The Forgotten House
by S. J. Budd
Monday morning passed slowly on the 8:02 south-eastern train into London; Kirsten willed it so. Please not yet, she begged, how I hate that place. But still the train pushed on with its sombre cargo of dejected people destined for another week of work in grey offices with grey faces and conversation. The train weaved through pretty cultivated suburbs like a cavalcade of dread, a cold thought pressing through into an otherwise happy mind.
Kirsten looked around at the empty faces sunk deep in their phones and tablets. Instead of taking their cue she entertained her heart, which was a hungry hunter; always needing more. She watched the houses pass by as she lost herself in a daydream wondering about the sorts of people who lived in those houses. She dreamed about the sort of house she would like to end up in one day when he search for the one was over. She would find somewhere, along a train line and make it into a real home. A home that people would look from the train and wished they lived in it. One by one the houses briefly opened up and allowing Kirsten a brief glimpse inside as the train shuttled through. Her shoulders slumped slightly. Why was she always on the outside looking in?
There was one house that always caught Kirsten’s imagination. It stood out against its handsome neighbours, which had all been modified and improved with extensions and conservatories. It seemed forgotten and abandoned by everyone else, and because of that Kirsten felt a strange affinity to it. For she too had been forgotten.
Just by looking at it from the back Kirsten could tell it belonged to a desirable street full of happy fulfilled families. But this house seemed darker than the others. Its large savage garden had been left to grow as it desired, without human intervention. Piles of bricks and debris piled up against the rickety wooden fence that leaned to one side. It’s not somewhere one would want to live but the home possessed something the others homes did not; unrealised potential. There was something about that house that drew her in.
Kirsten moved closer to the window. She sat in the same seat each day so she could do this. The train began its slow descent to the next station. She felt the breaks choke the speed as it began to slow. Soon the house would be visible. She waited for it to appear. One day she would buy that house and turn it into a beautiful home. That was the one she wanted.
Her eyes opened wider. The house, which seemed so devoid, finally offered up a clue. Standing in the garden was a person hidden away in an oversized grey hoodie hanging low over their face. It appeared to be a workman, their clothes were heavily stained and worn. All perfectly normal but yet there was something amiss with the way the figure stood. Feet far apart standing proud and free as if inviting people to stare and behold what it was they exhibited in their outstretched hand.
The figure stared right back at Kirsten, she knew that despite not being able to see their face. It was more accurate to say she felt them staring back, two pairs of eyes making an unseen yet felt connection. The stranger’s head titled as if in asking a silent question as Kirsten’s eyes slowly moved over to what they held.
She gasped and looked around at her fellow passengers who uniformly sat motionless looking down too absorbed with the phones and devices in their hands. Surely I’m mistaken…
To make matters clearer for her the figure moved forwards slightly holding up their bounty higher for her to see. She flinched away burrowing up against the large man next to her. Still he did not look up out of the window. Her brain worked in a frenzy trying to reject what her eyes saw. That it wasn’t a human head in the person’s hand. Judging by the rich red dripping down it was fresh. The deceased eyes were still open and turned up to the sky in weary resignation. The mouth hung open in terror, frozen with death in mid scream.
“Someone, anyone, look,” Kirsten implored to the carriage of people before realised each pair of ears were plugged up with headphones. Tinny music came from their phones as she urged herself to look away. The train pulled into the next station, people got off and more people got on.
Tuesday morning came with trepidation. Kirsten looked down playing with her hands and scratched her arms until they were red. All night she had debated calling the police but each time she went to dial she hung up. Something stopped her. Surely someone else on her train would have seen and called the police? She also couldn’t ignore the strange feeling that someone had the home she wanted, that somehow she was jealous. She wanted to be the one to make it beautiful. She wanted that house badly.
Kirsten always sat in the same seat in the same carriage. She did again today. She had considered sitting somewhere else that morning. Somewhere on the other side so that she couldn’t be seen from the window but it would have meant that she would have to sacrifice her view of looking out.
Once more the train began to slow as it prepared itself for the next station of human cargo. The morning was grey with London smog hung heavy with mist. Inside the train the windows were glazed with human breath. Quickly she moved her hands to wipe clean the window as the train came to pass by the house that had been forgotten.
She felt that strangeness again. This time there was no severed head but the figure still stood there. Standing in the same spot with feet wide apart. This time accompanied with a worktable and saw. Since yesterday there had been a noticeable amount of work being undertaken in the gloomy house.
It seemed like the kitchen had been ripped out and all the windows had been opened. She clenched her fists unable to do anything but watch.
Within her mind there was a click. The stranger turned around to face Kirsten in greeting. Again the hand outstretched and it pointed right at her, she felt its clutching at her chest as if trying to pull her free from the train as it meddled through. Kirsten cried out grabbing at the man next to her who did not look up as he shrugged her off and got back to his paper.
All day at worked Kirsten chastised herself for having an over active imagination. Once more her hand reached for her phone to dial 999 before abruptly taking it away. She was being silly, things like this didn’t happen to people like her. She must have been mistaken. As she lay awake at night she vowed that if anything seemed amiss the next morning she would call the police.
Wednesday came with the calm after a maelstrom of worry. She knew it was in her head. That she was being silly. Before getting aboard she had picked up one of the free newspapers and read avidly deciding to ignore everything that was going on around her. Trying to become like the others on the train.
However when the time came, when the train began to slow she knew she would have to look up. She had promised herself she wouldn’t. That she wouldn’t allow this stranger to tease and scare her any more. She pulled her handbag closer to her, which was weighed down by a hammer hidden inside.
Yet when she looked out there was no one there. The garden was empty and all the windows stood shut. There was a calmness around the house. It was no longer the pitiful property that she had long since admired. Now the house seemed ready for her with new curtains in place, a fresh coat of paint and colourful flowers beading the flowerbeds in the back garden. The house passed from view and Kirsten sighed smiled and shook her head. Excitement was running through her. Only two more days until the weekend. Now she felt stupid for bringing a hammer into work with her.
Kirsten turned the page of her paper. A shiver ran through her as she felt a click. Directly opposite her fellow commuter slowly lowered their paper revealing an oversized grey hoodie and heavily stained work trousers.
Underneath their pulled down hoodie which concealed their face in shadow came three cold words, “It is ready.”
About the Author
S.J.Budd loves writing short stories exploring dark fictional worlds and its mysterious inhabitants, and is currently working on her first novel. Her day job involves working as journalist for www.findahood.com and she also blogs on her site http://www.sjbudd.co.uk.
Her work has appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, Siren’s Call Publications, Deadman’s Tome, Innersins , Aphelion, Bewildering Stories, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, Shadows at the Door and Danse Macabre Magazine, The Wild Hunt, Morpheus Tales and Freedom Fiction.
Her debut collection of short stories, Spells and Persuasions, is out now on Amazon.
Follow her on Twitter @sjbuddj.