The infection in the house’s rickety bones began as a latent virus. Buried in the deepest marrow, the first stirrings were creaks, like a joint popping and settling. Age hid secrets with wrinkles of peeling paint and a history forgotten by a foregone mind. The disease was dismissed as the consequence of being time-worn, the house a skeleton, a dead thing sealed in a tomb.
Until the Marson family moved in.
“Ain’t she a beauty,” Tom Marson boomed in that Kentucky backroad twang he’d used to charm eighteen-year-old city gal Marcy twenty years earlier. He removed his ball cap and ran a hand through sweaty, thinning salt and pepper.
“She’s a fixer-up, more likely,” Marcy replied, her pouty lips saturated in the newest striking red her daughter so detested. She smoothed down her freshly trimmed brown bob.
Cora popped her gum and rolled her eyes. “It’s a piece of sh–”
The three-storey house was large. Cora would give it that much, but the faded yellow paint was flaking off in huge chunks on the wooden siding, revealing a non-virgin white underneath. It reminded her of a stained toilet seat. Black shutters hung on like a mountain climber clutching the edge of a cliff for dear life. The roof was balding as much as her father.
“Language, young lady,” Marcy scolded. She glanced toward her husband in the hope he’d have something to say about their only daughter’s choice of vocabulary. Ever since getting her license to kill by driving on roads without adult supervision, the entitled child had developed a larger cup size and a fully-loaded arsenal of trucker language.
But Tom was ogling the 1830s house like a scantily-clad pole dancer. He’d certainly be forking over enough dollar bills for her welfare.
Cora groaned. She thought she saw something like drool on her dad’s week-long unshaven chin.
“When are you going to have time to fix this dump?” Marcy asked. “You’re gone five days a week.”
“That’s what weekends are for, honey bunny.” Tom wrapped a thick arm around his wife and pulled her toward him, planting a juicy one on her cheek.
Maybe in spite of herself, Marcy laughed.
“So are we just gonna stand around here all day, or are we going in?” asked Cora, twirling her purple hair about her finger. Her middle finger, which was aimed at her parents.
“Let’s check her out,” Tom said.
“How about this, honey? You can pick any room you like for your bedroom. It’s a big house. There are plenty.” Marcy coated every word like maple sugar candy in the mouth.
“Yeah, whatever. Sure.” Cora followed her parents to the front porch. The railing shook when she went to hold onto it, and when she released it, she nearly stepped into a rotted place on one of the boards.
Tom fiddled with the lock and began swearing under his breath as the July sun beat down on him. Marcy knew where Cora had picked up her choice words. The door opened with a sigh, a groan.
Two storeys above, the eyes opened.