your grandparents. You are failing Jesus!
That shrieking, medicine-scented voice tore at the interior of my mind as I stood in the den - the real living room - fighting to convince myself that these were just artificial flowers. I'll never forget the smile. It was an intentional smile; I just know it.
What, did you think someone was watching you? You have absolutely nothing to fear in here, Timothy. Grandma won't let anything happen.
I was that seven-year old child all over again. My chilled fingers shook as I sprinted over to the light switch on the wall. In the bright light, they were indeed just flowers. Lovely, innocent colors. The angular vase was nothing more than a vase, sitting thoughtfully-placed atop the window sill as always. But in the dimness of the setting sun, they always looked exactly like her: Her face was angular and pale. Bloodless. Her hair was as bushy as the flowers were. Her eyes were so wide they almost glowed in the dark. Always fixed on me, as if she were readying herself to chase me if I attempted to escape.
There would be no sleep tonight, and possibly never.
Clip! Clop! Clip! Clop!
I could never be certain if it was the clock or someone's steps. I knew coming here would be a mistake, but my options were limited. I was twenty-two, with nothing but a meager job at a retail store for income.
Jesus lived a simple life, and so will you!
She had promised me my whole life that I would receive this place as a gift when I turned eighteen. It kept me going to church with her three times a week, doing anything to please her. I had no intentions of actually living here. My plan was to sell the house and land to someone with nerves of steel - someone more fit than I. That would give me the money I needed to learn a trade and get off to the right start with my adulthood.
Our argument last week still haunted me. She prides herself on her selfless Christian love; yet I had never seen her more quaking with hostility. It ended with the promise that she would honor her word finally after four years of the runaround. I had to get away from that apartment. I had to physically get away from her, and this was my only chance.
She would be here tomorrow to load up all of these horrid objects she adores so much. The mere thought of her physical presence made me churn. So did the thought of that shrieking voice. At least maybe with the objects gone, the house would seem brighter.
The air became thick. The crickets fell silent. The clock sounded off eleven deep, skin-penetrating chimes. Then the entire room went black. I could hear my shallow breath. I whipped around in circles in fruitless struggle to see anything I could use as a reference point to find my way to the front door.
Be good, my little children
For Jesus is the Way
Honor your elders
Each and every day
The high-pitched humming was needles to my eardrums. The words to the hymn inflicted worse pain than any tongue-lashing, and she knew it. I couldn't believe the nerve: Hiding in my house! If this was how it was going to be, I wanted out. I didn't care where I went; anything was better than this!
I slugged at buttons on my car key. The headlights flashed into the room like streaks of nearby lightning, illuminating a smiling, calloused face. The bushy, peppered hair that always reminded me of Medusa's snakes sent waves of iciness up and down my back.
I couldn't let you do it, Timothy. You need me! You're nothing without me, you hear? I will not lose you to Satan the way I lost the rest of my family!
As she jerked the car keys out of my hand, angry, helpless tears covered my face in a cold sweat. That was when it happened...
It started as a vague vapor. White as a lone cloud on a sunny day. As it fluctuated in-between us, it settled into a large, roughly round shape that I recognized. His facial features took form, and gradually he became the kind, caring spirit I had always pictured him to be since his passing.
At first, her unnerving smile softened to match his. But quickly, she backed away, seething in a lungful of fear and hatred.
In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I command thee return to the Lake of Fire wherest thou belong!
Grandpa's spirit ignored her witchy-sounding demands. I knew the seriousness in his eyes. I knew the word he was silently whispering to me: Go!
As she paced around the den in a frenzied dance, screaming gibberish at what she firmly believed to be her late husband's Godless impostor, I flung the glass door open and ran.
Timothy! Timothy! Come back! Grandma needs you!
The voice ricocheted off the tree trunks as they became a blur in my field of vision. I felt guilty, I felt ashamed. But I knew for once that I was not wicked. And as I looked back to see she had dropped to the ground with her head shaking and hands covered over her face, more than anything, I felt sad.