Thank you for sending along the house inspection report. I’m sorry it’s taken so long for me to respond. My ex-wife and I had to discuss it, which took more energy than we expected. After all, we’ve lived in this four bedroom, two-and-a-half bath Craftsman in Minnetonka for sixteen years. Newlyweds! Our one and only child, Kiefer, spent his whole life here, all thirteen years of it. Our marriage imploded here.
We’ve finally come to a consensus on your requests:
I mean, yes, we can clean the mold and repaint the upstairs bathroom. Yes, we can replace a few outlets, tighten the outside handrails, get someone to steam clean the carpet in order to get out “the stench of death,” you called it.
As for the other requests, let us explain. Shall we?
Unsettling feeling in the basement. A humming, a buzzing in our teeth. Something to do with EMF? Or the wiring? Please have an electrician check into this.
Believe me, we’ve had multiple electricians check into it. Electricians, engineers, paranormal investigators, and a priest. No one has given us a satisfying answer. You get used to the humming after a short time. It becomes background noise. The buzzing teeth, well, it might be a good idea to keep a boxer’s mouth guard hanging on the hook beside the basement door.
Broken thermostat. Although everything checked out as working properly, the temperature in the house felt much lower than the reading of seventy degrees on the screen.
We have already replaced the insulation, winterized the windows and doors, filled in spaces where heat was bleeding out, still the cold persists. It’s just a cold house, what can I tell you? It became more noticeable after Kiefer, you know, disappeared.
Taken, that’s the official line. He was taken. Even though the police found no evidence of a break-in, and interrogated every possible person who might have had access to the property, twice, they still claim Kiefer was “taken” by persons unknown. I think they’re all full of horseshit.
So many of our neighbors have jumped on the “home security” bandwagon and have installed motion-sensor cameras to keep an eye on things – mostly to snoop is what I think. Cameras in doorbells, on roofs, on the sides of homes.
Ask the detectives what they found when they searched the footage. Go ahead, ask.
Nothing. Another ordinary suburban night in Minnetonka. No creepers, no suspicious neighbors, not a single odd thing from six different camera angles.
In the summer, you’ll save a ton on your electric bills. Barely need air conditioning.
Broken beam in garage needs repair.
They blamed us next, Pris and me. Can you imagine? Like I’d ever touch a hair on his…
We never even spanked him. Both of us decided before he was born to not inflict violence upon him. Even today I flinch imagine my dad breaking a ping pong paddle across my backside. At least it was the last time. He laughed about it, told me to go on.
How could anyone think I’d suffer Kiefer the same sort of trauma?
“You’d be surprised,” the detective told us. “You’d be mighty surprised.”
Hours – no, days – in separate rooms, Pris and I answered the same endless questions designed to break us. Turned out, we broke them. The truth set us free.
We returned to a neighborhood that had already reached a verdict. Friends, acquaintances, parents of Kiefer’s closest friends, people who had helped us move in, who had mourned lost pets with us, who had plowed our driveways when my inept mechanical skills could not make the goddamned snow blower work.
Guilty. We were guilty. We had murdered our son and hidden his body. We had cleaned after ourselves so well, none of the police’s forensic magic found one trace of microscopic or luminoled evidence, the same things that had condemned much smarter killers. It was probably some Satanic sex thing, they truly believed.
They wanted us gone. They had no problem letting us know.
So, the beam in the garage? Sometimes a grieving father can only be pushed so far. I couldn’t take it anymore. Whispers, dead-eyed stares, garbage strewn across our yard, rotten eggs exploded against our vinyl siding nearly every weekend. My son, disappeared as if a magician snapped his fingers.
I threw a thick orange extension cord over the beam – a mighty powerful restraint indeed – fashioned a noose, and positioned a plastic storage bin beneath it. I climbed into the noose, kicked the bin away, and…
I knew it wasn’t going to snap my neck. This wasn’t a Wild West gallows, nothing fancy.
The pain was immense, though it didn’t matter to me. I’ve failed you, I’ve failed you, I’ve failed you. My mental refrain.
I’d left a note for Pris.
She’d left one for me, too.
I had no idea we were both looking for an exit at the same time. Me in the garage, hanging, her in our bedroom, overdosing.
I think I was almost there. Almost. But I didn’t see Kiefer. Somehow, I’d convinced myself he would be there to meet me, guide me through the tunnel of light. Well, he wasn’t there. The strobing brightness of a thousand suns, a narrowing tunnel of black, yet still no Kiefer.
I remember thinking He’s not dead!
Then the beam snapped in two and I fell to the concrete floor. I could’ve sworn the beam was solid when I checked it. Knock on wood, ha. Once I had a chance to re-inspect it, days later, it was riddled with termite tunnels. We’d never had a problem with them before, and I couldn’t find any of the blasted bugs to confirm.
Anyway, my hips took a beating, still bother me today, every day, to remind me Kiefer is still out there somewhere.
I ran onto the house, hoarse and wracked with pain, and happier than I’d been in a long time. He wasn’t dead. I was sure of it. He was still in the land of the living. I shouted all the way up the stairs of our one-and-a-half story home. “Pris! Pris! He’s alive!”
She was dressed in her bra and underwear only, in the middle of the bed, arms spread wide. She’d lain towels on the comforter beneath her. Her letter was on her pillow. The four emptied bottles of pills she’d consumed on the bedside table.
She was still breathing.
Long story short, the ambulance arrived in the nick of time, the ER docs and nurses swarmed her, saved her life. As I was thanking the final nurse, who stared at the raw ring around my throat with slit eyes, she turned her back on us and said, “Too bad you couldn’t go through with it.”
If I were you, I’d try a good pest control joint before replacing anything. No point giving the bugs, if it truly was termites, a fresh meal.
Only one room in the house still furnished. Your son’s room, exactly as it was when it happened. It must be cleaned and emptied before we can move forward
No can do, then.
The room stays. I’ll knock a major portion of the price off if you keep his room the way it is, and check it now and then to see if Kiefer has come home.
We don’t want to scare him away, either physically or spiritually, as the case may be. If someone has taken him, and if he were to escape, he’d need to come home to something familiar. That’s why I also hope you’ll keep the current locks on the house rather than change everything. He needs to return to normalcy.
Now, let’s say this was not a physical kidnapping. I’ve been studying another possibility. Pris thought I was mad. It’s what eventually drove us apart. I don’t feel any rancor towards her, though. She’ll always be the love of my life, even in her chemical-induced alternate reality, living with her older sister, barely able to hold a conversation.
Okay, let’s say my son became involved with “magick.” Not coin tricks, card tricks, or illusions. No, no, no. I mean honest to Christ magick. A secret connection to the universe most of us can never see. Had Stephen Hawking not been stricken with ALS, I believe he could’ve used his own powers to help humanity reach beyond what they’d thought possible. Instead, he was forced to use them to keep himself alive. It was a miracle he’d survived so long with a disease that struck everyone else down much earlier.
I believe my son has the same powers. Undeveloped, yes. Untrained, yes. Which is why he accidentally phase-shifted or blinked into another dimension without a real understanding of what was happening. What was the Sherlock Holmes line? “If you rule out the improbable, then the impossible must be correct.” Something like that.
What I hope is others in the same realms with more advanced powers will teach him what he needs to know in order to control how he uses his own. They can teach him how to find his path home, and he will need his room left intact in order to do so.
It’s not crazy. I’ve read a lot of books and web articles on metaphysics. I know the difference between crackpot theory or attention-seeking, and true documented cases of people who could bend the rules of matter and energy, time and knowing, in ways illuminating the limitless possibilities of the human mind!
A lot of phonies out there.
If you take a look around his room, which is okay with me once you make the purchase – as long as you don’t move too many things out of place, and keep all of the dirty laundry where it is so he might recognize the odor of his room – you’ll find, along with the typical teenage boy’s obsessions with comic books, video games, and porn, some unexpected revelations.
Was that ectoplasm in his sock drawer?
Where did the volumes of Lovecraft, Jung, and Murphy come from? Why were they hidden deep in his closet?
The scorch marks along the wall at bed-level – a boy goofing around with a lighter and fireworks? Or a young magi practicing his skills?
Kiefer is a smart boy. Once he returns, I promise, the room will be all yours.
Do I see a nursery in your future?
For the love of Almighty God, please paint over the terrifying mural painted on the back wall of the garage.
Kiefer was a rebel. Like most teenage boys, he bristled at any advice his mother or I shared with him. In the year before he left us, he’d begun to steal money from our checking account through hacking. No matter how many times we changed the password, changed account numbers, hell, even changed banks a few times, the drain continued.
We finally took his phone away – the most effective determent; unfortunately, also the one evoking an almost demonic response – and loaded it with security apps and trackers so we could take defensive action when he struck.
Once he figured that out, he slapped his mother in front of me. Four hard slaps. Two of them backhanded. When I advanced on him, hoping to subdue him before he struck her again, he swung a fist so hard he broke my glasses. He shouted at us in weird tongues – Klingon? Akkadian? – and could be heard bumbling around the house late into the night, mumbling, lighting candles, leaving them in random places.
Random to us.
His teachers complained he intimidated them. Wouldn’t say a word in class, but he had an unblinking stare. He always sat in the dead middle of the classroom. If someone took his seat first, a few whispered words usually sent them packing.
Counselors. Life coaches. Psychiatrists.
Dr. Phil turned down our plea because they’d found Kiefer “too convincing.”
So when he began the mural, we thought he’d finally found a creative endeavor in which to pour his angst. We encouraged it. We bought him art supplies, books on art history, signed him up for classes. Several months of good behavior, enthused painting, and a new facet of conversation – our son! Speaking to us like real people! – led us to believe he’d turned the corner. The rebellion phase was coming to a conclusion.
We were wrong.
Notice how the styles change as he took up more of the wall. Boschian inferno fades to Goya’s “Saturn Eating His Sons” fades to Basquiat’s frenzy jumps to Francis Bacon’s madness, on and on. There’s so much there! Intricate details, a landscape of the boy’s mind – a hellish landscape. Yes, we realize our own likenesses are in the mural, monstrous renditions, his mother performing lewd acts on me – not in reality, believe me – and even me, hanging from a noose, X’s for eyes, while his mother expires in a Jesus Christ pose.
Then there are his schoolmates, the jocks, the goth kids, his teachers, local police he’d run into, his grandparents, all depicted in this lurid orgy of mass murder.
Of course we didn’t report it. He’s our son! We thought as long as he’s painting it, he’s not doing it. There must be some truth to that, right?
The unfinished portion in the lower-right hand corner…
We both thought he was out in the garage working on it. He’d had a bad day at school, he said, and wanted some alone time.
A couple of hours later, his mother went to call him for dinner.
Knowing what he’d drawn about her, about us, the scream she let out next chilled my blood, set me running, breathless and desperate.
I found Pris crumpled beside the Land Rover, making these birdlike cries. Kiefer was nowhere to be seen.
It was moving.
The figures were stabbing, fucking, choking, shooting, and eviscerating each other, then looping through to do it all over again. The larger figures – some satanic prince, a chorus of tortured ninth graders, and a stick figure with wide eyes and yellow teeth – cheered them on, saying things like “The death of the soul is not the final death! There is no final death! There are infinite deaths!” and “Drink our blood, boil our blood, fry our blood, nuke our blood!” and “The End is Fucked.”
In the upper left corner, where Kiefer had drawn a spiral galaxy, it was spinning at an astounding rate, a jet of light shooting from its core. The galaxy was blasting out an ear-piercing scream. Horrid, but somehow familiar. It was me. My own scream. I remember it well from when I’d fallen from the roof once and snapped my leg. Kiefer must have been, oh, ten or eleven. I screamed, told him to get his mother. He just…stared at me. Then once I realized he was not going for help, I watched him approach, gently, and touch the exact spot where the bone had cracked.
“Dad, are you going to die?”
“No, son, it’s a broken leg. It hurts real bad, but I’m not going to die.”
“I think you’re going to die, Dad. Not now, not soon. Someday, you’ll die. I’ll watch you die.”
What were we talking about?
Anyway, Pris finally dragged me away from the painting – felt like I’d been hypnotized. I came to in the kitchen holding lawn shears. I did not remember picking them up.
We searched high and low for Kiefer. The neighborhood pitched in to help immediately, before they’d decided we were evil incarnate.
The painting, of course, hasn’t moved or projected any noise since then. However, I believe it has something to do with Kiefer’s disappearance. I believe it holds the key to this mess. I ask, leave it as is. Allow me access to the garage in order to continue studying it. It’s more than his thoughts. It can tell the future. It reveals the truth about the afterlife, about beings from other galaxies, about God! Please, don’t cover it. I beg you.
Do piles of animal bones just spontaneously appear on the front step often? Do you have an explanation?
Even the spirits need their pranks. Don’t worry about it.
There is a whole in the wall in the dining room. It looks as if someone punched through the drywall. There are streaks of blood trailing from it. Could you please have that repaired before we move forward?
I saw him. I swear I saw him. I saw my son. He was my son, but he wasn’t. He was older. I saw Kiefer in the dining room. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t move. He gave me that unblinking stare.
As I clambered out of my recliner in the living room to go embrace him, welcome him home, his visage changed. He was no longer Kiefer. He was the man from the painting, the one with wide eyes and yellow teeth. He taunted me. He had stolen my son and now he was taunting me.
I saw him, as clear as day. Not even a few inches away from me. He wasn’t two dimensional. He was real. Real.
So I punched him in his fucking face.
I can’t be sure, but the momentum pushing my hand through his skull into the wall must have killed him. I’ve never seen him again except on the painting. I photograph him every day and compare to see if he’s moved. Was he Kiefer? Was he Satan? Was he a stick figure drawing from a boy’s imagination?
The hole stays.
Covering it will bring the yellowed-teeth man to life again. No one wants that.
Are you sure you want to sell this place?
I’m selling the house for Pris’ sake. She’ll need the money.
I’m selling the house, hopefully to you two, in order to make sure there’s a warm loving atmosphere within these walls as we wait for Kiefer to make his way home.
I’m selling it because I have to go on a journey. I’m not sure when I’ll return.
I’ll let you in on a secret – I think the painting is a portal to a different dimension. I believe I’m close to understanding how Kiefer opened it and stepped through. To be sure, I must travel far, dedicate myself to solving the clues Kiefer left behind in those volumes of Lovecraft, etc. If it all works out, I should be able to follow my son through the painting, then lead him back here.
Please, give me the benefit of the doubt. It might sound outrageous, but I’ve been living this reality. I used to be like you. I swear. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. All I’m asking is…
I guess I’m asking you to help me.
Go on this journey with me! Discover things about our world you never thought possible. Forget the creepy noises and malevolent feelings of dread. Ignore the stench rising from the foundations. Accept that Kiefer’s room will always be Kiefer’s room. That the yellowed-teeth man is being held captive by the hole in the wall. That all of the mysteries of the existence are being solved in my garage as we speak. This is the deal of a lifetime, a chance to make history.
To sweeten the pot, I’ll throw in closing costs.