The House On Maple Avenue by William Falo


Photo of house on Maple Avenue by William Falo

The township employee mowed the grass that grew so high that neighbors complained about it even while they had ignored the cries for help that may have come from there in the past.

The employee looked at the front door and saw that it was open, which in a normal situation would not be unusual, but the house on Maple Avenue was empty, locked up; nobody had lived there in years. He did the right thing and called the police.

The Evesham police officer arrived and, together with the township employee, walked to the front door, only to discover it was locked. Also, old spider webs were crisscrossed across the front door. It appeared that nobody had been there in a very long time; they proceeded to look in the windows and saw no sign that anything was disturbed. Around the back, the outdoor entrance to the basement was locked, and the basement windows were painted black. There was no warrant or sign that anyone was in danger, so they let it be. The police officer and the township employee considered ghosts, but there was no way to investigate further. Hence, they left, and the house remained quiet until a year later when a young woman saw an opportunity to get a low-rent house in a nice neighborhood.

***

Maybe because it was the night before Halloween, but Brianna got chills when she approached the house on Maple Avenue. The leaves had fallen off the trees and crunched under her feet as she walked to the front door. When she walked into the spiderwebs, she had a brief moment of panic as she frantically swatted them away, then calmed down and tried the key. She hoped it worked since she got it in delivery; the owner claimed to be in a faraway country in Eastern Europe. The rent was paid by Venmo.

Her dog, Finn, jumped up and down as she pulled the door open. It squeaked so loud she was sure the neighbors heard it, but when she turned to look, nobody was around.

Dust coated everything, and sheets were covering the old furniture that had been left behind. It looked like a room full of ghosts, and she got chills again, but the low rent made her continue into the small kitchen. She looked down, and there was a red stain on the wooden floor.

“That can’t be blood.” Finn sniffed it and then wanted to go outside; she led him out to the yard, and he ran to the cellar doors. She yanked at them, but they were locked. Finn backed away, and she could have sworn she heard a scratching sound; maybe a raccoon was stuck down there. She tried to look into the basement windows, but they were painted black.

She was getting creeped out and led Finn back inside, then tried to call the number she got from the owner, but nobody answered.

“Why did I pick the day before Halloween to move in?”

Finn sniffed everywhere, looking for something; she hoped he didn’t find it.

She ordered pizza to be delivered and waited while watching a ghost-hunting show on TV, which was probably not an intelligent choice.

The pizza came, and Finn was happy. He loved pizza.

“I can’t believe someone lives here again,” the delivery driver said.

“Why?”

He shook his head. “It’s haunted. I call it the Ghost House.”

“That’s not true.”

“I seen some strange things here, heard some strange things.”

“I’m not worried,” she replied, but she was getting anxious.

“You’re brave.” She saw he was wearing a name tag with the name 'Danny' on it. He walked away after she tipped him. But before she was even done eating the pizza with Finn, a scratching sound started in the basement. Finn howled and scratched at the floor.

She started to pace around the house, and despite the spooky sounds inside, there was no sign of anything scary except the red stain on the floor.

It was Mischief Night, and the neighborhood kids threw toilet paper across the trees, and some car windows got soaped up. It was a New Jersey tradition she had taken part in when she was younger.

She sat down, but the scratching started again. Then she heard sobbing from the cellar.

She knew she couldn't sleep there without finding out what was going on, so she got a crowbar out of the car and went to the cellar doors in the backyard. She considered calling the police, but a week after she got a restraining order on her ex-boyfriend Connor, she saw a shadow outside her apartment. She called the police, thinking it was him, but it wasn’t, so she couldn’t call them again for a ghost.

The lock wouldn’t budge, but the old wood began to splinter, and she kept at it until the cold air of the cellar started leaking out, and she felt it on her face. It was accompanied by a horrible smell. Finn backed away more.

“Come here, you coward.”

The wood splintered. She pulled the doors apart and then stared into the darkness. Using the flashlight on her phone, she stepped into the cellar. After one step, she tripped on something and fell into the basement; her phone tumbled away, and then the splintered door shut on her.

“No, “ she yelled. Her ankle throbbed with pain, and she panicked in the darkness.

“Finn, get help.”

She heard him run away. It might have been from fear, and she didn’t blame him.

She crawled for her phone as its light shone into the darkness; then, she saw bones. Human ones, even a skull.

“Help,” she yelled. She grabbed the phone and tried to call 911 but dropped it. The light went out. She crawled to the steps in the dark and was pulling herself up them one at a time, when something grabbed her foot and pulled her back down.

“Help!” she yelled louder. It was hopeless; she started to cry.

Then she heard sniffing. “Finn,” she yelled.

The door was yanked open, and someone came in with a flashlight; he helped her up the steps and out to the backyard.

Her rescuer smelled like pizza.

She collapsed to the ground to catch her breath while Finn licked her face.

“How?” she said.

“I was delivering food down the street, and Finn ran to me; he pulled at me until I followed him.”

“Thank you.” She hugged him as the sound of sirens got louder.

“I called the police.” He sat on the ground with her. “Are you okay?”

“No.”

“I told you this place is haunted.”

“There’s a body down there.”

“No shit?”

“Yep, well bones, but something evil too.”

The police and medics came and took over the scene. They put her into the ambulance, and Danny promised to watch Finn. They were already friends, and she had to trust him, something she had trouble doing, but she couldn’t take Finn, and there was no way she would leave him in a shelter. Danny lived in a new apartment that allowed pets. He wrote down his phone number and address since her phone was now evidence.

***

There was no trick-or-treating at the house on Maple Avenue, although now there would be ghost stories told about it in the future. The police put crime tape around it but wouldn’t tell Brianna much except that it appeared that a woman had been hit by a car and put into the cellar, where she died. They identified her as a homeless woman, so nobody missed her. She had been alive, and scratch marks on the walls showed her desperate effort to escape. They were processing this with the case where a drunk driver hit somebody, and they never found a body; he may have hidden the body in the vacant house and locked the cellar.

Brianna avoided the house, not even driving by it, because despite the police removing the bones, she knew something else was there, too, and it was evil. The report did say there was other evidence found there as well, but wouldn’t comment on it, and nobody could find the owner.

They put a boot on her foot since she'd fractured a bone when she fell into the cellar; she thought of Frankenstein when she walked with it on. She shared an apartment with Danny, a mutual arrangement that could lead to something more, but he'd been hurt too recently, and both wanted to go slow. Finn loved both of them. Plus, Danny had saved her life, and she fought back the tears when she thought about it.

The next day, she saw Connor at a Dunkin' Donuts and glared at him until he turned away. She wouldn’t live in fear of him again after surviving the ghost house on Maple Avenue.

***

After they removed the crime tape, the township employee cut the grass while keeping an eye on the front door, where spiderwebs once again covered the doorway. He stopped once when the door was open, but he didn’t call the police this time. He just kept cutting the grass, and when he was done, he left quickly and did not look back at the house on Maple Avenue.

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