In 1990, I thought I was on top of the world. I had been dating a cool and attractive gothic girl, and nothing seemed like it was going to get in our way. The only problem was that at the time, I lived in Rosenberg, about forty miles outside of Houston, and she lived at her mother’s house near Louisiana.
After several months of driving hours and hours to either hang out at her mom’s weird house in the middle of nowhere, or to drive there and back to Houston so we could go to our favorite night club, we decided to move in together.
Our best (meaning cheapest) option was to move into a trailer house that my mom had inherited from a recently deceased husband. Mom had moved it into the middle of a neighborhood with no other trailers, so we were destined to be the weird, gothic trailer people that no one wanted living on the street. In retrospect, I can’t blame the neighbors for the chilly reception we received.
The trailer itself started out nice enough. Pretty standard design for an almost-new single wide trailer from the late 1980’s. Lots of brown shag carpeting, and wood paneling. Fairly hideous actually, but it was fully functional as a shelter, and I could rent it from my mother for next to nothing, which nicely fit our budget at the time.
I had a very humble and low-paying job working at a movie theater in Houston at the time. My girlfriend didn’t have a job, and didn’t really want one. As it turned out the relationship would not last long, since she preferred to do drugs and go clubbing, slept twelve hours a day, and also had serious intimacy issues. She converted the master bedroom in the trailer into a dark cave, covering the windows with aluminum foil and black sheets, and cranking the central AC as low as it would go. It felt like a meat locker, but it was easy to fall asleep.
Realizing that working for next to nothing at a movie theater, and then returning home to a trailer where my girlfriend would be asleep until dusk, rising like a clinically depressed vampire to go to a nightclub called “Numbers,” where she would most likely do some Ecstasy with her equally mentally unstable friends, before returning to repeat the cycle again…that wasn’t working out well for me. Since the aforementioned intimacy issues meant that I was only having sex once every two months or so, I was quickly reaching a breaking point.
I’d met a guy named Jeff through a mutual friend of ours, and we’d hit it off well. Jeff was a weird musician guy that didn’t care about the Houston goth scene at all, and that was refreshing to me at the time. He’d recently had a falling out with a band mate/roommate, and was looking for a place to live. He’d also recently lost his job, so he wasn’t a great prospect for a roommate, but I liked the guy, and money wasn’t the primary concern.
My girlfriend was very shortly an ex-girlfriend after a bad fight where her only defense seemed to be “You knew I was crazy when we got together!” It was true. I hadn’t know exactly how crazy, but the warning signs were there. I should’ve known better.
So she left that night, only to return the next day while I was at work to take all of her stuff as well as some of mine, and that was that. I never saw her again.
Jeff moved in soon afterwards, and we got along well. I would go to work, and he would hang around the trailer all day, and record music on our very crude little 4 track system. He took a lot of LSD, and just recorded music all day. The guy was a lot more accomplished as a musician than I was at the time, so I was always interested to see what he would come up with. Occasionally our friends would come by, and life was good. We weren’t getting anywhere fast, but it was a fun and mostly stress-free existence. I had a new girlfriend by then, but we had no plans to move in together anytime soon. Lesson learned.
Eventually, the trailer began to fall to pieces. We had continued to dime the AC exactly the way my ex had enjoyed it. I guess we figured that we were already the hated weirdos living in a trailer on the street, we might as well be comfortable weirdos. Unfortunately, comfort often comes with a cost, and in the case of our single wide that cost was a slow but certain water leak from the AC unit. This leak was undetected, because it was seeping underneath the carpet and soaking the wood underneath. By the time we saw signs of the problem, the AC was starting to malfunction, and the floor had warped, bowing in an unsettling manner. We both worried that eventually one of us would crash through the bottom of the trailer, and to our doom. Meanwhile the warped floor began to get so waterlogged that a permanently damp area had started to form, and it slowly became a small lake separating both ends of the trailer.
Jeff’s room was almost completely cut off by this murky carpet pond, and the humidity in that part of the trailer was thick in the air. The AC continued to work somehow, so it was a cold misty humidity, which was probably better than if it had been warm. Small favors, I suppose. There was never a question of getting anything “fixed” – my mother was just warehousing the place, it wasn’t something she really wanted, she definitely wasn’t going to spend any money on it, and I barely made enough money to pay for food and gas at that point.
In fact, I had been bringing large garbage bags of popcorn home from the theater. They let us keep any that was left after closing, and Jeff and I had been supplementing our diet of cheap generic hotdogs, generic fruit loops, and ramen noodles with as much popcorn as I could haul off. It’s surprising we didn’t die of malnutrition, but I guess we were young enough to survive on that junk for awhile.
So the soggy carpet-lined lake grew larger as the floor rotted away under it. I would just leap over it as best as I could, and Jeff rarely left his room unless I was home from work anyway. We had begun to dream of a better living situation.
Eventually, other problems cropped up at the trailer. The AC finally began to crap out, and we both knew that when that happened the cool misty environment within the trailer would become an unbearably hot swamp, and we would be forced to leave.
One night, I had arrived home from the theater, and rather than diving into another enormous bag of popcorn, I decided to indulge in a rare treat – I’d just been paid, and wanted to order a pizza for delivery. Jeff made the call, and since I had cash, we waited for the pizza guy to come. Jeff had left an album on his turntable playing in his room, and so “Caress of Steel” by Rush played in the background. Jeff was a huge Rush fan, and had taught himself how to play guitar by figuring out the band’s songs by ear.
The pizza guy finally arrived. We could hear him walking up our steps, and several things happened at once.
First, the Rush album seemed to stop, and then sounded as if it was suddenly playing backwards. The turntable was in Jeff’s bedroom, and so neither of us actually saw anything happen, but it certainly sounded like it was being played backwards, and that was decidedly strange. Stranger still, the twenty dollar bill I’d been clutching in my hand the whole time was suddenly missing. I panicked since it was all the money I had in the world at that time, and there was a pizza guy at our door that would undoubtedly be angry to discover two broke weirdos waiting for him while listening to Rush play backwards.
As the pizza delivery guy knocked at our door, I scrambled to find the cash. Jeff finally answered the knocking, just as I spotted the money – it had somehow found it’s way to the back door, a sliding glass patio thing, and was stuck between the door frame and the door itself. How this happened, I still have no idea, it’s as if the $20 was trying to run away and escape, since neither Jeff or I ever opened the door that evening.
I retrieved it, as Jeff greeted the delivery guy, a hulking giant with long stringy hair.
“You guys listening to music backwards? They hide evil messages on them records, you know.”
So yeah, the guy noticed the weird music anomaly occurring.
We paid for the pizza, and the delivery guy left. Jeff jumped over the swampy puddle to check on the record player in his room, and by the time he reached his bedroom door, the record player stopped playing. All of these things happened over about a minute, maybe two, and it left us with a strange feeling of unreality.
Jeff and I had already been considering moving into Houston, where most of our friends, and the things we liked to do were located. Considering the rapidly declining state of our trailer, a move was sounding better than ever.
As we sat on the hand me down couch that we had, Jeff stared vacantly towards the front door, and seemed to be deep in thought.
“Have you noticed that stain over the door?” he asked, still staring blankly.
I had noticed an ugly water stain slowly forming on the ceiling above the door a few days earlier. I figured that it was due to the high humidity inside the trailer from the rapidly melting down air conditioner. Just another sign that the place was falling apart.
“It looks like the stain is forming letters,” he continued.
Sure enough, the stain did seem to have a deliberate look about it, as if it was trying to spell out a nasty brown word.
“”Hell Kill. It says Hell Kill.”
I looked closer at the stain, and it really did look like words were forming. The more I looked at it, the more clear the “letters” seemed to be.
“Yes, it looks like Hell Kill. I guess we should start looking for a new place to live,” I answered.
I have seen some odd things in my time, and had some really weird experiences. I don’t necessarily expect people to believe in the objective reality of some of those otherworldly happenings, but when your Rush album seems to play backwards, the only $20 you have tries to run away, and a fast forming water stain seems to spell out “Hell Kill” over your front door, a person begins to get the idea that maybe something’s trying to tell them something… And that message was definitely “Move out of the trailer”. The only thing that would have made it more clear is if the oven had started saying “Get out!” Every time I opened it.
Within a month we had moved away, and never looked back.