“Every small town has at least one house the children whisper about; the type of house that has always been abandoned; where the once pristine white paint has faded to a grimy gray; where the windows are boarded, and the lawn never grows; where children hold their breath and close their eyes as they pass by. A house that sounds like it contains an army of whispering spirits when the wind whistles through the nearby trees.”
— The Blood Brothers,
William adjusted his tie again.
“It’s fine,” Marie said gently, glancing at him. “Relax.”
He nodded, swallowing hard. “Right. Yes. Thank you.”
He adjusted his tie a final time before returning his attention to the clipboard in his hand. It was basic information about the house he and Marie were showing to a couple. Well, mostly Marie. As William was new to the real estate agency, he was merely tagging along with one of their senior agents for the day to learn the ropes. The couple had specifically asked to be shown this house – a mansion, really – though he couldn’t see why, as it was rather rundown and old for such a youthful pair.
Marie had taken their demands in cool stride, driving to the place without hitting a single pothole in the ruined road, and she hadn’t even flinched when a stream of rats poured out of the patio when they went up the broken stairs. She had smoothly led the group throughout the entire place, which took some time due to its large size. William had been allowed to take over when they got to the backyard, probably because it was the easiest: there was nothing but dirt and rocks.
The couple didn’t seem to notice the mansion’s glaring flaws, oohing and aahing over every huge room they entered and exclaiming at the “quaint” décor.
“It’s a real fixer-upper!” was all the woman had said, brandishing an imaginary hammer, with her husband nodding placidly away.
William didn’t understand it, but then, it wasn’t his place to. If they bought it, then it was a nice commission for Marie – with a bonus for him. He flipped through the papers again to distract himself from another tie-adjusting urge.
“We love it!”
He looked up to see the couple walking toward them from their tour around the house’s exterior. They both had wide, almost manic grins. After a quick affirming glance at Marie, William plastered an equally large smile on his own face and walked toward them.
“We love it!” the husband said again, gesturing broadly at the mansion.
“Oh! Great! We’re so glad to hear that!” William said, failing to hide his surprise. “Well, then, why don’t we head back to the office, so we can discuss budgets and other matters?”
“There’s really only one thing we want to ask,” said the wife, fixing William with startling intense eyes. “Is there anything we should know about the house’s past?”
William had looked down to avoid her unsettling gaze, but now he jerked his head up to stare at her. “That’s an oddly specific question,” he said, unable to help himself. Realizing his rudeness, he flushed.
Before he could say anything to redeem himself, a hand was placed on his shoulder, quite gently. Marie’s expression, though, was completely unreadable.
“The house was built on the grasslands in the early 20th century,” she said.
William frowned and glanced at the clipboard in his hand. What?
The husband stepped forward with an almost hungry look. “Is that before or after the Great Depression?”
A slight smile curled Marie’s upper lip. “Before.”
The man clapped his hands together and grinned. His wife said eagerly, “Perhaps we could take one more look around, then?”
“Oh, I’m not sure that’s -” William began, but Marie’s hand on his shoulder tightened.
“My apologies,” she said to the couple. “He’s new. Here.”
She released William to reach into her satchel and pulled out a strange key. It was the large, old-fashioned type with multiple serrated bits on both sides. It was the most complex key William had ever seen. The woman took it with undisguised glee, and without another word, she and her husband both practically sprinted back to the mansion.
William gaped after them, then up at Marie. “What was that about?”
She didn’t answer, but just watched the couple enter the house. The door slammed with an ominous bang. Or at least, that’s how it sounded to William. He felt as though something was going to happen – the windows suddenly shatter, the mansion lift into the sky, the sound of a shriek from a tortured throat – but nothing did.
After a few minutes, Marie turned and began walking to the car nearby. William looked at her, then at the house, then back at her.
“Wait, what about the couple?” he said, feeling totally wrongfooted and lost. “What was that key? What’s going on?”
“They’ll find their own way back,” was all Marie said, and with a final glance at the mansion, she got into the car on the driver’s side.
Unless he wanted to also be abandoned (and he had no doubts that Marie would drive away and leave him), William didn’t have a choice but to enter the car, too.
A plume of dust rose from their tires as Marie neatly turned out of the driveway and back on the lonely street. It all but obscured the house entirely. Even as William looked back, however, he could’ve sworn he saw something glow.
So yeah, this happened. XD I’m sorry, but again, these prompts seem to have a recurring theme of ~*~MYSTERIOUSNESS~*~ going on in otherwise mundane situations. (And even more suspension of disbelief: who would ask such a weird question??) Normally, I love this kind of thing, but still, shake it up a little, right? That’s partly why this one is so short. This time, I wanted to take the perspective not of whomever did the mysterious thing, but more of an innocent bystander. With the way these prompts are going, though, I’m sure what happened to the couple will be explored later anyway!
Want to do the challenge yourself? Today’s prompt is: “They toured the house with the real estate agent. ‘We love it,’ he said. ‘Is there anything we should know about the house’s past?’ The agent looked down.”