THERE REALLY WASN'T anything strange about the mansion. It just didn't have any windows or doors.
While everyone around was certain that there had been windows last night, it was definite that the old place didn't have any now. The brickwork was so exact that it was quite difficult to tell where the windows had been. The only true indicator was that the bricks over the windows were less decrepit than the original ones.
Had it been any other house, people might have gone up to welcome the new neighbours. Had it been any other house, marauding gangs of children would have played ding-dong-ditch on its unsuspecting doorstep, egged the walls, or thrown fluttering banners of toilet paper over the threadbare trees, leaving them to hang there like strands of silk in an enormous spider's gossamer web.
There was no one walking up the path to the door with pies, leaflets, business cards, or any of the things that old residents insisted upon presenting to new neighbours. The doorbell remained deathly silent. The walls, already in a state of considerable disrepair, were free of eggs. No toilet-paper spider made its home in the leafless trees.
Puzzling as this was, life went on in the shadow of the mansion. However, nobody ever talked about it. Words were hushed before they were spoken. If someone so much as glanced inquiringly at the castle of a house, the subject was quickly changed. The neighbourhood below cowered in the shadow of the strange phenomenon; no one had ever heard of a house whose residents had shunned light.
Of course, that was the root of the problem; as far as anyone knew, there were no residents. The house hadn't been for sale, it wasn't owned, and it hadn't been lived in. Nobody was ever home. Because of its lack of people to drive them out, the house became the subject of forbidden dares among the children. As is almost always the case, parents had more common sense than their offspring, and grounded anyone who attempted to surmount the wrought-iron fence surrounding the grounds of the house. No one knew why such measures were taken. Even the parents had forgotten why their parents hadn't let them go anywhere near the looming brick walls of the house, always seeming to be on the verge of collapse. It was simply that the old antique of a building had become taboo. Nobody talked about it, nobody came near it, and if you happened to ask, nobody seemed to know anything about it. The house was shrouded in mystery, and a house like that would 'stay shrouded in mystery, thank you very much, until somebody buys it, lives in it, and fixes it up a bit.'
The same speech was given to every child who had entered the grounds, right before their parents grounded them for a week, just like the parents' parents had done to them. It was strange, how nobody seemed to know why the penalty for entering the grounds was grounding, and those who asked got grounded for another week as an answer. It got to the point where nobody knew the why; just the what, the how, and the 'you're grounded'.
Alex Harrison viewed the mansion with vicious curiosity and an almost obsessive desire to see who was in there: because she, at least, was sure there was someone in that house.