The Greil

Tom's twenty-fifth birthday was not going very well. His grandfather, the man who had raised him, had passed away the week before. At the will reading he now knows that he was left everything...including a house out in the country that he never knew existed.

(For the World's Apart competition. Title pronounced GREY-el)


2. The House with Red Shutters

Tom paid careful attention to the road in front of him, eyes glancing to his passenger seat every few minutes to check his directions. He was fairly sure he had managed to get himself lost. Again. For the third time. He sighed heavily and glared out of the windshield at the surrounding vegetation. Honestly, how far out was this place!?

               Another ten minutes past and he was just about to give up and turn around when he saw a glimpse of whitewash boards through the massive trees. An overgrown dirt path that at one point must have been a driveway reared up on his right and he swung his car into it. A two story white house with faded red shutters greeted him as he paused at the beginning of the driveway before slowly inching his way in. The lawn and what once must have been a thriving garden had already been reclaimed by the wilds the house was secluded to, and the vegetation scraped and clawed at the side of his car.

               He was sure the place would not have seemed so eerie had there been more sunlight, or the grounds so overgrown. Vines grew up from the base of the house and crisscrossed over the windows, leaves waving slightly in the wind and dark purple flowers turning their face up to the faded light. He paused and eyed the house warily before finally killing the engine and getting out. Something creaked to his left and he jumped spinning to face the jarring noise. A lonely rusted swing set greeted him and he let out the breath he had been holding. He glared at the offending object before hearing something else as something flashed before his eyes. Laughter. His vision greyed for a moment as though watching an old film as he saw a small boy laughing as he swung higher and higher. He shook his head and the vision was gone, leaving only the lonely swing.

               “Great,” he muttered; “place is already getting to me. Probably full of asbestos or something.”

He reached back into the car and tugged out his backpack, slinging it over his shoulder before heading towards the old building. The porch steps creaked ominously under his weight but thankfully didn’t give and as he reached for the doorknob he suddenly wondered if he was meant to have a key for this place. His fear was misplaced as the door easily gave, with a bit of a crunch, and swung open on the dark interior. The smell of stale air, dust, and damp wood met him as he stepped in and he couldn’t help but sneeze to try and dispel it from his nose.

               The interior of the house was a lot darker than he had anticipated and he dug through his pack for a moment before smiling in satisfaction and producing a flashlight. Tom wasn’t sure what he had expected when the lawyer had told him his grandfather had left him a house, but all this dust and dirt had not been it. He slowly slunk forward, testing the floor boards before committing his weight to them, and turning the light beam side to side. He half expected some crazed squirrel to jump out at him from the walls any moment. All that met his investigations however were some old family photos of people he didn’t really recognize (not that he could see much beneath the years of grime) and what must have been the remains of an ancient newspaper that was literally turning to dust before his eyes.

               He eyed the staircase to the second floor briefly before ignoring it and continuing down the front hallway instead. The first archway on his left opened up onto a small kitchen and he flashed his light around briefly to get an idea of the layout. He stopped his light on the kitchen table and swallowed with some difficulty. The table was set for three, chairs tucked in neatly by each place setting and he quickly flashed the light over to the stove. A large soup pot and some smaller pans looked back at him as though the person who had been using them had merely walked out and every intention of returning to continue dinner. Again he heard faint laughter from somewhere and the only reason he didn’t run straight out of that house was the fact that it didn’t sound...malicious.

               Tom could almost make out the people who would have sat at the table long ago, a small boy and his parents chatting happily and laughing with one another. He shook his head again to dispel the image and backed away from the doorway. He took another step back and was about to turn around when something shimmered in the air and rushed past him towards the stairs. His whole body stiffened in fear as once more the echoing laughter teased his ears. It taunted him, ‘follow me! Chase me!’ it seemed to say. Another glimmer appeared on the stairs briefly. He got the impression of an impish smile and bright eyes before they were gone, apparently having headed up the stairs.

               ‘Wonderful,’ he snarled in his head, ‘the barmy old man didn’t just leave me a house. No! He had to leave me a haunted house! What kind of man leaves a haunted house to his grandson with a note saying that I have to inspect it!?’

               He didn’t realize that as he was thinking he had moved to the base of the stairs, staring up at the forbidding looking second story. He really didn’t want to go up there. He wanted to turn right around and go back to his nice safe car and just leave. However that nagging voice in the back of his head scoffed in disappointment and he knew there was no turning around. He squeezed his eyes shut in a quick prayer before taking the first step up. He held his breath for a moment, expecting the wood to give underneath him. He smiled momentarily when it didn’t and he took the next couple steps with growing confidence.

               He was almost to the top of the staircase when heard a harsh groan and snap from below him. His eyes dove down the see the stair he was on buckle and begin to collapse in almost slow motion. Wild eyes looked up at the landing in front, the shimmering something appearing again, reaching, trying to grab only for Tom to plummet down into the black below. He felt his head hit something hard and then he couldn’t feel anything but darkness.

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