The House on the Hill (Short Story)

Technology often evolves at such a rapid pace that it almost feels as if we can barely keep up. I struggle with these new GPS systems. Not in terms of functionality, but the sheer imperfection of the design. It can be slow, unresponsive, and sometimes outright wrong as fuck.

When I started driving, all we really had were maps and memory. Knowledge of the land was passed through paper or oral instruction from a friend or a stranger. It worked well enough. 

I used to deliver pizzas in my early twenties. I lived in Maryland for college and picked up a job working with a couple of buddies at Dominos. We typically drove during the later hours and on weekends. The people we met were pretty cool and they tipped well on a regular basis.

There was a strange autumn night one year. We got a call from someone requesting two large pepperoni pizzas to be delivered to an address we had never heard of. Our manager vaguely knew of the street, having driven past it once or twice. It only stood out to her because the area was surprisingly wooded. The street sign was old, corroded, and hardly visible in the bushes and trees, but she had seen it at least twice.

MapQuest confirmed the street was real, at least, and it was only a ten-minute drive from the Dominos. There was a chance the house was just unlisted at the time, so I volunteered to check it out. It was a short trip, and if it turned out to be a dead-end, I could come back. The customer wanted to pay in cash, so they wouldn’t be losing any money. My manager would understand.

I took down the directions and set out with the pizzas at around 10:00pm. I traveled down the road, made a left, and made a right. I slowly cruised and scanned the foliage to the right of me looking for the mysterious road. It was dark, but the radiant streetlamps made the search slightly easier.

I nearly missed it. 

I slammed on my brakes, aggressively jerking forward before my seatbelt pulled me. There was a wide dirt road hidden in shadows and foliage. I couldn’t see a street sign, but this had to be it, right? There were no other roads to turn into and it matched the description given to me by my manager.

I turned on my blinker and made a right, slowly rolling over the bumpy ground. I needed to control my speed because anything could’ve dashed out in front of my car. It was terrifyingly black. The trees were tall and dense, hiding the light from the moon and stars. All I had were my high beams to guide me.

My mind froze for a moment. An uncomfortable “vibration” painfully rattled the inside of my skull for a split-second. I grabbed my head, refocusing my vision. The car was still moving forward at a steady pace.

I was uneasy and began to imagine more fantastical and horrifying creatures of the night ambushing my slow-moving car, popping out in front of me or near my windows. 

Deep breaths.

Finally, I reached a clearing. In the distance was a magnificent Victorian house on a steep hill. I could see lights twinkling in the windows, but no cars in the driveway.

Up the hill. My car struggled and sputtered loud noises during the climb. I glanced at the thermometer. Every few yards, the temperature got slightly colder. 

The owners of this home had to have been pretty wealthy. Everything seemed to indicate they owned every acre of this land. There were no other buildings, houses, signs or vehicles to indicate that this wasn’t private property. Maybe they would give me a good tip.

I parked in the driveway. The air was freezing cold and it was… strangely quiet out. No owls hooting, no crickets chirping, none of those other annoying ass bugs that rattle the night with their collective screeches. I couldn’t hear any equipment running in the house, no heat, no air conditioning, no televisions, no boilers. The world was completely silent.

The house looked much older up close. Some of the wood was beginning to rot and stain. There was a faint stench that I couldn’t recognize.

I walked to the porch clutching the pizzas. A dusty bench rested to the left of the door, right under a wide window with opened curtains. I looked inside.

The light I had seen at the bottom of the hill turned out to be dozens of small candles placed sparingly on furniture covered with dusty white sheets. Every object was covered save for the old portraits hanging on the wall featuring men and women who had to have been long dead.

There was no movement. No life. Just the small collective flames calmly dancing in the ghostly home, but something else was off. I could feel eyes on me. I took a closer look at the portraits. A 19th century man and woman calmly looked off in the distance, nothing out of the ordinary. The other portraits were hidden under dust and a glare from the candles. Who or what was watching me and where the fuck were they?

My heart started to race. I frantically continued to scan the room for a sign of life.

A loud and explosive “boom” shook the house and the floor of the porch I stood on. I dropped the pizza and sprinted back to my car. I sped down the hill, through the dark forest and back onto the main street. 

The Dominos had police cars parked out front. I wondered if they had gotten robbed or something.

I walked through the doors. My two buddies and my manager stared at me with odd expressions, a mix of both genuine fear and absolute relief. There were two cops standing with them with stern expressions.

“What the fuck happened to you, man?” my friend, James asked.

“I went to deliver the pizzas. What happened? Why are there cops?” I replied.

“You’ve been gone for hours. We tried calling you,” my manager said. “We thought something happened.”

“What? I was only out for a few minutes. 30 at most. And I didn’t get any calls.” I flipped open my cell phone. It was 12:30am. I had seven missed calls. But my ringer was on loud.

“I swear, I thought I was only gone for a little bit. I went to the street, found the house and dropped off the pizzas,” I explained.

“Son, that address doesn’t exist,” said one of the cops. “That road has been closed off for years, no one can pass.”

“It was wide open when I got there. It led me through some trees and up a hill. There was a big ass house up there. No one was inside, I got freaked out, and left the pizzas. Then I came back. This only took a few minutes and I didn’t hear a single phone call. My phone was on loud the entire time.”

The officers looked at me with suspicious eyes. 

“I swear I’m not lying.”

My friends and manager looked confused, but eventually, they all accepted my return. The cops wrote the situation off as a false alarm, the story being I had fallen asleep somewhere I couldn’t be found. That was bullshit.

The next day, I returned to the street. As the officer had said, it was closed off with chains, barricades, and caution tape. It was never opened.

So, where the fuck did I go?

House Final.jpg

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This was inspired by an allegedly true story that was told to me by an old work colleague. I took what he said and added a few interesting elements, but the general plot is the same. He went missing for hours in an attempt to deliver pizzas to a house, though, to him, he was only gone for a few minutes. What are your theories as to what happened?