“The House on Ashley Avenue”

An excerpt from the debut collection of dark fiction by award-winning Peterborough author Ian Rogers

Ian Rogers (photo: Kathryn Verhulst Rogers)
Ian Rogers (photo: Kathryn Verhulst Rogers)

Ian Rogers is a writer, artist, and photographer.

His debut collection, Every House Is Haunted, was the winner of the 2013 ReLit Award in the Short Fiction category, while his novelette, “The House on Ashley Avenue,” was nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. His short fiction has appeared in several markets, including Cemetery Dance, Broken Pencil, and Shadows & Tall Trees.

His work has been selected for The Best Horror of the Year and Imaginarium: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. Ian is also the author of SuperNOIRtural Tales, a collection of stories featuring supernatural detective Felix Renn.

Ian lives with his wife in Peterborough, Ontario. For more information, visit ianrogers.ca.

Every House Is Haunted is available in print, eBook, and audio book formats. A full list of purchase links can be found at everyhouseishaunted.com.

Update (July 31, 2014) – Universal Cable Productions and producer Roy Lee have optioned the TV rights to “The House on Ashley Avenue”, which was recently reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 5. Roy Lee is known for producing horror films including The Ring, The Grudge, The Departed, Bates Motel, The Woman in Black, and more. Lee will supervise development and executive produce, Datlow will co-produce, while Rogers has signed on as a consultant for the show.

An excerpt from “The House on Ashley Avenue” from Every House Is Haunted by Ian Rogers (ChiZine, 2012)

Cover for "Every House Is Haunted" by Ian Rogers
Cover for “Every House Is Haunted” by Ian Rogers

Charles and Sally pulled up to the house at a quarter of eight. They sat in the car, basking in the air-conditioning and the picture-postcard view before them. It was one of those perfect Toronto summer evenings, with the setting sun bathing everything in a rich orange glow. Ashley Avenue looked as if it had been dipped in bronze.

Charles turned off the ignition and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Sally glanced down at the bulge in his pants pocket. “You okay down there?” she asked.

Charles ignored her. “Let’s go,” he said gruffly, and opened his door.

Sally smiled devilishly to herself and opened hers. The humidity hit her like a physical force; she felt invisible hands press against her chest and force the air out of her lungs. A warm breeze buffeted her bare arms and legs.

It was only the middle of June and Environment Canada had already issued half a dozen humidex warnings. A lawn-watering ban was in effect, but you wouldn’t have known it to look at the verdant lawns on Ashley Avenue. The only exception was the one at number seventeen — it was dead as the people who had lived inside.

Sally looked up and down the street. According to Charles, who had become her de facto tour guide since she had moved to the city a year ago, they were in Rosedale, one of Toronto’s most affluent neighbourhoods. Occupied by the sort of personage who could get away with ignoring a city-wide lawn-watering ban without getting fined, or who could easily afford to pay it if they did.

Number seventeen stood at the end of the street, next to an overgrown lot that looked as if it might have been a Little League field once upon a time. Sally could just make out the diamond-shaped remnants of the baselines. The house itself was a large two-storey dwelling with a wraparound porch and a tall elm in the front yard. A set of flagstones made a path to the porch. The Westons had died here four days ago, but one would never have known it to look at the place. There was nary a police cruiser nor piece of crime-scene tape to be found. Sally wasn’t surprised. The residents of Rosedale paid for a great many things here, but she didn’t think scandal was one of them.

“Unassuming, isn’t it?”

Sally shrugged. “Looks like any other house on the block. Except for the lawn.”

“Just remember what it really is,” Charles said. “How did Jimmy put it?”

Sally smiled thinly. “He called it the architectural equivalent of a great white shark.”

Charles frowned. “Not entirely accurate, but close enough at any rate.”

“It doesn’t look dangerous,” Sally remarked.

“Did you expect it would?”

She gave the house a long considering look, then said: “No. I … I don’t know what I expected.”

“Expect nothing.” Charles’s voice was calm and collected, but Sally thought she heard something else underneath — nervousness. “Don’t allow your mind to focus on any one part of it. If you start to feel funny, close your eyes and imagine you’re walking a tightrope. Think only of keeping your balance.”

Sally glanced down at her shoes, a pair of high heels she had purchased earlier that day. “That shouldn’t be too hard.”

Charles heard the wry note in her voice and gave her an appraising once-over. “You’ll do fine. You look great. Just hang back and let me do most of the talking.”

Sally nodded and looked at the house again. One of the Eight, she thought. I can’t believe I’m really going inside one of the Eight.