House Party – Part One
It was one story. A porch out front with an awning. Buried deep in on of the forgotten parts of L.A. The lawn was unkempt, the paint peeling from the walls, the windows dusty. It was a house that was going out of its way to be invisible. Ty and Cheri stood just beyond the chain link fence.
“Are you sure this is the place Ty?” Cheri looked at it. There was dark purple light coming from the windows tinting the lawn and giving a weird haze to the cool air of the evening. “It looks really run down, even for Ian.”
Ty shrugged. “You know how cheap Ian is. He probably found this place on Craigslist for a couple hundred bucks. He’d live in a box if he didn’t have so much crap.” He unfolded a printed out piece of paper. “ ‘Sides. This is where the map I found online led us.” He unlatched the gate and walked down the cracked flagstone path.
Cheri caught up with him, smiling and lacing her arm with his. “How many house warming parties is this any way?”
“Third one this year. I’ve never known anyone that moves so much without actually going anywhere.” He looked around. All the other houses seemed abandoned. “What part of L.A. is this anyway?”
“Didn’t Ian say he was moving to El Segundo? What does the map say?”
Ty looked. “That’s what the map says. We must have gotten turned around somewhere.”
Cheri peered in the window. “Wherever we are it looks like an awesome party.” She looked back at Ty and smiled. “Lets see if anyone’s home.” She walked to the door and knocked, but no one answered. She looked at Ty again, with a confused look on her face.
He shrugged. “Try the door. At the very least we can ask for directions.” She did. It opened on well oiled hinges.
Inside there was no one.
The purple light came from bell jars placed all over the room. The light inside them flickered and wavered when the door opened. Music, strange and dark, filtered from an unseen source deep within the house. Rugs covered the floor, twisted mandalas and arcane words embroidered into the thick fabrics. Low bookshelves overflowed with leather-bound books with blank spines. There were weird, mystic artifacts placed on top of them, trinkets made of stone and metal that hurt to look at. In the center of the table was a worn sofa and a coffee table carved from black wood hewn with hideous carvings. On the coffee table were tarot cards from an evil, unknown era, painted with bizarre paintings of old gods and chaotic knowledge of an evil, unknown era.
Cheri and Ty looked at each other. Cheri picked up one of the cards, grasping it with her finger tips, it felt gritty and smooth all at once. “What is all this stuff?”
Ty was crouched at the bookshelves, examining the spines and the trinkets. “I don’t know. Could be that Ian’s roommates are weirder than usual.”
Cheri let the card fall from her hand. “I’m a little creeped out, Ty.” But even as she said it, the music drew her further into the room, deeper into the house. She stepped past the couch, facing a hallway that led into darkness. “Is that, chanting?”
Ty listened. “Everyone must be downstairs.” But before he knew it, he was standing with Cheri, gazing down a dark hallway. “I guess we should follow the music if we want to find the party.” There was a door halfway down the hall, barely seen in the dark. Ty went to it. “It’s coming from here.”
Cheri stood next to him and tried the door knob. It turned silently, opening onto a set of carpeted stairs. “What do you think is down there?”
Ty, cocked his head. “A basement and a wild party.” Cheri gave him a look and rolled her eyes. She started down the stairs, her steps muffled to nothing on the carpeted stairs. Ty followed quietly. With the purple light of the front room behind them, Cheri and Ty descended, surrounded by the haunted music.
After fifteen steps, the stairway bottomed out. It was just a basement, just like Ty said. There was no one here either. The air was hazy, a fine mist of smoke suffusing it, a kind of incense smoke that smelled like wet cloth and burning wood. The furniture was simple, carved from the black wood of the coffee table upstairs and draped in tapestries that seemed to gather what little light there was and glow with it. They were embroidered with weird script and strange images that conjured thoughts of chaos and destruction.
Ty lifted one of the pieces of cloth, fingering it. “What language is this sewing in?” He looked back at Cheri. “Maybe we should leave.”
Cheri was looking at the apothecary cabinets that lined the wall, opening the drawers and peering inside. “A lot of this stuff is pretty neat. Check out what’s in here.” Ty came over and peered in. One of the drawers was filled with dentist tools coated with a fine clay dust. Another drawer was filled with flowers whose colors were nightmarish and dark. There was a drawer of watch parts, tiny cogs and springs mixed with glass, tiny screws, and mechanical bits and pieces. The last drawer was filled with dried herbs and sticks of incense that smelled musty and fetid.
Ty pinched his nose. “This incense smells rank.” After a moment he noticed something. “Hey, what happened to the music?” Cheri walked to the middle of the room and listened.
The music had changed. A kind of dark chanting came from another stairwell at the opposite side of the basement room. Cheri walked over to it. “There’s chanting coming from down here.” Where the music had attracted, the chanting repelled and hypnotized all at once. The sounds slid over their skin like a stinking breeze, it made them feel greasy and unclean. But still, it was pulling them down into the earth, even as they pulled back.
The stairs were made of slick black stone. Beneath Ty’s sneakers, the surface felt wet and slippery. Cheri behind him kept a hand on the wall to guide her. The absence of light here went beyond dark, beyond the blackness that hides behind your eyelids. The stone steps absorbed the light as though they were made from the heart of a black hole. In this hall Ty and Cheri were blind.
next chapter: House Party – Part Two
more by LIAM DELANEY