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That Strange House in the Clearing[]

Have you ever had a memory or thought you’ve tried so desperately hard to push out of your mind but you can’t? The time you accidentally embarrassed yourself in front of your coworkers, your crush rejecting you when asked to go out to prom? Well, I have that problem and that’s why I’m writing about it.

I was walking home from school, as I did back a couple decades ago in the 90s; it was relatively close to my house and I could easily walk the distance since I ran track. After a few minutes, I saw my brick home and unlocked the front door, locking it behind me after entering. My parents were gone for a bit – business trip or whatever, they did that from time to time so I was used to being on my own and managing the house.

I changed out of my track outfit and into a t-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes. I stepped back out into the May heat of Mississippi and went into the nearby woods where my favorite spot was: a clearing. Funnily enough, I kind of enjoyed the walk there more than I did resting at it. The chirping of birds, the winds rustling the leaves, the sun pouring through the gaps in the branches above, it was nice. As I got closer and closer, I noticed something strange about it.

In the center of it was a strange portal or worm hole. It distorted everything around it, like those black holes you see in those science fiction movies. I walked around it in a circle, but it seemed to always be facing me. I squinted to see as well as I could, and it seemed like another place was inside or on the other side of it.

I felt drawn towards it, and I decided to pick up a nearby rock and chuck it just to be safe. It seemingly went through to the other side of wherever it led. I slowly took a step forward every few seconds, and slowly it got bigger in response, almost as if it was going to swallow me up.

I reached my hand out and I was suddenly pulled in despite the apparent lack of force before. I fell onto my stomach with a grunt and scrambled to my feet. The temperature was just in the mid 80s, but it felt much cooler now, so much so that I was shivering slightly and rubbing my hands against my arms to warm myself up; it appeared to be dusk, with the sun halfway set across the horizon and the wispy clouds appearing a gorgeous pink like cotton candy.

Even though it felt alien in a way, it was starting to also feel calming. I kept walking in a single direction as if I had been through this place several times before and came across a large and confusing house made entirely out of wood. Without going into too much detail, imagine a kid making their first “mansion” in Minecraft and having their parents say it looks great. Parts of the house came out horizontally from the upper floors without any support beams or anything else attached, it appeared like somebody that was drunk designed it.

My eyes flickered in thought for a moment as I thought to myself. I looked up at the windows and saw no lights, no activity, nothing -- as if though everyone was either asleep or was gone. I walked towards the two large doors at the front, occasionally looking back up to see if someone was watching. I didn’t want to end up getting shot or something just because I was too curious.

Standing in front of the doors, I gripped the doorknob on one and turned it, slowly creaking the door open. The light – or whatever light there was – leaked through the slowly enlarging opening, letting me see a bit. The floor, just like the outside, was made of wood, and so were the walls. It seemed like everything was just made from wood, and the strong, dank smell of mildew helped confirm it.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t see much, and since this was before smartphones I couldn’t just whip one out to light my way. I peered into the darkness for a moment, letting my eyes adjust, allowing me to see a bit better. I stepped into the house, and immediately I felt my skin get goosebumps, almost as if I was intruding or trespassing, which I most likely was. I squinted my eyes to see that it was a long corridor, and I took a single step forward, hearing my footstep echo. I continued forward, making sure not to bump into anything… or anyone.

After walking for about 10, 15 seconds, I barely saw another door in front of me, and I could smell a horrible stench like garbage or rotting meat coming from the other side that, coupled with the mildew, made me lurched back and gag for a bit before taking a deep breath away from the door. I plugged my nose and open the door, and even then I would get a small whiff of it. Fighting down the urge to vomit, I saw a desk lamp dimly illuminating a yellow light onto a polished light wood table with a book on it. I hesitated for a moment, thinking that something felt wrong about this. Why was there a lamp just sitting on a desk right in front of me?

Making sure there was nothing dangerous in my vicinity, I went to the table and inspected the book, listening closely to make sure nothing would sneak up on me while I was distracted. It was some photo album, showing what are or… possibly were, the inhabitants of this place since a few of the pictures showed the house I was in. Laughing, smiling, overall seeming like they’re having a good time; put a smile on my face, honestly.

I turned the stiff, rough pages as quietly as I could tracing my fingers over the pictures inspecting the people closer. They seemed off in a way, with every picture of them staring at the camera feeling as if they were instead staring at me. I saw one picture of them in a giant library sitting at a polished light wood table like the one I was at. I grabbed the lamp real quick and shined it at my surroundings, seeing some large bookcases with those moving ladders. The books, strangely, didn’t have anything on their spines, no letters or markings, like they were just there as props in a movie or show.

There were still some more pages in that photo album, so I decided I’d bring it back with me and look at the rest of it when I got home. With one hand holding the lamp and the other the album, I explored the small area around the desk – overturned chairs and books, but nothing more. Feeling more confident that nothing was here that could hurt me, I decided to explore a bit more.

Rows of the bookshelves formed aisles and I went through the one closest to the wall. Shining the light down each row as I went past, I saw nothing of interest. Strangely enough, given the entire situation, I was actually getting bored – until I saw a door at the end on the aisle. It was slightly ajar, letting me see a staircase leading up.

I slowly walked towards the door and pushed my hand on it, the door swinging open effortlessly. Looking back one last time to make sure there was nothing behind me, I began to trudge up the dark staircase, holding onto the handlebar on the side to keep my balance. After around a dozen steps, I was on the second floor.

I had noticed that the smell of something rotten had gotten even stronger somehow, and I was barely holding myself back from puking. Doors marked with numbers aligned both ends of the wide hallway, and I stared back at the darkness in front of me. I glanced at a door here and there, before I reached the door marked “25” that was also slightly ajar. I held my breath and looked through the crack, using the dim yellow light to see better.


I saw the fucking bloodied arm of a person

I stumbled back and broke out in a cold sweat. I knew I was overstaying my welcome now and had to get out. Speedwalking towards the stairway, all I heard was my tense breathing and my heart thumping in my eardrums, waiting for something to lurch out from the darkness and murder me. Just as I was about to reach the first step, I heard one of the doors from behind me open.

Without hesitation, I quickly descended the stairs and bolted towards the exit. I swear I heard something tumble down the stairs as well when I was running to the library door. I quickly turned the corner and was sprinting down that long, dark hallway. I threw the desk lamp to the side as I inhaled the fresh air, seeing the way back to the clearing.

I dived in and landed on the warm grass before scrambling to my feet. I didn’t hear whatever was coming out of that room, but I kept running like it was just behind me. Bumping into tree trunks and tripping, I saw the front door to my house.

I barged in before slamming it behind me, locking it, and putting my back to the door panting heavily. Shaking, I sat down against the door and calmed my breathing, peeking out of the windows to see if I was followed. There was nothing out there. After making completely sure I was safe, I went over to the house phone and called my dad who owned a Nokia. He answered, and I, who was still slightly panicked, babbled that I thought someone was following me. He told me to call the police immediately and to lock all the doors and windows.

After doing that and calling the police, I waited upstairs in my room with my baseball bat. After a few minutes, a knock on the door came. “Police!” A gruff voice yelled, and I promptly went down and opened the door. Two cops, a man with a beard and a woman who seemed to be in her 50s stood there. They asked if they could come in, and I let them. I was still clearly shaken by the event, and we sat down in the living room so they could talk to me about it.

Of course, given how outlandish this sounds, especially now that I’m recalling it, I told them that I thought a person was following me, and I told them that I saw them first in the clearing. The man stood up and asked for directions, and I pointed in the general direction of it. I watched from the window as he disappeared into the woods, expecting to hear gunshots or him coming back screaming like a madman, but after a couple minutes, he returned walking nonchalantly.

He told me that he didn’t see anybody and if I was sure it wasn’t just another person passing by or my imagination. I bit my tongue and told him I was definitely sure, since they chased me. He muttered an alright and chattered into his radio. “An officer is going to watch over you until your parents get home, sit tight.”

I’m sure you’re already bored with these details, so to shorten the rest it was basically a bunch of waiting. We waited for the cop to come, then when he did, the two others left and we waited for my parents. As it was getting dark, my mom’s SUV pulled into the driveway at breakneck speed, and my parents entered briskly with anxiety on their faces. Before the officer left, he told them to report any more disturbances.

Nothing else happened, and I had even forgotten about the whole incident until a couple days ago, when I read the newspaper after work. An anonymous scientist leaked information about an experiment involving pocket dimensions. It didn’t go into too much detail, although that they were apparently unstable and that it could let anyone do just about anything.

I dropped my newspaper and sat in what I can only call a trance while I was recollecting all that had happened. I put two and two together and deduced that this is what I had seen all those years ago, why that house didn’t make any sense at all.

I went into my attic and dug through one of the boxes I took with me when I moved out from my parents, and the photo album, now covered in years of dust, was in my hands. I put everything back and sat in the kitchen with it, wiping away the dust.

The memories became clearer as I turned each page, looked at every photo. I then got to the end of the book and looked at the last picture. The sun was beginning to set over the horizon, like how I saw it before, and the front of the house was dark with no lights in sight. And at the entrance of the house,


was my back turned towards the camera





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