Perched on the plateau atop a hill named for the hickory trees dotting its slopes, the abandoned house broods over the tiny Alabama town called Belleville like a rattler guarding a clutch of eggs. From the rear windows of the second story one can glimpse the dark waters of the Tennessee River to the southwest when the leaves have dropped, a tarry path slicing through red clay fields laid bare for the winter. Few of the townspeople know this, because they no longer think about the house above them; it has faded in the town’s collective memory the way colors in an old photograph do.
Sometimes, when the sun has dropped low in the western sky, a glint of light reflecting off one of the unbroken windows will catch the eye of someone below, reminding them that the house lingers on. They will remember the stories they grew up hearing and repeating as they cowered in their beds with the covers pulled up over their heads, giddy with that special kind of terror only a child knows. As often as not, the person will look away from that glint of light quickly, perhaps genuflecting unconsciously or offering a whispered prayer. That night they may dream about it, black visions filled with screams and blood and almost-seen faces leering out of the darkness at them.
The lines of the house are skewed now, and its supports grown weak. Where it once stood straight and true it has sagged and bowed. But still it stands, ageless and timeless, looming over the town like a watchful sentinel.
And sometimes, it feeds.