The Carpenter's Tale
Picture a house. It is not a new house, but no amount off time at the county office will put an age on it. The walls are gray. The windows are dusty. It sits at the end of our street, with its blue double-doors. The roof is half-stripped of tiles. Within the house, the walls fold like card paper. They say there are hallways built for dwarfs, staircases to nowhere, hallways that rotate a hundred and eight degrees and in in a room with carpets and chairs and a set dinner table on the ceiling. They say the architect had materials delivered to him, and adventured into the house, building as he went. They say he built the house around himself, folding and chasing and bending back into himself. They say he's still in there, folding wood around his madness, hammering and sawing and cutting until...
But why listen to gossip? The house is solid enough, and everyone knows that horrors do not persist in daylight. If you approach it in the daytime, on a dare maybe, or because you are in a strange town with no money and have nowhere to sleep. If you go with a friend or two, perhaps new friends met at dawn that morning, also strangers, what then? The gate is only ever a gate, just wrought iron. The lock is a physical thing, the work of a moment to pick. The dead grass is so much cellulose and the windows are only silica. Even the gray boards are just wood. What harm in that? If you were to take a bet, you could hardly be blamed. Not even your fault. Your friends pressured you into it, and if you couldn't have known.
We entered through the front door. It wasn't locked. It seems to me now that the house breathed. Not much, just a little flutter of air around my arms. I can't forgive myself for not turning back there. There were so many opportunities for it. We walked into a room lit by skylights. There is so much light. Every line illuminated. Ben called the upstairs bedroom and ran up the spiral staircase. Sarah called the couch and ran into the next room. I
fell through a grating, landing on the ground between a pool of faded sunlight and a pile of musty towels. She yelled and jumped, and I averted my eyes. She climbed out of the tub, suds clinging to her hair, and pulled her clothes on. After she was roughly dressed, I asked
Have you seen Ben?
No, she said.
Oh, I said.
She turned towards the bath, but the bath was gone.
I think this house is haunted, she said.
Your hair is dry, I said.
Oh, she said, after the whiteness had passed, and ran.
I chased her down the long, l o n g, l o n g, l o n g
hallway. She turned the corner, a dozen corners, and suddenly the air was split and
I wandered into the labyrinth, moving, always moving, in shock. Why? The hallways began to
passages. Then just passage. I opened a door on my right, and stepped back into the parlor.
I crossed to my pack, and picked up, from the floor beside it, my hammer. I drew the cap off it, letting a drop of ink land on the floor. I turned around to the bodies of Ben and Sarah, broken bodies torn by the hammer. I dipped the hammer in ink red as blood, and began to pound nails into wood, building the walls and myself and these words with strokes of ink. As the day drew to a close, I rose in the parlor, holding my hammer in one hand, looking down at the aged rotting pack beneath my aged, rotting hands. The photo frame, my wife and child, paged curling beneath my fingers lay splayed before me, mere words on which flesh was once hung.
My hammer, my glory, my words did me no good. It had happened again. I stood over the inkwells, red stains spreading from their crushed skulls across the floor. The inkwells bled and begged and the story was about to end, the last breaths of air escaping before I turned and returned to my home, building the walls behind me as I turned, over and over again into these words, my home at the end of the street.
For this story, I (obviously) tried to play around quite a bit with typography and text layout here. Hopefully you enjoyed it (and if you stuck around long enough to see this, you probably did). It's not the story I mentioned last week, since that one came out more satirical than horrifying. In any case, happy halloween. Go scare an old person.