Childhood Fears

As a kid, growing up in a rural Utah town, one of the things I remember is that on the corner of the next block over, situated on a patch of yellowed, thigh high, rye grass, sat an abandoned house. Rumors circulated amongst the kids in the area of what may, or may not have occurred inside that house to leave it in the shape it was. It had been that way for as long as I could remember, and as long as other kids around my age could remember. If memory serves, the house was a single story with a room in the attic. Spots of faded white paint covered the rotten clapboard siding. I remember green trim. The windows had long since been broken out by the hoodlums that ran in the shadows. From the outside, sheets of wallpaper could be seen hanging at awkward angles like strips of bark on a Birch tree. There were holes in the ceiling where the plaster had given up and fell weakly to the floor. And of course, every kind in the neighborhood knew it was haunted. The fact that our parents told us to stay away from the house because of dangers they could not explain only fueled our imaginations of what horrors might lie just beyond the threshold.

On any given day, we kept our distance. There were times when proximity couldn’t be helped, like when hoofing it to a friend’s house, but we always gave that place a wide berth, crossing the street until we were sure we were out of danger before crossing back. Especially if we were alone. One of my best friends lived on the opposite corner. There were times when we would sit on his crumbling porch, just staring across the street through the empty window panes. It was like looking at a skull, the remains of a once living, vibrant thing. We often talked of testing our bravado against the house. “I bet you don’t dare touch the house!” “I will, if you will.” Neither one of us wanting to admit defeat, but also not brave enough to take the dare. The subject always changed in a hurry, one of us remembering they had something better to do.

I remember walking by that house and stealing glances, afraid if I looked to long I might see something I didn’t want to. On more than one occasion I swore the house itself would call out on the breeze, beckoning me to come closer. It was those times I would pick up my feet and run past, heart pounding in my chest, aware of the presence behind me, but too afraid to look back. I remember that feeling even now as I jot this down. And to this day I can’t explain it as anything other than my imagination running wild. That house was burned to the ground some years ago, and with it, all of the evil that hid within its walls. However, the picture of that old house still remains in my mind. That haunted house was part of the inspiration when I started writing. I understand how fear of the unknown can trick the mind. Still, I wonder, was the flight response I had as a child an irrational fear, or was it a sixth sense keeping me away from some nightmare waiting to pounce?