Moving into a new home is both scary and exciting.
If Joanna had known what was in her new home with her – she would have run far and fast…
The green and white sign shouted “SOLD”.
Carrying in the last box, a sweaty and exhausted Joanna plonked it down with the others. Phase 1 done! She still couldn’t believe that this quaint home was so reasonably priced and was now hers. She decided to do her bedroom first, then the kitchen and the rest could wait for tomorrow. As long as she had a fresh bed and a cup of tea…
Joanna’s bedroom was lovely. All creams and pinks with vintage flower handles on the cupboards. The windows were small but let in the bright morning sunshine which warmed the room sufficiently during the day. Joanna opened the cupboard, laden with underwear and jammies. She was surprised to see a heavy, black coat hanging in the back.
“Oh shame, they must have forgotten this” she said to herself lifting a dusty sleeve and taking a sniff. It reeked of old… just old and Joanna gagged. It must have been expensive at some stage, it was heavy and beautifully woven wool. Taking it out she hung it on the cupboard door to make space and so that she would be reminded to call the previous tenants to fetch it.
Humming, she finished packing her cupboard – it wasn’t perfect but it would have to do for now. She quickly mopped the floor and wiped down the sills, hung her curtains and made the bed. Phew! She flopped onto the bed running her hands through her hair! “One room down, the whole bloody house to go” she smiled to herself.
It was tough leaving her big sis alone at home. Tommy would move in with Jax on the weekend and she would be fine. “I’m 26 and not a baby” she thought to herself. I must head out on my own sometime. Joanna wasn’t the type to get married quickly and have a bunch of kids. That she left to her dumbass friends – no way was she changing nappies at one in the morning. “I will be sleeping, as any normal person should be” she laughed at herself this time.
“Kitchen are you ready” she shouted downstairs, taking the steps two at a time.
She ran into the kitchen scaring the hell out of her cat. “Sorry Kitzi” she said picking the poor kitty up and swinging him around. She set him down and he took off into the lounge without looking back. The now catless kitchen looked full and busy. Joanna tackled it with the same energy she felt in the bedroom, hoping that she would have enough steam to at least get some organization.
It was getting dark by the time she had unpacked most of the stuff, washed it and packed it away in the cupboards.
“The next time Jax offers to help you move, take her offer you idiot” she berated herself. She was exhausted and nowhere near finished. Joanna pulled her shop bought supper out of the fridge, grateful that she had thought to stop. Cool, sweet fruit salad restored her energy and the little bottle of bubbly lifted her spirits. With a tired sigh she smiled at her kitchen and tipped her glass. “Home…” she thought to herself.
A quick shower later she fell into bed. As she snuggled down she noticed the coat again. “Dammit. I will have to call them tomorrow.” Dozing off she could have sworn she saw the coat move. She smiled at her imagination.
Joanna woke early – she had forgotten to close the curtains and early-morning sun fingers reached in and tickled her eyelids. Groaning she turned over and yawned. “So much work to still be done” she thought to herself planning what to do next. Stretching her sore muscles she knew the only way to stop the pain was to move. She did, bouncing into the bathroom she did what she had to and returned to her room. “Its too early to phone your owners” she said to the coat “but after breakfast you will go home”. She fingered the collar, it was so soft and warm and inky black. “I bet you are worth your weight in winter” she smiled.
Turning away she headed towards the kitchen, her mind on the unpacking. She didn’t realise she was falling until she hit the ground. Missing the carpet, she came down hard on the landing banging her hip. “Owwww” she cried, tears sneaking into her eyes. She pulled her legs up and rubbed her sore hip. “What the hell?” The coats belt was twisted around her ankle, it caused her fall. Unwinding it she wondered how the hell it had tripped her. “Gotta be more careful Joanna” she moaned, hobbling her way downstairs.
The rest of the morning was uneventful and she finished the kitchen and went on to do most of the dining room before her stomach reminded her of her missed breakfast. Stretching to relieve her aching muscles and the slight moaning pain in her hip, she wondered into the kitchen. “Bless you Jax” she said, taking one of the 6 frozen meals out that her sister had insisted she take. Popping whatever it was into the microwave, Joanna drank a tall glass of water and poured herself another. The microwave beeped and she took out what turned out to be beef and tomato soup, eating it straight out of the container. “Delicious Jax thanks” she said to the empty kitchen and sat sipping her water.
She only had to be back at work fact-checking for the local newspaper on Monday. It was lovely to have a few days off to deal with her new house. Being a first-time home-owner, she had to learn what this meant on the run. Once she had signed it was too late to change her mind and she was glad she had done it.
Remembering her fall, she called the estate agent to report the coat, she promised to get in touch with its owners. Joanna decided that she had done enough for the day and went for a stroll around the neighborhood. It was a lovely area full of trees that bordered onto a thick forest. The perfect place to start a family and have a dog she smiled to herself. “I wonder what Kitzi will think of that!” Joanna noticed a lot of burnt patches in the green grass and wondered what they were from. The light breeze picked at her hair and blouse, it was a perfect day.
After her relaxing afternoon she had a light dinner, a bubble bath and climbed into bed with her book. Yawning and stretching she decided to call it a night. Noticing the coat, she noticed that the agents never called her back. Oh well, she yawned again and fell asleep facing her cupboard.
“I must be dreaming” she mumbled out loud. She was staring at a face at the top of the coat. It stared back with its pale-yellow eyes. Hairy, black feet appeared at the bottom of the coat, allowing it to stand. It slowly turned towards her. If she wasn’t so terrified it would be funny. It took forever to make its way to the side of her bed. She stared not breathing and without blinking. The coat reached out. Only once it touched her neck and she felt the icy fingers, could she move. In one movement – she bounced to the other side of the bed and turned on the light.
Now laughing hysterically, she saw the coat hanging on the cupboard. No feet, no face, no fingers. She pulled herself up onto her knees “What now Joanna?” she asked herself still breathing hard. She walked around the bed and pushed the coat into the back of her cupboard. Climbing back into bed, she finally managed to calm down enough to get back to sleep.
The next morning it felt like a dream, a nightmare. She looked at the cupboard, the door was empty. “The owners must come and get it today or I bin it!” she said determinedly. Hopping out of bed she showered and dressed. Energy was flowing through her body and she tackled her charming home with it. Finally she finished. Jo had just sat down at the kitchen table, wanting a glass of Sauvignon Blanc but too exhausted to pour herself one, when the doorbell rang. “Hellooooo” Jax said.
“In here” Joanna smiled. Trust her sister to arrive as she finished.
“Hi” jumping up, she gave her a big hug and pulled two glasses out of the cupboard.
“Very nice Jo. It looks so homey now” Jax remarked smiling. “You must have worked like a robot to get it done so quick.”
“Yes it feels like it” Jo smiled and looked around amused. “My own home.”
They chatted for ages, flattening the bottle of wine and the snacks Jax had brought with. Jo couldn’t hide her yawns anymore and Jax stood up to go.
“No I’m fine” Jo protested but she was tired.
“I’m going to be hectic at work this week, how about an early supper on Wednesday?” Jax asked. “It’s a date” a very tired Jo said. “Here?”
“No come to me, I’ll cook” Jax insisted. Jo smiled, no-one liked her cooking but Jax could make a feast out of an old shoe. “It’s a date”, they hugged and said their goodbyes. If only they knew that Jo would never keep that date, they may have hugged longer.
That night Jo battled to sleep, even though she was exhausted. Tossing and turning she faced the cupboard with a frustrated sigh. Ice ran through her veins, the coat was hanging outside. For a second she was confused, thinking she must have taken it out. But she knew she hadn’t.
Her heart beat in her ears as she slowly got out to put it back in the cupboard. As she reached out, the coats left arm reached out too. She stopped. It stopped. “I’m bloody dreaming” she said. A hysterical laugh burst out of her mouth. It seemed to animate the coat and the left arm reached out, black fingers closing around her throat. At first she just stood there, unable to comprehend what was happening. When she finally screamed, it came out as a croak. The fingers closed off her windpipe and held on. She felt sharp nails scratching at her legs and feet and the soft material closing around her body. She fainted from fear and lack of oxygen.
The morning sun flooded into her room and she took a deep breath. Her throat hurt and Jo wondered if she had picked up a bug. Wiggling in the bed, she felt the full extent of how much her body hurt. “What the hell?” she shot up remembering. The coat was still hanging on the door. Quiet and still. “I was dreaming?” her voice sounded soft and terrified in the morning light. Jo jumped out of bed and warily moved around the coat, not turning her back on it.
The bathroom mirror must be lying. She had purple and red bruises around her throat. There were nasty scratches up and down her legs, some had bled and made a mess of her sheets. Swallowing, her throat was raw and very painful. She popped 3 painkillers on an empty stomach, anything to allow her to swallow without pain. The whole scenario was unbelievable.
She eyed the coat from the safety of the bathroom door. It looked ordinary. No feet, no hands… “What the hell happened?” she whispered to herself immediately regretting having spoken. “Those damm painkillers better kick in soon” she cleared her throat trying to relieve the pain. Jo pulled on her clothes keeping an eye on the coat.
Getting a large dustbin bag from the kitchen she went back to the bedroom and the coat. It didn’t move. Determined she burst into the room, grabbed it and shoved it chaotically into the bag. It never moved. She ran downstairs and threw it in the outside dustbin. Breathing heavily she waited in case it tried to jump out or something. “Jo – you are losing your marbles” she said to herself. Nothing happened for a good 15 minutes and Jo backed into the kitchen, locking the door.
Shaking she made herself some sweet tea and toast, dipping it so that it wasn’t too hard on her tender throat. The painkillers were working and Jo decided to go back to bed for a while. She had had a shock and wasn’t feeling well. Sleep welcomed her and the morning flew past.
Waking up on her back, it took her a while to remember where she was and what had happened. Looking at the cupboard she remembered where the coat was and sat up. Her throat still hurt and the scratches on her legs were warm. She took a long shower and gently washed the blood off, feeling much better. Even though she had slept the morning, she was still tired.
Jo sat in the lounge watching a movie and halfheartedly nibbling hot, buttered popcorn. She woke up and it was dark and quiet in the house. Kitzi was lying on her chest purring softly, he wanted his supper. Jo fed him and made her way upstairs with some milky Chai tea, it always relaxed her. She sipped it with the light on wondering if she was coming down with something. Her head was hot and her legs burned, even though she had smeared them with antiseptic cream. She felt sick. Finishing her tea, she put off the light and was asleep before she finished snuggling into the blanket.
Hours later she awoke, the clock said 4:06, it was waaaay to early to get up. She rolled over and froze. The coat was hanging on the door! “It cant be” she whispered to herself in total terror. She wanted to move to put the light on but was frozen in fear. She watched as the head slowly arose, the pale-yellow eyes appeared and the feet dropped out. The room was suddenly much colder and she started to shake.
“Move, move now” she shouted in her head. Nothing moved, she was absolutely petrified. “It’s not real, its not there” she shouted again in her head. The coat started to move closer, black fingers reached for her throat and found it. They brushed against her skin, icy cold and she broke out in goosebumps. It moved closer and enveloped her in darkness. The grip on her throat tightened and this finally kicked her brain into moving her. She jumped backwards and managed to get her right hand out, using it to turn on the light. The coat stopped and she turned back to it.
It wasn’t her imagination. Some sort of imp possessed it. His hairless head was black and his pale eyes stared into hers. Screaming now, she kicked at him, trying to back away. She managed to pull loose and turned to run. Through her terror she knew that backing into a corner of the room would seal her fate and she turned to run past the end of the bed and out the door. As her foot hit the wood she felt a surge of hope, she’d made it. That was the last comprehensible thought she would have.
The belt of the coat had tied itself around her thigh and easily stopped her from running away. She fell hard again, this time hitting her nose which instantly poured with blood. Digging her nails into the floor she tried to stop it pulling her back. Two of her nails split and pulled out, they stayed in the wood leaving a trail of fresh blood. Jo was pulled under the bed where the imp took its time smothering her with the coat. As she was dying she thought she heard the imp say something in his high-pitched voice “My house. My coat. All who live here will die”.
Her nail-less fingers bled onto old newspaper clippings that had fallen out of the coat pockets, the headings read, “Family of 3 found strangled in Helmsford home. No leads this far. This is the 3rd family killed in this home. Neighbors are calling to have it burned to the ground.”
The last one read “6 Homes were destroyed in Helmsford after a mysterious fire was started. All but 1 of the homes were destroyed and police suspect arson.”
Jax would come looking for Jo on Monday morning when she never arrived for work. She had to be sedated after finding what was left of her sister under the bed.
The green and white sign read “For Sale”.