Author : Ian Eller
People said that the house was haunted. It sat alone along the broken asphalt road surrounded by parched fields feebly overgrown with weeds and wildflowers. It was a small house: one story, with a covered porch and attached one car garage. The house would have seemed perfectly at home in one of the subdivisions, just another dilapidated and empty structure on a sun-burnt, grassless lot, with broken windows and a collapsed roof inviting the elements inside.
But this house was not dilapidated. Its roof remained strong and its windows were unbroken. Nor was it on a dry, weeded patch like the others, but a vibrant green swatch, exactly square. A narrow concrete walk, unbroken by time, ran from the porch to the street. On one side of the walk was a mailbox atop a post, and on the other was a large square sign that, despite exposure, remained unfaded. The words on it were unknowable, but the image of the house and a smiling family were visceral.
Either the strange location or the unmolested state of repair of the house would have been enough to fuel suspicions and rumors about the place, but there was more. At night, when the world was dark save for campfires and the rare battery powered lamp, the house was aglow. Some swore they could sometimes see a shadow move behind the drawn shades.
Across the street from the house was a deep drainage ditch, bone dry and carpetted with long dead reeds. Within, pressed against the dirt wall, Wallace and Adrian glowered at one another.
“Well, go on then, if you’re so smart,” snarled Wallace. He was big for ten, with a meaty head and hands, but covered in dirt and pallid from malnourishment.
Adrian, who was smaller than Wallace and no cleaner nor better fed, snarled right back. “I will, I will! Get off!”
The sun was lowering in the west behind the mountains. Dusk stretched across the land and when it touched the house, there was a brief flickering from within, then a soft, cold glow.
Adrian swallowed hard.
“You’re chicken,” Wallace said quietly.
“I’m not chicken!” hissed Adrian. With a courage fueled by boyish pride that even war, death, famine and pestilence combined could not extinguish, Adrian pulled himself over the berm and onto the cracked asphalt.
Wallace opened his mouth to heckle Adrian again, but found his mouth too dry and his chest too tight. A wheezing, “Go!” was all he managed.
Adrian moved uncertainly across the street, one step then two and three. When he reached the center of the road, where the dashed yellow line was just barely visible, a light above the porch blinked into existence. Behind him, Wallace squealed and dove into the ditch. Adrian steeled himself and crossed the street.
Finally Adrian stood before the walkway. Slowly, his eyes never leaving the from door, he reached out and opened the mail box. Bright lights on either side of the front door came to life and a voice, tinny and distant, spoke from within the mail box.
“Welcome to the House of Tomorrow! Please come in and see what the future brings!”
He heard Wallace yelp and then bolt down the ditch.
Again, the tinny voice said, “Welcome to the House of Tomorrow! Please come in and see what the future brings!”
Adrian thought of Wallace, running for their burrow, digging for grubs to eat, crying late into the night.
He stepped forward onto the walk. The door of the house opened with a whisper.
Adrian went in, to see what the future would bring.
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