Sunday, May 10, 2009

Not a place for after dark

The door was extra wide, that was the first thing we noticed -- the front porch covered in a thick, gray layer of deck sealant. Our agent struggled a little against the lock and then pushed the door open, "I think you're really going to like this place..."

The bamboo floors and lemon walls seemed reasonable. Someone had recently painted the popcorn ceiling an interesting beige, and two severe arm chairs were the only furniture in the living room. Two plastic orange, pocked vertical window panels flanked the door, filtering the rare spring sunlight to the color of Tang. We moved on to the kitchen.

Hardware was missing from the freshly painted cabinets, but it was a fairly light, open kitchen. Not spacious, but enough room to move around. The kitchen windows overlooked a backyard devoid of greenery; the earth was entirely cemented over. A wheelbarrow filled with stagnant water leaned against the chainlink fence. We began opening closet doors.

One unassuming door at the back of the kitchen revealed a set of dark stairs leading down. "Oh," we said. "That is a surprise."

The agent descended first. It was dim, but illuminated enough to fumble for a light switch. With fresh paint still stinging our nostrils, the smell crept upon us slowly. As we moved between small, odd, wood-paneled rooms, we became aware of a pervasive odor. "Does it smell like urine to you?" asked the agent. "I think it's cigarette smoke," I said.

At the base of the stairs was a full kitchen, although dingier and more dated than the upstairs kitchen. A refrigerator, a sink, another set of cabinets.

One door led to a walled off laundry room. A narrow space led behind the stairs to another small room. A door off the kitchen led to a room with a false closet back, which led to another room. Cobwebs everywhere, a few work lights hanging around, dust, and darkness, concrete floors, and -- although outwardly I say I don't put much stock in it -- the worst energy I have ever felt.

It was as if we had wandered into a warped mirror of the upstairs. And terrible things had been done in this section of the house. The smell and the gloom and the stillness and the contrast between sun and shadow, well, it felt like we had invaded the home of a serial killer. I half expected to see a room covered in newspaper clippings and stalker shots of a pretty young female. All the little rooms could make perfect dungeons. That refrigerator would be perfect for storing body parts. The cement backyard would be a great way to destroy evidence of fresh graves.

After some nervous laughter, the three of us fled upstairs. The only thing creepier would have been if the two chairs in the living room had been rearranged. That house had a presence. I can't really explain why. We've looked at other houses with partially finished basements -- that doesn't seem to be a prerequisite for evil.

Maybe next time I will tell you about the house that had a roof going through the shower.

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