by Tim Frank, 10th October 2022
As the Fergusons parked their shabby soft-top Jaguar into the front drive of the house for sale, acorns crunched beneath their wheels. Carly Ferguson applied some ChapStick and then smacked her lips. Her husband, Judd, switched off the ignition and massaged his temples. They were grifters fallen on hard times. The thrill had gone, the money too. They sighed at the horror of it all -- the polluted skies, the indifferent universe, married life.
Gregory Carmichael, the Fergusons’ realtor, waited on the front porch of the house, playing nervously with a silver dollar in his pocket. He believed -- seen in its proper light -- the property had immense potential, despite being on the market for years. It had chutzpah.
Gregory was dressed like a country squire -- leather brogues, tweed three-piece suit, hunting cap, the whole shebang. He liked to look graceful for his clients and represent his real estate in style.
“This place is a dump,” Carly moaned. And it was true -- the building was dingy and run down, but it was vast. It had four stories including a loft conversion, with a chipped burgundy facade and chunky pillars flanking the decaying front door.
“Maybe,” said Judd, “but we’re running out of places that suit your grandiosity. And it’s dirt cheap too.”
Gregory welcomed the couple with an Olympic grin and got straight down to it.
“This house is a little different…” he began.
Judd cut in, “Cut the crap, Greg. We’ll find our own way around, right? Right.”
“Of course!” Gregory said, always eager to please. “Just call if you need me.” He knew they would.
As the front door swung open and the Fergusons stepped inside, an icy breeze swept them into the hall. Suddenly they couldn’t feel their knees, or their teeth.
“I can’t see,” said Judd.
“Me neither,” said Carly, “and my skin feels like water.”
“Greg,” yelled Judd, “is this place haunted or are we on reality TV? We seem to have no physical bodies.”
As if calling from a ship on a distant sea, Gregory replied, “You’ll get the hang of it guys. It’s a philosophical thing, you know? Ahh, you’ll love it, of course you will.”
The couple’s minds were flooded with images of when Carly kidnapped a baby for a day just to feel its intoxicating warmth. And then there was Judd who blew all their money on coke and a hooker named America, ending the Fergusons’ dreams of snapping up vineyards in Europe and drinking their weight in wine.
The couple absorbed the light that bloomed in spirals from the bay windows and the washed-out colours lulled them to sleep. They had visions of women in bathtubs crying tears of menstrual blood, swollen varicose veins on their legs and feet. The Fergusons’ nightmares had never been so wild and they felt persecuted by forces they couldn’t control. They would have collapsed to their knees in despair if they had any extremities.
But then they found a semblance of peace as the cloudy sky seeped through the ceiling. They felt a hunger for each other again -- a passion akin to their younger days when they hustled old ladies for their purses on trains and then fucked like animals in empty carriages at night. Something profound had been purged, cleansed, drained. So, Carly and Judd reached out to touch their formless forms, buttery and smooth, and they merged --but only for a moment.
Soon enough everything eased to a halt, like a funfair shutting down, and the Fergusons were whisked out of the house in waves. As their limbs solidified and their bones hardened, they felt truly alive.
Leaning on a maple tree a few yards away, Gregory picked at a loose thread on his otherwise immaculate tweed suit.
“So,” he said. “You like, huh?”
Judd conferred with his wife privately-- looking into her eyes with unusual affection. Then he turned to Gregory and said, “Yes, we love it, but we’re going to have to pass. I just think it’s too much for us to handle at this point in time.”
Gregory nodded and gave a wry smile, “Most people can’t,” he said, “but you did well enough -- for a couple of bums, that is.” But his words were swallowed up by the force of the building, and as the couple drove away in a haze of exhaust fumes, the house exploded with ribbons of neon light.
It had made its mark.