by Alan McCormick

Would you look at the house? Even from the agent pictures, it reeks damp and grubbiness: the green felt pool of carpet, the dirt tan of nicotine on the walls, the lopsided mock chandelier in the lounge. Here is a house that someone has died unhappily in: neglected, housebound and probably too weak to eat or cry out for help.

For the love of God, shut up you miserable bastard. It’s a house, and you have no right to pin any of your maudlin miserable nonsense onto it. Leave misery well alone: a lick of paint and it’ll be dandy.

Dandy? The house is a mausoleum and if you so much as consider viewing it, then we’re both surely dead.

Now there’s a good reason for me to ring the agent first thing tomorrow.

And so it was that Eamonn and Sue Leonard found themselves walking up the pathway to the house the next morning.

I told you. I can smell destitution and decay from here.

All I can smell is you. Now shush, here comes your man.

Mr. and Mrs. Leonard, as I live and breathe, is it you I see standing before me?

It is, and you know it is because we spoke on the phone only an hour ago.

I’m sorry, Mr. Coulson, my husband has a rare and aggressive form of dementia.

Isn’t that the worst kind, Mrs. Leonard? Well, I for one hope he makes a speedy recovery. Now, before we make our way in, I must tell you that you will not be the first to see it.

And we won’t be the last?

Ah, Mr. Leonard, please, I’m merely trying to say that there has been some interest already.

Well say it then, don’t try to say it.

There are other potential purchasers, one a family with strong links to the area.

Well, it’s always good to be connected.

Ignore him, Mr. Coulson, it’s just his way but we both know I’ll get my way in the end.

And Mrs. Leonard did get her way, and in a more meaningful way so did I. Allow me to introduce myself—no fanfare needed, a funeral procession will suffice: my rear extension is wide, my mouth cavernous, my appetite insatiable, for I am “The House.”

‘Reeked of damp,’ of unhappy deaths and decay observed the astute Mr. Leonard. Well, his death put an end to anymore of that kind of talk: a celebration of sorts, a climax reached with glass confetti raining down from the ceiling—the chandelier itself (he should have left it lopsided) pinning him like a stake through his head and onto the floor.

Where was the wife I hear you ask, his guide to direct him, to nag a certain degree of safety into his stubborn (as yet un-fractured) skull? Unlikely, she’d have made an appearance for he’d already buried her the day before under a cold clod of earth in the woefully unkempt garden; murdered her with a degree of irritation and a smidgen of mercy, for saying for the millionth time that the house was whispering to her at night to take off her clothes and run into the darkness screaming like a banshee (which she’d done on numerous occasions before).

I look upon it as marriage guidance, as benign intervention made on behalf of poor Mrs. Leonard. A conduit of her desire, she asked and he did as was requested: ‘For the love of God, kill me, Eamonn, put me out of my misery, I can’t breathe another day in this wretched house.’ Thwack! And her wish was granted.

And Mr. Coulson? He’s complicit with me, the sick bastard. A diary full of couples with the promise of a commission and the ghoul is happy. But if he should ever falter in his resolve he will find his way into a bricked up wall along with the other agents.

My desire is only for completion. And, as I speak, here stands another couple at my front door: a kitchen’s unearthed wire already breaking free at my skirting, the foundations of my soul loosened for a tremor that will surely come, those fragile roof slates edged just a little looser for that pick of wind, as—now, what‘s her name?

‘I love it already, Jack.’

‘I knew you would, Lilian.’

Ah, yes, as poor little Lilian steps back from the front door and looks up.

‘Cut her in two. Never seen the like of it,’ the startled policeman will be quoted as saying in the local paper.

In a picture accompanying the article, I’ll be smiling my breezy front door smile, a letterbox hint of tongue, the bright bulbs from the upstairs windows indicating activity: lights on, ready for business, let them in and keep them coming, I have rooms to occupy, and mouths to feed!

Oh, and what of Mr. Jack? Well, if you will go into a kitchen screaming like a madman, then you are unlikely to notice the wire snaking around your feet, carrying enough charge to arouse the departed and electrify the living.

Alan McCormick lives by the sea in Wicklow, Ireland. His fiction has won prizes and been widely published, including in Best British Short Stories, The Bridport and Fish Prize Anthologies, and Cōnfingō Magazine.