College lecturer, electrician, actor and musician, Terry Grimwood is also the author of numerous novels, short stories and novellas, including the British Fantasy Society award-nominated Interference. Three of his plays have been performed on the stage, directed by the author. 

While most of his work lies in the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres, he often strays outside their boundaries, which he considers a must for all genre writers and a cure for writer’s block. He has co-written a number of engineering textbooks for Pearson Educational Press, penned a romance for People’s Friend Magazine and his novella Joe is inspired by a true story.

Terry lives by a lake with his wonderful wife, Debra. In his spare time, he is vocalist and harmonica player with The Ripsaw Blues Band.


by Terry Grimwood


The door of the spare bedroom—his office—slammed shut.

Puzzled and a little uneasy, Nils grabbed the door handle and pulled. Nothing. He tried again, this time turning the knob. No movement. It was as if the door had been nailed shut.

What the hell? He tried a third time. That’s when the first hint of panic edged its way into his mind. He was trapped in here. The room was stripped of its furniture. Nils’ books, computer and printer were crammed into boxes ready for the move. It was white-walled and empty, small and coffin-like. And the air conditioner had somehow shut off. It was already getting hotter inside the room.

 He heard the front door open and close, then footsteps on the stairs and the rustle of a coat.

“Nils? Where are you? What’re you doing?” Robyn was back from the local Starbucks with their take-out coffees. Thank God.

“I’m stuck in the office!” Nils called. “I can’t open the door.”

“You’d better not be kidding around. We don’t have much time.”

He didn’t need a reminder. The deadline’s steady approach only made this worse.

The door handle rattled and turned. “Come on, Nils, unlock the door.”

“It isn’t locked. It’s jammed, somehow.” He worked the door again. He was sweating now, his breath fast and shallow. He didn’t want to be in this room anymore.

Oh, but you do.

He jumped back, startled by the…what? Voice? Inaudible and yet, there.

In his head? Not exactly. It felt like a caress. A sensation. Whatever it was, he wasn’t interested in what it had to say. He needed to get out. Out. Out. Out.

Don’t go.

“Shut up.”


“Sorry, not you, it’s the…never mind.” He wrenched at the handle. Frustration made him ineffective. He hammered the door with his fist. “Open up, asshole.”

The house cried out in pain.

No it didn’t.

It was a house. Bricks, wood, glass and plaster. Houses didn’t cry. He shook his head, as if the action would clear it of stupid thoughts. He was panicked, imagining things.

Don’t go. Nils, please don’t go…

“I don’t want to—”

Nils was shocked into silence. He was talking to a house?

Okay, this place, this ordinary suburban dwelling with its plain walls and square rooms had been Nils Masterson’s Happy House for twelve good years. It was where he had found peace the moment he crossed its threshold. It was the place where the demons of his messy divorce had been expelled from his soul. He had understood right away why its previous (and first) owners had never moved from the place until their deaths. But, come on, it was a thing. An inanimate object. You didn’t talk to it and it sure as hell didn’t talk to you.

Or lock you into your office.


“Yeah, I’m still out here.”

“My tools are downstairs in the kitchen.” Nils was trying hard to keep his voice level and not shout and beg for release. “See if you can find a tire iron or something to lever the door open. I’ll fix the damage. Just get the door open, okay?”

“Okay, okay.” Robyn’s calmness helped ease his own fear. He heard her walk quickly across the landing.

God, he loved that woman. Robyn was reason he was once again boxing up his possessions and loading them into a rented truck. A nuclear war would not have prised him from his refuge within these walls, but Robyn had. She was sweet and kind and beautiful and wise enough for the task. Not only were they leaving 110 Carter Street, they were moving out of the entire state. A new life beckoned and Nils was ready to embrace it with her at his side.

The door swung open. And somehow that was more unsettling than its closing.

Nils rushed through, wanting to get out. Desperate to get out. Robyn stood at the top of the stairs, wide-eyed and pale. Her hood was up, her lovely face framed in fur, which made her look oddly vulnerable and fragile. Nils went to her and held her.

She sounded close to tears. “You’re shaking.”

“I’m just frustrated with the door, that’s all. No need to be upset, honey.”

What the hell was wrong with them both? They were adults. They had each been through tough times. The office door had been stuck for a few minutes, then it came unstuck. Nothing more, no fire, earthquake, poisonous snake or armed intruder. 

There had been a voice though. A silken whisper that dripped straight into his mind and shivered down his nerves. A sad, wistful, hurt voice.

“Let’s get the last of the books,” Nils said, in what he hoped was a casual, if not brave, tone. “I’ll keep the door open while you slide them out onto the landing.”

“Sure,” Robyn had also adopted a forced, nothing-strange-here demeanour.

She worked fast while he held the door. He was edgy, expecting it, at any moment, to push back while he strained and fought to keep it open. The door was angry with him. At that moment it hated—

Bull-shit. It was a door. A plain, white-painted, cheap and neutral modern door, just as that honeyed voice had been conjured by his imagination.

When Robyn was done, Nils stepped away. The door remained open.

“Here’s your cuppa,” Robyn said and handed him one of the two Styrofoam cups she had brought back from the diner and placed on the landing floor. The drink was hot and comforting. The two of them sat together on the floor, backs to the wall, side-on to the stairs.

“I’m done here for the day,” Robyn said as she drained the last of her of coffee. She sounded tired and shaken.

“Me too. Let’s go get something to eat then watch TV at the motel.”

Not here, not in his house any more. It was an empty shell now. It was no longer home.

Robyn got to her feet and made to go downstairs. Suddenly weary, Nils hesitated before following. He noticed that Robyn was standing at the top of the stairs, staring down, motionless.

“What is it? Hey, what’s up?” Nils went to join her.

“The stairs…they’re…”


It was hard to put a finger on what it was exactly. The light maybe? Further down the stairs it had turned a grubby ochre color, unpleasant and unwelcoming.

Imagination? Then how come they could both see it?

“We’re tired. It’s probably just an optical illusion,” Nils said and realized immediately how stupid that sounded. “Come on.”

Determined not to show fear, box of books in his arms, he set off downwards. He sensed Robyn right behind him.

It felt as if they were descending, not to the first floor of their house, but towards some unwholesome, alien place. The light grew dimmer, a sickly dull yellow that made the painted walls seem dirty. The air was increasingly damp and smelled of mould and decay.

“This is wrong, Nils.” Robyn sounded frightened. “We should…”

“It’s okay.” No, it wasn’t. “We have to go downstairs. We can’t stay up there all night.”

Suddenly, not such a bad idea.

The bottom of the stairs finally came into view and now everything was wrong. Everything.

There was no entrance hall. No front door. There was a door, but this one was black, plain, taller and wider than normal. It was also slightly open. Light bled from the gap, bright but somehow unhealthy. Nils didn’t like the look of it.

What the hell was happening? Mold, wasn’t that supposed to mess with your head? Radon gas?

He suddenly felt very tired of this. That door was his front door. He was going to open it and step outside onto Carter Street and there would be snow and the rented van and automobiles and people.

Nils grabbed the edge of the door. It was cold and rough, like rusting metal. He pulled at it and saw—

“Upstairs, now!” He yelled as he grabbed Robyn’s hand and scrambled back towards to the landing. But the climb was steeper than it should have been. It seemed exhausting and brutal. He forged on, pulling Robyn along, driven by his terror of what he had seen beyond that front door.

Or was it what he thought he saw? He was beginning to feel foolish now. He could hear Robyn’s labored breath behind him and wondered how he could tell her he was mistaken, and that there was no emergency.

The air and the light were cleaner at the top of the stairs. Nils slumped to the floor. Robyn sat beside him. Close. She spoke first. “What the hell did you see?”

“It was…” he shook his head. The memory was already crumbling into only a vague unease. “Nothing. I don’t know what I freaked out about.”

Nils felt Robyn’s regard. She didn’t believe him. He could tell.

She spoke. “Crazy as it sounds, it’s as if the house wants us to stay up here. First it was the door and now…” She waved at the stairs. “That.”

Nils decided not to mention the voices. He chose denial instead. “No, that’s bullshit. It’s a building. It’s my damned house for chrissakes.”

Was it? Had they somehow found a way into the neighbor’s place? Through a shared cellar perhaps or some odd passageway between houses that they had stumbled upon in the last few minutes?

The idea was ludicrous. The whole thing was ludicrous. And yet, here they were, huddled together, frightened and bewildered in the house that had been Nils’ Happy Home for a dozen years.

At least it was warm up here, and comfortable and bright. There was silence too, a beautiful stillness that made him feel at ease and unwilling to move. That old nostalgia welled up and his eyes filled with tears. He swallowed heavily and wiped them away roughly, afraid that Robyn might have seen them.

“We have to get out,” she said. “We can’t sit here forever.”

Why not? Nils almost vocalized the question but caught himself before the words were out. Of course they had to get out. The house wasn’t really his anymore. He had accepted an offer on it and he and Robyn had already bought their new home in another state.

He got to his feet, determined to get the job done. “Come on. Leave the books, leave everything. We’ll replace it all. We’re getting out of here.”

“I’m with you, hon.” Robyn kissed him, quickly, warmly. “We go downstairs and out of the front door to the van. And remember, that’s the front door down there. Nothing else; it’s just the front door.”

“Yeah, the front door.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” No he wasn’t. “You?”

“I’m okay.”


Robyn was first onto the stairs, Nils close behind. Halfway down the seemingly unending descent, the air once more grew stale and hard to breathe. The light yellowed. Everything seemed worse than last time.

Especially the wall.

Great blisters of dank, black-green mould had bubbled from its surface. The plaster seemed to expand and contract, as if breathing. There was a rotten, meaty, stench. The voice was back, soothing. Loving.

Nils, it said. Please don’t go. I love you. Nils, please. Please…

Four more steps. Robyn looked over her shoulder and gave him a brave smile of encouragement.

Bottom step. Robyn first, then Nils. Light blazed around the half-opened door but did little to alleviate the gloom.

“It’s the front door,” Robyn said.

“Yeah, the front door.”

Nils wanted to kiss her because she was being brave and determined enough for both of them and holding his own rickety courage in place. 

Stay, Nils, I love you more than Robyn ever could…

A moment, the two of them side-by-side. Nils took a breath, stepped forward and grabbed the edge of the door. It swung open easily. The light grew brighter, brighter, dazzling –


Nils couldn’t remember breaking into this second panicked, shambolic run. He was in an endless passageway that should have been a short artery between the front hall and the kitchen. He didn’t know where the passage would take him. All he knew was that he had to get away from the thing that dwelled in the room beyond the half-open door.

The passage was ill-lit, its ceiling low and getting lower. The walls were dank and veined by some pulsing growth that clung to it like a web of fleshy poison ivy. Things scuttled and squirmed through its mesh of bloated, throbbing branches.

Didn’t I take you into my heart? Didn’t I give you peace and love, Nils? Weren’t you happy here?

Yes. Yes, I was happy. Now will you please shut up. Shut up! Shut up.


God, he had left her behind, at the mercy of…whatever the hell it had been. Nils stopped. He made to look back but found that he couldn’t. He was too frightened. He didn’t want to see whatever he might see. His terror had reduced him to a child convinced that what he couldn’t see, couldn’t see him.

No. He loved her. He needed to know that Robyn was safe. He had to find the courage. Now.

Turn around. Now.

He wrenched himself around. A scream of fear already bubbled into his throat.

There! She was stumbling towards him, sobbing with each weary step. The sight of her drove Nils back down the passage to scoop her into his arms. When they broke apart, they both hunched over to recover their breath and take great gulps of the awful, foul air.

“I’m sorry,” Nils whispered at last. “I left you…I panicked…I’m sorry…”

“It’s all right…Nils, it’s okay. We’re alive, that’s what matters. But what was that…God, what are we going to do?”

Nils peered over Robyn’s shoulder at the endlessly curved passage, and was sure he saw a faint, shifting glow. It was coming. Christ, it was coming.

Something many-legged and glistening skittered over his fingers. He flicked it violently away. Then he felt another under his shirt, on his back.

Inside his shirt. On his flesh.

He yelled in disgust, tore at his clothes and twisted about in an effort to beat at the monster, but he couldn’t reach it. Its tiny feet pricked his skin as it raced up his spine and between his shoulder blades. It bit and stung him. It was vile and he wanted rid of it.

He staggered forward from a blow to his back. He felt the insect crack and then there was a liquid warmth, every bit as horrible as the creature itself. He grabbed at the wall to steady himself.

His hands plunged into the fleshy mass of translucent vines. Insects scuttled outwards from the impact. Nils ripped his hand free. He managed a choked thanks to Robyn who had raised her fist for another attack.

“It’s gone,” Nils said, quickly, not wanting to be punched again. Robyn had a strong right arm. “Dead—wait! Robyn, in your hair!”

Eighteen inches of many segmented horror must have dropped from the low ceiling onto her head. It scuttled towards the nape of her neck. Robyn let out a cry and tore at her hair. She danced and slapped at herself until the thing dropped, broken and lifeless, to the floor…where there were more.

So many more; scuttling and squirming over their sneakers, climbing their jeans. The things bit and stung through the thick material.

Nils and Robyn yelled and beat at themselves. They pirouetted around like grotesque dervishes, danced a mad ballet and staggered back the way they had come because they had no other choice, because revulsion and panic drove them to get away from the thickening carpet of invertebrate horrors that boiled out of the vines on the wall and across the floor. 

In the dim, dirty light, Nils saw more of the beasts drop from the ceiling. Robyn wrenched her parka’s hood back over her head. Scant protection, but better than none.

Nils grabbed Robyn’s hand and broke into yet another sprint.

Nils…come back to me. Stay. Please stay. I love you…and you love me, you do, don’t you? You know you do…

The voice flowed through Nils like honey. It soothed and calmed him. Yes, he did love the house, every brick, nail and square inch of plaster of it—

A tug on his arm jerked him backwards. Robyn had fallen and was on one knee. She looked up at him, a stricken look on her face. He had to save her!

He had to ignore the nonsensical voices. They had to escape these damned tunnels and get out. He only wanted to be outside. God, how he wanted to be outside.

Light. Close now, splashed onto the vine-covered walls, light that glinted off the carapaces of the crawling and writhing things and smeared their elongated shadows over the floor and ceiling.

“Nils, Nils! There’s a doorway—there, look!”

Ten feet away, perhaps a little more, a dark section against the darkness of the wall, a black rectangular shape that must be an opening. Robyn scrambled to her feet and broke into a run. Nils followed.

The light brightened and around the corner came tentacles, translucent, pulsing with a golden inner light and bristling with vicious, barbed spikes. They groped the passage like maddened, entwined snakes.

Nils recognized them as the limbs of the monster that lived beyond the door that had once been the entrance to the house. The golden thing: the pulsing, beating heart of the building. He remembered it well enough now, a thing of flesh and spines and a vast, fang-lined mouth.

For a moment he wanted it to take him, to wrap itself about him in a bone crushing grip and gouge his flesh with its rose-thorn barbs so that he could bleed into the fabric of the building

He jerked himself back to reality.

He ran, hard on Robyn’s heels. Robyn made it to the doorway first and waited for him. Nils slipped on the slime of crushed insects and almost fell. She caught him, pushed him through the opening and, in doing so, gave away her quota of vital seconds because she loved him and wanted him to live.

Nils knew it; he felt it as he recovered and spun about to pull her to safety. He saw her framed in the gap, haloed by golden light. Christ, he loved her, more than he could ever put into words or even comprehend. He wanted to save her. Really he did.


You’re home, Nils…This is home…This place…I love you…

A scream: brief; cut off at its peak.

Robyn was bound suddenly with loops of gold-glowing thorny tentacles. There was an instant when Nils saw it all clearly; her wide-open eyes, her blood seeping between the fleshy coils that entwined her. Her raw, primal, animal, unutterable terror.

Then she was snatched away. Gone.


Her name was torn out of him.

A scream echoed from some distant chamber of this vast, labyrinthine building then faded and there was only the voice that dripped honey into his ear, heart and soul. Nils slid to the dirty floor and sobbed until there was no strength left inside him.

Don’t cry, Nils. Dry your eyes –

He stumbled down endless twists and turns. He choose exits at random, sure he was ascending then made desperate by the sensation of descent.



Nils, listen, you’ve fought a good fight, but now, surely, you need to rest.

“I do.”

You need peace and quiet and comfort, don’t you, Nils, peace and quiet.

“Yes,” he wept. “Yes, I do.”

You need a sanctuary, a refuge, a place where you can simply be who you are. Where you can simply be.

He nodded this time. Too exhausted to speak.

So, come home, Nils. Come home.

Stairs, there, in the gloom. He was almost too weak to walk but hauled himself upwards. On, he went, each step was a mountain, climbed, conquered then a brief base camp before the next.

The gloom gave way to light, gray at first, then dirty ochre. It grew brighter, cleaner. Up he went. The last of his energy drained away and he almost gave up. But, suddenly, he was on the landing.

The house up here was well-lit and clean-smelling. The pastel walls were fresh with new paint. There were boxes of books on the landing, near the study door. In a while, once he had caught his breath and rested, Nils would carry them back inside and re-fill the shelves.
After that, he would call the realtor. There would be a financial penalty for a broken contract, but he didn’t care.

A knot of grief for Robyn lay dark and heavy on his soul, but that would pass. She wasn’t allowed here. He had spent twelve years living in this house without her. This house belonged to him alone. He was content here, at peace in his refuge, his sanctuary.

His Happy House.