Dreams are strange things. Sometimes they are deep and meaningful while other times they are the result of eating cheese curds and pork rinds before bed. Generally speaking, I do not remember my dreams. On occasion, though, one stands out and results in contemplation for days. This is one such dream.
The scene opens with me walking through a subdivision that I evidently lived in. I came upon that one house. You know the one that appears in every horror film. The sidewalk was blocked by the overgrown bushes that had pushed their way through the tall wrought iron fence that surrounded the property. Once a year or so, the city would cut back the bushes so that pedestrians could still walk on the sidewalk. They had not done this yet.
So, I walked around them, stepping into the street. Shortly, I came up to the gate. It was twice my height and covered in vines. A large, thick chain wound through the two gate doors and was firmly held together by an old, rusty padlock.
From here, one could see between the bars of the gate and observe the property and the house. The house, a large brick Victorian, had been vacant for about 75 years. The family who previously owned it were long gone with little, if any, information as to what could have happened. Nonetheless, the house sat alone, quiet and untouched for three quarters of a century.
But today was to be a different day. Some city officials had gathered and were going to enter the property to inspect for hazards to the local community. I stood at the gate and listened to them discussing their plans how they couldn’t believe that the home had never been vandalized in all of these years.
I pondered that thought… No one had entered, burglarized or otherwise harmed this home. The forestry and lawn surrounding it was certainly overgrown, but not to the extent that one would think after so many years. My thoughts were jarred loose at the sound of the lock snapping off and falling to the ground. The creaking gates were forced open and the two officials cautiously entered the premises. I followed along quietly behind them. They either didn’t notice me or didn’t care that I was following them.
The front porch was stone and remained solid despite the home’s neglect. At the entrance to the house were thick, elaborately engraved wooden doors that formed an arch. They were faded with time, but generally in good repair. A similar chain and padlock tightly fastened the doors together. Another ‘pop’ and ‘clink’ as the chain fell to the floor. We slowly opened the doors.
I swear that it seemed like the house took a deep breath as we opened those doors. Slowly, we walked into a huge foyer with a sweeping rounded staircase and curio cabinets covered in sheets lining the walls. You could see the dust floating in the air. It coated everything as though it was reclaiming every molecule. The air was musty and stale as one would expect. But it did not smell badly.
The two officials went work. They began walking through the house and documenting everything that found. No doubt this house had a story and tons of history yet to be discovered.
Left alone for the time being, I walked straight back, past the stairs and through the kitchen. At the far end of the kitchen was a small staircase leading downstairs, presumably to the basement. I felt a little anxiety as I approached it. Turning the nob, I was surprised that it opened with ease. It was pitch black. I backed up a couple of steps. The smell was warm and humid like sitting water. I took a few more steps back.
Suddenly, a white head poked out of the doorway. A half blinded, scrawny white cat came walking out. It strained to see perhaps from being in the dark for a long time. It appeared to have mange and seemed in terrible health. I raced back up the stairs and it limped along, seemingly unaware of where it was heading.
By this time, many other officials had gathered. Decisions were being made, permits pulled, documents flying around, and calls being made to local universities for historical professors. One very odd decision was to have a section of the hard wood floor in the dining room torn up so that someone could be lowered into the basement.
A man named Johnny volunteered. He and I would be lowered into the basement. My job was to hold the spotlight. We were lowered into a room in the basement that was about 20 feet by 20 feet. There was about a foot of water on the floor. Three sides of the room were encompassed by a wraparound bar. It was complete with sinks and glasses, but the spirits and wine were long gone. I waded out of that room and up a few steps to the open part of the basement.
It was huge. On one end was a series of offices. There were probably about 20 of them. Each one had the cubicle at the entrance where an administrative assistant would have been stationed. As I approached the office, I began to notice people. There were people in the offices and at the cubes. Some people were looking through old file cabinets while others were just talking in the main hallway.
Right about then Chris Salyer approached me. In real life, she was my boss when I worked at One Way Book Shop right out of college. Chris informed me that she was in charge of the historic restoration, exploration and archival of this place.
She walked me through the basement, explaining what certain things may have been and how they would be recorded. We passed office after office and soon came upon an old-fashioned metal framed elevator. It was meant to handle no more than two people and it stood alone in the middle of a large open space.
We continued past it. To my left I noticed stained glass windows. The odd thing was that they were lit up. I asked Chris about them. She told me that my time was up and that I was going to have to leave now. So, she turned around and started back towards the elevator. But within a couple of steps, she died and was no more. I looked around and could not find her. But I understood her to be dead. I made for the stained-glass windows.
The doors were thick and wooden like the typical doors of a Catholic church. I pulled one open and slipped inside. The room resembled a church sanctuary with an odd twist. It had a judge’s seat where the pulpit would be and jury stands, witness stands and court clerk desks all at the front. Each stand was divided by a thick concrete wall that stood some six feet high. There was a baptismal that was full of water off to the side of the judge’s seat.
Within this chamber were many people. A man and woman were actively having sex in the baptismal while others occupied the jury seats. As I looked at the individuals in the room, I began to notice that everyone was involved in some sort of misdeed.
Along the outside walls were seven large concrete vestibules. They were eight feet high and solid concrete. They did not reach to the ceiling and therefore they were open topped. On each one was written the name of a deadly sin.
Suddenly, I felt a compulsion to climb up on the wall between the judge’s seat and the witness stand. Once I got up there, I noticed an old letter opened sitting by the gavel on the judge’s desk. I took it in hand.
An eerie howl began to echo throughout the chamber. It reverberated, and I swear it felt like I was vibrating from it. Then seven hell hounds leapt from their vestibules. They were huge, each one the size of a black bear. I watched from my perch as they began mauling the people. The sight was gruesome. People were literally torn to shreds by these blood thirsty creatures.
I sat frozen in fright on my wall when one of them took notice of me. With a single jump, he cleared the witness stand and landed on the wall beside me. Instinctively, I thrust the letter opener into the soft of his neck below his jaw. He yelped and scurried away. Another lunged at me and this time the letter opener landed square in his eye.
As quickly as the panic set in, the scene dissolved. The people and hell hounds disappeared. The chamber remained the same. In fact, the entire building remained the same. But there were no other people there. I made my way back upstairs and found myself alone in that dusty foyer. Well, almost alone. The disease-ridden cat lay panting against the wall, his eyes blindly gazing up and a ray of sunshine that had found its way inside.
I walked to the front door, confused about what had happened. Clink. Clink. I heard the sound of the chain and lock that held the front doors locked from the outside.