Three months ago, we moved into the house in Ascott Lane. When we pulled up to the house, I thought we had finally found somewhere nice to settle down. A tingle of anticipation coursed through me when I first lay eyes upon it. Our forever home, I thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
My husband Dillon works 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and I look after our baby boy, Joey at home. Dillon got a promotion at an accounting firm he works for, so we had to move from Christchurch to Wellington; to a small quaint town called Newtown, out in the suburbs. It is a lovely city; people are very friendly and eager to give advice of the best places to visit. There is even a Zoo right around the corner. Unlike some of the other cities we have lived in; Hamilton, Auckland and Christchurch, getting into Wellington city is relatively easy – the public transport here is the best I have seen. But this house is colder than our last one; Hamilton seemed to be of warmer climate than Wellington with its bitterly cold Winter, making it hard to take the baby out. I would have loved to walk the streets for hours, window shop, meet new people, have a Mochaccino in a café, but me and my little ankle snapper, Joey, we could only manage small expeditions; due to the severe gale force winds. They call these winds the Southerlies, it is the wind that rips in from the Cook Strait; the sea that divides the North and South islands of New Zealand.
The house itself is Victorian style, as are many of the houses on the street; it seems to be a popular design here in Wellington. It is surrounded in lots of intricate lattice work, beautiful woodwork, stone and brick. The white and pale blue exterior blends in perfectly with the natural environment. Big bay-windows poke out of the front of the house, I loved to sit there reading a book in the sun. The windows are different sizes, lengths and colours; with many stained-glass panels spread throughout the house. My favourite room in the house was the turret, it encases a spiral staircase that starts on the ground floor and takes you up to the third floor, which is where our bedroom suite is located – the baby sleeps in his own room on the same floor; his nursery is beautiful. It is connected to our bedroom, which makes it easier for the middle of the night feeding times for Joey. The turret has glass panels that spread light in wonderful ways. There is a loveseat on the landing, which I would sit at and watch the world go by through the multitude of windows. There isn’t a basement, nor an attic, just a small manhole at the top of our closet that leads to a small crawl space. The special feature of the entire home was the circular, glass conservatory in the middle of the house – it went right up to the top of the second floor. It had a river and a small Japanese style bridge, even fish in the water. It had an automatic sprinkler system, so it basically looked after itself. I loved to weed the garden, feed the flowers, I even added a small lemon tree, as an offering to the house.
The pathway that leads to the house is paved, but cracked in places. Being the superstitious person that I am, I would have to avoid standing on the cracks or it might break my back, or I might marry a rat! The house is on a slope, and it goes up the hill to snuggle nicely into the embankment. The staircase is rather steep as you make your way to the front door, turn around, and the view is breathtaking! I could see for miles out of those one-hundred-year-old windows, it always made me wonder just how many people over the years, have looked out those very same windows and marvelled at the view? I have to say, it was the most gorgeous place we had lived in thus far, and there have been a few over the five years Dillon and I have been together. But the house is very dark inside, there are shadows in all of the corners. No matter how many curtains and windows I’d open, it did nothing to lighten those pockets of black space. Having lights on during the day became normal to navigate the enormous house safely. Dillon would hit the roof if he found out I left the lights on in the house during the day! But he didn’t have to sit there looking over his shoulder, seeing movement in the corner of his eyes, feel the presence of something otherworldly. It wasn’t him who got a fright entering a room, when it is dark inside and you can’t see more than an inch in front of your face. I would tell him sometimes about the things I saw, heard or intuited, no, he would tell me I needed to get out of the house more. Perhaps join a mothers’ support group, find some friends. Well, I couldn’t be bothered meeting with other mothers and their annoying ankle biters.
The first four weeks were uneventful, finally, my mind was relaxing into the flow of life in a new city, and a new house. The fifth week, I started to hear knocking on the walls, and the internal doors. I have heard strange noises too, but reassurance from Dillon saying it is the house settling – didn’t give me any confidence. Sometimes I’d hear footsteps outside our bedroom door, pacing past ever so quietly, but I can hear them, even if Dillon doesn’t. Each time I’d run to the door, but there was no one there. One night while I was cooking dinner, I heard Dillon open the front door with his keys, they rattled against the lock, he walked through the hallway towards me, but when I turned to say “Hello” he wasn’t even there. I was confused, I was certain it had to be Dillon. I called him on his cellphone; he was waiting for the bus to come home; I could hear the racket of people in the background. My intuition warned there was something wrong with the house. Sometimes I’d hear strange voices coming from the baby monitor – Dillon says it’s just static or the frequency picking up on phone calls or stereos from other houses. As the weeks progressed, the activity in the house increased. Items were being moved around the house. At first, I thought it was me simply moving things around and forgetting where I put them, but when I found my purse inside the fridge, in the vegetable compartment, I knew something was going on. Dillon would never understand, he didn’t have to stay in the house with everything going on; lights flickering, someone pacing the hallways, and the movement of objects from one place to another. Our dog Toby, persistently barked at the ceiling, and Joey started crying out and screaming for no apparent reason – I have seen unusual marks on him, scratches and bruises.
Then about the seventh week, I was writing an email to my parents, on top of my bed, when the power went out. The lights extinction plunged me into darkness, it gave me a scare. I tried the lamp beside the bed, but it didn’t come on. However, the batteries in the baby monitor kept that going. I could hear Joey stirring, small little moans, he’d been having unsettled sleeps ever since we moved in. Actually, come to think about it, he has always been an unsettled baby. Suddenly, a scream pierced out from the monitor; it wasn’t my baby, no, it sounded like a woman. I turned on my cellphone torch and ran towards the nursery. When I turned the corner to enter the room, I saw the figure of a woman leave the room and walk away from me down the hallway. Instant goosebumps pricked my skin – I wondered why there was a woman in my home? Though, admittedly I was too scared at first to say or do anything; I was in a state of shock. Eventually, I followed her to find out why she was here. Who she was? She practically glided down the spiral staircase, into one of the spare rooms on the lower floor, but when I walked in, there was no one there; just empty boxes and stacks of books. I even checked inside the wardrobe! Empty. The cellphone torch blinked off, then back on, and I realised the battery was on 10%, it needed to be charged. I couldn’t stop the tremors attacking me, I was petrified! I called Dillon quickly before my cellphone battery died, and I pleaded with him to come home, that I was frightened beyond anything I had ever felt before. He told me he would be home as soon as he could get away. I could hear the frustration in his tone.
Deciding to check through the house while I waited for Dillon, with a torch I found in the supply cupboard, I re-entered the spare room where I had seen the woman disappear. I was stopped dead in my tracks when I found her standing in the middle of the room, and she was just staring at me, like she was as shocked to see me as I was to see her! It felt like she was looking right through me into my soul. I shivered as a cold finger feathered down my back. She was wearing a long white dress, ripped and yellow in places, and she was holding a little bundle wrapped in blankets, snuggled up tight in her arms; it was too small to be Joey. All of a sudden, the air was sucked out of the room, and I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think straight. She screamed in my ear, nearly splitting my head in two! I tried to cover my ears, but it was inside my head. There was no escaping it. I remember falling to my knees, screaming back at her, as fear gripped me tight. She wailed over and over, ‘Why? Why?’
Her face had folded in with her tormented pain, she looked horrific! She was white and seemed to be glowing. She had patches of purple and grey skin, mottled with thick black veins and horrendous looking injuries. Her hair was hacked off, and I was certain her neck had been broken. When I went to touch her, she just vanished into thin air, as if she had never existed at all! Giant sobs engulfed me, swept me up into its depth. I knew what I had seen wasn’t real, it was a product of my splintered mind. Everything I had been hiding from surfaced and there was no coming back from it. I was fractured, I was broken. I should have told Dillon about the woman and her baby, but I knew I had to keep it a secret. Lord only knows how he would have reacted. Over the next few weeks, she would make a regular appearance. I’d find her sitting at my piano, tapping on the keys, gliding up and down the staircases, walking down the hallways. I had the sense she was lost and forever broken. And each time I neared her, in a flash, the scene would change and she would be nothing but dust motes gathered in the sunrays.
I would sit in bed sometimes, and I wait to see how long it would take for Dillon to crawl into bed beside me. I think he knows that I know, most nights he drinks himself to sleep. We haven’t been intimate since before Joey was born. Sometimes I see the looks and sideway glances, when I change Joey, or when I am cooking dinner. I feel his eyes bore into my back, sometimes I think he is going to stab me with a kitchen knife. Where that thought eventuated, I have no clue. It is just my gut feeling, call it intuition – if there really is such a thing! I feel sad when I see the disappointment in his eyes. He turns away from me when I try to converse with him. I am beginning to think he does not love me anymore.
One night Dillon announced he had to go away for some sort of training, to Taupo for two nights. I begged him not to leave me alone in the house, which he bluntly answered that I’d have Joey here, I wouldn’t be alone. We didn’t talk before he went away, we avoided one another. Even when he left to catch the bus to the Airport, he didn’t say goodbye to me, but at least he kissed Joey. This is what happened when Dillion went away…
It started with knocks and tapping on the walls all over the house. In the morning when I was bathing Joey, I could hear it in the wall beside us. Then the closed bathroom door flew open on its own volition, there was no one there. It totally startled me! The first night I tossed and turned in a discombobulated state of sleep. Joey was up most of the night too, crying in his crib each time he finally fell asleep, like someone was deliberately waking him up. The next morning was the worst…We needed milk, so I bundled Joey into his jacket and hat, put him in his stroller with the rain cover on. It was raining cats and dogs outside. On the radio they had warned of a severe cold front heading our way. I would drive to the store, but it only takes a couple of minutes to walk there – it would take me longer than that to warm the car. It was icy and I had near to no grip on my shoes. I can still see the images clear as crystal in my head. At the top of the driveway, I slipped, and fell on my butt. I managed to hold onto the stroller, but as I got up, my hand slipped off the handle and the stroller went flying down the driveway at top speed. To be honest, it felt like someone had actually pulled my hand off the handle, but I know no one would ever believe me. Joey was screaming and as hard as I tried to get to him, the slower I moved. My legs were like concrete…he was getting away from me. I was screaming for help at the very top of my lungs, begging for someone to stop the stroller…then I caught up with him just in time to stop a collision with a car. I pulled him from the stroller and wept with him in my arms.
We went back inside; I couldn’t stop the shakes and the tears. I had nearly lost my baby! I could feel his little fingers playing with my tears. This made my smile; he always brightens my mood. Later, we were in the kitchen, Joey in his feeding chair, me chopping carrots, and listening to Fleetwood Mac on the stereo system. Suddenly, I heard a loud pounding knock on the front door. I wiped my hands on my apron, kissed Joey on his head and made my way down the hallway to the front door. I could clearly see through the stain-glass panel in the door that someone was standing there. It was still daylight outside, but dusk was gathering. A cold shiver shot through me as I unlocked the door. Opening the door, I was shocked to see no one there! Then I heard the same heavy knocking at the back door in the kitchen, where I had left Joey. Just as I reached the back door, it stopped, I opened the door and to my surprise, nobody was there! When I turned around, Joey was no longer in his chair. I was frantic as I ran from room to room, opening every cupboard, and all of the closets. Then I heard him call out “Mummy.” And I ran and ran to his voice, but it kept moving every time I thought I had found him. “Joey, where are you?” I screamed in fear. When I finally found him after an arduous search, he was tucked into the crawl space, fast asleep. I knew then and there, we had to move out of that house.
We moved out of the house in Ascott Lane, after a weeklong argument about the ghosts I were seeing. Dillon accused me of trying to sabotage his new job (which isn’t true.) He’s not been himself. He calls me unstable, freaking out about the house…but we packed up and moved out, for my own sanity, and he has been upset with me ever since. I can hear the frustration in his words and the short sharp remarks, his treatment toward me now is that of a total stranger. He doesn’t want to discuss our predicament or our future plans. But eventually the truth did come out. Dillon’s anger is due to the fact this is the tenth house we have moved into since we first moved in together four and a half years ago. He says I am losing my mind and that I need to see a doctor. But how do I tell him the truth? That I have seen ghosts in all of the houses we have lived in. Maybe I am losing the plot? But I know they follow me everywhere I go. They follow me and nobody cares! From house to house, they follow me…
Copyright (c) Gibson, Del 2022
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This was amazingly told! I love the mood it gives off with the dark house and the silence of being alone. Great Work! : ]
Wow Del, this is brilliant. I loved the familiarity I felt with Wellington and it’s weather patterns. Your descriptive commenting about feelings and emotions felt so real. I’m impressed!! Ka pai you xox
Nice work, Del! I think this resonates because we've all heard creepy noises or seen shadows where there shouldn't be any. And I love how you capitalize on the very real fear so many of us feel in the spaces that should be safest. I absolutely loved the line "I shivered as a cold finger feathered down my back". Great job!
Thank you so much, I am glad you liked this story :)