This story is by Mike Conradt and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Alex and the Haunted House
Normal. What is normal? I have repeatedly asked myself this question, and I have yet to come up with an answer. Of course, being only twelve years old, my senses of determining what is normal or abnormal have yet to mature. But I’m trying. I find anything can be normal, including the hairless man who climbed out of the sewer one morning. It happened. The town drunk passed out and rolled over into the storm sewer. He came crawling out the following day. Normal? Depends on your frame of mind.
My parents say they know what is normal. How can they? Do they have enough wisdom to say, “Alex, that’s not normal?” Somehow, I doubt it, not that I question my parents, but sometimes they say can be hard to believe. My mom says I need to play with other kids. The nearest kid my age lives two blocks away. My older brother and sister do things on their own, and some of the things they do can be considered abnormal.
My mom says the freckles on my face are normal. Are they? My friend Jason doesn’t have them, so is he abnormal? My dad says I am a normal boy growing up in the Midwest. Can it be normal to do so? How about the kids living elsewhere. Are they abnormal?
The house across the street is supposedly haunted. It’s what people in town say. How do they know? From rumors? Did they sleep in the house for one night and experience some ghostly figure carrying them around from room to room? That would be abnormal; it also means it was haunted. I don’t think anyone has a clue. Sometimes I sat on my front porch watching and wondering if ghosts really lived there. I saw none. It just appeared to be a normal run-down house that looked abandoned.
It would be great if the house was haunted. On Halloween, the ghosts would be free to come out of the windows and scare the kids in the neighborhood. Normal? For Halloween, it would be. Then everyone would know it was haunted. No rumors, only normal facts.
It was during the last part of October, on a Saturday, I sat on my front porch staring at the haunted house across the street. My concentration was broken when a woman pulled up, park in the driveway, and walk up the cracked, unlevel sidewalk to the front door. A few moments later, a truck drove up, and they began to unload the furniture into the house. Has no one told her about the place, the stories of it being haunted with ghosts flying out of the windows, creepy sounds at night, which I had never heard, how the ghastly spirits would come from the cornfield and enter the house? By the way, how did the ghostly spirits get into the cornfield? Was it a normal occurrence?
There’s an old tale passed on year after year about a man and a woman, not married to each other but to others, who would meet in the cornfield and engage in lively conservation. It’s how my mom put it. Well, the man’s wife caught them. She chased the other woman into the house and killed her. Choked her to death in the living room. Some say they watched the hideous murder play out while standing in the street. One old man indicated the murderer wore a red dress. I don’t believe it. Grownups can be abnormal at times.
As for the lively conservations in the cornfield, I don’t believe that either. I think they were having sex. Yes, I know all about it, but my parents refuse to accept it. Is it abnormal? In my mind, it is abnormal to have sex in a cornfield. Nothing normal about it at all. So was the house truly haunted by the woman seeking revenge for her husband’s wickedness. I doubt it. It just seems abnormal.
The woman moving in waved at me. I walked across the street to get her name. Amy Davis. My first thought of her was she looked strange, abnormal. Her hair looked like it needed combing, and its color was a blackness you would only see on ravens. Her personality came through like a shining light on a sunny day. I tried to tell her the house was haunted, but she looked at me and laughed. I went back to my house a little disillusioned, thinking it was abnormal for her not to be alarmed, but she did invite me over for cookies once she settled in. I just hope she doesn’t wait too long.
The next day, on Sunday evening right before Halloween, during the twilight of the day, when the sun had set in the sky, leaving a glow in the west, my dad chose to take us out for ice cream. It was much to my delight, and it seemed normal for a family to do such things. I climbed into the car and sat in the back seat next to the window. My usual place. To me, it felt normal to sit there.
While my dad backed the car onto the street, I glanced at the haunted house. It had a strange glow, and a sudden black cloud descended around it. Truly terrifying to a boy my age. My eyes grew wide as I flattened my nose to the glass to get a better look. The haunted house looked as if it had come alive. The living room was brightly lit, piercing the darkness. I looked through the window and I could see broken plaster and wallpaper hanging loosely from the walls. Then I saw something moving running pass the window, but I could not make out what it was.
My father stopped to shift from reverse to drive. During this moment, the car was stationary, and the world seemed to stop. Not a leaf moved in the trees. I watched intently with my eyes glued to the living room window. Then, an object appeared. It was Amy. Frantic, she plastered her face against the glass. Her hair, now white, sticking straight out. Her mouth was wide open as if she were screaming. I couldn’t hear her, but it was all for the better. My child-like mind could not comprehend a woman in distress. The visual part shocked me enough.
Her eyes bulging and fists pounding on the glass were enough to make me pull back from the car’s window. A sudden fear overcame me, and my whole body shook. I could see her wild gestures with a terrifying expression of fear on her face. Behind her, something, almost invisible, slowly came up behind her. An apparition, a spirit with its ghostly arms raised and putting its hands around Amy’s neck. A red dress draped over its bony body floating suspended in midair, moving slowly as if in water. The ghost had a gaunt face with a jaw full of teeth. Its eyes were hollow and vacant. I found it hard to focus. I blinked my eyes quickly, then Amy slumped out of sight.
I said nothing. I looked over at my dad as he accelerated down the street. It was normal for him to do that but was it abnormal for me to say nothing of what I saw. I could accept it and move on as if nothing had happened. Besides, I haven’t seen her since she moved in. Not until that fateful evening, as the sun dipped below the horizon. The moment my dad shifted from reverse to drive. I saw her again, franticly trying to escape the clutches of a ghostly apparition. Slowly disappearing below the windowsill.
I have concluded that Amy died that evening, or she could be living a life of hell in her house. I never saw her again. No one has spoken of her, and the house still stands in all its haunting glory. I still wonder by whose decree did this house become haunted. Nobody has any evidence. People would avoid walking in front of it and would cross over to our side of the street. Sitting on my front porch, I could hear them murmuring and talking in hushed tones pointing at windows that looked like vacant eyes and the dying trees surrounding the house. No, they didn’t know, but I did. Yes, I knew it was haunted, and only I knew for sure. Only I saw the ghostly figure kill Amy Davis right before my eyes. She gasped her last breath during that brief moment when time stood still. Now I ask you, is that normal?