House of Flies by Sean Bass (December 2020)
There is a house that buzzes.
The wallpaper is a swarming black that crawls and withers and dies. The windows are not shuttered, the curtains are not pulled, but still the glass is black. Pitch black. There is a smell of sweet, rotting peaches that hovers around like a plague of locusts. No one goes into the house and no one leaves. It simply stands, buzzing and screaming, upon the hill on Marabell Lane.
Todd Cauldwell knew of the house. It had become a place of urban myth and legend. He’d become slightly obsessed with it, asking everyone he knew for its stories. In his ferocious curiosity, he’d even asked a few of the big kids, and in the end, he had found the truth.
Mrs. Suleman’s son Bobby had told him that an old man named Mr. Trelis used to live there. Mr. Trelis had no family. No friends. He’d been a hermit, choosing to spend his days between the pages of books rather than between the sweaty bodies of his fellow humans. One day, Mr. Trelis had been carrying a large pile of said books down his narrow staircase when he’d tripped, tumbling headfirst to the floor. He’d lain there still, his neck at a crooked angle, decomposing, melting, as the flies had eaten and bred.
This story had captivated Todd. All the other kids had shivered at the thought of the dead man, but he had only felt a deep well in his stomach. One that could never be filled with football or chocolate or comics. He’d tried all three.
He’d felt Mr. Trelis deserved to be buried, put to rest just like Todd’s nana had been last month, not left lying and rotting between the flies. He couldn’t let that happen.
And so, that was how Todd Cauldwell came to be here, at the bottom of Marabell Lane, a plastic spade in hand, staring up at the house of flies on the hill, thinking of the sad end of old Mr. Trelis.
Todd looked down and shuffled his feet, kicking up the grey, dusty stones that made up the path. He could feel his tongue in his throat. Fear consumed him, took hold of his body and trapped it. Made it rigid and unmovable. He was stuck, staring up at the house.
Todd concentrated, turning his mind back to Mr. Trelis, lying hopelessly at the foot of the staircase. It wasn’t right. He had to help him.
The wind screamed an agonising howl as he swallowed his cowardice and began to walk.
He traced the bushes with his free hand, pulling off a few leaves as he passed. Fidgeting and tearing them, he crept, slightly crouched, closer and closer to the house.
He could smell it now, sweet and sickly, clinging to the humid evening air. Filling his nostrils, filling his lungs, filling everything with the putrid smell of rotting meat.
He was at the front garden. Could he hear them now, buzzing and squeaking and eating? Surely not. Not over this wind. It was just his imagination, just his imagination. He repeated it to himself: Just his imagination – the old mantra that had been used to ward off many a night terror in the tenebrosity of his bedroom. Just his imagination.
The flies tapped at the window, careening toward it with their plump, black bodies. Jostling almost like an audience, to get the best view of the young boy with the yellow plastic shovel.
He tiptoed along the path.
Until now he hadn’t considered how Mr. Trelis would look. Hadn’t imagined his body squirming with little white children or thought of his grey, moulding skin sagging from his bones.
Todd stopped with his hand on the door handle. His mind played tug-of-war with the decision. One side pulled him in, the other pulled him out, until finally the game was won and the handle turned easily beneath his grip.
Todd stepped back, expecting a wall of flies to hit him, scrambling madly like tiny, fur-coated balloons grasping for the freedom of the night sky. But nothing came. Only the scent, stronger than ever, and the almost hypnotic sound of buzzing.
He stepped into the room and felt a soft squelch beneath his trainers. He looked down and then, open-mouthed, he peered around the old man’s living room. Every surface, every ornament, every piece of furniture was black and buzzing. Black little ink blots shook as the surface of the walls moved, crawling over and under and around each other, rushing and falling and crashing like one huge, sentient wave with no shoreline in sight.
Todd threw his hand across his mouth, giving himself a fat lip with the urgency, terrified that one of the flies buzzing around his head would crash like a kamikaze plane onto his tongue.
His eyes burnt with the smell. All he could hear was that inaudible, incomprehensible sound, amplified by a million voices, roaring like some maddening, intangible beast.
Oh God, oh God! What had he done entering this place? What had he been thinking?
And then the answer split through his shock and fear like lightning cracking in fog.
He stumbled through the room, sound waves vibrating the air and flies bumping against his head. He swung at them with his spade and emerged on the other side at the doorway of the kitchen. No stairs. Only more flies.
Todd powered through the kitchen, past the brown pieces of banana that squirmed across the countertop.
The next room was the dining room. Still no stairs. No stairs, no stairs, no stairs! Where was he? Where was the man he’d come here for?
Bobby Suleman had lied to him. It was just a story. Just a stupid story for a stupid kid.
Hot, angry tears rolled down his face. He threw his shovel across the room, disturbing some flies on the wall that exploded beside the lightbulb.
That’s when he saw him. An eyeball peeking from behind a scrambling, black wallpaper, a creeping moss comprised purely of flies.
“Mr. Trelis?” he half-moaned, half-whispered.
Mr. Trelis screamed.
Todd scooped his spade from the ground and began swinging, bending wings and amputating legs, splattering flies with each successful strike. The wall shifted, and the flies split apart, revealing the man pasted to the wall.
Mr. Trelis was still screaming, but Todd did not see how he could be alive. He hung crucified against the wall. His arms, spread as if asking for an embrace, were merely bone up to the elbow, where maggots were writhing and feasting. His stomach hung open over his crotch, revealing his spine which jutted freely from his torso. There was barely anything left of him and yet he was screaming. Oh, how he was screaming.
The flies rolled back across him viciously, feasting upon his stomach, his penis, his eyes, until they covered him completely, muffling his screams and drowning him in their mass.
Another voice spoke. The voice of a million speaking in unison: “This is the house of the flies. The creatures of rot and death. You should not have hurt us, maggot. You should not have come at all.”
Todd’s mind shattered into a thousand incognisant pieces that buzzed around his skull like so many flies, and all he could think to do was scream.
Seeing the open mouth, the flies took their violent revenge. His mouth swelled with a constant stream of warm, black liquid. His eyes bulged in his head. His skeleton tingled and shook with the buzzing of countless insects, all pushing at his skin, all tearing through organs. He felt them in every part of his body. Stretching him. He could see his forearm bubbling with their fat bodies until his own body could take no more, and he exploded into a firework of flies and blood across the old man’s living room, leaving nothing but a yellow plastic shovel that was soon enveloped by flies.
There is a house that buzzes and a town that buzzes, tonight.
As Jennifer Cauldwell sits weeping in a police station, as the officer tells her for the fourth time in an hour that they will do all they can.
As Bobby Suleman wakes screaming and finally throws out the maggot-infested pizza box that has been lying on his bedroom floor for a week. Reminding himself that it was just his imagination, but still not returning to sleep.
As Chief Inspector Daniel Marling wanders the woods out by the old Trelis place, calling for Todd and receiving no answer.
As the whole town buzzes with a strange sense of dread and dreams of black, crawling oceans.
There is a house that buzzes, if you believe the stories, and it will continue to buzz until all has rotted and died and the Earth looks like a half-eaten peach floating in a swarming, black void that buzzes and buzzes and buzzes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sean Bass is a 20-year-old poet and short story writer from Liverpool. He is also currently writing his first comic book script, which is in dire need of an artist, as he is coming to realise that he cannot draw at all. This is Sean's first published story and he hopes to publish more as soon as possible.
You can find his poetry on Instagram (@seanbasspoetry).