Jenna pulled into the driveway of her new home, killed the engine and sat for a minute, looking at the deceptively peaceful house in front of her.
She still had no idea why she’d bought it, other than it being so insanely cheap she’d been able to buy it outright and still have savings left over for the renovations it was going to be in desperate need of. She knew this house was trouble. The whole town knew this house was trouble but it was all she could afford and, well, it had looked after her that time.
She let her mind drift back, a late summer evening, she was walking home from a friend’s place when Trevor Landis had decided to have a bit of fun with her. He’d grabbed her from behind as she’d walked past his family’s place, one hand squeezing a breast, the other arm crossing her hips to push her ass against his grinding crotch.
She lashed out, elbows, teeth and kicking, stomping feet. Surprise was the only reason she got free though, he was a head taller than her and near on a hundred kilos of muscle. She took to her heels, sprinting for all she was worth. He gave a nasty laugh and chased her.
She was too far from home and there would be no help along this street, most of the houses were abandoned. Trevor’s was the only one occupied and that only because they couldn’t afford a place not next to the haunted house.
She turned sharply, sprinting up the path of the house and onto the porch, grabbing for the front door handle, desperate to get inside.
Trevor called from behind her, “You don’t want to do that doll-face, that place will mess you up right and proper and I’ll be waiting for you when you leave. You might as well come and be nice to me now, you’re going to do it eventually.”
The door blew open with a bang and Jenna staggered inside. It slammed shut behind her and the entire house creaked ominously.
She crouched in the hallway, terrified, but when nothing else seemed to happen, she obeyed the fluttering curtain at the hall window, and crept to the side of it, peeking out at the thug standing outside.
He was standing on the footpath, scowling at the house, then stomped towards it. Jenna whimpered and started to back away, then froze. The front path was moving. The stones she’d just run across were silently lifting from the ground, hovering just above Trevor’s head as he approached the front steps.
Just before he got to them, they spun and transformed into a row of needle-sharp spikes. He stopped, eyes bugging, then turned. The stones flew at him. They battered him, focusing on his arms and his ribs. Trevor screamed in terror and fled, arms over his head.
Jenna leaned back against the wall, pulse still racing, she closed her eyes against the tears, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
The house creaked again but it seemed, somehow, to be a friendly sound this time. The door at the end of the corridor opened and she walked through it, into a dusty, old-fashioned kitchen. That door, in turn, closed behind her and the back door opened.
She knew better than to overstay her welcome, and headed out onto the back porch, looking over a wild back garden. A faint path seemed to appear in the waving grass, leading to the woods that backed onto her own home.
She heaved a sigh of relief, hugged the porch post, which seemed to give a small start of surprise, thanked the house again, and ran for home.
She’d heard through the grapevine some time later that Trevor’s mother had driven him to the hospital with multiple fractures – ribs and arm – then moved them both well away from the house, although Trevor still managed to get himself into trouble on a regular basis.
She’d left to stay with her father the next day, he’d arranged for her to transfer to one of the best schools in the country and her mother agreed it would be good for her.
And now, sixteen years later, she was back.
Enough. She was here, she owned the house, and now she needed to get on with moving into it.
The house had yet to react to her presence It was aware though, she could feel it watching, wary and suspicious.
She got out of the car and slung her computer bag over her shoulder. She walked across the front garden until she reached the porch steps, then stopped, reached out, and put her hand on the post at the top of the set of four stairs.
“Hello again. I’m not sure if you remember me but you saved me from your rather nasty neighbour a number of years ago. I was wondering if I could come in and have a chat. I have some news I think you need to know about.”
The house gave a quiet, considering creak, then opened the front door.
Jenna smiled, “Thank you.”
She walked into the house and headed for the kitchen, then paused, “Unless you prefer I use another room, it’s just that this might take a while.”
The kitchen door opened.
She walked in and sighed, “Oh it’s just as I remembered. After the horrible scare Trevor gave me, this room felt so safe, it was a bit hard to leave it you know, but I didn’t want to offend you after your kindness.”
A chair at the table rocked itself out, Jenna smiled, and sat.
“I’m not sure what information you’re getting, or how much you can see beyond your bounds, but the city brought in a supernatural surveyor a few years ago and they looked over your property records, plus a few others around the township and confirmed your original boundaries. They’ve been wanting to develop this area for ages you know and they weren’t sure how to do it without aggravating you.”
The house seemed to be listening.
She continued, “They also went back through all your papers and found that your last owner died intestate with no living relatives.”
The next creak sounded worried.
“Yes, well, they put you up for sale.”
The house started to rock and Jenna hurried on, “Yes, I know, it’s alright, I bought you.”
It settled, but still remained wary.
She sighed, “Yes, there’s more and I need you to stay calm until I’ve finished. I have to make sure you don’t kill or maim anyone without provocation or they’re going to repossess you and bring in the bulldozers.”
She patted the wall, “Now I put on some conditions of my own. We are to build a fence around your property boundaries, and if that includes some of the neighbouring land, then the City are okay with that. They want to know the extent of your influence so they don’t accidentally tread on your toes with their new building projects.”
The house was still waiting, “But they want this area gentrified, so we’re going to have to look at renovating you as well.”
The house went rigid, its attention seemingly beyond its bounds and Jenna’s nervous stare.
A minute later, a man stepped out of the walls. Jenna screamed and scrambled back.
The man stepped back in alarm as well, and went through a kitchen cabinet, “Woah, okay ma’am, I’m not here to hurt you, I’ve just been sent to find out what’s going on.”
The house twisted and shrieked. The man raised his head, seeming to listen, then his haze dropped back to her.
“This house isn’t for sale.”
“It isn’t now, I bought it. The previous owner died and the city sold it off to pay his debts and allow them to get on with planned development in this area.”
The man’s jaw dropped, “Shit. That shouldn’t have happened.”
He seemed to confer with the house again, then chuckled, “Well you’ve made something of a conquest ma’am, I’m impressed. This house is the most cantankerous pile of wood in the service – most operatives won’t go near it and yet it’s telling me I need to make sure you’re safe and protected.”
Jenna smiled, “It saved me from a very nasty situation a while ago. But what do you mean, service?”
The man moved to take a seat, then grimaced, “I’ve never been fond of dream walking but we needed someone here fast.”
“Yes. Agent Kaiden Blackwood at your service.”
“And the house?”
“Is Paraforce as well. Or more specifically, the spirit trapped in the house is. He’s Special Agent Alexander Green. Died in 1955, age sixteen, after a beating from his father went too far.”
Jenna’s eyes widened and she reached out a hand to the wall, “I’m so sorry.”
She turned to the agent, “I was sixteen when Special Agent Green saved me. There was a boy living next door who liked to use his strength to get what he wanted and one day he wanted me. The house let me in, then put Trevor in hospital.”
Agent Blackwood frowned, “Please tell me that’s not Trevor Landis you’re talking about.”
Jenna froze in fear, he noticed, “Shit.”
The house creaked, loudly, and the agent nodded, then sighed, “Okay, so we’ve been asked by the mundane guys to keep an eye out for this Trevor character, he’s up on some rather bad murder charges and escaped, put himself up for two more murder charges in the process. We knew he grew up around Alex and he’s been keeping an eye on things. He says there’s been some sort of movement in the house where Trevor lived before but he can’t see clearly as his original land only extends a few feet past that fence line.”
“Okay, I need to be here in person but it’s going to take a day or so. Are you able to stay holed up here?”
“I have provisions in the car. Is it safe to get them?”
Kaiden listened, then grinned, “Alex put your car in the garage just after you came inside, there’s a door to it off to your right.”
Jenna smiled, “Thank you Special Agent Green, Agent Blackwood.”
“He says to please call him Alex, and I would prefer Kaiden on my part as well.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m Jenna, Jenna Sandrick.”