This is the beginning of a YA Paranormal novel about twin brothers Dash and Rocco (Rock) who move into their grandmother’s old house with their father, only to find the house is haunted by some fucked up shit. I was working on this a few years ago. I wrote a few more chapters, but could never quite figure out what I wanted it to be and where I wanted it to go. It’s based off of the apartment I grew up in that was haunted by a ghost named Felix. True story (the ghost named Felix part. Everything else here is fiction. Mostly.) Let me know what you think in the comments! I didn’t want the beginning to be scary, per say, I just wanted to intrigue readers with this opening. I intended on some incorporating some really intense, crazy shit later on, including elaborating on the brothers and their relationship (Dash is gay and nursing a break up, Rock is a straight virgin dying to get laid, and…one of them might be dead…)
The light pouring in through the stained glass window drenches the dark wood floor; green, gold, red, blue. This morning, the colors projected on the walls behind me and I’ve been watching them slink down the crusty, yellowing wallpaper to their current position at the tips of my toes. The floor creaks when I readjust my body on the staircase. Despite the midday sun slipping in through the colored bits of glass on the front door, the rest of the house is engulfed in darkness.
Sixty-eight windows. Twenty-three door knobs. Three sets of squeaky staircases. One front door that’s so loud it shakes the foyer and rattles bits of chipped paint from the sills that fall to the floor like snow.
The curtains are drawn in the living room, casting shadows on the couches. This makes them look lush and velvety. We’ve had those pastel pink couches since before I was born. We should’ve gotten new couches. We would’ve, if we’d had the time. It’s cold now. Too cold. I spent most of yesterday searching for the draft that I can feel, but can’t pinpoint. I think about making a fire, but I’m not sure the chimney is useable. It’s ornate in its simplicity; rustic bricks that surround the fireplace extend the full length of the wall, each one delicately inlaid in a crisscross pattern. It’s my favorite part of the house, the house I never wanted.
I blink my eyes. Once. Twice. They’re watering, burning, searing. I rub them, trying to massage away the sting away and when I pull back I see my hand dripping black, like watery oil. I try to stand but slip on the bottom step and slam the back of my head on another.
A growl. A cough. A long grunt followed by a scream that shatters my soul. I thought I was alone. “Flmmicks!” I hear. I strain to make out the words, but they’re garbled. “Get out of… Flmmicks! Go!” His shriek crescendos and lingers on the “o”; it echoes, as if it’s coming from the bottom of a well.
I don’t have time to process, I jump to my feet and I’m shrouded in a thick blanket of smoke. It coats my lungs like peanut butter. I’m wheezing as I make my way into the living room toward whoever is calling my name. I search for the fire, but see nothing, only darkness.
The horrible moaning of the man engulfed in flames grows louder, like he’s next to me now. I reach out to grab a hold of him, but pull back empty-handed. I move forward feeling blindly through the fog, bumping into the soot-soaked pink couches. The corner of the glass coffee table stabs me in the shin, but I shake it off because the deafening cries of the man grow louder, more gruesome and I have to get to him. I have to. I have to.
My hand shakes and my chest heaves up and down, faster and faster until I want to pass out. I think I’ve been here before.
When I come to the source of the screams, there is nobody there, yet the howls surround me. “Let me help you!” I scream. “Please…”
My vision is blurred and the only thing I can make out is the outline of the mantle on the fireplace. I blink once, twice before closing my eyes as I drown in the cries that are now right on top of me. His voice is my own, building from the depths of my chest and resonating through my body. I can’t take it anymore and, like a kettle coming to a fast boil, I howl.
“Bro…?” I hear coming from behind me.
I hesitantly peak through my eyelids. The smoke is gone, the cries from the man have dissipated, the ink-like stain on my hand vanished. I steady myself on the lower ledge of the fireplace and push myself up. I spin around and Rocco is standing behind me, eyebrows arched, with the same look on his face I’ve grown accustomed to seeing.
“I’ve walked in on you doing some crazy shit, but crouching on the floor like a fetus yelling at the fireplace? That shit should be on YouTube,” he says, repeatedly tossing his cell phone in the air like ball.
“It happened again.” My voice is shaking.
He sighs and brushes past me toward the bay window and pulls back the curtains. “Dash, bro, allow me to shed some light on the situation.” A steady stream of rays makes me stumble backward. I remember its warmth. “You spend all day cooped up in this old house in the dark. You’re like a vampire, and I got news for you dude, that craze ended like two years ago. Nobody wants a sparkly vampire. You gotta be a man,” he grunts, pounding his chest, “To get a man. Or, at least, I presume that dudes are into dudes who are Total Dude.” Rock was the sympathetic straight brother whose main concern for me was whether or not I was having sex. “Go outside. Leave the house. Hell, Grams has more sex than you.”
I clear my throat, “So, what you’re saying is…sunlight equals…grandma sex?”
“Dash. Nasty,” he shudders. He makes his way toward the kitchen, tossing his shoulder pads for football on the glass kitchen table and bee-lining for fridge. “What I’m saying,” he breaks to pop the top off of a can of coke and takes a swig, “is that this house is playing tricks on you. It always did for me when we were little and would visit. The only difference is –”
I cut him off, “Is that we live here now. Right.”
On the last day of Junior year, Rock and I got home and found Dad at the kitchen table with his head buried in his hands. He wasn’t crying, no, because Dad never cries. But there was a worry in his eyes that I’ve never seen before.
“Sit down, guys,” he said to us. The strain in the muscles on his arms was obvious; his old army tattoos were pulsating. “Grams been in an accident; she’s ok,” he was quick to add. “Minor car accident…but, uh, well the doctors seem to think she has early onset Alzheimer’s.”
I think he was expecting a bigger reaction from us, because when we didn’t say anything, he abruptly stood up and clenched his fists. Then, after a few moments, once the blood drained from his face, he said, “We’re leaving Boston and moving to New York. House goes on the market this week.”
That was that. That’s how we ended up in this old house in Tarrytown, with me spending my days in the dark while Grams cuddles up to old geezers at the Senior Center. Rock and I had no say about moving to a new town in a new state for our senior year.
Rock wipes the sweat off of his brow. How the hell does he make friends so fast? We’ve been here for a month and he’s managed to carve out a niche, a new life, and school doesn’t even start for another two weeks. It’s like the move was no big deal.
“Why don’t you come to practice with me tomorrow?” he says. “I’ll introduce you to a couple of the guys, maybe they’ll find you a spot on the team too?” He means well. Still, I can’t help but resent his effortless suggestion.
I nod and exit the kitchen. I make my way up the first flight of stairs to the floor where my bedroom is. At the top of the grand staircase is the second floor foyer where Gramps’ old office is (that nobody has gone into since he died – which was before Rock and I were born), a guest bedroom, the upstairs formal living room, and my room.
My room is situated at the corner of the house between on Paulding Avenue, between Van Wart Avenue and Monroe Street. I can see the entire of the neighborhood from the window next to my bed, my angle giving me direct access into the lives of my neighbors. This is how I fall asleep. I watch the people behind the glass go about their lives. The couple in the blue house the left fights every night around 9pm. The husband must be getting home from work later than he’s expected because the wife ends up throwing the meal she cooked at him and he spends the night on the couch watching porn On Demand. The young newlyweds in the yellow house across the street like to have sex on the kitchen counter. In front of the window. The neighborhood boys show up for the show once the sun sets, since it’s easier to see in, and Crazy Lady in the adjacent brick house spends the night on the phone, brow furrowed, gossiping to what I can only assume is her bridge about which sex position the younglyweds are trying tonight.
There’s a chill when I enter the room. I would close the door behind me, but the latch inside the door is gone, so it doesn’t really shut. It’s been missing for as long as Grams as lived in the house and somehow Gramps never got around to it. In order to get my door to shut, I have to tie two socks together and wrap them from one door knob to the other and wedge the door closed.
But not at night. I never close the door when the sun goes down.
I circle the room a few times, unsure of what to do next. The eggshell walls of my bedroom are stark, lighter in places where there used to be hanging pictures, or a clock, and one spot, now hidden by my bed, where there is an outline that looks like a hand. There’s a weird wall that juts out between the two windows that I hate, but Rock beat me to the better room. All of the corners of the ceiling are draped wispily in cobwebs; the shelves above my desk have a thin layer of dust. It’s been a month and I haven’t unpacked anything but my clothes, and the only reason my clothes are in drawers is because I had to take them out to wear them.
This isn’t my room.
I find myself rummaging through one of the bigger boxes on the floor by the closet. There’s a shoebox that I’m not quite ready to go through on top of the disorganized contents. I decide to take it out and place it in the back of the closet. When I open the sliding closet door, I notice the carpet is different; it’s a longer, almost shag-like yellow than the new beige that fills in the rest of the room. My hand brushes it and it’s bristly and ice cold and a strong chill rushes over me, creeping down my back and pinching my skin, until it passes. Another draft? Great.
I stand up and attempt to look for the source of the sudden breeze, but as quickly as it came, it was gone. I make sure the shoebox is safely tucked in the corner before returning to the rest of the box. I dive headfirst into the box just as Rock strolls into my room and, without any effort at all, jumps and lands on my bed in a perfectly posed position with his feet crossed and laid back like he’s been comfortable there for hours.
“Finally unpacking?” he says, his voice straining as he stretches out his arms.
“It’s not that hard. I promise. It’ll be ok,” he mocks. He rolls over and off the bed, landing on his feet. He walks toward the box and plops himself Indian-style on the floor next to me. “Come on, bro, let’s do this.”
The first thing he pulls out is last season’s lacrosse trophy. I was the star attacker of Paul Revere High School; we kicked ass at National’s and took home the victory. I remember that June day well, too. There was a party at Brad Carey’s house to celebrate; keg stands, pot tents, a drunken chick even kicked in the wall of his basement bathroom. Insanity. Everyone from the junior and senior classes were there; except one.
“I bet Sunnyside High School has a lacrosse team,” Rock offers, placing the trophy next to him. “I could talk to Scott.” Scott lives a couple houses down from us. We used to play with him when we were younger, when we’d come here to visit Grams over the summer. He and Rock always got along better, they were more into sports than I was. Sure, I loved lacrosse, but it wasn’t my life. I was always naturally good at it, but to be honest, if I never played another game again, I wouldn’t regret it. During those long summer nights, Scott and Rock would organize neighborhood man hunt games. We’d spend hours in the warmth of the night searching for the others and, when we did, Scott used to interpret the “hunt” part of the game literally and use paintball guns to tag us. From what I gather now, Scott’s the merciless captain of the football team who “rules with an iron fist” yet “is the best guy who gets along with everyone,” at least according to Rock. But that’s Rocks biggest flaw, his eternal optimism.
“You don’t need to. I don’t think I want to play this year,” I say.
I pull out a thin book made out of colored construction paper and bound in three holes with multiple strands of dental floss. On the cover are the words written “The One Who Holds Me” next to a red cut-out heart. The glue stains around the edges are fresh enough for me to not want to flip through this particular obituary. Rock rests one hand on my back as while the other pulls out a picture framed collage of our friends back in Boston. My eyes scan the glossy surface, bouncing from face to face, trying hard not to land on The One Who Holds Held Me. Rock shrugs his shoulder, and I don’t have to ask him what he means by that; I know from that simple action that he’s willing to take any pictures with The One Who Holds Held Me, like this one, and burn them in a metal trash can fire.
“Nah, I’m ok, Rock. I can take it. Plus, it’s the only decent picture of all of our friends together.” I can tell by the look on Rock’s face that he’s trying to remember which of the girls in the picture he wishes he slept with before we left.
“I wonder what Cristina is up to right now,” he says, drifting away on the current of his thoughts. He sighs and rests his head on the edge of the bed.
“You ok?” I ask.
“Hell yeah! This new school is filled with girls that can corrupt me. I’m the new guy, the mysterious one who rolled in out of nowhere; maybe they think I’m tortured because I was forced here during my senior year. Maybe they’ll want a bad boy, and I’ll roll out dad’s old bike from Grams’ garage. I’m a chameleon. I’m a Rock. The campaign for Homecoming King is already set in motion.”
I nearly drown in his delusions. “You’re desperate to lose that v-card, aren’t ya?”
He breathes in and purses his lips before exhaling, “Dude you have no idea…”
“You’re already trying to be everything to these people,” I say, incredulously.
“Well, I would suggest doing the ole Bait-and-Switch so that I wouldn’t actually have to be ‘everything’,” he says. We used to pull the Bait-and-Switch on our teachers in elementary school. We’d get bored in our classes and decide during recess to switch places. We’d go all out; switch our clothes and books and the way we talked. It wasn’t until 4th grade that any of the teachers actually caught on to this, and that’s only because I started to gain weight. Naturally, one I slimmed down and toned up in high school, we were back to our old tricks. We may look exactly the same, but sometimes it’s nice to live someone else’s life.
When we get to the bottom of the box, I spot my video camera and retractable tripod. I used to carry this around with me everywhere after I got it for Christmas last year. I videotaped the Christmas tree, our old house, the places where mom used to retreat to before she left. I even started to make a documentary on her, trying to find where she went. Rock and I took it seriously. Well, I took it seriously, I think he just supported me because he considered this a “twin thing” (something the other loves therefore requires the support of the other. Fun fact: we coined this term around the inception of the documentary). We set-up interviews with her old friends, we even visited the old house she grew up in. We filmed the cemetery where her parents were buried. We tried to find police records, searched through missing persons, hell, we even filmed a search on America’s Most Wanted. I mean, you never know.
I used to imagine she was a government spy, who took down terrorists in third world countries and captured jewel thieves in elaborate heists fit only for Mark Wahlberg or Matt Damon. I envisioned her having tea with The Queen and brunches with Oprah. She was the Presidents number one spy, and every Hollywood producer wanted to strike a movie deal to depict her. The major studios would want to step in and cast Angelina Jolie, but then she’d see my documentary and suddenly I’d be the next hot commodity. She’d present me to the board of some major film company and demand that I, her son, take the helm of her project and I’d cast some uber-talented unknown to play my mom, the Worlds Greatest Spy. Rock used to joke that he’d have the actress in bed by the end of the first take. I enjoyed reminding him that he’d essentially be sleeping with our mother.
Our mom left when Rock and I were five. It was a crisp October night. I remember because she was sewing our Halloween costumes –Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. She kissed us goodnight and promised us waffles in the morning. When we woke up, the air was thick with the smell of cinnamon and vanilla. Dad had just pulled a waffle off of the hot iron when Rock and I entered the kitchen. He said, “Mom went out to grab you boys some fresh oranges to make juice.” We waited for her to come home until our waffles were hard and cold, like stone.
“I wish we finished that thing about Mom,” Rock says, half-heartedly as I pass him the camera. His shoulders slump a bit. He said to once, a few years ago, that he wished he never asked mom to make us fresh squeezed orange juice. He wished he liked the stuff from the boxes.
“I know you’re glad it’s over, don’t bullshit me,” I joke, trying to lighten the mood.
“Well, yeah, but you’re still gonna do the whole filmmaking thing, right?” he asks.
“That’s the goal. I have to get everything together for college apps. Edit the footage. I just don’t know how to end it.” That’s another thing we were in the middle of when Dad abruptly told us about Grams. We hadn’t really begun our search. Our summer was supposed to be spent on a road trip (that Dad knew nothing about) across the country in search of Mom, not moving into an old house I’d sooner burn than live in.
“We’ll figure something out,” Rock says resolutely. “Speaking of, I think you should come to practice with me tomorrow. Some of the guys are planning on chilling afterward and I think it’d be good for you. You already know Scott, and it’d be nice to know at least someone before school starts, huh?” He stands up and towers over me. I realize he could crush me if he wanted to. It’s a good thing he’s my brother.
Should I even bother going with him? What’s the worst that could happen? I could pretend to be just another face in the crowd. It would be nice to be associated with a group, this way I at least have somewhere to go during lunch period. Not that I’d mind being stuck at the freak table. My mind flashes to the black water running down my face, the smoke tightening my lungs, cries from a man I’ve never heard. I can’t spend another day watching the suns reflection on the walls, I can’t spend another day numb and doing everything I can to stop thinking about The One Who Holds Held Me.
“Yes? No? Maybe? Go fuck yourself, Rock?” Rock asks, smirking.
I sigh and nod and he pumps a triumphant fist in the air. As he leaves my room he jumps and grabs a hold of the dark wood molding at the top of my door and hangs for a minutes, flexing his upper body strength, and launches himself into the hallway and up the stairs to the floor he has all to himself.
His absence is felt in the room. The sunlight that, a few minutes ago, highlighted the walls, was now gone, replaced with an eerie orange-tinted darkness. Once Rocks heavy footsteps made it to the top of the stairs, there was no sound throughout the house, only a silence that crushes my eardrums.
I try to breathe but somehow I can’t. I reach for the television remote on my nightstand, but the TV won’t turn on. I press down on the button until my fingertips are white as raw bone. I stand up and reach for the light switch but it will not turn on. I flick it incessantly and an identifiable fear is growing within the depths of my body. I start to panic as my fingers move back and forth in a schizophrenic manner until finally the light flickers.
I hear the mechanics of the fuse, like the strike of a match, and the filament struggles to light. The screen of the old tube TV flashes on.
I move toward it, to make sure the settings on the old hunk-of-junk are right, and a the face of a man in terrible pain bursts onto the screen and the volume of the white noise grows louder and louder and louder until I’m sure the glass on the TV has shattered.
The screen flashes like lightning:
ElixiClean! Like a magic elixir, it erases those hard, set-in stains. Wine from that awful first date – GONE! Blood stains from the second – obliterated! Buy ElixiClean now for $79.99 and we’ll throw in a free cloth!
And shuts off. Darkness.