The House Call
by P.S.Gifford
forum: The House Call
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

......... ....... ..... ..  

The House Call


           It was almost ten on that wet and stormy evening as Dr. Charles Goodman pulled his old battered Ford into the overgrown driveway, which was three miles outside of town, and half a mile from its closest neighbor.

           Dr. Goodman who had quite recently graduated from medical school had always longed to be a doctor, ever since he was a child; even then he realized that the town’s only physician, Jeremiah Green, was far behind modern times. When he heard that Dr.Green had finally decided to retire he considered it was serendipity and promptly invested all the resources that he had into a modest property and modified the downstairs into surgery. However, upon his arrival, Charles discovered to his dismay that old cantankerous Jeremiah had reconsidered his decision to retire - at least for the time being. Now Charles had to make the most of what ever business he could muster up; which wasn't much, as small towns' folk are always very reluctant to change, unless it is forced upon them.

           A house call. I can't believe I got talked into making a house call, he contemplated as he climbed out from the warmth of the car and into the cold downpour. He pulled his raincoat tight about him, "and on a wicked night such as this to boot."

           All at once the coal black night sky became illuminated by a powerful streak of lightning and a roaring round of thunder seemed to shake the heavens themselves. Charles, somewhat startled, glanced up at the large Victorian house and managed to glimpse briefly the gargoyles perched high up on the roof whose terrifying faces appeared to be mocking him.Scowling in disgust at his over active imagination he hastily walked over the crumbling cobblestone pathway to the cover of the entranceway. Wiping the rain from his eyes he studied the over sized mahogany front door for a moment; then finally suppressing his trepidation he shrugged his shoulders and rang the bell. Haunting chimes instantly echoed throughout the house once more rattling his frayed nerves. Rampant images formed in his avid imagination as waited for a response; images created from the multitude of wild rumors about Mrs. Higgins - the house’s owner - that had prevailed throughout the small town ever since he was a young child.

           "Old Mrs. Witchy Higgins," they had nicknamed her. That had been almost twenty-five years ago and she had seemed ancient even way back then. None of the children would dare venture to close to her house, afraid that she might catch them.

           In a few moments, he heard the door being unbolted and the door unhurriedly creaked open...He found himself trembling.He took a long, deep breath before he was finally able to speak, allowing himself time to carefully examine the seemingly frail old lady that was now in standing front of him smiling.

           Utterly harmless, he concluded to himself , ashamed that such an educated man as he had been so very vulnerable to such childish superstitions.

           "Hello," he said with a new found assertion, "I am here regarding Mr. Carrington."

           Mrs. Higgins' expression suddenly transformed from a gentle smile into a warm welcoming grin.

           "Please, please come in from that horrid rain and cold," she urged, ushering him inside. "What a truly dreadful evening this is."

           Charles obliged and soon discovered himself in a dark hallway which had to have been almost seventy feet long. The paneled walls were covered with dozens of wonderfully detailed oil portraits.

           "Please take off your wet coat and I will take you directly to Mr. Carrington." She pointed to a coat stand. Her voice was buoyant and sounded as if it belonged to a far much younger woman.

           "You see, it was really most very naughty of him," she continued, "he fell out of the tree wh ile trying to escape. He is such a mischievous boy you know and the poor dear hurt himself rather bad I am afraid. This way please. He is just through here."

           A cat! Charles thought to him self dismayed, She has called me out for a stupid cat.

           Mrs. Higgins led the now bewildered doctor along the hallway and as he cautiously walked along he could swear that the meticulously painted eyes in the paintings were desperately trying to tell him something.

           All at once Mrs. Higgins swung about and there was a sudden flash.

           "What on Earth?" Charles yelled as he rubbed his now dazed eyes.

           "Just a photo my dear…You see I am a painter and I like to paint from photographs. They are a sort of keepsake you see, a way I can forever remember your wonderful act of kindness towards my beloved Mr. Carrington."

           Then they arrived at the end of the passageway which met the grand double stai rway. Mrs. Higgins stopped.

           "Up here?" Charles queried, wishing now he had never come.

           "No, down here," Mrs. Higgins said as she pulled open a door underneath the stairwell.

           This is a new low, he reflected to himself as he stared down into the dark ominous cellar.

           "That is right," Mrs. Higgins enthused as she rubbed her hands together with excitement. "Mr. Carrington is injured down there. There is no electric light I am afraid…But here, use my flashlight."

           Charles wanted desperately to turn and leave but he saw how hopeful Mrs. Higgins eyes were.

           This cat is probably her only companion and it might kill her if anything happened to it, he thought to himself as he tried to sum up the courage this was going to take.He smiled at the old lady and reluctantly Charles turned on the light and began to climb the steep stone stairs downward. The flashlight that she had given him barely gave off any light and a disgusting, pungent smell of rotting flesh filled his nostrils.

           There must be dead rats down here which the cat has killed, he reasoned.
All at once there was a hideous piercing sound, and he became aware that something rather large was rapidly moving towards him. He frantically shone the light up just in time to catch glimpse of an enormous claw as it ripped at his cheek.He hastily attempted to race back up the stairs.

           "I thought it was a tabby cat down there!" he screamed in horror as the sweat beaded upon his now bloodied face as he tried desperately to clamber back up the stairs.

           "Now whatever made you think Mr. Carrington was a cat?" Mrs. Higgins said giggling as her faded eyes now sparkled. She then slammed the door shut and bolted it.

           "Feeding time Mr. Carrington," she cooed lovingly. "Come and get it!"


           Mrs. Higgins, a month later, was proudly hanging her new painting amongst the others in the hallway when she heard a familiar rumbling from under the stairs.

           "I think I should order a pizza to be delivered," she whispered to herself as she began to cackle uncontrollably.


The end



copyright 2005 P.S.Gifford.

I am a transplanted Englishman living a life unbefitting on the Southern Californian coast. I have had numerous of fiction published in ezines, most recently in,,, and
. I also have my own web site