All Stories, Fantasy

Suburban by Teresa Berkowitz

Our houses had always been haunted. We were always running from one old New England house to another. Finally, my parents found a ranch house in a small subdivision. It was painted a soft buttercup yellow. Everything was mostly new, less than five years old. “Only one owner,” the realtor reassured my parents. I immediately loved it. No scary attic. All of us on one floor. Even the basement was finished with wood paneling.

A tall wood fence surrounded our yard like an embrace. Perfect for sunbathing.

“Don’t you remember the cottage in Wareham?” my mother asked from her lounge chair.

I shook my head.

“How can you forget something that evil?”

I shrugged my bare shoulders and adjusted the laces holding my halter top on. My mother removed her sunglasses. She was scanning my face for fear. I knew the story, but I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction.

She rubbed the baby oil and iodine on her bare legs and continued.

“Your father would take the VW to Woodshole and leave us at that cottage alone all night. The whole neighborhood was abandoned by the summer people. There we were­ – a beautiful young mom and her toddler.”

I closed my eyes and felt the sun on my face. I imagined I had magical powers that could compel her to stop talking with just the power of my thoughts. I could not.

“Oh. it was dark that winter. No street lights. Sea smoke rising from the cold ocean. The house had cold spots which I think I’ve told you are a sign of a haunting. ‘Drafts’ your father said but I knew better. Then, the walls started bleeding. First pink then rust under the white walls in the kitchen. That finally got your father’s attention. There were murders there. I know it. It must have been a bloodbath.”

My heart started speeding up. I opened my eyes and she had focused her gaze on my jugular. I was sure she knew she was getting to me. I reached over and turned the dial on the radio, taking my time to tune into a station. Static put her on edge. She reached over and slapped my hand away and tuned into a station.

“Anyway, I don’t want to frighten you, but I have begun to notice something is not quite right.”


“See how the birds avoid our lawn but not our neighbors.” 

“They have a bird feeder.”

“Just like your dad. LOGIC.” She picked up her magazine. “Well. I’m going in. I’m cooked.”

I followed her in a few minutes later to find my little brother crying about the poor kids who were locked in their rooms.

“She doesn’t know anything about the people who lived here before us.” I said, trying to calm him down.

“Are you calling me a liar?” My mother screamed from the kitchen.

“Stop scaring him.” I yelled back.

“Get your ass in here now.”

Scott gripped my arm. “Don’t leave me.”

I grabbed Big-Bear and wrapped his plush arms around my brother. “Hold him close. I’ll be right back.”

I walked into the kitchen.

“I will not have you sass me in front of your brother. Now go down to the basement and get me a jar of stewed tomatoes.”

A few steps down, I heard the door latch. I wanted to run back up but I kept going to the shelves under the stairs. Then the light was turned off. So many dark corners. I could feel hands reaching for me in the darkness. I could hear my brother crying in his room. I took each step slowly and tentatively.

“Wait. Make it two jars.” My mother yelled from upstairs. I held one large jar in each hand. I wanted to run up the stairs but I walked slowly and set the jars at the top so I could open the door. It was latched. I jiggled the door.

“Open it up mom.” My brother cried.

“I can’t baby. I’m trying.” My mother’s voice shook. She pulled at the door and the latch rattled. Scott’s cries were getting louder. He started to sound panicked.

I wanted to cry and scream but all I could think about was my brother. I took a deep breath so my voice would sound calm. “I’m okay Scott.”

“You’re not. They are down there with you.” I shuddered and could feel their presence in the dark behind me.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of in our new house. Latches sometimes stick.”

“Baby, say a prayer,” my mother said.

My brother sobbed through the Lord’s prayer.

“Louder Baby.” My mother struggled with the door, shaking it back and forth.

He raised his voice. “Deliver us from Evil.”

My mother stopped shaking the door and I heard her lift the latch. I opened the door and picked up the two jars and walked out of the basement.

My brother wrapped his arms around my legs. “I’m fine Scott.” I said while I dragged him along the kitchen floor.

I placed the jars on the counter by the two my mother already had out.

“I guess I didn’t need them after all,” she said with a smirk. I lifted my brother into my arms and carried him to his room.

Teresa Berkowitz

Image – Jars of tomatoes – Google images

8 thoughts on “Suburban by Teresa Berkowitz”

  1. Hi Teresa,
    Out of the thousands of stories that I have read on the site, there are a few that as soon as I see them, I remember them. This is one.
    When I write any comments, it is what I initially said when we were discussing the story.
    Now this might not seem much – But for this sticking with me and for all I had to say – I reckon this is brilliant.
    My comments were –

    She was a delight!!
    I really did like that she described herself as ‘A beautiful young mum’!!

    Those few words told us exactly who she was.
    I love a story where I hate a character.
    The tone throughout was as exceptional as the story!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant writing and a very embodied sense of dread. I love how the protagonist fights her own fears and her own mother to protect herself and her little brother. Such a compact and beautiful story. I want to read more!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. hi Teresa,
    “Deliver us from Evil” is exactly the prayer needed here. What’s truly chilling is that those kids are so young! The little brother doesn’t understand the mother’s manipulation. His older sister does, to an extent, but she can’t stop their mother from enacting her creepy, manipulative play at the expense of her kids. This story really got under my skin!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautifully constructed. Great dialogue (‘They ‘ve got a birdfeeder’). The third character of the younger brother works perfectly to reveal the mother’s intentions. Brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.