Dear Mr. Douglas, I’ve gotten word that you are planning on opening the Canto residence as a sort of "ghost hunt" attraction. I’m writing this to you to with the hope that you might reconsider. I was the one who’d made the report, and I’d like you to know everything was very real.
I’d purchased the house from a Susan Canto, who desperately wanted to sell it. I knew there was something off by the price tag alone. It was a big house, three stories if you’d count the basement, four bedrooms, and a spacious backyard with a swing set. Yet it was cheap—and had been listed for sale for around a year. At the time, though, I didn’t care. I’d recently started my own reptile-breeding business, and needed a house big enough to house all of my stock. I contacted Susan, we made arrangements, and eventually we closed on it.
I wasn’t made aware that Susan wasn’t the house’s only occupant.
The house was pretty creepy at night, being a big empty house with creaky floors and a chilling draft. I found myself getting paranoid, even after the boxes were unpacked and the animals were set up like they were back home. At the time, I figured that it was just my nerves. After all, it was an unfamiliar, quiet place and the house’s price was somewhat suspicious.
A bigger house meant more space; more space meant more room to store animals. So long as the issue wasn’t something potentially dangerous to my stock, all was well.
All was, in fact, well until it came time to go downstairs to feed some of my collection of Ball Pythons. I am unsure if you are acquainted with the process, so I will quickly summarize it. I feed them live food. I simply take one of the rats I breed out of the bin, knock its head against the wall to paralyze it, and place it in the snake’s bin. The rat is paralyzed so it doesn’t harm the snake while the rat is being eaten. That being said, I opened one of the python tanks, and took one of the many rats from the bin. I habitually slammed it against the wall, then placed it in the cage. Pythons are constrictors, meaning that they squeeze their food rather than biting it. I watched as the snake flicked its split tongue at the scent of prey, then began to coil around the rat and squeeze. This particular snake had a tendency to coil much too tight, and the innards of the rat popped out of its gut.
That’s when I heard it. A blood-curdling, high-pitched shriek in my ear, then the sound of fast footsteps and the squeaking of the staircase that led to the basement. I jumped out of fright, slamming the snake’s cage quickly before backing up against the wall. I took quite awhile to gather myself. “Did I imagine that?” I thought. I knew I didn’t because my right ear was still ringing as if it had been yelled into.
Eventually, I’d mustered up enough courage to go upstairs. Cautiously I ascended up the stairs, absentmindedly grasping the rail as I did so. It was then I noticed how dark the staircase was, and how eerie the dull squeak of each stair was. I was somewhat relieved when I had reached the top, seeing that it was much brighter upstairs. It was when I turned the corner into the hallway that I wished it was dark again.
A small human footprint was now visible. A footprint made of a dark, red, gelatinous blood. I felt like gagging. Looking further, I noticed that this wasn’t the only print. It stretched on throughout the well-lit hallway and into one of the bedrooms. The small bedroom with the pink wallpaper to be exact. I recall a foul aroma reaching my nostrils. For a second I wondered if this was what it was like to be crazy. For things to seem so real but not be. “No, I’m not mad.” I’d tell myself, before finding it somewhere in me to check out the pink room.
Slowly, I crept forward. My heart quickened. My skin growing paler as I approached. I had mentally prepared myself for any horrific scene or some bloodied child that might be lying on the room’s aged floorboards. If there was something that horrendous in there, I’d have to tell the police. I’d need to report it. I felt myself begin to shake. I had to do it. I had to do it. Taking one last breath, I peered into the room.
Nothing. I walked into the room. Nothing. I opened the closet. Nothing. I walked back out into the hallway. Nothing again. Dumbfounded, I shook my head. Maybe I had imagined the whole thing. Maybe I did need to see a doctor. Either way, though, I needed to finish feeding the snakes. After giving myself a few minutes to relax my nerves, I started back down the stairs.
Once back down, I opened a different cage, grabbed another rat, and slammed it against the wall. I placed the rat in, and nothing happened. I relaxed a bit more, and closed the cage. No crazy noises. I did it again. Open cage, slam rat, put rat in, close cage. Open cage, slam rat, put rat in, close cage. Open cage, slam rat, put rat in, close cage. Like I said, it was like clockwork.
After feeding the last snake, I turned to head back up the stairs. I let out a shriek in surprise. In front of me stood a girl, a young Hispanic child, no more than nine or ten. The reason the child was unnerving, though, wasn’t because of her seeming to appear out of nowhere. It was because the child looked horribly mangled. For one, she was missing her left arm, I could tell because one of her short sleeves loosely dangled, empty. Her shirt, that looked like it was once a bright purple and had some sort of lace, had a giant blackish red splotch in the belly area. Seeing some intestine hang down out of the shirt led me to believe that there was a gaping hole underneath it. The red trail which I safely assumed to be blood traveled down her blue shorts and to her bare feet, as if she had been bleeding like that awhile. Her light brown eyes, which were somewhat covered by a glop of unkempt curly black hair, were reddish in the whites, and blood seemed to slowly creep out of the sockets. Thinking back, her condition looked much like that of the first rat, the one that had its belly popped open, and getting squeezed hard enough would sometimes cause the eyes to bleed from the sockets.
I remained frozen in terror, eyes getting even wider when she took a step closer to me.
She looked up at me, her bloodied eyes meeting mine. “Why?” She asked, pointing her only arm at a snake’s cage.
I stumbled over words. “E-excuse me?”
She tilted her head. I focused on her long black hair’s movement to avoid looking at any of the downright terrifying parts of her. “Why did you hurt the mouse?” She asked, sounding almost like she was talking with water in her mouth, but when my eyes shifted back to her face, I noticed her teeth’s reddish tint.
Resisting the urge to say that it was a rat—not a mouse, I replied. “Because, the snakes need to eat.”
“Huh.” The child turned her head again, eyes now focusing on the ground.
I decided to ask the next question. “What’re you doing here?”
“My name is Lara Canto. I live here.”
“Are you related to Susan?”
Lara nodded, but seemed to be stuck on the last topic. “So you’re saying that it’s either the snake doesn’t starve, or the mouse lives?”
I was a bit surprised at the question. “Well, yes. I guess it’s either or.”
“If the snake is the one that wins—I think I want to be the snake. So—I think—I think that makes you the mouse.”
I’d like to say that I did something cool or talked her out of this logic, but I didn’t. I ran upstairs, not wanting to be a part of this game of cat-and-mouse one bit. When I reached the living room, I stopped. She was right in front of the door.
“That was rude.” The child said, tapping her finger to her cheek slowly. “But, I guess you’re not ready to see what being the mouse is like. I wasn't either. It’s okay though. I bet lots of people will come to see. One day.”
With that, she faded out of visibility and I left the house.
Mr. Douglas, I am ashamed to admit that I did, in fact, leave the animals to starve. I did, in fact, sell the house to you knowing of the horrible stench and rotting corpses that would naturally have happened. However, had I known you were going to try to do anything other than tear the place down and put a new house on top, I wouldn’t have sold to you. Please, don’t let people go in there to play some game that a demented child wants to play. I didn’t try to start some urban legend by leaving thousands of dollars worth of animals to die.
Sincerely, Alex Wright