Splintered bits of wood and glass were all that remained of the Garvey home. Edward gingerly stepped where the threshold had stood and scanned the mangled debris before him. Four times before he'd witnessed such carnage and anxiously strained to see what he prayed not to find. His head and hopes dropped upon spying multiple streaks of blood. The Garvey's had been home that evening.
The entire village of Gandersville was at a loss to explain what was happening to their community. No one knew where or when the next house would crumble and a state of panic was growing. If a solution wasn't found soon, the entire village would have to be evacuated.
Sirens filled the night as Edward headed home. His presence at the scene was happenstance and he didn't want to be connected with the disasters and quickened his pace.
The sight of the Garvey home had unsettled Edward. Failing at sleep, he lie awake thinking. His thoughts were interrupted by a soft glow from the skylight. He'd almost forgotten about the full moon and rose from bed. Within minutes, he'd set up a cot, lie bathed in moonlight and gradually drifted to sleep.
The next morning came foggy. Edward quietly sipped his coffee while looking out at the surrounding homes. He could just make out the silhouette of Angus Blight's hilltop, red-brick home and remembered the rent was due. Reality struck him in the pit of his stomach and he nearly dropped his mug. All of the collapsed homes were owned by Angus Blight as well as his and twelve others.
Angus Blight was a local landlord as well as Edward's lifelong acquaintance. They had grown up on the same street and Edward often chatted with him after making his monthly rent payment. It would be the perfect opportunity to get Angus's feelings on the situation.
Outwardly, things seemed normal as Edward drove up the manicured drive and past the trimmed hedges. However, upon entering, the atmosphere took on a more somber air. Angus had been in poor health of late and the housekeeper's demeanor reflected these changes.
"He's not been himself," she said softly. "Ever since that last trip to Italy he's been obsessed with that... thing on the wall!" She pointed to a large, oval mirror that had been mounted, not on the wall, but in it. However, the most remarkable feature was that the mirror itself was as black as ebony. Standing before it, he felt an extremely old, otherworldly presence. Looking into it made Edward dizzy -- as if he were being drawn into it. For a moment, he felt like a part of the house itself.
"I see you've come to make your monthly pilgrimage old friend." Edward pulled himself away from the blackness and gasped at the man's appearance.
Angus was only a few years older than Edward, but he seemed to have aged a decade since their previous meeting. He was pushing a walker and had an oxygen tank attached to the side. His hair had gone snow-white and deep creases now tracked across his face, but the wit and intelligence still remained behind his cool, grey eyes.
"Come, come friend Edward," he said with a lilt. "We all have to go sometime, but not today, eh? Let's go sit on the couch and I'll take your money."
Once seated, Edward couldn't hold back his questions. "Angus, last night the Garvey house came down. All these homes, ...they're yours."
"Yes, yes, good people the Garvey's." replied Angus with a shake of his head. "Good renters. Such a shame too."
"But only your houses are collapsing, there has to be a reason. Do you have an enemy, someone who could be somehow doing all this?"
"An enemy?" Angus seemed to grow weak at the question. "No, not an enemy. Just a visitor I've been expecting for a long while now. Besides, it will all be over soon." A sudden thought made the old man stiffen and he leaned towards Edward. "It's time you took a vacation old friend. Get out of town, out of that stuffy old house, away from this madness, eh?"
Edward gave a weak smile, then remembered the bloody scene from the previous evening. "No, I'm afraid I can't get away right now."
"Sentiment," grumbled the old man clearly frustrated at Edward's answer. "It's just wood and wire and some pipes in the ground." He seemed to be more upset with himself than Edward. "Yet, we do become attached to our homes, our various things, don't we?" He glanced around the room with its ornate furnishings and polished floor. His gaze stopped on the mirror and his mouth tightened.
"You can't take it with you!" he bellowed into the air. "Lawyers, executors, blood-sucking leeches that can't let a man be! All they believe in are their books. Well, I believe in books too, ...old books." Again his gaze drifted to the mirror.
"I'm very tired Edward," he said weakly. "Thank you for visiting and think about taking that vacation soon, eh." He rose, wheeled himself out of the room and the housekeeper rushed to assist him. As Edward turned to leave, he looked back at the mirror and thought of everything Angus had said. As he closed the door, he dropped his keys. Bending down, he noticed something odd about the foundation. The house seemed slightly off-center, adding to his gnawing suspicions.
He returned to the Garvey home. It had been cordoned off and he could barely get within fifty feet of the property. But even at that distance, he could clearly see the house hadn't exploded but imploded in on itself.. There was no piece of wood any larger than his forearm and many pieces were peppered with strange punctures. Then he saw the impression, the almost imperceptible indentation in the ground surrounding the Garvey house.
"Hey Mr. Winn," called a uniformed officer who was watching the property. "You got any ideas on what happened here? It sure wasn't a gas leak."
Edwards' mind was awhirl with a possibility. Ignoring the officer's question he raced for his car.
"What's the matter?" called the officer.
"Nothing, I just need to do some shopping."
As the sun set, Edward was exhausted. Between the stress of meeting Angus, the encounter with the black mirror and playing his hunch about what was happening to the houses, he decided to spend a quiet evening beneath the skylight and wait for the moon.
He awoke from a fitful sleep. Angus's multiple suggestions that he take a vacation kept running through his mind. The entire situation was crazy and Edward's solution was crazier still. It hinged on bits of information that might mean nothing. And if he was wrong, he could lose his life.
Inch by inch, the moon slipped into view and washed Edward in moonlight. His breathing slowed and he relaxed. Then, the moonlight vanished!
Edward opened his eyes to blackness and a deep rumbling he felt more than heard. He leapt from the cot and started downstairs when the house violently shook. A feeling of claustrophobia overcame him and he bolted for the front door. However, when he opened it, he found himself facing a red-brick wall.
A sickening, crunching, gnawing sound began somewhere upstairs. Dust and plaster filtered down from the ceiling. Edward rushed towards the nearest window and gasped to find they had all turned jet-black. The chewing sounds were growing louder and Edward stumbled to the center of the room. The sound of furniture being crushed and water pipes rupturing made him fear the worst. Evil, twisted images swirled across the windows and he briefly saw Angus's face on one pane.
This is what he meant by you can't take it with you, thought Edward. Angus was always fond of his possessions and his eighteen rental units were his crown jewels. Clearly he wasn't going to die and let someone else inherit those houses. The black mirror must be at the center of his plan and Edward now knew the terror the other families had felt when their homes were attacked.
"Angus! Stop this!" screamed Edward. "You don't want to kill me!"
The chewing sounds continued. Water had begun running down the stairway and the ceiling was beginning to disintegrate before his eyes. To his horror, a giant, gnashing maw appeared with row after row of glinting, black teeth. Edward spun for the basement, but saw that the door had buckled and couldn't be opened. He was trapped.
The sound was deafening. The black teeth grew ever closer and his home was nearly demolished. Edward flattened against the floor and ventured one last glimpse of the world before he became another bloody smear in the rubble. Streaks of orange now stained the walls, and a heavy, sweet odor filled the air. The windows also had angry streaks of orange and red. The chewing had slowed and a gurgling sound began.
Edward cautiously arose and moved towards the nearest window. The chewing had stopped and the house was deathly quiet. Amid the swirling streaks of orange, red and black appeared the face of Angus Blight with an expression of surprise and disbelief.
"Why? How?" he screamed at Edward. Then the image distorted and the window shattered, showering him with sparkling black shards.
Edward, had thrown his arms up at the explosion. He slowly lowered them as his wild, panicked eyes darted around the room. The maw was gone and the room was eerily silent save for the sound of trickling water and a few electrical snaps. He searched the ruins - picking his way through the remains of the hundreds of pumpkins and gourds he'd placed throughout the house - finally escaping through a rear window. Now facing the red-brick wall, he placed both hands against it and pushed. It yielded to his touch with a red, dusty cloud and a draft of chill, October air.
As he stumbled away from the ruins, he glanced back and gasped at the crumbling hulk of Angus Blight's red-brick home looming like some decaying parasite over the remains of his own well-chewed one. Edward's plan had worked - hinging on a memory of Angus as a child.
"You always did have such a fatal allergy to pumpkin, eh?" he said and headed towards the approaching sirens.