Paul Andersen: A haunted Monster Home on Halloween
On a balmy Halloween Day in Aspen, Mrs. Reginald Pearce flies in to inspect her husband’s latest real estate acquisition. Tired of the humdrum Hamptons, sick of surfside Santa Barbara, and fed up with the Montana hunting lodge inundated with miller moths, Aspen seems like the change they need.
Reginald would have joined Helen except that he’s been occupied bone fishing off Bermuda, shopping for a pied-à-terre in Paris, and chairing a board meeting at his New York investment firm. He will meet her in Aspen that night.
Helen arrives on the G3 with Pippin, the shiatsu, which had sprawled across her lap and snarled and snapped at the flight steward, making it a challenge to serve her usual probiotic kimchi with organic Spam. She boards the stretch limo and gazes out the window as the driver merges onto Highway 82.
Taking a right at the S-curves to avoid stoplights on Main Street, the limo passes Koch Lumber Park where four mostly naked women are displaying their perfectly sculpted bodies on the pretense of volleyball.
“What hotel is that?” asks Helen, gazing at a huge, multi-tiered edifice mushrooming out of Shadow Mountain.
“That’s not a hotel, ma’am, it’s a home,” informs the driver.
“Oh?” says Helen, feeling a tinge of envy. “Who lives there?”
“No one, really. They just come and go.”
The driver leaves Helen and Pippin at a broad flight of stone steps leading up to massive double mahogany doors in a residential enclave somewhere on the edge of Aspen. “I heard this Monster Home is haunted,” cautions the driver. “Happy Halloween!” he laughs and drives off.
Helen punches the keypad code and the big doors swing open on soundless hinges. She enters, and the doors silently closed behind her like the maw of an enormous omnivore.
Helen gazes into the cavernous residence which spreads into multiple rooms, adjoining wings and flights of stairs leading MC Escher-like to other arrays of rooms and wings. Helen sets Pippin down, hoping to locate a toilet with her homeowner GPS, when a mouse scuttles across the slate floor.
The shiatsu lets out an ear-shattering squeak and is off like a bullet. “Pipsi! Pipsi!” cries Helen, but to no avail as the white fur ball disappears around a corner. Helen drops everything and rushes after.
By the time she finds Pippin, yapping at a utility room door deep in the catacombs, Helen realizes how alone she is. With the dog clutched in her arms, she wanders a maze-like series of hallways. She remembers the limo driver’s warning and feels a creeping dread from the haunted Monster Home.
After an hour of stumbling through spa rooms, movie theaters, walk-in closets and wine cellars, Helen is totally disoriented. Every exit door she tries has been locked by the security system. She feels a malevolent spirit in this hippodrome that has now imprisoned her.
The Monster Home’s endless passages lure Helen deeper and deeper into some architect’s wet dream, and her terrified cries for help reverberate through the emptiness in ghostly echoes.
Suddenly, a voice booms from every wall. “Helen…! Helen…! I’m coming for you…!” In a heart-stopping moment of terror, Helen darts into a bathroom and collapses against a gold-plated bidet, clutching Pippin to her pounding heart.
At the entry, where Helen’s bags lay in a heap by her phone, Reginald gives up paging her with the intercom. After several hours of searching, he finds her traumatized and frozen in fear, tightly clutching the panting Pippin.
“Honey,” Reginald reassures her, “this Monster Home is the key to our fulfillment, the ultimate measure of our happiness.”
“Just get me out of here!” screams Helen. “This place is evil!
“Now, now, dear,” soothes Reginald as he guides her to the entry. “Remember, this is our dream.”
“It’s a nightmare!” she says, thrusting Pippin into Reginald’s arms, running out the front door, down the driveway and disappearing into the night.
Pippin struggles out of Reginald’s grasp, leaps to the floor and dashes down a hallway, never to be seen again. The haunted Monster Home goes back on the market the next day, and Helen goes shopping for a tiny home.
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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