|From August 30, 2011|
Warren Hollis stood in front of the mostly-wooden cabin and smiled. Around him was nothing but the soft hiss of nature itself. The sound was comprised of the leaves of the impossibly green trees rustling in the breeze and the soft drone of insects. The summer sun struggled to push its way though the canopy of leaves and etch its way across his arms and the back of his neck. The sun didn’t cause the sweat to break out across his face and run down his back. That came just from the humidity, which seemed to make the air as thick as a blanket but much less comfortable.
“I’m glad you think so,” said the thick, short-haired man standing less than ten yards away from him. Glen Dahane was a round man, but he wasn’t fat. The moment Warren saw him he realized the man was mostly muscle beneath the stretched fabric of his shirt. He reminded Warren of the strong men he sometimes watched compete on some obscure sports channel as they threw beer kegs over their shoulders and over a bar set high.
“If the inside is anything like the outside, this is exactly the kind of thing I am looking for,” Warren said.
The house was modest and it was old. It was also mostly made of wood with a large front window that overlooked the front lawn and the forest around it. The driveway was crushed gravel that wound down through the trees before depositing any vehicles that might be upon it on a two-lane road that could only be called a highway as part of a joke. The house was two stories, but it was not very big. It was just as Warren had hoped.
Warren was in rural western Pennsylvania because he had a project that brought him here. Warren was a writer and, more to the point, he was a true crime writer. If there was one thing that helped him write, it was getting away from the crazy and busy life he had back in Chicago. The house he was looking at right now was exactly the type of house he loved to live in when he was working on a project.
“Shall we check out the inside?” Glen asked.
Warren gestured toward the door. “Lead the way.”
The living room was large. The walls were wood paneled. The inside of the home smelled like pine. The furniture was a surprise. It was remarkably new, although it looked like it had been ordered online from some modern place like IKEA. The couch looked comfortable, however, and the television looked flat, large, and modern. Warren guessed that there was a satellite dish somewhere attached to the roof. The space immediately inside the front door ran around toward the back of the home. One area of that large space, behind the living room area, had a dining room table. Adjoining that was a counter that attached to the kitchen, making a breakfast nook. The kitchen had modern appliances that gleamed silver. Beyond that was a sliding glass door and huge wooden deck that faced the spacious and neatly-trimmed back lawn.
“Wow,” Warren whispered.
“I thought you’d like it,” Glen said.
Warren walked through the living room. Then he trailed his hand across the kitchen counter and over the stools that sat beside the counter. He couldn’t help but smile.
“Is there much upstairs?” He asked.
Glen shrugged. “There’s the bathroom with shower. Then a little loft space that I figure you can use for your writing. Oh, and there’s the bedroom.”
Warren smiled again and shot up the stairs. The stairs were made of wood and they creaked in a way that delighted him as he bounded up them two at a time. He immediately turned right and down the short hallway and into the bedroom. The large king-sized bed in the room took up much of the space. The heavy bedroom door appeared to be made of wood capable of stopping a cannon ball. There was a closet and a dresser in the bedroom and the bed’s blanket was a dark blue that Warren just loved.
Outside the bedroom, and to his left, was the bathroom. It was small with a toilet just behind the door, and a mirror on the wall. There was also a claw-foot bathtub. Surrounding the tub was a rail and from that was a shower curtain. It would only have been better, in Warren’s opinion, if he would have to get the water from a well and warm it up on a wood-burning stove.
He ran out of the bathroom and stopped to look at the loft space that emerged just out of the short hallway that led to the bedroom. It was perfect and he planned on using the desk that sat there, overlooking part of the living room and the front door. He smiled. This was just what he wanted. He looked down and saw that Glen was still standing there looking at him.
“Sorry,” he said. “I guess I was getting just a little carried away.
Glen nodded. Warren turned and was about to head back down the stair when he stopped. It was something he had not noticed before when he had done his mad dash up the stairs. It was an alcove, cut into the wall. It was not very big, perhaps just big enough to hold a small vase of flowers. However, instead of flowers and a vase, what sat there was a thick black phone. There was nothing remarkable about the phone. It was just black and squat. It was a very old phone, he decided, and when he reached out to pick up the receiver he felt the huge heft and weight of it. The blackness of his phone had faded, a bit, to a strange gray, as if time and air had conspired to suck it of some of its life.
“What’s this?” Warren asked, as he walked back over to the stairs.
“What’s what?” Glen replied.
There was something strange about the phone. Warren couldn’t really put his finger on it. It was like it was pulling him towards it. He shook his head and walked towards the tiny alcove again. He lifted the receiver of this phone from a different era. Behind it was a thick cable that vanished into the wall.
“Oh, that,” Glen said.
Warren jumped when the other man spoke. He hadn’t even heard the man walking up the stairs and there he was, suddenly, right next to him. Warren could smell his breath and there was a faint sourness to it. Warren wondered if he had eaten something like onions for lunch.
“This is quite a phone,” Warren said. “Is it connected to anything?”
Glen shook his head. “No, that’s a hold-over from another era. Back in the day this whole area was on a party line. You had to listen to your own specific ring when a call came through and just about anyone throughout the community could pick up the phone and listen in. It was quite a mess, but it was pretty common out in the middle of nowhere like this place is. Anyway, the party line is long gone. I just keep the phone because, well, I kind of like it. Plus, it just fits so nicely in the little alcove there.”
He shrugged. Warren smiled.
“I love it,” he said. “It just adds to the charm of this place. Plus, hey, given the weight and heft of this thing, if a bear attacks me I can use it to beat the thing to death.”
Warren’s smile got bigger and Glen smiled back. The two of them laughed.
“OK,” said Warren, “this is a done deal. Let’s get all of the paperwork signed.”