It was winter in the desert; it was the rainy part of winter in the desert. It was humid and freezing at night. A house, built in 5724, sat aching and rotten in the year 5784. The windows seemed to have never been cleaned; a layer of dust each from every storm over the past 60 years. The wood was ready to give in at any moment from the constant onslaught of termites. There were enough cracks in the exterior stone walls that one might assume an earthquake had happened. The rent was the cheapest in the desert, cheapest by far.

Lee MacKenzie moved into 1350 East Sabaku Street unit one on seventh Shevat 5784. The previous couple, a young lesbian couple, moved out seemingly in a hurry; they left behind the majority of their lawn ornaments and potted plants. The garden beds still had frost cover on them. A sign still hung in the window. The sign featured an illustration of a skull floating in front of Babad Do'ag. Text above and below the skull read “Abolish Police and Prisons.”

Despite the look of the house itself, the yard was rather nice. There was a bird bath, gnomes in various scenes, and plenty of space for planting food. Lee MacKenzie thought maybe he could finally grow things like, carrots, onions, and potatoes; he had never had a yard before. He had always wanted to have a garden.

When Lee MacKenzie first walked into the house he was quite surprised. The inside of the house was exceptionally clean. Judging from the outside, he expected the interiors of his new home to be the same if not worse. Yes, the walls had cracks in them on the inside, as did the ceilings, but the walls were nicely painted. The floor and appliances all appeared to be brand new. The residence was also fully furnished, something not mentioned in the listing, but a nice bonus.

Lee MacKenzie didn’t have much to do that day so he thought he would relax for some time. He sat down on the red leather couch that was placed against the west wall of the living room. Above the couch was a large window which was covered by long red curtains. MacKenzie pulled his smartphone out of the pocket of his jacket and began to read a novel.

Around 00:00, MacKenzie woke up on the couch. The house was completely dark aside from the soft orange glow of the street lamps creeping in through the edges of the curtains. He could hear a soft movement above the ceiling, and a slight chittering. He groaned, mice. Of course there was a catch; the place had mice. MacKenzie didn’t have much in the way of money so he figured he could just adopt a cat, so he went to the shelter the following morning and did so.

Trinket was a hulking orange tabby, weighing in at 16 pounds. He was quite friendly with MacKenzie immediately. The house already came with a cat bed and after some investigation, Trinket fell asleep for some time. MacKenzie figured that Trinket would get the mice eventually and went about his day.

That night, after returning home from work, MacKenzie sat down on the couch next to Trinket. He pet Trinket for a moment and Trinket began to purr. They sat like this for a while as MacKenzie began reading a novel on his phone again.

Around 01:00, MacKenzie woke up to a strange noise. Trinket was crouched on the floor, staring at the ceiling, and growling. MacKenzie didn’t know cats could growl. He could hear the soft movement above the ceiling again, though it sounded more frantic this time. He almost thought he heard giggling, but that must’ve been his imagination. He thought maybe it wasn’t just mice if Trinket was making so much noise about the matter. He thought maybe there was a family of raccoons up there. He recalled seeing the entrance to the attic when putting his clothes in the closet bedroom, so he thought he’d go and have a look.

He opened the hatch to the attic and popped his head in. He investigated the dark room slowly until the light from his torch fell upon a pile of small stuffed animals. He didn’t see any raccoons, or mice. He figured the previous occupants must have left the stuffed animals. They were dull colored bears. They seemed ancient. They had no visible tags, they appeared to be hand stitched, and some of them had a tear in a spot or two. He thought maybe he could find the owners through the landlord, so he brought them down. They were quite dirty so he cleaned them up a bit and placed them on the couch in the living room. It was quite late so he got in bed and went to sleep for the night.

When MacKenzie woke up the next morning to go make his coffee, he was met by a strange scene. The stuffed bears were sat at the chairs around the table. He very much remembered placing them on the couch. Trinket came out of the bedroom and immediately started growling at the bears. That is when they also slowly turned their heads and looked directly at MacKenzie. He felt a wash of panic as their piercing black eyes fell upon him. In a rush of adrenaline he grabbed Trinket, not even bothering to put him in his carrier, and rushed out the front door. With Trinket in tow he got in his car and sped away. MacKenzie was not going to take any chances that day.

He called the landlord after driving some miles and said the previous occupants left some things he didn’t feel comfortable touching. The landlord understood and said they’d send someone to remove the items. He said they could let themselves in as he was out of town on business. MacKenzie found a hotel to stay at until the matter could hopefully be dealt with. It turned out, he’d have to be at the hotel for quite a lot longer than imagined, given the police investigation.

Police were called to 1350 East Sabaku Street on tenth Shevat after the neighbors heard a scream come from within the house. The workers the landlord sent were found dead in the living room, their skin completely removed.