House on Kaden Hill
By Jesse Ferreras, Pique Newsmagazine
October 28, 2010
“Just into town?” the graying man in a one-piece snowsuit asks.
“Yeah man, off the Greyhound this afternoon.”
“First year here?”
“Yeah. I skied a lot in high school. Want to get in a whole season of powder before I get too old.”
“Putting life off just a little longer, eh?”
The young man laughs. “You could say that.”
“You’ll want to be careful, young buck.”
“One day you may wake up and find you’ve been here too long.”
The two of them paused. The old man looked out the window of the bus at the vast, snow-capped mountains rolling by. “You may never want to leave.”
The young man fooled around in his Burton jacket for his iPod before the old man spoke once more.
“Where are you staying?”
“I’m renting at a place on Kaden Hill.”
The old man looks away from the window. He looks briefly at the young man.
“I saw a room listed at $500 a month. It looks great.”
The old man doesn’t respond.
The old man turns to him.
“No one goes to Kaden Hill,” he said.
“No one goes there.”
And with that, the bus stopped, leaving Zack Fisher alone on its rearmost seat. The old man, the only one Zack had ever seen wear a one-piece snowsuit without skis in the dead of fall, hopped off without saying goodbye.
All alone, Zack sat on the bus, his skis and poles leaning against the window, a shoulderbag with clothes and sleeping gear laid at his feet.
To his right, taking up a seat on the bus, were his groceries – necessities like a six-pack of Canadian and a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.
The bus moved hardly a kilometer before it arrived at its next stop, the base of a vast hill.
“Kaden Hill,” the driver said.
“How do I get there?” Zack asked. The driver pointed a single finger upwards at the hill, motioning for him to walk.
“You can’t take me any closer?”
“I don’t go there. No one goes there.”
Zack chortled, collected his belongings and left the bus, borne down by the weight of his shoulderbag and skis as he made his way into a neighbourhood of luxury homes.
A wooden sign hanging above him informed him that he’d just entered “Kaden Hill, A Community of Comfort.” He walked around three bends, uphill all the way, admiring the scale of three- and four-story homes. He heard not a sound anywhere but withering leaves scraping as they blew across the street.
The houses had wood panels, tall windows, two-car garages, stone steps and moats… and there didn’t look to be a soul living in any of them.
Lawns were unmowed, gardens unkempt. Their only landscapers were moles that dug for food in the soil. Flowers bent over or were ravaged by slugs.
Finally Zack found himself at the front door of 742 Kaden Drive, as majestic a house as any in the neighbourhood. A long driveway led him to a staircase made of stone and a door with a stained glass window. He dropped his belongings beside him and searched around for the key.
He turned the key in the door but it wouldn’t open. Pressure kept it closed from the inside. He pushed again until finally the door swung inward, letting a gust of air and dust blow into his face. Coughing and sneezing, he was nearly thrown backwards and down the stairs.
Finally the gust subsided and Zack moved his belongings into a vast, empty house with dust flying all around him. Before him was a staircase leading to the residential floor. Beside it, an oak table with a telephone and answering machine.
To his right, a TV room with a leather couch, recliner and flat screen television. To his left, a living room with couches that had no grooves in their cushions. A grand piano with its cover closed. Book stacks with classical volumes arranged as though they’d never been disturbed.
Zack walked to the table beside the staircase. A red light on the answering machine indicated a message waiting to be heard. He pressed play.
“Hello. We hope you’re settling in nicely at your new home,” a welcoming male voice told him. “At Arcadia Homes we strive for the best in convenience and comfort. That’s why we’ve already connected you to Internet and cable networks. We hope you enjoy your new home and look forward to seeing you at the next owner’s meeting.”
“Sweet,” Zack said to himself, before realizing there was another message. He hit play once more.
“Zack, it’s Dad,” his father’s voice sighed. “Your mother and I are wondering when you’ll be home so you can start school again…”
Zack cut him off in mid-sentence. In his room on the upstairs floor, Zack laid a foam mattress and a sleeping bag. On his wall he hung a poster of Mike Douglas.
Hours later he found himself in the TV room, watching a ski movie with a thrashing ’80s soundtrack. In his right hand he held a Canadian, with his left he dug into his Doritos. Outside rain began to fall and thunder rolled in the distance.
The film ended and Zack got up to go to the bathroom. On the way he noticed the light on the answer machine – he hadn’t listened to all of his father’s message. He pressed play.
“…We both love you very much. We just want to make sure you’re finding your way. Please call us when you get a chance.” Click
Zack came back to the television and flipped through channels. Sitting in darkness, the television’s glow traced the dust flying all around it. He stopped at a channel broadcasting “The Graduate.” He watched Dustin Hoffman walking in slow motion to the rhythm of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.”
Then out of the darkness, Zack heard a whisper: “Stay with me.” He ignored it at first but was disturbed again by a faint sigh, like a woman blowing into his ear. He looked around then stood up, leaving the TV on “The Graduate.” He walked to the hallway, intermittent lightning illuminating his way.
He walked past the table to find a door open to the basement beneath the stairs. Out of the basement he felt faint gusts of wind. Shaking his head, he closed the door and walked back to the TV room.
Then many things happened.
There was lightning now, flashing with an increasing frequency, illuminated more than the dust. In bursts of light he perceived a shape gathering out of the floating particles. It looked to him like a mid-sized man in a ghost costume who’d pulled a bedsheet over his head.
Lightning flashed once more and Zack found himself face to face with a figure that opened neon blue eyes on to him, floating in darkness.
Zack screamed. The door to the basement flew open and a wind swept him downwards with the force of a vacuum. He hit the floor and was knocked out cold.
He woke up in the basement, a single light bulb lighting a small, spare, dark room from overhead.
A strap of the kind you find on a paramedic’s chair bound his head. His hands were bound to the arms of the chair, needles pointed directly at the spaces between his knuckles. His legs were held firmly in place by medical stabilizers with needles normally used to hold broken bones in place. If he moved his hands or knees, the needles prodded deeper.
His body was arched in a way that forced him to look directly at a television hanging on a wall in front of him. The organs holding his eyes in place hurt him as he struggled to look around. He could only control his eyes, his mouth and his toes.
The television turned on, illuminating the room with the blue glow of a DVD Video logo. A menu came up with a single option: “Play.”
The video juxtaposed idyllic images of skiing and snowboarding in vast terrain against a neighbourhood of luxury homes. Zack watched as a family settled in bathrobes in a living room with upholstered couches and a grand piano. He saw a couple relax in a hot tub on the balcony. He watched a mother tuck her kids into bed at night.
“All of this could be yours,” a familiar male voiceover said. “Family. Comfort. Healthy living. An escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.”
Zack wrestled with his straps, crying out as he began to bleed from his hands and his knees.
The television turned to two women clinking wine glasses in a hot tub. The video zoomed in on one of them, a beautiful, brown-haired woman. She looked directly out from the television and spoke.
“Come stay with us,” she said, beckoning Zack. “Forever.”
Then rotors turned and a mechanism came out the back of the chair, revealing itself as two razorblades connected like clockwork. They positioned themselves directly over his eyes. Slowly they lowered to his gaze as the woman continued to beckon him, repeating, “Forever. Forever.”
They drew closer and Zack began to scream.
Blood fell from his eyes to his chest and the needles dug further into his hands and legs as he struggled for release. He could no longer see, his only sense the sounds of the television saying, “Forever. Forever.”
Then he found himself in his bed. He felt his hands, his elbows, his knees. It was morning and outside there was snow. He looked up and saw his poster of Mike Douglas, now wilted and torn at its edges.
He rolled off his foam mattress, clutching at knees that pained him as he walked. He went to the bathroom and washed his face, looking up at the mirror to see a greyed, wrinkled visage that belied his youth. It was the face of the man he met on the bus when he came into Whistler. He looked closely to ensure he could see. His eyes had not a scratch on them. The old man’s eyes.
He walked downstairs in his one-piece ski suit and checked the phone. A message awaited him, his brother asking when he could come home to visit his father’s grave. He deleted the message.
He walked down Kaden Drive to the Highway, skis in hand, his knees paining him as he moved. He caught the bus to the base of the mountain.
Zack sat at the back and, not wanting to hear anything but his thoughts as he arched his head out the window to look at the landscape, put on his iPod and turned it to the one song he had on his playlist: “The Sound of Silence.”