Some people swore that the house was haunted. Others scoffed during broad daylight but refused nevertheless to walk within a block of the house after twilight.
“It’s the wind making those noises,” some asserted. “Stray animals.” “Vagrants.” “Maybe some rotten kids foolin’ around to try to scare folks.” “You know, the police really should go in there and see what’s going on.”
Police Chief Vasquez, for his part, declined on the basis that it wasn’t illegal for an old building to make odd noises. He directed people to the zoning commission.
Chairman Hector Scateliff said his hands were tied. The house had an owner in another state who paid the taxes and coincidentally contracted with Scateliff Landscaping to keep the grass trimmed.
So concerned citizens went to the city commission. The commissioners declined to second-guess their police chief and zoning board and dropped the matter. Property values near the old house remained low, and the weird noises and flashing lights continued.
Three civic-minded gentlemen crept to the house in the middle of a night and threw half a dozen Molotov cocktails through the windows. The structure became a huge torch even as the men ran away. The fire company responded and Chief Yu decided to let the old nuisance burn.
The fire raged through the night, but the house neither charred nor fell. The firefighters exchanged worried glances with their chief. In the morning, there was a slight smoky smell near the still-standing structure.
The frightened people of the town turned next to their churches. The men and women of the cloth gathered in a circle around the house and assailed heaven with prayers about the abode. Normally when a house survives an inferno intact it’s considered a miracle, so none of them could nail down precisely what they were praying for. Perhaps that was why there was no reprieve from the strangeness in the following days.
A week later, a mob slowly trickled together during the sunny Saturday afternoon. Half a dozen people just staring at the house became two dozen became a hundred and so on. Off-meter chants were begun and taken up about bulldozing the house. Impromptu speeches were made and voices cheered.
One man, a stranger, pushed his way through the throng to stand on the front steps.
“Is there a problem?” he called. The answer was incoherent but solidly in the affirmative.
Police Chief Vasquez took a few steps toward the man. “And you are, sir?”
“I am the owner of this house.”
Vasquez nodded politely at the man and filled him in on the strange noises and the fire and the prayers. Vasquez footnoted the quickly quashed smile that tugged at the man’s lips when he listened about the prayer service.
“Let me see what I can do,” the man told the crowd. He walked in without unlocking the door and it closed behind him.
The skies above the house rapidly darkened and nocturnal insects awoke. The crowd huddled together.
Blood-red light poured from every window and portal of the house as though it were glad to be leaving. A booming voice was heard; it was a shout that came from a throat seared by eons of inhaling sulfur.
“I want it quiet in here from now on!”
The last of the red light fled and the skies cleared.
The man stepped out of the house, the door closing behind him of its own accord.
“I don’t believe you’ll have any further trouble,” he announced. The crowd parted widely to let him pass by and leave.
Nothing was ever the same again after that.
* * *
Author’s note: This is the story I mentioned in this post. Somehow, I didn’t win the contest. Yeah, I don’t understand it either. I envision Jack Nicholson playing the role of the house owner when this becomes a very short major motion picture.