I hadn’t run the dishwasher in my apartment, so it was a little strange to wake up to it churning away. Especially since the door was open.

Rushing downstairs as fountains of hot water erupted from the open maw of the appliance, I dialed my landlord and got a promise to be there in moments. Not an exaggeration, considering that they owned half of the houses in my area of the student ghetto and occupied the only one that hadn’t been carved up into zombie houses full of apartments for the benefit of students.

Serious consideration had been given on my part to moving out. For one, I was the only tenant; the common hall accessed by my rear door was empty and dusty. I couldn’t understand why, in a city racked with housing shortages, such a thing could be. My kitchen appliances, which were on the wall that joined the rest of the house, had been failing at a remarkable rate as well. A ratty old man had just delivered a new fridge the week before after mine failed, spoiling a week’s worth of groceries.

Then again, if I’d been able to afford to live anyplace else close enough to the university to walk, I’d have moved there in the first place.

Instead of the handyman, who I think was an uncle or something, my landlord herself arrived at my door about five minutes later. I should say that her granddaughter arrived, rather; the deed was in the name of the old lady tottering on the sidewalk, who followed the fruit of the fruit of her loins everywhere babbling slightly. The girl, Laine, was a wiry little waif with an uneasy mop of blonde hair that looked more like chicken down than anything; if not for her tattoos and the double-barreled middle fingers on her shirt, she looked like a high school student.

Laine practically kicked open the door to the rest of the house to get at the spigot that would turn the water off; she motioned for me to follow, and I was a bit uneasy to see her grandmother shuffling behind the both of us. The remainder of the house was much older than the portion I was living in; it was wretched with dust and in varying stages of being broken up into apartments, but the furnishings spoke to an old and ornate past.

As Laine dove into the basement to find the right valve, I waited for her at the top of the steps, with a soot-stained window behind me letting in the morning light…and jumped when her grandmother seized the cuff of my shirt, having snuck up on me almost silently.

“You shouldn’t come in here,” she whispered in a voice as dry as tinder. “It leaves the new part alone, but it doesn’t like people in the old part.”

“I’m sure it doesn’t, ma’am,” I said uneasily. It was clear the woman was batty, and that only Laine’s inability or unwillingness to keep her restrained kept her showing up to tenant houses.

“The crawlers, the spiders and ants and mice and rats, they are your allies against it,” she continued. “They are the only living it will suffer for long.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said, rolling my eyes at the insanity of what I’d just heard.

Then again, as a psychology student, perhaps there was something to be gained from her ramblings. When Laine reappeared, covered in dirt and cobwebs, I asked her about what her grandmother had said.

“Yeah, we should get going,” she said. “This part of the house is haunted as shit.”

It was then I decided that I couldn’t pass up such a powerful opportunity for study that had dumped itself in my lap; even as my anger about the dishwasher throbbed, I began making plans to return to the disused part of the house.

I dearly wish I hadn’t.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!