Cold House

Gene Lass


Cora never remembered waking or sleeping. She simply was awake or not. Nor was she aware of taking steps as she moved. She just moved in a direction and stopped as she chose. This time she chose to stop on the landing overlooking the foyer.

                The house was dim, lit only by moonlight. The windows in her room were long shuttered and the glass painted black. Cora could see in the dark, but the moonlight made it easier for her. Not that there was much in the house to see. The house had been free of furnishings for years.

                “Play with us! Play with us Cora!” Eddie chanted from the foyer below. He skittered back and forth on all fours, always grinning, never taking his eyes from her. With his sandy hair, pale skin, and blue eyes, was once a handsome boy. But these days his ribs poked through the flesh of his back, and the joints of his arms and legs jutted out at unnatural angles, making him a less-than-handsome-handsome monster.

                “Yes, play with us Cora,” came a wispy and musical voice from the corner. Violet, the girl behind the voice, was so still she was almost invisible. With dark hair, dark eyes, and dust-colored skin, she blended in to the shadows. Violet rarely moved. Play for her was watching Eddie and Cora play. Eddie moved enough for both of them.

                Cora’s mouth lifted slightly in what might have been a smile. She raised her arms just above the rail of the landing and Eddie leaped at them, snapping his jaws playfully. Cora was almost a reverse image of Violet. Where Violet’s hair was dark, Cora’s was light, almost white and her skin was even paler than Violet’s, stark alabaster to Violet’s flat flour-white.

                Cora’s eyes were the most distinctive, yet beautiful difference. They were very round, very large, and pure iris-less white. Not unkind, yet not fully human.

She knew there was essentially no life in the house. Eddie and Violet would have sought out and found every insect, spider, mouse, grub, or whatever small moving thing in the house and eaten it long before Cora awoke. If they had not, Cora herself would sense the tiny lives with much greater accuracy than their own comparatively feeble senses of sight, hearing, and smell. Cora’s senses would sharpen throughout the night as her hunger grew. At the moment she knew there was a bird on the roof. If it was here in the room she would be able to hear its heart and smell its blood. Later, when the hunger was upon her, she would be able to see any blood, even as little as one drop, as if it glowed red.

                For now she enjoyed playing with Eddie and Violet. as much as she was able to enjoy anything. Her primary passion was feeding, and the joy and release of blood. After that she enjoyed efficiency. .

She may have learned the appreciation of efficiency from the Old One who created her. “Waste no word, no movement,” he said. “Be my quiet, beautiful killer. Make cats look slow and lazy.” There was no furniture in Cora’s house because she needed none. She spoke only when she needed to. And she admired others who did the same.

It was so hard to remember now, but Cora didn’t think she was like this before. She remembered a time when sunshine was warm, not painful. She remembered running through flowers, laughing, with another girl, perhaps a sister?

                Eddie and Violet were her creations. At one time long ago they had been friends. Cora had been changed, and after a time she changed her friends. They were imperfect to be sure, but they amused her.

                Eddie jumped and chomped, almost touching Cora’s hand. Violet laughed, “Go Eddie! Catch Cora!”

                He backed up, then leaped at the landing, misshapen hands grabbing at the railing. Cora backed up, no longer attempting to smile.

                “Now I’ll get you!” Eddie laughed. “Come on! Play, Cora!”

                “Play, Cora!” Violet shouted from her corner.

                The day in the flowers was the only day Cora could remember. After that it was eyes in the night, in her room, near the open window, white eyes staring at her in the dark, and cold hands reaching for her as she trembled in her bed.

                That’s the last memory she had of the time before. Then it was images of the glowing eyes, a voice, different cities, and a hard cold hand around her soft cold one. Later there was running, and coming home where she found this cold empty house. Eddie and Violet. Their making and remaking. Brief images she could call up in times if not possessed by the hunger.

                Eddie scrabbled up the railing of the landing and heaved himself into the air.

                “Got ya!” he bellowed triumphantly at the peak of his leap.

                Cora stopped, extended her arm, grabbed Eddie’s throat, and snapped his neck. Eddie went limp in her grasp and Cora tossed his cooling, distorted body back over the railing, where it crashed to the foyer floor.

                Such a imperfect, inefficient creature. Cora could remake him again, or make another like him. Until then she had Violet to play with. And soon it would be time to feed.



Gene Lass has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in all areas of publishing, from books and magazines to blogs. He released his first book of poetry, Like a Moth on a Pin, in May 2019 and his second book, Candle in Oblivion, later that year. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Electric Velocipede, KSquare, The Albatross, and Every Day Poems. His story, “Fence Sitter” also appears in the January 2020 issue of Coffin Bell.