Cold Case 

For well over a century, the modest, one-story house had stood at the end of an old country road, surrounded by acres of farm land.  Migrant workers, field hands, and share croppers had all stayed there at one time or another, far from the long shadow of their land owner’s palatial estate, where they could be left to their own devices. Only within the past decade had any real change touched this pocket of the universe—land sold, development plotted, pavement laid, all as if instead of growing corn or soy beans, the decision was made to grow a new neighborhood.

The man stood inside the doorway of the ancient home and marveled at how modern everything looked. The floor before him was carpeted, soft and plush, smelling clean and pleasant.  Gone were the gnarled planks of yellow pine that made up the hardwood floors, gouged in select areas with harrowing splinters and bits of fingernails and flesh, permanently stained with human waste.  A body being dragged across those floors was a special kind of torture, more than any rug-burn these carpets could hope to produce.  He squatted down and ran his hand against the fibers of the carpet. They felt delicate and comforting.  Instinctively, he took off his shoes before entering the house.

How different everything was.  Though it was still the same four rooms atop an underground cellar, it somehow felt bigger.  There was no couch to hide behind in the living room, nor any coffee table to be thrown into when you were found.  The tub in the bathroom was gone, along with the threat of being held under water until air was a distant memory.  There was a standing shower in its place, and it smelled sterile, like bleach used for its proper purpose.

The adjoining bedroom seemed enormous without the giant four-post bed taking up so much of the area.  He breathed in deeply through his nose when he came upon this part of the house, and could not find any trace of the odor associated with the rusted iron rings that had been affixed to the bed, that had been used for all manner of restraint.  Something like a shiver went through his body when he thought about it, and he moved quickly into the kitchen.

It had not changed much.  The refrigerator was still where it had always been, the sink and cabinets in their original places, an oven where it had always been.  Only now, the oven was one of those glass-top affairs that used electric heat.  The gas burners were replaced, along with their ability to produce a searing blue flame and all the things they could apply their heat to.  He pressed his bare hand against the glass top, cold to the touch, and wondered what it would be like, waiting to have the coils heat up.

He approached the cellar door, opened it, and peered down the stairwell, but would not go further.  He already knew all of the changes that had been made.  The walls of the stairwell that were once streaked with small finger prints of blood had been completely white-washed.  The granite-stone walls that had once created the echo chamber for a dozen screams had been neatly dry-walled over, and instead of a damp, moldy odor, the scent of sawdust and fresh construction lingered in the air.

He evaluated all of this as he walked back to the front door, and before leaving, he took one last look behind him.  It had once been a house of horrors tucked away on an old country road. Now it was a well-to-do rehab job incorporated into a freshly-sprung neighborhood, full of hope and promise.  He scanned everything, and thought to himself, “I did a good job cleaning up my mess.”

As he walked through the front yard, he playfully tapped the ‘For Sale’ sign that had recently been posted, and wondered what new memories the next family would make, and whether or not they’d have as much fun as he’d had.