The Dream House

Something watches me from behind the windows of the house. A Spanish style building, like so many others in this town, but somehow, still so different. A house out of time and place. Spanish style, with its red-tiled roof, but also like a villa from the French Quarter of New Orleans. All of this, on the corner of a quiet road tucked deep in the heart of the Santa Barbara foothills.

But this is no ordinary Santa Barbara house. Oh no — it is entirely unglamorous. Worse, it is run down. Its white color is dirty and faded, stained with years of memory. It sits atop its garage, with a concealed garden. I can see the tops of lawn chairs peeking out from beyond the enclosed cement wall. But what grows there? Wildflowers, overgrown patches of wildflowers, blurs of summer pinks and purples laced in between curled green weeds? Or maybe a neat and orderly herb garden with well-loved tomato vines, hung low with fruit. But maybe it is barren — dead, and alive, like the house, its earth ripe with promise, dormant, waiting to be revived.

Stranger still is the house itself. No matter how long I peer into the windows, no matter what time of day, I can never see anything beyond those tall, dark windows. From across the street, which is as close as I dare to go, I have the distinct feeling that someone is watching me as I watch them. Somebody knows that I am fascinated by this house, pulled toward it even as the dog tugs at his leash to climb farther up the street.

I have never seen anyone come in or out of this house. Three stories of mystery, of this house that gazes back at you. Not a single sign of life, even in the lightest hours of the day. The garage door is sealed shut. One night, somewhere around midnight, I walked the dog right past the house. For the first time, I didn’t look up to acknowledge it. Maybe my mind was too heavy with thought, or maybe I saw something up the street. But as soon as I crossed the threshold of the house, a great howl escaped from within. We stood perfectly still, both of us in shock. Then, one howl turned to many screams, the agonized screams of dogs. We must’ve stood there for five full minutes, mouths agape as the abandoned dream house erupted with the cries of dozens of dogs. Sawyer had never been so quiet. Gently, I approached him from behind, tucked his little bottom under my arm and carried him back to the safety of the apartment.

I never dared ignore the house with eyes again.