The House at the End of the Hall

            The house was like every other in the neighborhood. It had a white façade that was interspersed with pieces of brick. It had two tall windows on the upper floor that extended down, giving the house the appearance of a face, especially when you consider the door that sat firmly centered between the two long windows.

            The house itself should have been an easy sell for Yanni. For some reason, he would show it off to prospective buyers, and then, they would just cease negotiations. He was unsure if it was something he said or something about the house, but 40965 Winter Court was coming up on its sixth month of being on the market. The owners were beginning to become anxious, and Yanni, for all his self-assurance about his skill as a realtor, began to doubt himself.

            Yanni flatly refused to give up on the home, which he jokingly came to call ‘The Reaper,’ until he received a call on his cell.

            “Hello? This is Yanni Van Osvald, realtor extraordinaire. How can I help you find your next home?”

            The voice on the other end of the line came in slowly. It was deep and gruff as if the person he was speaking to had been screaming all night.

            “Hi, my name is Anton Livyetsky. I’m interested in the home you have available at 40965 Winter Court.”

            “Ah, yes! Absolutely, I can most certainly help you with that,” Yanni said, trying his best to mimic the client’s energy. He had some trouble though, as he was uncertain, he could be that sad sounding.

            “Do you have appointments available for a showing today?” Anton said.

            Yanni wanted to refuse for some reason. He wasn’t totally comfortable with this person yet, but, ‘The Reaper’ needed to be conquered and if he had to move some appointments around and reschedule some others to get it done, he would. He just wanted that house out of his hands.

            “I most certainly do, Anton. What time would work best for you? My calendar is pretty open today,” he lied.

            “How about in 30 minutes?” Anton said.

            “That works. I’ll see you soon,” Yanni stated, now desperate to end the call with Anton, so he could quickly reschedule with the lovely young Jorgenson couple who were expecting their first child. He pressed the end call button and quickly sent the couple a text message with some lie about an emergency at one of his properties and pleading with them to reschedule. He left his house, slid comfortably into the seat of his somewhat new sports car and sped off toward ‘the reaper’.

            He came to a stop near the house’s driveway that had given him so much trouble over the past half a year and noticed that Anton was already there. He was waiting in his too-old-for-its-own-good SUV. The car looked to be at least 40 years old, but apparently, it still worked. Yanni hurriedly exited the car and walked over to Mr. LIvetsky’s vehicle. It was strange; Anton wasn’t looking at his phone or on a call or anything. He seemed to just be intently staring at the house with a dead-eyed look. He was staring so intently in fact, that he hadn’t noticed that Yanni was standing right next to his window.

            Yanni softly knocked on the window and pulled Anton out of his stupor. Anton looked over, startled, and gave Yanni and toothy and slightly disconcerting smile. As Anton left the vehicle, Yanni extended his hand, bracing for a shake. Anton’s hands were cold and somewhat wet, as if he had been working at a dock off the northeast coast for hours. His hair seemed to be plastered to his forehead with some unseen sweat, and he wore an unseasonably warm overcoat. It was April, sure, but a coat with that much fur and material was usually reserved for the winter months, not the occasionally cool and wet spring.

            “Shall we head inside?” Yanni said.

            Anton simply nodded and gestured for Yanni to lead the way. He grabbed the keys out his pocket and opened the door. Anton looked around the house with a knowing familiarity, as if he’d been here before. Despite that, Yanni gave the best showing he possibly could. He highlighted the redone countertops and the open floor plan. He pointed out how the backyard had been newly landscaped. He touted the previous owners’ prestigious background as a nod to how well he’d taken care of the house. Yanni gave the best showing of the year, possibly his career, and barely got a grin out of Anton.

            Anton simply nodded and muttered. I’ll take it.

            A huge feeling of relief sent waves through Yanni’s body. He was finally free of the ‘The Reaper.’

            “Could you do me a huge favor?” Anton said, surprising Yanni since he had been a man of so few words. “Could you do another walkthrough before I sign the paperwork and make sure that everything is up to standard? I would hate to spend so much money only to find out that I will have to make some major repairs or adjustments. I’m paying in cash, so I hope you understand my request.”

            “Of course, Mr. Livyetsky! I would be glad to do a walkthrough. Now, as far as the matter of paperwork. When would work best for you to stop by my office and complete that?

            “I could come tomorrow. Given that you have completed the walkthrough and all is well.”

            “Excellent. I will see you in your office around 1 PM.”

            With that, Anton left, and Yanni was left alone inside The Reaper. He briskly made his way through the house, checking everything for signs of rot and decay. It was, after all, sort of an old house….it might have been as old as Anton’s car, maybe even older. He went upstairs; he checked the attic and the two upstairs bedrooms. He then began to walk down the hallway that led to the Master bedroom. It was there that he noticed a door that he had not seen before. It was made of cherry wood. It had a black doorknob and was lined with a beautifully designed architrave.

            He walked to the door and, strangely, felt the urge to knock. He did so and heard his knock returned.

            “Hello? Is someone in there?” He shouted. “I have to warn you, this house is my property, and no one is allowed to be in here without my express permission!”

            He was met with a silence that made him even more nervous.

            “Please, come out and exit the premises! I won’t call the police if you do!”

            Again, the silence filled the air. A high pitched creaking sound broke that silence, and the door now seemed to be slightly ajar. Against his better judgment, Yanni made his way in. The space around him seemed to change color, not just the furnishing, but the very air itself. Everything now seemed to be a strange dusty gray like the old films that were made before color tv.

            Yanni turned to exit the room. He was sure that this was some strange fever dream or prank that he’d found himself. Yanni couldn’t leave. While he wasn’t paying attention, it seemed the door closed and had been bolted shut. Despite using all of his strength, it wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t like Yanni was a small guy. He lifted weights every single day, and standing at a tall 6 foot 6, he should have had more than enough strength and leverage to open most standard doors, whether by pulling or pushing himself into them. Not this one, though.

            After he had finally given upon opening the door, he noticed something strange about the room. It was nearly the exact same layout as one of the bedrooms inside The Reaper. Sure, the furniture had been changed to what seemed to be an older 60’s style bedroom, but it was the same all in all. That long window was in front of him and made its way to the ceiling.

            He stood in place and spun in a circle, inspecting as much as he could. He found no discernible difference. The lack of difference meant that maybe, the other door opposite his entrance would lead downstairs to a possible way out. He ran and tugged on the door; it was open. He felt relief. Yanni then sped downstairs but noticed that the strange dusty gray that surrounded him remained. He was now in an old-style replica of the kitchen. This time, the room was slightly different. The open-style floor plan that The Reaper had was gone, and there was now a wall that separated the house’s living space and its’ kitchen space. The front door to the house opened, and three people entered. First, a beautiful, portly woman; a thin, lanky man whose face was strangely blurred and shockingly, the very man Yanni had shown the home to earlier that day.

            “Anton!” Yanni immediately began shouting. “What is this place? Where are we? You have to help me get out of here!”

            Despite his screams, they carried on with whatever it was they were doing. Anton and the woman seemed to be arguing with the thin man. Hands were pointing this way and that, and the man, though small and thin, carried himself as if he had the same authority of the universe itself.

            Yanni didn’t have the patience to sit around and hoped someone would see him. He ran toward the front door and tried to pull it open. Again, it was as if the door had been bolted shut. He tried to break a window and had no success. Yanni made his way to every possible exit he could think of before finally realizing that there was no way out. He tried to gain the people’s attention once more, and that was when he noticed the small calendar that hung on the kitchen wall. The first 8 days of April were crossed out, but that wasn’t what caught his attention. It was the year. 1965.

            Yanni’s mind swirled with ideas. There was no way it was 1965. He was just in the year 2019. Had he accidentally discovered time travel? Was this some sort of elaborate prank? Yanni didn’t understand exactly what was happening.

            As he sat in quiet contemplation about everything, the arguing between the three people began to intensify, and that was when he finally began to pay attention.

            “This is MY HOUSE!” Anton screamed. “You hear me, Jim? Mine. I don’t give a damn if you are screwing my wife! You both can get the hell out and build your own house.”

            “We will do no such thing,” the man identified as Jim said. “By rights, this house, or at least half of it, belongs to your wife as well. She did put in funds to help pay for the building too. Don’t get me wrong, Anton, you and I have been friends for a long time, but your wife wants out of your marriage, and she wants you out of this house.”

            “Over my dead body!” Anton screamed.

            The woman said nothing. She simply grabbed a knife from the kitchen, walked over to Anton, and stabbed him three times in the back. Seemingly with as much force as she could.

            “Alright then, over your dead body,” she said.

            Jim looked horrified. “Help me dispose of this trash bag of a man,” the woman said.

            “Oh my god, Karina. What have you done?” Jim said. “Anton!” Jim yelled as he shook the lifeless body that now lay before them.

            It was then that Jim’s face came into focus. The face was very familiar to him. It looked like the very reflection of Yanni himself. Yanni continued listening to the woman and Jim.

            “Karina, we have to call the police. We have to call the police! Oh my god!”

            “We will do no such thing, Jim. Help me dispose of the body!”

            “No! I won’t. I won’t do it,” Jim said.

            Karina’s fury flashed across her face. She rushed at Jim, knife in hand, and stabbed him squarely in the chest.

            It was then that the memories came flooding to him. Anton’s wife, Karina, the years he spent lying to his friend. Anton was irked, to say the least, when he found out. But the house. Yanni’s own greed set off the chain of events that led to both of their deaths. It was not he who had been showing off this house to prospective buyers, no. It had been the string of realtors whose bodies he had inhabited. He was stuck in that house, stuck with Anton. They still hated each other, and this was Anton’s latest attempt to make him suffer.

            In his afterlife, hadn’t Anton already realized that Yanni had suffered enough? Apparently not. Yanni knew it was Anton’s mission to make his Afterlife hell.


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