He sits in my chair every night before going to bed.
There's always a bottle of liquor in his hand. Hard to tell what kind, since I can't smell things any more, and there's no label on the bottle. Sometimes he has the TV on, tuned to channels I'd never watched a day of in my life. Other times he'll have it off, just staring at the dark screen, taking a swig every few minutes.
On those quieter nights, I always want to know what he's thinking. Most likely, he's planning the attack on his next victim.
The realtor told me when I moved into this house seven months ago that the previous owner had died in it. She hadn't told me any details. Looking back, I wish I'd asked. Looking forward, I have no need to. He has a journal. I've been able to rifle through it and read the horrors he committed, that he wrote about in his cramped, ugly handwriting.
It was always the same pattern. Variations on a theme.
Pretty young lady moves into the house. The first few days are wonderful, the first few nights peaceful. She lives on the outskirts of town, where the homes are far apart, the trees are close together, and the air is crisp every morning. On the third day, he comes knocking on the front door.
"This is my home," he says. His eyes are different colors, his beard patchy and uneven. There's a rifle slung over his shoulder. The woman makes a mental note of how far away her own gun is, and how fast she could get to it.
"This town?" the woman replies kindly.
"This house," he says.
The woman's heartbeat quickens. "I bought this house," she says firmly.
He pauses, before giving her a wide, chilling grin. "Okay." His eyes look her up and down once. A chill that has nothing to do with the morning air makes her shudder. Then he turns and walks down the porch steps, disappearing into the trees.
She feels shaken, but after an hour or two the nerves pass. Evening approaches. The third night. She relaxes in her chair, watching a show with a glass of wine. That's when she hears them.
Footsteps. All around the house.
She goes outside. It's too dark to see anything. Eventually, she convinces herself that the noises are all in her imagination. The previous owner's spirit is probably still around, after all. They should have no quarrel. There was nothing to worry about.
Nights pass. Weeks pass. The footsteps continue. She thinks nothing of it.
A month or two passes. He appears at her front door again.
"This is my house."
She frowns. "I bought it." The other neighbors have been welcoming, and besides, she's no longer new to the area. It seems ridiculous to bring up this old, not to mention weird, conversation.
That same smile. "Okay."
On that same evening, she wakes up in the middle of the night to hear footsteps walking around downstairs. She doesn't get up to check for an intruder. In the morning, there is a dead sparrow on her front porch. It's impossible to tell exactly how it died.
It's strange. But humans are adaptable, and she can get used to anything. The nights pass. She hears the footsteps downstairs. Finds the dead bird every morning. Eventually, she stops waking up in the middle of the night. A few more months pass.
One last time.
"This is my house."
"I bought it," she says, angry, this time. And he smiles.
That night, she only wakes up when the hand is across her mouth. In his other hand is a live sparrow. He opens her mouth as wide as it will go. Her screams turn into gargling sounds as he shoves the bird down her throat, then holds her mouth shut.
At least, that's what happened to me.
I think with another woman, he used a cardinal.
The others all decided to move on. I wonder if they'd stayed behind, if they'd known the things he had done to all of us, whether they would have any kind of guilt. I don't blame them. It can be easier to forget.
But it can be more satisfying to remember.
I've been building my strength. Not having a body takes some getting used to. I could move pages, like a breath of wind, from the very beginning. But picking up sparrows has taken more concentration. If I pretend I still have hands, holding onto them is a little easier. And every day, every night, I practice lifting up the dresser and putting it back down again. I should be able to hold his mouth open, if I can do that.
Three months. Nobody has bought the house yet, so he's been living here the entire time. I've managed to trick about a hundred sparrows into nesting in the attic. He has no idea.
Tonight's the night.
It will be my house once again.