Even with the natural beauty that surrounded her, and with the accomplishment of mapping out most of the garden to memory, something was bothering Chloe. She had a dream last night but couldn’t remember what it was about; and she couldn’t shake the strangest premonition that something terrible was about to happen. What she felt in the pit of her stomach lended a certain dourness to her otherwise carefree expedition and the feeling gnawed at the back of her mind like splinters, small and faint pricks of warning that flared up as quickly as they vanished.
It’s something about this house, she scratched, it’s like some invisible mist is sitting on top of it, like there’s always a patch of impenetrable shadow just on the periphery. What creatures could be waiting there? Giant spiders, Lovecraftian tentacles, maybe even a great pterodactyl…
A few days ago she’d been fine. She was anxious about moving, but the pictures of the house her father took filled her with excitement; ‘it looks like a great big mansion’, she remembered saying; and indeed, compared to their old house in the inner-city suburb, it was mansion-like. So why then these eerie feelings of strangeness and subtle oppression? As if the house was crooked, built on an incline. As if some unknown force always lurched near, waiting for its chance to burn her paper castles, fairy frogs, old kings, and people who lived happily ever after.
And why the nightmares? They made her afraid of the dark.
It never got dark in the city and quietness was something unheard of, but here in the countryside they were the stark reminders of a time before civilization; before electro lights and purring motors. Times when shadows held tales of magic and monsters; of malicious tricksters and missing children; of pure evil.
Tears began to form beneath her eyes; a melancholic longing for home had suddenly swelled in her heart. But this place was her new home after all, surely the shadows would wane and the foreignness would wither over time – it had to be believed.
A deep breath to collect herself. That morning, she awoke at the end of her parents’ bed, and while in those groggy stages of waking, she overheard them murmuring something about ‘Freaking out’ and ‘Getting used to the new house‘, she knew they were talking about her by the deliberate way in which they whispered. The uncertainty of the memory annoyed her.
A thistle pricked her finger. The twigs, grass, and stones she’d been subconsciously pawing at had come together to form a kind of makeshift figurine. It sat cradled in open palms and when she finally opened her eyes it shocked her. The figurine was repulsive. It stood humanoid in form with crude twig limbs, and it wore a crown of pebbled thorns. Immediately, flashes from last night’s nightmare flooded her imagination as well as that beautiful, tragic, dark wood wardrobe she discovered in the attic.
Her breathing became shallow as the effigy leered back at her with its mottled, soulless eyes, almost as if in delight of the uneasiness it caused. Strange, she thought, it almost looks like… Clutching the morbid thing with a force that broke the skin of her palm, she flung it as hard as she could into a nearby bush, brushing off a violent shiver before heading back to the kitchen. The dazzle of the house’s yellow paint stood brilliant against a clear blue sky.