It was a night much like this one that I broke into the abandoned house over on Main Street—you know the one, don’t you—and met Old Lady Parker. At first, I thought she was a dusty old cobweb. All I could see of her was the top of her head, so I pushed it out of the way. I knew right away something was wrong, I mean, cobwebs aren’t heavy and they don’t clunk when they hit a wall.
She turned around, making this horrible groaning sound. Then she kinda sighed, and it sounded like a knife running over sand paper. I was trying to back out of the window, barely keeping my heart in my chest. I dropped my bag, and I guess the hammer must have landed on her foot because she squealed.
I didn’t stop to grab my stuff, I didn’t turn around to see if she’d come out of the house either—I just scrambled out of there and beat it. My heart didn’t stop racing for maybe an hour afterwards. Seriously, man, it was starting to hurt, it was beating so fast. Once it started to slow down though, I started getting mad. What the hell was that old woman doing down there, anyway? Think about it. The house wasn’t hers, had never been hers. She didn’t belong there any more than I did.
Stupid old bat. So, you know what?
Yeah… you’re right. I went back. I walked straight across the yard, up the stairs, and kicked—yes, kicked—the door in. I was going to show her who was boss. I was going to tell her off for being there, for blowing my break-in, for scaring the shorts off me. I barged into that house raring for a fight and I didn’t care if she was 80 years older than Adam, I was gonna get that fight.
You know what happened next, don’t you? You figured it out yet?
Well, I’ll tell you.
She wasn’t on the main floor. She was still down in the basement, still under the window where I’d first come across her. Old Lady Parker was leaning against the wall, still looking up at the window. I went up to her, grabbed her shoulder and spun her around. Man, all my tough words died in my throat, right then.
It wasn’t just the feel of her skin—that was all papery and dry and kinda crackled under my fingers—it was the whole package. Her hair was cobwebs. There was hair under ‘em but they were there. It was her face, man, her face was like—gone. I didn’t think I’d pushed her that hard. And her eyes. Dude, if you think I’ve got creepy eyes, you shoulda seen hers. They looked like a frog’s eyes. All tiny and sunken into the sockets.
That old bat, she smiled when she saw how freaked I was. She took my hand from her shoulder, and patted it. You know, like a grandma would? Then she laughed. You ain’t never heard something like that, man, or your hair would be the same color as mine.
I tried to pull my hand back, but she wouldn’t let go. Kinda like I’m holding yours, now. I can see you’re a bit freaked out yourself. Don’t worry…I’m almost done.
I had to close my eyes, because I couldn’t look at her anymore. I grabbed at her with my other hand, but it was like she wasn’t there at all. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out. Well, not nothing, it sounded like a knife on sandpaper.
When I opened my eyes, Old Lady Parker was gone.
You know it’s wrong to break into houses, don’t you? Well, I learned my lesson, just as you’re learning yours now. This’ll just take a minute, man, then I’ll get out of here and you can…well, you’ll just stay here. I’d like to say I’m sorry, really I would. But, I’m not.
You’ll be okay. Someone will come along, eventually.
It never lasts forever.
Jodi Lee is editor in chief of LBF Books and The New Bedlam Project. Her writing has appeared in several recent anthologies as well as magazines on and offline for the past decade. She is currently working on two novels set in the fictional town of New Bedlam.