The House Across The Street
My family and I moved into a new home about a month ago. It’s a nice neighborhood, quiet in a small town. My room is the only upstairs room; the window faces the street and it’s directly across from a house that looks similar to ours. The same sized window of our neighbors across the street faces mine.
“Many houses in neighborhoods like this have almost identical layouts.” My mother told me when I inquired about how similar it was. “That’s what they did, hired the same crew and built similar houses all over the neighborhood.” She finished and patted my head with a comforting smile.
I didn’t question it after that, it was normal. I hadn’t met those neighbors yet, all the others on our street came to greet us and offer various baked goods, but not the house across the street. I hadn’t seen a car in their driveway, hadn’t seen or heard a person at any point. My first thought was no one lived there, our house was up for sale for a few months, so maybe it was the same. There was no for sale sign in the yard, but that didn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t for sale.
One night I couldn’t sleep, I tossed and turned uncomfortable in my surroundings. Boxes still littered the ground showing proof of my procrastination. I wiped my eyes with the bank of my hand and reached for my glasses on the nightstand. Once I could see again I flipped the blankets off and padded over to the window. I enjoyed looking outside at the world below, it seemed so far away, especially during the quiet of the night. That was the first time I noticed it.
A single candle flickering in the window like mine directly across the street. It was a long stick candle in an intricate metal holder. It was a comforting light, and I thought to myself the neighbors are finally here. There was a curtain drawn, with only a sliver parted where the candle was. I couldn’t see through the sliver, but then again my eyesight wasn’t the greatest. I went back to bed hoping we would finally meet them tomorrow.
We didn’t. In fact, there was still no stirring from the house. No cars, no people, no pets, nothing to indicate a sign of life. I asked my mother about the house and told her about the candle I had seen. She chuckled at me and ruffled my hair, assuring me it must have been a nice dream. I shrugged it off and went about my daily life, my new school was going to start in three weeks, and I really needed to finish unpacking.
I awoke again in the middle of the night, curiosity got the best of me and I checked the window. Again, there was a candle lit in the window across the street. It was a real flame, so someone had to have lit it. I peered through the slit in the curtains, and I thought I saw movement, but I was not sure. I was puzzled, and I didn’t sleep much the rest of the night.
The following day I decided to take a stroll to the local library, it wasn’t more than a few blocks. I logged onto one of the public-use computers and googled the address. I found nothing. No history, no building plots, nothing. I clicked the street view on google maps and what I saw made my heart pound. The photo was of an empty lot with some overgrown brush. I clicked the view to swap to our house and my breath caught in my throat. It was our house, but in my bedroom window was a lit candle. I stared at the screen for what felt like hours, unsure of my next steps. Finally, I peeled my eyes away, closed my tabs, and headed back home.
When I got home I approached my mom again, explaining what I had found at the library. She looked puzzled but didn’t share my dismay.
“Why don’t we walk over there and try to knock on the door?” My mom asked light-heartedly. “Maybe someone is there but they can’t easily leave the house.”
I nodded in agreement and got my shoes on. I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach, but it was daylight and my mom was with me. We made our way across the street and my mom rapped on the door. We waited for about five minutes with no answer. My mom shrugged at me and we walked home. I tried to peer through the floor-level windows but they were all covered by the same curtains as the upstairs window. The house was definitely physically there, and I wasn’t sure if that fact made me feel better or worse.
The next two weeks I awoke around the same time, and each time the candle was lit. I would watch for any flicker of movement, but I never saw inside the room. Only the candle flickering and the shadows beyond the slit in the curtains. As the days went on I felt consumed by the thought of someone being in there, lighting the candle. But who, and why had we never seen them? I couldn’t answer that question. I was trying to focus on unpacking during the day. The boxes in my room dwindled, and slowly I was getting my room put together.
The night before school started I could not sleep. I was anxious about the first day at a new school and had almost forgotten about the candle completely, almost. I was pacing around my room, glancing at the outfit I had picked out, and double-checking my backpack to make sure it had everything I needed. I tried not to look out my window, but my curiosity was too great. The candle was always lit, I couldn’t figure out who was doing it and I had to focus on school, on my life. But I gave in and glanced out. For the first time since I noticed the candle, it was not lit. My heart rate increased as I glanced around the rest of the house. I felt nauseous when I saw that the front door was cracked open.
I’m not sure why I decided to go across the street. As I was getting my shoes on and silently pulling on my coat I had a bad feeling, like this was a very stupid thing to do. But now was my chance to see, was it not? To figure out what was going on inside that house. I sucked in a deep breath and pushed my front door open, slowly and quietly shutting it behind me. I gently made my way across the street, the crack in the door seemed to grow wider, and nothing but darkness greeted me. I pushed the door open further and took a step inside.
Luckily, I thought to bring a flashlight. I flicked it on and was astonished at what I saw. The living room looked like ours. I walked past the kitchen, glancing around every room looked like our house. The furniture was the same, and the paintings that hung on the walls were the same. The only difference was this house felt much older, dust and cobwebs covered almost every inch. I found the stairs, and inched my way up them, holding my breath. A creak in the floorboards almost made me jump out of my skin, but I pushed on. Finally, I reached the door to the upstairs bedroom. My hand now shaking, I pushed open the door. At this point, it wasn’t surprising it looked just like my bedroom. Even the same disheveled book I’d read one-hundred times sat on the nightstand by my bed.
I inhaled deeply and shined my light on the windowsill, the candle was there. It was not lit, as I had noticed before, and next to it was a box of matches. I took a step closer and examined the silver engraved candle holder. It had my initials carved into the base. Something came over me then, and I reached for the box of matches, struck one, and lit the candle. I clicked off my flashlight and let the candle illuminate the room. I pushed aside one of the curtains and looked out the window. Staring back at me in the window across the street was my own shocked face.
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