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“They should really have a garage sale,” Steve says. His voice sounds too close to his ears, the low ceiling swallowing up the sound. Steve walks toward a folded up ping pong table when he hears a scuffing sound behind him. He turns, expecting a rat, but instead sees a terror beyond reckoning shuffling toward him. The monstrosity’s flesh drips from its bones like wax from an exhausted candle;

ADINA TURKONJE

the eyes are all whites, and the teeth are crooked yellow slabs. “What the-” A cold weight settles on Steve’s shoulder and he leaps, his heart paralyzed in his chest. Steve turns to see a second ghoul, this one’s hair hanging in lank strings about its head, its crooked maw open, and its graveyard breath cold on his face. Steve screams and stumbles backward as the long-haired ghoul clicks its rotting teeth where his neck had been. In his haste, Steve trips over a cardboard box and falls to the ground. As the longhaired ghoul ambles toward him, Steve rolls away from it, and into range of the bald one which grabs his shirt. “Oh god!” Steve cries. He grips his shirttail in one hand, the ghoul’s

wrist in the other, and forcefully separates them, the ghoul’s fingernails snapping loudly as they tear free of its hand. Steve screams again, his terror too great to remain bottled up, then jukes past the long-haired ghoul and thunders up the wooden stairs, bent double but still bounding up the stairs three at a time. He bursts free of the little door, whacking his forehead on the low frame on his way through, and leaves a dusty skid across the marble floor as he slides on his belly. Steve turns to look back toward the door, horrified that the monsters followed him up the stairs, when he sees Elliot casually peer into the low stairwell, lean in to turn off the light, then shut the door softly. “Elliot-” “You alright? Did they get you?” “What? You know about them?” “Yeah. They’re a pain.” “What?” Steve stares up at his friend as Elliot shrugs his shoulders and explains. “We found them when we moved in. They’re hostile but pretty slow moving.” “They tried to bite me!” “Yeah, they do that,” Elliot says. “Why... what... Elliot, how can you live like this?” “It’s a beautiful house in a great location and it’s close to work for both me and Liz.” “It’s haunted!” Elliot flips his hand at Steve, as though batting away his overly dramatic fears. “They’re not a big deal.” “Not a big deal?” “Yeah. They move so slow they’re pretty easy to avoid.” “You… You go down there?” “Rarely. Just when we need some of our old stuff. We’re safe about it though. We always wear good shoes, and have a spotter at the top of the stairs, just in case.” “Just in case they kill you?” “Oh c’mon Steve, you saw them, they’re so slow, it’s like living near a busy street. Be smart about it and you’ll be safe.” “What... but... why not at least have them removed?” “We tried. Did you see Harriet’s head?” “You named them?” “As a joke,” Elliot smiles. “Harriet’s the one with long hair, Joseph’s the bald one. Anyways, one day I went down there with a baseball bat, but it didn’t seem to faze her.” “So, you’re just letting them live there?” “What else can we do?” Steve gapes at Elliot and Elliot offers Steve his hand, helping him to his feet. “Elliot, I… I don’t even know what to say.” “I know. I felt that way too at first. They’re a nuisance, but this is our dream house. It can’t be perfect, right?” Elliot chuckles, then puts his arm around Steve’s shoulders, guiding him back toward the patio.

MADELINE MCINNIS

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