“It’s beautiful,” she whispered.
“It’s not even a renovator’s delight.” Stefan looked at the shabby old house.
“I know it’s old, but there’s nothing a new coat of paint wouldn’t put right.” She slipped an arm through his.
“Pandy, it’s a wreck.” Stefan turned to walk away but Pandora pulled him back.
“Please Stef. Just come and take a look inside. I’ve got the key.” She held up a rather antiquated key and jiggled it.
“You didn’t. Tell me you didn’t.” He raised an eyebrow and shook his head. She’s hopeless, but that’s why I love her.
“The Agent said it was going cheap.”
She took hold of his hand. The key stiff at first, eventually turned in the heavy lock and the door creaked open.
Unable to say no to his wife, they moved in some two months later.
* * *
Six months later:
“Get up,” he slapped his wife on the bottom as she drew the covers up tighter around her chin.
“What’s the time?”
“It’s 9.30am and breakfast awaits you. Come on, we have to go into town to get more paint, if you want the decorating to be finished.”
Stefan walked out to the landing and down the stairs. This was Pandora’s favourite part of the house. She’d fallen in love with the sweeping staircase and would move up the steps one at a time letting her hand brush across the wall as she went. The wall, was the last area left to paint and he’d been putting it off, for as long as possible.
He hadn’t felt comfortable in this house since they moved in, but it was on the staircase that he felt the most uncomfortable. It always felt several degrees colder than the rest of the house. He shivered as he continued to move down it.
He didn’t know if he imagined it but as he moved around the house, he thought he could hear whispering. He mentioned it to Pandora, but she just looked at him and laughed. He always heard the whispering when on the stairs. This morning he thought he heard the words, ‘she’s mine,’ as though someone had breathed them into his ear. The hairs on the back of his neck bristled and he leapt down two steps at a time.
Breakfast finished he brought their coats to the kitchen. “You’ll need this. It’s cold outside.”
He put on his coat, walked to the front door, stepped outside and carried on towards the car. Pandora followed in his footsteps, but as she reached the door it slammed in her face.
Stefan swung around when he heard it bang close. “If you didn’t want to come, you just had to say so,” he shouted.
Pandora peered through the window. She knew he wouldn’t understand about the house and her. She didn’t fully understand it herself. So she just raised a hand and waved.
She’s changed since we’ve moved in. I’m beginning to hate this house. The car and the wheels screeched as he drove off.
Pandora decided to get the wall ready for painting. She carried the bucket halfway up the stairs and started to wash it. But something made her drop the sponge and press her ear against the cool surface. Closing her eyes she listened to the voice within the wall whisper to her. When she opened her eyes again, Stefan was shaking her.
“Pandy! My god, you feel like ice. What happened?” He pulled her to him.
“Happened? Nothing.” She shrugged off his hands, her eyes cold. She brushed past him and walked down the stairs.
Stefan followed her, but as he did, the air seemed to get colder and the whispering echoed all around him. ‘She’s mine, mine…’
He caught up with her in the kitchen. “Didn’t you feel how cold it was up there?”
“I think we should sell and get out of here.” He said, slinging his coat around the chair.
“Shush, it’ll hear you. You shouldn’t say that, the house won’t like it.”
Stefan didn’t know whether they were both loosing their minds. She seemed to talk about the house like it was alive. Then there was the whispering only he could hear. He saw the strange look on her face. It’s this blasted house, she’s obsessed with it. I need to get her away. “I’ll finish the wall, but then we need to talk.”
Stefan began painting, starting almost at the top of the stairs. He was quarter way up the wall, when the whispering began. It sounded like it was coming from inside the wall. The temperature had dropped several degrees. As he pressed his ear against the flaking paintwork, he noticed how his breath hung in the air like fog. He pulled away, huffed out a couple more breaths and watched as they drifted like smokey clouds into the atmosphere. He wondered if a window was open and glanced around. None were. He shivered.
Pull yourself together, it’s nothing.
He propped the ladder up and climbing to the top he began to paint. He’d only applied a couple of strokes when out of the wall a face pressed itself hard against the plaster, stretching it like a rubber sheet across its features. Two hands appeared and shoved the ladder.
Pandora ran out when she heard the crash and saw her husband’s crumpled body on the hall floor. His neck was twisted and a look of horror was in his eyes.
She glanced up at the wall.
“It heard you Stef,” she whispered. “The house won’t let me leave.”