‘Do you see the shoes?”
“Yeah, I see ‘em.”
They were there. Alone. They were in front of the couch, as if someone placed them together, spaced equally apart. The couch was next to an oxygen machine, it’s water reservoir filled with liquid, a layer of dust covering the top. In front was a coffee table, with some magazines which were also covered in dust, their titles obscured and unreadable. An old tube television was on the opposite wall, with a pair of rabbit antenna on the back. Clearly, the owner was not a subscriber to cable TV.
Dan and I were on our toes outside of the old house, our hands cupped on the sides of our faces to block any light. Our cheeks were against the front window as we tried desperately to look inside the house. The old bricks of the home were covered with vines and rose bushes grew in the flower beds. The odd aroma of the nearby almond tree, combined with the fragrance of the roses gave an sweet smell that reminded me of an old person’s house.
There we stood looking inside the old Schmidt residence. The dark mortar of the bricks and the double shutters of the windows, clad in old barn door wood, may have been responsible for it’s perceived status as a haunted house. The exterior, however, only gave one a suggestion of the horror inside.
The shoes were there, alone.
Dan and I stared at the shoes in front of the couch. The lights of the home were never seen active, and no one had ever seen a person living in the old house. It was deserted. A relic of the past. All of the kids in the neighborhood had heard that the old man who lived in the home had died and the home was left vacant by his adult children.
Dan looked across the street and found the face of Tricia Reynolds staring at us as we stood next to the old home. The setting sun was golden with blue clouds, giving the entire scene an other worldly sheen of coldness, even though it was warm and humid. Tricia held the heart of Dan in the palm of her hands, his false facade of masculinity broken only by her smile. He was a goner. He would do anything for her. Such girls are responsible for the downfall of all great men.
She had dared Dan to peer into the house and look at the shoes. Being Dan’s best friend, I couldn’t let him face this cruel task alone. It was her fault, and Dan’s insane desire to prove his courage to her that we stood there next to the house. I turned to Dan. “Are you getting cold feet Dan?”
A cold breeze blew against our faces, goose bumps forming on our arms. Dan turned to me and we looked at each other with wide eyes. We both slowly turned towards the window and looked inside.
The shoes we gone.
I pointed to where I had last seen them. Dan pointed to the same place. “Did you hear anything?” he asked in a whisper. I gulped loudly.
You could see the oxygen machine pump turning. The faint sound of compressed air coming from behind the glass, whispering our names.
We heard the sound of a door close, creaking before slamming shut inside the house.
“I just remembered. My mom said I had to be home early. It’s spaghetti night.” I said.
“Yeah, we’re having pizza.” Dan said.
I ran to the left.
Dan ran to the right.
We didn’t even glance at Tricia as we ran away, unaware of her scream across the street as she too took off for her house as well.
I never got that close the the old house again. I always passed in a quick walk – never pausing to smell the scent of the old wood, almonds, rose, and green blooming vines infused in the mist of the house garden.
I never looked inside of the old home for the shoes again. Ever. Well, except on spaghetti nights.
(the story is based on a true events the names and places have been changed, but the spooky house, the shoes, and the spaghetti excuse were all real.)