“The House Next Door” by Mmabatho Mathope

The House Next DoorThe sun was shining and the birds were singing sweet sound of the morning. Mahikeng was hustle and bustle; Saturday was one busy day as usual. On Mokgola Street, neighbors were chatting as if they were long-lost friends and the nearby Benito’s Car Wash was as busy as ever.

Neo Kgeresi was busy cleaning her house when her friend Basetsana Nku paid her a visit. They were best of friends and they were even in the same stokvel. It was in the afternoon and Neo’s husband, Jerry was still at work. As Basetsana opened the kitchen’s door, she found Neo vacuuming. ”Hey, Neo, still cleaning? You are spoiling Tuelo and Karabo, hmm! When will they learn to kneel down on the floor and get their knees dirty? Children of today…”

Neo did not have time to chit chat because she wanted to finish cleaning so that she could rest. Basetsana went straight to the lounge area and sat down. The television was still on and she switched it off.

“Have you heard that some people are moving into that old house? They are either brave or stupid, I mean everyone knows about those horrible ghosts that are roaming inside and terrorizing people.” She shouted through the kitchen over the sound of the vacuum cleaner. Neo dropped the vacuum and rushed to the lounge.

“Did I hear you correctly? People are moving into that horror house?” She shook her head in disbelief.

She went back to the kitchen to boil water on the stove because the latest news was too juicy and they needed tea. Within an eye wink, the tea was ready and Neo served her friend. Basetsana, who was busy sipping tea from a saucer, explained the whole situation.

“I heard they bought the house cheaply. What do they think? Cheap houses are rare and if I was them I would’ve asked myself some questions. I am so afraid of that house, that when I pass it, I get shivers down my spine. If you want devil’s house here on earth, go there!”

Neo sat on the couch and replied, “C’mon, let us not forget what happened there was horrible. It was heart wrenching, the whole family being burnt to ashes. It was the worst thing that has ever happened here!”

Basetsana took off her eyeglasses and looked down at the shiny floor of the lounge.

“Don’t remind me, what exactly had happened there? They were very mysterious, we didn’t know much about them and they kept to themselves. I always thought that there was something fishy about them. I mean I tried to be nice to them but they seemed distant, you know. C’mon, Neo tell me, do you know something about them? They were your neighbors, You have to know something.”

Neo just shook her head and went to the kitchen to continue cleaning, leaving Basetsana alone in the lounge. The women continue gossiping about the house next. “I am just like you,” Neo shouted over the sound of the vacuum. “They were too strange for my liking. The wife always sat in the house and we never saw her outside and even the little ones never played with our children. To this day, woman, I don’t know how the wife or the husband looked. When they perished from that accident they were not even buried around here! This story is making me dry in the mouth; I will get myself a second cup of tea to calm my already torn nerves,” said Neo nervously. She put down the vacuum.

Later that afternoon the women from their stokvel arrived. Neo did not stop with the next door gossip and got the women in the juicy conversation.

“Hey, women, did you hear about the people who are moving next door. I wonder what type of people are they? That house is haunted and I have heard so many stories about it,” she told them.

Pinky jumped into the conversation.

“Don’t say! I heard that every night after twelve ‘o clock, you can hear children’s noise and glasses breaking. I am so afraid of that house that I don’t even look at it when I pass it. I looked once and I saw an old man looking at me through that broken window, I screamed and almost fell on my knees!”

The women were getting nervous and Dikeledi poured petrol on the already raging fire when she came with a new story.

“That is nothing; I heard that at around twelve o’ clock, don’t even think of passing here or else…”

The women looked at her waiting anxiously for her to elaborate further but she paused and she busted out laughing her lungs out. Dikeledi finally told the story that she heard from her husband, Pitso.

“If you run around at night, and I am asking why will you be looking at those ungodly hours, but if you happen to be running around here, you are in big trouble! Pitso and his friend, eh…what his name? Kgosi, lived to tell the story. You know this husband of mine how he loves alcohol more than me, and I think that Queen has put something in this concoction of hers because Pitso’s mind is always at that filthy place, first thing in the morning, Queen’s place, last thing at night, Queen’s Place. You know, it is very irritating but I have a plan, just wait and see! I am going to put pig’s milk in one of his beer bottles, just wait and see; you know I can’t take it anymore! Anyway where was I?

“Yes, Pitso and Kgosi were on their way home and they were very drunk and the minute they pass this house, a taxi came out of nowhere and stop next to them. There was a woman and a man and the man asked them for directions. Pitso told them and the couple offered Pitso and Kgosi a lift out of gratitude. They climbed in and they found two children and an old man inside. No, the taxi drove off but Pitso started to suspect something. The taxi did not turn at any street and it just went straight. The family was very quiet and Pitso tried to tell them that they have already passed his home but still the man just drove and he drove so fast that Pitso and Kgosi got so scared, they were suddenly sober. The alcohol was wiped out of their system, they tried to scream but it seemed the taxi was too fast. Then during the commotion everything went blank for them and they found themselves sleeping in front of that house where the taxi found them in the morning!”

The women were so afraid that when Neo came with a tray, they all shrieked. It seemed she was the only one who was not buying this incredible story.

“Ooh, c’mon, ladies “It is still earlier and you are already afraid, I think Dikeledi here is playing with your delicate minds. I know that this house is a bit off but I live next door to it but I have not seen anything. Stories about it make me laugh, ladies please stop!”

The women were still trembling in their sandals.

“I don’t believe this,” Neo continued “Pitso is always drunk. How can he know the difference between hallucinations and nonsense? Tell me when your husband was ever saying something that is believable. You remember that day when he came in the wee hours of the morning in my house saying he was chased by a group of tokoloshes and they robbed him? You remember very well and then you found out that he finished his monthly salary at a bar in the city and heard from his friends that he was flashing his money to impress some girls!”

It seemed what Neo said wiped some fear off the women, as they laughed, much to the dismay of Dikeledi. She had turned sour faced when she was reminded of that incident.

“Don’t remind me,” she said. “If I haven’t killed him that day, I don’t think I will ever kill him. Yes, I know he always lied to me but that day of the incident, he was truly scared, I mean he came to my house shivering like a wet chicken and he couldn’t speak and walk!” The scary story was forgotten, as the women laughed their lungs out.

It was around nine o’clock when the women left. Some were a bit afraid and they were accompanied by Neo’s sons. Neo washed the dishes and at around ten thirty, her husband arrived from work. He was so exhausted that when he entered the house, he went straight to the lounge area and threw himself on the sofa. Neo served him his supper and they all sat down and watched TV. She started a conversation, not even noticing that her husband wanted to watch the evening news.

“Jerry, did you hear about the people who are moving next door? I didn’t believe it. That house is as good as just a piece of land,” she told him. His ears seemed to be deaf because he did not hear any words his wife said and he even fell asleep on the couch.

She woke him up anyway and waited anxiously for his response. He did not have a choice and he replied grinding his teeth. “I am so tired; I can’t wait to go to bed. Ooh, you were saying? People are moving in what house?”

His closed eyes gave it all away that he was just asking to please his wife. Neo was so irritated that she was ready to strike his head with a plate. “You didn’t hear a word I say,” she shouted at him, but he was already snoring.

Later in the night, Neo and Jerry were in their bedroom ready to sleep. Neo tossed and turned and she sat up in the bed and took out her bible. It was eleven thirty and she could not close her eyes so she went to the kitchen and poured herself a glass of orange juice.

She went back to bed and tried to sleep but she couldn’t, and she finished the whole glass. She sang a hymn out loud but she was still awake. She even tried to think of something boring, but all the methods failed as her eyes were still wide open. She finally gave up and sat on side of the bed. It was now twelve o’clock on the dot in Mafikeng and people were sleeping. Jerry was enjoying the fruits of snoozing and she looked at him with envy as he snored like an ageing lion. Then a lorry arrived and that caught her attention.

She jumped out of her bed and peeped through her crème-white curtain to check what was going on. There was an intimidating lorry in front of her neighbors “haunted” yard. Curiosity got the best of her as she took a chair and sat next to the window. She watched closely. Within minutes, four hefty men climbed out of the lorry and started to unpack boxes, and there were so many boxes. She was stunned but she kept watching the weird scene.

“New neighbors at this time? This I would like to see. I thought they were coming tomorrow morning but at this time? This I got to see,” she said to herself.

Even the children of Mokgola Street did not dare play at that abandoned building so it was surprising for people to be moving in. The four men were also mysterious because they did their work at the same time, walked in the same rhythm, wore the same black overalls and they did not speak with each other. That made her cringe in her pink slippers; she quickly put on her glasses to see if she was not seeing hallucinations.

She tried to go back to sleep but the curiosity got the best of her. She wanted to leave things as they were but she was getting more curious and more curious. It was nerve-racking and even her clothes were getting too hot and she ended up taking off her colorful head wrap. She went back to the window. The men were still working but, after they finished unpacking, they quickly got in the truck and drove off.

The minute she left the window, she heard a car driving in. She rushed back to the window. Five people got out of the car; it looked like a man, a woman, and a boy, a girl and an old man walking with a stick. Neo could not believe her eyes. She wiped her glasses so that she could see properly. The woman and the girl child wore the same type of outfit and the man and the boy child also. She then remembered what Dikeledi said earlier and she almost jumped out of her skin and she tried to wake her husband, but he was in zee land.

The family went inside the house but the lights were still off and that made her more frightened. Her face was dripping sweat and her right hand was shivering but funny enough the fear made her more curious. She went into the kitchen to peep through her kitchen window. And while she was watching the neighbors, she discovered that she was also being watched! She got the fright of her life. Someone was watching her through the kitchen window of that house. She ran to the bedroom and tried again to wake Jerry but he was deep in sleep. She ran around the house screaming her lungs out but even her sons could not hear her.

She walked around in circles in her bedroom and a bed seemed like the last stop to the grave so the thought of sleeping gave her the shivers. While sitting on top of the bed she was getting sleepy, her eyes were dry and even the room started to move but she told herself that she was going to open her eyes wide even if it kills her. She even fell back but she fought to keep her eyes open. She could not take it anymore and went into her kitchen and grabbed a saucepan. She bravely opened the door. “They don’t know who they are messing with. I am Neo Kgeresi, they will know today that I am not to be messed around”, she talked to herself as she marched down to the house next door. She arrived at the house and knocked heavily on the wooden door.

Neo heard some footsteps and the door opened itself slowly and she bravely entered the lounge area. The lights were on and the family was all sitting down watching television and the children were sitting on the carpet. They all turned their heads at the same time and gave her a weird stare. Her skin was crawling with invisible worms as she looked around the immaculate lounge. She started to point fingers at each of them.

“Hey I’m talking; I don’t care if you are ghosts or witches what-what! You are not going to make my life difficult,” she shouted at them. They did not respond, but ignored her, and continued watching an old wooden TV which was playing an eighties series. While she was fuming, with fireworks blasting in her head, a short and skinny woman came out of nowhere wearing a purple long skirt, a purple beret and purple blouse. She was smiling with some blood-red lipstick on her thick lips.

The woman offered her a cup of tea from her silver tray. Neo’s eyes almost popped out and she took steps backwards.

“Wh…ere…do…you…Come from?” she asked, with a squeaky voice, stuttering. She tripped and fell on the old couch near the door. The mysterious woman was still smiling like a clown and Neo’s body was starting to freeze with fear. She gleefully gave Neo a cup of tea and introduced herself to her.

“I am Pauline Pooe and mam..?” Neo was stuttering like a nervous boy in puberty and she could not even pronounce her name and surname properly.

The cup fell from her trembling hands and broke into pieces as her body and legs suddenly became stiff. The woman came out of the dark and moved closer to her and asked her if something was wrong, but Neo knelt on the carpet and picked up the cup’s broken pieces without uttering a word. Neo then gathered courage and looked at her and the woman looked a bit skewed and her eyes were becoming unusually larger as she flashed her sparkling white teeth. Neo heard weird laughter in the background and when she turned around, she noticed that the whole family was laughing at her as she felt dizzy and the room suddenly was moving in high speed.

Neo tried to scream for help but her tongue was dry and words could not come out of her mouth. She fainted and woke up later with a terrible headache. She did not know what was happening and she stood up and… She found herself in her bedroom! She was more confused than ever, because one minute she was at the neighbors’ house and now she is in her bedroom, but how did she get home? She started to ask herself some questions and went to the clock to check the time. It was twelve midnight!

She heard a loud sound and peeped through the window and it was the same lorry she saw “earlier.” Four men climbed out and unpacked loads of boxes. Later the lorry drove off and she heard the other sound, she peeped through the window again and it was the same car and the same people climbed out, wearing the same clothes and went into the house. She was so scared that she almost fell.

“I need my pills. I am going mad. Oh, no, I am seeing things. I am officially mad,” she cried. Again, tried to wake her husband but he was deep in sleep. She went to the kitchen and peeped through the window and it seemed someone was also watching her from her neighbour’s house. “Have I not done this before?” She decided to go to the lounge and peeped through the window. She almost jumped out of her skin when she saw she was also being watched.

Neo crawled to the couch and hid behind it and gave it a little thought. She grabbed a saucepan and marched again to the house. She got in and lifted up her saucepan and tried to intimidate the timid family. They just gave a cold stare and continued watching TV. Neo bravely stood in front of the TV and raised her saucepan.

“Hey, I am talking to you. You are just ghosts and you can’t touch me! I am the daughter of the strongest man in Ga-Marole,” she boasted. They watched her with no emotions as she ranted like a crazed woman.

Again, Pauline, wearing the same clothes with the same wide smile emerged from the dark and offered her tea. Neo was busy clutching her fists as if she was ready for a boxing match while she was stepping backwards. Pauline was still coming for her and offering her tea but she bravely refused. Neo swayed the pan in front of her trying to scare her but Pauline did not stop coming for her.

“Move back, I am warning you, or I will crush that ghost head of yours,” Neo threatened her. Pauline was still coming for her and Neo had had it with her and ended up striking her head with a pan. Then the whole family slowly got up and came for Neo and as she ran, they just walked, but still they were close to catching her. Meanwhile Pauline was nursing her swollen head on the floor. Neo managed to escape. She ran through the quiet street and screamed for help but nobody heard her. People were fast asleep. Even dogs were silent and scarce on the street.

Luck was on her side as she managed to get inside her house. She quickly locked the door and closed all curtains. She hid behind her bed and she was busy trembling like she was trapped in snow. She checked the time on the clock that was hanging on the wall and it was still twelve o’clock.

This time she changed her plan and waited for them. The same lorry arrived, four men climbed out, unpacked the boxes, and drove off. Then the same car arrived and the family got out of the car. She calmly watched them and went to the house and knocked on the door. This time she opened the door herself and sat on the couch. Neo greeted the family respectfully and asked for a cup of tea. The family seemed stunned but they kept silent. She turned to watch TV and laughed at a scene. “Pauline,” she said. “Be a darling and bring me your delicious biscuits, sweetheart.”

Pauline rushed to the kitchen while Neo tried to chat with the adults but they were not interested. Pauline returned and she reluctantly sat next to Neo. Pauline nudged her husband. He didn’t respond. Then, out of the blue, Pauline asked Neo to leave, but Neo leaned her back against the couch and smiled.

The husband went straight to the door and opened it for her. She refused point blank. Pauline’s face was furious, but she politely asked Neo to leave, but Neo was adamant that she was going nowhere. Pauline stood in front of Neo and gave her an intimidating stare. Neo stubbornly refused and Pauline was on the brink of rage. The coffee table just fell in on itself and broke into pieces,  and one of the sofas as it tore itself into two pieces. Neo was still unfazed as things started collapsing all over the place, the wooden TV crashing to the floor. A tornado came into the room and swept everything around the lounge. Chairs, tables and cups broke into pieces as the room was shaking like an earthquake. Pauline stood firm in the middle of the room as everything flew around the room. Neo held tightly to the couch and heard Pauline’s loud voice.

“LEAVE MY HOUSE..!”

It was too much for Neo and she escaped through the back door and ran across the street screaming.

She managed to get inside her house and did not waste time but went straight to the bedroom. She climbed in her bed and covered herself with blankets and did not want to hear anything as she closed her ears with her fingers.

Neo heard a voice offering her tea. She shrieked and covered her ears but the voice did not stop pestering her with tea. “I’ve had it with you and that tea of yours,” she furiously replied to the voice.

Neo ran out of the bedroom without looking and went to the kitchen and went outside to check the house. It was empty and abandoned. She went back to the bedroom and lay down.

Her confused husband stood there holding her breakfast.

“I am trying to be husband of the year and this is the thanks I get!”


Mmabatho Mathope is an aspiring writer. She is an educator by profession and resides in Mahikeng, the capital city of the North West Province. Her favourite pastimes are writing dark fantasy thriller novels, films, TV scripts and painting. She is passionate about the arts. 

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