A Couple's Ghost Story
The world was ending. Thunderous rapture, cracking of earth beneath them sent Virginia into a frenzy, she screamed and latched onto Adam as he gazed out of the window. Outside a great vigorous oak stood, its leaves rattled and its branches waved in the furious wind. Cold pale moonlight bathed everything there, either unaware or uncaring of those terrible tremors causing all things in his room to quake. A glass of water by the bedside fell onto a thick carpet, didn’t break, but when he got up, his feet touched wetness, sending shivers down his spine.
Adam almost stood up when something tugged at his arm.
‘Don’t leave me here.’ cried Virginia.
But he left, making his way downstairs.
The downstairs hallway, now quiet, front door locked. No sound came from either the kitchen or living room. Quiet. So quiet. Silence, broken by Virginia’s wails. The wall between the kitchen and living room wasn’t there anymore. Pieces of plaster, wood, brick and specs of dust laid scattered across the floor. Cloud of dust fluttered, a milky mist settling into the soft fluffy carpet as he walked past. He tried not to walk on any broken pieces, but a crunch and crack followed his every step. The explanation for earlier alarming noise rested all over the floor, before his eyes. Yet something must’ve forced the wall to crumble, to crash. Something, only what? They were the only people inside. After all, the front door remained locked.
Why did the front door sway open, screeching on its hinges, then slammed shut? He went through the rubble, towards it. Still locked; he grabbed a key from a nearby bowl and opened it, taking a few steps outside. The brisk wind howled in the silent night. Darkness ebbed into every corner while moonlight glazed the road ahead. Leaves hummed above his head. A freshly cut carpet of grass separated his home and the pavement. But the door behind him shut.
‘Adam!’ a scream came from inside.
He ran back.
The hallway was still dark, but a lamp imbued the surrounding walls of the living room in its warm yellow glow. Virginia loomed over the rubble, holding a broken frame and a scratched up, dented and torn picture. Her hands shook, but John recognised it, a young man in an army uniform.
Unsure of what else to do, John moved all remaining furniture around, away from the debris. Chairs, a sofa and a coffee table, John huddled them close to each other, on the other side of the room, near a fireplace.
‘What is happening?’ she cried.
He went to her, held her in his arms and she wept onto his shoulder.
He led her across and sat her down on the sofa, then went into the kitchen, made her some tea and as she sighed and sipped the hot beverage, he got to work moving the rubble away. He could’ve waited until morning, but there were still a few more memories he needed to get out from beneath the debris. The closest door outside was near the kitchen. Opening this door led him to the back garden, then back to pick up more rubble. Virginia breathed slowly, calmer, but his mind still blazed with questions. How did this happen? Why? What else can go wrong in his house?
The physical exercise of picking up piles of junk, bricks, plaster and wood tired him out. It at least distracted him from his thoughts. Seeing Virginia somewhat at ease, sipping her tea, helped too. Shame about the picture though, only one they had left.
The front door heaved open, spilling blinding daylight into the dusty interior, then slammed shut. Eve ran past the hallway into the kitchen where John stood. His eyes widened, staring down at broken-down bits of the wall all over the living room and kitchen floor. When he wiped the sweat from his forehead, he almost dropped the sledgehammer in his other hand, shaking slightly.
‘It may be less stable than the assessor’s evaluation led on.’ He uttered with a boisterous tone. Was it a joke to him?
‘The house’s falling apart.’ Eve took a step forward, then stopped herself, her eyes wandering up, then down, ‘take it as a good lesson. Just because a house is cheap doesn’t mean—’
‘Come on Turtle, stop being a worrywart.’ John put his sledgehammer down, leaning its shaft against the kitchen counter.
‘Don’t call me “turtle”.’ Eve muttered, causing a smirk to appear on John’s lips.
‘The house will be fine, and it’ll be better when we finish it. Then we can flip it.’
‘I don’t like this.’ she took a step back.
The front door opened wide.
‘Who’s that?’ Eve’s voice strained as her words forced themselves through a gasp.
John jumped over the rubble and through the hallway, passing under the doorway out to the front porch. A wide tree stump of some once tall oak protruded to the right of the little path to the pavement, on the wilderness of tall grass and weeds making up the front lawn. The blistering sun shone up in the sky, air still and stale. No sign of anyone who could’ve opened their door. Drilling noise echoed in far away, but otherwise, the street remained dead. Yet despite it being the middle of August, with little to no clouds, a frosty chill bit his skin.
‘John!’ Eve screamed from inside. Without any hesitation, no further consideration, he ran back inside, inside a damn waste of investment, slamming the door behind him.
Debris in the living room and the kitchen? Gone, cleared.
‘What happened?’ but Eve shook her head in response and ran up to him.
‘I don’t want to be here.’
John took her under his arm and they walked towards the front door. He tried opening it but couldn’t. Locked. He didn’t lock it.