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Authors: Benjamin Carrico

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The Mephistophelean House

BOOK: The Mephistophelean House
2.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Title Page

The Mephistophelean House

Moving In

The Sickness

The Seven Year Curse

The Investigation

The Gargoyles

The Thing at the Ranch

Moving Out

The House on Asylum Road

Elysian Fields

Menos Hall

Malebolge Manor

The Bolgia

The Red Box

The Mephistophelean House

by Benjamin Robert Carrico


This book is a work of fiction. Names,

places, characters and incidents are

products of the author’s imagination.

Any resemblance to actual events,

locales or persons, living or dead,

is entirely coincidental.


Copyright © 2013 by Benjamin Robert Carrico.

All rights reserved, including the right of

reproduction in whole or in part in any form.


ISBN-10: 0990550702

ISBN-13: 978-0-9905507-0-9


Chapter 1

The Mephistophelean House


Freezing rain fell.

The snow was like glass.

“Where should we look?”


Matthew white-knuckled the wheel.

“We won’t find anything.”

“It’s worth a try.”

The engine pinged.

“Fuel's starting to gel. Better pull over.”

The Buckthorns on Taylor were gnarly and bare. The snowmen were covered in ice. The engine cut out and we rolled to a stop. Matthew turned off the headlights.

“Here's a good place as any.”

“All right. Let's go.”

“What's that?"

Matthew pointed to a wheel on the corner.

“Let's take a look.”

A cynosure fixed to the base of the wheel bore the colophon mark of an epigraph seal. A mirror was set in the stone tile below. I got on my knees to brush off the wet snow. Mouth. Eyes. Ear. Hair. The pieces held up. But the whole wasn't there.

“Want to spin?”

“No thanks. I believe in free will.”

I spun the wheel. I was desperate. A fire gutted the second story of my apartment building. The landlord was arrested for arson. My roommate, Geoff Jonsrud, moved to Sublimity. Weeks of looking for an affordable place in inner-southeast Portland resulted in desperation. I combed craigslist for apartments, rooms, and sub-lets, finding Matthew in similar straits. I didn’t know anything about him. He didn’t know anything about me.

We were complete strangers.

“What do you do, anyway,” I asked.

“I’m between jobs.”

“Is that why you're moving?”

“My roommates had a…falling out.”


“Borderline personality disorder. Never look a gift horse in the mouth.”

“Borderline personality disorder?”

“There is no such thing as coincidence, Ben. Everything happens for a reason.”

“I thought you said you believed in free will.”

“You’re a smart guy.”

Matthew patted my shoulder.

“What happened?”

“Things got out of hand.”


“In one ear and out the other. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.”

The wheel rasped in the snow.

The colophon pointed to a tree in a forest of sand.

It read, ‘The Weeping Tree.’

“The Weeping Tree.”

We left the bio diesel in a row of parked cars. Portland was a ghost town. Hawthorne was a museum of taverns, jewelers, sword mongers, psychics, saloons, tattooists, boutiques, chocolatiers, tea houses and head shops. From Colonial Heights to Sunnyside’s mid-city mansions, matchbox condos, Craftsmans, bungalows, and duplexes, there were no ‘For Rent’ signs.

It was snowing so hard I could barely see.


“Not a single sign.”

“I can’t believe it.”

The transformer hummed, snowflakes pouring like salt from a shaker. I shivered maniacally, brushing the snow from my eyes.

Matthew chattered.

“Let’s go back.”

I stared at the warmly lit, advent-calendar-like windows.

“What made us think we could just go out and find a place? We don’t have a lot of money and we don’t know anybody. We‘d have better luck in Felony Flats.”

“I’m not going back,” I said.

“What do you suggest?”

“Let’s call it quits.”

We trudged back to the car. Half an inch of freezing rain had accumulated on the bio diesel. Matthew tugged the handle. The door remained fast.


I wrenched the door ajar. We got in. Matthew throttled the motor.

“I don’t know what made us think we could find a place. Hawthorne and Belmont are like Height and Ashbury, Babylon and Bohemia rolled into one sales-taxless post-capitalist bacchanalian haven.”

I sank back in the cold leather seat.

“We’d be better off looking somewhere else.”

The cabin warmed, thawing the ice that accompanied my misery.

“Try driving up Hawthorne.”

“We can’t afford anything on Mount Tabor.”

“Do you have a better idea?”

Ice needles, frost flowers, agates and crowns, branch collars gilded and heavy, fissures that ran through the ice-meddled jamb, houses that were dark and empty. A barbican stood at the top of the hill barely visible in the algific aril, a sepia lighthouse's lantern room glow disappeared into the gusting down-pouring snow.

“What’s that?”

I pointed up Hawthorne.

“That’s the old asylum.”


“Hawthorne used to be called Asylum Road.”

“Look. A sign.”

Nailed to a pole on the side of the road was a ‘For Rent’ sign.

Matthew pulled over.

“It can't be. $1200 a month for that?”

A triplex with flagstone siding was buried in the snow.

Matthew squinted.

“No. Look. 1331 NE 45th. It’s North.”

Matthew plugged the number into his phone.

“No answer.”

“Try again.”

Matthew redialed.

“No luck.”

“What do we do?”

“Let’s take a look.”

“Why? Chances are someone’s already taken it.”

“Nah. They would have taken down the sign.”

“What if we can’t get a hold of the owner?”

“No harm in looking.”

The bio diesel plowed 45th, counting down the 1300 block.

“We’re almost there. It’s on this block.”

“Look at the numbers. We’ve gone too far. We missed it.”

“How could we have missed it?”

An old church stood on the corner of 45th and Main. A cracked staircase led through some Hawthorn trees, a low garden wall, an easement, and an empty lot.

“There’s nothing here,” Matthew said.

“1331 SE 45th. It's got to be here.”

“Look for yourself.”

We got out.

“I wonder what's through those trees.”

Matthew cut through the easement.

“Ben! Take a look at this.”


“I was right. There is a 1331.”

The Mephistophelean House, like any other house, was the sort of place you might miss driving by, nondescript, unremarkable, indistinguishable from all the other houses on the block, the Mephistophelean House was a House you’d find in any neighborhood, in any town, a House you’d remember a couple doors down, a place you thought you’d recognize, although you’d never been inside. Set back from the street in a ring of Hawthorns, the power line from the transformer was torn.

“A tree fell on the line.”

We stood in the yard looking up at the Mephistophelean House, dormers pitch-black, eaves raked in frost, windows like a house in a dream. Chutes of ice sluiced a sill on the frieze, colorless icicles hung from the trees. The feeling of strangeness then slowly increased as we stood on the porch in a pile of debris. The living room fixtures were plated in brass, each with at least twenty five panes of glass. A balustered staircase across the front hall had a wainscot which ran the whole length of the wall.

“Looks abandoned.”

“I can’t believe it’s only $1200. Look at the size of it! Who knows how many rooms it has?”

“I don’t like it.”

“What’s not to like?”

“Strange how these houses look similar.”

“It's a Craftsman. They built them from kits.”

I stood on the porch looking up at the Mephistophelean House.

"It’s no good. The numbers disconnected.”

“Maybe you wrote the wrong number.”

“I remember the number.”

“Wait a minute. We're in luck. Somebody’s home.”


“They see us. They're coming to the door.”

The Hawthorns unloosed a crystalline diaspora.

The front door opened.


There was no one there.

“Matthew, there’s no….”

“Storm’s knocked the power out, title’s in escrow. Come back another day, House ain’t ready to show.”

The outline of a hulking figure stood in the hall.

“See,” I said, “power's out. Better come back later.”

“It’s now or never. Wait and it'll be gone,” Matthew cleared his throat. “We’d like to see the place now, if you’d be willing to show us.”

“I’ll show you if you see what you came to see.”


“Are you kidding?”

“What have we got to lose?”

“Free will,” I joked.

“I don’t believe in free will.”

A phantasmal snow fell. I braced against the cold, not wanting to go in, not wanting to wait outside, but Matthew entered and I was forced to follow, the glow from the lamp fading on the hardwood floor. The Mephistophelean House was larger than it appeared, bleak and cheerless, with white walls and mahogany wainscoting, tapered square columns, and handcrafted mixed material woodwork.

An inordinate amount of keys jangled on a ring.

“That’s a lot of keys,” I said.

“There are a lot of doors that need locking,” came the reply.

“Are you the landlord,” Matthew asked.

“Something like that.”

“My name’s Matthew. This is Ben. And you are?”


“Thank you for showing us the place, Mr. Ogemtel.”

Blood-tertiary hardwoods rose-hipped cabinets of cherry and glass, 10ft ceilings and pocket doors, a dumbwaiter, scullery and kitchen. At times it seemed the jangling keys weren’t there, and Matthew and I were alone.

“I don’t like this,” I said.

“It’s an old House, 100 years old, 100 years old this year. It’s well made of Craftsman’s trade, the timbers are well sewn, old growth beams from old tall trees cut down and interwoven. A House, a hill, a basement still, a Home for you two boys. A palace for a pauper’s price. Don’t worry about the noise.”

“I don’t know what kind of references you need from us Mr. Ogemtel,” Matthew interrupted, “but as far as we’re concerned, we love the place and we want to move in. We brought a certified check, right Ben?”

“Sometimes they get out.”

“Can you do a credit check here or is it going to take a couple of hours? What are the lease terms, by the way? Would we have the option of an additional year?”


“The people.”

BOOK: The Mephistophelean House
2.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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