8 Souls First Chapter
Welcome to Villisca, where the past is covered in blood.
I have a secret.
It’s not about a crush, or an embarrassing moment, or anything exciting I did without permission. It’s not someone else’s secret that I’m keeping in confidence.
It’s my own secret. One that visits me every night.
There are two parts to this secret, and I’ll tell you both, even though you’ll think I’m crazy. Not that I’d blame you for that.
The first part is this: I’ve had the same recurring dream ever since I was little. We’re talking every single night for as long as I can remember dreaming. Seriously, every night. Whenever I close my eyes, there it is.
The dream varies a little, but there’s always one same detail: the house.
The house is a two-story farmhouse with a front porch. Small and not too impressive. In the dream, I’m always standing on the road in front of the house, just staring at it. Sometimes, there are dead bodies and blood. Other times, the entire scene is quaint, non-bloody, and peaceful. Occasionally, the house appears in new condition, as though it’s just been built, painted bright white with an outhouse to the rear and a dirt road in front. But sometimes, the house is older, rotted gray in color, with an asphalt road and modern cars parked on the street.
One time, the house appeared blurry, as though seen through tearful eyes. The only thing I had been able to make out clearly was a blue, 1950s Chevy parked along the front curb. One of those big, bulbous cars that looks impossible to drive. But that had also been the night I drank beer for the first time at my best friend Kaylee’s seventeenth birthday party.
Right after dreaming about that old Chevy, I woke up and puked all over my shoes. I’ve stuck with soda since then. Soda doesn’t mess with my dreams or make me have to explain barf-crusted sneakers to my parents.
I ended up blaming Kaylee’s dog for the vomit, and my parents believed me. They’d been too busy making very important phone calls to very important clients to pay much attention to their hungover, barefoot daughter. They’re both attorneys. Make of that what you will.
My recurring dream isn’t always pleasant, but other than the mental weight of carrying it around, it’s never caused any serious problems.
Well … okay, maybe that last part is not quite true.
One time, I let my secret slip a little—and I ended up in a psychiatrist’s office.
That happened ten years ago, when I was seven years old. My school had required an evaluation after my art teacher expressed concerns about an assignment I had turned in.
We were supposed to draw our dream house. Most of the kids drew mansions. Big, palatial structures with grand pillars and red sports cars parked outside. Kaylee had drawn a castle, complete with a tall tower and a moat of bright green alligators. Billy Maxwell, the boy who always wore flannel shirts, had colored a cabin by a lake.
My art teacher had liked those pictures. Mansions, castles, and lake cabins didn’t send people to a shrink.
I had drawn my white farmhouse. Nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned farmhouse, but my teacher hadn’t liked the blood oozing down the side. Nor had she been pleased with the images of chopped up children in the windows.
I was young back then and didn’t understand why everyone had freaked out, or why there was now a Crazy Doctor file labeled with my name, Francesca “Chessie” Carpenter. I had done exactly what my art teacher had asked—I had drawn a picture of my dream house. My literal dream house.
And now at seventeen, I keep my secret wrapped up tight. Not even my parents know I’m still having the dreams. I’ve learned the hard way that no matter how much I’d like to tell people, no matter how much I’d like to share the burden of the bloody house, I need to keep my mouth shut about the images that float through my head while I sleep.
I once naively believed that everyone has recurring dreams—like maybe everyone has their own unique dream house or their own bloody tale that visits them each night.
Except now I know that I’m the only one. And I know the house in my dreams isn’t a figment of my imagination. It’s a real place.
I know this because I’m wide awake and standing right in front of it.