EPISODE 003. THE INHERITANCE.
Greg Dancler inherited the house on Park Avenue from his great uncle Robert whom he’d never met. He considered it the only good fortune he’d ever experienced. When Greg was in his early twenties he went on a road trip across the country looking for a new life in California. Before he made it halfway through America his car broke down and he didn’t have the money to fix it. Abandoning the vehicle, Greg took a Greyhound home to find that while he was gone his parents had perished in a fire that destroyed his childhood home.
For six months Greg couch surfed and drank and told anyone who would listen about his miserable life. “I was made to fail.”, he would say. “I must have been born under a dark star”. To their credit a few friends offered Greg work, but he never lasted more than a week at any given job.
While Greg was working at “Mister Sillee's” ice cream shop on Westfield avenue a stranger came to visit him. The short man wore a charcoal gray suit with matching fedora and carried a shiny black briefcase. His overall manner was very neat and precise, but Greg sensed something odd about the man. His pale skin didn’t seem to sit right on his face. His eyebrows were solid black and almost looked painted on. Each expression the man made appeared as if it had been practiced in a mirror.
“Hello Gregory,” said the man. “I am Mr. Contraugust. Executor of your great uncle Robert’s will.”
“I ain’t got an uncle Robert.” said Greg.
“No.” said Mr. Contragust. “You do not, but your father did. He was the brother of your grandfather, Gregory Dancler the First. You are Gregory Dancler the Third, are you not?”
“You can call me Greg.”
“As you wish...Greg.” spoke the man as if the name tasted of ash in his mouth. “In any case you are the beneficiary of Robert Dancler’s will.”
“I ain’t got no money. Don’t need no long lost relatives to come mooching around.”
“Gregor- I mean Greg. You misunderstand. Robert Dancler has passed. You are his sole heir and beneficiary. No one is coming to you asking for money. In fact you have inherited a small sum.”
“How small?” asked Greg.
“Two thousand American dollars.”, said the man. “Hardly a king’s ransom, but not an insignificant sum of money, don’t you think? Also there is a small property right here in Amon Heights.”
“You’re shittin’ me.”
“Sir, I would never lie on hallowed ground.”
“This ain’t hollow ground. It’s an ice cream shop.”
“Yes,” said Mr Contraugust, looking upward at the oversized plastic statue of the store’s mascot, a clown holding an ice cream cone like a torch.
“Nevertheless,” continued the strange little man as he opened his briefcase, “If you sign these documents I can have the cashier’s check as well as the deed to the house in your name by tomorrow morning.”
Greg had doubts, but he literally had nothing to lose. He needed a place to stay and this weirdo was offering him a house and two thousand dollars? Maybe things were finally looking up for ol’ Greg Dancler.
Without further thought Greg signed the documents and Mr. Contraugust swiftly packed up his briefcase and left.
The next morning, while sleeping off a night of binge drinking on his friend’s couch, Greg heard a knock at the door.
By the time he answered there was no one to be seen, but a large red envelope sat on the welcome mat. Picking it up, Greg saw his name written on the envelope in white ink.
The envelope contained the deed naming him owner of a property on Park Avenue in Amon Heights. Greg immediately called a buddy to give him a lift to the place.
It was a small, one-story house of less than 900 square feet with a tiny front yard and no backyard to speak of. This was perfect for Greg as he had no need for anything other than a bed, a bathroom, and a place to put his tv.
Within a few days Greg was fully at home in the new place. He used some of the money to buy furniture, a new tv, a stereo system, and a lava lamp. Greg had always wanted a lava lamp. He kept it by his bed and left it on while sleeping.
Greg managed to keep his job at Mister Sillee's in spite of his continued drinking. One night he came home inebriated. Too tired to even watch tv he fell into bed and reached over to switch on his lava lamp. In the darkness he found only the wall. Even waving his hand to where the bedside table should be he felt nothing but empty air.
Jumping out of bed, Greg flicked the wall switch to turn on the overhead light.
“What the fuck?” he said to himself when he realized he’d been robbed. Greg dashed into the living room to see that his television and stereo were right where they belonged.
“What kind of thief would leave a perfectly good tv and stereo?” he asked himself.
Going back into the bedroom Greg looked at where his bedside table and lamp had been. That was when he noticed the graffiti. On the wall the thief had painted an exact replica of the end table and lamp. The painting was detailed perfectly and even had the precise proportions of the original. The painting of the lamp almost glowed and depicted the little blobs of orange wax floating ethereally.
Greg ran to his phone and dialed the police.
“I been robbed!” he shouted into the phone as soon as he heard a voice, not giving the answering officer a chance to speak.
“Well now, son.” spoke a calm voice over the phone, “Are you in danger now?”
“I-I don’t think so. They must have hit my house while I was at work. They didn’t even steal the tv!”
“Now son, how do you know you’ve been robbed? What did they actually take?”
“My lava lamp! And my bedside table.” said Greg.
“Well now, I don’t think that makes much sense, now does it? Why would someone take a lamp and leave your tv. Do you have any other valuables?”
“Oh shit. I’m an idiot. I forgot about all the cash!”
“Well, where do you keep your cash?” asked the officer.
“Under my mattress.”
“Now son, that’s not a goo-” before he could finish Greg had dropped the receiver and bolted into the bedroom. The receiver dangled from the wall-mounted cradle for nearly a full minute before Greg walked back and retrieved it.
“Are you still there, son?” asked the officer.
“Yeah. Yeah. I’m here, officer.”
“Now what seems to be going on there?”
“They took it.”
“They took your money? Now that’s a shame. We can send someone over in the morn-”
“No.” interrupted Greg. “They stole the bed. The mattress. The cash. All of it.”
“And you say you didn’t notice the bed missing when you saw that the lamp was gone?”
“Officer, they must have just took it now. While I was on the phone with you.” said Greg.
“How in the world is that possible, son? It would take at least two guys to move a bed that fast and you surely would have heard them.”
“Officer,” Greg said, “the bed was here when I got home. I was lying in it. In the dark. That was when I tried to turn on the lamp but it was gone. The table too. They left behind a painting.”
“Yeah. They replaced the lamp and the table with a painting of a lamp and a table. The bed too. There’s just a picture on the wall.”
“Son, have you been drinking?”
“Yeah, but-” at that moment the line went dead. No busy signal. Just silence.
Greg felt the cord go slack from the receiver.
“Stupid thing popped out.” he said to himself as he went to plug the receiver cord back into the jack at the base of the phone.
The phone wasn’t there anymore. There was just a painting of a telephone. An exact replica of his phone, painted on the wall.
Greg touched the picture with his finger. It wasn’t wet. It wasn’t even raised like paint should be. It was as if the painting was a part of the wall itself. The receiver fell out of his hand and clattered onto the floor. Greg felt his balls crawl up into his stomach.
His typical reaction in times of stress was to grab a beer. Turning to the fridge he grasped the handle. As he touched it there was a slight burst of wind and the entire fridge popped out of existence. In the dark kitchen he saw the familiar brown rectangular shape of the refrigerator painted on the wall just like the rest of his disappearing possessions.
Staggering away from the kitchen, Greg felt his legs buckle and reached out with his hand in the darkness to rest his weight on the recliner chair he’d recently purchased. The chair wasn’t where he expected it to be and Greg fell on his face to the hardwood floor.
Greg cursed and sat up. On the floor in front of him he saw a top-down picture of a recliner chair as if it had been printed over the floor-boards. His head in his hands, Greg just lost it and did something he hadn’t done in years. Not even when he learned of the death of his parents. Greg broke down and cried.
“What is going on?” he shouted at the ceiling, raising a fist. “Who is doing this? Show yourself you pussies!”
There was no answer. Just the sound of Greg’s sobs in the darkness.
After a few minutes Greg managed to calm himself down and think rationally. He decided the best thing to do would be to leave the house and go to a hotel for the night. Maybe things would make more sense in the morning. Picking himself off the floor he stumbled in the dark and got to the front door.
Just as he touched the knob the door went flat. Like everything else in his home had done so far. It left the now familiar door-like image.
Greg POUNDED his fist on the door.
“Motherfucker!” he shouted. “Let me out!”.
Spinning around he ran to the back door only to be faced with the same results.
Greg hit the light switch in the living area. It turned 2-dimensional instantly, but at least the overhead light worked. Glancing around the room he saw that nearly everything he owned had turned into a realistic image of itself either on the wall or the floor. The tv and stereo that he’d been so enamored with had become mere pictures. The used sofa he’d purchased just a few days prior was now a facsimile of itself, against the wall just beneath the window.
The window was still there. All he had to do was open it.
“Come the fuck on!” he shouted when the instant he touched the frame it poofed into a simulacrum of a window. The panes were solid black where previously he could make out the darkened front yard outside his house. It was not the black of the night sky, nor was it the black of dark paint or any object Greg had ever seen. It was just the black of nothingness.
There was another window in the kitchenette. But at this point Greg was starting to realize that anything he disturbed would disappear and become or be replaced by an image of itself. As nonsensical as that sounded it was the reality he had to face. Reeling around towards his last opportunity to exit this impossible situation, Greg tripped over something. On the floor before him was the phone receiver he had dropped earlier. It was still solid. Still real. Still 3-dimensional. Greg picked it up and judged its weight in his hands. Not very heavy and not really all that hard, but it was solid and it was all he had.
Running to the window Greg wound up like a pitcher and threw the receiver at the pane, shattering it. It was too small of a hole to fit through, but maybe he could get someone’s attention.
He’d never really paid attention to the rear window. The house didn’t have a backyard. The kitchen door and window just opened into a narrow alley. In the dark all Greg could see was a brick wall.
“Help!” he shouted through the hole in the window. “Help me somebody please! I'm trapped in my house! The door is GONE!” He yelled until his throat was hoarse. It was late and the alley was seldom used. Either no one heard him or no one cared.
Greg leaned on the kitchen sink over which the window sat and it flattened just like the rest of the house. He nearly fell, but caught himself against the window frame. Faster than he could breathe the rear window transformed just like the other. Except for one small detail.
The hole remained. Three of the window’s four panes were solid black. The one he’d shattered though was only solid black where the glass endured. Through the hole he could peer into the alley. On the brick wall opposite him he saw the image of a phone receiver like a piece of hyper realistic graffiti. He reached his arm into the hole, not knowing what he was even trying to accomplish at this point. Greg was a tall man with long arms but that small gap didn’t give him much room. He tried to avoid the shards of glass when he pulled his arm back in, but they weren’t glass anymore. His left hand barely brushed the edge of the black fragment.
Searing pain shot up to his shoulder like frostbite. He instinctively jerked his arm away but it was too late. His left arm was gone up to the elbow. The pain subsided almost instantly until all that was left was a dull throb. Greg looked in shock at the stump where his hand and forearm had been. What he saw resembled exactly like what he expected a severed arm to look like. It was perfectly clean cut as if a pane of glass held his sinew and bone flush against the site of the wound. He didn’t bleed. His insides were just revealed, like a cross section of an arm in a textbook.
Wailing and desperate Greg ran toward the bathroom to look for...what? To look for bandaids? He didn’t own a tourniquet or even a serious first aid kit. Maybe a towel at least.
As he turned toward the living area he almost hit a wall. There had not been a wall before. It had been an open doorway between the kitchenette and the rest of the house. But now there was a solid black wall. It was the same nothing-black of the window panes. In his anger Greg kicked at the nothing with his right leg. His foot disappeared with the same sharp, cold pain that he felt with the loss of his hand. He dared not look at the wound this time. He knew what he would see.
The blackness came closer.
Greg fell on his ass in fear. Slowly, inexorably the wall inched forward. The kitchen cabinet on the wall was soon enveloped by the darkness. Greg shuffled out of its way, but the space remaining in the room was getting smaller and smaller.
Having no other recourse Greg hopped to the window and reached out with his other arm. No longer being careful he stretched as far as he could. If he could only reach the brick wall, maybe that would help. He had no clue what that would do, but he needed to try something. The darkness closed on him. His armpit caught on the edge of the hole. He reached as far as his body would allow. The black wall came less than an inch from his surviving foot.
“Somebody out there hear me please!” he yelled through the small aperture. “It’s gonna crush me!”
Greg scrunched his body against the exterior wall as much as he could but the unyielding darkness gave him no more room. Pain shot up his left leg as it was swallowed by the black. With the last of his strength he pushed as hard as he could against the shadow and for a fraction of a second felt the rough brick of the wall across the narrow alley.
The world collapsed around him.
The next morning Christopher and his cousin TJ rode their bikes on Park avenue. Christopher stopped in front of an empty lot.
“What’s a matter?” asked TJ.
“Wasn’t there a little house there just yesterday?” asked Christopher.
“I dunno. Maybe”
“What happened to it?”
“I guess they tore it down.” TJ said.
“In one day?” Christopher asked, incredulously, “And there isn’t any equipment or debris or anything?”
“I dunno, cuz.” said TJ, “Let’s go to Mister Sillee’s and get a choco-cone!”
“Okay.” said Christopher and the two boys rode off.
The lot sat vacant. On the far side stood a brick building with a bit of unusual graffiti on the wall, a perfectly realistic painting of a telephone receiver and a human hand.
Intro and outro theme
Music Provided By Mediacharger
Artist: Darren Curtis
Track: Demented Nightmare
Background ambience is Blackout by Myuu
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