Snap went a twig on the overgrown path. It wanted to say, Beware! Turn back! But snap was the only word it knew.
The porch steps groaned a warning. This is not a good place for your lover’s tryst, they tried to say. But a groan was all they could manage.
The door held fast until it was certain the shoulder against it was determined, and then it allowed itself to be forced inward, issuing a cautionary squeal that was ignored as the trespassers entered.
Inside the house, the sheet-covered sofa shifted impatiently as the mantel clock began to tick. A ray of moonlight from the open door stretched its fingers into the gloom but was quickly devoured by hungry shadows.
The door gave a shrug and slammed.
The girl screamed. The boy exhaled an uneasy laugh. They ventured further into the room.
Over the windows, the decaying velvet draperies whispered “Yes, yes.”
“Hush,” the mantel clock said. “Be patient.”
The shrouded sofa rose slowly, drifting across the oak floor to settle in front of the entrance door as the intruders crept deeper into the gloom, the pitiful beam of their flashlight flickering and dimming to a helpless glow.
She hesitated before a closed door.
He pushed it open with a shaking hand.
Within, the empty chair stirred, began to move on its worn rockers.
With cries of alarm, the pair raced back to the exit…only to find it blocked by the sofa. The sheet lifted slowly, rearranging itself to give the appearance of someone sitting beneath it. Someone who breathed a small mouth-sized circle of the thin fabric in…and out…in…and out.
Ahhhh. Such delicious screams. The dark stains on the floor drank in the fear and smacked their lips for more.
A chill wind blew through the corridors as the house sighed. Finally, real sustenance. Roosting pigeons and bats had been meager fare. Their fear was fleeting, death came too quickly. But humans had a nearly endless reserve of fear…and it had been a long time since the house had dined well.
The mantle clock began to chime erratically as it danced above the fireplace. The prey, shrieking, fled up the once-grand staircase.
Shadows gathered in oily pools that slid up the stairs and lapped at the heels of the hapless couple as they fled.
The second-floor hallway sifted off ancient dust from its doorsills as it slowly narrowed, and branched, contorting itself into an endless maze. Each door – and there were many – opened onto the sort of shocking tableau only a truly haunted house can conceive.
Eyeless dolls hovered in the air over a black-draped crib. A clown, mouth drooling crimson, pulled aside a mildewed shower curtain and grinned at them with pointed teeth. Corpses moldered in bedrooms and closet doors slammed open and closed in macabre accompaniment to the cries of both humans and specters.
The house squatted on its lonely hilltop, full moon illuminating the skeletal porch and sagging gables. A raven, perched on the widow’s walk, squawked in alarm and flew off as the house shuddered with satisfaction and began its renovation. Soon, the warped boards would be whole again, the paint fresh and the windows shining and intact. Each stone in the collapsed chimney would right itself, and the shingles align like perfect rows of teeth.
The terrified humans reached the door at the end of the hall, which swung open soundlessly to reveal the inky darkness of the house’s heart. The hallway squeezed them into the abyss, which swallowed them up, leaving nothing but one last delicious scream—quickly devoured by the mantel clock before it grew silent and watchful once more.