House For Sale: Crypt Included
The temperature dips as the black-haired realtor leads us down the stairs.
“Be careful,” she says, hanging on the rail. “The wood steps are a little slippery. And don’t mind the smell.” She tosses a look over her shoulder, her next words sharp with glee, “I saved the best to the last.”
Ben slides his hand down the rail, bumping his hand into mine. The blond hairs on his arm stand up on little hills of skin––goosebumps.
My breath comes out like an angry bull’s, steamy and warm against the growing cold. Neither of us look to the other for warmth, the cold is too delicious to let go of.
The realtor hovers her black tipped acrylics over the door knob. If this was a movie, the camera would close in on her perfectly pointed fingernails, the rest of the frame slightly out of focus. There would be a dramatic pause for tension, for attention. Her slick words would fill the audio, “People would kill for this.”
There’s a neat giggle, one on ice. “But oh my, people already did!” She turns the knob and opens the crypt. Stale, putrid air meets us on the basement landing. Ben swallows it down then coughs, just like drinking his first bourbon. I let it bloat my lungs, hold it in. Let the panic of whatever spirit was chosen to be this month’s Welcome Wagon coat my throat with screams of their unholy death.
The realtor steps onto the ancient stone floor. Her heels leave exclamation points in the dust. “I don’t want to put undue pressure on you––“
Ben and I mouth, ya right, to each other as we follow her into the belly of the brownstone.
“––but the second this is released to market, there will be multiple offers. Most likely,” she swings her hair along with the rest of her body and faces us, “well above asking price. I don’t have to tell you what a commodity it is to have a crypt in your own house nowadays. And one this ancient,” she clicks her tongue, or maybe her teeth, “well, it is worth more than blood.”
Ben swore to me later that she said gold, but clear as a child’s cry, I heard the word blood.
“As you can see, the workmanship of the masons is top notch. Cracks have been filled. Foundation secured…and the stone, it was excavated from the very caverns of the Underworld. I’ve got the authentication records if you need to see them.” The realtor’s shadow is sleek and tall as she walks further in, further from the lit landing.
I follow the realtor across the threshold. Whispered names tickle my ears. These must be the words of the newly dead. The others, the oldest, the hungriest, they’ve forgotten who they are. My eyes adjust to the dim light. Shapes––diffused and distorted, moaning and banging on the walls, the teeth in their skulls click and rattle. The dead beg for notice.
“It’s so beautiful,” I say. My body trembling.
Ben grabs my hand. “We can’t seem too eager,” he whispers.
“So,” the realtor holds a femur bone and spins it like a baton, “we need to wrap this up. I have another interested party coming in––” she checks her phone for the time, “twenty-two minutes. Three unshowings today––I have to say that––the house isn’t even officially on the market. And truth––I don’t think it’ll make to the listings page.” She presses a finger to her lips, “Goodness, think of the parties you could throw.” She seems to be talking to herself.
But I am thinking of the dinner parties, the costume parties. Of our friends mingling with the ghoulish guests, over bowls of giblets and sweet and sour meatballs.
“It’s almost Halloween.” I squeeze Ben’s hand.
“It’s what we’ve wanted. And our kids,” he pauses there to see if I’m still on the same page with the kid thing, “they won’t have burial fees. No funeral arrangements.”
Ben squeezes back and we mouth the words together, “It’s perfect.”
“Why don’t you have a look at the foundation.” Our realtor gestures to the thick outer wall. “The stonework truly is something.”
Ben unweaves his hand from mine and flashes the grin of a child entering a toy store. He doesn’t notice stepping on the realtor’s shadow as he moves away from me.
The realtor’s phone vibrates. “I have to take this,” she says, looking apologetic. “Why don’t I give you a couple minutes to talk. I’ll be upstairs.” She struts and breezes by, “Hello––this is she,” she says to a nameless caller.
There’s a thud behind me. I turn.
The realtor holds the phone loose in her hand, the other clutches the doorknob. Apology leaves her face. She spits on the ground, a gelatinous glob that wets the dust at her feet, then slams the door.
One click. Then two. Locked.
Whud-whud of a heartbeat.
Stillness, squeezing like fingers around the neck. Then, unshuttered eyes blink from the darkness. Something scuttles across the stone floor, crab-like.
Only then do we move––Ben and I, at the same time. We pound and hammer until our hands are pulpy.
We scream and plea and choke.
The realtor sings an old song as she climbs the stairs of the house she’s owned for a thousand years––a death chant perhaps. Or maybe a song born from superstition and myth, one sung into the fiber of the earth.
It goes on and on but dies out long before our screams.