Zibaldone #17: Low Houses

It’s been a good while since I’ve done one of these. Figured I might as well start back up with another scrap of free writing from my commonplace book. Like the previous two, it’s based on a thing I heard about as a kid, and was written as a warm up for something better. This one was written in…2014? 2015? Something like that. Enjoy, or not, as it pleases you.


The house sat back up a-ways off Red Church Road, settled into a rut of kudzu vines and sway-trunked trees. It was abandoned. Or maybe it had never had a human presence in it at all. It was lacking in that touch, that sense of human warmth.

No one had ever owned it. No one ever would. The folks who lived closest to it ignored it. Pretended they didn’t see it. But they crossed to the other side of the road from it nonetheless. The house was a low house, they whispered. A bad house. It wasn’t a house at all, they said. It just looked like one.

It glared out at the world through empty, black windows and its door yawned open, filled with cobwebs from corner to corner. In the summer, hornets nested in the walls and the house seemed to vibrate with their numbers, wooden slats trembling.

Lightning hit it twice in twenty years, but it didn’t burn. Instead it persisted. The wood turned black with mould and it sagged oddly in a fierce wind.

But it never fell down. Never collapsed. Nothing could get rid of it. Seemed like nothing ever would. Until the county decided to tear it down so the logging trucks could get through to the deep, black woods behind it.

A fancy man from the county came out to see it one day, to assess it he told its neighbours, and the house gave out with a quiet moan as he pushed through the kudzu and stepped into its secret places. He stopped, as if listening to the wind. And then he went on in. And the house seemed to groan as its windows rattled even though there was no wind. Not even a breeze.

He didn’t come back out, that fancy man. Just vanished the same way Dell Mark did in ’88 and Poss Hart did in ’69. Vanished and gone. Swallowed up by the low house on Red Church Road. And the neighbours clucked their tongues, and shook their heads and pretended they’d never seen no fancy man come down thisaway. It was easier that way.

When the county trucks came rumbling along a week later, they didn’t find it. It had picked itself up and moved on, that nasty low house. The county-men found holes in the turf full of splinters and brick dust where it had walked off in the night.

They never found the fancy man. Or Dell Mark. Or Poss Hart. Or any of the others going all the way back, climbing up the years like the kudzu vines it had left behind.

The moral is, watch out for low houses. They hard to get in and harder still to get out of.

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