[Roll Scene: “Previously on House of the Dead”/Nothing Available]

The morning I awoke, my house was as quiet as a tomb.

“Ginger: you up, girl?”

I heard whimpering, and it sounded like it was coming from the basement. Oh no, I thought to myself. She’s broken through the child-gate and climbed down the stairs.

I’d only bought this old house a week ago. My body ached from all the strain of moving. I blearily walked through the kitchen, past the aging refrigerator with its “I Love Montana” magnet, spelled out in faux gemstones. That dog of mine was an old rust-colored mutt and troublemaker for sure. I hadn’t yet discovered all this old house’s secrets yet, but Ginger would undoubtedly help with that.

“I’m coming, baby!” I reassured her. To me, all animals were babies at heart: sweet, innocent souls lost in the confusion of being. So unlike us.

I walked down the stairs, past the thrown-aside miniature gate, to see her whining at a board that had been nailed to the wall and painted a drab green to match the surfaces of the other walls. I wondered if something was back there. So I grabbed a crowbar, the one I thought might come in handy out in the field if I ever managed to get my engineering job back, as it would be useful for pulling up manhole covers. This pandemic was ruining everything that had once felt solid and stable in my life.

Soon enough they’ll weld me into my house like they did to those folks in China, I thought. But before that happened, I wanted to be sure of what I’d be locked in with. I pushed the dog away with my calf and then went to work on the board on the wall. It took some doing, but revealed itself to be only cheap particle board that gave way to a murky darkness beneath. As the board fell away, it revealed a cavernous maw and a set of stone stairs leading down, and I felt a gush of cold air whoosh up from below. Still in my pajamas, with hair tousled from a restless sleep, I seized the flashlight from my scattered pile of tools, looked over at Ginger, and said, “Well, let’s check it out. You go first.”

She hesitated, looking up at me pleadingly with those soulful brown eyes of hers.

“Alright, then, I’ll go first,” I said, and ventured forth. My flashlight lit up brick walls that soon gave way to smooth white marble. I wondered where this could possibly lead as I descended down, down, finally reaching the landing at the bottom, and letting out a small, startled scream. This was a mausoleum, and the alcoves were filled with bodies that looked freshly dead. There might be a killer here. I ran back upstairs, shutting the kitchen door behind me and dialing 911 on my cell phone. To my relief, the cops arrived quickly. To my horror, they had metal bars and welding equipment with them. I beat against the glass of the window furiously.

“No! I need your help! I called you to help me…with the…basement!”

They began securing the front door of my residence resolutely shut.

My cries were to no avail. They either didn’t hear me or didn’t care, or both. What would I do, now? Ginger was still in the basement…and so was the axe I had, that I’d recently used to chop up branches in the yard during the last storm. If I could just make my way to it, maybe I’d get to it before the killer found it. Surely there was a killer hiding down there with all those bodies.

So I crept back through the kitchen and down those basement steps, one step at a time, until I could peek around the corner into the basement itself. It was dark, but not pitch black, and some light filtered in through a tiny, dirty window.

I chanced a quick glance—there was Ginger, lying peacefully on her side. I saw no blood. Ginger let out a long, wet fart. Then I heard her panting. Another glance told me that my axe lay beyond the pile of tools, near the flashlight, and that the dog was alone in the basement.

The killer must be down in the mausoleum. At least I’d been granted the small mercy of being able to get my axe before I’d have to face him…or her. There was no reason it had to be a man, necessarily—that’s just what I imagined, I suppose—a towering, imposing male figure carrying a hammer or a chainsaw or something. I walked slowly across the basement floor and felt a certain protective power as I grasped the axe handle in my right hand and the flashlight in my left. Once I kill this guy, everything will be okay. The cops will realize there’s been a terrible misunderstanding. I could already taste the steak I’d cook myself and the wine I’d pair with it once all was said and done.


I ate my steak and drank my wine in the silence of the mausoleum, surrounded by the silent dead, having put the axe away in its spot in the basement. I’d checked this place from top to bottom, three times, along with the rest of the house. There was, for sure, no killer here and no way in or out of this place, as the door of the mausoleum was now welded shut by the authorities as well, as though the dead could escape. It was all so very strange. Everything had been turned upside-down in the midst of the pandemic. Had these folks died of the coronavirus? If so, why had they just been dumped here unceremoniously, with no biohazard precautions taken? From one of the corpses, I heard a low moan.

Rushing over, I saw a slight, short form of a person of indistinct gender, who looked like a friend of mine—Raelle.

“Raelle!” I exclaimed, shaking her shoulder. “Wake up!”

“Ughhh…” Raelle said, eyelids fluttering for a brief moment. Then I heard a soft snoring. Bewildered, I looked around the room. Could it be possible—that instead of a tomb filled with corpses, this space was instead inhabited by a great number of Rip Van Winkles? Anything’s possible, I supposed. I walked back over to the stone steps, where my plate of steak and glass of wine sat, polished them off, deep in silent, meditative contemplation, and resolved to try again with Raelle the next morning.


Morning came and I blearily made my way out of bed and through the kitchen. Coffee would surely help. I scooped out enough to make a full pot, dumped the grounds into the middle of a fresh white filter, and then hit the button to turn on the machine. It would take a while. It always did. So in the meantime, I threw a dog biscuit to Ginger and made my way down the cold basement steps to the entrance to the mausoleum. I’ll only take a moment, I told myself, steeling my nerves before heading down those cold stone steps. I’ll reward myself with coffee. Some hope fluttered in my chest like a butterfly emerging from the dark of its cocoon. If there’s some way to wake Raelle, it’ll make this easier, I reasoned. So I reached the bottom step and then looked over to the corner, where they lay peaceful as though dreaming, hands folded demurely over chest.

“Raelle,” I said gently, the way you would to a sleeping child.

“Unhh…” Raelle replied, and then rolled partway over.

“Raelle, wake up,” I said, now in a sterner tone. “I…I’m awake…” said Raelle, eyelids fluttering fast like the wings of a hummingbird.

“Raelle, there are strange things happening right now.” That didn’t seem to do the trick. I noticed an ancient-looking cup of coffee sitting there near Raelle’s hip. The least I could do was to get rid of that old thing. I went to pick it up, fingers grasping around the cup.

All at once, their eyes snapped open, though the rest of their body stayed fixed in place.

“Who steals my coffee?” Raelle mechanically chanted.

“Let me get you a fresh one,” I said. “This one is disgusting.”

Before Raelle could protest, I seized the ancient, moldy cup and crept back up the stairs with it. I considered dropping the contents down the sink, but the thought of using the sink for anything else afterward disgusted me. So I took it to the bathroom and flushed the contents down the toilet, before tossing the paper cup into the kitchen trash.

I seized two coffee mugs from the shelf in the kitchen, a black one with a skull and a white one with the image of a bear, emblazoned with I LOVE MONTANA, and filled each of them with freshly-brewed coffee. Then I carefully walked with them, down to the basement and further on to the mausoleum. There I saw Raelle still lying down, hands folded over chest, eyes wide open and staring into the void.

“I brought you some fresh coffee,” I declared.

Raelle sat straight up all at once, upper half of the body folded like a mummy or a vampire in a movie.

“Sustenance!” they exclaimed, arms outstretched.

I handed Raelle the coffee mug and they folded around it protectively, beginning to sip with great relish. Then I decided to start the conversation off, but I did so awkwardly.

“Did you kill all these people?” I asked.

“They’re asleep,” Raelle answered.

And so they were. I couldn’t argue with that. “Well, what are you doing here?” I asked.

“Sleeping,” Raelle replied. I smacked my forehead. I’d honestly walked right into that one.

“I need more coffee,” I said to myself, sipping from my mug. Once I’d had my fill, I was determined to try again. There had to be answers here, and while I was no Sherlock Holmes, I knew that people did not randomly fall asleep in mausoleums for no good reason.

“How did you get here?” I asked, slowly enunciating my words.

“Walking,” Raelle replied.

Okay, well that was something. “What is the last day you remember?”

“Yesterday.” This answer made no sense to me. Clearly, Raelle had not been up and walking yesterday.

“What did you do yesterday?”

“The usual.”

“And what is that?”

“I want my lawyer.”

I heard the sound of the door from above and went to check, and there was a lawyer with a briefcase labeled LAWYER.

He couldn’t get in because the door was still welded shut.

“You can’t see your lawyer,” I announced to Raelle when I headed back downstairs. “We are welded in.”

“I’m calling the cops,” they replied, and did so.

The authorities showed up again, and this time, they had window bars.