This writing submission comes from Kelsey Colwell. Kelsey is a native New Yorker, (western NY that is) who has been writing stories for as long as she can remember.
Her story is entitled INHABITED
Struggling to her feet, she heard the front door open slowly. She looked around; her battle over, everything was pristine as it had been before she inhabited this. The sunlight hardly reached the wall opposite the kitchen door. The ceiling light was off.
“Who’s there?” She called, batting her eyes slightly at the sound of her own voice.
“It’s Sean, who else?” A man answered. She smiled to herself at the work she had done. She made the dark hard wood floors glint, shining the guilt-framed mirror above the mantle—though there was no light for it to reflect in that room. She polished the deep red varnish on the frames of the doors, helping it to stand out from the shadows cast by the light draining from the kitchen window.
“Mandy? Babe? Where’d you go?”
“I’m in the kitchen!” She sat at the table unmoving, unblinking, her back perfectly straight. Facing the window, she listened to Sean walking through the dark living room. He flicked the light switch on the wall before the door. She turned toward him slowly. He was looking toward the still-dark living room, and then he met her eyes. She remembered how this house had looked when she first arrived.
Mandy and her husband had shopped for the perfect first home to start their life together. They were moving out of state and she hadn’t been able to physically see the house until the move. It had been a gamble.
She came alone—it was Sunday. She told Sean to go into his office today one last time, and drive down Monday morning. She began moving their belongings in Sunday afternoon. When she arrived, she had a horrible feeling that she shouldn’t have come alone. Holding her coat over her arm, she eyed her new home. The pictures were… misleading. They must have been old; a few shutters hung crooked and the paint on the clapboard siding was a cracked and faded salmon—not at all vibrant as she thought it would be. The swing on the porch was not a romantic loveseat at all; one rope had snapped and it creaked in the light breeze. Her pulse quickened. She blinked and thought she saw something flicker across an upstairs window. Looking closer, she saw a curtain dancing in the breeze and laughed at herself.
She half-turned back to her car, prepared to get a hotel until Sean arrived, but stopped to mentally slap herself. This was their home now. Whatever misgivings she had, she knew it was time to get over them.
Taking a deep breath, she shrugged her purse over her shoulder and trudged up the path. Walking through the threshold, she was greeted with a cold draft, as if the house was exhaling, trying to expel her from its walls. Mandy traipsed through each room. The kitchen cupboards were open, their screaming mouths silent squares, as if trying to tell her some secret. She imagined the owners dragging an arm across the shelves to empty their contents into bags, something forcing them to hurry out the door. The stove lit when she tried it before continuing on. The living room had a single high-backed armchair wit ha faded floral pattern and a worn cushion with a dark stain on the back. The fireplace stood agape with dusty ashes and suspicious brown bones of an animal inside. The upstairs rooms were just bedrooms, only one wit ha bed that had a rut worn in the yellowed mattress.
On her way downstairs, the steps moaned under her bodyweight. The noises were almost human. She cantered to her car, feeling a chill go through her bones as the sun dipped lower. She gathered everything she needed for the night, realizing now how silly it was to think she would do much work without Sean’s help. She didn’t remember closing the front door, and it was stuck. She had to force her weight into it before it finally opened. She took a piece of wood from a pile left on the porch and wedged it in the door to keep it open, bringing more wood in for a fire later.
The last thing she wanted was to use the dingy mattress upstairs, so she decided to sleep in the stained armchair. A cloud of dust rose when she set her purse and blankets on it. Waving her hands at the sweet scent of decay, she dug through her bag for a book ad her thermos. Finding both, she went to the kitchen to make tea. As she reached for the lone pan she saw left in the cupboard, a spider scuttled across the handle and onto her fingers, tickling and skittering towards her. She screamed, and the pan fell from her flailing arms; she flung the spider to the floor and stomped on it. Unsettled, she stood there for a moment before checking the pan. Finding nothing, she rinsed it in the sink, admiring the stars appearing in the night sky through the window. Looking down, she jumped back again. What should have been water was running thick and red into her pan, the stream unevenly pulsing out of the tap. She snapped the faucet handle back, her heart once again clawing to escape her chest. Testing her resolve, Mandy turned the water on once more and it ran clean and clear. She looked at the contents of the pan to find nothing but water. The drive must have worn her out more than she thought. Regardless of the clean water in the pan, she dumped it and rinsed it out again, scrubbing its edges with her fingertips.
Returning to the living room, finally clutching her cup of tea, she set the mug on the mantle n front of the tarnished mirror hanging there. She had barely bent down to light a fire when she snapped straight again, her heart racing. She had seen movement in the mirror—but then she shook her head for what felt like the hundredth time that evening. The mirror was so tarnished, it was impossible to see the outline of her face. So, she returned to lighting a fire and sank into the armchair, trying to relax. Adrenaline still ran through her, all spikes and anxiety.
Mandy opened her eyes. She felt a hand touching her ankle. She gasped and kicked out, sending her mug flying into the fireplace, embers soaring everywhere. She looked down and couldn’t see anything. The temperature in the rom dropped even more, ad the fire suddenly flared in the grate. She looked around, her eyes widening in panic and disbelief. This couldn’t be happening. Invisible hands carved the wallpaper, scratching deep lines from ceiling to floor. Out of each gouge and tear in the wall, blood dripped rhythmically, then streamed, then poured, pooling on the dark wood floor.
She heard a noise thumping all around her .Was it coming from her chest? Se didn’t dare imagine anything else.
She felt for her keys.
Were they in her pocket?
She stood, ready to sprint for the door.
Something hit her so hard in the chest that she flew backward.
Her head cracked into the now-gleaming mirror above the mantle, spider-webbing it. She touched the back of her head. Was it her blood or the house’s blood on her hand? She vaguely wondered. It dripped down the back of her neck and she heard it slowly pitter on the floor, adding to the dark red pools already there. She looked up once and saw herself staring down at her, distorted and warped in the cracked glass, blackened eyes, and teeth grimacing back at her through the shattered remains. Mandy felt locked in those black eyes, felt herself being sucked in and trapped. She saw her own blood drip into the blood around her. It hit the floor evenly and the blood around it rippled black. It spread all around her, overwhelmed her like at tidal wave, and she passed out.
Sean came on Monday as planned. He entered the quaint house, the birds chirping around him. All of the things Mandy brought were already moved in. She dusted and swept, making it look like a home. The front hall was dark and the living room was darker. Everything gleamed, but didn’t seam to reflect the light that shone from the next room. It was as if the red molding around the door soaked it all in.
“Mandy? Babe? Where’d you go?” Sean thought he had just heard her stirring in the living room.
“I’m in the kitchen” Her voice came from the bright room. She was sitting at the table when he came in. The overhead light of the living room did not come on when he flicked the switch. She turned to him meeting his eyes. His forehead wrinkled at the deep shadows under her eyes. The move must have stressed her out more than he noticed until this point.
“Didn’t you get any sleep last night?” He asked her as she walked toward him.
“Oh I slept perfectly well.” She gave him a kiss, those dark eyes wide open as she pulled back, slowly grinning at him.
The artist in her own words: Kelsey Colwell
I’ve lived in western New York my entire life. I’ve been writing stories since I was a child; my mother used to have me come up with stories and tell them to her orally and she would write them down and help me staple them together in little books. I wrote my first short story when I was in sixth grade and have been happily addicted since. I’m an English and Creative Writing major going in to my Junior year and I have a penchant for food that hurts my stomach and any kind of book that will make me bawl my eyes out at 1:00 in the morning.