I received the life insurance payments last year.
My wife had died, struck down by a drunk driver. I'm not sure how I was able to continue living those nine months, but I know that the struggle was on breathing and moving and trying to avoid the crushing grief that welled up in pitiful sobs that made the struggle to breathe even more difficult.
We had maintained double policies on each of us as a plan for either of us to be self-sufficient in the event the other died. Some people might think three- quarters of a million dollars worth getting rid of your spouse, but for us, this was a matter of family concern. Sure, the expense took a good portion of what we would have saved, but the payoff gave me the bitter present of affording what we had dreamed of, together.
We had wanted to retire to a forgotten town where the real estate was cheap and the people few. Many people dream of big things; we dreamt of comfort and relaxation. Annette had agreed that a dying town would give us the peace and quiet that the big city never could. So with a full bank account, I went to fulfill our dreams.
Really, I think I came here to die.
The real estate lady was pleasant, and murmured her apologies for my loss. She showed me several homes that could not raise my interest. I didn't care for the small-town interest in the oak fad that had gone out of style in the early 1980s. I was shown a few homes where she bubbled over with high expectations, twirling in the living room and presenting me a view of an entertainment center.
Was I supposed to be impressed with someone else's particle-board laminated piece of furniture?
Out of frustration, I settled on a narrow two-story house that was overgrown with vegetation. Well, maybe I didn't settle. This house I sit in right now is what Annette would have picked, I am sure. Would she have considered it our dream house? No, not at all, but with what there was to choose from, this would have been it.
The first time I saw the house, pulling up in the agent's car, I was drawn to its loneliness. While there were houses on either side, the vegetation choked it so that only a small path through the waist-high iron gate allowed access. It was old; all the houses here are old. But I saw a kinship with my soul that had me choosing the house before I stepped foot in it. I know that sounds like something meant for a tale, but it's true, that's how it happened.
A funny smell assaulted me when I entered. A sickly sweet smell that reminded me of natural gas or very old pet stains. It was laid out in a jumble, not like the newer homes built in subdivisions where the floor plan has been survey-tested by a million people. Of course, in 1910, I doubt anyone took surveys on where they wanted their bedrooms.
The second floor held two bedrooms that I would never use. Fortunately, there was a door to the second floor stairwell that looked like a closet. I went up there when I bought the place. The door has remained closed, since.
The furnace and water heater were down in the basement. I did not like the basement.
My aversion to it wasn't due to any safety issue. The basement was fully enclosed with no exterior exits or windows. No, what I didn't like about it was what was down there. A clump of soiled sheets were left in one corner of the main basement. Back around the stairs was a wooden wall separating a small portion of the basement with a crude door set in the center. Don't ask me why there is a crude door on a strange wooden wall down in my basement. I couldn't tell you.
There is a latch on the wooden door and on first glance I got the impression it was meant to keep someone in. In that small room is a square iron door, about three feet off the ground, set into the cement of the back wall. It reminded me of an old furnace door, or the hatch to a crypt. The door was about the size of a coffin. I especially didn't like that door. The brainless agent just walked right up to it and opened it. The rusty squeal hurt my ears but I moved forward to see inside.
Apparently, someone had used it to burn something. Ashes filled the bottom of the crawl space. I did not like it. Just looking into the darkness of that space made me dizzy. I turned away and made my way up the stairs.
I knew that I would not be using the basement, so the strange area would not have to concern me. I took the house.
That was three months ago. Now, more than ever, I feel I am here to die.
My neighbors are old or quiet. During the daylight hours, I occasionally hear the sounds of life outside, and I am encouraged that mankind is the pinnacle of the food chain. I comfort myself with the knowledge that science explains everything and that smart-looking eggheads tell me on TV with a wag of their heads that there are no such things as ghosts. Yes, during the daylight, I am sure nothing hides in the shadows of my home.
The movers brought our belongings and stacked them around the house. I left the boxes where they were first set. I only dig into them if I need something. The memories of her things assault me in ways I cannot deal with.
All I cared about was setting up my computer and TV. During the day I try to forget my grief by doing things on the computer. The TV is a disappointment here. Even with cable, there is some kind of interference that distorts the picture. It appears to me as if another channel is coming through behind whatever channel I'm on. Reminds me of a bad antenna. It's really bad at night. I can see shapes of people coming through and it distracts me from what I'm watching.
At first I was leaving the TV on because I started having nightmares, but after a few times waking up in a panic, I started turning off the TV before I tried to go to sleep. The last few times it appeared as if someone was close up on the screen and looking at me in that channel behind the cable feed. It was very unnerving.
My nightmares were another story.
Maybe some other person wouldn't call these nightmares. I remember the first one, clearly. I was almost asleep, and beginning to wander in those random thoughts and visions that are typical just before total sleep. The air was cool in the bedroom and the TV was off. A tiny shred of light came from the street lamp outside. How it got through all the vegetation and the cheap blinds, I don't know.
I felt her then. A woman. I wasn't sure I was seeing her or dreaming her, but she had very dark hair, curly and soft. For a brief second, I thought it was Annette. But Annette had been short and skinny. This woman was tall. Her curves oozed sensuality. She was wearing a black lace bra and panties. She wore black stockings supported by black garters. She leaned close over me and my nostrils filled with her scent. Jasmine, yes. Sometimes I think lilac, but it was definitely jasmine.
As she leaned over me, I moaned and turned slightly. I wanted to feel her. Annette melted from my mind and an ache grew within me that spoke of forgotten longing. My arms wanted to reach up. My back began to arch, and then I awoke. To nothing. The tears came then and I think I was at my closest to death. The misery was so sharp and painful that death would certainly have been a release.
There was nothing left for me. I had nothing to look forward to. We had not had time to have children, and living here pretending to be fulfilling our dreams was the cruelest of jokes. We thought we had been smart having those double life policies on each other, but we had been fools.
By day, as days turned into weeks, I would sit at my computer, scanning the news, reading about history and science. I would watch the day dim from my seat through the one window with the open blinds. Even the open blinds were a cruel joke in this house. I could let the light in all I wanted, but the windows couldn't be opened. Over the decades, people had painted so many coats of paint that not a single window in the house would open. All I could let in was the light. But even that didn't last.
Every day I would sit and experience the loss of light, until I was sitting in the dark. The only light came from my monitor. Then the house was all shadow. At least the front room also took light from the streetlamp outside, more so than the bedroom next to it behind all the vegetation.
At night, when it was dark, I would hear things. Usually, these would be outdoor sounds. I kept hearing someone walking outside my front door on the porch. But when I would look, no one would be there. Science tells me that such noises must have been the contraction of the porch as the cool settled in for the night. Same with the wall heater behind me. Strange noises would filter up through the heater from the basement, but I know that can all be explained away, too. At least I never heard noises from the second floor.
Science could even explain the bizarre occurrences with my TV each night. Without any warning, my TV would turn itself on every night at 2:27 am. Surely, someone was just getting home from a bar and sitting down to turn on the TV across the street or something. My TV was obviously on the same frequency. Of course, the house across the street was vacant, and had been unlived in for years. Someone had a super remote, somewhere.
My nightmares became disturbing and frequent, but I would forget most of them each time. When I was having them, though, I would remember. She would come to me after I had gotten into bed and started to drift off. I learned to wait until 2:30am before going to bed. I would go into the bedroom, turn off the TV with the strange second-channel apparitions looking at me, and settle down to sleep. No use going to bed before 2:27 when the TV would pop on with static and noise.
She would come in as I tossed fitfully. I would kick at the sheets and push at my pillow. I would feel the bed sink at my feet and I would grow still. I knew better than to waste my time to turn on the light - no one would be there. But the bed would shift and move as if someone - her - was climbing over me. Sometimes I would see her in her black lingerie. Sometimes I could smell her jasmine fragrance. Each time, I would sigh and feel the stir of an erection. My thighs would clench with an aching need and her perfume would make me dizzy and delirious.
The first time was wonderful. She pulled back the sheets and pulled my underwear down. Her mouth was cool velvet as she slid her lips down my aching member. My moans grew feverish as she worked my erection with the most sensual blowjob I have ever had. The feel of her tongue and the cool air on the wet parts of my shaft ran tickles of lust up and down my extremities. Her hair brushed my thighs and my gasps became labored.
But each time after that, I would become filled, not with passion and the need to cum, but with dread.
The anniversary of Annette's death was nothing to be celebrated. All day long I cried. I finally unpacked her picture and set it on the box next to my bed. Exhausted, I went to bed early and was awakened at 2:27 by the TV. I awoke in terror of some unseen thing, but realized it was the stupid TV. I fumbled for the remote and tried to hit the power button. For some reason, I kept hitting the volume. The static hiss rose and rose as I frantically mashed the power button. With a curse, I got out of bed and went to turn on the light.
Turning back to the TV with the remote firmly in hand and my finger on the red power button, I froze. There was a face looking at me in that channel distortion. It filled the screen. I noted that I could see eyes, this time, before my finger bruised itself on the power button. Adrenaline pumped through me and sweat broke out on my face.
I went into the small bathroom and washed my face to calm myself. I looked pretty bad in the mirror. Back in the bedroom, I gave one small fleeting glance at Annette's picture on the box by the bed. It was enough to cause me to double over in grief. The grief had lessened over time, but sometimes it came back, really hard. Tonight was bad.
Back in bed, I started to drift off again. But a sense of longing and dread filled me as the scent of jasmine filled my nose. The foot of the bed sunk and I moaned in need. Reaching blindly, I flung back the sheets to reveal my nakedness. I had stopped wearing underwear to bed a few weeks back. Her mouth descended on my throbbing shaft and I moaned in relief. Up and down, her head moved over my aching shaft, bringing pleasure and increasing the frustration within me.
Without conscious thought, I realized I had reached over and placed Annette's picture face down.
The woman in black lingerie removed her mouth and shifted around on the bed. Something black and lacy hung in front of my face. Her panties. I moaned in encouragement as she positioned herself over me. I could see her very feminine hips and her naked vagina poised over my straining shaft. I wanted to sink it into her so bad, to feel her warmth and to shoot my sperm deep into her. My hands reached for her hips. I could feel her soft skin and the garters.
Her hips lowered until I felt her wetness touch the head of my penis. She teased me there, for a moment, until I was moaning loudly in the darkness. I wanted to fuck her so bad. I wanted to feel what I had been missing this past year. With a deliberate push downwards, the woman sank herself onto my painful erection. Her heat burned down onto me as she fucked downwards.
A loud cry escaped me that was a mixture of pleasure and grief. Tears streamed down the sides of my head as the woman seemed to know exactly how to screw to please me. Her vaginal canal was hot and welcoming. It gripped my penis perfectly from top to bottom and milked it with convulsing spasms. She went from tip to root in eager motions. I could not believe how deep I was getting.
My orgasm built like the ascent of a roller coaster - slow, but powerful. I remembered my orgasms being faster in the build-up. This was agonizing. It kept building and building, the pressure on my insides getting worse by the second. The need to blast my sperm into her almost made me physically ill. She mashed her pussy down over my penis and her inner canal started making milking motions. The tickle to cum became pain and my breathing became labored. Spots swam before my eyes and then the sperm exploded out of me and deep into her. I could feel the long squirts as convulsions swept over me. I teetered on the edge of what I don't know as my orgasm and ejaculation continued until my balls literally hurt with the act of pushing sperm.
I was drained, spent, wasted. I felt as if my limbs were made of lead. But the woman wasn't done. she pulled off and knelt over me, her mouth descending on my numb member. My world was spinning and I felt as if I were off-balance. She stroked her mouth over me a few times, and then I felt something I had never felt from her. Her teeth raked my shaft and sent shivers up my body. But then, needle-like teeth sank into my penis and pain ripped through me.
With a shriek of pain, I leapt out of bed. The sound of rustling leather swept from the bed and I heard a strange giggle. I ignored all that. I was in the bathroom, quivering in pain. I flicked on the light and looked down to see a bloody mess. There were holes around the middle of my shaft, oozing blood.
"No!" This couldn't be happening. Not the way I thought. I had done this to myself, surely. I had masturbated myself and then dug holes with my fingernails. Happens all the time on those shows where science debunks these kinds of things. I looked at my hand; it was bloody. So I had done it to myself.
But then I saw that my fingernails had no blood in them.
"Must be psychosomatic," I told myself, mimicking the scientist debunkers.
A sound drifted up from the vent in the bathroom that sent chills up my spine. A giggle, then a metallic squeal, followed by a firm clanging sound.
Dread filled me. The only thing that could make that sound was the weird iron door in the basement.
"No way," I said in a shaking voice. "No way!"
I walked on unsteady legs into the bedroom.
"No way!" I shouted. Anger lapped at the edges of the fear. I could not accept what I knew to be unreal. I shrugged into my pants as fast as I could, but gingerly when it came to covering my bloody penis.
I went from room to room turning on all the lights. The house was empty except for me and the boxes. My anger grew and my certainty that my minds was at fault. I knew I had to face my fear.
"There's nothing here." I approached the door to the basement. "Nothing."
I unlatched the door and looked down the steps as the fear welled back up inside me. The only way to defeat the fear was to expose it, face it, and realize it was all in my mind. I had to do this.
Despite the waves of fear coming at me, I firmly stepped down the stairs. I almost ran down them. My skin crawled as I called out to the basement, "there is nothing here!"
At the foot of the stairs, I reached up and pulled the light string. Light pushed at the darkness in the basement. I repeated my claim with a gasping voice. The light swung above me. The only thing down here was the discarded sheet in the corner.
I walked over to it in anger and kicked it several times. I pulled at it with my foot and scraped it away from the wall.
"See? Nothing here!" I gritted through clenched teeth. The sheet was old and soiled. Curious brown stains blotted it in areas.
A tapping behind me turned me around. The heater? I was facing the strange wooden door. It was closed. I did not remember ever closing it. Panic welled back up in me in a constant fight against my anger. Spots swam before my eyes. I was having trouble breathing.
No! I was going to show myself there was no reason to fear. There were no ghosts in this house; I didn't believe in them. Science had proven them to be phony, over and over again. I strode to the wooden door and flung it open as I repeated to myself in a loud voice that nothing was there.
The room was empty, except for the iron door.
"See?" I asked myself as my scalp literally crawled. "Nothing."
Yet the fear still assaulted me as I knew I would have to open the iron door to finish it. I forced myself forward. Laughter wanted to bubble out of me. I was on the edge of hysteria.
"Nothing! Nothing! Nothing!" I wheezed as fear choked my throat. My vision pulsed with the racing of my heart. I hauled on the iron door and pulled it open on protesting hinges.
My eyes rolled in my head as I thrust my head into the opening and croaked, "nothing!"
Only ashes lay in that space. The darkness in the back seemed to laugh at me. The fear was not gone. The light couldn't reach far enough to expose the back wall, but I could see it dimly. To touch that wall would mean I had reached the limit of my fear and confronted it. I would know then that there was truly nothing here but unfounded fear. I clambered up into the hole, trying to scream, trying to breathe, desperate to end this. Ashes puffed up as I crawled. I reached a hand to the wall and I could feel something all around me.
My hand made contact with that shadowed wall. "Nothing..."
The iron door slammed shut with inhuman force and darkness smothered me.