I have a friend who is a storyteller. Which is, in my opinion, just a nice way of saying he's a liar. The trick to being a convincing liar, I’ve heard, is to believe the story you’re telling. I always wanted to believe the stories he told. The temptation, I think, was that there was always a tantalizing amount of truth in his lies.
Over the years, the Liar has told me bits and pieces of a story. When he was a child, he lived in an old house out in the country. Way in the back, nestled along the wooded tree line, there was a shed. In the shed lived a little boy who would often play with my friend the Liar. When he got a little older, the Liar moved away, leaving the shed and the old house behind.
The boy from the shed followed the Liar, making his new home in the Liar’s closet. Though he’s moved many times and is now a grown man, the Liar still makes sure to keep his closet door firmly closed at night. Only now, the little boy in the closet is no longer a little boy. He too is a grown man.
I often wonder how much of this story was true, and what it meant to him. There is symbolism in it for sure, though I don’t know how deeply to read into it. I don't know if he has been trying to tell me something, or if it was just a tale he told me to pass the time. I’ve always wanted to ask, but considering the number of times I've caught him in lies and half truths, I don’t know if I could trust his answer any more than I trust the story itself.
There is a rental house situated on the lot at the back of my parent's property. Many years ago my friend the Liar came to visit. We went for a walk out to the pasture and passed the little house. He told me he had seen a face in the screen door, pressed up against the mesh fabric. It had been a woman’s face, angry and terrifying, her hands clawing as if fighting to breach the threshold.
He wove a convincing tale, his description was so vivid. When your best friend is a liar, though, you learn to suspect every word. My family had built the house, and nothing strange had ever happened there. There was no reason to put stock in his story. Haunted houses needed history, a death, something--or so I thought.
While in college I moved out to the rental house, my first taste of freedom and adulthood. I was often home alone, working late on projects. There were always strange sounds in the house coming from the crawlspace and the roof. The noises didn’t bother me, I always convinced myself of some explanation or another. That is until the couch I was sitting on while studying one night was kicked--kicked hard enough that my cat leapt from it and ran into the next room. Though I convinced myself I’d had too much coffee, that I’d imagined it--part of me worried at every sound and shadow.
Time moves quickly, and I moved on, much like my friend the Liar, leaving the rental house behind. My great grandmother lived there for many years after, growing bitter and senile. It was strange to see the matriarch of our family turn mean and angry, a woman who’d always been so full of joy and life. She finally passed away, a husk of the woman she’d once been, leaving the house once again vacant.
Pregnant and happy for the opportunity to be so close to family, I moved back without hesitation. My husband and I lived there for a little more than a year. The scampering, scratching and scraping noises along the roof at night, the rustling under the house and porch--we assumed were the activities of the herd of cats left by my grandmother. There were times, that I’d go outside to try and figure out just how a cat was making that sort of noise on the roof. It never seemed to make sense, the noises came from places that no cat should have been able to reach.
Adding to my sense of unease were the times that I could have sworn I’d seen someone in the hallway. Shadows often seemed to flicker then fall out of place. I began to have unusual, vivid, and occasionally bad dreams. Symptoms of lack of sleep and new motherhood, I'd convinced myself. Then there was the increasing tension between me and my husband. He seemed to hate the house and living there for no real reason. When we left, our marriage was in shambles.
It took nearly two years to patch things up, and we’ve lived happily since then. Though our troubled relationship could be explained away, I couldn’t help but think of that angry face in the screen, the kick to the couch, and my grandmother growing bitter and crazy.
The house has had many tenants over the years. From time to time I’ve asked if the animals seemed to make an unusual amount of noise--if they’ve noticed anything odd while living there. No one else has noticed anything out of the ordinary, or at least haven't mentioned it.
So now I wonder, was the house haunted by some angry spirit, or just a story told to pass the time? Is my friend actually a liar, or does he have a gift to tell the stories of things unseen? The skeptic in me will continue to wonder, while the dreamer half-believes.
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This piece was published in www.linguisticerosion.com on Oct. 29, 2012. Visit the external link to visit the site and enjoy the works of many other writers.
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bit·ter·sweet: being at once bitter and sweet; especially: pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret. A collection of short stories I've written since joining Wattpad for various contests, challenges and publications. The...