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For The Unhaunted

For Round Five of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction that began with the line, "Some people swore that the house was haunted," and ended with the line, "Nothing was ever the same again after that."

A haunted house.

NOTE TO READERS: This entry includes graphic descriptions of the results of violence.

Some people swore that the house was haunted. It had to be haunted. After all, every other house on the block was haunted. In fact, every other house in the Dixon's entire neighborhood had at least one apparitional resident. Some were even blessed with two or three or more. There was no reason to assume that the Dixon's house should be so different, so bereft of undead energy. When friends and family came to visit, they all claimed to hear a shuffling of disembodied feet in the attic or insisted that they'd seen the hazy form of a torso squirming about in the bathroom. They all wanted to believe that Kat and Ryan weren't unable to call forth a being from the Other Side. But Kat and Ryan knew the truth: the house wasn't haunted. It was just a series of well-polished rooms and elaborately furnished dreams.

Try as they might, in eight years of marriage the Dixons hadn't been able to channel a single specter. At first, they did what everyone else did: they burned incense and lit candles, chanted archaic incantations and hung crystals. They welcomed the past into their lives and opened themselves to a future set in nostalgia. But no spirits came.  While their friends threw seance parties and compared the static burble of one another's EVP recordings with delight, Kat and Ryan sat at home, staring into empty corners and darkened hallways.

The couple began to consult psychic professionals and make appointments with the best mediums in the state; they sacrificed chickens and goats and prayed to skeletal gods.  Still no spirits came. Still no howls of joyful madness echoed through their living room. Days grew longer; nights grew calmer. Ghosts were everywhere but in their home. So, Kat and Ryan decided to take more extreme measures. If they wanted a spirit of their own, they were going to have to force it inside.

They robbed an unmarked grave and reburied the brittle corpse in their backyard; they invited an elderly homeless man to their house for dinner, then beat him to death and smeared his blood across their walls; they tried violent orgies and sex magics.  Nothing worked.  A spirit would not come to them. They were barren. Then Kat became pregnant.

While her stomach swelled, the Dixons considered the possibilities before them.  To be sure, raising a child would be wonderful, but having a ghost was what made life worth living.  The tingling excitement of revelation that arose from finding out who your spirit really was and the comfort of knowing that your spirit would never fully abandon you, that it would float by the side of your deathbed and would continue on indefinitely, carrying with it a memory of its time as your special ghost: these were the things that gave meaning to existence. Everyone said as much, and Kat and Ryan believed. They wanted a specter desperately. They wanted to be haunted.  And so, when the time came, they both gripped the handle of the butcher knife as it slid across their son's soft, fatty, freshly-powdered throat. They watched, together, while bubbles and blood commingled on a sky-blue onesie. A tear rolled down Kat's cheek. Ryan's unused hand trembled.

Surely, this would work. If a ghost would not come to them, they would make a ghost.

As the spark in the baby's eyes sputtered out, something in another room fell to the floor and shattered.

Nothing was ever the same again after that.