We used to ride our bikes to the house at the end of the block. No one lived there for years. No one came by to take care of it but we knew one of the neighbours owned it. There was a for sale sign on the front lawn for years. I remember first noticing it when I was about six. My brother and I rode past and he told me the house was haunted by a monster that would get me if I ever went in. I didn’t know what the monster would do if he got me but it was warning enough.
I spent a lot of summers riding my bike up to the sidewalk where the house stood. Never daring to step any further than the sidewalk, I’d stare through the windows trying to catch a glimpse of the monster inside. The long grass would sway in the wind and the shutters outside of the windows would bang against the siding of the house anytime a gust of wind blew by. The house was blue at one point, I figured, but the years of dirt building up on the paint gave it a hue like if someone buried a silver fork for a year and dug it up again. The front door sat in the middle of the house with large, dark windows on either side. It looked like the face of someone sleeping and I wondered if the monster wasn’t in the house but was the house. Maybe I would be trapped inside forever if I ever went in; that’s how the monster would get me.
By the time I was ten I wasn’t scared of monsters anymore. My friends and I started riding our bikes right up to the front door. We would break branches off the massive oak tree that stood on the house’s front lawn and use them like swords, striking down the monster that wanted to gobble us up. We weren’t afraid anymore and each more boldly mocked the house than the last to show off our prowess.
One day, we found some big rocks in the garden, some too big to carry with one hand. We started throwing them like shot puts to see who was the strongest until one of us threw a rock right through one of the dark, front windows. Then that became the game. The sound of glass shattering exhilarated us as we tried to one-up each other by throwing the biggest rock, making the biggest crash, and breaking the most glass.
One of the neighbours came out and started yelling at us. We all tried to run and I was the only one he could catch. He dragged me by my collar back to my house and told my mother what he caught me doing. My mother yelled at me and told me I would have to clean up all the glass that I broke. My brother sat behind her, shook his head and sneared saying the monster would get me before I finished cleaning all the glass.
The next day I walked to the house at the end of the block with a broom and dust pan in my hand, whacking the head of the broom against the sidewalk every few steps not necessarily hoping it would break, I just wanted to hit something. I got to the sidewalk in front of the house and stared at it. The face was broken and if there ever was a monster in there, it was dead now.
I got about half way done cleaning when my friends showed up to make fun of me. They called me a baby while they kicked the front door and kept kicking it until it fell off its hinges and caved in the middle, splintering out the other side. They started laughing as they picked up what was left of the door and hit it against the wall until the door crumbled in pieces and the wall dented and cracked. We all started laughing and kicking at all the walls, leaving holes wherever we could and trying to make a bigger hole than the last. I picked up the broom and starting using the head to break the ceramic tiles on the floor while my friends picked up the pieces and started carving swear words into what was left of the walls.
That’s when we heard steps coming up to the front door.
A young couple stood in the doorway, silently and slowly turning their heads with their mouths cracked open. The young woman was holding a baby wrapped in a pink blanket; her lips curled up and her chin scrunched up as tears started falling along her face. Her shoulders bobbed, waking up the baby who started to wail.
The man’s arms were caked in mud and dirt was embedded into his fingers with dry, broken nails. He was unshaven and his face was creased. His shirt was dirty and his boots were covered in drywall dust. His shoulders started bobbing too as tears ran down his face.
A mirror had fallen off the wall shattered on the ground beside me. I looked down at the pieces beside me and realized the monster in the house wasn’t dead. And I found out what happens when the monster gets you.