Socks for the Toeless

Submitted into Contest #206 in response to: Set your story in an eerie, surreal setting.... view prompt

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Horror Speculative

The house that saved me is haunted.  At night a something moans, and this night never ends, so the moaning never stops.  I was too tired the first night to notice, but by the third I was pretty fed up with it. At the top of every hour (I think, but don’t really know for sure anymore) the moaning is drowned out just a little by some poor woman screaming and being torn apart.  She’s invisible, but I know she’s somewhere.  

There are chains too, which rattle in the basement.  Butterfly-like laughter in the attic too. In the room to the west of mine I occasionally see a blue skeleton wander by, and the room to the east hasn’t got anything in it except a few old dressers and a wheelchair. The wheelchair never moves, but I never look too long at it because I’m scared that if I do, it will.  

My room is okay, I guess...I mean, as far as rooms in haunted houses go, mine’s alright. There are times when I’m forced to the ground by some fierce, shrieking wind, and then I’ll shut my eyes tightly and try to tell myself it’s all a dream. When the wind goes away, my room is okay again.  I’ll pretend like I imagined the whole thing, or that it really was just a breeze, or that it’s my body reacting to all that’s happened, or that it’s really just an angel come by too fast. I don’t see anything when the wind goes by.  It’s just a wind.  That makes me glad, because I think it’s worse to seesomething than to feel something.  Like when you feel that biting feeling in your fingers and toes and look down and they’re no longer there—just icy stumps instead.  It’s a lot like that. 

One night I heard something new: the sound of a door slamming somewhere in the basement and a man yelling. Unfortunately, it wasn’t hard to tell the yell was addressed to me.  I heard running then...running up the basement stairs. At the door, the caller threw it open.  I’d never experienced that before, so I was pretty scared I guess, so I forced myself to sleep. You know, they can’t get you if you’re asleep.  If you can’t see them, then they aren’t even there.

When I woke up, I could hear the yeller walking back to the basement door real disappointed-like. I guess he could tell I was awake or something, because before long he came sprinting back to me.  I screamed something awful then.

That wasn’t the worst thing though.  The worst thing?  That time I looked too long at the wheelchair and it moved just a little bit. I told myself it was just my imagination and rolled closer to the fire place.  I closed my eyes for a bit, but when I opened them, the wheelchair was in my room, and someone I couldn’t quite see was sitting in it. I tried ignoring that for a couple days.  There’re just some things you can’t ignore.  Like the taste of blood in your mouth when you know you're about to die, or the house you see glowing softly through the storm right before you don’t.  

After a couple of days, the thing in the wheelchair wheeled back to its own room—I think it realized that it couldn’t actually do anything to me, or it realized that it had already done so much to me that it couldn’t do any more. I think, maybe, both of those answers are correct.  

There was one day when the fireplace was warmer and brighter than any other, and, even though I had lost count of the days, I’m pretty sure that was on Christmas. The moaning died down a bit too, and the yelling thing only came at me once and even then it just stopped and stared at me from the doorway.  That was a nice change.  When I was a kid, Christmas had just been another holiday.  I’d liked it, but I don’t know if I’d say I’d loved it. But, that day?  That day I loved Christmas. My glass didn’t fill up with water that day, but something like apple cider, and instead of the usual peanut butter sandwich, I got a bowl of stew. I think I kept my eyes open that entire day, maybe even made a face at the wheelchair...I even sung a Christmas carol.  It was Silent Night, and I think the house liked it because when I sang it madethe moaning stop and made the yeller go back to the basement. I liked that day a lot.  I remember wishing...praying...maybe for the first time in my life. I prayed that Christmas would never end.  

Of course, it did.

I think all the things were pretty pissed that I had things so good on Christmas, because pretty much as soon as it was over, they came for me. The wheelchair thing started cackling something crazy and the moaning was the worst it’s ever was.  The yeller didn’t even yell, he just came sprinting up and put a meat hook in my shoulder. It hurt, but I don’t think it realized I was still too frostbitten to care.  What hurt more was when he was dragging me out and I accidently knocked over the rest of my apple cider.  I was worried that when the house refiled it, it would just be water again.  The yeller didn’t much care.

I lied just a little bit. That whole thing with the wheelchair?  That wasn’t the worst of it. What was the worst?  When the yeller took me out of my safe room and down into the basement. I had really thought the house would’ve been able to do something, but it let the yeller take me. I don’t want to talk about what happened with the yeller in the basement.  There’re some things that are just too horrible to talk about.

I passed out from blood-loss or pain or something at one point and woke up back in my room. I think all my teeth were gone, and one of my eyes, and something in my chest had been taken too...but it was something more than just my hope.

The good part of all that though? The house felt sorry for me afterwards, so I got more apple cider, and pie, and a new pair of socks which actually fit my feet, even though my toes had fallen off. And, I’m not an expert on the behavior of haunted houses or anything, but I think the house knitted them special.  Even better than all that was when the house made the yeller come up, dance like a ballerina, and leave through the front door.  I don’t think it’ll come back.

The cackling wheelchair never stopped laughing though, and the blue skeleton in the other room started visiting more frequently after the yeller left. The blue skeleton has tried to tell me his name, but it’s hard to hear what someone’s saying when they’re throttling you and slamming your head against the floor. All in all, he’s pretty strong for someone with no muscles. Now, if I push my hand against the back of my head, I can feel the break he’s made, and what I think is my brain.

And the poor lady being torn apart?  Well, I guess she doesn’t much like me either, because she came up one day and...well, she did something terrible with her arms and my arms that I don’t quite know how to explain.  It’s funny though, I don’t know her...never met her properly...never done anything to offend her.  Yet, she did do something horrible to me. I don’t understand why.

Come to think of it, I never did anything to anything in that house, and yet everything in it wanted to hurt me, scare me, or torture me. None of it—not any of it—makes any sense at all. It’s like when you’re lost in an endless winter storm and the whole world seemingly turns its back on you, and the only light is a fire made especially for you by the one thing that didn’t turn.  It’s like when you're so thirsty that you start sucking on the frosty nubs of your fingers to sustain yourself, but then you don’t have to, because the house that let you in right before you died brought you a glass, a plate, a home.

I think I’ve died, but the other dead things don’t tolerate me any more than they did before, but the house has gotten better at shooing them away. I think I’m dead because I don’t see how I can’t be.  Either way though, if I am dead, I’m staying here, and if I’m not yet, then I’m still staying here. I think it’s because I’d feel bad to leave the house with all its ghosts, but it might just be because I no longer have toes and can’t walk.  Either way, I’m staying. You know, it’s kind of like when you’re sitting alone in a forest at night, and the storm is starting to pick up but you don’t really care, you just sit there and admire the way the clouds and the stars dance together, and the way your breath enters that dance but dissipates without a partner, and how, if you wait long enough, the storm picks up just a little and your realize you’re not cold, but whole, and that that big hole where something with no clear edges ought to have been was filled all along, and you realize that you’re not alone, and that the person you left for solitude was right there in your liver the whole time, and that that funny feeling you get at the back of your throat—the one that tingles from the front of your head, to the pits of your eyes, and all the way down to the small of your back—is a feeling you can’t say you love, but at least it reminds you that you can feel something, and that that something isn’t just the feeling of being alone, and I think that that something is the same kind of tingling you get when the apple cider is just a bit too sour, or when there’s a loose thread in your sock that grabs at you, but the socks are too warm too take off, and you don’t say anything because they’re from a friend, and that friend was the one that dragged you away from watching the storm so you wouldn’t catch a cold.  

It’s a lot like that. 

July 14, 2023 20:19

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1 comment

Mary Bendickson
05:42 Jul 15, 2023

It's a lot like this story shocks.


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