The House with the Spotted Walls

📅 Published on May 4, 2021

“The House with the Spotted Walls”

Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek and N.M. Brown
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 9.20/10. From 5 votes.
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Kara and Lacey were young and in love. They were also relatively broke, which tended to go along with being young. But their one-year anniversary was coming up, and both of them wanted to do something special to recognize a year of being together.

“Let’s start a garden,” suggested Lacey.

“I thought we wanted to celebrate, not punish ourselves with hard labor,” Kara complained. “Let’s go on vacation.”

“We can’t afford a vacation.”

“We can’t afford a garden, either. You need tools, gloves, seeds, special dirt—”

“I think the regular dirt we have will do fine.”

“—giant unflattering hats, gallons of sunscreen, twee little woven baskets to put the produce in—”

“Okay, enough!” laughed Lacey, throwing up her hands. “We’ll take a vacation. But I’m starting a garden when I get back. And I hope you’ll help.”

“Unflattering hats, here I come,” said Kara, already pulling up weekend getaway ideas on her phone.

Their limited budget made the process much more streamlined than it otherwise would have been. Big-city vacations, tropical getaways and popular tourist spots were out. Anything that required air travel to get to was out. Anything deep in the woods was out, although when Lacey pointed out that some of the cabins rented for very reasonable rates, Kara admitted that she just didn’t want to spend a week going on nature walks.

“If we go somewhere and then just sit around on our phones like we do here, we might as well not go anywhere at all,” Lacey said.

“But I like sitting around,” said Kara. “Tell you what. How about a beach rental as a compromise?”

“How is that a compromise?” asked Lacey. “Beaches are all about just sitting around.”

“Yes, but we can do it outside, like you want,” Kara replied. “See? Compromise.”

Lacey huffed, and Kara continued, “Come on. We’ll find some cute little town with quaint shops to go poke around in. We’ll meet the locals and pay in seashells and eat nothing but fish every day.”

“I don’t think that’s how things work.”

“Well, you could be right! Let’s get a beach rental and find out.”

An evening of searching and a bit of good-natured bickering later, the young couple had booked a weeklong stay at a charming little cottage in a seaside town called Shoreham-by-Sea. It was quaint, it was two hours away by car, and it was above all affordable.

“We can pick up food at the local shops and have meals in to save a bit more money,” Lacey said.

Kara rolled her eyes. “Yes, and you can start a garden in the back and catch fish to supplement that.”

“How will I have time to fish if I’m starting a garden? You’ll have to do something to help out. We’ll never make it to our second anniversary if I’m doing all the work.”

“I’ll be slaving away in the kitchen! Don’t discount my labor just because it’s indoors. You’d be eating raw fish if it weren’t for me.”

“And you’d be eating nothing at all.”

“Not true! I’d be happily spending all of my money eating out at the pubs.”

“You’re hopeless.”

“You love me this way.”

A few weeks later, Kara and Lacey were unloading their bags from the car, their eyes shining with delight. The cottage was exactly as cute as it had appeared in the picture, a perfect cozy little getaway. The town had looked idyllic when they’d driven through it, and they could see the beach just over a small hill.

“Ah, I love the smell of the sea,” Kara declared, inhaling deeply. “I can’t wait to sit in a chair on that beach and just relax and do nothing.”

“Bags in first, relaxing later,” Lacey ordered. “We have shopping to do tonight, too. Unless your plan of ‘doing nothing’ includes not eating.”

“Ugh, fine. Why don’t we have people to do this for us?”

“Because we weren’t born rich and we haven’t unearthed a fantastic treasure. C’mon, bags up! Let’s go.”

The interior of the house was as neat and well-maintained as the exterior. Kara and Lacey moved from room to room, delighted by the homey feel and rustic aesthetic. Everything was nearly perfect, but something odd caught Lacey’s attention.

“What’s with the walls?” she asked.

Kara looked at them quizzically. “They seem fine to me.”

“No, look, they’ve got blotches all over them.”

“I think that’s just dappling from the sunlight.”

“It isn’t! Look, come here.” Lacey took Kara by the hand and led her over to the nearest wall, stopping only when their toes were touching it. “See? That’s not the light. That’s something on the wall.”

From this distance, it was clear that Lacey was correct. Although the wall looked to have been recently painted, it was stained with irregular, roughly spherical blotches that the paint had been unable to fully hide. Each one had barely-visible lines dripping down from it. There was no rhyme or reason to the placement, and no two seemed to have quite the same shape.

“Huh! It doesn’t look like a pattern. I wonder what did this?” Kara tapped the nearest spot, but it felt no different from the rest of the wall.

“Don’t touch it!” Lacey chided.

“Why not?”

“You just said you don’t know what it is.”

“Yeah, but I know it’s not dangerous. It’s a wall. What, do you think it’s poisonous?”

“I don’t know, do I? It could be anything. Something sure splattered all over this wall. Something that bled through the paint job.”

“Bled, you say? Ooh, maybe it was a murder! A grisly murder. A lady was killed here! By a savage beast.”

“Stop it,” warned Lacey.

Kara continued, grinning. “And as she fell, it ripped out big handfuls of her flesh and flung them against the wall! Splat! Splat! Splat!”

She advanced on Lacey, her hands held out in grasping claws. Lacey backed away into the next room, laughing as she swatted her hands away. “Stop it, I said! There’s something very wrong with you.”

Kara followed. Now that they were looking for it, it was immediately obvious that the walls in this room had the same spots as the other. Even the ceiling had an occasional mark.

“Another murder!” declared Kara. “A whole family was torn apart. This room was the son. Splat! Splat!”

“Okay, I am going to buy food and look at the shops,” Lacey said. “You can come with me, or you can stay here saying ‘splat!’ to the walls.”

“Compromise! I could come with you and say ‘splat’ to you.”

“No compromise. ‘Splat’ stays in the house.”

“Okay, but when we get back, I have the rest of the family to describe to you. There are still three other rooms.”

“Any chance you could not?”

“No chance! No compromise. Splat stays in the house, but that means that when we are in the house, there is splat. Splat!”

“I’m outside!” said Lacey, retreating through the front door.

“Splat,” whispered Kara, and joined her.

The walk to town was wonderful. The day was warm, the breeze was lovely and the air was pleasantly briny. The town itself was everything they had hoped for, with interesting little shops and friendly people going about their business. Kara and Lacey walked along hand in hand enjoying the shops, the sea and each other’s company.

They capped the day stopping off for a drink before heading home. The publican greeted them with a smile and poured their beers.

“Enjoying your visit to our fair town?” he asked.

“It’s perfect!” Kara replied. “I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of you. We’re here all week.”

“Oh? Where are you staying?”

“A little ways out of town, in that little blue house on the beach.”

“Ha, the old Reynolds house? Someone must have made a mistake.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kara bristled.

The publican hastened to calm her down. “A mistake on the calendar, I mean! This week’s the spring tide. Usually they leave the house empty, just in case Reynolds comes back. His ghost, I mean.”

He laughed. “Superstition, of course, and I’m sure you’ll have a lovely weekend. All the same, if he does show, I’d recommend leaving the property to him.”

“Not a fan of old Reynolds, I gather?” Kara asked.

“Oh, he was a terror to us when I was a boy. Constantly screaming at us to get off of his property, threatening us with his cane. Complained to our parents any chance he got, for all the good it did him. Ketchup didn’t have too many friends in this town.”

“‘Ketchup’?” Kara asked. “His name was Ketchup?”

“Well, probably not, but I never knew the right of it. He was Mr. Reynolds when any adult was listening, and Ketchup when they weren’t.”

“Why did you call him Ketchup?” Lacey chimed in.

The publican smiled, reminiscing. “Reynolds had a woman. Madge, her name was. He must have been twice her age, and unpleasant as a cornered bear, but he was rich and I suppose that was enough for her. I imagine they must have gotten along sometimes, but there were certainly plenty of times that they didn’t. And when they didn’t, she’d throw tomatoes.”


“Oh, absolutely! She’d pelt him with them. Old Reynolds loved to be neat and tidy. He liked everything in its place. There’s not much less tidy than an overly ripe tomato exploding all over a wall! Juice dripping down, tiny seeds everywhere, pulp ruining the paint.

“And the walls weren’t the half of it. She’d hit him directly. That was why Ketchup was so often yelling at us to get off of his property. We’d sneak up there on laundry days to see his shirts all hung out on the line, splattered with faint pink stains where the bleach couldn’t get the tomatoes out.”

“Splat,” whispered Kara. Lacey nudged her with her foot.

“So that’s why we called him Ketchup,” the publican concluded. He shook his head. “Tough old fellow. If it hadn’t been for what happened, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d still be here today.”

“What happened? Did Madge get him with a tomato?”

He favored Kara with a broad grin. “It was Madge all right, but not with any tomato! She got him in the heart. They must have had a fight one day that couldn’t be resolved with vegetables, and she left him. Stayed gone for weeks while he ordered her to come back. When finally he saw that wasn’t going to work, he asked her please, and finally she relented and agreed to come back to talk.

“Only the more Ketchup thought about it, the madder he got that she’d made him beg for something that should have been rightfully his. He needed a plan to put her in her place, and so he came up with a good one. He wrote her a note, a real spiteful one, saying how he couldn’t live without her and was going down to the pier to drown himself at high tide.

“He timed it so that she’d be getting there right as he was heading into the water. He couldn’t wait to see her running down the beach after him, looking a fool as she plunged into the water fully clothed to beg him to come back to shore. Then she’d see who was important to who. Then she’d understand her place.”

“So what happened?” Kara asked. “Did she not make it in time?”

“Well, the currents around here can get a little tricky. Old Ketchup took a nice slow walk out so Madge could catch him, but when she wasn’t there right when he expected he just kept on going, a step at a time. By the time he thought to turn back, the current had him. Folks on the beach saw him shout and wave, and a few rushed out to help. But he was swept away before they could get to him, and the next anyone saw of him was when his body washed up.

“And as for Madge—well, she never turned up at all that day. So I guess she knew better than Reynolds what her place was after all.”

Kara let out a long breath. “Quite a story!”

“If you like that one, you’ll love this.” The publican leaned in, lowering his voice. “Ketchup was rich, as I said. But after he died, no one could ever find his money. They searched that house high and low, but not a cent of it ever turned up.

“Could be it’s still there somewhere in that house. They even say that sometimes the spring tide carries in old Reynolds’s ghost. That’s why I was surprised to hear they’d let you two stay there this week. He’s been seen in the old house of a full moon, walking the halls again, counting his fortune.”

“What do you think, Lacey?” Kara asked, eyes gleaming. “Think he’ll lead us to it?”

“Can’t say as how I’d recommend following him,” cautioned the publican. “Old Ketchup never let go of a penny he didn’t have to, and I can’t imagine death has eased him any.”

“If we see a ghost, I promise you we’ll head right out the front door,” said Lacey. “Right, Kara?”

“Hm? Oh, yeah, sure.” But Kara’s eyes still glinted with thoughts of gold.

The rest of the week went by in a happy blur of walking on the beach, exploring the town and just generally letting the days fill up with nothing in particular. It was relaxing, sedentary and uneventful.

On their last night in the house, the night of the spring tide and the full moon, Kara was awakened in the early hours by an urgent whisper from Lacey.

“Someone’s in the house!”

Kara’s eyes flew open. She immediately saw what had caught Lacey’s attention. Visible through the open bedroom door was a soft blue light moving steadily back and forth. It looked like a person pacing. It was definitely coming inside the house.

“What do we do, Kara?”

“Stay here,” she told Lacey. “I’ll take care of it.”

“I’m not letting you go out there alone!”

They both slipped out of bed, wincing at the creaks from the springs and the slight thump their feet made on the floor. The pacing of the light never slowed, though, and after a moment the two women concluded that they had not been heard. They began to inch slowly toward the door.

“Lacey,” Kara whispered, her voice barely audible. She tugged on the sleeve of Lacey’s pajamas. “Look at the wall.”

Lacey squinted, then let out an involuntary gasp as she saw what Kara had noticed. All along the wall, beneath the paint that had never managed to fully cover them up, the tomato stains were starting to glow very slightly. Warm red light seeped forth into the room, washing everything with the faintest tint of blood.

Unsure what else to do, they crept forward again. Kara was the first to reach the door. She peered cautiously around the frame. For a moment she only stared, then began flailing desperately backward with one hand. She caught Lacey by the shirt and pulled her forward to see as well.

In the living room, a translucent humanoid figure walked back and forth. It ran its glowing hands along the shelves and knelt to peer under furniture. It was clearly looking for something, and equally as clearly not finding it. It did not seem to have noticed the two women at all.

They watched for several minutes as it moved back and forth, investigating the room. Eventually it abandoned its search, retreated to a corner of the room and sank into the floor, melting away into the rug. The blue light disappeared with it, leaving only the dim red of the memories of tomatoes.

Lacey exhaled in relief. “He’s gone. Let’s get—”

She took Kara’s hand, intending to pull her to the front door, but Kara tugged away and instead crossed to where the ghost had vanished. She flipped up the corner of the rug to reveal a wooden hatch with a large metal ring set into it. Seizing the ring, she began to pull.

“What are you doing?” Lacey whispered harshly. “We have to get out of here!”

“No way!” Kara whispered back. The hatch creaked upward. Blue light spilled out from the space below. “I’m going after the treasure!”

“Are you crazy?!”

Kara gave no answer, her attention fixed on trying to open the hatch quietly. Despite her efforts, it hit the floor with a dull, reverberating boom. The light below did not waver, however. The spectre appeared totally unaware of their presence.

“Come on,” she hissed, slipping down the wooden stairs beneath the hatch. Lacey hesitated, eyeing the front door sadly. If anything happened to Kara, though, she knew that she’d never forgive herself. Reluctantly, she followed Kara down the wooden steps.

The air in the basement smelled somehow more of brine than the upstairs had. The floor was hard-packed earth. The walls were white plaster, marred with the ever-present residue of tomatoes. These stains had never been painted over at all, and they glowed fiercely enough to light the entire basement. Mixed with the blue light shining from the specter, it cast everything in bruised purplish tones.

The spirit was already halfway across the basement, moving toward a shelf stacked high with metal cans and glass jars. It stepped through the middle of it, and for a moment its light was visible shining through the preserves until it winked out again. The women were left with only the ominous red glow from the walls to see by.

“Let me at least go get a light,” said Lacey.

“There’s no time! We’ve got to follow him. Help me move this shelf.”

Against her better judgment, Lacey followed Kara deeper into the basement. The shelf was heavy and disinclined to move from its spot on the floor, but after a lot of grunting and shoving they managed to move one corner a few feet away from the wall. Behind it was a tiny alcove, about three feet on a side. Inside that was nothing whatsoever.

“There has to be something,” Kara said, disappointed. She rapped on the walls, but each sounded solid. “What was the point if—ah!”

The floor of the alcove had a hollow resonance. Kara motioned for Lacey to help, and together they felt around in the tiny space, eventually figuring out a way to slide the floor free. It was a wooden square cleverly painted to match the earthen floor, and in the hole it left behind faint blue light was visible.

“You can’t possibly—” Lacey began, but Kara was already sliding her legs into the hole, her torso disappearing immediately after.

“Kara? Kara! Can we please just go? I really don’t want to be here.”

There was no answer. Lacey sighed and eased herself gingerly through the narrow gap.

She stepped down into cold water. From what little she could see by the distant blue light, she was in some sort of natural stone corridor a little under five feet high. Water covered the floor to about ankle depth. Kara was already splashing along after the light, determined to catch it. Lacey felt she had no choice but to go after her.

They rounded a corner together in time to see the spirit turning back toward them. They shrank against the wall, but it passed by without acknowledging them at all. It was heading back toward the entrance to the sub-basement.

“Quick, before the light’s gone!” Kara said. “I saw it reaching up for something. Help me look!”

It took only seconds to discover what they sought: a rusted metal box hidden in a small cleft in the rock. Kara had just enough time to see that it was closed with a heavy lock before the last of the light faded from around the corner.

“Come on, we have to get back!” Lacey said, and at last Kara did not argue.

They hurried down the hallway, heads hunched down, hands trailing on the walls. The water was rising with the encroaching tide and was now lapping at their shins, soaking the bottoms of their pajama pants and slowing their steps.

Blue and red lights beckoned them from the square set into the ceiling at the end. They hastened toward it, afraid that at any moment the spectral lights would cease and they would be left in the dark.

Kara climbed awkwardly up the ladder, using only one arm while the other cradled the box against her body. She wriggled through the small opening and back into the basement, but stopped halfway for no reason Lacey could see.

“You okay?” she asked. Kara did not answer.

Lacey moved a step forward, preparing to ask again. Kara’s foot lashed out behind her, the heel catching Lacey right on the point of the chin. She cried out and fell over, splashing down into the shallow water. She looked up, hurt and confused, to see Kara, now fully out of the sub-basement, staring back down into the hole with a cruel expression and glowing blue eyes.

“Thanks for retrieving my treasure,” Reynolds hissed with Kara’s voice. “All these years, I had no one to pick up the box. But just the same, I don’t think I’ll be sharing it.”

Lacey scrambled to regain her feet, but with a laugh, Kara slid the wooden tile back into place, plunging her into darkness. Lacey heard the heavy scraping of the shelf being dragged ponderously back into place, and she knew even before she tried to reopen the exit that it would be futile. She pounded on the wooden plank, but only succeeded in sending echoes rolling around her narrow confines.

The tunnel was utterly black. The chilly ocean water was up to her knees and rising fast. Desperately Lacey tugged at the panel trapping her inside, but it refused to give. She wondered how long she had left to live before she drowned. There didn’t seem to be much else to do but wait for it to happen.

Then something caught her eye, a faint glimmer of red light. From the edge of the panel, leaking down into the tunnel through invisible cracks at the edges, thin lines of luminescent red slowly dripped down. Lacey moved back, stepping down into the cold water. The lines tracked her movement, angling toward her. The water gradually rose past her waist. It showed no signs of stopping.

With nothing left to lose, Lacey reached out and hesitantly touched the red lines making their way toward her.

In the basement, Reynolds—still in possession of Kara’s body—had found a hammer and chisel and was attempting to break the rusted lock off of the metal box. He swore as each successive blow failed to crack open his prize.

“Stupid—weak—body!” he grunted, in time with each strike. He looked down at Kara’s form in disgust. “Thought she could steal my treasure, but can’t even open it! If I had anything to work with here, any sort of real muscle or ability, then maybe—”

His rant was cut short as the shelf blocking the hidden entrance exploded outward in a spray of splintered wood, shattered glass and preserved food. Thick green vines crawled over the wreckage for an instant, writhing blindly like severed tentacles before dissipating.

Lacey rose out of the sub-basement, buoyed upward by more ethereal vines. Her eyes glowed a fierce red, and when she spoke, her voice was not her own.

“Reynolds. You have no right here anymore.”

“I have every right, Madge!” Reynolds spat. “My house! My money! My right!”

“Their bodies, Reynolds. Their lives.”

“Pfah. Two stupid women come onto my property and—”

He broke off as Madge reached out, placing Lacey’s hand against the plaster wall. A red spot glowed brighter beneath her palm, bulging outward to take on a full, round shape.

“Don’t you dare, Madge,” Reynolds cautioned. He raised the hammer threateningly. “Don’t even think about it.”

“Or what, Reynolds?” Madge took her hand away from the wall. In it she now held the ghost of a tomato, drawn forth from where it had once hit long ago. She tossed it up lightly, catching it again. “We both know which of us always came out on top in the fights.”

“Not this time!” he snarled, hurling the hammer. It flipped through the air, but a vine shot out of Lacey’s pajama sleeve and swatted it away.

“Yes, this time,” Madge declared. “This time, and every time.”

She threw the tomato. Reynolds held up the rusted metal box to block it, but even as the first one hit, Madge was pulling another from the wall.

“You don’t belong here, Reynolds!” Splat!
“You’ve taken what doesn’t belong to you!” Splat!
“You’re a hateful!” Splat! “Old!” Splat! “Man!” Splat!

Reynolds was driven backward a step at a time, back up the stairs and into the main house. The metal box cracked under the relentless assault, and still the blows came. Tomato juice cascaded from Kara’s hair, running in rivulets across her face and down the neck of her pajamas. As more and more tomatoes hit, the blue light in her eyes began to fade.

Still Reynolds struggled for control. On his knees in the kitchen, he sneered up at Madge looming over him.

“You’d never have beaten me if I’d had a better body than this…this woman,” he spat.

Madge laughed. “You never won when you were alive, and you were a man then. Why would this be any different?”

She leaned down, crushing the phantom tomato in her fist. Its juice gushed out, spraying into Kara’s eyes, nose and mouth. She coughed, sputtered and spat, flailing. She wiped the mess from her face to reveal her normal, albeit very confused, eyes.

“Lacey?” she asked. “What—when did we get to the kitchen?”

“I have no idea,” said Lacey. Her eyes, too, had returned to normal. There were no signs of vines around her. The walls, though still spotted, no longer glowed. “You trapped me in the sub-basement, and then—” She shrugged helplessly.

“I what? Lacey, I would never—okay, what am I covered in?” she demanded.

Lacey, still dripping with salt water, bent closer. “Tomatoes?”

Kara stared for a minute, then started to laugh. “Did Madge save us?”

“I think she did,” Lacey agreed. She, too, began to chuckle. In moments, the two were sitting on the floor, leaning on each other for support as they laughed hysterically, venting more emotions than they could name.

Their laughter ebbed after a time. They simply held each other, saying nothing. Kara broke the silence.

“Want to see what’s in the box?” She held up the rusted metal hunk, displaying the broken hinges.

“Kara—I don’t know if we should.”

“Come on. I think we’ve earned it. Let’s see old man Reynolds’s treasure.” So saying, she wedged her fingers into the crack and pulled the box apart.

Rusty metal squealed. The top pulled free. Hundreds of small rectangles fluttered free, sliding through the gap to land in the laps of the women.

Lacey picked one up. It was a paper packet, folded shut and sealed with a light film of wax. The front bore two simple words: GLOBE TOMATOES.

“They’re seed packets,” she said.

Kara frowned. “Reynolds’s fortune was tomato seeds?”

Lacey started to laugh again. “No,” she said. “Madge found it after all. This was her last dig at him.”

“She replaced his fortune with tomatoes?” And then they were both laughing again. It felt cleaner this time, healthier. When they were done, they both felt relieved.

“This works out pretty well, actually,” said Lacey.

“Better than being rich?”

“Well, no. But it looks like we’re going to be able to start that garden.”

“Ah, good,” said Kara. “One of the shops in town had the most wonderful unflattering hat.”

Rating: 9.20/10. From 5 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek and N.M. Brown
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Micah Edwards

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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