I was tooling around Facebook today when an acquaintance posted a picture of their new home. I was fascinated by that blue house; inspired by its red door. The first line of a story came to me, so I ran with it. Take a journey…
Behind the Red Door on Market Street
Behind the red door on Market Street, the clock took time.
Dalton Delacroix heard the ticking from the street. He didn’t hunt the sound, simply knew from which direction and what house it was coming from. He looked back to where his beaten up Ford LTD station wagon sat on the corner. His hip was sore, his feet burning, but the ticking seemed to beckon him. Dalton wasn’t one for superstitious nonsense, but he felt pulled toward the red door. He’d soak his feet when he got home and slather Ben-Gay over his thigh until he smelled of old people and recovery.
A boy on a bike did circles in the street behind him, the tires humming electronically.
Dalton moved through the chain link gate, which was attached to a fence made of the same interlocked aluminum. Moving across the concrete walkway toward the front of the house, the grass on either side of him was a vibrant green. Dalton could hear the clock ticking louder. So he hadn’t been mistaken. The sound had come from behind the red door after all. He took the porch steps of the house with caution. The deep red of the front door stood out against the baby blue paint on the house’s outer walls in stark contrast.
As Dalton made to knock on the red door, it swung open. No creaking hinges, no coffin-like whine, but he still felt a sense of dread, could see gooseflesh pop up on his extended forearm.
The door led into a blue hallway. An archway on the right showed the corner of a once-white claw-footed sofa, now aged-yellow, the talons curling into horrid shit-brown carpet. A living room, he assumed. Through another doorway on the left, sat a kitchen, where a fridge hummed and clicked like a swarm of locust. Other doors, closed and silent, sat along either side of the hall. The grandfather clock sat quietly at the end of the hall, its lacquered-red wood polished to a mirror finish. Behind the glass, a pendulum hung, unmoving.
The ticking stopped.
The home was not his, but he stepped in all the same.
First, he was walking. Then, he was sitting, the bright lights of Manhattan whizzing by. They were on the FDR. Lola and he were fighting about the kid again. She was screaming. He was fuming. The boy wasn’t his, and he knew it. They hadn’t made love in over a year, but, somehow, they’d had a child. She argued that he didn’t remember that one time, that time he’d been drunk. He said he remembered, all right, because he’d been drinking whiskey, and she knew good and well he couldn’t keep it up after more than two shots.
Ahead, an old woman with dementia entered the FDR by way of the exit ramp. Lola didn’t see her coming, but Dalton did. One catastrophic head-on collision later and Lola was dead; her chest crushed by the steering column. Dalton lay in the wreckage, his hip shattered, awaiting emergency personnel.
Dalton spent six months in rehab while his sister watched the baby that wasn’t his. Later, after he’d been sent home and had reclaimed the boy, he stood above the sleeping child, shaking, hating the bastard in the crib. With whiskey on his breath and hatred in his heart, Dalton reached down and pinched the boy’s nose closed, covering the child’s mouth with the palm of the same hand.
He’d just lost his wife. No one questioned the boy’s passing. Crib death, they called it. Dalton buried his wife and the bastard eight months apart. It was all just a horrible tragedy.
The clock began ticking again. Dalton stared dumbly at the swirling face. All three hands spun with impossible speed, giving off the illusion of a vortex. He felt drawn – sucked in – and saw himself reaching for the grandfather clock.
The backs of his hands had become ungodly old, wrinkled and thin-skinned. He drew a hand back in fear and felt his cheek. Baggy flesh the texture of wet parchment welcomed his fingertips. He stumbled backward, his hip creaking, and crashed down onto the hallway floor. He rolled over. The hip he’d injured in the crash seemed to be dissolving inside him – crumbling like a clump of salt dropped on the ground. He clawed at the shit-brown carpet, crawled its length, and arrived back out on the porch.
The boy on the bike studied him from the curb. Dalton wanted to call for help, but something was wrong with his throat. He wasn’t breathing.
Georgie Stapleson watched as the monster dragged itself down the porch steps of the blue house. The red door slammed shut behind it. The creature seemed to be deflating; the skin pulling tight across the bones, as if the thing were being vacuum-sealed. Georgie, frozen with fright, could only sit atop his Huffy and witness the ever decaying thing move toward him. An aroma of fruity gum lingered on the air. Georgie spat to get the taste out of his mouth. He heard a sound akin to rice cereal when milk is poured over it.
The monster shriveled into a fetal position, its skin cracking over its bones like old paint. Georgie thought he recognized the clothes it wore, had seen them on the man who’d entered the house. But that man hadn’t been so old before. The monster must have stolen the guy’s suit.
Soon enough, the monster was only a dusty mound of clothes.
Georgie got off his bike, let it fall. He moved automatically, without thought. He stepped through the gate, over the pile, and went up the steps. The red door swung open.
He stepped inside.
He stood poolside, where his sister had drowned. At least that’s what Georgie would tell everyone. Sister shouldn’t have snitched to Mom about the money he’d stolen from the nightstand. Holding sister under the water had thrilled him.
Behind the red door on Market Street, the clock took time.
(Note: This blog is not professionally edited. Cry me a river.)