Some people swore that the house was haunted, and by all accounts they would be correct. It was a house that greed built, a house of ill repute, a house of demons, and briefly, ever so briefly, a house of the rising sun.
Brandon knew what he wanted, and thought he knew how to get it, knowing how to do something and actually doing it are two very different things. Early on, people told him he’d have to deal with the demons before anything else. Over time, he fixed up the outside, first by making it look like everyone expected it to look. The right lawn, the right color, the right style, but few windows.
The existing windows gave you a peak at the rooms inside, each one as carefully tailored as the exterior, showing off the taste and refinement expected of one in today’s society. Occasionally, people were invited in, and shown each room in turn, but there were no windows to the attic, nor were there any to the basement, and no visitor was ever allowed to see them.
Over the years, there were times when an unlucky visitor was unexpectedly set upon by a demon from the attic. If the visitor did not run screaming from the house, Brandon would send them off with instructions never to return. By now people had forgotten about the demons, he couldn’t have somebody around telling people the truth. Brandon would then busy himself capturing the demon and locking it, along with many others, in a carefully constructed cell in the basement.
Brandon continued to improve his house, adding extensions with larger rooms, and renovating often. The more elaborate it became, the more interest potential buyers showed. Many came and went, some stayed longer than others, but in every case none would commit to a purchase without seeing the attic and the basement.
Shouldn’t all the other aspects of the house more than make up for the demons? Brandon thought. Isn’t it possible that someone else will accept these small detriments for the sake of the rest of the house? Brandon decided he could show the attic, the frequency of demons coming from the attic had lessened over time. He thought it might be possible to let a buyer see the attic, even if a small demon still lurked about.
The basement on the other hand, would need to be hidden away. He built a bookshelf over the door and with no windows to speak of, he began telling buyers there was no basement. The plan worked, and a buyer eventually took ownership. She asked Brandon to stay on as caretaker, noting the excellent care he’d provided previously, and together they took care of the house for years without incident.
But the buyer never thought the bookshelf belonged where it stood, and years later when she finally decided to move it, discovering the door, and consequently the basement, she was horrified. She ran screaming from the house, leaving the basement door open. The demons flooded out into the house and wreaked havoc in every room.
Brandon’s wife never returned. Ultimately Brandon’s life was a grand facade built on a house of cards, each flimsy square keeping a demon contained, hidden away, but not banished. With every new demon seemingly defeated, he created another cell to his demon prison, and when it fell, as a card house often does, the demons were free to roam his mind unchecked. There was no more pretending. Nothing was ever the same again after that.
Submitted to a NPR contest where the first and last line were predetermined