by Isha Ro
The neighbors were taken aback by its sudden appearance. One day, there was a proper, glossy black door on house number three, a house as posh as all the others. The next day the “For Sale” sign was removed and the street had woken up to the yellow monstrosity.
They made disapproving clucking noises when they caught sight of it. How ghastly, they thought, their upper lips curled over. As if we live in any old sort of bohemian ghetto. They were eager to see who had moved in so they could show their displeasure in person. But there was something about that door that seemed…off. It made their skin crawl and their stomachs heave.
Pippa Montrose, however, would not be swayed by a little nausea. Perpetually bored and very nosy, she walked boldly up the steps, her signature bread and butter pudding in tow, to rap on the door and discover what kind of person she would now be forced to exchange pleasantries with of a morning or afternoon. She was sure it would be the wrong sort, some kind of new money, maybe even Arabs, lord knows they’re so gaudy. Best to get in front of it and let them know that this wasn’t the kind of neighborhood to condone this sort of rubbish.
If anyone had been watching, they would have seen Pippa trip gaily up the steps and knock confidently on the door. They would have seen the door slide open just a crack and watch Pippa stiffen like a board, abruptly dropping her baked goods on the floor. If they could have seen her face, they would have seen the horror etched on it, her mouth locked in rictus, her hair whitening slowly from root to ends. They would have seen her step oddly, as if fighting her own body, through the slender opening. That’s what they would have seen if they’d been watching.
When Pippa’s husband, Charles, came home to an empty house and the telltale signs of baking in the kitchen, he rolled his eyes and chuckled at his wife’s ability to meddle in other people’s business. But by 8pm when she should have had dinner on the table, he began to be concerned. By 11pm, he stormed up the steps to the yellow door to find out what on earth she could still be doing at the new neighbor’s. He, too, knocked confidently on the solid wood. He, too, went rigid as he faced the slimmest of openings. His skin went gray and sagged from beneath his eyes as they widened, his feet sliding him forwards, over the threshold. And, like his wife, he never came back out.
After that, odd lights would come on at night behind the opaque windows of the yellow-doored house, deeply red and…throbbing. There were also sounds. A keening like a mother who had lost her child; the deep-throated growls of a man in the throes of a murderous rage; a thump-thump-thumping like a heart hidden under the floorboards, refusing to die. The neighbours heard these things as clearly as if they were happening in their own rooms. They tossed and turned in their beds, waking up drenched with sweat, the remnants of forgotten nightmares clinging to their skin.
Then, other strange things began to happen.
Henry Tennant glanced at the yellow door on his way to his law firm’s glass-walled offices and his heart began to race. He started to sweat. His breath became shallow. Only the ringing of his cellphone jolted him out of his strange reverie, his meetings missed, his hours unbilled. Disoriented, he glanced towards the sky to see the sun sinking slowly to its slumber, although it hadn’t yet risen when he had left home. He shook his head, trying to free himself of the fog behind his eyes, his muscles aching strangely as he walked away, dazed and confused.
When Mary Wentworth strolled past the yellow door on her way to tea at Harrod’s, she looked at it sideways, trying to surreptitiously catch a movement from within the house – a twitching of curtains, a shadow across a window. A glimpse of who might be inside. She was roused back to the present by the cold fingers of rain falling on her shoulders, her hair drenched, her makeup running, the street swathed in the velvet embrace of darkest night. Her forehead would have wrinkled in confusion if it was still able to move. Instead, she blinked what felt like sleep out of her eyes and stumbled home, all plans for shopping and tea and gossip forgotten.
Jane Granger walked past the yellow door, her arms laden with last season’s fashions for charity shops and she looked straight at it. And she remembered.
She remembered walking through the yellow door and being greeted by a man with eyes deep like black pools of smoke and a yellowed grin full of sharpened teeth. She remembered his smell, the overpowering scent of lilies left to rot and how he’d led her inside, blood bubbling up from where he’d kissed her. She remembered how his hand felt like soft, dying tree bark but, at the same time, like a vice in which her bones were caught.
She remembered seeing Pippa and Charles with goat-like horns that had ripped through their foreheads, their bodies transformed by crossing the threshold. Blood had dried in trails down their faces like tears. The backs of their arms heavy with hair, their feet cloven hooves, writhing in anguish on the forest floor, reaching for her.
Jane and Henry and Mary and the others, they all remembered removing every stitch of clothing and doing strange and terrible things in a dense and darkened wood. Clawing and biting and killing like animals, tearing skin from bones, dancing in blood. Sexual congress with wild half-beasts and grinning demons. Feeling pain, inflicting pain, sharp and quick and dull and throbbing. Howling like wolves at the moon, rutting with anything that moved, eating and being eaten, blood smeared across their teeth.
And, most horrifying of all, they remembered that they’d enjoyed it.
Later they would discover scratches and bruises in the most unusual places, parts of their bodies tender to the touch, scars where before there had been none. And they were afraid. Of what they had done, of what had been done to them.
Of wanting more.
Slowly, one by one, they began to seek out the door, wanting to see it and not wanting to. They stood in the street in clusters and crowds, afraid to pass through it but desperate to be near it, swaying gently against each other in a shared stupor, their eyes blank and unseeing. Dinners were left bubbling over on the stove, children forgotten at school, bills left unpaid, jobs ignored. Eventually, one thing or other would propel them back to reality and they would shuffle resignedly home, each unaware of the others around them.
Exhausted and terrorized, vivid dreams of blackness and horror plaguing every moment, they eventually turned on each other.
Jane drove a steak knife suddenly through her husband’s eye as they sat at the dinner table, staring listlessly at empty plates. She drank a bottle of drano as a digestif.
Henry studied his sleeping wife for a while before smothering her beneath his pillow and then shooting himself in the head with his gun. The shot rang out sharp in the still of the night but no one batted an eyelash at its report.
John Turlinton, from two doors down, beat his girlfriend savagely with a Le Creuset frying pan, but not before she’d boiled a pot of water and thrust it at his back. He crawled to his front door, his skin bubbling and crackling like a pig’s on a spit, only to find Mary there, her chef’s knife in hand. She plunged it through his lungs before slitting her own throat.
One by one, house by house, the neighbours ripped themselves and each other to shreds.
In the morning, as their broken and bloodied bodies lay where they’d fallen, the sun rose on the small, exclusive enclave that stank of death.
A ‘For Sale’ sign stood on the lawn of house number three. A house as posh as all the others, with a proper, understated, glossy black door.
Isha Ro is a Jamaican writer living in Berlin. Her apartment is stuffed to the brim with a large Czech, an oversized stuffed monkey and an imaginary Golden Retriever called George. She writes creepy stories and funny stories and both of these involve an inordinate amount of murder. You can read more of her work at www.theprosateur.com.