The Alphabet Stories: House
Story by Liane Carter
Illustration by E.J. Klepinger
House had become too hungry. The lack of people to feed on created cracks in its walls. Desperation and delusion led it to try and lift its foundations and go in search of souls to sustain it, because no one had come after Ben had run and Amanda had been taken away. The cracks only deterred renters more. In House’s need to feed, it struggled to disguise its hunger and power. It needed more sensitive souls, but they wouldn’t step inside. One woman had been sick on the front steps. House’s own sickness had spread to the neighbouring gardens: flowers stopped growing and the humans had become ill - mentally and physically - though not enough to feed House. They needed to step inside and stay for a while. And nobody would. House had become desperate. It had to do something.
A sensitive person just needed to sleep within its walls for a few days, and that human would be the kindling needed to spark House’s fire once again. Its power would be reborn as it once was when it had fed all those years ago, on Ben’s parents and then, even better, Ben. It missed Ben. House had never been able to reach Ben’s sister, Amanda. Though it tried constantly, it knew she instinctively stayed connected with her guardian angels. House couldn’t even get close to eating her energy.
Two years after Ben and Amanda left House alone, a couple finally rented House long term, but the couple were always camping and never with House long enough for it to start stripping their sanity. When they moved, House hoped for a real resident, but no one came. Its desperation grew and the sensitives it craved, wouldn’t come near in fear.
House took to wandering within its walls where it stored its memories. Rage and restlessness seeped down and wreaked havoc on its foundations. House reminisced over Ben. It had expected to feed on that boy for all of Ben’s life, but Ben had surprised House and had run away.
The camping couple had been gone a year. House needed to feed. Its power grew with people - feeding from their negative emotions and forcing them to feel fear. It loved the taste of human fear. Angry, with no one within its walls to seep into and infect, it had found a way to break its boundaries again. It managed to spread its energy under the earth in the front yard, up into the plants and to the gate. And on a Thursday morning in June, had its first catch in years: the papergirl.
She’d stopped to pick purple milkweed spreading through the slats of the fence. House projected all its energy across the front garden through the plants. If it could entice her up to the front door, if she could just touch House, it could hold her for a while. The papergirl’s hand sprung open as the current of energy hit her hand through the flower and stung her skin. Hearing a squeaking sound, she glanced left and watched the gate open for her. She glanced from her open palm to the open gate … and ran.
Two years later, two shift workers from a factory and a local artist and potter finally rented House … and stayed. The artist had been enticed by the low rent. House had been so desperate by then and had dived into the artist pulling insecurities and terrors from deep in his psyche to the forefront of his mind. The man was taken away to an asylum within a year. House berated itself for the loss. It knew it needed to feed gradually. Like Amanda, he couldn’t penetrate the shift workers. And then, a few months ago, they invited their co-worker to the house to see if she’d like to rent the other room. She pulled up on a motorbike, and though House did its best to subdue its energy, she picked up on its power in the artist’s old room.
“Who rented this room before?” she said.
The other two glanced at each other.
“He was a bit weird. He was an artist but he sort of lost his mind.”
Her brown eyes widened and House fell for her. He fought not to dive into those brown lakes of loss right then. What was her name? If they would just say her name, House could put it in its walls and she would feel connected. She would want to live here and not know why.
She rubbed her arms and looked out of the window. The other two waited then glanced at each other again.
“Charlotte,” one said. “What do you think?”
And just like that, House had her.