Peaceful Way

The aptly named Peaceful Way was the perfect place to spend a summer. Massive old houses lined the cul-de-sac all the way to its circular conclusion, the street looping around an island adorned with a tidy garden manicured by an old man who lived nearby. Evan’s grandparents spent every summer a few houses up from this dead-end in a big, wood-shingled house that looked like it had been there forever.
I’d never met them personally, but Evan had mentioned them a few times. One of those remarks caught my attention more than the rest: he told me that they were allowing him and his brother to live in the house once they went back to Florida for the winter.
For a nineteen-year-old who lived at home, it was like hitting the lottery. And being the nice guy that Evan was, he shared his wealth.
His grandparents moved out on Labor Day and, when they did, Peaceful Way became a lot less peaceful. A group six of us started going every weekend, each of us inviting guests to tag along.
We relaxed on the sun-soaked patio and hosted barbecues while the warmth of summer lingered. On hot days we’d bike to the beach — about a mile down the road — and go for a swim, returning later to dry off beside the outdoor fire pit, flames crackling into the night.
When the leaves began to die we tossed on sweatshirts and organized drinking games in the yard on Saturdays. Playing would shift into partying as day switched to night and we’d wake Sunday afternoon just in time to watch football.
Eventually the temperature dropped. In turn, so too did the amount of outdoor activity. By early-November we found ourselves cooped up in the house more and more; fewer and fewer party guests willing to make the trek out to the old house in the cold. That’s when things got weird.
The house was over one-hundred years old. The more time we spent inside of it, the more apparent that age became.
Creeks in the floor boards would wake me at night. I’d feel waves of cold air. There were unexplainable footsteps and odd sounds all the time. I’d started to notice them back in October but never really said anything. I assumed it was a wandering guest early on; someone grabbing a drink or going to the bathroom. We had so many people in and out of the house that it was impossible to keep tabs on everyone.
Now it was only the six of us: myself, Evan, our friend Tom, Evan’s brother Paul, Paul’s friend Andrew and Andrew’s friend Dave. They were all accounted for; the sounds were not. I mentioned it one night as we sat around the living room.
“Did you guys hear anything last night?” I asked. “It sounded like there was someone downstairs.”
They room fell silent and everyone looked at me, their eyes wide.
“Holy shit,” said Andrew. “I thought I was going crazy! I’ve been hearing that shit for fucking weeks now. Like there are kids running around or something.”
“Same here,” said Tom. Dave nodded as he listened. “I thought if I said anything you guys would call me an asshole.”
 Evan was in the kitchen grabbing a drink as the conversation expanded, each of us sharing an experience. With his glass full he walked back into the adjoining room we sat in, shaking his head as he stepped.
“The house is like one-hundred-and-thirty years old,” he said quietly, “and I guess some weird shit has gone on here.” Paul stared down at the carpet, scratching the back of his head.
“Our grandmother told us that the people who lived here before them bought the house in May and moved out the next December. The family before that didn’t even stay a full month. But the people who lived here before that died here.” We were silent as Evan spoke.
“I guess they were related to the family that built the house, and once they were gone the house went unsold for like thirty years. There were five of them: a couple and their three kids — a boy and two girls. One morning the father went out to get milk or something. When he came back he found them all, lying together on the living room floor. Dead.”
My feet rested on the same living room floor he was talking about. A chill ran up my legs.
“I guess he tried waking them up, in denial that they were gone. One of the neighbors heard him screaming their names and came running over to investigate. My grandma said he saw them lying there and ran in to help. When he did the father snuck out the back door and into the garage, took a rifle from a high shelf and shot himself.”
I looked around the room. Everyone was locked onto Evan, their mouths agape. He had been staring at the floor while he told the story. Finally he looked up at us.
“I never told you guys cause I didn’t want to…”
His voice trailed off as he spoke, his eyes turning toward the ceiling.
A pattering noise, like tiny feet prancing across the hardwood floors, came from above. Every light in the house flicked off. Then, after a split second of darkness, the kitchen lights returned.
Beside the table hovered the pale, smoky figure of a man. It felt like my clothes were stitched to the couch; my sneakers welded to the rug; the air vacuumed from my lungs.
Before I could move everyone was up and sprinting from the house. I managed to pull my legs under me and follow suit, bolting out the door and into the Evan’s car. His tires spun as we screeched from the driveway. The houses lights flicked back on as we sped away, but we never returned. Our Peaceful getaway was no more.

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