Once when I was walking down 17 Dover Lane, I came across a small terrace house with yellow light streaming out of its windows.
It was a quiet night. The moon was cowering high above in the sky. Cyndi Lauper’s voice in my headphones led my feet over crumpled leaves. Feeling a dash of synthesised impulsiveness, I walked over to the house, cupped my hands around my eyes, and peered through the window.
The window was grimy and streaked with dust. But inside, I could see a well-furnished room. Dark oak walls, dark wooden floors, an antique lamp on a large dining table, and six people seated around it.
The people looked funny.
The first woman on the right had hairy hands. Very hairy hands that were laid flat on the table, with an unreadable expression on her pleasant-looking face. She was severely balding.
The woman next to her had a neat blond bob and a flattened nose. It was awfully smushed and large. The nostrils were shaped like apostrophes, and she kept scrunching her nose up, flicking her head side to side every now and then.
The man seated at the head of the table closest to me – he had his back towards me – was wearing what I thought were one of those costume hairbands, with horns attached to them.
Ram horns, I thought. Deliciously dark and winding, ending in wicked sharp points. He was twitching.
The man next to him had very thin legs, tapering down to hooves. I could hear the soft clicking sounds his right hoof made every time he tapped it. He seemed to be tapping in time to something.
It was then that I found myself giggling. Although I was standing still, everything seemed to be whirling sideways and upside-down, round and round. The more I tried to ignore the whispering dread that had snuck up behind me, the more I laughed – a high-pitched, hysterical giggle.
I could only see the side of the man on the far left that was facing me. His other half was shrouded in shadows that didn’t exist. The entire room was brilliantly lit; every centimetre swimming in jaundiced light. So I could only see his right, long flapping ear, that spasmed like a severed hand.
And the man facing me on the far head of the table. Oh, his eyes. Achingly beautiful blue, with laterally-shaped pupils.
All of them were looking at one another. And yet I knew then that they had seen me. That they felt me. I just knew, the way you know you’re not going to catch the mug that has slipped out of your hands.
I walked backwards onto the pavement and strode off. Reverb still wobbling in my ears. After passing by three homes and underneath a streetlight, I glanced back.
A 2-metre tall figure stood outside the house, half-illuminated by sickly yellow light spilling out of the front door.
Thin legs that seemed to be broken backwards at the knees, two arms placed on the hips, with great puffs of breath issuing from the nostrils, and two painfully twisted horns reaching out of the top of the head. Its right hoof tap, tap, tapping.
The thing’s eyes reflected amber at me, and I imagined a smile crawling across its caprine face.
I’ve only gone back to 17 Dover Lane once, on a muggy evening with plenty of daylight. But I couldn’t find the house with the dirty windows.
I talked to someone checking their postbox from across the street. She said that the home I was describing didn’t exist, that there was only overgrown shrubbery and unsightly stones in that little area.
Indeed, the space where the house had been was in-between two other terrace houses, and was far too small to hold one more.
I don’t know why this didn’t strike me as odd all those nights ago. To be honest, I try not to dwell on that night at all. I shut down those thoughts like a small kid would their nagging parent’s voice.
I’m just patiently waiting for time to fade away this yellowing stain of memory, so that I may dream in peace.