The whole house was empty. It echoed with every footstep and howled with every breath. It was dormant, lifeless and cold, and now it was Caesar’s home. The dark hardwood floors were scratched and dull, the walls were peeling away from crumbling plaster. Caesar’s mother said the place had character, his father called it a fixer-upper; Caesar called it a death trap.
The sun had already begun to set when they arrived, and now the blood red sky was turning black. To make matters worse, none of the lights worked. Or, more specifically, someone had broken in and smashed all of the light bulbs, so now he and his mother were roaming around the house with halved potatoes and boxes of bulbs that they had picked up at the nearest gas station.
As Caesar made his way through the house, every room became just a little darker than the last. He’d become anxious every time he climbed onto his stool and raise the potato to the jagged glass of the broken bulb still stuck within the socket, wondering if this would be his last room; if this socket would be live; if this potato would be the tool that led him to his premature demise.
The only thing that kept him going was the potato itself. A part of him wondered what would happen if he was electrocuted. Would the movers smell the acrid scent of burning flesh, or would it be more like fresh-cooked fries?
“Mom!” yelled Caesar as he jumped from the stool he was standing on and dropped an empty box on the floor. “I’m out of bulbs, are we done yet?”
Caesar exited the room he was in and peered down the dimly lit hallway. The bulbs they had bought were cheap and cast an eerie orange glow throughout the house. “Mom?” he asked again, feeling a chill creep across the back of his neck.
The lights flickered and hummed, casting strange, human-like shapes across all of the walls. The kind of shadows you’d only expect to see in a dream or perhaps a horror movie. Caesar didn’t like this house. The longer he was in it, the weirder he felt inside.
“Mom?” he asked again and walked toward the stairs. “Mom, you there? Dad?”
The voice was unfamiliar; soft, like a distant whisper. “Mom?” Caesar asked again as he turned toward the voice and slowly walked down to the end of the hall. He could hear footsteps coming from behind the door of his parents’ bedroom.
“Caesar?” Called his mother from the other end of the hall.
Caesar stopped dead in his tracks and slowly turned his head to look over his shoulder. His mother was standing near the stairs carrying a small stepladder. “I,” Caesar looked back at the closed door. “Who’s in your room?”
“We’re all downstairs, Hun,” said Caesar’s mom as she leaned the stepladder against the wall.
“But I thought I heard someone.” Caesar moved closer to the door and reached for the handle. “If it’s a ghost,” he said looking back at his mom, “you better come running,” he warned as he pushed open the door.
The solid wood door swung open and slammed against the wall and Caesar stepped inside to take a closer look. The room was empty, window shut tight, and the closet door was closed.
“Well, any ghosts?” asked Caesar’s mom, Karen, as she crept up behind him in the doorway.
“Nothing.” Caesar shrugged his shoulders and flicked on the light. “Completely empty.”
Caesar’s mother peeked her head inside the room and looked around. “Good,” she said, placing her hands on her son’s shoulders and steering him back out into the hall. “That means you can help me downstairs. The movers are ready to start bringing everything inside, so we’re in charge of pointing them in the right direction.”
“All right,” agreed Caesar. “But only if we get something to eat soon. I’m starving.”
“You’re in luck!” Caesar’s mom overtook him in the hall and went right for the stairs. “Your dad’s gone out to find a pizza place. You can’t move into a new home without sitting on the floor and eating a pizza straight from the box. It’s the law.”
“Awesome.” Caesar’s stomach growled at the thought.
Later that night, long after the movers had gone, Caesar lay in bed staring up at the unfamiliar ceiling. He’d never given a ceiling any thought before, but this one was creepy. There was a hairline crack in the paint that led from the light fixture all the way to the window. It branched out in even tinier cracks that made it look like an upside-down tree. Just like any other room, the paint was peeling in places. For some reason, though, it seemed worse in his room, in the dark.
Caesar rolled onto his side to try and get some sleep. He was so tired that he was starting to hear things again.
Caesar’s eyes opened wide and he clenched his grip into the pillow. A part of him wanted to reply to the freaky whispering in the dark, but he knew that if he acknowledged the freaky whispering in the dark then it’d be real. He wouldn’t be able to ignore it, to pretend that it wasn’t calling his name in the dark, at three ‘O’clock in the morning.
“Oh god,” the voice sounded closer and Caesar could have sworn he heard footsteps coming from the other side of the room.
His stomach knotted and he suddenly wished he hadn’t had that fourth slice of pizza. He wanted to roll over, to bury his head under the pillow, or even cower away under the bed, or better still, run down the hall and spend the night with his parents. That would do it. That would solve everything.
Unfortunately, thirteen year olds don’t sleep in their parents’ beds. It just doesn’t happen, and even if it did happen, his parent’s wouldn’t allow it. Besides, after learning about the birds and the bees in school when he was eight, and after connecting the dots with what his parents must have done to bring him into this world, sleeping in the same bed as Mom and Dad just felt wrong.
Caesar’s train of thought relapsed to terror. He could have sworn that the freaky whispering in the dark was doing its freaky whispering right into his ear. His skin felt cold and clammy, and his muscles were trembling against his bones. “Who’s there?” he forced himself to whisper back, praying to God that there was no reply, that he was hearing things, and that he was really alone.
“Wake up, Caesar…”
The voice was definitely there, and it was definitely directly overhead. Caesar didn’t know what to do. He tried to force himself to open his eyes, to roll over and see that it was only his best friend, Mark, playing a trick on him. But it couldn’t be Mark. Mark was back home. His real home. Miles and miles away. “What do you want?”
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