I pulled out my phone to check it.
"We have a go," read the message. Mixed feelings coursed through me. I was anxious, but glad to finally be able to put a rest to what I had built up to be a virtual hell in my mind. My childhood home. The house where my father had (as my grandmother tells it) went insane and nearly killed my mother and me.
The text was from my friend, Allie. She worked for the city and managed to get the city to allow us to do a "structural safety test" on my old home, now long abandoned. I called the rest of our investigation crew to get them to my present house and talk about our plan for the night. I didn't have to wait long, they were pumped to explore this place. Well Jake and Allie were. Zoë was obviously terrified, but she wouldn't admit it. I repeatedly told her that she didn't have to go, but she insisted, so I sat everyone down to finally explain the backstory of the house.
We lived there for about two years. I was born when the first was just coming to an end, and that's when my father began changing, or at least that's what my grandmother says. She's my only source of information on my family background, as she's the last living member of my close family. She tells me that my father began to separate himself from my mother and me. He grew paranoid. He blocked out all of our windows so that no one could see inside. And that's when things became frightening. My grandmother tells me that my mother would wake up in the middle of the night and my father would not be in bed. She said that she heard laughter coming from the basement, but was too scared to see what was going on. This went on for a couple months, and then the laughter turned to conversation. My mother said he was having full conversations in that basement, and the way was talking, it wasn't just with himself. She thinks he was talking to some... thing. He would leave spaces for replies when he talked, and laugh at things heard only by him. His eyes became blank, scars appeared on his body, and his talking began to grow frightful, as if whatever was talking to him began to bully him. He grew frantic, and my mother had the last straw when he sat in the basement screaming one night. She threw a few clothes into a suitcase and got us the hell out of there. Thank God for that. We went to my grandmother's house and began living there. My father was never heard from again, but my mother became riddled with cancer and died months later. I was hardly two years old. I didn't learn of any of this until after I graduated high school, which I understand. Only recently did I gain the desire to visit that old house. From what I'd heard, it had been abandoned since we left, and I'm not sure if that's good or bad.
My friends listened attentively as I relayed all this information to them, revealing a past that none of them had known. Zoë was twice as pale as when I had started talking, but Allie and Jake seemed fine, so we decided to head on over to the house. It was about 4 p.m. as we began to unload our gear, which was a little later than I had planned, but still good. We took our first steps inside, and my jaw dropped. Everything was still in there, just as how we'd left it twenty years ago. A shiver went down my spine. This was the house where the father that I never knew went insane. We set up some lanterns around in the basement (I had debated between portable lights and lanterns, and I felt that lanterns were more trustworthy). We looked around in the basement, but found that it was exactly like the upstairs, everything in the same place as 20 years ago. We headed back upstairs to lock up our van, and looked to see the sun already halfway down the horizon. I did NOT want to explore this place at night. We went back inside to debate our options. I was leaning towards packing up and coming back another day, but Allie told me that the city would not want to let us back in an abandoned house again. She convinced me to stay, and as we finished talking, we heard a sound from downstairs. Laughter. It was somebody laughing. Allie stood up and sprinted for the stairs, and Jake and I were right behind her until I look back and noticed Zoë rooted to her spot on the floor. I let Allie and Jake go and went back to her.
"Come on, we gotta go!" I said, but she wouldn't budge. And that's when I heard a scream come from downstairs.
I ran to the landing which then led upstairs to meet Jake sprinting up frantically.
"Whoa, Jake!" I said, but he ran right on past me. I followed him as he ran straight to the front door. He tried to yank it open, but for some reason it wouldn't. It remained stuck in place as he pulled with everything he had.
"Jake, what are you doing?" I asked him repeatedly, but he just kept on trying to pull the door open.
"JAKE!" I screamed, and that finally got his attention. He began to cry and fell into a heap on the floor. Zoë crawled away from him as if he had some horrible disease.
"Jake," I said quietly, "where's Allie?"
"H-He-He took her," Jake said. He sounded like a frightened child that had thought he had seen a ghost.
"Who?" I asked.
"I- I don't know," he said. I felt fear begin to course through my veins, but I needed to find Allie. I waited for Jake to calm down, and asked him to come with me. I can't believe it, but he said yes. My fear subsided slightly to know that someone would be with me, and we made our way to the stairs. Jake was hesitant, so I took the lead. The lanterns provided the only light, as it was completely dark outside now. As I walked, I heard a soft noise. It sounded like someone muttering under their breath. I took a peek into the laundry room and saw Allie wedged into the corner by the washing machine.
She was rocking back and forth, muttering under her breath.
"Allie!" I whispered. She turned her head toward the door, and her eyes looked blank. Jake and I walked in a little farther.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
"This is his home," she said plainly.
"What?" I asked.
"His home. His home. This is his home," she said. Then her faced changed and she looked at Jake and I with a hideous grin.
"This is my home." Her body contorted and before I knew it, she came crawling impossibly fast across the room. Jake and I screamed and sprinted for the stairs. I somehow managed to get in front of Jake, and I was just stepping up the last stair when I turned and saw Allie grab his foot. She yanked his leg out from under him and pulled him back down into the basement. I heard him scream across the basement until his voice got cut off.
I was too shocked to feel anything, and walked calmly into the living room to find Zoë. She was sobbing in the middle of the floor. I sat down next to her and my mind replayed the events of what had just happened over and over again. I desperately wanted to find Jake, but I was terrified of what I might see. Zoë continued to cry, and I wanted to comfort her, but I couldn't find the words. I stood up, and forced myself to the stairs. I used what willpower I had left to make my feet move down the stairs. I walked as quietly as possible. I saw a strange light coming from the room farthest across the basement. I took a deep breath and crept towards it. After what seemed like forever, I finally made it and peeked inside the door to see several candles (where they came from I have no idea) lit around an old bed frame. Jake was tied to the it with some old wires. Allie stood with her back towards me, muttering something. She was speaking in a language that seemed to ring a bell. Latin. As she muttered, a shadow appeared on the wall. Her muttering became more intense once the shadow appeared and it began to move towards Jake. I shuddered, but had to keep watching. The shadow seemed to disappear into Jake, and right then, Allie's head twisted around to make eye contact with me.
"Run," she said with a smile. Jake's head lifted up with only the whites of his eyes showing. His mouth opened, revealing long, sharp, white teeth, and he let out a roar.
I turned and sprinted for the stairs. Just before I entered the stairwell, I glanced back to see Jake running like a gorilla would, pounding his fists on the ground. I kept on screaming as I ran up the stairs, and barely managed to get up the last stair when he caught up with me. He seemed unwilling to go up the last step, and growled at me from the top stair.
"What's wrong with you?" I whispered as I cried. He gave me a grin and said, "Diabolus inhabitat." A memory came surging to my mind, the only thing I've ever remembered from when I lived in that house. I remember being in that exact spot as a child, looking at my father on the stairs, and I remember him saying this exact thing.
"The devil dwells within." That's what my father had said and that is what Jake just said. I was more scared at this moment than any other moment in my life.
Jake then turned and walked back down the stairs. I remembered that Zoë was still upstairs and ran to check on her. She wasn't in the living room. I ran around the upstairs calling her name, and noticed that one of the bedroom doors was closed. I gently opened it and looked inside. My blood ran cold. Zoë was sitting, facing the corner of the room, and talking. But she wasn't just continually speaking. She was leaving spaces for replies. I went to back out when my foot bumped the wall. Her head whipped around and before I knew it she was standing almost directly in front of me. I stumbled back onto the ground and struggled to keep my eyes on her.
"One left," she said with a smile. I scrambled to my feet. She began walking towards me and I kept backing away. She continued walking towards me until I was on the landing with the stairs. As I stepped onto that landing, Allie and Jake were standing on the top stairs also wearing grins. I wedged myself into the corner as Zoë approached. Allie and Jake took the last step and were now on the landing just as Zoë stepped down onto it. Then I remembered.
I pulled the crucifix from my pocket and held it in front of me. They hissed and lost their grins, but would not back away. It took all I had just to hold that crucifix. Then I heard the sound of someone walking up the stairs. Jake and Allie parted and a figure came up between them. My father stood up onto the landing, took the crucifix from my hand, and said," Welcome home, son."