“Maybe we should call someone?” Ximena said.

“Who?” Jordan said, giving the door a firm tug. “My sister is busy, and I’m not having her babies near this place.”

“You got parents?” Ximena slapped her hand over her mouth. She hadn’t meant to say that aloud.

“Yeah, sure,” he said, turning around. “But they’re still in Chicago. They thought I needed change. You?”

“Mamá won’t be home for at least another hour.”

He nodded. She was grateful he didn’t ask about her father.

The two began to explore the other rooms. All the windows were boarded up, and they could not find another door out. Yet all the rooms were empty, clean, not even a speak of dust.

“What do you think used to go on here?” Ximena asked, as she ran a finger down the ivory-painted plaster.

“I don’t know,” he said. “You’ve lived here longer than me.”

“Three years,” she said. “And nobody ever told me anything other than that it was cursed.”

“I’m starting to believe that.” Jordan removed his banjo and slid to the floor.

“I don’t know, there is too much pain here. Maybe it isn’t so much cursed, as hurt.”

Jordan shook his head. “A house can’t have feelings.”

Ximena sat down next to him and ran her index finger along the wood grains of the floor. “Maybe whoever lived here never left.”

Jordan let out a low whistle.

The House whistled back.

“What was that?” he hissed.

“I don’t know.”

Jordan hummed a long, low note.

The House hummed back.

“This is messed up,” he said.

Ximena agreed. But all she said was, “What do you want?”

She’d tipped her head up, as if talking to the ceiling. But the answer came from the room that held the well. A voice that sounded much like her own began to sing, “The House of the Rising Sun.”

The teens listened, silent and still, until The House had finished its song.

“You think, maybe,” Jordan whispered, “this place used to be a brothel?”

Hurt and anger pressed down on Ximena’s shoulders. “If it was, I don’t think the women had any say in it.”

“What, you mean like they were slaves?”

The House’s emotions pressed harder, before easing back, as if confirming his words.

Ximena licked her lips, before whispering, “Maybe. What if this place is older than people think?“

Jordan let out a low whistle.

The House hummed and the weight on Ximena’s shoulders eased.

“I think it likes the music,” she said.

Jordan looked thoughtful, before giving the banjo a strum.

The House continued to hum.

“You going to tell me where you got that banjo?”

His head snapped up in surprise. “Why you want to know?”

Ximena almost apologised, but then wondered why she should. Wasn’t her that suggested coming here, after all. He should have to pay a little for that. “Because we’re stuck in a humming house and what else we got to do?”

“We could sing?”

“Sure, but why don’t you tell me the story, first.”


Tell us: Do you think a building can absorb the emotions of those who once lived in it?