Entry VIII: Home
Date: Friday, June 19th, 2015
I slowly walked down our street towards home. I could barely will my legs to move but I knew I was close now. The questions laid heavily on my mind and made me feel like I was carrying bricks with me. The third gate down the street was our gate. The neighborhood’s local postbox was stuffed full and a letter was sticking out as if someone hadn’t pushed it all the way in. I knew it wasn’t right, but… the envelope was addressed to Norman. There was no return address but the handwriting looked familiar. I took a deep breath and tore open the package.
Norman,I entered our backyard, the rain gave me a terrible sense of foreboding and it chilled me through my clothes. I was expectant, but also… afraid. I held my breath as I approached my… our back door. I was terrified to step inside. The house was painfully quiet, the only sound was my own breathing, ragged and strained. I clicked the light switch by the door; the power was off. In the darkness, I bumped into the kitchen table. I remembered having breakfast here on this very table, was that yesterday? Or some time before? I had lost track of all time. I swung the flashlight back and forth in wide arcs. I could see the door to the basement and it was locked. Where had I put the damned key?
I’m sending this to you in a letter because I’m afraid to tell you this in person. What we did… well, it was wrong. My husband isn’t an easy man to be… with… but he IS my husband and your friend. I need some time to sort this out, away from you both. I’m going away for a while. I’m going to tell him, Norman… so don’t you think you can hold that against me. Maybe we’ll work it out. I’m not sure I even want to, but he deserves at least that much.
I went to the front door to find a small pile of mail on the floor. How long had I been away? Why hadn’t Rachel picked this up? Most of the contents were bills; there was a credit card bill in there too. I ripped the bill open and read it; to my surprise it said something about cancelling my credit card due to nonpayment. What the hell? I ran upstairs, ignoring the pain in my leg, hoping to find something… anything. There on a cabinet in the hall, I found the last missing piece from my wallet. The old photo of Rachel and I stared back at me, reminding me of better times. It didn’t make me feel terribly comfortable but I replaced the photo in my wallet. I hoped that I would feel like I had gotten a part of my life back but the image just made me feel uneasy. Why had I thrown it away?
In our family room, I saw the large television. I had purchased it before I knew I was going to lose my job. I felt pretty guilty about it afterward, but by then it was too late. I walked down the hallway, the mirror had been smashed to pieces and scattered around the floor. I stepped over the broken glass and went into the bathroom. I stared at the sink, one of the taps always stuck. I promised Rachel I would fix it but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. There never seemed to be enough time but now I wondered what I had wasted all that time on. My eyes glanced at the bathtub. We were lucky enough to get a house with one of those wonderful old claw-footed tubs. It was something Rachel always enjoyed using and its aesthetic appeal made the average bathroom stand out. I looked in the mirror but didn’t recognize the man staring back at me. In a single night, my entire life had been transformed into something… unimaginable.
I entered our bedroom, hoping to find Rachel sitting there but I was alone. My laptop had been left on and it only had a tiny bit of power left. On the screen was a website about the old water tower. I remembered where I had put the basement key and opened the top drawer of the desk. I pocketed it and continued searching the room. The bookcase was filled with books that were half mine and half Rachel’s. The more closely I looked at the book collection, the more I realized that it looked like the collection in that house; I even had some of the same books as that man. My wife’s… Rachel’s suitcase was sitting on our bed. It was closed but I had a feeling I knew what was in it. I flipped open the latch and saw her suitcase was filled with clothes, toiletries, and a train ticket. Were you leaving just me… or Norman too?
I went downstairs again and unlocked the basement door. Down in the musty room was where we stored our old Christmas decorations. There were also garbage bags stuffed with dry paint cans and supplies. I saw a glint of metal on the ground and picked up a small key, I tried to remember what it went to but I couldn’t. There was also a pile of old boxes filled with clothes, tools, and other things that we obviously hadn’t thrown out yet. I stared at all the unfinished projects like the divider wall I put up last summer. I built it so we could create a separate room in the basement yet I hadn’t finished it yet so the door stuck and the drywall was poorly installed. I might be able to break through it if I found something heavy enough.
I remembered what the key I had found opened and sprinted back to the second floor. There was a small utility closet there and I knew I might be able to find something to break down the divider wall. I placed the key into the keyhole and it unlocked with a click that seemed to echo throughout the empty house. Inside the closet, I found a heavy crowbar, this should work. I went back to the basement and with a heave; I swung the crowbar at the wall. I smashed a hole large enough to step through and as I did, my breath caught in my throat. This was it, I don’t know why, but for some reason I thought Rachel might be down here. Was she okay? She had to be okay.
Behind the divider wall I found a filthy-looking pile of rags that had been dumped in the corner. The stench coming from them was awful and made my eyes water. I was terrified to even touch the pile… to see what laid within… but I knew I had to; I had come this far. After all this searching, after all I had seen… when I looked within the rags… wrapped within the filthy rags, pale and still… was Rachel. She was covered in fading bruises and what appeared to be cuts. Her chest was a horrible mess of blood and dirt, and I couldn’t bear to look at it. The knife in my boot, the gun in my pocket… were they the tools of her murder? I thought about all I had seen and wondered if any of it could help me figure out who had done this to her. Who had done this to my wife, who would do this to Rachel?
When I couldn’t stay there any longer, I stepped away on shaky legs and made my way back upstairs. Reluctantly, exhausted from my journey, I could no longer resist the urge to close my eyes. I don’t know how long I slept, it was more like I was unconscious, but I awoke hoping to wake from this nightmare. When I glanced around the bedroom, I realized that nothing had changed, Rachel was gone forever. I looked at the travel books Rachel liked to read, thinking I may be able to find some place to go. How would I pay for an airplane ticket? My credit card had been cancelled. Then I remembered the wallet and how I had found its contents throughout my journey. Either I dropped that stuff or somebody else did. Maybe I was sleepwalking again, or maybe someone stole it from me. Norman’s store, the wood, the water tower… was I at those places before? I didn’t see how it could have happened any other way. I must have been the one to lose my wallet and its contents, but what does that mean…?
I willed my body to move and headed down the hall towards the bathroom. When I passed the broken mirror, within the few broken pieces that remained I could see my face had grown pale and weak. I couldn’t bear to look again; it was like I didn’t actually expect a reflection. I felt empty and drained. I stood in front of the sink and saw in the grimy glass the shadow of myself, a whisper. I pulled out something from my pocket, it was the keycard I found in the factory, the one that allowed me to slip through that door. It seemed to me that it was probably Norman’s but if that was true, what was he doing back at the plant? Did I think Norman was going back to the factory? It must have been him; he must have been using the old locker room. Then I pulled out the old photo of that man and his wife. I found it in that house; I recalled those faded remains I had found, deep underneath the house in the tunnels. What had he done there? Well, what did I think? Was that man involved in this whole mess somehow? Definitely… those tunnels, the odd tools in his house, and the remains of his wife… he wasn’t innocent, that’s for sure.
I went to the family room and sat down. I pulled out the letter that I had taken from the postbox. Rachel, were you really having an affair with Norman? But why? I didn’t think things were that bad… in the letter, Rachel seemed concerned, she almost seemed worried of what Norman might do. Did he… did he do that to Rachel? I was sure of it, she wanted to end their affair and that bastard… he killed her for it. A lot of it made sense; Norman was clearly seeing Rachel a lot so he had plenty of time to plan it out. He knew where we lived, obviously. Is that why Rachel looked so scared when I came home that day? What had happened to me? Did Norman knock me out or something? I gazed at the television I had purchased while I was trying to figure out what happened, when it hit me… from now on, I’d have no one to get angry with me for stupid things like buying this TV.
I went to my desk, sat down and, leafed through the notebook I found between the rocks in the wood. In it was a list of female names… and Rachel’s was the last on that list. I recalled the names I saw scratched out on that old desk, deep within those musty tunnels. Was the man in that house really up to something? I noticed my old office safe tucked into the corner of the closet. I used to keep tax records and other important documents in it. It used a digital passcode lock but I didn’t have the code, maybe I left it somewhere. I went downstairs and to the front door. The mail still sat there, heaped on the floor. How long had Rachel been lying in the basement? I moved away from the front door like a spirit aimlessly haunting our house. I entered the kitchen and could only think that there would be no more dinners here. No more chit chat over breakfast… at least not for us.
My eyes found the basement door and all I could do was stare at it until I felt like I had bore holes through it. It seemed like I had seen all there was, maybe, I thought, I was ready to go back into the basement. Maybe there wouldn’t be anything for me to find, but I had to take one last look. I descended the basement steps and stood in the middle of the room like a frozen statue. Before I knew what I was doing, I had the knife held in my hands. If I was guilty, I could take this to a warm, safe place, and do something about it. No, no… there were other means of dealing with this. I pulled out the gun from my pocket and slowly caressed it. If I wanted to end it, I could do it; I could do it with this gun. It felt like I was carrying an anvil but I couldn’t let it go. I realized now that I was in the basement and that I couldn’t go back into that room again. I had already seen too much.
I went back upstairs to the bedroom, the laptop was now dead but I found some notes and loose paper in the desk drawers. There was a yellow sticky note with an eight-digit code on it: ‘4R3UHER3.’ The code was for the safe but what kind of phrase was that? I punched it into the digital safe display and pulled open the small safe door. I peered inside and found a photo of Rachel and I when we first moved to town. In it, we were smiling outside the front of the house, which looked like a real mess, but we looked happy. Odd, I couldn’t remember who took that photo. There was also an envelope in the safe with something written on it: ‘DO NOT OPEN UNTIL I TELL YOU.’ I guess this was as good a time as any to see what was inside. I tore open the envelope and removed the yellow-lined paper inside. I began to read the familiar looking handwriting.
I know this whole event has probably been pretty difficult. You can’t imagine how hard it’s been for me too (well, maybe you can). That isn’t meant to be an excuse, but… well, I hope you can better understand why I’ve done what I’ve done. Moving to this town seemed like such a dream… a quiet place to get established, to live out our lives, and to be together. But you knew as well as I did that things quickly changed. Your drinking was one thing but as you grew more distant, as you retreated into that world of yours… well, it was clear you didn’t need me as much. In fact, maybe you never needed me at all, but it took all this to make you realize. In the end though, you may never forgive me for this… you may never forgive yourself… but this is probably for the best. You’ll be healthier for this. I’m just sorry it had to happen this way.I sat down at the kitchen table and stared at the gun in my hand. It didn’t seem so heavy this time. If I wanted to, I could use the gun to finally end this. The question was… did I think I deserved it? Did I? Was this my fault? Did I deserve to die? Living in this town hadn’t been easy. The plant had helped in some way to keep me grounded. It kept me in line, gave me something to do, and helped me get away from my past. When the factory closed, everything changed. I guess that was when I started sleepwalking, disappearing for hours at a time. I had piles of doctors’ reports but nothing seemed to help, not even drinking, but I swear I had tried to give it up. I know it! The sleepwalking never really went away but I know Rachel had tried… I know she had tried to be there for me, even when everything was falling apart. This night had unearthed terrible truths but I knew it was the final act of a long-standing horror I’d been living.
Waking up in that house tonight was the final cruelty. I wish I had remained unconscious in that room forever. It was obvious to me that the man I had found in that house had something to do with all this. Could he have killed Rachel? It started to seem that there were too many things I had seen to think otherwise. After making it out of those tunnels, I thought those sewers might feel safer, I was wrong. The security tape I had watched showed someone being attacked by what looked like two people. I had found the contents of my wallet scattered throughout town. Why the hell had I been out there? Had my sleepwalking gone to some new extreme? The thought that I couldn’t account for my whereabouts, but knew I had been to the wood and even Norman’s place… well, it was terrifying. Was I out wandering the town while Rachel was home alone getting murdered? I didn’t know what that meant, but at least I had recovered my things… hopefully, I thought, that would cover my tracks so I wouldn’t be blamed for all of this.
Deep within the wood, was where things became truly awful and finding that notebook only made things worse. Rachel’s name had been on that list, so what terrible plan was she a part of? There was a similar list of names on the desk back in those tunnels as well. What was the connection? It was clear, at least, that Norman had been going back to the old plant. Maybe he was the one who had boarded up the locker room and who had been drinking up there in that secret hiding place. So had he killed that security guard then? He must have; maybe he was found out, or the guard had caught him on patrol. Damnit Norman! Why? After the factory, I thought I might find some solace if I could just get to Norman’s store but all I had found were more horrors… and more questions. Now that I really considered it, that’s when I should have seen it coming. Norman, you were dead and it was damn hard to feel bad about that. It was clear you and Rachel were more than just friends… but obviously whatever had been going on had gone badly. So why did you kill her? Did she want out of whatever you two were getting into? Were you responsible for the other murders? And what of those other horrible things that had gone on in town? I found that I could find no peace that much was certain, but this way, I didn’t have to look you in the eye or sit through some kind of trial and wonder what was going through your head.
When I had marched through the rain towards home, I desperately clung to the hope that this would end and I guess, in a way it did. How could I have known how hopeless it all was? I had started to feel as disoriented as when I sleepwalked. To think of it now… going through the back door and into the kitchen should have tipped me off that something was horribly wrong. There was no sound from the television, radio, even the air was still. But… but seeing Rachel there, lying ruined and discarded in the basement… that was a horror I could never have imagined. That other man I had found was involved in all this somehow, I knew it. Maybe he and Norman were partners, after all, how could one person kill that many people without getting caught. But I knew it was Norman, that traitorous son of a bitch, who had done the deed and killed Rachel. Whatever was going on, he was the one who took Rachel away from me. I hated him for it more than I could possibly express. If he wasn’t already dead, I would have marched to his house and shot him in the head… but that offered me no strength, no solace now. Rachel was gone now, and I was too, forever.
I checked the gun again… it still had a few bullets left. I felt surprisingly calm as I sat there with it in my hand. I could feel its weight and perhaps it was that sense, that presence, that allowed me to understand what had to be done. Rachel was dead and there was nothing I could do about it… nothing but one final act.
I bought Home for $2.99, which was an extremely high price since it ended up going on sale for $0.99 a few weeks later, but I don’t regret paying the higher price. What I found wrapped up in a very basic game was a really interesting story. I liked how the story tended to implicate different people in the murder of Rachel and the other women depending on how much you explored. I actually played this game through three times. The first, it seemed like Norman was the killer of all of the people. The second, seemed to point towards the man in the house, the first dead body you discover. The third time, well the third time made me feel like I had killed Rachel and Norman out of rage and just happened to uncover another murderer in the house. I really enjoyed how the story evolved as I played through it and while it wasn’t much of a horror game; its dark elements definitely set the tone. As to what I think really happened? My guess is Norman killed Rachel and wanted to frame the playable character, who I personally call Hal, for her murder. Hal somehow finds out and confronts Norman who spills the beans on his partner in crime, the man in the house. Hal kills Norman and then goes on the hunting spree for the mystery man. Hal gets close but is unable to stop the man from killing the security guard and the two campers. Back in the sewer facility, Hal and the sewer worker try to stop the man, but the worker is killed instead. Hall chases the man all the way back to his house and kills him in the bedroom, but not before the man can seriously wound Hal. Hal blacks out and when he wakes up, doesn’t remember a thing. Whether or not that is what really happened, I don’t think we will ever know… there are some questions that can never be answered.