Dream House, Chapter 10

Lailah lay in the double bed feeling too weak to get up, and yet the feeling of something between dread and anxiety was overwhelming her and making it impossible to sleep. Besides, what was she doing here, collapsed in bed on her first visit to her new house? It would seem ridiculous except there was no alternative; she felt totally enervated. She knew she ought to be up and about, busy exploring the house and its contents, but whatever this bug or allergy was, it had hit her like a ton of bricks. When Carol came in with a mug of tea that she said would help her to take a little nap, that decided it: Lailah accepted her strange situation and would willingly surrender to sleepland for a bit.

The tea was pleasingly hot and gave off a sweet smell that Lailah found just a little sickening, but the taste was okay. She drank it all down while Carol chattered away about the cool old kitchen, Mrs Anvers, and the overgrown but salvageable garden. Lailah was relieved to find that the mysterious face in upstairs window was just sweet old Mrs Anvers. And that Alexander Hathaway was just an old school European gentleman rather than a ghostly apparition taking shape in the mist. A wave of contentedness washed over Lailah and before it receded, she was asleep. Carol heard Lailah’s breathing change and relief came to her as well; she shut the drapes and tiptoed out of the room, closing the door gently, off to see Mrs Anvers and that unruly garden.

There was a door. Light, very bright, searing, streamed around the edges of the door, illuminating the dark room she was in; someone must have turned off the lamp and shut the heavy drapes. Her own senses seemed heightened in the extreme. She could feel the blood pumping through her arteries, the insistent beat of her heart driving it. She seemed to be feeling all of her skin at once; it felt smooth, dry, receptive. She could feel the weight of her body on the soles and heels of her feet as she stood up from the bed. She felt the still air of the room against her skin, her light, short nightgown brushing against her hips. She felt as though she could hear every single thing in this room, but nothing beyond it. It was as if the walls were breathing ever so slowly.

But that light, it was so bright, and she didn’t even remember a door being there next to the outside wall. She felt an unfathomaby deep desire to go through the door. It must lead into the next bedroom, the master bedroom, over the dining room, but she wasn’t sure. She just knew she had to go through that door; it was almost a sexual attraction leading her to that room. Was it something masculine, something primal, drawing her?

But she couldn’t open the door. There was a door knob, a large one in the center of the door, like a front door would have, but it would not turn; the door nor its handle would not move at all. Yet the light kept streaming around the edges, an incredibly bright light. Why wouldn’t this door open! She pushed with all her might, then pulled until her hands were raw, crashed her shoulder into it until it became too painful. She was crying now. She had to get through! She needed help; she screamed for Carol.

Carol came down the stairs to the entry hall again and circled around to find her way to the kitchen. Mrs Anver was starting to prepare dinner; a big pot of water was beginning to boil and the graceful old lady emptied a bowl of peeled potatoes into it. “Oh, hello dear. I hope your Lailah is feeling a bit better. I thought nice comfy mashed potatoes might suit her.”

“Oh, thank you, Mrs Anvers. She finally went to sleep. I think the tea did the trick. Mashed potatoes sounds great — she doesn’t eat meat, you know.”

“That’s perfectly all right, dear, we can make some vegetable gravy with these mushrooms. We grow them in the cellar.”

“There’s a cellar?”

“Of course.Every good house had a cellar for storing root vegetables and coal for the fireplaces. The perfect place to grow mushrooms, though I think there were some that stayed here once that grew a different sort of mushrooms. Not exactly ones for food, if you know what I mean.” She turned and gave a sly wink to Carol.

“Why, Mrs Anvers! Did you partake of those musrooms? Tell me more!”

“Oh, no, dear, not my thing really. But for a while Hippies lived in this house, back in the Sixties of course. I don’t think there are Hippies now, are there?”

Carol laughed. “Well, there are, but I think they’re probably pale imitations of the first ones. They do take the drugs, though. In fact, probably a lot more of them than the original Hippies did.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that, dear. The ones that were here seemed to take drugs every night and day. Powerful ones, too. Why, they would stay up all night long just staring at one another as though there was something happening that we couldn’t see. But there was certainly something happening.”

“Uh… how did you know this, Mrs Anvers? Were you there too? I mean, you were a lot younger then, so I wouldn’t

You wouldn’t be surprised? No, I wasn’t like that. But I could get around a lot better back then, and I’m ashamed to say that I spied on them. Peered through the windows at night, hid out in the forest in the day. I was fascinated by them. I guess I was about the same age as they were, but I was a thousand miles away from their lifestyle, I guess you call it nowadays. They took everything, and smoked marijuana day and night. There was one fella that came around with that Indian drug, Peyote. He always seemed to have enough for everyone, even though he didn’t look like an Indian. Then there was another, I always thought there was something off about him. He didn’t dress like them, he dressed normal, like a businessman. And he always had lots of pills. He and Rick, the main Hippie, they’d stay up staring at each other and, I’ll tell you, they didn’t look like they were having fun.”

Wow. I had no idea this place had a history like that. And they grew mushrooms?”

Mrs Anvers laughed, “Oh yes, that was the beginning of this story, wasn’t it? They did indeed, in the cellar, and ate ’em as fast as they coyld grow them.”

At that point they both heard a scream from upstairs and Lailah calling for help. Carol started for the long hallway to the front but Mrs Anvers stopped her, saying “Take the back staircase, dear” and opened what Carol had thought was a closet door to see a small staircase. She rushed straight up to Lailah’s room.

The Dream House, chapter 8

While Lailah slept upstairs, Carol ventured into the kitchen to make her some tea. Looking around, she was taken aback by the size, and the age, of the kitchen. There was an old Wedgwood stove on the back wall, appearing to be in perfect condition. It even had a wood burning facility – Carol thought “that might be pretty useful if the electricity goes out.” She found a kettle, checked to see it was clean inside and put some water on to boil, happy to see the stove worked.

She found several teas in a cabinet on the wall facing the stove, herbal teas mostly, which she was pleased to see; it would be best for Lailah if she had something restful and without caffeine.

“Lets see, what have we here?” she mumbled to herself. “Wolfbane – hmm, don’t know what that is… Mandrake root? That either. Henbane? Cinquefoil? Mugwort? Hellebore?” Carol picked up box after box. “Isn’t there anything here I’ve heard of?” she asked herself, just before finding a box of Valerian root at the back. “Ah, there we go, that’ll make her sleep for awhile.”

Carol made the tea and while it was steeping investigated the kitchen. There was a door to the right of the stove that led to a small laundry porch, without washer or dryer, but with a tiny water closet next to the back door. Trying the handle of the back door, she found it locked, but noticed an old fashioned key hanging from a nail next to the door. It fit the lock and with some effort she managed to turn it and open the door.

Immediately, the pungent smells from the foliage outside assaulted her senses. It was completely overgrown, but there was still a garden entwined in the coils of the wild vines and brambles. She could see part of it was a herb garden; there were also tomato plants and some squash that had grown to the size of large pillows. “Hmm, we could cook one of those and have food for a week” she thought, “or carve an devil face into one fro Halloween!”

Friday Fictioneer 100 words #1

Development

Sandra, despondent, led her horse back to the barn. She had looked forward to another wonderful day riding Cloudrunner through Silverado Draw, the wild, Manzanita-covered canyon leading to Fry’s Beach, always empty on Monday mornings. It was perfect for riding and for her weekly meetings with her lover, Jim.
Her shock was seismic when she and Cloudrunner came round the last bend, the canyon spread before them, to see huge earthmovers toppling the manzanitas, piling them up for cremation. It was a housing development! Jim waved from one of the trucks. She had known he was a property developer.