A Strange House
He’d long pondered his neighbor’s decision not to enter the house. It was a decent home from where he was standing, a place many would give their lives to own.
An overpowering stench overwhelmed him as he pushed the door open. Every step he took met resistance in the name of rancid, sticky trash. He was now sure the house was inhabitable. But he didn’t know just how much.
A Watchful Neighbor
But for Liam Burns, stepping into that house had been a matter of being a good neighbor. He’d lived across the street from Rachel for a few years, even though they didn’t know each other well.
She’d retired a few years ago and lived alone in her car outside her house. But each time he passed her place, he wished he’d understand her story more. Little did he know that they would strike up a friendship very soon.
She Owned a Home— But Lived in Her Car
Liam’s curiosity had ignited the moment he realized Rachel spent her nights in her car instead of the beautiful house up her driveway. He’d never been one to judge people on their lifestyle choices.
But seeing Rachel sleep in her car every day made her step up to investigate. He had no idea it had been weeks since she last stepped into her home.
A Drastic Lifestyle Change
Liam made an effort to check on Rachel every time he passed by her car. He’d gently knock on her window, saying hello before proceeding with his day.
Sometimes, he’d strike up a short conversation with her, slowly trying to figure out why she wouldn’t live inside her house. Her situation saddened him. But no matter how deep he dug, she wouldn’t reveal why she’d made such a drastic lifestyle change.
But each time Liam walked by her car, he could tell she was embarrassed by the living situation. But he didn’t see a reason why her case should make her feel this way.
As far as he saw, she was a homeowner with a car under her name. Although she’d retired a while back, she seemed to have her life in a good place. Or so he thought.
A Close Study
Driven by his ever-growing curiosity, Liam decided to investigate further. He started studying the house, noticing things he’d missed before. A week of scrutinizing every aspect of the house revealed something terribly wrong.
The house was in ill repair, with the paint chapped and windows covered in dirt. The grass had started growing wildly, and the bushes were getting out of control. Seeing all this, Liam concluded that perhaps Rachel only needed a helping hand to get things back in order.
A Broken Window
Among the most obvious signs that everything had gotten out of control was a broken window at the top of the house. Liam’s first thought was that a large animal had broken into the house.
He wondered if this animal was still there. It would make sense why Rachel had vacated the premises, leaving it to collect dust for months. But what he’d find inside would be far more dangerous than any animal he had in mind.
One day, Liam noticed Rachel looked particularly distraught. He’d picked up on the sounds of her crying as he walked by her car and decided to check up on her.
A glance into her vehicle revealed she was searching through a large plastic bag in her backseat. “Are you okay?” Liam asked her after a quick greeting. Three words from her would finally put an end to the mystery surrounding her home.
Life In A Car
In the time Liam had been walking past Rachel’s car, he’d noted that she usually had all the necessary things to survive away from her house. From blankets, toiletries, and Waffle House coupons, she seemed to be handling everything pretty well.
But she didn’t have anything sentimental in her possession, which made sense because her house was just a few feet away. But this fact only made everything seem stranger.
Her typical routine usually saw her walk off to the local fitness center to work out, clean up afterward, and use the bathroom.
She’d then get food from the local Waffle House before returning to sleep in her car and look over her property. Seeing her live this way was sad, mainly because her car, badly kept as her house, had stopped running.
She’d Misplaced Something
Liam watched as she rummaged through bag after bag, throwing clothes onto her passenger seat with tears in her eyes. Whatever she sought must have carried significant importance because she dug her face into her hands as she sobbed.
“No, no, no,” she whimpered. She seemed to be taking a mental count of what she had with her or trying to retrace her steps. “Where did I put it?”
Her eyes slowly rose, settling on the house to her side. Her face lost its color as her lips parted and her shoulders drooped. “It’s inside,” she said, her tears doubling.
Liam watched silently, feeling awkward that he’d infringed on her privacy like this. But in watching, his heart had softened as he imagined her pain.
What was she searching for that had gotten her this troubled, and why did she pale at the thought of it being inside the house?
A Daunting Realization
“It’s in the house,” Rachel repeated, with tears in her eyes. “I left it in the house!” “Mrs. Patterson, are you okay?” Liam finally broke his silence. He’d noted the fear coursing through her veins, seeing that the thought of stepping into the house had rendered her frozen.
“Do you need anything from the house?” Liam asked. “I’ll be happy to grab it for you.” He saw this as a chance to put all this mystery to rest finally.
Heading For The House
For the past few months, Liam wondered why Rachel never stepped into her house. What was in there that she wanted to escape from? He asked her what she was looking for, and she revealed that it was a photo of her late parents.
That’s all Liam needed to know. He turned on his heels, heading for the house. He would uncover whatever secrets it held. But he had no clue that his life would be in danger the moment he opened the front door.
A Sense Of Foreboding
Liam started toward the house. But the closer he got to it, the more sinister it looked. Its beauty shriveled up close, bringing with it a sense of foreboding.
The once bright colors turned pallid, the woods looked rotten, and the metals rusted. But this was just the start. A look into the window showed why Rachel had been afraid to step into the premises.
Was This A Mistake?
The house was littered with piles of garbage. From where Liam stood, he could pick out mountains of clothes and papers. As he got closer, a displeasing smell lingered about his nose. He ate back the urge to hurl and neared.
Liam opened the front door and had to move immediately as piles of trash fell at his feet. The door had been the only thing holding the garbage in place, stopping it from flooding the lawn. Did he make a mistake by letting his curiosity get the best of him?
A Foul Stench
A hot foul stench befell Liam the moment he opened the door. He choked out a cough, trying his best not to cover his nose as a sign of respect to Rachel, who was undoubtedly watching him from behind.
No one knew she’d not stepped into this place for months. She’d been avoiding it, and with good reason. Liam was about to find out why.
Liam knew he was able-bodied and ready to face whatever terror lurked inside the house. He’d had his fair share of physical fights and could hold his own in most altercations.
One look at the garbage had convinced him that whatever he was up against wasn’t something to scoff at. But he had no clue that the only solution to all this would be letting the house burn down.
It Was Hard to Breathe in the House
Liam looked around, ready to start his search. He knew he’d be spending considerable time looking for the photo. But he had no clue it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Regardless, he squared his shoulders and took his first step into the building. Sheets of paper and candy wrappers crunched under his feet. If only he knew his life was already in danger.
Trying To Help
Liam was keen to find Rachel’s photo. He’d never been one to bear the sight of a person in distress and would do anything to solve their issues.
With Rachel, the solution was presenting this photo she so desperately needed. It was by sheer luck that achieving this goal perfectly aligned with Liam’s motives of discovering the truth behind the house.
Can’t Be Here Long
Liam started looking around, his nose hidden behind the crook of his elbow while his free hand pushed the garbage out of his path. As much as he wanted to help Rachel, he was also realizing that he couldn’t be here long.
The stench was burrowing deep into his being, goring his throat and lungs as it went. He started coughing, his eyes watering. What was happening?
A Terrible Mistake
With every minute Liam spent in the house, he realized what a terrible mistake he’d made. Every inch of the living room was covered in garbage. He walked past the kitchen, finally understanding where the foul smell was coming from. Or so he thought.
Rachel had left dirty dishes and pots in the sink when she last left the house. That was the source of the stench. Liam covered his nose as he neared, unaware that his life was in immediate danger.
No One Has Been Here
It was quickly becoming apparent that it had been long since anyone had been here. The state of the house was a good indication of this. Liam wondered how Rachel could let things get to this level.
He tried to understand things from her perspective. Was she having difficulty getting things done because of her old age, or was it something more sinister?
His Body Is Changing
Liam passed by the kitchen, knowing he couldn’t be here long. His lungs were already clogged up, his throat scratchy, and his eyes constantly tearing.
He couldn’t stop clearing his throat and wiping his nose. He needed to find the photo as fast as possible and leave. He should have known that his body was already changing.
Anything Is Better Than This
Every room Liam passed through looked like the last he’d just left. Heaps of garbage piled to the ceiling, some wet and gooey and others dusty with their color faded.
The smell didn’t relent, even though he was already away from the kitchen. Suddenly, Rachel living in her car didn’t seem that bad. Any other place, even a car, was better than this house.
If Liam expected to find Rachel’s photo, he would have to work faster. He’d have to start somewhere. So, he picked the biggest bedroom, hoping it was Rachel’s, and dove right in.
He combed through papers and clothes, through old trophies and plaques. He hoped he wouldn’t be here for long, unaware of what he was about to uncover.
A Hidden Place
In his search of the house, Liam was certain that the bad smell was coming from the kitchen. But unknown to him, a massive chunk of it came from a different, hidden place.
Although he didn’t know it, going to Rachel’s room had gotten him closer to this place. But it had also moved him closer to the danger that would threaten to take not only his life but the life of everyone in the neighborhood.
After thirty minutes of combing through piles of papers and finding nothing significant, Liam switched his attention to a different part of the room.
More mountains of papers and magazines awaited his scrutiny, and he found himself sighing as he moved closer to them. Without a wasted thought, he continued his search through the relics.
An Old Book
It wasn’t long before Liam happened upon an old book that had been by his side all this while. He’d been setting aside a pile of files when his sight settled on it.
Leaning over, he reached for it, quickly opening it. “A picture album,” he whispered as relief washed over him. He opened the pages, quickly going through the photos. If Rachel’s photo did truly exist, it would be here.
With renewed vigor, Liam continued his search. He flipped through page after page, seeing Rachel and the house through the years. He learned she’d had a child in her younger years, although he couldn’t see any pictures of them as an adult.
He also learned that she’d truly loved her husband. She looked at him with love and longing in each of their pictures. That’s when Liam knew what he needed to do.
He’s Taking The Album
Although he was yet to find Rachel’s photo, Liam knew he needed to get this photo album to her. He couldn’t understand why she’d chosen to leave it behind.
He also imagined how distraught she’d be if she remembered she’d left it in the house. This place was difficult to climb through for any able-bodied person, let alone someone who was quickly reaching old age.
He Finds It
It took Liam a few minutes to find the photo he’d been looking for. It was a vintage wedding photo of what had to be Rachel’s mom and dad.
The photo had to be from the late 1930s, judging from Rachel’s parents’ clothes and the cars around them. With the album in tow, Liam turned around to leave. But his heart sank at what he found waiting for him.
Liam didn’t know how he’d not seen it before. A cold chill ran up his spine as fear settled in the pit of his stomach. Standing right before him was an old decrepit bookshelf.
Someone had pulled it to the side, revealing a dark compartment behind it that echoed with wind and momentarily released an even worse smell than what had been there in the kitchen.
Is This The Reason She Fears Coming Here?
Liam took a step back as he begged his thundering heart to calm down. He’d seen enough movies to know that something terrible lurked within the hole behind that bookshelf.
But he also knew he couldn’t leave without finding out where the hole led. Was it the reason Rachel feared coming into the house and opted to live in her car instead?
Going To Investigate
Liam would never get this opportunity again. He armored himself with a layer of courage and curiosity and walked to the bookshelf.
The stench got worse as he neared, so bad that he cried out, biting back a curse as he wiped his eyes. “Oh my God,” he lamented, still unaware he was putting his life in danger.
Clearing The Way
Liam pushed the shelf out of the way, scraping against the garbage that had piled against it. He hurled as the stench fell on him with full force, no longer held back by the shelve.
When he turned back, he found a small door waiting for him. It led to an unknown darkness, a chamber full of secrets begging him to explore. But if Liam were smart, he’d turn back now.
The Dark Entrance
Liam was about to make a grave mistake. Something within him was begging him to step away from the gaping black entrance, but he wouldn’t listen.
This was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, a story to tell his friends on a Friday night while winding down from a busy week. Taking out his phone, he switched on the flashlight and took his first step forward. He would soon regret this decision.
As Liam neared the entrance, questions started racing through his mind. Why had Rachel sealed this place away, using a bookshelf to hide it?
What had she left inside that smelled so bad? As he got closer, he remembered the photo of Rachel’s child, recalling that he’d never seen them as an adult. He didn’t even find their photo as a teenager.
No Stopping Now
Liam braked, dread washing over him. The dark entrance lorded over the space before him, seemingly daring him to come closer. He’d already gotten this far; why stop now?
He took a deep breath, immediately regretting the decision as the foul smells reached into his lungs, wrecking everything in its way. “No going back now,” he chuckled nervously.
Don’t Give Up
Liam had already gotten this far. There was no use in giving up now. He continued forward, shining his phone’s light toward the door. He noticed that the space before him was filthy.
Sheets of cobwebs covered each corner he shone his light toward, ceiling dust constantly falling whenever the wind outside caressed the house. What was he getting himself into?
Turn On The Lights
Liam searched around the entrance until he found a light switch. He wasn’t sure the place had power but still flipped it on. A bright amber haze fell over the room, illuminating everything within.
Liam’s lips parted as he realized where he was. Unlike the rest of the house, this room was in better condition. But although Liam didn’t find any animal or human inside, he was already playing with fire by simply being here.
A Beautiful Room
The dread that had taken over Liam slowly washed away, and he found himself needing to explore the hidden room. Wonderful photos depicting Rachel’s old family life lined the walls.
Clearly, this wasn’t her room but a place dedicated to her. Someone had created this to honor their love for her, and it showed. But behind the beauty lay a danger that would force the fire department to burn the entire house down.
The room was filled with old toys and clothes. Liam looked at each, noticing the toys weren’t toys but miniature figures for tabletop games.
He recognized some as pieces from the popular tabletop games Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer 40k. He’d heard how expensive the miniatures were and was impressed to find them here. But they only added more mystery to the already bamboozling room.
He Finally Sees The Danger
Liam continued studying the miniatures, his mind lost in their beauty. But he stopped as his mind registered something else. Immediately to his side, a sickening sight took form.
The floor had thick black mold growing toward the wall and ceiling. Liam had thought it was an expensive carpet initially. But now he realized he needed to run away as fast as possible.
A Dangerous Lifeform
Stachybotrys, or the black mold, which is known to be very hazardous to human health, can be deadly to be around. Liam realized the room was so humid that the fungi had started flaking off and spreading.
He covered his nose, stepping away from the mess. He quickly wiped the hand he’d been using to touch the miniature figures, seeing they were also contaminated.
This Is The Source
The sight and smell of the mold was a clear indication that Liam’s life was in danger. The putrid stench blanketing the house had originated from this room.
Liam could see that the floor and walls had extensive water damage, which is why the mold had taken root there. He wondered how long it had been festering without anyone to put a stop to it.
Liam had to leave the house immediately. He didn’t have the appropriate gear to protect his lungs and would surely end up in the emergency room if he spent a second longer here.
He hurried out of the room, the photo album in his grasp, as he wandered around dirty clothes and piles of papers. He couldn’t make it out of the daunting house fast enough.
Telling Her Truth
Outside, Liam handed the photo album to Rachel. He also told her what he’d found inside the room, telling her he needed to get his respiratory gear before he could delve back in.
Hearing the information about the mold, Rachel said, “I had no idea it had gotten so bad. I was sure it would die off in a few months.”
A Danger To The Neighborhood
But her prediction hadn’t come to pass. The mold had thrived in her absence, feeding off the heat and water in the room.
Liam was sure it had already spread to the other rooms and was looking for a way out of the house so it could infect other homes, his included. There was no way he would let that happen.
Calling In A Specialist
After a long conversation about the state of the house, Liam proposed they call in a specialist to assess the damage the mold had caused. Rachel agreed, and a fungi expert came in the next thirty minutes.
With Liam at his back, the specialist went into the house. He was appalled at the state of everything, saying it was among the key reasons the mold had festered. But what he’d find would have him calling the authorities immediately.
You see, there was a secret about the room that Liam was almost uncovering before the black mold spooked him away. As he followed the specialist, he realized that the mold did indeed grow all over the house.
Left unchecked for as long as it did, the mold had spread to the kitchen, hallway, and living room. It had grown under the garbage, which sadly meant one thing for poor Liam.
A Detailed Analysis
Liam would have to go to the hospital after being exposed to the mold for so long. The specialist also mentioned that this was a sub-species he’d never seen.
It grew more aggressively and seemed to pose a more potent danger than its regular counterpart. Even the specialist wasn’t sure he could eradicate it at this rate.
An Extreme Measure
After proper consideration, the specialist proposed Rachel demolishes the house. He discussed a few ways, each of which wouldn’t fully solve the mold problem.
But at the end of the discussion, he suggested setting the house on fire. This was the only solution to the matter that would ensure the fungi didn’t make it out. Would Rachel agree to this extreme measure?
Rachel sat quietly as she considered the implications of what the specialist had suggested. Burning down the house did truly seem like the best way to go.
But it would mean she’d lose everything she held dear. She’d lived here for ages and had watched the world change as decades passed. Could she let this place go because of a fungal invasion?
A Health Hazard
The specialist explained that the fungi were growing at an alarming rate. It was also more dangerous than anything he’d ever seen. There was no telling what it would do to the neighborhood if it went unchecked.
He even brought a few more experts to weigh in on the matter. One of them termed the fungi as “the worst he’d ever seen,” saying the only way forward would be to torch the house.
Eventually, Rachel agreed to have the house set on fire. So, Liam phoned the fire department, and a fire engine came in the next hour, its sirens blaring as the firefighters hopped off.
The first part of the demolition saw them bring out anything that could be salvaged. These included sentimental things that Rachel needed, like paintings and jewelry boxes, and a few pieces of furniture. As the day approached the afternoon, they got ready to start the fire.
Kill It With Fire
With everything set, the fire department set the house ablaze. They stood guard, ensuring the roaring flames didn’t leap to the other houses.
The entire neighborhood came to stand with Rachel, watching as her house, which had stood for close to six decades, succumbed to the inferno. As the lapping flames ate everything, a teary Rachel finally came clean about the hidden room.
The Truth About The Hidden Room
“It was my late husband’s game room,” she said. “He used to spend much of his time there, especially after we lost our daughter, Kimmy. He even taught me how to play Warhammer. The Dark Angels were his favorite legion.”
Wiping her eyes, she added, “I couldn’t bring myself to go in there after I lost him. I couldn’t bring myself to step into the house.” “I’m very sorry,” Liam said as he held her, finally understanding why the house looked the way it did. “It’s quite alright, dear,” Rachel said sweetly. “I think I needed this.”
For The Emperor
As they watched the flames devour the house, Liam held Rachel close. He didn’t reveal that with the specialist’s help, he’d salvaged the tabletop miniatures and was already having them disinfected.
He could tell they meant a lot to Rachel since they were among the only things reminding her of her late husband. He would honor his memory by presenting them back to her.
The fire died down in the wee hours of the morning. Rachel’s younger sister, who lived in the next town, came to take her, promising she’d care for her. She thanked Liam for always making Rachel feel loved and not alone.
A month later, Liam surprised them with the miniatures he’d saved from the house. He’d cleaned and had them repainted. Rachel cried tears of joy as she accepted them. She was looking healthier and happier. “Wanna learn how to play?” she asked Liam as she welcomed him into her new home.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.