The House in the Valley

The house in the valley is just as unnatural as the man in it.

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1. The House in the Valley

 

Note: Although this series has chronological order (In chronological order: If Only She Had, To Love Chaos, The House in the Valley, and Avenged), you should probably read them in order of the series. 

 

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Killing someone isn’t hard at all. You just need to get everything right.

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The man with long black hair was married to his sister’s cousin’s daughter’s best friend. His name was Jacob Heeler, and he lived a life in the house with the cracked walls. Hidden away from all others, he built contraptions and machinery and weaponry, but he never used it, just kept it in a shed built in his backyard. 

His wife cared nothing of him. She couldn’t. The only reason why she consented to marry him was because he offered her all of the money that he owned. The day after marriage, though, she mysteriously disappeared.

The man, however, existed… Or did he? No one knew, truly, and no one wanted to go to the black house in the green valleys to find out. 

The house itself was wrapped in mystery. It’d been there, but not a single person in the village knew how. One day they’d looked down in the valley and there it was. Possibly they hadn’t noticed it until then, but it was very unlikely. For this reason, not a single person would do more than look at the house from afar. Things that came near the house didn’t stay for long (and I mean that in more than one way).

So, Mr. Jacob and the house existed in their solitude. They never came up in conversation— they never came up in any way, period. The village people were content with things being this way, and so was Heeler.

Until one day.

Yes, he went outside suddenly. No transition, just… BOOM. 

Jacob, in the earliest hours of the third day of the month of February, stepped out of his house wearing no cloaks or coats or boots or any warm clothes of any form or fashion. He wore a simple, thin shirt and short pants. 

This February was especially brutal. No, no snow or ice had appeared, but it seemed impossible that they hadn’t. The temperatures were below freezing, many animals had died from hypothermia, and nothing and nobody wanted to go outside. Yet Jacob, the man that never came out, came out then.

Matrix L. Piper looked out the small window of her shack, her grey face and features contorting in confusion. “Who is this man?” was her first question. “What is he doing near that house?” was the second, closely followed by, “What is he doing out at all?”

Jacob sniffed the air deeply, then laughed and spoke for the first time in nearly seventeen years. “I love the smell of fresh world,” he said, grinning, his face almost seeming to creak as he did, for he hadn’t moved his mouth upwards in about seventeen years, for he had no reason to. His teeth, however, gleamed white in the cold sunlight.

As he let his breath out into the cold air in a sigh, it clouded around him, and, as it slowly cleared, it seemed to lift years off of his face, until he looked his true age of thirty-six.

He chuckled slightly and started to advance up the hill, muttering and chatting with himself as he went.

He was a curiosity— at least, that’s how Matrix saw him. Heeler’s shiny (but not greasy) mane of gorgeous black hair stood out in comparison to his snow-white skin, and his green eyes seemed like they would’ve pierced through the strongest shield ever invented. His clothes were not the usual clothes that you would see around this year, especially in winter (it was still very strange for anyone to wear short or showy clothes), yet here was this man— this stranger— who showed up and walked through the place as if he owned it.

Matrix smiled to herself and laughed silently. She tried to sit up to view him better, but winced and lay back down in her bed. She’d been sick for many weeks from being poisoned by her brother (on accident, of course), and she would certainly die. She had no hard feelings against her brother for this, for she was a logical woman. But she refused to be “put out of her misery”— she’d die like a normal person because she was a normal person. She didn’t want to be viewed as weak and feeble. She thought that, if she was killed rather than turning to death and laughing in its face, that it would be dishonorable and cowardly. She’d endure the pain because she had to, and because she wanted to live all of her days out— even if she was going to die when she was just eighteen.

Jacob came over the hump of the hill slowly. His gait was strange, somewhere between a limp, a prance, and a normal walk.     

When he reached the plateau, he stopped, sank to his knees, and then plopped onto his face. He now lay face down in the grass, before the village, completely relaxed, taking deep breaths so that he bounced slightly on the ground. If you had looked at him from any distance further than five feet away, you’d think he was dead. And Matrix’s shack was just about ten feet away. 

“Brother! Brother, come quick!” she said, yelling for the man who lived directly next door to her and would come at a nanosecond’s notice. He felt as if he owed her something for almost killing her, and now lived with her, as her maid.

The tall and lanky Peregrine came running into the room. “What is it?” he asked, panicked.

“There’s a strange man outside…” she said, allowing Peregrine to look out the window. She didn’t add the part about her believing him to be dead

He cocked his head. “A stranger? We never have visitors…” He walked over to the window, and, upon seeing the long ponytail, said, “This man is no stranger…”

“W-What do you mean by that?”

“He’s the one that lives in the old house in the valley.”

"Him?!”

Peregrine nodded. “He's not come out in nearly seventeen years...What is he doing out? In this weather? Or at all? He hasn’t come out since I can remember….”

Matrix shook her head, confused. “Why has he…?”

Peregrine returned the same confused head shake. “No idea. Shall I go see about him?” he asked.

She nodded slowly.

As Peregrine was leaving, Matrix called after him. “Wait!”

Peregrine turned around slowly. 

“Invite him in.”

“Why should I do that? He’s—“

“For me you’ll do it, right?”

Peregrine held a finger up, as if he would protest, but lowered it and turned around in a defeated manner and nodded as he walked away.

Watching from the window, Matrix couldn’t tell what the men were saying to one another, but was surprised (whether that was a good or bad surprise, I may never know) whenever the strange man sat up.

On the flip side of the window, Peregrine had walked up to the man. Upon hearing the approaching footsteps, Heeler sat up, the sudden movement startling Peregrine. 

“Son, what are you doing out at this time of morning?” asked Jacob, the low pitch of his voice making the words seem almost melodic.

Peregrine’s eyebrows creased. “Sir? I was going to ask the same question to you. Are you alright, sir?” 

“What business do you have calling me ‘sir’?!” demanded Heeler sharply.

Frightened by the tone of Jacob’s voice, Peregrine hurriedly apologized. “I’m sorry, si—“ He stopped himself from finishing the word. “Uh…What is your name?”

Jacob chuckled. “That is for me to know, and for you to never ask.”

“But if I cannot call you ‘sir’, and I do not know your name, what shall I call you?”

“Nothing. You shall call me nothing.”

Peregrine, suddenly getting a burst of fierceness in him, retorted, “Well, Nothing, would you like to come in? You must be awfully cold.”

Jacob laughed heartily, for seemingly no reason at all. After he calmed himself, he responded, “No, I am not cold, but I might as well come inside. I have nothing better to do.”

Peregrine, remembering what his sister asked him to do, said nothing, but rather brought the man inside.

The girl sat up in her bed eagerly when she saw Jacob come in, ignoring the excruciating pain long enough to greet him eagerly. “Hello. I’m so very glad that you came out of your home there. You must be awfully lonely down in the valley all by yourself.”

Heeler, in awe of Matrix, answered with silence. Though sick and colorless, Matrix was still fascinatingly beautiful. Her hair, though unbrushed, was long, wavy, and shiny. Her eyes shone with stubbornness and bravery. Her lips curved upwards naturally. 

“I’m going to go over to my home. Yell for me if you need me,” said Peregrine, eager to leave the presence of this strange man.

Matrix nodded, and Peregrine left, being sure to shut the door tightly behind him.

Silence existed for a second before Jacob spoke. “I-It’s very kind of you to invite me into you home, but I do not even know your name, ma’am.”

Matrix smiled. “My name is Matrix L. Piper. That man was my brother. Might I ask your name?”

Jacob grinned in return. “Certainly. My name is Jacob Heeler. I live down in that house in the valley. It’s been seventeen years since I’ve come out.”

So my brother was right, she thought. “That’s very interesting. What do you do down there? I haven’t seen you leave your house. Is there a particular reason why you chose today to leave it?”

In response to her first question, Jacob answered, “I experiment and sculpt and create and destroy. That’s pretty much it.”

Matrix waited for his answer to the second question, but it didn’t come. 

She asked again. “Is there a particular reason why you chose today to leave your house?”

Jacob, again, didn’t answer, but rather changed the subject. “What do you do to pass your time?”

Matrix smiled again. “I watch from my window. That’s all I can do.”

“What? Why is that all you can do?” She seemed so marvelous to him, as if she could do anything in the world.

“I’m sick. And I will not survive it,” she said, only a tinge of sadness in her voice.

Jacob’s face fell. “Sick? With what? Why?”

“The story is rather lengthy, sir…”

“I have all the time in the world,” he said in a caring way, as if she were his wife.

Matrix took a deep breath. “This village is a small one. Everybody knows everybody, no one forgets anyone’s special days or events, and, if someone’s ill or angry or sad or whatever, everybody knows it. My brother’s friend invited us to dinner one day, as well as the rest of the village. He and I went, but I really didn’t want to. I never liked to be around crowds. I went anyway, because my brother wanted me to go. When we arrived, the feast was laid out before us, and our wine glasses were filled to the brink. I sat down next to my brother. He’d forgotten his spectacles at the house, and he didn’t want to rush off home, lest he be considered rude, so he tried to make do without glasses.

“We prayed, then passed things around. The salt was not on the table, nor was the pepper, and the host asked my brother— his name’s Peregrine— to go fetch it. Peregrine stood, walked over to the pantry, and tried to make out the labels of the seasonings. He mistaken the vermin poison for salt and pepper, then sat them out on the table. He sat them on the table, and we commenced eating. 

“I decided that my potatoes needed some salt, so I requested that the shaker be passed to me. Of course, because no one else seemed to think that anything needed to be salted, I immediately got it and shook it onto my potatoes, I stirred it in really well and took a bite. And then I started to vomit wildly, and my muscles couldn’t control themselves. I blacked out, and I woke up here, in my home.

“My brother told me that, after my muscle spasms passed, I went limp. He carried me home, and I had a fever.” She sighed. “…Just a few days ago, Peregrine called the doctor down. The doctor said that I was a lost cause, and that I should be ‘put out of my misery’. But I suppose I’m living just alright. I’ve been like this for four or five or six months. I lost count after the second.”

Jacob had been listening carefully. When Matrix had finished, he placed his hand on the back of his ponytail. “Your brother did that to you?” he said, his voice dry.

"Yes,” Matrix said.

Jacob sighed to himself and smiled. “Thank you. I must be off now.”

“Why so suddenly?” she asked.

He didn’t answer, just left.

Matrix looked back out the window to see Jacob walking next door to her brother’s house. He must want to speak to Peregrine and ask a few questions. He’s quite a strange man…

Jacob entered the house, and an enormous racket came from the house. Then there was silence, and Jacob exited the house, something glinting in the back of his boot. He walked down the hill, into the valley, and into his house. 

Matrix stared at the house, but Jacob didn’t come out for a long while. He did emerge again, however, a few hours later.

He made his way back to Matrix’s house, then knocked on the door.

“Come in!” called Matrix, and Jacob stepped in.

He was smiling a strange smile. An evil, sinister one. 

Heeler swaggered slowly up to Matrix, then, still smiling, whispered into her ear, “The deed is done.” 

He stepped back, then went to a chair across the room.

Matrix was confused. “What?”

“I have done it. I have done it for you. Because I love you. And I am going to take you as my wife.”

Matrix was horrified. “Wow, that’s sudden…. No. I’m sorry, sir.”

“Why not?”

"I don’t know you.”

“You know me well enough.”

“W-What? N-No! I will NOT marry you! You already have a wife!!” Matrix said.

“No, I do not,” said Jacob evilly. 

"Why not? Did you divorce her?”

“No. She’s in the bottom of the basement.”

“Then you still have her.”

“Her soul left her long ago, Ms. Matrix. Or, should I say, Mrs. Matrix?”

Matrix’s face contorted. “Leave.”

Jacob’s face fell. He was crushed. “B-Bu—“

“Now. You can leave very well.”

His face contorted in anger. “Fine. You will have the same fate as your brother.”

He stood and walked over to her. 

Matrix looked up at him, confused. “Fate? What did—?”

“Yes, I killed him," he said with a throaty chuckle. "I killed him to avenge you. To get you to love me. And now that you don’t, you will never love anyone. Ever. Again. You’re going to die sooner than you’re already assigned to.”

Fear entered Matrix’s face, but she didn’t believe him. “I do not believe you.”

"You will when you’re dead.” 

Jacob drew a dagger from his left boot. It had dried blood on it— Peregrine’s dried blood.

Matrix screamed a high-pitched scream and tried to squirm out of bed, the pain making her scream even more.

Jacob laughed a deep laugh and grabbed her arm. “Goodbye,” he said, before plunging the dagger into her heart.

Matrix tensed up, but did not relax like the dead usually do when the soul leaves them. Her eyes were frozen wide in fear, and would be frozen like that forever. 

Jacob took the sword out of her chest, then stabbed her again, and again, and again, until her chest resembled a spilled puddle of red wine. 

He laughed evilly and put the dagger back in his boot. He turned around to leave.

But the whole village was standing there, staring at him, then at the body, then back at him, and back and forth and back again, in shock.

“You’ve done this. You did this,” said the mayor.

“Yes. And more,” he said proudly in a sinister voice, and told all of the story of her brother and her.

“You are going to die this evening,” said the executioner, angrily and fearfully.

He laughed. “With pleasure.”

 

Before he was to be killed, they were allowed to ask him one question. A crying woman was the one to ask it.

She managed to stabilize her voice long enough to ask, “How can you consider yourself human?!” 

He laughed a throaty laugh. “I don’t.”

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