The first photo that inspired me was submitted by my friend Roz:
I was immediately inspired to do a story about a haunted place; the kind of place where neighborhood kids avoid, neighborhood teenagers “party” in, and hobos relax in. Here we go!
There is an old song that says that a house is like a life. At times, it is filled with light and joy; at others, it may be dark and bleak. If this metaphor were applied to the old house on the corner of Jencks and Crawford, the house’s life would have ended years ago.
The old house was lifeless for as long as Billy Benoit could remember. While his age of ten years hadn’t afforded Billy with many experiences, it did teach him what a proper haunted place looked like, and by his intense evaluation the old house was certainly not haunted; yes, it was old and worn, but it didn’t have a supernatural air about it.
It had no turret, no porch, and no widow’s walk. What it did have was a silent malignance. It was a Bad Place, but Billy wasn’t sure why he thought as such. He wished he could believe the stories that other kids told of the place. If a witch had actually died there, or if Jolly Hodgekins really hid there during the day, then Billy could have explained his feelings of menace, but instead he was haunted by something else, something he couldn’t quite peg.
Dressed in his yellow-striped pajamas, Billy sat before his bedroom window, looking over the old house; his gaze passed over each darkened window, uncertain of what he was looking for. One night, some time before, he had spotted a light in one of the windows.
Billy had wondered if it was witch fire, but when he spied Matt Angel’s dark orange Trans-Am parked behind the old house’s obscuring bushes, he knew that Matt and some of the older kids were making themselves at home. Billy had wondered if there would be a day when he, like Matt, would sneak into the house with a girl and spend the night. He wondered if he would sneak in and break something, like so many of the older kids would.
Tonight, the house was dark and empty, as it usually was. Disappointed, Billy closed the blinds and crawled into bed and under his warm, fluffy comforter. Staring at the ceiling, he wasn’t able to get the old house out of his mind. Once the house had offered shelter and warmth, but it had become decrepit and useless. Would his house be like that some day? The thought made Billy profoundly sad. He envisioned a hole ripped in the roof above his bed, letting in the sun, snow and rain. He imagined his mother’s garden choked with weeds and his father’s car left rusting in the driveway.
In the darkness, his nihilistic thoughts coalesced into vivid visions. The emptiness and neglect of the old house seemed to spread from home to home, chasing out all life and leaving a trail of broken windows and crumbling roofs in its wake. Homes were not the only victims; schools, churches, and even the Wal-Mart succumbed to the spreading ruin. Billy tried to shake his obsessive imaginings, but he couldn’t, not until he imagined the entire world empty like the old house on the corner of Jencks and Crawford.
Nearly shaking, Billy crawled out from under the covers and walked over to the window. Looking out at the sleepy street, Billy saw that the neighborhood was free from the ruin he imagined. Everything except for the old house. Was there anything anyone would do about the house? Or would everyone just let it sit there, its rotten illness spreading slowly?
Quietly, he slipped out of his bedroom and evaded the light that was pouring out from his parents’ room. His father’s loud snores were rattling away, but Billy knew that his mother was probably still awake, reading. He made his way downstairs, towards the kitchen.
He reasoned that getting a drink of water was a plausible excuse to be up, and it was what he would tell his mother if she asked him what he was doing out of bed. He couldn’t tell her the truth. He couldn’t tell her that he decided that he should destroy the old house because no one else would.
He knew where his mother kept the lighter that she could ignite the heater’s pilot light with, and figured that the newspapers from the recycling would work to start a fire. Slipping into his coat and shoes, he made his way across the street with his destructive tools in tow.
The night transformed the neighborhood. While he had often looked out over it from his bedroom window, being out in the night air in the empty street was completely different. With the entire world asleep around him, he crossed the street after looking both ways and stepped closer and closer to the old house. It loomed above him, draped in darkness.
As Billy made it past the bushes, he realized that this was the closest he had ever been to the house. The silence of the night seemed multiplied in the old house’s presence. As he stepped towards the door, the moon cast light on the shattered bay window. In the pale light, he could see a face reflected in a shard of the glass that was clinging in its pane.
Rubbing his eyes, Billy looked closer, determined to see his own reflection, but it wasn’t there. It was certainly a face, and one that was unfamiliar. Billy braced himself, ready for the face to move, but it didn’t. It simply stared outwards into the night, oblivious of the passage of time. Its expression was one of mild interest, as thought it were content, but bored.
Billy stepped backwards and tripped over his own feet, tumbling to the ground. He pushed his palm down to the ground, trying to push himself to his feet and felt a sharp pain followed by the warmth of flowing blood.
He had cut himself on a shard of glass that had been on the ground, and in that glass was a single, unblinking eye.
There you go. This picture came up as worth EXACTLY 1,000 words. Thank you for your submission Roz, and I hope you enjoy the story that your photograph inspired.