Author Note: When this 5000 word story was first written it was a complete change for me. Up until this point most of my writing revolved around horror and pain. This was purely written for a competition. It didn’t win and there could be a reason for that.
Carlos discovered nothing under a pile of shoes in the back of his grandmother’s closet. To suggest that he was upset didn’t quite get to the crux of the matter, because he was upset, but at the same time he was relieved.
He was upset because after nearly a week of indecision he’d finally decided to follow the request in the note he’d received which was presumably from his dead grandmother and found nothing. But it was that same nothing which also relived him, for if nothing was there; there was nothing to deal with.
Seven years ago after his grandmother died of cancer and bequeathed her entire estate to him, her only living relative, Carlos had felt no immediate desire to sell the house. Despite his trepidation towards the old house days turned into weeks, weeks into months and months into years and the little desire he had to sell the place continued to fall further down his “to-do-list”.
The house was kept well maintained with both cleaners and gardeners coming in fortnightly, a cost that the estate could easily afford, however Carlos himself rarely visited the empty house. Yet almost seven years to the day since his grandmother had passed away he found himself inside the fully furnished house kneeling in front of an open closet. High heeled shoes, flat soled shoes, running shoes, and even a pair of slippers lay strewn around his knees as he stared at the carpeted closet floor.
A chill ran down his back and subsided into the base of his spine. He could almost hear the voice of his grandmother saying, “It must be someone walking over your grave!” A favorite saying of hers when she saw the small and involuntary movements sometimes associated with Carlos’ chills.
It was the third such chill Carlos had felt since arriving at the house. The first had occurred at the front door as he turned the handle and pushed it inward and the second as he was walking, nearly creeping, up the second flight of stairs to the bedroom. Each chill, although not painful, trembled in the base of his spine and through his hips as if he was being gently shaken by invisible hands.
Although he’d never admitted it to anyone, especially his grandmother, the Standing Street house had always given him the chills. Even before her death he had always felt ill at ease inside the large house, especially when he was there alone. He had no specific reasoning for such feelings however the large ornate statues, the Ming vases and the twelve foot ceilings with intricately carved decorations from the cornice to the light fittings all contributed, as did the gold framed floor to ceiling mirrors and massive hand crafted floor rugs. But it was the vast number of portraits of people Carlos didn’t even know that adorned nearly every wall and seemed to be spying on him where ever he went that unsettled him the most.
In the bedroom, the same room his grandmother had slept in for more than sixty years, there hung a large painted portrait of a man sitting in a plush 18th century wooden framed, throne-like chair. He wore a black suit complete with black hat, white shirt and black tie and was sitting upright at a table. The man was dipping a feather quill into an inkwell on the table and the size of the portrait gave the impression he was staring over the entire room. Carlos had hated looking at the painting for as long as he could remember and always did his best to avoid eye contact with it.
He could vividly recall the day of his fourteenth birthday when he’d worked up the courage to ask his grandmother who was in the picture and she’d replied that he was the ‘Governor ready to sign the death notice of anyone caught in her room without permission.’ Due to Carlos’ fear of admitting how he felt about the house his grandmother’s reply, although meant as a joke, was not taken as such and had remained at the forefront of his mind each and every time he entered the bedroom.
Carlos tossed the shoes one by one into the closet not worrying in the least about pairing them or how neatly the pile was stacked. Then using the open door for support he got to his feet, kept his back to the “Governor’s painting”, swung the door shut and made his way out of the room.
Walking down the stairs to the ground floor he involuntarily patted the left rear pocket of his jeans. He felt the folded up paper and immediately thought about the note and why he’d just been on the floor of his grandmother’s old room rifling through her closet. He pulled the paper out of his pocket as he stepped down from the last step then made a bee line for the front door and exited the house. Leaving the front door open behind him he sat on the top step of the verandah and unfolded the paper to read it again.
My Dearest Carlo,
Look under the shoes in my closet.
He stared absently at the note in his right hand. Common sense told him that the hand written note could not have come from his grandmother’s hand, yet the cursive script was unmistakable. The sign off using the name Ediy, the shortened version of Edith deliberately spelt incorrectly as a talking point, also unmistakable to Carlos’ eye. But it was the shortened version of his own name, something no one other than his grandmother ever did, which unsettled him the most.
Upon first receiving the letter he’d considered tracing its origins but with no postal markings on the plain white envelope and nothing more than ‘Carlos Withers’ printed on the front it was impossible to trace. He had read the note twice before carelessly tossing it onto his kitchen bench where it stayed amongst the junk mail and unopened bank statements for nearly a week. Then temptation finally bit Carlos hard enough to make him visit the old house.