SHORT STORY: This House by Kenzie Jennings

This House

DISCLAIMER: This may be figurative. This may be literal. I don’t know anymore.

I think my house is trying to kill me.

The police won’t get involved, I realize, but at the very least, is there a support group for that sort of thing? It’s not that strange, right? Homeowners have been victimized plenty of times…. and I mean PLENTY of times before. According to the National Safety Council, in 2019, there were 26,200,000 medically consulted, home-related injuries that occurred in the United States, and out of the 26 million, there were 93,700 deaths.

This data, of course, isn’t disaggregated, so it includes injuries and deaths due to poisoning, choking, drowning, burning, and falling. The commonality though is that all occurred inside the home…

…which brings me back to my point.

This house, my home, may be trying to kill me.

What prompted this ridiculous premise? I’m glad you asked. Last week, I was washing dishes, lost in my own daily thought-struggles, when the kitchen sink faucet decided it had had enough and promptly fell apart.

Yes, I know. I know. There would be a lot of that going around in a house that had been built in the late ’60s with appliances that hadn’t been updated since the ’90s.

But it’s the timing, you see, the fact that I was right there when it happened. Part of the faucet, a piece of the aerator from what I can tell, spat out from the spout, and the force of the water was so strong that I was drenched within seconds, water everywhere. Naturally, I slipped around on the floor and then fell right on my ass. For a woman well into middle age, I mean, it felt as if I’d broken not only my tailbone, but basically all the other bones and cartilage, tendons and innards, self-pride and spirit.

I’ve been hobbling around like an old lady. It takes some time for me get up the stairs.

Speaking of stairs, my sisters and I, and probably anyone else who’d been a kid in this house, have fallen down the stairs. There’s no carpet there for traction. It’s just wood, a slick surface. When you fall, it’s one of those full body slides where you’re reaching out to grab hold of the bannister as your legs slide out in front of you, and you butt-plonk down those stairs while you’re attempting to hang on and pull yourself up. Then you just bump all the way to the concrete floor below.

I have fallen down those stairs a total of eight times in my life. I’ve counted. Number eight was this morning. We’ve always known not to wear socks, and I don’t anyway. Still, it didn’t matter, even with calloused bare feet.

I fell down those stairs, and I heard someone laugh at me.

The laugh wasn’t coming from outside the house. Listen, I’ve noisy neighbors. I’ve heard them chortling and hollering over their shitty top 40 tunes on repeat every weekend. It wasn’t them.

I heard the laugh clear as day, right at my side, while I sat there on the floor in stunned silence. I thought it might be me. I’m forever questioning the last sliver of sanity I’ve left. I’ve been known to laugh at my own antics because I’m just hilarious. However, it wasn’t my voice, and my mouth wasn’t open. In fact, my teeth were grinding, my jaw tightly clenched.

I knew the laugh though. That witchy cackle followed by a mischievous giggle. That sound. My childhood summers came scuttling back to remind me this was home. It always was.

Did I tell you about the drywall incident? A giant piece of the breezeway ceiling broke over my head, the dust of it momentarily blinding me. By the time I could see anything, my eyes burned. The damage was all over the furniture, all over my hair and clothes. Everything looked as if a sack of flour had exploded everywhere and had left pieces of ceiling strewn about. You’d never know it happened. The last of my savings for the month repaired and cleaned it up.

Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, I find myself unable to breathe only because I’m face down in my pillow. For the record, I never go to sleep on my stomach. It’s wretchedly uncomfortable. I’m a side sleeper, and I had never once woken up in any position other than on my side; right or left, it doesn’t matter. Ever since I’ve been left totally alone in this house—with no family, friends, or even a boyfriend—this moment where I’m suffocating has become a random occurrence without any sort of routine so that I cannot predict when it will happen, ever. I just have to take my chances when I go to bed.

My mother died from a lung disease. Her lungs scarred over and just ceased to function. She was basically suffocating all the time, and it’s what eventually killed her.

So, obviously, waking up with a mouthful of pillow terrifies me.

I knew what I was getting into. The dead came with the house. It’s not complicated. Family who’d loved unconditionally, who’d loved true, had lived here. I’m writing this from a room where others had passed away. Once, after a memorial service, a few pipes decided they’d had enough and water trickled from the ceiling over the breakfast table. A cousin said the house was crying.

I spend a lot of time on the laptop my workplace loaned me so that I could effectively work from home. There are days, however, when I feel as if my body is stuck in sludge, unable to move—like the desk chair, armchair, sofa, or even my bed, wherever I am working, is intent on keeping me there. I try to get up, but my legs feel as if they’re loaded down with weights, and I swear something has a locked hold around my wrists, like whatever’s there wants me to finish the work completely. I appreciate that something’s there, wanting me to keep busy, but I’m not intent on dying while I’m working, unable to get up to keep myself nourished.

Oh, and by the way, the house doesn’t have a pool, but even still, it may as well drown me. There’s a basement filled with piles of junk, and, on occasion, it floods. The water coming in is from either A) stormwater running down the walls or B) the HVAC drain pump. There’s a lot of exposed wiring too. I found that out quickly.

Maybe a fire is in the cards for me.

Speaking of fire, don’t get me started on the old stovetop. The kitchen was close to being burned to the ground on more than one occasion.

My immediate family members—hell, everyone who knows my situation—don’t understand why I don’t just up and sell, why I don’t just…leave like a normal person.

But there are other factors to keep in mind. I mean, everyone’s gone, and they’ve left their shit behind. It’s just too much.

And I think it’s all trying to kill me, all of it, every last piece of it. It’s the fuel of the house that keeps it from being anything but a house. My body will then have to be excavated because it will undoubtedly be buried underneath everyone’s stuff.

All of their unloved, unwanted stuff. More and more stuff.

They were smart, staying away from here.

I hope I’ll be waking up tomorrow so that I can start worrying all over again.

It’ll be Monday after all, and my house is always hungry.

Kenzie Jennings is an English professor suffering in the sweltering tourist hub of central Florida. She is the author of the Splatterpunk Award nominated books Reception and Red Station (Death’s Head Press). Her short horror fiction has appeared in Slice Girls, Worst Laid Plans: An Anthology of Vacation Horror, Dig Two Graves Vol 1, and Deep Fried Horror: Mother’s Day Edition.

While her rehab counselor’s advice replays in her mind, Ansley Boone takes on the role of dutiful bridesmaid in her little sister’s wedding at an isolated resort in the middle of hill country, a place where cell reception is virtually nonexistent and everyone else there seems a stranger primed to spring. Tensions are already high between the Boones and their withdrawal suffering eldest, who has since become the family embarrassment, but when the wedding reception takes a vicious turn, Ansley and her sister must work together to fight for survival and escape the resort before the groom’s cannibalistic family adds them to the post wedding menu.

Red Station
There is a house overlooking the vast, rolling plains. A home station where a traveler will be welcomed with a piping hot meal and a downy bed. It is a refuge for the weary. A beacon for the lost. A place where blood and bones feed the land.

For four stagecoach passengers… a doctor in search of a missing father and daughter… a newlywed couple on the way to their homestead… and a lady in red with a bag filled with secrets… Their night at the Station has only just begun.

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