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There was that game we used to play growing up. It was not necessarily a game per se... it was more like something to do on car trips.
Whenever you crossed a cemetery, one that was dappled with gravestones and fringed in a unkempt fence, you would hold your breath until you came to the first white house.
Mom told me it was to honor the spirits. My older brother swore it was because the entities could crawl into your mouth if you left it open. They were both wrong. Well, my brother was more right anyway. They can possess you if you are not careful.
In a way, the first white house protected everyone from the evil ghosts. Let us think of it from their point of view. That house is blocking us from getting what we want. We must get rid of it.
Avery Johnson, who was eight years old at the time, played the game every day, whether she was in the car, the school bus, or even walking home. She lived in the first white house of her local cemetery, and she was proud. Avery was helping people. She felt like a brave princess, fighting off ghosts for her friends. Nothing could defeat her big, white house.
One day, Avery woke to the sound of her disgruntled parents shouting, and to the sound of shattering glass. She crawled out of bed and pressed her ear against the wall until she could decipher their conversation.
"Jerry, some rapscallions painted our fucking house! No, I am NOT going to calm down, this is vandalism!! Vandalism!!!" her mother’s shrill voice exclaimed.
"I'll call the police," her father sighed, cracking his knuckles as a nervous habit.
"That's all I'm asking," her mother grunted.
Avery wrinkled her eyebrows. Why would somebody paint their house? It was white, protecting everyone. Its colour was the reason people were safe. Plus, all of her neighbours were all so nice, smiling ear-to-ear as they walked their dogs. Curious, Avery walked over to her window, heaved it open, and peered at her house's face. It was covered in red ink. It did not even look like it had an original colour besides its current.
"We need to paint it white again," Avery told her mother as she came downstairs, "It protects people, you know."
Mary Kay James died that day. It was sudden.
Her family did not even know the cause of her abrupt passing. She was simply found dead in her bed. A twisted grimace was plastered over her face. No scars, no knife. Nothing. It was like her heart had just stopped.
They painted the house white the next day. Avery felt better, but still was upset over Mary.
The next morning, Avery woke to even angrier screams than before.
"No Jerry, I will NOT stop shouting!! I don't care AT ALL!! I want an answer, Jerry. NOW. WHY are these bastards painting our house red?!"
They had the house repainted white... Again.
But it was red the next day.
For more than three weeks, it went back and forth, white and red, white and red, white and red.
And every day someone died. People were dying, from children and grandparents to nannies and pets. Avery was going to get to the bottom of this. She perched outside her window and waited for the villainous people to come. She suspected it was long-haired West Side teens messing around in some sort of cruel joke.
At about 6 AM, Avery suddenly fell asleep. But it was the oddest thing... the last thing she remembered was her clock reading 6:66... Avery was not very old, but she did know that clocks could not read 6:66.
Nightmares haunted her. Ghosts swirled around her house, repeating rituals until blood from the damned soaked the house. Dream-Avery was curled up in their lawn, sobbing hysterically into her knees. Spirits sprung out to scare her, then fluttered upwards to paint the house. Most of their screams were in a strange language, but she could understand some of them.
"I want it!! I want it!! I want it!!" they screeched.
"But if our house isn't white, we can't protect it!" Avery cried, tears streaming down her flushed face.
"Yes, we want it!" they continued to howl. "We want IT!! YOU CAN'T PROTECT!!"
Mother shook Avery until she woke up in a cold sweat.
"Sweetie, why were you screaming?" she asked, gazing lovingly into her eyes.
"We have to paint the house again!" she gasped, clawing at the window.
"It’s the oddest thing, the people came but couldn't get the paint to stick," her mother explained. "They said they've never seen anything like it. Maybe there are just too many coats? I don't know, but I kind of like red. I'm sure we'll get used to it."
Avery wrenched from her mother's grasp.
"NO! We need to paint!! We NEED to protect!!!" she began to scream.
The harder her mother tried to calm her, the crazier Avery got. Eventually, she gave up and left for work, leaving Avery alone. She expected her daughter to be over her craziness by the time she returned.
When mother came home, she went up the stairs to check on Avery. However, her door was locked. At first she thought she was playing with her.
"Open the door," she called.
It would not budge. After unearthing a key from the box she got with the house, she opened the door... only to find the most disturbing thing she had ever seen in her life.
Avery had hung herself, and pinned a note to her body.
"They can't get me now.
We need to paint, we need to protect.
We need to paint, we need to protect.
We need to paint, we need to protect."
The note read this over and over again.