That was the first thing they told me when I moved in: “We know you’ve probably heard the rumors. We know how people around here talk. The thing is, this house isn’t haunted.”
Sometimes the kettle would start shrieking even though the burner wasn’t on. I don’t leave the kettle on the burner anymore.
Sometimes the pictures would shake on the walls like there’s an earthquake, but the pictures were the only things that were shaking. I took the pictures off the walls.
Sometimes the walls bleed—but you’ll only see it out of the corners of your eyes, same with the shadow in the darkness with the knife-toothed smile. Look directly at any of these things, and they’re gone. Nothing much to be done about that one, I mostly try to ignore them.
And the mirrors. It writes things on the mirrors: just HELLO at first, but after a few days it was saying HELLO I LOVE YOU HELLO, all written backwards, all written in steam that has no source. (HELLO I LOVE YOU PLEASE LET ME IN) I tried putting the mirrors in the attic, but the next morning they were all back on the walls again. I don’t touch the mirrors anymore.
I can feel it watching me, all the time. I don’t take baths anymore, not after I saw the girl with the blank face and the blacked-out eyes staring up at me just bellow the water, and then she laughed, and then the water turned black. Now I only shower. Quickly.
I go out more than I used to, to avoid the house. I’m a regular at four different Starbucks, because the baristas at the first one started asking me if I was okay, and whether I was sleeping, and if I had somewhere to go at night. (HELLO WHERE WERE YOU I MISSED YOU)
I don’t leave it alone for too long though. It gets jealous. When I went away for a long weekend, I came back to all the plants on the kitchen windowsill impossibly overgrown, leaves reaching across the counters and vines spiraling down to the floor. The window above the sink was steamed up like the inside of a greenhouse, but the air in the room was cold. (HELLO LOOK AT OUR BABIES WE MISSED YOU SO MUCH) I closed the door and went out for dinner, and when I came back all the plants were dead and dried up like they’d been neglected for months. I don’t bring plants home anymore.
The thing is, I don’t have other options. The penalty for breaking the lease is one thing, and this was the only place I could find where the rent is low enough that I don’t have to have four roommates to be able to pay rent and still buy food in the same month. And utilities are included. And it doesn’t seem like it wants to hurt me, it just seems kind of… lonely. And no one was lying when they told me the house wasn’t haunted.
It isn’t haunted.
This house is alive.