John Who? – Chapter Four

An early post today, thanks for sticking with John Who? Let me know what you think.
Rob was late. There’d been a big chemical spill on the A12 and it had led to the death of three people, two of whom were kids. It was the most fun he’d had at work in ages. He’d had no choice but to stay, meaning he’d run all the way to the bar from work and dashed through the door of The Cricketers at almost five to eight. Ralph would have gone, he knew, but he’d decided he should at least make sure of it before heading home, besides, he was on a bit of a high and a drink would be great.
Rob pushed through the open door and made his way straight to the bar, he had no idea what Ralph looked like but he was pretty sure if he was still here, he’d be the guy looking pretty hacked off right now. His eyes swept the bar, but didn’t see anyone likely so, when the barman interrupted his search, he ordered a pint of Badger, grabbed a newspaper from the stand and moved over to a table, deciding to concentrate on enjoying his pint instead.

Rob looked up, a tall, long haired man in his mid-thirties sporting what could only be described as a goatee and holding a half-drunk pint had stopped at his table.
“I’m Ralph.” The man held out his hand in greeting.
Rob hurriedly put his glass down on the table, wiped his wet hand on his trousers and shook the man’s hand, gesturing for him to take a seat. “You waited,” he said, not sure whether to feel glad or disappointed. Surely a normal person would’ve left long ago?
“Not exactly,” Ralph smiled, “just figured, since I was here anyway, a couple of pints wouldn’t hurt anyone. Glad you can though.”
Rob felt himself relax, “yeah, well, I knew you’d probably have left already but, like you said, who can resist a pint after work.”
Ralph took a gulp from his glass, “so,” he began, “do you want to see 109 tonight?”
“Might as well, just let me finish my drink first. What got you interested in the place to begin with?”
“I’m not really sure. The address just kept catching my eye. At first it was because of hairy John, he was this old tramp of a guy who was filthy and went around begging food and muttering to himself all the time, everyone assumed he was squatting in the house until he died – and that’s a whole other sad story – then it turned out he owned the house. Anyway, about 8 months later the house was back in the news. A newly-wed couple had bought it and had been doing it up when one day they, and a friend of theirs who was apparently helping out, simply disappeared overnight. All they found were piles of empty clothes. Then a building contractor bought it from the bank planning to turn it into multiple occupancy but last week, he was found in the garden of the house – or rather his clothes were.”
“How do you know these people haven’t just staged their own disappearances, perhaps they couldn’t afford the mortgage or the repairs,” Rob asked, finding it hard not to get sucked into the spooky theories Ralph was spinning.
“I don’t.” Ralph confessed.
“What did the police reports say?”
“No idea – I’m not privy to them, that’s part of the reason I contacted you. I’m just an ordinary bloke whose interest got piqued by a weird house.”
Rob snorted, at least Ralph was honest, he thought. “Come on then,” he finally exclaimed, downing the dregs of his pint, “let’s go and see this killer house.”

By the time they got to Rankin Road it was gone nine, Rob paid the taxi, and the two men stood in front of 109. It seemed a pretty ordinary house to Rob, detached but not huge, with a garden fence complete with gate surrounding it. Now they were here, neither men was sure about what they should do and shared an embarrassed look that showed it.
“Let’s go have a look,” Rob finally said, pushing open the gate, which swung shut behind him with a noise akin to Krakatoa in the quiet street. Looking behind him Rob could see Ralph stifle a giggle before following him, quietly, through the gate.
They made their way up to the door, and Rob rang the bell, “Just in case,” he said.
“What’ll you say?” Ralph asked. “Excuse me, sir, but we think your house is a murderer, can we come in and take a look round.”
“Something like that.”
They didn’t need to worry, there was no answer, even after Rob tried the bell once more, for luck. “Right,” he said decisively, heading for the front window, “let’s see what’s going on here shall we?”
The two men peered in through the front window, before moving around to the side and finally the back, desperately trying to see anything out of the ordinary but all they could see was an immaculately maintained house, looking for all the world like it was waiting for someone to move in. Rob was feeling frustrated, had Ralph been having him on, he wondered.
“Don’t look too deadly to me.” He declared, his beer buzz wearing off.
“No. I know. That’s the thing, though, isn’t it?” Ralph explained. “It looks like any other ordinary house, actually it looks so inviting you might be tempted to buy it. So how come it’s last three owners are dead or disappeared?”
“The house didn’t kill the tramp guy did it?”
“No. He had a stroke but the police thought he was drunk so locked him up for the night, they found him dead in his cell the next day.”
“Right, but the others disappeared here?” Rob wanted clarification.
“Well their clothes were found here, sitting in piles, like they’d been spirited out of them. Nothing was missing in either case and there were no signs of either a break-in or a struggle. The people had simply gone.”
Rob was in a decisive mood. He grabbed a brick from the garden and, before Ralph could even utter a word in protest, he hurled it full-force into the large back window they’d been looking through. Ralph cried out as he instinctively pulled his hands up over his face and turned his head away.
“Shut up!” Rob spat, “you don’t want the neighbours to call the police, do you? Come on, let’s go in.”
“In there?” Ralph didn’t look like he thought that was such a good idea.
“Sure, how else are we going to find out what’s going on?”
“What the hell is that?” Ralph was pointing at the broken window. Rob turned. Flowing around the wound of the broken glass was a thick white gas. It grew so thick that for a few seconds it obscured their view of the hole where the window had been. Ralph stood, staring open mouthed as the gas undulated over the clear surface, Rob, on the other hand, fumbled in his coat pocket, desperately trying to free his phone then expertly turning on the video app to film what he was seeing. He looked, through the screen, as the gas flowed away from the window and gasped, tearing his gaze from the virtual to the actual to confirm what he thought he could see. The glass in the window was whole.
Where there had been jagged shards and a gaping hole, there was now smooth oneness and a solid barrier to the inside. It shocked Rob to his core and he stood there for what seemed like the longest time staring, but then he noticed something.
The gas was flowing down the wall and across the grass; it was coming their way in a distinct and seemingly intelligent cloud.
“Run!” he screamed, no longer caring who heard him. He turned and started sprinting out of the garden, clearing the fence in a practiced bound and not stopping until he heard Ralph’s anguished cries for help.
He stopped and turned to face the house, there, prone on the garden was Ralph, or at least it looked like Ralph. In reality it was a large, white, Ralph shaped gas cloud, from which tormented pleading emanated in a strangled voice which suddenly ceased to be.
Rob, hating himself, turned his phone on the scene and hit record. Capturing the cloud’s disintegration as it flowed from the shape on the floor into a flat stream which ran back to the house and disappeared in through the air vent at the bottom of the wall.
Where Ralph had been a few seconds ago, there lay a pathetic pile of his clothes, laid out as he had died, stretching for the garden fence, only feet away. Rob risked crossing back over the road to get a close up but nothing would get him back over that fence.
He smiled – if he played this right it could be his key to the big time.


F: Hellen Riebold’s Author Page


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