Life of Nightmares
written by: Rando Mithlo
The house stood somewhere in a dark part of America, at some foreboding crossroads under ominous clouds. A house that probably also existed somewhere outside the psyche of a rebellious woman. An orange tint in the sky looked as if scumbled on by a half crayon, conjuring the doubt of reality, that Hannah had many times when walking through this door.
Not exactly knowing what was her purpose here, it was all too familiar. Every room, every piece of furniture and every bizarre antique placed the same as before. It was as if it were choreographed, her every step. This residence seemed to be very linear. One floor and a basement. The light green carpet was odd but all the decor seemed to fit right in like flowers in the grass. What was it she was there for? Once again she would seek an answer. She walked forward seeing a crystal decanter on a mid-century modern end table, and a thin davenport next to it that looked less than cozy, but she never sat on it. A cheap Rockwell print hangs above on the plain white wall. But this long room wasn't where she spent most of her time when here. It was the basement that always seemed to attract her. It was something she felt she needed down there. She couldn't recall what it was. That is until she experienced it again.
She remembered that going down there was not good. She descended the stairs and stepped onto the Berber carpet of the basement room, it stretched as did the first floor. There was a game room and bar with brown upholstered stools. A pool table with green felt top, and numbered balls constrained in a wooden triangle. It looked normal enough but a sudden movement from the corner of her eye reminded her why she hated this place. U-Haul boxes sat stacked on the floor on the left. She heard her name being called out, it was her mother's voice! Like she was calling from inside one of those boxes but from another direction. Then from behind her came the whispers. She turned and no one was there. A violent shove made her gasp and put her on the floor, She turned quickly and again no one. The pool cues inexplicably flew from the wall rack one by one like spears at the mirror behind the bar smashing glass and frightening her terribly. She got back to her feet.
She then heard a voice whisper,"Bitch!." Her body tingled with fear.
This is what she cannot understand why she keeps coming here repeatedly. And she forgets what is here every time,
9160 is the address numbers near the front door but what street and what town, remains a mystery.
She's pretty sure it's not Chicago, where she now resides, the sounds and smell of the city aren't ever present there.
A different voice yelled "Hannah!" muffled as if trying to scream from another dimension. The mirror is now fixed behind the bar and reflected things that were behind her, dingy looking human forms in black. Three of them that didn't quite look complete and they seemed to dissolve as a light grew bright behind them.
Hannah gasped, but In her mind, she knew it couldn't be real because nothing behaved as it should while here, not physics, not even being able to put things together in her mind as she should see them. Atoms lazily floated together and broke up like a TV picture when its signal is lost.
She tried to move her feet and flee this horror, but her legs wouldn't respond to her mind's command. She's in a trap again. The three figures move closer to her their faces more gruesome the closer they come.
One of them spoke, "You remember us!", this came out like a snarl.
Hannah panicked "No, what do you want?"
"Your flesh, bitch!" She quivered and closed her eyes. The last thing she heard was "Ravenna."
Hannah woke up from her sleep. "Ravenna!", she said in a daze. Austin woke to this and said, "What did you say?"
Hannah mumbled, "Mm what?"
"You had that nightmare again!" Austin said as he wiped the sleep from right eye.
"I guess so — yes"
"What's Ravenna?" he asked.
"I heard that in the dream, he said it!" Hannah replied.
"Who, one of the deformed dudes?"
"Yes...I've had this dream for the past year and that's the first time I've heard that. I don't know what it means." She looked paler than usual.
"Maybe it's the place...do you ever remember anything or anywhere by that name?" Austin wondered, he grew worried about her waking this way so often, and he wanted to get to the bottom of it. They had an eight city tour planned that their band was starting in September. Her singing voice sounded weak when practicing last Wednesday. Lack of sleep maybe, yes, but she has grown so paranoid lately, and these dreams are probably why. Besides that, he loved her and wanted her to be the crazy carefree girl she was when they met three years ago. They had met at a club in Chicago, where she was singing with another woman, who played acoustic guitar. He was struck by her mournful voice and her looks, she was a modern day Louise Brooks. He had asked her to join his band and she did. They immediately became romantically involved. It's been up and down with her but, he couldn't imagine being with anyone but her.
Hannah thought for a moment,"Ravenna, it's in Michigan !" Her dark eyes lit up.
"Michigan?" He said cocking his head.
Her bobbed black hair glistened in the dawn's low light as she gathered her thoughts. "Um...it was a place near where I grew up...in Michigan."
"I thought you grew up in Passaic?" He stated, scratching his bare chest.
"I did for the most part, but when my stepdad was looking for a job in the early 90s, we moved to Grand Rapids for a year and a half. I was like 9 years old at the time.That didn't work out so we moved back to New Jersey."
She reached for the bottled water she kept by her bedside, and swallowed a gulp, she held it out to Austin. He shook his head, "I'm good....so you used to live near a Ravenna? That could be key to your freaking nightmares!"
"Or it could just be more bullshit!" she countered. She climbed out of bed and went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet. She sat there staring at the white lace panties around her ankles and remembered something from the 4th of July weekend in 1993. Her stepdad announced to her and her mother that Friday they were going back to Passaic and by Sunday they were back in New Jersey, with moving van in-tow.
"Why did we leave in a rush like that?" she whispered.
She had a hard time remembering that period for some reason...really anything before that time, she only knew from stories her mother had told her, it always felt like she was talking about someone else because the stories couldn't jog her memory. Hannah just chalked it up to her alcohol abuse in her late teens. She hit the Bacardi pretty hard back in those days and had been sentenced to juvenile detention for a period after one of her drunken incidents. She had smashed her boyfriend's car into a privacy fence in an east side neighborhood when she blacked out at the wheel.
Austin walked in the bathroom nude and said, "Take a shower with me, we need to hit the road."
She squinted "Okay....and where are we going? "
He pulled back the clear shower curtain and cranked the hot water knob. "We're going on a road trip, to Michigan!" Austin said turning his head to see her reaction.
"What the ..., why?" She said, bewildered.
"'Cause we're going to get to the bottom of these god damn nightmares that are stressing you out, so you can sleep at night. This has been going on way too long!" He climbed into the steam filled shower not waiting for Hannah to argue against it. He heard her mumble something, and then she opened the curtain and joined him there.
Once on the road, the relative quiet in the van and the interstate hum, gave Hannah moments to reflect more on that time in the early 90s. Her stepdad Wes was a stern guy, but also loved her as his own. He later cheated on her mother with some whore waitress at a truck stop in East Orange. That's when he separated from the family. That was also the time Hannah and her mother Angie both started drinking heavily.
A few hours passed and they saw the sign for Grand Rapids city limits.
"Do you remember anything, what house or where?" Austin said, waking her from a daydream. "Uh, Yeah, I think north side, a few miles out of town. Cardinal Ave. I do remember that from riding the school bus. I'll put it in my phone and get directions."
They find Cardinal Ave. and Hannah tells him to drive west.
"Stop!" She yells. Austin slammed the breaks, lurching them both forward uncomfortably. "That white house, I lived there!", she stated, but she soon realized it was not the home in her dream. The address was 7734, not 9160 and she started to remember the inside of her former residence. There was no long layout, not even a basement like in the nightmare. She then remembered staying with the babysitter a lot after school. That brought another set of memories to light. She used to hate going to the babysitter's house. The woman who lived there seemed to not like Hannah and let it be known with undeserved callousness. And there's that man, her creepy husband who had graying hair and messed up teeth. Both of them chain-smoked and reeked of it.
Austin pulled the van into the driveway. "Is this the place?"
Hannah shook her head. "Drive down that way" Hannah pointed to a side road. "Where that 'dead end' sign is."
When the couple turned down the road. Hannah startled to feel distressed. The closer they got to the end the more decrepit the houses appeared. Green Spur Road was just that, a spur that came off the main road to a sparsely populated two-lane road. The end the road cut off abruptly into a wooded area. The cement block foundation of a house peeked out of the brush on the left side. Hannah looked at Austin. Worrisome thoughts flushed her face, he noticed this and concern was apparent in his expression.
"This is it!" She said.
"How do you know, there's nothing left?" , He replied.
She pointed at a rusty swing set next to the foundation with a half melted plastic horse swing that moved stiffly in the wind.
"I played on that every day." Her eyes shifted to the surrounding homes. All empty, curtains torn, a few rusting wrecked cars and other debris in the overgrown lawns. It's Like some kind of property plague that had spread from ground zero — 9160 Green Spur Road.
She opened the car door and climbed out. As she walked closer to the foundation of the house, smoke began to rise. At first barely noticeable, but the closer she trots through the thick weeds, then more obviously so. She stepped on the first cement porch stair, and the house appeared like she saw in the nightmare. She looked back to the van and saw Austin climbing out.
"Look, do you see this?" She heard him say "See what, Han?" His voice was muffled, her body stiffened. "This goddamn house, do you see it?!" She yelled. But Austin was now nowhere in sight. "Austin!" She cried. No answer. She felt compelled to push the door open. This time she smelled charred wood. The green carpet and antiques were all covered with soot. She turned around to leave but somehow was again facing the room she just turned away from, like she'd been staring into a mirror. "Austin!" She yelled again.
"Hannah!" She heard in response, but it was her mother's voice this time.
"Mom?" Hannah said. The muted voice came from the basement. Hannah went down the carpeted stairs, and said: "Mom where are you?" A thick haze hung, dimly lit by a lone basement window. A shadowed figure loomed near the pool table. "Mom is that you?" Then she heard banging on the window and what looked like her mother's silhouette "Hannah, get out of there!" The hair on her neck stood stiff, she said "Oh, shit!" She swung around and sprinted toward the stairs, but three figures stood on them blocking her escape.
"You little bitch, you're trapped!" The voice was hellish but somewhat familiar. A flood of memories engulfed her mind. The voice was the chain-smoking babysitter woman, her name was Bev, that one next to her had to be the creepy husband Gip, the other one she couldn't figure out who it was. The smoke became thicker and she started to choke. "How do it feel to suffer, you stupit whore?" Gip said in his odd southern draw. He doubled over in a laugh, bringing his head out of the shadows into view. She saw what looked like a skinless skull. She shrieked "Austin!"
The three figures laughed at her fear. She panicked and ran behind the pool table, grabbing a cue stick off of the rack, swinging it defensively in front of her.
She heard even louder, maddening laughter. The Bev shadow said "You might get by us but you won't get by that. Her figure pointed to the silent one, Gip added, "That's the Master!"
The wall behind the figures burst into flames. She jumped, crying out, "Oh my God!" Their distorted bodies were incomplete, she saw through them. The "Master" silhouette was huge and beastly like a Sasquatch. Hannah shook uncontrollably.
Bev's voice snarled, "You should've stopped coming here, and you shouldn't have told your mama on Gip, he had to do what he had to do!" Hannah realized why she hated this place.
One afternoon after school Gip tricked her into undressing, saying that she got a tick on her from the neighbor's dog that she had been petting and he needed to get it. He told her the tick would suck her blood like a vampire. She freaked out and took off her dress. but then he got this crazy look on his face and started to touch her, moving his palms slowly up her legs. He would have undoubtedly abused her had she not told him she'd tell her mother. He backed down saying he was only feeling for the tick, but he was always touching her in some way or another with those big dirty hands. Hannah told her mother about it anyway, and her mother didn't believe it at first. She didn't want to. They wore pleasant faces and fake personas, and her mother bought the act like a discount cardigan at Macy's. The will to end being around these two psychos was so strong she remembered, and the word hate was too kind to describe what she felt about them.
Flames flared up on the wall to her right. A heat thrust crashed into her, knocking her to the floor. Hannah yelped in fear. The three creeps on the stairs moved down toward her. They floated closer, and the added firelight revealed their grotesque state. Half scarred skin in patches fused with melted clothing hanging on exposed bones. The sight made her vomit in her throat.
The faces were eyeless, charred skulls with wild hair strands. The "Master" was a composite of every monster she 's ever imagined.
Hannah scurried backward toward the bar stools and pulled herself to her feet. The heat grew intense behind her, as the shelves holding the liquor bottles burst into flames, forced her back towards the creeps.
"What do you want from me, haven't you already given me a life of nightmares!" She yelled.
"We want what you took from us..flesh!" Bev said.
"And that there wants your soul!" Gip snickered, pointing to the "Master" and it hoarsely roared "Give it up!"
It reached out, grabbing her by the arm. She screamed, "Jesus, please!"
The hand pulled her arm. She looked into its eyes, but she didn't fear anymore...what she saw was very familiar.
It was Austin.
The house was gone once more.
Austin pulled her close "What happened here, Hannah!"
She cried, clinging to him. He looked in the dirt-filled foundation where the basement had once been.
"What was down there?"
"Evil!" She whimpered.
Hannah had wondered why moving away from Ravenna back then was so sudden, now she remembered why. Four days after the incident with Gip, Hannah went to the bathroom and saw an ashtray on the vanity with a book of matches from a Rustler Steakhouse. She snuck them down to the basement while Gip and Bev took impromptu naps (or passed out) in their recliners while watching a block of Andy Griffith reruns. It took her several tries but she was able to set the carpet on fire near the cardboard boxes stacked there. She subsequently snuck out the back door and played on the swing set, not worrying anymore when she saw smoke escaping from an open window.
Her stepdad showed up several minutes later to pick her up. Although he tried to enter the house in an attempt to save the babysitters, the smoke was just too overwhelming.
Soon afterward her stepdad moved the family out of town as fast as possible when learning the truth, to avoid any legal issues that might have arisen with fire investigators. No one ever talked about it again and she had blocked it out of her mind for many years.
Riding home that evening Hannah explained it all to Austin, and he said they deserved what they got, and that he probably would've done the same to escape a predator, but she didn't think he would, no one in their right mind would...could they?
She felt numb, knowing she's capable of doing what made her no better of a person than that nasty bastard she killed.
The drive back to Chicago seemed extraordinarily long. They said very little to each other.
The sky was thickly overcast with bright ivory moonlight peeking through a thin seam between merging clouds.
Hannah watched Austin light up a smoke, the lighter flame flicker charming her like a long-lost friend.
"Austin..." she said.
"What, Han?" He replied, staring out into the shadowy highway ahead.
"When you go to sleep tonight, I cant promise you'll wake up."