Ricky hums the theme to A Nightmare on Elm Street as you push the creaking fence out of your way. You give him a playful shove, almost dropping your flashlight as the two of you make your way up the pathway that was once neatly trimmed, but now was cracked and full of weeds.
The porch steps look unsteady. You aren’t sure if they’ll support the weight of you and Ricky, but they do, albeit with the protests only old, faded wood can make. The swinging porch chair to the right dangles by one rusted chain. A window looks like it’s the victim of multiple scenes of vandalism. The chipped paint could rain on you with a good earthquake.
Ricky doesn’t hesitate to turn the rusted knob to the front door. He flashes you a mischievous smile. In the faded light of the evening, it looks as if the freckles on his face are swallowing his eyes for a brief moment.
It was his idea, of course, to check out 59 Red Roan. Even though your heart is beating in your chest, you can’t fault him; you actually thought it was a great idea at the time. You still do. It’s exciting and possibly full of adventure. There could be anything inside this house, up to and including pirate treasure. There was no way you were going to miss out on that. You just can’t remember why it took you three years of friendship with Ricky for the two of you to come up with this plan.
The front door creaks in a way that’s pleasing to your twelve-year-old ears. It’s a song of mystery and delicious fear. You step across the threshold on Ricky’s heels and peer into the front room.
There’s a staircase to your left. What light is in the room fades halfway up the stairs. Not even the light from your flashlight can reach the top. The door in the back of the room is nailed shut and, like the rest of the place, is worn with time and disinterest. The only thing worthy of your fascination is in the center of the room.
It’s a round, wooden table. A green cloth lays over it with golden tassels fringing the edges. Sitting atop that are miniature snow globes, dozens of them, each with a tiny house inside.
You and Ricky immediately beeline it to the table. Your flashlights flicker over the glass, making it seem as though fairies have entered the room to see what the two of you are up to. You pick up one by the ceramic base and look inside.
The flashlight reflects the light so you move it to the side, finally able to behold what lies amid the water and glitter beneath. It is, as you first thought, just a house and just a yard, exquisite in detail but otherwise boring. You place it back down where the dust had formed an outline outside of where you had stolen it from and pick up the next.
It is also the same, only the house is a different color and the shape slightly different. All appear to be the same. You are about to check out the rest of the house when Ricky holds one out to you.
“It looks like your house,” he says as you take it from him. It appears it is your house only in minuscule. It has the oak tree in the back with the tire swing, the above ground pool, even your parents’ cars in the driveway. Your mother has always preferred the color orange and opted to pay extra for her Volkswagen Beetles to be that color. A tiny orange Bug sits in the driveway of your tiny universe with tiny Ohio license plates and a black roof rack for bicycles.
You grab the globe with your left hand, setting your flashlight down on the table, Your fingertips press on the glass creating beacons of warmth quickly. It begins to glow lightly at the points of contact, but you don’t notice until you’re already shaking it.
You almost drop it when instead of pieces of snow and glitter falling above to land on your yard, the whole globe changes into a viewing screen. “Ricky,” you whisper. “Ricky, look!”
His eyes flicker up then grow wide. He butts up next to you, the golden light from deep within this little ball reflecting off his face. His eyes find yours, then you both look down to see what it is the globe would like to say.
You see yourself only ever so slightly younger. Your father is yelling at you, your mother frowning with arms crossed over her chest. He holds up a squirrel, which might have been comical if you didn’t suddenly remember what this meant. Your chest suddenly feels heavy and the warmth in your body has evaporated.
You had never told anyone, even Ricky. It was a deep, dark secret, one not shared lightly. You’ve had others you’ve told him, about looking at adult things you shouldn’t have or the time you made your little cousin cry by scaring her with ghost stories. Those are okay secrets to tell. This one is not.
Maggie, your little sister, watched as you caught the squirrel in the yard, slowly earning its trust by feeding it peanuts. She said nothing, made no sound as you put on one of your father’s gardening gloves, held the creature by the scruff of its neck, and plunged it into your pool. Over and over again, you delayed its death by shaking it in between sessions, bringing it back by flicking its head when that didn’t work.
Sister had tattled on you. Your father had found the body of the squirrel where you had tossed it when you grew bored. Punishment had been swift; only the belt would do in this case. That had been compounded with a grounding so severe you had never even heard one as bad from any of your friends of nor have since that time. The summer had been robbed for you when you were ten. Ricky had never learned why you couldn’t play.
You set it down quickly before you drop it, afraid of what that could bring. The two of you find Ricky’s house. You watch as the heat returns and increases across your cheeks and dances to the back of your neck. Ricky’s father has done things with other women, in the house, in the bed where his parents slept. One of those women you recognize as Sean Darmon’s mother, another as one of the young ladies from the grocery store. She always seems afraid when you go shopping with your mom, always nervous about something.
“We need to go,” you hear yourself say. You grab Ricky by the wrist. He forgets his flashlight on the table, but you tell yourself you’ll come back at some point for it. You never do.
Ricky says nothing and walks home like a zombie, like someone who has seen a ghost. You cannot fathom how you’re supposed to be feeling. Shame, anger, embarrassment, fear. Yes, definitely the fear. That’s the biggest one, the one that sends you running home so fast you trip and fall over the large crack in your driveway you know about and always miss.
It’s well beyond curfew. Your father is waiting. You are too numb to hear his words. He backhands you and in the distance you hear the sound of something falling, like the chain to a porch swing has finally rusted through and dumped it’s heavy burden onto the boards below.
[Originally published on /r/writingprompts “You were raised in a cute little cul de sac, white picket fences and flowers, yet the dilapidated house on the end of your street remained odd, and possibly, you thought, haunted. As you finally push open the doors, you find it isn’t what you expected at all…” by /u/chivestheconqueror]