Throughout my early years, my family and I found ourselves moving to seven different homes. While this might seem unusual, it’s a common occurrence in the UK. The reason behind our frequent relocations was the waiting list for permanent council housing, which typically took several years. As a result, we would spend an average of two years in each temporary residence. Our experiences in these different houses varied, ranging from good, characterized by cleanliness and space, to bad, which included encounters with rodents and less-than-friendly neighbors, some of whom were racist. However, none of these experiences quite matched the eerie tale of the old terraced house we inhabited in Walthamstow back in 2006.
Before we moved into this particular house, we had an unsettling encounter with the landlady. She came across as blunt and impolite, imposing strict rules upon us. She explicitly forbade us from making any alterations to the house and even went so far as to instruct us not to open one particular door, which struck us as highly unusual. My parents, keen to avoid any confrontations, accepted her conditions, and we settled into the house. The dwelling was, to be frank, quite spacious, but it was in dire need of renovation. Its single-glazed windows were cracked, making it impossible to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.
The first week passed relatively uneventfully, aside from the persistently cold environment. My father’s curiosity eventually got the best of him, prompting him to pick the lock on the forbidden door. The rest of us eagerly stood by as he unlocked the door, revealing an empty room. In the center of the room, hung an oversized and, to say the least, disconcerting portrait. It depicted a crimson, demonic face with horns and sharp teeth, perched ominously on the wall. This discovery led us to speculate that the landlady may have been involved in some form of devil worship. Why else would she instruct us not to enter this room, and what was the significance of this single, sinister portrait? My father, irked and perturbed, seized the portrait and discarded it next to the dustbin in our front garden.
From that day forward, our home took on an entirely different atmosphere. It felt as though an ever-watchful presence lurked within its walls. I despised being alone in the…