The House

Photo of a two storey weatherboard house, painted yellow with green trim. Caption reads: "She knew there would be a reason the house was so cheap."

The House

Short story by Iris Carden

Emily knew there had to be a reason the house was so cheap. When she’d seen the ad, she’d been stunned they were only asking two hundred and fifty thousand. She’d checked online, the estimated value was at least a hundred thousand more.

The real estate agent told her they were desperate to sell, she could offer less. The seller accepted an offer of two hundred thousand. Instead of a twenty percent, her savings gave her a twenty-five percent deposit.

She would have the house paid off in no time, well, actually quite a bit of time, but she had a house. No-one in her friend group had been able to get one. Housing prices were through the roof, and young people trying to get their first home were pretty much locked out of the market.

Not only that, but it was furnished. The previous owners had only taken their personal items. She had the choice between the furniture she had gathered over the past couple of years, and what was in the house. What she didn’t want, she could sell, an added bonus.

The pre-purchase inspection hadn’t found any defects with the building, and no termite or other infestations. There had to be something, however, some reason the previous owners would sell their home for not much more than half its value.

As Emily moved in, she waited for the shoe to drop. Would she have unwittingly bought a house under a flight path, or next to some business that released horrible smells periodically?

Her first night in the house, she noticed the lights flickering. That was not a big deal. If it kept happening, she’d call an electrician.

Then she noticed the cold spot. It was in the centre of the bathroom. The rest of the room was a normal temperature, but when she stood in the very centre she felt cold and shivered. It was strange, but no big deal.

She slept fitfully that first night, frequently waking to the sound of a whispering a voice, saying something she couldn’t quite make out. The next day she went online and ordered ear plugs.

In the morning, she went to make coffee, to find the bag of beans had been torn open and beans scattered over the bench. There might have been an infestation of something the pre-purchase inspection had missed. Emily had instant coffee instead. She was not happy about it.

She sat at the table, opened her laptop, and a client’s file, and began her day’s work. The client was the one who didn’t specify what he had spent money on, just called everything “expensives”. Emily cringed. Were these valid business expenses? She had no idea. Would claiming them be strictly legal? She had no idea because she had no idea what they were. At least the business was too small to deal with GST. It was input-taxed only. Every year she told this client to keep the tax invoices for business expenses. Every year the client presented her with a notebook with a list of dates, amounts, and the almost word “expensives” beside each. She could imagine the conversation with the Tax Office if this client were ever audited. This was not a job to be done on instant coffee alone.

Emily pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes. She was getting a headache. When she looked back to her computer, the browser was open, and Facebook was open to a stranger’s account.

“Your family? Someone you care about?” She said to the empty air. A light breeze blew past her, even though the windows were closed.

“OK here’s the deal,” Emily continued. “I’ll get you your own computer, so you can keep tabs on this person or whoever else you want. But the whispering in the night has to stop, and my coffee is sacrosanct, get that? I can’t afford to buy a house anywhere else, so I’m not going anywhere. And don’t even think of having blood ooze down the walls, or any other nonsense like that. I’ll get you what you want if you behave, do you understand?”

The breeze blew past again.

“Oh and the flickering lights? Really annoying. Don’t do that anymore either.”

The lights turned off and quickly back on again and stayed on without any flickering.

“Thanks.”

The television turned itself on, then changed channels to a reality show.

“I’ll get you your own tv too. You can have the spare room. Don’t subject me to that mind rot.”

The tv turned off.

Emily smiled. All those horror movies she’d watched as a teenager were useful, whatever her mother said.

By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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