The inside seemed pitch black when I was standing on the porch, but as soon as I stepped through the doorway a fey half-light seemed to brighten the room. It was like watching someone turn a dimmer switch from completely off to about one-quarter on.
The living room – at least, that’s what I guessed it was, from previous exposure and the layout of the place – was on the small side, maybe eight by eight. The walls were fake wood paneling to go along with the fake log style on the outside. They’d even gone so far as to put in loops and whorls, as though there were limbs that had been lopped off in the process of flattening the boards. The effect might have worked if it wasn’t so obviously repeating. The effect it did manage to give was dozens of faces screaming in pain or snarling in rage.
To my left, next to the door, there was an entertainment center that was probably as old as I was. Huge, oak or mahogany, housing a television that had probably last been used to watch the Kennedy assassination and was liable to give you cancer and a permanent squint if you actually tried watching it. Beside it was a behemoth device with burgundy carpeted sides, a gold-latched lid and a skeletal metal extrusion on the top. I assumed it must be a radio, or maybe even a record player.
The floor was also frozen in time; pale green shag. As I always did when I came here in my sleep, I found myself wondering just what had possessed people back then, that led them to think something that looked like a tie-dyed bear was murdered and stapled to your floor was the height of fashion.
Across from the television were a pair of vomit yellow couches, cocked at 90-degree angles from each other. The cushions looked a little worn, but not to the extent they needed replacing just yet.
Everything was clean. Almost too clean. It looked like Donna Reid might have come through five minutes before I got here for a final cleaning session just in case I decided to give the room the white glove treatment. The stale air and the scent of rot said otherwise, though. No one had been here in a very long time.
No one alive, anyway.
Sighing, feeling spiders creep along my back and burrow into the back of my skull, I turned back to the door. Everything beyond the porch had gone still, silent and dark. Someone had put the world outside on permanent pause. I’d expected that, too. Knowing what came next, I pulled the door shut.
It fell into place against the jamb with a sound far louder and more final than you might expect. It sounded like stone closing against a tomb. It didn’t even make me jump, though. It was the least of my worries.
I took a deep breath, not relishing the taste of the air or the way it made my chest scream in rebellion. I wished I’d brought my aspirator, but knew it would have somehow gotten lost. I wasn’t supposed to have it, after all. I hadn’t changed anything else; why fight to change that?
I turned, preparing myself.
The couches were no longer empty. On the larger one, directly facing the television, were a middle-aged couple. Mom was wearing a green pantsuit, her blonde hair coiffed into a half-flip, her face looking plastic with the amount of makeup she’d caked on. Dad was wearing tan slacks, a white shirt that looked a little too crisp and a blue and green striped tie that was loosened. His hair was brown, graying at the temples, and cut military style. His face was hard, tanned and lined with the look of someone who worked outside a lot. She was almost rail-thin, probably chasing the Twiggy look, while he was at the stage where he was starting to run to fat, but with a thick layer of muscle hidden underneath.
On the other couch was a girl, maybe seventeen or so. She had her mother’s body and fair skin, but her father’s hair. Not much makeup on this one, just a hint of lip gloss and a little blush. An almost shapeless purple dress preserved modesty in a way that seemed out of place given the 1960’s style of everything else in the place.
All three of them had empty sockets where their eyes should have been. They should have been blind. If they were even alive at all. I’d never seen any of them take a breath.
That didn’t stop them from turning their heads in unison, pointing those eyeless holes in my direction. The feeling of spiders creeping across me got stronger, almost maddening. It didn’t matter how often it happened, didn’t matter how ready I thought I was, it was always the same.
I tried to scream, but my locked lungs could only produce a thin wheeze.
It wasn’t that there were corpses sitting here, or even that their eyes were gone, or that they were facing me. It was that feeling, like when someone stares at you from across a crowded room.
Eyeless or not, they were seeing me.
This story was originally published at KaineAndrews.com. Intrigued? Stay tuned for Part 4, next Thursday!
About the Author
Kaine Andrews was raised in the wilds of Nevada, molded by NASCAR-loving witches, a Catholic school education and typewriter theft, granting a natural fascination with all things dark and dreary and demented scribblings. He currently resides in Oregon, where the omnipresent drizzle keeps him somewhat sane.