The story opens with a housewife going through her mundane routine. There’s a vague sense that something is amiss in her life, but what is really of utmost concern is the dilapidated and overgrown property across the street that is “For Sale or Rent.” Both the protagonist and her husband remain nameless throughout the piece, creating a disconcerting effect. I also got the sense that the setting could be anywhere in the United States. The neighbourhood details are descriptive, but general enough for the reader to assume it could be his or her own block.
Prompted to investigate the source of an unnerving sound, the protagonist crosses the street and peeks into the house in question. She finds that there is more going on there than the abandonment of a property, a piling up of dead bugs, and a jungle of a front yard. Once she meets the realtor, things start to take an ominous turn. Not only is there something off about his appearance, but the predictions he has for the housewife are enough to have anyone running for the hills.
The suspense keeps building until it’s confirmed that the main character’s husband is one of her threats. Around that time, the whole neighborhood seems stuck in some kind of bad dream. What exactly has moved into the house?
Things aren’t what they seem, and the housewife begins to question her sanity. Her world spirals out of control and eventually she has to surrender to the inescapable madness around her. The last stretch of the story is rather frightening, yet some of my questions about what was going on in the spooky structure are not answered. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the nail-biting ride.
My favorite character would be a tie between the realtor, the old neighbor, and the person on the other end of the phone when she calls 911.
My favorite scene is one toward the end where the protagonist is at the height of her threatening situation and she calls 911. For me, things got a whole lot scarier at this point.
Best line: “His features became liquid, sliding over the bones of his face until only a blank flesh-colored mask remained gasping around a horrible toothy maw.”
What was best for you as a reader? The story’s gradual reveal of details and the build-up to the closing lines really worked. I’d have to say that Madron preyed on my personal fears. The idea that the world could suddenly change and not be what it seems is rather terrifying—especially when the people who are supposed to be closest to you turn out to be your enemy. Questioning reality and my sanity would scare me senseless. There’s not much you can do if you’re mind becomes your prison, or if the world at large wants to devour you, literally.
The opening of the story was a little slow for me (although I was happy that I hung in there). When I went back to read the first few pages again, it was apparent that Madron planted some intentional details that were well thought out. However, I was anxious to get the horror party started. On another note, not everything has to be answered for me when I read a story or see a movie. Some of the best plots have left me hanging. That said, there are a few questions I had after putting this particular piece down. I wanted to know more about what was taking over the neighbourhood (trying to be vague here as to not spoil anything) and what the sound was that the housewife investigated at the beginning. Furthermore, why would an evil force out to destroy you give you psychic predictions regarding your fate—unless it was an intentional tactic to drive you out of your wits? A little more elaboration on this would have been welcomed, for me.
Because this story tapped into my personal fears, I give it 4 out of 5 stars. There’s a bit of a Lovecraftian vibe, so if you like his stories, you will enjoy this one.
Theresa Braun was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides. She enjoys delving into creative writing, painting, photography and even bouts of ghost hunting. Perhaps growing up in a haunted house in Winona, Minnesota is to blame. Traveling as often as possible is one of her passions—in fact, her latest adventure took her to Romania for a horror writers’ workshop where she followed in the steps of Vlad the Impaler. She writes horror fiction and her latest short story “Shout at the Devil” appears in Under the Bed Magazine.