Gremlin House

Fiction By Tahlia Grant // 9/15/2011


When you knock on our door, it will open. Ninety-five percent of the time, you will have to look down to see who is standing there. It'll probably be one of our resident gremlins. This one will be a little taller than the others, since, as our butler, he has to make a distinguished appearance. If it's not the butler and it's around ten o'clock in the morning, it will be one of the house's two human residents who are just happening to pass by the door, probably on their way to the kitchen to get her third cup of tea. She will probably still be in her pajamas, having only woken up about an hour ago, and will be in them until five o'clock in the evening.

What you do then depends on who you are. If you are with the USPS or a package delivery company, you will probably just hand whoever is there the parcel and promptly depart. If you are a curious passerby, wanting to find out what all the strange and dangerous creatures in the front yard are, when we tell you, you will have one of two reactions. The first will be to run screaming something about a madhouse and the police. The second will be to tentatively step indoors. And shut the door behind you.

If you do the latter, just for your information, you haven't done anything that makes you particularly safe. We're authoresses, and rarely housekeepers. You'll be tripping over whatever fell on the floor last, something that didn't make a large spill and didn't shatter into a thousand pieces. And right in front of you is a flight of stairs. From somewhere on the upper level of this vine-covered falling-apart creaky house comes the rather maniacal sound of laughter. You'll start to doubt the wisdom of your decision to enter.

If it was the butler who let you inside, if you care to notice, he'll have something of a dignified smirk on his face. If it's one of the human residents, she'll give you a half-smile, tell you not to worry, and ask you if you want a cup of tea. Here you will do either one of two things. Either you will suddenly remember a pressing appointment you had elsewhere, apologize, and depart post-haste, or you will very carefully follow the human resident into the kitchen.

This place gives you some idea of what we do. Dishes get done about once a week, if that often. More often than not, we drink tea all day and forget to eat, so we don't worry about plates and forks and things like that. However, it does smell slightly burnt in there, and pots and pans are piled next to the large stove and around an extra-large freezer. There will be a subtle scent -the most recent leaf, root, stem, or what-have-you that we found. We've been trying to find out what happens to our characters if we feed them certain things. Nothing more.

You'll hear a crash in the room behind the kitchen. The human resident will tell you again not to worry, then open a cupboard or two and ask you to choose from the selection of teas. As if to purposely contrast the rest of the house, the boxes are neatly arranged -the brands are in alphabetical order, and within each brand the tea names are in alphabetical order. And there will be at least a hundred different types. Probably more.

You'll pick one that sounds safe -and this is the only place in the house where what sounds safe is safe. So the human resident will hand you a clean teacup, say something to herself about needing to get another load of dishes done, and show you the cream and sugar. So, when you have your cup of lemon tea, and she has her cup of acai-blueberry-coconut-cream-vanilla-pumpkin-spice tea, she'll ask what you want next.

By this point you have no qualms about what else this house has to offer, because you haven't seen the rest of it yet. So you request a tour. The human resident suppresses a grin, and asks where you want to start. You say the lower level. What was the crash in the room behind the kitchen?

Oh, that's the playroom, your hostess says. The playroom? For what? Gremlin babies, your hostess says, can make a lot of noise. Especially when they're playing games with the tarantulas. You begin to regret your request for a tour.

Your hostess first brings you into the living room, on the other side of the stairs. In one corner is a piano. In the opposite corner is a table with a lamp on it, and two easy chairs on either side of it. Lining the walls are countless shelves of books. As you stare, your hostess leads you through the room to a door on the other side, which goes under the stairs to the area behind the kitchen.

You will then begin to demand to know what on earth happened here. Your hostess will grin and then ask if you'd like to see the outside or the upstairs next. Remembering what you saw in front of the house that made you come inside in the first place, you'll say the upstairs. So you circle around back to where the creaky steps ascend into some dark place up above.

Before you start up, you'll hear someone coming down. It's the other human resident, still in her pajamas, going to get her third cup of tea. She'll smile to herself as she goes by, leaving you to wonder why. But then your hostess asks you what you're waiting for, and you step forward. Every movement causes protesting squeaks and groans as you go up, and you're happy when you reach the top. That was not a stairway to make one feel safe. You see doors -to your right, left, and straight ahead. Above you is a trapdoor. You head to the right.

It's a bedroom, exactly the kind of bedroom you'd expect in such a house. Two beds, a fair wreck of pillows and blankets, mugs in every conceivable place. Two computers at desks placed at random spots around the room, a closet in one corner, books, papers, pens, and highlighters scattered on the floor. Some sort of cherry-chocolate-cinnamon aroma hangs over it all.

You blink, then turn around and ask what's in the other rooms. By now the other human resident has come back up the stairs and hears this. She grins and says that the attic is a laboratory, the room straight ahead from the stairs is where they keep pets, and the door to the left of the stairs opens into a room of partially finished inventions. That last one should be avoided unless you're with HAZMAT. Would you like to see the outside?

At this point you will either hastily make your departure, or, now emboldened by everything else you saw and heard about, you think you are ready for everything.

Off the library room there's a back porch, and that porch leads out into the jungle of a backyard. Here and there paths criss-cross, there are chairs, patios -and there are even one or two that are human-sized. Plants of all shapes, sizes, and colors jumble together. Most had some sort of needle, thorn, or other sort of spine to deter touch.

One of your hostesses pulls a ripe prickly pear off a cactus and turns to you.

“Do you want to hear about the gremlin with a Skittle heart?”

Unfortunately, none of our guests have reached beyond this point.


 That was kind of odd... but funny :D Watch the video to see what I immediately thought of when I saw the title of your story :D I want to know why the guests haven't gotten any farther, and I want to know what happens if they do get farther :)

Laura Elizabeth | Thu, 09/15/2011

The best stories are those that are focused, unassuming, and self-confident enough to trust the reader to figure things out. --


This was absolutely marvelous! LOL! Very cute! I could imagine the house and its really funny!! HAHA!

Cute, very cute! ditto to Laura Elizabeth! Why don't they get further? Are they murdered or something?

Kassady | Sun, 09/18/2011

"Here's looking at you, Kid"
Write On!


 This is a very neat story! It's really kind of cool. It's also kind of mysterious. I have to agree with Kassady and Laura Elizabeth, I want to know why no one's gotten further and what happens if they do. 

Elizabeth Anne | Mon, 09/19/2011

See him with his books:
Tree beside the brooks,
Drinking at the root
Till the branch bear fruit.
See him with his pen:
Written line, and then,
Better thought preferred,
Deep from in the Word.
~John Piper




Kassady | Wed, 09/21/2011

"Here's looking at you, Kid"
Write On!


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