Posts Tagged ‘Distressed


Distressed – Fiction Snippet

Keith’s hand closed over the keys, something akin to an electric shock running through his palm, up his arm and directly into his brain. His. in all but name, anyway, and that would follow soon enough.

“Wow. That fast?”

George spread his hands, taking a step back.

“Guess the seller’s motivated. Can’t blame ‘em; money’s on the table for a distressed property, best grab it while you can. Place has been empty for years, like I told you, and no one else seems interested. Works in your favor.”

Keith cocked his head.

“Distressed property?”

George’s look turned serious.

“Yeah; that’s realtor lingo for ‘place where bad things happened.’ Also, according to law in California, what we have to call it when a place is haunted.” He laughed. “Not that I believe in that sort of thing, of course. House is just a house. Bad history, but still just a house, right?”

Keith found himself nodding, though he wasn’t sure he quite agreed. After all, he was counting on using the house’s history to drive up sales when all was said and done, wasn’t he? Though the idea of ghosts was pretty silly, he supposed.

“Yeah, just a house, right.”

George’s billion-watt realtor smile faded, and he reached out, putting his palm against Keith’s shoulder.

‘ “You alright? Looking a little ill there, buddy.”

Keith shook his head.

“Yeah. Fine. Just not well, you know. It’s why I’ve got time and money for this sort of thing.” He forced a laugh that turned into a hacking cough, and felt George’s hand tighten, steadying him. When the fit passed, he took a breath and leaned back against his truck, clutching his chest and taking a few gasping breaths.

“You sure?” George asked. “Do I need to call 9-1-1 or anything?”

Keith shook his head again.

“Nah. It’ll pass. Just give me a minute.”

Keith kept rubbing at his chest, willing the knot there to loosen up and let him take a full breath. When it finally started to do so, he stood up straight again.

“There. All better.” The cough in most of the syllables said otherwise, but Keith saw George take a step back anyway.

“If you’re sure. Don’t push yourself too hard, you know?”

“Oh, I know all too well. S’why I’m gonna get some of Art’s boys to do the heavy lifting. Just brain-work for this lad, George. Just brain-work.”

George nodded, but his expression said he still had a few doubts. Apparently he’d gone to the caveat emptor school of sales, though, as he backed another step towards his own car.

“Well, all right, then. Listen, I gotta get back, file some papers. Should have the final by the end of the week, I’ll let you know. You sure you’re all right?”

“Peachy keen. Just gonna rest a bit, then do some pokin’ and measurin’. Probably gonna be out in an hour or so. I think my bed is calling me.”

“Sounds good. Rest up, buddy. You’re not lookin’ so hot, you know?”

George slipped behind the wheel of his car, flipped a wave out the window, and was gone. Keith remained by his truck for a moment, watching the realtor go. For some reason he didn’t want the other man watching him as he entered the house. It seemed… blasphemous.

Once he was sure George was out of sight, he lurched up towards the porch – taking note of the third step and how it bowed under his weight, something to add to the list of fixes – and slid the key into the door.

He took a deep, shuddering breath, and turned the knob.


Distressed – Fiction Snippet

George – the realtor – was waiting by the curb, leaning against an obnoxiously yellow sedan and bouncing a keyring in his palm as Keith pulled up. He waved, heading towards Keith’s much more subdued blue truck as Keith slid out from behind the wheel.

“Keith, welcome back. Can’t get enough of the place, can ya?” He laughed, but Keith thought he heard a tone of nervousness in it, as though George wasn’t quite joking.

Keith knew the place had sunk its claws into his mind, and knew it was probably not healthy. Since seeing the place while driving around town yesterday, he’d thought of almost nothing else. He hadn’t even bothered to check with Helen before throwing most of his settlement money at the place, and while she seemed to be at least somewhat understanding, that was out of character for him. The word “obsessed” had come to mind once or twice already, but he kept shoving it back into the basement of his mind. He wasn’t obsessed. He just had finally found something he could do, something he could focus on, and after so long without it he was more… enthusiastic than normal. That was all.

Or so he told himself. The look on George’s face, the tone Helen had given him this morning, the questions Fred had presented him with when he first told the accountant what he wanted the money for, those all said different.

He realized he’d been lost in his own mind for several seconds, staring at the house and leaving George’s question unanswered. Keith shook his head, turning his gaze back to the realtor.

“You could say that, yeah.”

George laughed again, that same nervous laugh – What’s he got to be nervous about, Keith wondered – but extended the hand holding the keys out to him.

“Good news, too; was driving over when I got the call. Your bid’s accepted. Of course, it’s still gotta run through escrow and everything, but given the circumstances… place is practically yours already. Figure might as well let you have the keys, as long as you don’t do anything too drastic. No knocking down any walls or ripping up water mains ‘til it’s final, but otherwise do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, so they say.”

Keith lifted his hand to meet George’s, not entirely sure he’d processed what the other man had said.

“Wait, what?”

George dropped the keys into Keith’s palm, pulling back as though he’d touched something hot.

“Place is yours, buddy. The rest is just paperwork.”


Distressed – Fiction Snippet

The house was empty, but not still. It had the feeling of a held breath, the storing of something waiting for the right catalyst for an explosive outpouring of that withheld energy. It had waited, biding its time, sitting nonchalantly on the corner of River and Third, unremarkable and uninteresting.

Then, two years ago, it had taken a turn. The Deleons moved in. Nice family. Four children, ranging from 14 to 22. Single mother. Not wealthy, not poor, doing alright. The house approved; they were just what it had been waiting for, just what it needed.

It was hungry. Always hungry. It sang to them of its hunger, though they remained ignorant. All but the eldest child. Alonzo. He listened, he heard, because he was hungry too.

The things he hungered for were different, of course; what would a house want with women, money, fame? Very little, obviously. But he hungered, and he heard, and he did as he was asked.

Six gunshots and a rope, and it was done. He shot little Larissa in the back of the head while she was sleeping, and the house sang louder. Her blood seeped into the floorboards, and Alonzo didn’t notice or care how quickly it faded from sight. When his other sisters, Melissa and Dana, came to check, they were gunned down as well. Two shots for Dana, once in the hip, the other through the chest. His aim was better for Melissa, and she hit the floor with half her face torn off. The house sang.

Alonzo had waited downstairs, not worried that the neighbors might have heard, not concerned that someone else might come knocking before his mother came home. The house had made sure things were quiet, and would make sure only the right person walked through that door. When she opened the door, dropped her keys on the counter and made her way into the kitchen, Maritza didn’t see Alonzo lurking beside the fridge. One bullet, straight to the heart, and she was done. She was done, but the house wasn’t.

It sang, and Alonzo obeyed. He climbed into the attic, and threw a rope over one of the heavy beams. Humming to himself, he tied a knot and put his neck into it. Smiling, still humming, he stood on a stepstool, tightened up the slack in the rope, and kicked the stool out.

The house was pleased. Six years it had waited for fresh food, ever since the original inhabitant had died in his sleep, and then only six months to turn the whole family into a feast.

Then that unremarkable nature was cast aside. Everyone eyed the house, whispering grim rumors and turning the truth into an urban legend worthy of a bad movie. The house was satisfied; it slept, but did not dream.

But now it was awake again, and hungry. It had sung the siren’s song, hoping to catch the attention of the right person. The house had discovered that the notoriety it had gained from its last meal had not yet faded, however, and people were still wary. It knew they called it the murder house, and while the idea pleased it, it made luring in fresh prey much more difficult.

But then the new one had come. He hadn’t cared about the history; if anything, it seemed to excite him. The house whispered to him, and he responded. It asked him if it could come inside, visit in his mind the way others would come to visit the house, and in the depths of his subconscious, he agreed.

The house was pleased. But now it had to wait. The meat had to be seasoned, the table settings placed, and it would take time.

But the house knew that it would feed, and soon. Likely a far better spread than Alonzo had been able to provide.


Distressed – Fiction Snippet

Keith made it to almost noon before the need to get out and do something overtook him. He made the calls, he paced around the bedroom, he made some more calls. Everything was ready, all the ducks in a row, and there was literally nothing else he could do except wait for the deal to go through… but he wanted to get out, to do something.

He snatched the phone up from the nightstand for what felt like the hundredth time that morning and pressed the speed-dial for the realtor. His other hand was thumping a rapid rhythm on his thigh, and a cold sweat had broken out on his brow. He noticed neither of those things. All that mattered right now was going back to the house. He couldn’t say why, or what he intended to do – it wasn’t his, yet, and he couldn’t exactly start moving stuff in or rearranging anything in any significant way – but part of him knew he just had to go back.

“Keith! Forget something?”

The realtor’s voice was full of the mock cheer that people in his profession were known for, but Keith didn’t hold it against him. Given the number of calls Keith had already placed to the number, he was honestly surprised the man wasn’t more hostile, answering the phone with “What now, idiot?” or something similar.

“Not really, but was hoping I could ask for one more favor.”

“Sure thing, man. Whaddaya need?”

Keith swallowed, the sound probably quite audible over the line. A loud click came from somewhere in the back of his throat, as though he was dying of thirst. A part of him was thirsty, but not for water.

“Was hoping maybe I could take another look inside. Get some measurements, take some more photos. You know, for the wife. She’s a little antsy about things.”

The realtor laughed, and it didn’t sound forced at all. “I understand, I understand. Say no more. I can meet you there in… twenty minutes?”

Keith nodded, then realized the other man couldn’t see him. “Yes. Perfect. I’ll be there”

“Alright. Sounds good, then. See you in a few!”

The realtor disconnected, and Keith set the phone back down. He wasn’t drumming on his thigh anymore, and the sweat had faded from his brow. He felt at ease. He’d be back in the house in just a few minutes.

Somehow that idea made everything seem alright, and all other concerns seem unimportant in his mind.


Distressed – Fiction Snippet

Helen sat calmly at the kitchen table, an oversized but distressingly empty coffee cup close to her left hand. Her right hand was drumming slowly against the table, the only sign that she was not as calm as she might have looked. Her eyes were locked on her husband of the last six years – and boyfriend for four before that – and her lips were pursed into a tight little smile that looked as though she’d recently sucked on a lemon.

“You already put in a bid,” she said. Her voice was low, each syllable perfectly enunciated.

Apparently unaware of what fragile ice he was stepping on, Keith’s smile beamed out, a thousand watt bulb to counter his wife’s sour citrus purse. His head bobbed up and down as if a mad puppeteer was yanking his strings.

“Yep! And the agent says it’s almost unopposed, so it’s pretty much a sure bet!”

Again running opposite to his wife’s slow and measured tones, Keith’s voice was bubbling over with enthusiasm. She hated it, and hated herself for hating it. She’d been telling herself for months that he needed a project, needed something to occupy his spare time. Now here it had come.

Still, he hadn’t even consulted her about it. Hadn’t even told her what he’d been doing. He’d just… done it. Gambled away almost a hundred thousand dollars. For what?

“You just said to yourself, ‘Hey, let’s buy a haunted house,’ and that was that? Called up Fred, said, ‘Hey, pal, how’s the credit score doing? Will it handle ninety-eight grand?’ Didn’t bother to call me?”

His smile dimmed slightly – dropping from a thousand watts to maybe eight hundred – as her icy tone finally got through to him. But apparently the idea of this house was so exciting to him that his enthusiasm couldn’t be curbed, and the brilliant gleam in his ice-blue eyes was hard for her to resist.

“Well. Yeah. I mean, we were talking about picking up a fixer upper anyway, and…”

“A fixer upper, yes. A bloody murder house, no. What are you even going to do with it? Try to flip it? Who else is going to buy the damned thing?”

He laughed, the sweet, innocent laughter of a child who’s found a new toy.

“That’s the best part! We don’t have to flip it!”

Her fingers stopped drumming and her empty mug commanded her attention. Determining that this was going to only go further down his midlife crisis rabbit hole, Helen stood up and marched over to the Keurig to refill her cup.

“Then what? Live in it? No thanks.”

“Nope, better. Guess what rolled up it’s doors and won’t be open this year?”

She blinked, picking up her cup and taking a sip. She felt like she’d missed some hairpin turn on a racetrack. A minute ago it was murder houses, now it’s closed businesses?

“I don’t know,” she said. “A lot of things have been closing this year. Hasn’t exactly been great for anybody.”

“Yeah, but this will be good for us, trust me. Besides, you know they’re saying things’ll open up by September. Just in time.”

“In time for what?” Her exasperation with him was reaching a boiling point, and the question came out more harshly than she’d intended. She took another sip of coffee and settled back into her seat. “Sorry. But enough with the games, just tell me already. Show me why it has to be this house, and what the plan is so I can stop being mad and remember you’re occasionally adorably excited.”

He laughed, probably because he thought he’d already won the point. She was less certain, but the idea that he actually had some sort of plan in mind had gone some distance to easing the worry about the hundred grand.

He settled into the chair opposite her, laying his left hand over her right. She almost pulled away out of reflex – his hand was icy cold – but she managed to quash the urge, not wanting to hurt his feelings.

“Art’s House. They’re not open this year. And he’s willing to sell pretty much everything except the house itself.”

Art’s House. Of course. Art was a local fixture, a foul-tempered and foul-mouthed yet somehow still lovable old cuss who lived at the edge of town. He always had his finger in some pie or another, usually raising funds for the Jaycees or the Boys and Girls Club, and his biggest pie had always been the Halloween season. Every year he turned his own house into a spookhouse, filling it with volunteer staff trained to scare the bejesus out of everyone they could. The old mansion had been the site of her and Keith’s first date, and had been the subject of many late-night conversations.

Keith had claimed that one day he’d convince the old man to step aside and sell the house. Apparently the house was out of the question… but the props and sets weren’t.

“So you want to… what? Uproot all the stuff from Art’s, transplant it there, then bank on the fact that an actual murder occurred to drive up the scares while you carry on the tradition?”

He shrugged, falling back in his chair with a petulant look that told her he thought she was mocking him. In truth, she was coming around. It was sort of sweet… in a morbid sort of way.

“Well. Something like that, yeah. I told you I wanted to buy Art’s. He’s just not selling the house. But if I can snatch up a distressed home on the cheap…” He spread his palms. “A couple days, a couple trucks, some personal tweaks and we’re good to go.”

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