The floor creaks to the walking. The feet of Emma and the assistant walked around the hall until they reached a little room. The room, also with wooden floors, had a lovely blue bed, a desk by a flowered window and a painting hanging in one of the walls. The frame was a little bit crooked. Because the place looked like out from a fairy tale, the heavy and old hammer that hanged from two nails seemed incredibly odd.
-These are your keys- Said the young woman, offering Emma the set while she was looking out the window. From there it could be seen the cliff, the river and the pollution of the city in the other side.
A black tar column was climbing up the sky from the factory’s chimneys. Even from so far away, she could feel the chemical’s odor going down her throat, clogging her respiratory tracks. She could feel those two hands over her neck. Emma took the keys and walked the assistant back to the door.
-It’s cozy- A voice inside her head tried to convince her when she took a second look to the place.
The house was small; it looked like it had been built in the space between the other two properties, bigger and more luxurious. It squeezed itself between the two big walls over the long street where the succession of buildings repeated themselves. And that house, with a tiny front garden that looked like a joke, the wooden unpainted fence, humidity spots on the walls, creaking floors; was the black sheep of the family.
The rent was too cheap to be real. But it was real, only for some reason that Emma didn’t seem to know, no one wanted to take this opportunity. That’s why she doubted before filing the contract, thinking about little letters and failures in the system, but at the end she decided that she was too ill to keep on worrying because of the money.
She would paint the walls someday.
-Of a pretty purple color- Confirmed the voice.
The little wooden building had been uninhabited for so long that the electric installation had to be reconnected again, because of that, and for a week, she got used to light and put out candles while she went across the three rooms. She didn’t have to wait long until she made from the house her home, by decorating some walls with pictures, arranging all those little things she loved on every corner. The room was almost perfect, so she only placed a vase full of sunflowers.
During the first month she didn’t have any complication. It was during the second month when she realized that some of the wood planks were a lot loose than before. The old and thick boards were curving themselves and they resisted to the pressure of her feet when she jumped over them. It had been raining for days, the river was roaring outside and the humidity in the air must be the one who was playing her tricks. Emma cheered herself up by remembering the generosity of her boss respecting the extense sick leave he gave her. She was grateful to not having to go out in such a terrible weather.
-Turn on the stove. Keep the place as dry as possible-
She finally understood the use of the hammer that hanged so lonely on the wall, and she tried to recover her floor by pinning a long steel nail that should connect with the structure. But she didn’t have any luck, the nail was sinking but it not reaching anywhere, and the place floor was starting to look like a train of waves.
She could feel the creaks and for a moment she thought they were speaking to her.
That night was the first of a series of dreams. She could see the floor rising to show the under part of the house, but there wasn’t dirt or stones, only a dark abyss. And from that abyss hands sprouted hands; fingers that climbed the blue bed to touch her skin. In the dream, she was cold and the ghostly hands were warm and live.
-They are children- Told her the voice, but she wasn’t sure if those children, reborn from the dust, wanted to help her or hurt her.
The morning after that first night she found herself disturbed, attacked by her illness again, her eyes wide opened. She fought for some minutes until she recovered peace; calming herself while looking those amusing spots on the walls, the crooked canvas and the hammer she didn’t remember returning back to its place.
It took her a week to calming herself completely.
-It’s stupid to be scared for something like this-
Monday. She searched on internet the number of a carpenter to hire, but even though she called several numbers no one cared on answering the phone. The ringtone repeated itself until it hanged up alone, putting her in a very bad mood. The storm continued to fall, and when it wasn’t strongly raining she could feel the static in the air.
She would call a carpenter the next day. Later, Emma decided to keep on reading her new book, comfy in the sofa, until it got too dark. She turned the lights on, determined to finish that novel but, after a blink, the electrical connection failed again and the light bulb exploded.
Emma exclaimed an insult in a loud voice. She lighted the only candle she had and she covered herself in a blanket, in the same sofa. She looked at the shiny horizon that was after the river, the furious water, and cursed the factory that made her lungs get ill and took her away from her friends and family. And she understood why the house was so cheap, but remained thankful that she didn’t had rain leaks.
She woke up with three strong bangs at the door. Only a few drops kept falling, as big and as wet as the storm before. She fell asleep in that place, in the living room, in the middle of the dark. She looked at the lights far away and she realized it was just darker than usual. This side of the river had a power cutoff. The door was hit again, even stronger and more impatient.
-Run and hide- She ran in a clumsy way, in the middle of the noise of the night, until she reached her room. She felt when the knocker turned and when that person outside fought with the lock.
Scared, she hides under her bed and she started praying so he, whoever he was, wouldn’t enter her room. She could hear how the latch gave up and how the swollen door opened with a long creak. That moved forward with heavy steps, making the house to creak even more pitifully. It entered her room and while Emma closed her eyes and bite her lips, she could hear how it crouched down to the floor to look at her. She didn’t want to open her eyelids because something inside her knew that if she did and if she get lost in those eyes like white holes, then she would be doomed.
Emma lost the sum of how much time she spent in that position, getting colder, terrified and numb. Trapped in a game where she pretended that it couldn’t see her and it pretended that she believed that it haven’t found her yet. But it was there, and Emma could feel its soft, warm breath.
Finally she heard the creak of the heavy body getting up and going away. She thought she could hear the door closing, but she didn’t want to get off under the bed. With the first lights, the rain decreased and the place was painted like with orange flames. Emma, still holding her breath, slid back to her room. It was empty and everything was in order, with the exception of the hammer that disappeared. She took her jacket and she left the place.
She filled the report in the closest police station but almost the middle of the complaint couldn’t be filled because of the description of the attacker. Heavy, shadowy, probably without pupils in its eyes and macabre personality wasn’t a viable description. Later she bought something to eat and some candles, just in case she couldn’t find any electrician on Tuesday. He wanted to be as far away as possible of that house and she thought of the possibility of sleeping somewhere else. Finally she decided to be rational. She paid a locksmith who changed the lock and add more security to her door.
As soon as she found herself inside the house, with a false safety feeling, was when she realized the poor and almost hilarious state of the woods, with almost no board sane. She decided she really liked the place. But the idea of living again what she lived the night before filled her with horror.
The rain came back with strength at dawn and she could feel the chills that made her grab her phone and had the police number ready to call. The voices were coming back, making her head burn while they talked all at the same time.
-It’s going to come back. It’s coming back-
She pushed the chair first, and then she decided to push the table also against the door. With the cellphone in her hand, she waited without taking her eyes off the only entry.
It was only when the last candle burned and drown that the place finally looked as dark as monster’s throat. The bangs on the door burst in the calm violently. It, impatient, hit the door as hard as the beating on Emma’s chest. She pressed the calling button, but the cellphone limited itself to ring twice and then to hang up. She gave up, between betray and desesperation.
-Hide under the bed- The voices advised and she ran to her room. But she couldn’t forget the breath on her face.
It knew she would be under the bed. It already knew. Horrified she took one thick board, burying the splinters under her nails, and pushed.
Under it was enough space for her in the empty gap, and she couldn’t avoid thinking that the hands of her dreams would appear at any moment. The door exploded, letting the storm rage inside the place. Emma took a deep breath and slid into the space, covering herself with the plank. She held her respiration when she felt the pressure of it walking and leaning over the floor to look under the bed.
A part of her felt relieved, believing that it would simply go away when it saw she wasn’t there.
And it was when she heard it. A terrible hammering over the wood, nail by nail. Emma hit the floor, from the other side, wet of sweat, she screamed but she didn’t get an answer. One by one, the twisted wooden planks recover its original form and clang into the structure. The floor was closing over her, like a sky, like the lid of a coffin, forever.