The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 26
by Shane Migliavacca
The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief chapter 26 32 Maple Street
The house sat near the edge of town. Not far from a small Industrial park. Only a couple of the houses on Maple street appeared to be lived in currently. 32 wasn’t one of them. The white paint had weathered away in spots. Wind and snow had taken a toll on the shingles, leaving large spots where they’d been ripped off. The windows had been papered over from the inside, blocking any view of the interior. The chimney sagged, looking ready to come sliding down at a moment’s notice. The garage next to it was empty except for some old rusted tools. With no door to stop it and nobody to shovel it, snow had made its way into the garage. The concrete floor was cracked and broken in spots. With large jagged cracks.
Anne trudged through the knee-high snow. Circling around the house when she stopped. There behind the house she saw tracks in the snow, coming from and leading to the back porch. They trailed off into the wooded area in the backyard. She hadn’t been back here yet and Sam was waiting by the truck. Was somebody living here? Or perhaps squatting? Anne almost hollered to Sam to and stopped herself. If there was somebody inside it might alert them. Them who? Anne pictured a serial killer with a lair in the basement. Or maybe her stalker.
Leave, Anne thought. What could this house tell you that you don’t already know. She had a sister. Emily. Born before her and died when Anne would have been eleven. She had no memory of her sister. She’d come too far not to look inside.
There was the sound of someone coming around the side of the house. The same way Anne had come. She watched as their shadow fell over the snow as they neared the corner.
“What the hell’s going on back here?” Sam asked. Peeking around the corner. “Taking a pee?”
“No.” Anne pointed at the tracks. “Somebody might be in there.”
Sam inspected the tracks. “Could be local kids smoking dope, drinking beer or screwing. Or whoever lives here is really fucking lazy.”
“Maybe.” Anne had to admit, it made sense. More than the horrors she’d envisioned. She remembered reading something in the paper about people stealing copper out of abandoned houses. Made more sense than Jack The Ripper living in the basement.
Anne went up the steps. She had to see. Gently she knocked on the weather-beaten door. Flakes of paint dropping off with each knock. She’d tell Sam to go back to the truck and wait, but she’d be wasting her breath. She knew Sam wouldn’t listen.
When she was sure nobody had answered or was coming, Anne knocked again, with more force. This time the door opened slightly.
“Your just gonna go in?” Sam asked. Her eyes darting around.
“Stay out here. Cover me.”
“Cover you? Who am I, Cagney and Lacey?”
“Just let me know if somebody shows up, okay?”
“Wait a sec.” Sam did her best to run through the snow, headed towards the garage. Anne stood there on the porch, feeling exposed. Was she really just going to head into some abandoned house? One which she had no idea what was waiting for her. At this point in her life, she didn’t have much to hold her back. Luke was gone. Any feelings toward her mother were eroding the more she found out about her past. And her father? Her love and admiration for him was blemished with the fact that he knew about Emily as well. The only person she had, the only one that would miss her was Sam. If she died Anne thought, at least the pain would be gone.
She stepped off the porch and looked up at the house. She’d spent her first eleven years here. Yet looking at it she didn’t feel any connection to it. Her parents had bought it imagining a bright future here. Yet something had changed that. Something drove them away from 32 Maple Street. Emily. It all came back to her.
“Here.” Sam handed her something.
Anne looked down, it was a rusty green crowbar. “Thanks.” She felt it dirty her hands. Rubbing the griminess on to her pants. She went back up the steps, pushing the door open with the crowbar. She entered the kitchen. The black and white tiled floor was covered in dirt and dead leaves. The ceiling’s paint was chipping off in long strips, hanging down like spider legs. The bright yellow paint on the walls had long since faded to a dull shadow of its former self. Anne had seen the kitchen in one of the photos she’d found. A photo of her mother and grandmother standing together. A large clock with an owl behind them on the wall.
Out of curiosity Anne opened a few of the drawers. Empty except for a can opener. A knife would have been nice. A quick check of the first floor didn’t reveal too much. The fireplace had been used not too long ago. In fact, there were scorch marks on the wall and floor near it where a fire got out of control before being stopped. The living room floor was also littered with beer bottles. Graffiti covered the walls. Most of it nonsense words and people’s names. It was a stark contrast to the room that appeared in the photos. There it was so warm and cozy looking. A place for a family to gather. Now nothing more than a place to drink some booze.
The downstairs bathroom was an utter mess. The toilet and sink were smashed. And the old tub’s interior had dark stains in it. She didn’t even want to imagine what had left those. Satisfied there was nothing else downstairs she headed up.
The upstairs bathroom was in no better shape. The other rooms were all bare save for the front room. The door to which was shut. Hesitantly, Anne reached for the door knob. A shudder ran up her arm as she gripped the cold metal of the door knob. A memory gripped her. Standing outside this door, looking up at it. Pounding her fists on it. Tears in her eyes.
“Give it back! Give it back!”
“Give it back.” Anne said.
She turned the knob, pushing the door open. Inside the room had the same wood paneling as the other bedroom. A beer bottle rolled across the floor. Set in motion by the door. Sloshing its contents on the bare wood floor. The windows were all papered over here same as the other rooms. Sitting in the center of the room was a ripped and badly stained blue mattress. A stack of newspapers and magazines sat next to it. Crumpled up on top of the mattress was an old canvas tarp.
“You the shiny lady?” A voice whispered.
Anne spun around to see a man huddled in the open closet of the bedroom. His hair was long, black and many of the strands appeared gnarled. His face was covered by a thick black beard with bits of white and gray showing. His eyes were sunken and bloodshot. Heavy bags hung under them.
Anne choked back a gasp, stepping back, she brought up the crowbar.
The man blinked. Squinting his sad eyes. “No. Not her.”
“No.” Anne managed.
“Only the shiny lady is allowed here.” He stood. He wore a ripped jacket, dirty brown jacket. His jeans were caked in dried mud and torn in spots. His sneakers had large holes in the sides and the laces hung over the sides. Untied and shredded. In his hand was a piece of rebar. “Leave.”
Anne held up the crowbar. “I will. I just want to look around. Then I’ll go. Okay?”
He stared at her slack jawed for a minute before speaking. “Yes.”
Anne wasn’t sure if the man was high, had some kind of mental problem or both. No matter the case, she didn’t trust him. He gave her the feeling that his mood could suddenly shift into violence.
He sat down on the mattress. Resting his weapon next to him. Anne went to the closet he’d been hiding in. Trying to keep him in sight. She noticed something on the closet wall. Something written in black marker.
I hate her
I hate her
I hate her
Written over and over again down the wall. She didn’t think he’d written it. I appeared older. Faded and smudged. Anne heard the mattress bed-springs shift.
“She doesn’t like you.” The man said. He stood holding something in his hand. The rebar falling to the floor with a thud as he brushed against it. “She wants you to leave.”
Anne raised the crowbar again. “Back off.”
He stops. “I have to give this too you. Said you’d be coming.”
He holds out a grubby hand, a photo clenched between his fingers. Anne snatches it from his fingers before backing up. The man, his head hung low, goes back to the bed.
Her hand shaking, Anne glanced down at the photo. In it she sat at a table. She was about nine or ten. A big white birthday cake sat in front of her. Her mom and dad on either side of her, kissing her cheeks. Standing off to the side stood a scowling girl. A few years older than Anne. Emily. Anne could feel it. This was her.
“Who gave this to you?” Anne’s face felt flush.
“I see her sometimes. This is her home. She lets me stay because she’s lonely.”
“What’s her name?”
“Don’t know. She won’t say.” The man shook his head. “I’m Ted.”
Anne felt sorry for him. What circumstances brought him here? Did he lose a job or his family? Whatever the case he’s delusional. Thinking he’s talking to somebody that doesn’t exist. She wanted to tell him that, but feared the possibility of angering him.
“Can I have this?” Anne asked. Holding up the photo.
Ted nodded. “She told me ‘You’re a ghost.’ I’m not dead, am I?”
“No. No you’re not. Your alive just like me.” Anne put the photo in her pocket. “Is there anybody I can take you too? Family I can call for you?”
“They’re gone. All gone. I like it here. With her.”
Anne reached into her jacket. This was a mistake, she thought. Pulling out a wad of bills. He might try to kill me thinking I have more money.
“Take this.” She reached down. Setting the money on the mattress next to him. His hand shot out, grabbing hold of her wrist.
“Let go!” Anne yelled. She tried pulling away but his grip was surprisingly firm.
“I know what she meant now.” He leaned forward. His stale breath burned her nostrils. “Figured it out.” His grip tightened. “Your dead.”
Anne tried worming away from him, it was no use. He had her good. She didn’t want to hurt him. But she had little choice, fearing what he might do. With her free hand she brought the crowbar down on his arm. Crying out, Ted let go of her, clutching his arm in pain.
She heard him calling out as she ran down the stairs.
“Your dead! Your dead! Your dead!”
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