Nora seemed uncomfortable about letting me in. She kept looking over her shoulder, like something was lurking back there. But I held the casserole up to her, and smiled. She caved.
We walked into the kitchen and I put the casserole down on the table. Nora stared at it blankly for a moment. She walked across the kitchen, opened a drawer, and stared at the contents. She just stood there, frozen. I went over to see what was in the drawer; just ordinary tableware.
I pulled out a spoon to serve with and a couple of forks. Nora jumped a little, like I'd startled her.
“Let's have a quick bite,” I suggested. She looked scared, but she didn't argue as a led her to a chair.
I grabbed a couple of plates from the cabinet and set the table. There was a vase of dead flowers near the edge. I moved it over, and saw a ring of polished wood where the face had set. Would you believe, the whole kitchen table was covered in dust. So I cleared everything off, wiped down the table, and set it again. Nora just sat there the whole time, looking pale and frightened.
The first sign of something strange came when I lifted the cover off the casserole dish. I felt this cold wind brush across the back of my neck. It was so out of place, it made me pause. I looked around and noticed the lights were flickering.
Nora whispered, “I think you should leave.”
I shook my head. “Nothing doing,” I said; “You and I are going to have a nice lunch and a chat.” I grabbed the serving spoon and dug it into the casserole. The lights flickered again.
Suddenly, the vase crashed to the ground. It made me jump. Nora started to cry.
I picked up the pieces of the vase and the dead flowers, and threw them away. Then I served each of us a big helping of the casserole. I slapped that serving spoon down on the table and took my seat with my head held high.
There are two things you should know about me. One, I'm a Christian. Two, I'm not a coward. I'd heard all the crazy talk about Hank haunting his old house. Most of it I ignored, because people will say anything just to hear the sound of their own voices. Some of the things I heard I thought might be true, because some of the sources were reliable. But even if all of it were true, it wouldn't have stopped me. I wanted to help Nora, and if Hank's ghost or whatever was in that house didn't like it he could go to hell. Probably where he belongs anyway.
I'm telling you all of this so that you'll understand my state of mind when I sat down to eat. And really, I'm not a coward. It's just that Hank...well. I'm getting ahead of myself.
We were ready to eat. Nora stopped crying and stared at the food on her plate. Her hand hovered over the fork for a moment, then retreated back to her lap.
“You need to eat something,” I said lightly. I picked up my own fork and dug in.
My lips closed over the fork, and the lights flickered again. I decided to ignore it. I wasn't even convinced ghosts existed. I pulled the fork away and began to chew. Once chew. Two chews.
“SMALLER BITES,” a voice screamed in my ear.
I dropped the fork and jumped out of my seat. Nora covered her face with her hands and started crying again. I swallowed hard and grabbed the edge of the table for support. “You heard it to?” I whispered. Nora nodded.
Even though we'd both heard it, I didn't quite believe it happened. Maybe I'd heard too many stories about the house, and was letting the rumors affect my imagination. So, I decided to try again. I picked up the plate and the fork, and loaded another bite. The lights flickered.
“Please don't,” Nora whimpered. “Just leave. Please.”
“Not going to happen,” I said. I shoved the food into my mouth.
“SMALLER BITES! SMALLER BITES! SMALLER BITES!” The room began to shake. The casserole dish hopped and jumped around the table.
I dropped the fork and plate. “We're getting out of here,” I told Nora. I grabbed her hand and dragged her out of the house.
Nora stayed with me and my husband for a few days. She barely ate the whole time she was with us. Every time she picked up a fork she just froze for a minute. We took her out to dinner one night and ended up sitting at the table for four hours, until she had finished a single soft taco. After that, she left town for a few weeks. Some relatives took her in for a long visit.
Something is in that house, something mean. Maybe it really is Hank's ghost; I don't know. What I do know is that someone has to be done. Poor Nora is just wasting away. She's skin and bones. If there's anything you can do to help her, get it done.
And if you do visit the house, could you look for my casserole dish? I expect it's sitting on the kitchen table. If it's still hopping around on its own just leave it there.