Every house has its history, has its ghost stories. The problem is when the house has more than just stories… the problem is when an empty house…
Isaiah stares up at his new home. It’s larger than the rest of the homes on the reservation. The space between Isaiah’s house and the nearest homes is ten times greater than the space between any of the other homes. And the house is cheap… Isaiah never should’ve been able to afford a house this size. Not where he stands financially, not with his new monthly payment to Jessica back in New York. Gallivanting around… dating already probably.
“Why is it so cheap again?” Isaiah asks Adriel.
Adriel plops a box down next to Isaiah.
“The placement.” Adriel points out the location of the house. “It’s technically only half on the reservation. No one likes that. The locals say the land over there is cursed. They call it Morsambula.”
“Morsambula?” Isaiah repeats it. “Is that Navajo?”
“None that I’ve ever heard.”
“Why did the guy build it over there?”
“That land is more fertile. He wanted a garden. And if he kept over 50% of the house on the reservation, he could still be part of the community.”
Isaiah looks up at the dark blues settling into the sky and pushing the pastels of the day back behind the mountains.
“Full moon tonight?” He asks.
“That was last night.” Adriel scratches his sweaty neck.
“Want to sit out and look at it anyway? Have a few beers?”
“Maybe another time. Got a lot going on. Plus, everyone’s on edge, one of the kids went missing last night.”
Isaiah barely unpacks anything. It’s his first day. He’ll have plenty of lonely days to unpack. He sets up his TV, makes sure some beer is chilling in the fridge, and lays his mattress on the living room floor. He figures he’ll set up the bed in the bedroom another day. Once he buys a new TV to put in there. To provide some noise, some ambiance. The bedroom is so lonesome. It’s on the half of the house that isn’t on the reservation, so all the windows look out to a wide open field of nothing.
At least the living room has windows that face back into the community. Even if the homes feel like they’re miles away. Most things feel miles away to Isaiah now. Most people too. Even Adriel, he’s a good friend who’s stayed in touch and helped Isaiah out after his divorce, but Isaiah still has trouble talking to him.
It’s dark outside. A few lights from the distant homes shimmer. Isaiah searches for the bag of chips he was eating before and can’t locate it.
That’s right. Bedroom.
Isaiah starts towards the bedroom when he hears the TV shut off behind him. He spins around. Black screen.
He ambles back over, turns the TV back on. He checks the cord, perfectly fine. Isaiah walks towards the bedroom again and the TV turns off once more.
Isaiah spins around. The room is silent. So silent… Isaiah can hear the ringing in his ears that’s always there… softly in the background. The room feels cold, icy cold.
Isaiah turns the TV on once more. He stops. He stands still in the middle of the room, scanning his surroundings. He waits. Nothing. The TV drones on. The ringing fades behind the noise.
Isaiah turns back towards the bedroom. A loud thump and clatter startles him. He spins around to see the TV’s cord has fallen out of the outlet on the wall and landed on the hardwood floor. The plug lays several feet from the wall.
It didn’t just fall out. It was yanked out.
Isaiah plugs the cord back in. He turns the TV back on. He doesn’t leave the room. The TV drones on. The ringing is hardly noticeable in his ears. The room warms up on its own. Isaiah keeps drinking his beer but he stays on high alert. He doesn’t sleep at all. He doesn’t get his chips, he chews gum. A trick that helped him stay awake for days when he was in Afghanistan.
No other occurrences in the night.
Once the sun rises, Isaiah falls asleep, face first onto his mattress. Maybe he can’t stay up as long as he used to be able to in Afghanistan.
He wakes up at 3:00 P.M. and showers, eats something small, and heads to the store to buy another TV. He also gets a few things from the grocery store. He sets up the TV in his room that evening. After he eats dinner in the living room sitting on his mattress he decides he should set his bed up.
When Isaiah grabs the box spring from the corner of the living room, the door to his bedroom slams shut on its own.
Isaiah’s heart skips a beat. It bashes itself against his chest, delivering a sharp pain to his sternum. Isaiah peeks out from behind the wall to see his door completely shut.
He hears a soft wailing behind him. His eyes pop open. The hairs stand up on the back of his neck. The wailing continues, it even gets slightly louder, closer. Isaiah doesn’t want to turn around. The wailing is closer. Cold puffs of air graze the back of his neck. Isaiah tries to ignore them. They get colder. More forceful. They can’t be ignored.
Isaiah spins around to meet two eyes in the air, deep brown, and widened with wild abandon. The eyes blink and vanish. The air is still.
Isaiah doesn’t move for several minutes. He's sick with fear.
He peeks around the corner at the door to his bedroom. The window in the living room behind him suddenly flips open, a strong, cold breeze on its back. Isaiah rushes over to the window and slams it shut.
Another sleepless night for Isaiah, drinking beer, chewing gum, TV on. There is no more activity in the room, so long as he stays in the room, and leaves the TV on.
The next night, Isaiah waits and waits, all the way until 2 A.M. Watching TV in the living room. Nothing has happened, so he goes for the box spring once more. He slides it towards his bedroom when seven plates are flung out of the cabinet in the kitchen and break on the floor!
Isaiah yelps with fear. Several screams, warbled and deep, echo through the house. The windows rattle and shake. Isaiah drops to the floor, cradles his legs to his chest. The windows continue to rattle, Isaiah swears they will shatter.
It all stops. The room is frigid. Isaiah is shivering. He puts a sweater on. He doesn’t sleep.
The next day, Isaiah gets salt from the grocery store. He sprinkles salt in many places all throughout his lovely new home. A trick he had heard about once. Piles of salt in the living room, in the kitchen, in the hallway, in the bathrooms, in both the bedrooms, in the office.
Isaiah finds a 24-hour cafe outside of town and heads there. The cafe acts as a library as well, allowing customers to rent out books. Isaiah rents a few books, hardly looking at the covers. He loads up on coffee. He stays at the cafe until the sun comes up and then he heads home.
In the salt… footprints.
In his home, which was locked. In his home, which he had set up cameras in. In his home, which showed no signs of anyone inside, no signs of any forced entry.
Footprints in the salt, but only in the living room, in the kitchen, in one bathroom, and in one half of the hallway. All the portions of the home that are on the reservation.
Isaiah doesn’t know what this means, except that there must be spirits, Native American spirits from the reservation, and they are haunting his place. But they cannot cross over to the other half of the home. The half off the reservation.
The half that Isaiah will now insist on spending all his time in.
Isaiah doesn’t go to sleep once the sun has risen like he has been. Instead, he uses the daylight as his friend. He leaves the TV on in the living room. Talk shows mostly. He works quickly, setting up his bed in the bedroom. The new TV is already set up there. Isaiah unpacks some of his clothes. He even arranges his desk in the office, his computer, and a few other things.
He works with determination over the next several hours, setting up whatever he can on the side of his house that isn’t on the reservation. He doesn’t stop to eat until he thinks he might faint.
A pre-made salad in the fridge from the grocery store is just about the tastiest thing Isaiah could imagine right now. The crunch of the fresh lettuce gives his body new strength, though his eyes burn all the way through to the back of his skull. His skin hangs tiredly off his frame.
He finishes his salad and lays down in the new bed. He must be so tired, the TV in the bedroom is on a show that he absolutely hates, but he’s not even going to change it.
Isaiah had fallen asleep for many hours. He checks his phone. It’s midnight. He’s been able to sleep in his bed in his bedroom. How nice.
Until the loud and heavy creaking of his floorboards in another room startles him. Isaiah shoots up in his bed, ears alert. Another heavy creak… it sounds like it's in the office.
Isaiah gets out of his bed slowly. He places his bare feet on the hardwood floor. It’s freezing to the skin of his feet. He steps lightly towards the doorway. His right foot steps into a pile of salt. That’s right, he forgot to clean up the salt in all the commotion.
Isaiah peers out of the doorway, through the hallway, and into the rest of his house. He sees nothing in the living room from here, all appears well. In fact, the TV is still on. He listens. It’s an episode of The Soprano’s. He knows that show anywhere.
Another loud creak. Definitely in the office. Isaiah thinks someone must have broken in… or there are spirits playing a game with him. He snatches his baseball bat from the corner of the room, ready to rumble with any physical being, unsure what to do with any non-physical being.
Suddenly, the TV changes channels on its own in the living room. Isaiah stands still. He listens. He can hear Robert Downey Jr.’s voice. It’s Ironman.
What is going on?
The creaking continues repetitively, as if someone or something is shifting their weight. Isaiah inches out of the doorway into the hallway. That’s when he sees it.
The piles of salt that were left untouched on this half of the hallway, on the half of the house that’s not on the reservation, there is a gigantic footprint. Not like the human-sized footprints he saw earlier. This is twice the size, four clawed toes at the end of the foot. Then, another footprint, leading towards the office.
The TV in the living room changes channels again. Isaiah listens. His favorite, Back to the Future. It’s the chase scene, where Marty is about to get in the DeLorean and drive away from the Libyans…
“Go!” The Libyan from the movie is so loud… louder than the volume had been left.
The creaking in the office stops. Isaiah freezes.
It’s a message for me.
As Isaiah hears a violent thump and growl in the office he spins back around and ducks into his room. He slams the door shut. He searches around, looking for an escape. The only windows in the room lead to the portion of land that’s not on the reservation. That seems like a bad idea.
Isaiah hated the look of the crawlspace so he had placed his bed over it to hide it. He drops himself to the floor, the baseball bat slips out of his hand, but he leaves it. He crawls under the bed and yanks the little door to the crawlspace open.
Isaiah’s bedroom door is broken violently off the hinges and collapses to the floor. Heavy, booming steps thunder into the room. Isaiah clamors frantically, pulling himself into the crawlspace. It’s so tight and narrow but he manages to scrape his body into it.
A bear-like roar thunders inside the room. A smashing sound of wood breaking and splintering like it was nothing.
Isaiah gets himself completely tucked into the crawlspace, but he needs to close the door. He tries to turn himself around. The space is so tight. He is wedged in here. He turns and turns and turns.
Little by little, spinning his body around in the crawlspace. He keeps shifting himself, more and more to the left, attempting to fully turn around. He scrapes his face along the old, wooden wall in the crawlspace. Hot liquid dribbles down his cheek and to his lips.
Another thunderous roar. Booming footsteps.
Isaiah uses all his might and pulls himself around, scraping his arm and his waist along the wooden wall. Hot, dry pain radiates all on his right side. He ignores it. He pulls himself forward, towards the crawlspace door.
Isaiah reaches out.
He grabs the door.
He yanks it shut.
The bed is lifted off the floor in an instant. It crashes into the far wall with ferocity.
Isaiah is breathing heavy. He tries to quiet himself. Taking shallow breaths. His lungs hurt. He only allows small breaths for himself. His heart is pounding against the wooden floor he lays on, he is sure it will give him away.
Isaiah can see out through the thin slats in the crawlspace door. He sees the baseball bat. Then, a massive, hairless, porcelain white leg steps in front of the door. Isaiah stops breathing altogether. Isaiah can see the muscle definition in this leg its so close. Another leg moves in front of the door. As the foot lands heavily on the floor, the sound of sharp toenails tapping on the floor send chills down Isaiah’s spine.
Loud deep breaths emanate from above Isaiah. A growling and grunting noise linger behind each angry breath. The floorboards groan underneath the weight of… this thing.
One of the legs lifts and stomps down on the baseball bat, shattering the center of it. The bat breaks into several pieces like its a toy. The floorboards groan underneath the weight of the thing once more.
It turns to the right… breathing heavy.
It turns to the left… breathing heavy.
It roars massively. The sound vibrates all the walls and the deep bellows echo in Isaiah’s brain so loudly it hurts.
Heavy and angry breathing once again.
The giant legs step away from the crawlspace door. Isaiah hears stomping of footsteps… carrying off… fading away…
The half of Isaiah’s house that’s on the reservation may be haunted by ghosts. It may have ghost stories. But the other half of Isaiah’s house has a problem that’s worse…
…the problem is that it has… more.
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And this was Part 1 of Morsambula. Watch out for more to come...
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme