A Stir of Echoes - By Richard Matheson

Chapter One
I hear, far off, at some forgotten door,
A music and an eerie faint carouse
Sometimes within the brain's old ghostly house,
And stir of echoes down the creaking floor.

-Archibald MacLeish "Chambers of Imagery"

Chapter One


A Hot, August Saturday-I'd gotten off work a little after twelve. My name is Tom Wallace; I work in Publications at the North American Aircraft plant in Inglewood, California. We were living in Hawthorne, renting a two-bedroom tract house owned by one of our next-door neighbours, Mildred Sentas. Another neighbour, Frank Wanamaker, and I usually drove to and from the plant together, alternating cars. But Frank didn't like Saturday work and had managed to beg off that particular day. So I drove home alone. As I turned onto Tulley Street, I saw the '51 Mercury coupe parked in front of our house and knew that Anne's brother, Philip, was visiting. He was a psychology major at the University of California in Berkeley and he sometimes drove down to L.A. for weekends. This was the first time he'd been to our new place; we'd only moved in two months before.

I nosed the Ford into the driveway and braked it in front of the garage. Across the street Frank Wanamaker's wife, Elizabeth, was sitting on their lawn pulling up weeds. She smiled faintly at me and raised one white gloved hand. I waved to her as I got out of the car and started for the porch. As I went up its two steps I saw Elizabeth struggle to her feet and adjust her maternity smock. The baby was due in about three months. It was the Wanamaker's first in seven years of marriage. When I opened the front door and went into the living room, I saw Phil sitting at the kitchen table, a bottle of Coca Cola in front of him. He was about twenty, tall and lean, his darkish-brown hair crew-cut. He glanced in at me and grinned.

"Hi, brother man," he said.

"Hi." I took off my suit coat and hung it in the front closet. Anne met me in the kitchen doorway with a smile and a kiss.

"How's the little mother?" I asked, patting her stomach.

"Gross," she said.

I chuckled and kissed her again.

"As they say," I said, "hot enough for you?"

"Don't even talk about it," she answered.


"Hungry?" she asked.


"Good. Phil and I were just about to start."

"Be right with you." I washed my hands and sat down across from Phil, eyeing his blindingly green polo shirt.

"What's that for," I asked, "warning off aircraft?"

"Glows in the dark," he said.

"Helps the co-eds keep track of you at night," I said. Phil grinned.

"Now don't you two get started again," Anne said, putting a dish of cold cuts on the table.

"Whatever does you mean?" Phil said to her.

"Never mind now," she said. "I don't want any needling session this weekend. It's too hot."

"Agreed," said Phil, "needling excluded. Agreed, brother man?"

"And spoil my weekend?" I said.

"Never mind," said Anne. "I can't face that and the heat both."

"Where's Richard?" I asked.

"Playing in the back yard with Candy." Anne sat down beside me with a groan. "There's a load off my feet," she said.

I patted her hand and we started eating.

"Speaking of Candy," Anne said, "I trust you haven't forgotten the party tonight at Elsie's."

"Oh my God," I said, "I did forget. Do we have to go?" Anne shrugged. "She invited us a week ago. That was excuse time. It's too late now."

"Confusion." I bit into my ham on rye.

"Brother man seems less than joyous," Phil said. "Elsie's shindigs no goo'?"

"No goo'," I said.

"Who is she?"

"Our next-door neighbour," Anne told him. "Candy's her little girl."

"And parties are her profession," I said. "She's the poor man's Elsa Maxwell." Anne smiled and shook her head. "Poor Elsie," she said. "If she only knew what awful things we say behind her back."

"Dull, huh?" said Phil.

"Why talk?" I said. "Go to the party with us and see for yourself."

"I'll liven 'er up," said Phil.

A little after eight-fifteen Richard fell asleep in his crib and we went next door to Elsie's house. In most marriages you think of a couple's home as theirs. Not so with that house. Ron may have made the payments on it but the ownership was strictly Elsie's. You felt it.

It was Ron who answered our knock. He was twenty-four, a couple of years older than Elsie, a couple of inches taller. He was slightly built, sandy-haired with a round, boyish face that seldom lost its impassive set; even when he smiled

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