Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Hollow Wing: Any Other Home But This

Greetings one and all. I'm glad you could make it for another long delayed instalment of my series of short horror stories, The Hollow Wing. I've got a few more planned, along with some other projects of vary degrees of importance coming at least semi-regularly.

Please enjoy a little tale I like to call: "Any Other Home But This"

Between Administration Office 3, and J. Addison Wing (nicknamed J Wing), lies a homely little brick building. It's architecture is less stylised that the buildings that surround it. It exhibits neither romantic splendour of it's gothic neighbour, J Wing, or the daunting, pillared magnificence of Admin Office 3. Squat, ugly, with bloody red bricks, it was built in the 1920's to cope with the massive influx of former soldiers exhibiting signs of "shell-shock". On the brightest of days, a squeamishly sleazy gloom envelops it like a pupae or the membrane. In the night, from a distance, you can hear an avalanche of whispered disclosures and blood-curdling confessions. The Doctors, caretakers, nurses and guards who work at Ravenscar Secure Facility, have a name for it. The Hollow Wing.
 Few Inmates in the facility are considered safe enough to be allowed a cell with a window. Graham comma Quentin, or "Quivering Quentin" as some of the less sensitive members have dubbed him, is trying to keep as far away from his own window as possible. Huddled up with a blanket smothering his vision, sandwiched under his cot on the cold tile floor, shivering in fear.
 Through the frosted glass, if your vision has adjusted to the gloom of the room, you might see a distant pinprick of light  on the hill just beyond the walls that linger on the edges of the facility.
 Look a little harder, and you'll see that it's a house. All of it's lights shining brightly. Ask around, and people won't remember it being built. They say it's new.

 "It doesn't look new. If I were to judge, I'd have to say... Late Victorian, perhaps Edwardian."
 "Ah yes, Mr. Graham, you have a good eye. We believe that it's an authentic replica. It has all the modern electrical features, even a state of the art security system, but there's no sign of any renovations or installations. Whoever made it certainly new their stuff." The real estate agent took out his handkerchief and coughed up a rancid glob of spittle, quickly inserting it back into his pocket.
 Quentin pretended not to notice, "But the floorboards squeak, there's peeling paint and worn lacquer on the staircase. The ceiling plaster in the living-room is cracking with age. I know you're used to selling to rubes who don't know the first thing about British architecture, but I'm not one of them. Tell me how old the house is." The tone was insistent without being demanding, the kind any salesman would sell his own mother for.
 The Agent took out his handkerchief again, this time to stifle a catastrophic sneeze. Phlegm shot into the soft square of fabric with a wet squelch. Quentin waited for him to put the handkerchief back into his breast pocket before grilling him with an imposing stare.
"Well... it's embarrassing to admit, but... We're flummoxed. Last we know, this property was vacant land, bought by the old next-door neighbour, bless his heart. He died around a year and a half ago, and I guess he must have sold it privately before he kicked the bucket. We got a letter by a man claiming to be the owner of the house, and copies of the deed seem to confirm it, saying he had to leave the country urgently, and we'd receive a hefty commission for the house if we sold the house as quickly and unobtrusively to him as we could."
"And that doesn't sound fishy to you at all?" Quentin posed him, "Some anonymous Joe decides to up and leave before even meeting with you face to face? This place was probably a meth lab before now. That or the building's made from inferior materials. Or maybe the walls are littered with mutilated limbs. You have no idea what this guy was up to here."
The handkerchief came out again, this time to sweep the thin sheen of sweat from his brow. "Look, we've sent in a dozen inspectors, contractors and investigators. We even allowed the police to come in with their dogs. It's clean. The house is in fantastic working order, aside from the few minor cosmetic features that you've noticed, probably taken from second-hand, salvageable sources. You know as much as we do, now, and that's all I can say."
Ah, thought Quentin in the depths of his greedy, lizard brain. Now I've got them."That's not all you can say." he began, launching into a diatribe ego-first. "You can say, I've got a house that may have been illegally erected, with un-contracted labour, and probably even without council permission, all under a highly suspect writ of sale. I wonder how far this might get if the proper authorities found out... Front page of The Sun, your assets seized or frozen, you and your boss banged up in the chitty... I could go on."
The agent was sweating warm, salty buckets by no, and it wasn't just from the flu. "And why don't you?" he said, dabbing at his face with the fluid-sodden cloth of his handkerchief.
Quentin smiled like an alligator, teeth out to bare. "Because I know I'm dealing with a very clever firm who understands how lucky they are that I found this place. A guy who knows his way around building codes of conduct, how to renovate a house that might, hypothetically, have broken these codes of conduct. And most of all, a guy who knows how to keep his mouth shut, for the right incentive, of course."
The realtor's emotional agony was as palpable as the mucus running from his nostrils. "I can maybe come to some compromise... Within reason." He left the last two words pregnant with a venomous intent that was half threat and half bitter contempt. Quentin sensed that the contempt was the larger half and decided to go in for the kill.
"Forty percent off the asking price." It wasn't a question, opinion or anything less intangible than pure fact.
The realtor's eyes bulged in their watery sockets. "Are you insane? We may as well donate the bloody tinderbox to a pack of junkies while we're at it. Twenty percent, and you're lucky to get that."
Quentin wasn't worried, he knew that compromise was the first milestone to defeat. "Forty. Or the minute one of us walks out of here, I'll be on the phone to the nearest news-station."
There was a look in the eye of Quentin's opponent, a sharp one of desperation, one final attempt at dominance, and of analysis. Would Quentin make good on his threat, or was it well played bluff. Quentin stared right back with a simple stare that told the truth: He had broken better men and women over less, and he wouldn't hesitate to do it again if someone got in the way of what he wanted.
"I'll sort out the paperwork as soon as I can. You can move in with your first deposit, with a subsequent monthly payment." the agent said, turning away in shame. Quentin savoured another victory over the rest of the world. If life was a game, Quentin wanted to win it all, or at least own all the Railway stations. Quentin cleared his throat loudly, turning the realtor back towards him.
Quentin spit dead centre in his palm, and held it out towards the real estate agent, who had the hypocrisy to contort his face in disgust for the filthy act. Quentin let it hang there, and stared at the man with his eyes. Not a man's eyes, but ones that could make a man's fear seem to manifest in his mind while he stared into them. The realtor idly thought that a distant, primitive ancestor might have gazed into eyes like that as he lingered alone in the dark for too long. Not a man's. A wolf's.
Their hands met with a quick, solid squelch. The deal was done.

A week later, and the boxes had all been placed indoors, furniture close enough to it's rooms not to be an issue, and basic appliances had even been installed and turned on. Quentin had successfully moved home.
Well, not for long, though. As soon as he could, he'd lease the house to someone else, a young, middle income worker who wouldn't believe his luck finding a grand old place like this, and so wouldn't question the a steadily climbing rent, and once that tenant had been milked dry, he could always find another and another, until a definite negative reputation emerged, then he'd sell the crap shack and move on to the next house that he could extort for a minuscule price from another real estate firm. And the next. And the next. And the next.
He hadn't taken in the house's aesthetics the first time, just it's flaws that could be used to get it cheaper. It was certainly breathtaking. Three bedrooms, one a master that was unashamedly opulent, with oyster motifs moulded in bright plaster lining the walls and ceiling. A light aqua carpet gave the room a soothing, tranquil atmosphere that reminded Quentin of some kind of Spanish villa, located high on a coastal cliff-face, that he had been to a few years previously, and he though it odd that the decorum and designs of the room were so... Mediterranean, As the house was as far inland as you could go. The fading, sandy white walls and driftwood-hewn door-frame were touches that he had admired in tours of coastal regions around Europe, and it seemed a waste of money to build a room that would never be admired by the middle-class doldrums with no sense of taste who would usually buy a house like this.
  As Quentin took in more and more miraculous detail in room after room, he had to admire the departed builder of the house. The basement contained genuine, Victorian-era plumbing, fantastically moulded brass that must have been made by a master. one of the rooms, meant to be a child's by the look and size of it, had a a resplendent, awe inspiring cameo painter on the ceiling. It was reminiscent of Michelangelo's  work on the Sistine Chapel, but wonderfully parodied, having replaced Adam, god and the angelic host, with the cast of Peter Pan.
  Lacquered wood made of ancient oak. Support struts altered to take on the look of Greco-Roman columns. Even antique, iron nails in every wall and wooden surface were etched with cheeky faces, jeering or laughing in jubilance. The detail was exquisite, when you took the time to look for it. The patchy, puzzle-piece style attempts at decorating ranged on the emotional scale from a deep spiritual resonance to Dadaesque bemusement.
  Still, there were downsides. Doors had a tendency to stick, there were small drafts that ran throughout the place, whistling eerily or bringing brief chills. Ancient (or substandard more likely, thought Quentin) wood creaked and warped with the wind, rattling windowpanes and disturbing the dimensions of the house. Though the house was huge, when the it groaned and grumbled from the elements, the space seemed to convulse and collapse.
Quentin thought he'd likely spend a couple of months in the place, repairing the more dissonant and disturbing subjects of interest. The ceiling in the child's room would have to be painted over for the sake of uniformity of course, Weather-proofing the windows, and finding the source of the house's groaning and creaking. If it was structural, he'd have to salvage what he could before demolishing it. He might just have been able to make his money back by selling the land it was on. But the thought was still unappealing.
The lights flickered angrily. Oh, and fix the lighting as well. he mentally added to the list. The damn things had the tendency to brighten and dim at random. And Quentin was sure it had something to do with the houses hook-up with the grids. He'd phone them up some time in the week.
Quentin went to the refrigerator, which he had had delivered from his last place just yesterday, and restocked that morning. Vienna loaf, eggs, milk, parmesan, iceberg lettuce and tomatoes and a celebratory bottle of champagne. The essentials.
But the fridge door was stuck fast, and wouldn't budge a bit. Bloody removalists. He'd have their heads.
Quentin decided to have an early night, without a sandwich or nightcap. The door creaked close with a single push, and he flopped onto his mattress that rested on the floor (the intricacies of his bed-frame's erection being a problem for the next day*), not bothering to turn off the light. He slipped off his clothes, then flung them off to his left in a bundle. He was ushered to sleep by the soothing sounds of sea-breeze skirting the ceiling and ocean waves lapping at the walls, his thoughts drifting off on an unconscious tide...

  He woke up. And it was wrong.
  Not in any perceptible sense at first. He awoke as he usually did, wearily reflecting on the tasks of the day. His instincts wouldn't really awaken for another twenty minutes after he did.
  He splashed his face in the bathroom sink, blearily stared into the mirror and contemplated whether it it was time to shave or not, then trudge down the stairs to the kitchen for a spot of breakfast. Fried eggs and a bit of toast, would be nice, and he was pretty sure he had some peanut butter in the cupboard as well...
  The refrigerator's door was still stuck. "Bloody fucking thing...!" he shouted at it. And turned to walk up back to his bedroom to get some clothes out of one of the boxes stacked high on each other, so he could grab a bite of something.
  At the top of the stairs, he had to brace himself and catch his breath. He'd run up the stairs, but he was unsure why it had seemed to have take so long, or why he needed to take a moment to compose himself. He was getting a little older, he supposed, and left that train of thought at that particular station.
  The pile of identical boxes towered as tall as he was. After some heavy lifting and opening, he thought he'd found the boxes he was looking for at third and second from the bottom of the stack. But it turned out to be saucepans, cooking pots and a rather large wok in the first, and work tools in the second.
  What on bloody earth? He mentally projected at the boxes' contents. He'd swore that he took each of these one's to their appropriate rooms. He'd have to look through the basement and the kitchen for the right boxes. The only clothes were his previous days ones, still flung to a heap beside the mattress. He consciously reminded himself to get some deodorant while he was out for breakfast.
  As his hand clung to the door handle, he remembered to get his keys. Which had somehow slipped from his pocket during the process of taking off his trousers. He turned and scanned the floor.
  The animal instinct roused, suddenly disturbed by some aberrant piece of information. The hair on the back of Quentin's neck began to prick, though he didn't know why. As he say his keys shine bright, capturing a bit of the morning light, he finally found the source of his disturbance, something that was, while subtly boded ill in the back of his mind, was little cause for alarm.
 It was hard to be definite in the current brilliance spilling through the window, but to Quentin's eyes, the colours of the room seemed off from when he remembered. The carpet was a more deepened shade of blue-green than before, more like the dead centre of a windless ocean, than the serene bay of a sub-tropical shoreline. The walls were just a little more sickly yellow than the pale white/gold colour of the day before.
  His eyes were still tired. Or he hadn't had enough sleep. It was one of those two. Or just a different light from the afternoon. Yes.
  He proceeded to the front door, which was cloistered behind a slim waiting room, covered in coat hooks and a rich red and white checkered wallpaper. Yellow light cascaded down from a portcullis that was levelled at head-height, onto a bristly, grey shag carpet that Quentin was adamant about getting rid of. There was a series of brazen locks, chains and a small bar, to keep intruders from getting in. A silly notion, with how far away they were from anyone in the country.
  Quentin looked down at the keyring, flicking random room's keys away until he found the front door's one. It slipped in with a fluid motion. But as he turned it to the left, it stuck. Quentin's fingers didn't feel an inch of the lock giving way, so he tried turning it the other way, but found that the key wouldn't shift that way either. The door was a worthy foe, not giving an inch, and after five minutes, of futile struggle,  Quentin turned in disgust and defeat.
He went to the lounge's window,  which he was sure he'd seen a latch for the day before. Nothing. The glass sealed against the varnished cherry lattices tighter than shrunken shirt.
A new plan dawned. The kitchen window. It was left constantly ajar and let in a bitter cold the night before. He'd even seen it when he'd come down for food before. He walked to the kitchen, looked past his locked fridge to a latch-less, seamless, handless window. Closed for him like everything else.
  In a desperation, Quentin couldn't see any other way out, he would have to break the window, and bugger the cost of repairs. He found the heaviest object he he could from the counter. A tarnished kettle, and flung it full force at the clear glass-
  -And watched it sail clear on through.
  Quentin's eyes formed desperate holes into his suddenly fearful head. His body shaking and his stomach on the verge of heaving, he took a tremulous step towards the pane of glass, and raised a hand.
  It was solid. And cold. And getting colder.

He had been alone for a week in the hell-house. He smelled badly. The lid of the toilet refused to open, no matter the amount of force he used to lift it. He had tried shitting and pissing in the shower, but whenever he approached, the shower-head would spray scalding hot steam at him. He had burns all over his arms and legs, before he eventually learnt to squat in a discreate corner of the house and do his business there. Quentin's clothes were streaked with stains, his hair was frumpy from sleeping on the floor. At night or day, while the eyes of the house watched him drag his sorry mess through exhaustion, he would find a quiet patch of carpet not yet spoilt by his filthy necessities and fall asleep there. When he would wake, he would find his neck contorted on bent upon hard-wood stairs. Sometimes the gap between this realisation and painful awakening would be hours, at other times, mere minutes.
  He had tried to put his abuse out on the house physically. He had a zippo lighter in his jacket pocket that he had tried to burn the house down with. Whenever the flint flicked, and a small flame would burst, it would immediately be extinguished by a draught of air. This would happen no matter where he was, in the basement, the attic, underneath the kitchen sink. That stillborn sabotage finally died when the lighter's fumes did.
  Quentin had tried hitting, but nothing but him break. Petty vandalism of "FUCK YOU HOUSE" and "BURN, BABY, BURN" written in anything he could think of, simply vanished or contorted itself into outwardly sickly sweet colloquialisms "THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME" and "LIVE NO EVIL UNDER THIS ROOF" felt like ominous and terrifying epithets to Quentin.
  Today he stooped at the foot of his refrigerator. Hoping it would open. He had fasted on crackers, dry seeds and pickles, and that was after he had gorged himself on the jar of peanut butter he had thought of earlier that day. He felt sick to his stomach when he realised that every other non perishable food had infested by weevils, a brown, writhing mass of corruption that was nesting in his meagre pantry.
  He knew that the refrigerator did, in fact, open. Though on it's own. And seemingly when he at his most desperate. It had opened two days beforehand when he tried to open the gas-powered oven, to cook a small rat he had somehow cornered. Maybe it wouldn't open because of the danger the gas could pose to the building, or maybe it just wanted to humiliate him, but as he began to rip off great bristles of fur from the rat's back in preparation for a savage bite, there was a small sound, like the world exhaling in relief. Quentin raised his head from his captured prey, to see a sliver of light from the corner of the fridge's door.
 He almost lost any sort of composure. His starvation had robbed him of his reason for the last couple of days. But he found his old pragmatic intelligence still worked.  His fridge wasn't packed with food, just a couple of basic perishables. If he gorged himself now, and stripped the fridge of everything it had, he would merely waylay the intolerable and starve to death earlier. No, he would eat the few things that were likely to rot, if they were left any longer, and leave some of the more persistent ones could last another week. He decided to take the carton of milk, lettuce, tomato and eggs. He was tempted to grab the champagne. But knew if things became more dire, he would probably need it to buck up his courage. For good measure, he put the rat in into the chiller, realising he might need the little vermin's bony body right then and there, but perhaps another time soon.
It was two days later, and though he had tried to ration the foodstuffs appropriately, he'd been forced to drink the souring milk, wilting lettuce and shrivelling tomatoes quite quickly before they spoiled. There were still two eggs left. But eating them raw made him feel queasy, so he had hidden them in one of his boxes. Now that he hadn't eaten for a majority of the day, he felt a pressing weakness, like gravity pulling his guts down deeper into himself. He waited in front of the almost reverent kitchen appliance.
  The sitting and the watching were excruciating. The metal door reflecting his anguished image. He had gone to the gym three times a week, driven by a vanity to appear healthy, but not obsessed with his physique. Now he could begin to see hollowness eating away at his body and face. Pits in the eyes, sink-holes in the cheeks. While his bones stuck out like sticks in a pit of quicksand. That reminder of mortality that blunted the edge of his confidence was something he was beginning to see all the time now. In the windows, in the bowl of the toilet as he he sipped at tainted water.
An hour passed before the door opened. At first Quentin thought it was his mind sowing tricksy seeds of doubt, the way the door swung open so silently. But as he approached, and felt the cool air cascade out the gap in the door, he knew it was real. He licked his lips in expectation.
  The door swung aside, and he was taken aback by the site in front of him. Black pellets strewn throughout the shelves, the loaf of bread was a feeble mess of crumbs , while there was only a thin morsel of cheese left, nibbled to a scrap. The champagne hadn't even been allowed to remain unmolested. The foil had been nibbled back with tiny icepicks, while the cork had been chiselled away until it had exploded, dripping it's contents in a sticky pool that was located everywhere.
  Quentin knew what had caused it. He threw open the salad drawer to find the greedy little rat, impossibly revived. I supposed I must have only stunned it, thought Quentin, reminiscing on the blow that had felled the creature. And the cold of the chiller probably revived it. His brain glanced over the likely alternative. The house's malignancy could force it's way into it's inhabitants.
  He had the little furry bastard cornered, it cowered in a corner, unable to escape from the four walls that enclosed it. Quentin's fury burned in vengeance. He might not be able to take out his broiling animal rage, on the house, but he could kill this diminished little creature. Taste it's blood, make it feel fear and suffer the way he was, before it gave him his much needed sustenance.
  As he drew closer, eager for the kill, it leaped with a strength that was unprecedented, forcing it's mass from the bottom draw, up into the air, and through a gap in Quentin's violent approaces. Within half a heartbeat, it had fallen to the floor and scurried off out of sight through the kitchen's door.
  Quentin raced after it, wanting gore, violence, and carnage, no matter where it would take him. He found himself at the foot of the basement stairs, which had seemed to spring ajar to assist in the escape of his tiny enemy. He flung the door aside and rushed down the creaking, crumbling stairs.
  The light had been on when he went down, and he saw the escaping figure of the rat scurrying into a hole in the wall. Maybe to a series of subterranean tunnels that went up into the outside world. Quentin's hand grabbed into the darkness of the burrow with an inhuman force. Finding moss, and midden soil, long contaminated by a leaking septic tank that oozed ancient filth into the house's foundations.
  It was all too much for Quentin. No vengeance, no food. His suffering had been a wasted effort for himself and a vile amusement for his captor. The sole, central lightbulb that hung from a frayed wire began to suddenly flicker. Quentin made eyes for the door, but rightly presumed that by the time he'd reach the top of the stairs, it would be sealed shut.
  The lightbulb died. And Quentin fell to his knees.
  It was all too, too much.
  "Damn you! You can't do this to me! I own you! I own you! OWN YOU!" Quentin frothed and foamed at the mouth, beating his body and howling in rage and pain until he felt like he'd be sick. The feeling was the the only thing that seemed real, in this darkness.
  Until it wasn't.
  Sound returned to him. It was very subtle at first. Like the sound of static from a television with no reception. He couldn't quite get a fix on where it was coming from. It seemed to pulsate and convulse all around him.
  Then came the shrieking, Then came the squeaking. It was the sound of an amorphous, alien ocean that owned a lurking, submerged violence and fury that was about to be unleashed.
  The hole in the wall threw the sound at Quentin with a blast like a bomb. His fear rose to somewhere in his soul that was close to all-consuming, and in the darkness, he slipped and fumbled for a purchase on the stair's railing, knowing the high-ground was the only sanctuary for him from death.
Although he physically see what came out of the hole first, he knew it was the little plucked rat, it's bleary little red eyes filled with the promise of blood, and his overwhelming, hungry family gushed out of the hole following him, flooding the basement, hunting Quentin.
  He found the foot of the steps, and stumbled on them, bashing his face against a suddenly solid step.
  They could smell it in the dark, and in a wave, they found him.
  Quentin screamed.

  It had been a month-and-a-half with just him and the House. And now he obeyed.
  His juvenile rebelliousness had been to nought he had realised, right after the delivery man had come.
  Quentin had fallen asleep inside the master bedroom, made approachable once again for his dying body. The rats hadn't done a lot of damage, just bitten at his fingers and toes a little, with an odd bite or two on his face. The blood that he'd lost had made him weak though, and he was almost too exhausted to run out of the basement. Drawing on reserves he didn't know he had, he'd trudged up the stairs and found his bed, and wrapped his body's wounds in the sheets to stem the bleeding.
  He didn't know if it was hours or days later, but he woke up to ringing. The ring of the doorbell, to be specific.
  His wounds had ceased weeping, but he knew he was on his last legs without medical attention. The bites would fester, while he would swim in fever, and then he would die. Half of him knew it would be a relief, but the other half somehow had the strength to drag him onto all fours and pull him through the door, sheets still clinging on his shoulders like cape from some bloody messiah.
  It kept on ringing. Once when he squirmed toward the stairs, another when he fell down them. Once again when he had worked his way toward the coatroom door, and a final time just before he managed to get it open. As his body pushed it open, he heard the click of the front door closing shut, and saw the head, distorted from the bulging yellow glass, leaving down the garden house, away from the damned house.
  Quentin wanted to cry, but didn't have the energy to do it. All he did was let his gaze fall down to the ground. And he saw the package.
  A big, brown box with his address. The door had been ajar for the postman to leave it there, that was obvious, but Quentin still could work out why it had happened.
  He opened the post, which had been weakly sealed with tape, and found a trove of necessities.
  Little packing paper peanuts, which Quentin remembered were edible, filled the thing to the brim, and slight excavation revealed a first aid kit, a bottle of vodka, a carton of long-life milk, two tin's of oat-biscuits and three large boxes of muesli bars.
  Quentin didn't bother to stop and think, just unstopper the vodka, rip out two bars and fit them into his mouth as quickly as he could. The alcohol hit him quick, and he made sure to roughly bandage his bites before he passed out.
  When he came to, he had more time to think. How had the delivery man know what to send? A more chilling question then arose: How did he know when to send it?
  The links of causality were almost impossible to predict. A post would take at least a day two to send, and the times that he slept or moved, or attempted to escape were erratic. The improbability of him surviving the rat attack, or awakening from his sleep with enough strength and in time to immediately treat the wounds was astronomical. You couldn't calculate it with a quantum computer.
  But the House had. There wasn't any other way to explain it.
  Quentin's psyche fractured, and realigned to try and process the information accurately.
  The house knew everything that happened in it, or at least it could control everything that happened in it. Including him and his actions.
  And although it had made him suffer, it still wanted him to live.
  They were thoughts that caused something dramatic to change in him. While he still held a deep, painful fear of the house, his hate had started to degrade.
  After a month, with the packages arriving enough to sustain him, and curb his aggression with the simple sole ambition of survival, he managed to find his box of clothes, and dress into a clean change of clothing, again.
  The shower no longer spat boiling steam at him, allowing to wash himself again. And the taps and the toilet seemed to work of their own accord again.
  His fridge and kitchen cupboards became restocked. He no longer had to starve or ration.
  Lights flickered when he had taken these luxuries for granted, and he'd leave the room quickly, not wanting to feel the house's displeasure. There were still things the house didn't like him doing, either. Listening to the radio or watching television. And he was never allowed to see the delivery men whenever they brought packages to his front door. Perhaps it didn't want these basic interactions with other people to corrupt him, to make him revert.
  It doesn't want to hurt me. Quentin thought in these moments, It just wants to make sure I don't go astray again.
 It was two, or maybe three, months of this routine, before a familiar face decided to show itself to Quentin again.
  The doorbell rang, and Quentin knew the drill by now. Wait at the top of the stairs, until the delivery man's footsteps would fade, and the click of the front door shutting, before he'd race down to see what the house had saw fit to get him this time. The last delivery had had razors, soap and a variety of canned food. Quentin hoped that tis one package had a can-opener in it.
 He heard a knocking after the bell had wrung for it's fifth time. It was odd. Maybe it was a new postman, who wasn't familiar with the routine. Quentin felt afraid when he realised the man might take the package back with him. He felt himself begin to creep down the stairs before the flickering of the lightbulb made him jolt backwards up to the top of the landing, bumping against the floor in fright.
  "Hello?" He heard a voice come echoing up the stairs. "Is anyone in there?" It was the first words he had heard from another soul in months. That voice. Who did that voice belong to again? Quentin wistfully thought. He was tempted to call out. But the lightbulb on the landing winked furiously in  warning.
  He heard footsteps pace past the threshold of the front door, and creep into the coat-room, before he heard some more words that he had trouble deciphering. "Is Graham Quentin here?" it inquired. It took a moment, but then Quentin realised that that was his name.
  The lightbulb above him spat fire from it's filament, flaring in fury. Quentin knew that it wasn't just a warning to stay away from this intruder, but convince him to leave from here, or else Quentin would punished.
He had trouble wrapping his mouth around the right words. "...G-go... A-a-away!" he stuttered with all the strength he could muster. "You-you're n-not welcome h-here." They felt so strange coming out, like they didn't really belong to him anymore.
"I-it-t's m-my h-house." he said, realising that the words were quite true, but not being able to explain it any other way.
"Is that you Mr. Quentin?" said the voice coming from the coat-room. The door swung open, and the intruder stepped through. The face was familiar. It was one of the last Quentin had seen. The realtor. All prim and proper in a green-grey suit, and by the tone of his voice, well over the flu he had been stricken by from their last meeting. "By god's man. What happened to your face?!"
  Quentin didn't like to think of what the rat bites had done to his nose, the little chunks they'd taken out of his lips. The House had made the windows fog so he wouldn't have to see how ugly he'd become. He tried to shout more aggressively to the realtor. "M-my House...! L-l-leave!"
  "I'm afraid not, Mr. Quentin. You've neglected to pay your scheduled deposits on your house. There are police and repossession agents awaiting my call outside, and I'm afraid if you don't leave immediately, you'll be ejected from the premises.
  "L...L-leave?" It was as much a final plea for the man to go, as it was a hidden seed of hope flowering in Quentin's mind. Could he really escape? Would he be allowed to leave?
  The lightbulbs of the house exploded like solar flares. The anger had peaked, and Quentin knew what was going to happen.
  "Bloody electrics... Haven't done anything to fix them, have you?" the realtor looked at him piteously, watching Quentin curl up in horror from the burning lights. He began to walk up the stairs, perhaps to slap Quentin, or maybe lead him out of the House compassionately.
  "G-get Away!" said Quentin, flailing at the air in front of the realtor. the floorboards underneath the stair creaked, as the man strode up them. The creaking spread up has he approached, starting to come from the railings, the walls, the ceiling. Thought the realtor didn't seem to notice.
  "Look, this whole thing has been quite the embarrassment. But if you come out now, I can help you find somewhere else to live." The realtor kept his arms out wide in a gesture of peace. He took another step forward towards Quentin, only to find something pulling him back. Quentin went white with horror and howled a pitiful cry.
  The realtor turned to see what was impeding him, a long, skeletal arm, wrought from ancient timber, stretching out from a loose board in the wall that warped and breathed a menacing hatred. Each finger was pointed with splinters and pitted with rot, yet it still had an ancient, vicious strength. With a single yank, the man was flung back to the wall, and theHouse's arm released it's grip on his collar only to grab him by his throat and begin to squeeze the life from him.
  Quentin stared in shock as the man's eyes bulged, and his face blued. Another arm began to creep out of the wall, joints and appendages unfurling like an insect, as it flexed and stretched it's fingers into working order. In a fluid motion, the second hand joined it's twin around the realtor's neck.
  Quentin's mind placed several facts out in quick procession, as the realtors eye's turned from white to blood-red: The house was currently exerting itself on the realtor, and right then might be his only chance to escape. Quentin scurried over to the stairs and ran down them as the hands dropped the lifeless corpse of the realtor (black tongue lolling in it's mouth), and made a series of desperate swipes at him.
  He dipped, and when he reached the foot of the stairs, dived towards the coat-room and threw himself out of the front door, crying screaming and rolling on the dirt outside on the garden path, feeling the sun settle on his bleached skin.

  Poor little Quivering Quentin. No one will ever hear his story, even if he had the courage to tell it. He was painted a psychotic agoraphobiac, instead of a man who truly knows the evils of possession. It's sad when a big bad wolf like himself is tamed into a cowering pup. But don't worry. The staff at J Wing are always there to help him. To get food for him. To let him outside for fresh air. To lift the toilet seat for him. They'll always make sure he has a home in The Hollow Wing.

By Dylan Goodluck

*This line is hilarious, and it will be removed over my cold, dead body.

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