The House comes alive at night and no one wants to find out why.
If there was ever a corpse among houses it would be the ancient mansion at the end of Morris Drive. Huge pointed towers stood erect across the bright red sky in the late hours, and the amber sun that set behind it emphasised the dark windows as if some introvert had painted them black. Dead were the few plants that were strewn amongst the fallen leaves of autumn that littered the yellowing lawn, contrasting against the greys and blacks of the building.
Compared to the other houses in the small cul-de-sac, the house seemed extraordinarily out of place. Semi-detached houses ran in pairs down one side, each one a different bold colour. The only colour the residents of those houses had avoided was black, as a result, the sombre building stood alone and different, just like a corpse among the living.
However long they had lived there, not a single person living in Morris Drive had been able to get used to the house. Of course, they went about their daily lives as if it wasn't there. They just walked faster past the house; they kept their heads down.
That is, except when the clocks struck midnight. Midnight was when the house came alive. The black paint seemed to be chipped away from the windows and dim lights glowed gently from within. The people found that the most unsettling thing was not that the lights all turned on simultaneously throughout the huge house, nor that it was known no one actually lived there on record, but the shadows that appeared in the windows.
The shadows danced.
They looked as humans do, the outlines anyway: features were indistinguishable, but they moved gracefully and carefully, dancing with each other and it didn't end until the golden sun came up to spoil their fun. Some would waltz in the night while others would samba in silence, their limbs moving almost mechanically as they continued this ritual every night. While the figures moved, it was obvious there was something wrong with them, as if they were being forced, yet enjoying being forced. It was a sight unexplainable by the locals and deadly entrancing.
In the small purple house lived Matthew. Being a boy of only young teenage years, he lived with his parents in the home nearest the house at the end of their road. He would walk briskly past the rotting house whenever he went to school, or to a friends. Always with his head down, never even looking at the ghastly grass.
After many years of living by the dead house, and many nights of dancing shadows, Matthew decided to investigate. His days exploring by the swampy pond in the forest a short walk away grew Matthew up to be adventurous, more and more curious by the day. Scared of nothing, he thought himself brave, though his parents could tell it was a foolish ignorance of things that went bump in the night.
Matthew's parents were not around the night he decided to knock on the damp infested door. The shadows had been moving silently for only the past hour, and Matthew knocked hesitantly, expecting to not be answered. Wood seemed to creak about him as he stood shivering on the porch, illuminated by only the small windows in the old door.
Just as Matthew was about to give up and go home, the door swung open painfully slowly. The boy turned, brown eyes widening as he stared down. An ancient old man had answered, his skin yellowing, and what little of his teeth he had left smiled a disgusting pus colour. A breathy hiss escaped through the gaps in his gums, and Matthew could only describe it as being a laugh. Terrifying, but unidentifiable as anything else. He stood at a mere five feet, at the most, Matthew estimated against his own short pre-adolescent height and, despite being shorter than the boy himself, the elderly man was the person who would haunt his dreams for years after. It wouldn't be what Matthew would see next that would scare him, haunt him like ghosts who can't let go, it would be the little old man who created the shadows.
"I..." Matthew's voice failed him, and he gaped like a fish. As a dog would bare his fangs, the man's grin widened as he saw the boy falter.
"Come in," he whispered, as if he had not used his voice in years, and Matthew knew he probably hadn't. The voice compelled him anyway, and Matthew obeyed, too scared to do anything else as he stepped cautiously inside.
A bright white light hit his eyes as his host slammed the door, trapping his only known escape. It took a few moments to allow his eyes to become accustomed to it, but once they did, Matthew knew he had to leave, quickly.
The house was bare, save for a staircase at the back of a large hall. Doors ran alongside each wall, and Matthew knew he'd find the secrets to the shadows through them, but suddenly he felt the need to leave. A strong smell had reached his small nostrils and he had to stop himself throwing up from the stench. Matthew had never smelt anything like it.
"You want to know." The finality of the sentence hit Matthew. The man knew what people thought, they thought what he wanted them to think. Perhaps he even controlled the people of Morris Drive. Impossible. However, he could control what happened in the night, and in his dark, dark windows.
Stepping across Matthew, the man - who seemed less and less like a man with every movement - opened a door to his left, the grin permanently plastered onto his wrinkled face.
It was as if his eyes had stopped working and were showing him impossible, amazing things. It was as if he was delusional because nothing could have ever prepared him for what was behind the door and nothing had made him believe that what it was could even be possible, let alone thought of by a human being.
Vomit evacuated Matthew's system, yet the shadows continued to dance. The shadows were no longer shadows to the young boy.
Long, thin metal poles ran in a huge circuit across the ceiling, suspending the shadows in animation. A generator quietly buzzed in the corner, the technology looking incredibly out of place in the old fashioned house, and it controlled the poles that moved the shadows.
Some of the shadows were rotting, like they had been partially eaten, but the missing pieces had been crudely filled with a substance akin to clay, grey and shapeless. Some of the shadows were still intact, and that frightened Matthew the most as he gazed at the human bodies that hung from the ceiling.
The most horrific thing about the bodies, was not how the metal replaced the bone to support the structure, nor how each persons skin had been stapled or crudely glued together around the poles, it was their smiles. Each and every corpse had a smile everlasting, and Matthew recognised it as masking tape, holding the corners of their mouth in smiles that could have been snarls.
The old man waited a moment before shuffling in front, obscuring Matthew's view of the dead flesh, almost like he was waiting for something. He clasped his thin, veined hands and Matthew realised with horror he was waiting for his opinion. When no words came, the man spoke:
"Aren't they lovely?" he rasped excitedly, almost bouncing on the soles of his bare feet. "They come to me... when they want to become this, of course, and I do it for them: I make them dance, I make them happy," he rambled in a husky voice, his icy blue eyes showing pure joy.
"Is that why you came?"
The elder interrupted, blinking owlishly. Matthew shook his head quickly, his breath coming in pants now.
"I don't. No. Please let me go," he gasped, tears running down his pale cheeks.
As if reluctant to let him go, the house groaned again, and the aged man's face fell. What sort of man does this? ran through Matthew's head in a scream.
"Are you happy?" the ancient asked, connecting his cold eyes boring into the boys soul. The latter seemed to realise suddenly and, as if a mist had been clouding his vision, almost smiled at the clarity: he was happy. Matthew was happy with his small house, boring school and mundane life. He was happy and contented doing the same thing day after day because the alternative was this and this was not good.
"Yes. Yes I am," his voice found him once more, swallowing hard and straightening his back in the cold house, though tears still streaked his face. "I'm going now, I have to leave. Right now. My parents will notice if I'm gone. They'll know it was you." His sentences should have told the grey-haired man the young teenager was terrified, but he listened to the words, not the tone, and frowned thoughtfully.
"Okay," he said calmly, nodding more to himself than Matthew. "You may go."
Matthew stared at him through a haze of watery eyes, his mouth agape in confusion. However, he did not stay to listen to the old man - or to thank him for releasing him from the groaning, moaning house that wished him to stay - he ran. The door flew open as he thrust his body against it in an effort to escape and all Matthew could think about was his parents.
He would have to tell them, of course. Could he tell them? If he did, he would have to suffer through it again. The corpses with metal for bones and permanent smiles.
No. He would not tell them. No one would ever know what went on in that ancient mansion at the end of Morris Drive, and every day, Matthew would walk just a bit quicker when he passed it.