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There’s just something about this house. He’s drawn to it like a moth to the light. Number 37, Manor Road. It has this huge concrete driveway with a white garage door behind it. There’s a silver gate that leads down the side of the house and into the back garden, silver bars over the big front window, and a slim balcony with a few flower pots attached to it. It’s nothing fancy, but in his opinion, he thinks that it’s perfect.
He walks up to the house with a black suitcase in his hand and knocks hard on the front door. After a minute or so, this woman answers the door. She’s wearing a fluffy dressing gown with these grey slippers that look like little boots.
“Can I help you?” she goes. She clasps her dressing gown shut at the neck so that he can’t see her underthings.
“Yes,” he goes. “This house. How much do you want for it?”
“I’m sorry?” she goes.
He says it again: “This house. How much do you want for it?”
“It’s not for sale,” she goes.
“I know that,” he goes. “But I really like it, and I’d like to buy it off you. I have money.” He puts the suitcase down on the doorstep and unzips it. There’s a lot of money inside of it – too much to count. He’s done some things to get this money. Terrible things. But that’s not really important – it’s all behind him now. “So,” he goes. “What do you say? Do we have a deal here?”
The woman looks at him for a second. Then she looks down at the suitcase that’s sitting on her doorstep. She’s probably never seen this much money. Not in cash, anyway. That’s got to work in his favour. “Well,” she goes, “to be honest, I used to love this house. But for some reason, it just isn’t doing it for me any more.”
“Right,” he goes. “Well, if that’s the case, I’d be happy to take it off your hands.”
The woman thinks about it for a brief moment. She’s close to giving him what he came for. He can tell. “All right,” she goes. “I suppose we have a deal.”
“Great,” he goes. Then he shakes this woman’s hand. There’s no going back now.
He gives her plenty of time to vacate the premises. He can wait a couple of weeks before moving in. After all, He’s been waiting his whole life to find a house like this, so waiting a few extra weeks is hardly going to be a problem for him.
But once this woman has got all of her things together, she finally hands him the keys to his new house. “Well,” she goes. “I guess this is it.”
He doesn’t say anything in response.
“You will take care of it, won’t you?” she goes. “Of course,” he goes.
“Okay,” she goes. Then the woman picks up her bags and gets in her car. She stops for a second and takes one last look at the house before pulling out of the driveway. And then she’s gone for good.
He goes inside the house – inside his house – for the first time. It’s everything that he hoped it would be – and more. The woman has left a couple of things behind – a puffy sofa chair, a wooden sideboard, an old TV, a broken microwave, and a fridge-freezer. He wastes no time in getting rid of these things.
He loads up his van and takes the TV, the puffy chair, and the sideboard to a charity shop. Then he goes straight to the tip to get rid of the microwave and the fridge freezer. He knows he’ll probably have to make several trips to the tip in the coming weeks, but he’s not bothered – he doesn’t want anything that she has left behind. He wants a fresh start. Because at the end of the day, that’s what this house is for him.
Now that he’s gotten rid of the rest of the woman’s possessions, he can get to work on the house. He starts with the back garden, digging up the old turf. He wants fresh green grass and brand new plants. He wants his new garden to look like the kind of garden you see in adverts on TV.
So he goes to B&Q and buys everything he needs. He’s still got plenty of money left. There was a second suitcase in his van in case the woman wasn’t satisfied with his initial offer. But she just took the money and ran without asking any questions. She could’ve had so much more. But that’s her problem, not his.
He drives back to the house with rolls of fresh turf in the back of his van. He lays the grass himself, leaving plenty of space for some grey paving stones to go at certain
intervals in between the turf. He puts up a wooden border to separate the fresh grass from some soil, then plants a mixture of flowers – everything from chrysanthemums to geraniums – in the soil around the outside of the grass. He thinks he’s done a good job here. He’s got a really good feeling about all of this.
With the back garden finished, he turns his attention to the interior of the house. He rips up all the old carpet, fills all of the holes in the walls with Polyfilla, and rubs down certain areas with sandpaper for a smooth finish. Now it really is a blank canvas.
He goes back to B&Q to buy some paint. He wants all of the walls in the house to be white. It’s clean and fresh. He takes his time choosing the right shade of white. There are so many different shades of white – more than he realised, that’s for sure. There’s All White, Chantilly Lace, Pure Brilliant White, Slaked Lime, Clean White, White Cotton, Simple White, Ultra White, Strong White, Jasmine White, Floral White, Snowfall White, Cloud White – there are so many shades of white he can’t stand it. He thinks about going with Slaked Lime because, in the picture on the front of the tin, it’s paired with a dark carpet. He wants grey carpet in the house, so Slaked Lime might be the best option for him. But then he changes his mind at the last second and chooses Simple White because that’s what he’s going for – a simple look.
When he gets home, he does some prep work, before laying down his first coat of Simple White. He’s starting with his bedroom because it’s the most important room to him. He gives it a first coat, then lets it dry for a while. For some reason, it doesn’t look quite right to him, but that’s okay – it’s only the first coat. You need at least two coats when it comes to white – sometimes three. Everyone knows that. He’s sure the next coat will be better. So he lays down this second coat of paint and gives it plenty of time to dry. But he’s still not satisfied with the colour. He thinks he’s chosen the wrong paint. He’s chosen Mickey Mouse paint. That’s what this is. Fucking Mickey Mouse paint! He should’ve gone with the Slaked Lime. Now he’ll have to go back to B&Q and start all over again.
On second thought, maybe he’s overreacting a bit here. Maybe it doesn’t look right because there’s no furniture in the room and no carpet on the floor. Maybe if he puts down a nice grey carpet and starts to fill the room with a few things – a bed, a lamp, a chest of drawers, a clothes rail, a bedside table – then it will all come together and look how he’s been picturing it in his head. So there’s really no reason for him to panic and get so worked up about this.
He finds the carpet that he likes – a nice dark grey carpet – and buys just the right amount. He knows the measurements of his new bedroom off-by-heart. The man at the carpet shop asks him if he needs someone to come and fit it for him, but he says no – he says that he can do it himself. He’s never actually fitted carpet before, but how hard can it be? He’ll just watch a few videos online, and he’ll be good to go. He’s not going to pay for something if he doesn’t need to.
It turns out that fitting carpet is a lot harder than it looks. He’s tried his best to make it work, but there’s a small piece missing by the side of his bed and a big lump right in the centre of the room. Perhaps he should’ve just got someone to do it for him. Call him crazy, but he doesn’t want this house to be touched by anyone else. It’s his house, and he wants to keep it that way. It’s not the end of the world, though. He knows that he can hide all of the blemishes and imperfections by filling the room with all the things he needs. So he goes to Ikea. He’s going to get a bed frame, a couple of bedside tables, a lamp, a chest of drawers, a clothes rail, a mirror, and a nice rug that should hide the lump in the carpet. He’s already ordered some pillows, pillowcases, a mattress, some sheets, a duvet, and a duvet cover online from a specialist bed shop. He wants the very best when it comes to his bed because sleep is very important to him. He’s one of those people who needs a good eight hours of sleep, otherwise, he can’t function.
When he gets home from Ikea, he finds that his brand new mattress and all of his other packages have just been left outside by the front door. The only things that seem to be missing are his new memory foam pillows. He’s not happy that it’s all been left on his doorstep like this. It’s an expensive mattress – anyone could’ve taken it. There’s got to be a number that he can call so that he can complain about the service, but he hasn’t got time to be put on hold, so he’ll have to get to the bottom of this later. He brings all of the packages into the house. Then he starts assembling his new furniture. It all goes together pretty easily, apart from one of the bedside tables, which has a slight wobble. And when he puts it all in his room, it feels a bit crowded. Maybe he bought too much stuff. After all, there’s only so much stuff that can fit into one room.
He starts moving things around a bit to see if he can find the right combination of things, but he’s interrupted by someone knocking at his door. He’s not sure who it could be. It’s getting late, and he’s not expecting anyone. He goes downstairs and opens the door to find a woman standing in front of him. She has brown hair, and she’s wearing jeans, a jumper and a body warmer.
“Hello,” she goes. “Are you Mr Alan Moore?”
“Yes,” he goes. He doesn’t know why he said that. After all, he doesn’t know who this woman is or what she wants from him.
“I’ve got a delivery for you,” she goes. “It’s in my car if you’d like to come and get
“Okay,” he goes. For a minute there, he thought she was going to say something else.
The woman walks him to her car. He doesn’t have time to put any shoes on, so he goes outside in his socks. When he gets to the car, the woman opens the boot for him. There are two big cardboard boxes next to each other. It must be his new pillows.
“It’s just these two,” she goes.
“Right,” he goes. He picks up the boxes. They’re very light. She definitely could’ve carried them to the house. He’s not sure why he’s out here doing her job for her.
“All right, then,” she goes. “Take care.” Then she gets in her car and drives off.
He thinks that whole thing was weird. Why didn’t she just bring the boxes to the door? Why did he have to go outside and get his socks dirty? And why was she in such a hurry to leave? There was nothing else in the back of her car – no more packages or parcels, so what in the hell was that all about?
He goes back inside with his brand new pillows and puts them on his bed. It’s taken him a while, but now he can get his first night’s sleep inside the house. He’s been sleeping in his van because he didn’t want to sleep in his bedroom until he had it just right. He knows that might sound crazy, but he doesn’t have to exp lain himself. He’s not on trial here. He gets himself in bed. It’s a comfortable bed. And the pillows and sheets are nice and soft. But then again, they are Egyptian cotton, which isn’t cheap. He’s ready to get some sleep now. But no matter how hard he tries, he can’t seem to fall asleep. He tries counting sheep because he’s heard that that’s supposed to work. But it doesn’t seem to work for him; when he pictures sheep, he pictures them getting slaughtered for their meat; when he pictures sheep, he pictures a farmer and his wife, struggling to get by. Picturing sheep only seems to make things worse for him – if anything, it keeps him awake even longer. He usually gets to sleep as soon as his head touches the pillow. But not tonight – tonight, it just isn’t happening.
He starts to think about why this is. He did have a near-death experience when he was seven or eight. He was on a family holiday at a Haven resort in Weymouth. He stayed in one of those static caravans. He and his sister made friends with some children from Newcastle. He met a boy named James and spent quite a lot of time with him. You could even say that they were inseparable. One day, he was playing with James on the beach – probably building sandcastles or tossing a frisbee back and forth – when he saw some other kids in the sea. They appeared to be standing on some sort of ledge. He went out there to see what they were up to. He went alone because James was too chicken to go out there with him. The ledge went quite far out into the sea, but he just kept on going to see if he could make it to the end. But the ledge was slippery, and he fell into the water.
He struggled, splashing around for his life. The water was deep – far too deep for his young body to handle. He must have been thrashing around in the water for a good thirty seconds – which is a long time when your life is at stake – before an older boy pulled him to safety. But that can’t be the reason, can it? He hasn’t thought about that for years, and he’s never had any problems getting to sleep before. He still can’t quite understand what’s happening here. Maybe it has something to do with this house. But that’s just silly. Yes, his bedroom hasn’t turned out exactly how he wanted it, but it’s close enough. And he can always fix it. This isn’t over yet. Not by a long shot.
Then he hears a scratching sound. It sounds like it’s coming from his bed. He gets out of bed and picks up his phone. He goes onto Google and searches “Scratching noises in bed.” He clicks on the first search result, which brings up a fresh webpage with the word: BEDBUGS.
He follows the instructions. First, he removes his bedsheets and checks for signs of the bugs or their excrement. There’s nothing there. Then he checks his skin for bites and marks. There’s nothing there. Then he strips the bed, throws the bedsheets, the pillows, the mattress, and the duvet out the window and into the back garden. He takes off his clothes and throws those outside, too. He goes downstairs and out into the back garden, completely naked. He burns his mattress, his clothes, his bedsheets – he burns it all.
That’s the only way to kill them, or so he’s been told. He watches it all go up in flames. The fire is starting to ruin the grass. But it’s fine. He can fix that later. He can get some new flowers – some better flowers – and some new turf. There’s plenty of turf to go around.
He’ll also need to go out and get a new bed, a new mattress, new sheets, new pillows – new everything. Maybe it’s that delivery lady’s fault. Maybe he got them from her. He’ll order his new things from somewhere else so that he doesn’t have to come into contact with her again. In the meantime, he’ll have to go back to sleeping in the back of his van, or else sleep on the lumpy and uneven bedroom floor.
His new bedroom furniture turns up a couple of days later. It’s delivered by the same woman, even though he ordered it from a different company. He tried his best to avoid her, but she keeps slipping through the cracks. And with regards to the delivery, it’s the same as before: he has to go out to her car and bring everything into the house himself. He thinks about saying something to her, but he knows that it might all be in his head. She could do this to everyone – it could be her thing. He decides that he’s going to follow her to see if this is the case. That seems like a reasonable course of action to take. That’s the most rational thing to do in a situation such as this. He waits for her to pull out of the driveway, and then he gets in his van and gives chase.
He’s never followed anyone before – certainly not like this. But he’s well aware that he’ll need to keep his distance in order to avoid arousing any suspicion in the delivery woman. After following her for a good fifteen minutes, she finally arrives at another house. He watches her get out of her car, take the parcels out of the boot and walk them to the house. What the fuck is this? he thinks. Why didn’t she bring the stuff to my house? What the fuck is her problem?
He needs to say something here. She’s not getting away with this. He waits for her to walk back to the car. Then he gets out of his van and confronts her. “Hey,” he goes. “I see you. I see what you’re doing here. Why didn’t you take the packages to my door? Why did I have to come out to your car and get them?”
“Excuse me?” she goes.
“You heard me,” he goes. “Do you have a problem with me or something? Is that it?”
“Wait a minute,” she goes. “Have you been following me?”
“Yes,” he goes. “But that’s not the point.”
“Listen,” she goes. “If I catch you following me again, I’m going to call the police. Do you hear me? I know where you live.”
He tries to plead with her – he tries to tell her that he’s not the one who’s on trial here. But she’s not having any of it. She keeps saying that she’s going to call the police.
In the end, he has to back down because he doesn’t want the police involved in any of this.
He gets back home and puts his new bedroom furniture together. It takes him a lot longer this time. He’s not sure why. It’s late now, and he just wants to get some sleep. He knows he can fix all of his problems after getting a good night’s sleep, so he gets in bed and puts his head down on the pillow. But instead of falling asleep, he hears that scratching sound again.
That’s it. He’s had it. He gets out of bed and starts screaming at the house. “What is wrong with you?! he goes. “Why are you doing this to me?! Why have you got to be like this?! What the hell is your problem?!” He picks up the bedside table and throws it against the wall. There are pieces of wood and little metal screws everywhere, but he doesn’t care. He starts up again. “This wasn’t supposed to have happened,” he goes. “You were supposed to have been perfect, just like you were when I first laid eyes on you.”
He falls to the floor like a broken man. Because, after all, that’s what he is. This house has broken him – it’s broken his spirit. And now, he’s got nothing left.
There’s just something about this house. She’s drawn to it like a moth to the light. Number 37, Manor Road. It has this huge concrete driveway with a white garage door behind it. There’s a silver gate that leads down the side of the house and into the back garden, silver bars over the big front window, and a slim balcony with a few flower pots attached to it. It’s nothing fancy, but in her opinion, she thinks that it has everything.
She walks up the driveway towards the front door. There’s no FOR SALE sign outside, but that doesn’t matter to her. She’s going to do this. She knocks on the door. She sees the curtain move. Then this man answers the door. He’s wearing a white t-shirt with holes in it and grey sweatpants. He looks tired.
“Can I help you?” he goes.
“Yes,” she goes. “This house. How much do you want for it?”
Thomas Morgan is a writer from Worthing in West Sussex. He's been published in Dream Catcher Magazine, STORGY, Bandit Fiction, and Truffle Magazine.
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