House Of My Dreams


Valerie Byron

© Copyright 2019 by Valerie Byron   

Photo of a sunset. (c) 2002 by Richard Loller.

It was a joyous day when I took possession of my new home by the beach. After living in an apartment for so many years, being able to buy a large, beautiful house was a dream come true for me. I had come into an inheritance from my mother, who had recently died, and the money was more than enough to enable me to buy the property and fix it up.

Standing inside my lovely living room, surveying its beauty, I felt thrilled that I finally had a place of my own. I could see in my mind’s eye what it would look like when the decorating had been completed. Doubly exciting was the fact that I had been able to purchase two houses on one lot, thereby generating income from the small rental property in the front.

After a few months of planning, it was time to splurge on renovations, and arrangements were made for all the necessary work to be done. I spent hours on the telephone with various contractors, painters and other businesses, intent on turning my little nest into a showplace. The only drawback to all this work was the fact that I would have to move out for a few days. This posed a real problem since I had three cats and a dog, not to mention four small parrots.

While contemplating how to make these arrangements, a brilliant thought occurred to me. Why not move into the empty rental house in front for a few days? The new tenants were not scheduled to move in for several weeks, so the house would be completely empty. I figured I could handle a few days without gas or electricity, so long as there was running water. I would only need to sleep in the house at night, and would eat all my meals at restaurants. I would be at my office during the day which would take care of the remaining hours. It seemed as if my problem was solved without the expense of boarding the animals.

Looking around at my cats, the realization came to me that it was going to take some sneakiness on my part to get them into their carriers. Bella, Sailor and Maya seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to change. They could tell by looking at me that I had some nefarious scheme in mind, and were on high alert when I dragged their carriers out of the garage. All three raced up the stairs to hide under my bed until the threat had passed.

Leaving the cat carriers out in the kitchen, I turned my attention to the parrots. The bird room was attached to the front house, so they would be no problem. They could stay where they were, out of the way of workmen, safe and sound. The dog was also easy to handle and would do as she was told, happy to be by my side, no matter where I was.

I walked over to the front house to check out the lay of the land. The hard wood floors shone in the early morning sun, and the gleaming kitchen awaited the new tenants. The interior had been painted and cleaned from top to bottom, and it looked beautiful. Unlike my two-story Mediterranean house, this was a Spanish bungalow, built in the early 1920’s. It had two bedrooms, one small bathroom, a large sunny living room with an adjoining dining room. There was a view of the street from out of the huge picture windows in both the living and dining rooms. It would be an ideal campsite for two nights.

This should be easy,” I thought with pleasure. I’ll bring over fruit and water in case I get the munchies during the night, as well as all the supplies necessary for the animals.

I went back to my house and struggled with the cat tree, dragging it down the stairs, out the front door, across the patio and into the rental. I placed it in front of the picture window, so the cats could sit and observe the passing scenery, then returned to my house and collected a small mattress, blankets, pillows and a flashlight for myself, as well as candles, animal supplies and a book. I placed everything in the living room, thinking it would be better for me to be in one room with the animals, safe and sound.

I looked around, wondering if I had forgotten anything, but all seemed adequate for two nights.

Hey,” I reassured myself, “If I need anything, I can always go back to my house and get it before the workmen show up.”

Feeling satisfied that all was prepared for my night's adventure, I spent the rest of the day putting away valuables in my house and tidying up. By 9:00 pm I was exhausted, and figured it was time to lure the cats into their carriers and take them next door to the rental. I grabbed Maya and shoved her into the carrier, listening to her shrieks of protest with mild amusement. The other two were not so easy to finesse, as they struggled and clawed at me in protest. After a great deal of huffing and puffing, I managed to finagle them into their temporary prison, and locked it firmly. Picking up both carriers, the three of us made our way out of the house.

It was only a few steps to the house next door, and I immediately released the cats. They cautiously exited and then raced around the room, trying to find a place to hide. Fortunately, the house was totally empty, so there was no place for them to disappear. I laid blankets and comforters on the floor next to my mattress, but they immediately jumped onto the kitty condo and hid within its confines. All that could be seen were their gleaming green eyes, and I smiled, happy they were secure.

I placed their kitty litter box, food and water on the floor next to the condo, and prepared my simple bed for sleep. Dolly, my dog, snuggled up next to me and it wasn’t long before we were all fast asleep, snug and warm in our safe little house.

As I slept, I thought I dreamed. There were no images, just noises. Knocking and crashing sounds punctuated my sleep and once I woke, my heart pounding as if it was going to jump out of my chest. I looked around, but the room was in darkness. The cats were quiet, and only Dolly was awake, her ears pricked up. I listened for a while, but heard nothing further. I had no idea what the time was, as I had forgotten my watch. It was so dark, and I wondered if there had been an eclipse of the moon. Since there were no street lights visible from the windows, I figured it was still the middle of the night. I couldn’t see where I had placed my flashlight, so decided to go back to sleep.

I turned over, and pulled up the blanket, trying to get comfortable. Drifting back into sleep I could hear the faint knocking sound again, in the back of my consciousness, but decided it was nothing important and allowed the arms of Morpheus to swallow me up.
I awoke a few hours later, wondering why it was still dark. The fact that no sunlight was filling the room was curious, and I crouched on my bed, shaking the cobwebs from my mind, trying to adjust to the darkness.

The cats climbed down from their condo and mewled at me, wanting their breakfast. Ignoring them, I walked to the window and stared in disbelief. Everything outside was blue. What could it mean? I ran to the other windows – blue!

Stumbling into the back bedroom, I peered out of the window – still blue. What could it mean? I shook my head, trying to figure it out. And then it struck me! I almost fainted in disbelief and horror. The workmen had "tarped" the wrong house. They were supposed to fumigate my house- the rear house – this morning, but they had made a mistake. I was trapped inside with the dog, three cats - - and even the birds.

Amazed that the workmen had not come inside to check the place out first, I was determined to complain. Complain? How could I complain? I was trapped inside and no-one could hear me. I felt my way back into the kitchen, and banged on the door, screaming at the top of my lungs for someone to let me out. I felt for the kitchen knob and turned it. To my relief it opened, but the blue tarp was tight against the door, and it was impossible for me to escape.

Shrieking until I was hoarse I waited for someone to hear me – to answer - to no avail. I could hear music blasting from a radio outside, which drowned out my cries for help. I pummeled my fists against the tarp, hoping to dislodge it somehow, but it was fastened taut.

In despair, my heart pounding, I returned to the living room and sank down on the mattress, looking desperately around for a knife – anything I could use to cut through the tarp. But the house was empty – there were no sharp objects to be found.

As I gazed around the room with a sinking heart, I saw the room filling up with black smoke. I grabbed a blanket and stuffed it over my face, trying not to breathe too deeply. And then I heard the hiss of the gas coming through the ceiling vents to kill the termites.

The cats were meowing and Dolly was shaking uncontrollably. My eyes filled with tears at the thought of my beloved animals dying this way. Clutching them to my chest, I threw a blanket over us, praying that the end would be fast.

The room was becoming cloudy, and I could barely see as the room fogged up with blackness. I was afraid to scream – fearful that opening my mouth would finish me off faster.

Shush, Dolly,” I whispered, clutching the dog close to me as she whimpered. “It’s OK.”

I lay back on the mattress, feeling the thickness of the noxious gas spreading throughout the room and permeating my lungs. It was then that I knew with certainty that it was over. We were all going to die of suffocation, trapped in this gas chamber of horrors. I could feel the black sticky fumes entering my lungs and I prepared to die, hoping it would be over soon.

As I drifted into unconsciousness, tears seeping down my cheeks, I heard a faint banging, which became louder and louder. And then a man’s voice, calling. “Hey, Ms. Byron, are you there?” “We need to start today. Can you open the door?”

I struggled to open my eyes. They felt heavy, stuck shut. Blearily, I opened them, staring at the ceiling of my bedroom. I saw the lightness of day, and felt the sun shining on me. I was in my own bed, with two of the cats sitting close by my head, and the dog snoozing at my side. I staggered out of my bed with a feeling of thankfulness, and threw on my robe. Running downstairs I opened the front door to see workmen standing there, one holding a clipboard. I peered at his name tag. “Bill - Andy’s Termites.”

Did you forget, Ms. Byron?” We have to fumigate today. You need to leave right away.” With tears of joy I threw my arms around the startled workman and cried “Thank you, thank you!” He looked at me in surprise, shrugged, and then made his way into the house.

Contact Valerie

(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Valerie biography and story list

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher