I made a huge mistake at the beach- huge. Instead of reading some of the wonderful books I had loaded on my iPad as I sat under our umbrella by the ocean, I rifled through the large wicker basket of paperbacks in our rental condo. I passed over all of the cheesy romances, the mysteries, and dug to the bottom where I saw a scary looking book called ‘The Dwelling’. An old house that draws the people it wants to buy it and then keeps them? Perfect! I love old Victorian houses. I seemed to gloss over words like “horrifying” and “chilling murders”, and threw the book in our beach bag.
As I listened to the waves crash and the seagulls screech, I began the book. It started out peacefully enough, drawing me into the story of a widowed real estate agent who has to sell the same house three times, as awful things happen to different owners. When things began to “happen” to the first couple who bought the place, I started to feel the familiar twinge and hear the internal dialogue…”Denise, what the hell are you doing? Don’t you remember ‘The Shining’ in college on Christmas break? How you couldn’t sleep for weeks in your own home because you were terrified as soon as the lights went out? How every scary book you read, every horror movie- even previews about scary movies- come back in your nightmares? I’m going to go ahead and say this- I told you so…remember that!”
I became obsessed…I had to know what happened. We were leaving in one day and I had to finish. I just had to. Dan shook his head, “Honey? What are you doing? You know what that book is going to do to you tonight.” I nodded as I turned the page, “Uh-huh, Honey, just a few more pages.” Dan shook his head again. He has slept next to me for twelve years…he knew what was coming. I read and read…and it got worse and worse. Freakin’ ghosts- mean ones. Lots of them. This was one pissed off old house. I’m trying to send advice to the new home owners, “No! Whatever you do, don’t get in that claw foot tub! Don’t go in the attic!” They never listened.
That night, we crawled into our big bed up in the beautiful loft and I read a few more pages before turning out the light. I had this- I would be fine. Which I was until I woke up at 1:30 am hearing a noise downstairs. My heart started to pound and every noise seemed amplified. Dan slept peacefully next to me. I began justifying every sound, “that’s just the refrigerator!”, “that is the wind”…pathetic, really. I got up to go to the bathroom in the dark and my heart lurched as I saw the giant tub in the master bath. “It’s just a book, nothing is real, nothing to be afraid of….hurry, hurry, hurry..” I crawled back into the bed next to my sleeping husband- could he not hear these noises? Wasn’t he scared, too? Oh wait, he wasn’t the idiot who read a horror story all day. I considered waking him up, but didn’t think he’d quite understand at 2am.
I dozed in and out of sleep after a while, each time a wicked scary nightmare made me wake with my heart racing and everything seeming so real. When I finally gave up and got up at 4;40am, I felt like I’d been run through a sausage grinder (as Mom would say). Looked like it, too. At fifty-two, that whole concept of beauty sleep is really important. Every second of it.
Instead of burning the book like I should have, I justified to myself that I had to finish now- there were only two chapters left. I had to know how it ended. Even I was shaking my head at myself by this point. We packed up the Bug to head home, and I still hadn’t finished. I put the spawn of satan book back in its wicker basket and got in the car. When we got home and got settled in, I grabbed my iPad and and did a search…sure enough, it was there! I downloaded the book so that I could read the last two chapters, which messed me up even more than the others.
We went to bed in our own cozy bed with the pups, and I finally drifted into a fitful sleep…until I heard a strange noise in our century-old house. I have never been afraid in our house, but when I got up to use the bathroom, I heard creaks and groans I haven’t heard in the twelve years we’ve lived here. The internal dialogue started again,”okay…that’s the air conditioner. That’s the…umm, well, if we do have ghosts in our house, I know they are friendly…and they will kick any mean ghost’s ass if they try to mess with me. Surely the dogs would help, too? Even I realized how ludicrous this whole situation had become. There was no turning back, though – I was in full-out terror mode. I crawled back into bed and snuggled sweet Sophie. She sighed, stretched, and snored.
In the light of day it all seemed so silly. Just a book, just a story….one that I and my over-active imagination sure won’t be reading again. I am considering doing an exorcism on my iPad just to get rid of the bad mojo- you know- just in case it gets any ideas and starts spinning around, spitting out green pea soup. I am pretty sure that my days of ghost stories are over…really they are. My house doesn’t look haunted…does it? Oh, lord…