The house

     It was a cold snowy night; heavy snow had almost buried the country road. At this moment, Oliver was standing shivering in front of a strange gray house, the  color of which was similar to the hazy sky and made people dizzy.

       Three hours ago, his truck had stalled inexplicably. He had called for help, but the other end of the telephone had said: OK, sir, we will be there as soon as possible!’’.

 And after that, three hours past, it was becoming very difficult for Oliver to endure the cold, so he jumped out of the truck and decided to find somewhere warm. Although this area was totally unfamiliar to him, it seemed that someone lived near the road.

       The decorative card on the door was vaguely written with 1017. He knocked on the door for a long time, but nobody answered. Right when he was ready to give up, the door slowly opened.

       In the crack of the door, a fair-haired, middle ages woman appeared, looking weak and pale. A long sweater was wrapped around her thin body very tightly, from neck to ankle.

      Sorry madam, i didnt mean to bother you; i know its very late, but my truck is broken down on the road. If you would let me in and stay for a little while, i would really appreciate it. He made considerable effort to squeeze a goodwill smile, which was really difficult for his frozen cheeks.

        The woman hesitated a little bit, but then nodded. Without a word, she turned and walked back into the room, leaving the door open. Oliver swept off the snow on his shoulder and quickly stepped into the house.

       Im really grateful...

       I havent had any guests for a long time; please sit down, she said and brought Oliver a cup of hot milk and piece of pie.

      Thank you! Oliver took the cup, looked around, and found that the furnishing was so old that it made him recall that period of time that he spent at his grandmas house when he was a boy.

      Are you alone?


      But where is your family?

      I have a son, but havent seen him for a longtime...

      Well, i bet he will come back to see you at Christmas.

      No, i dont think so.


      Nothing, with her head down.

      Oliver began to sympathize with her but didnt know what to say to comfort this lonely woman.

      If you like, you could sleep for a while; i have empty room upstairs.

      Oliver did not refuse; he was already exhausted after a days driving. Imperceptibly, he found himself in a bedroom. The temperature in the room felt cold like ice, and the newspaper on the table seemed like today's date but it already seems a little blurry.

      She made up the bed for him, and said: Ill bring you another blanket.

      I really dont know how to thank you; maybe i can give you a ride when you need go to the town next time, Im not very busy.

      That would be nice, but i dont think Ill need that. The woman looked at him, smiled, and went downstairs.

      Oliver sat on the bed, feeling lucky about having had met this kind women on such a terrible night. Suddenly, his cell phone rang. Maybe the police were coming, he thought.

      Where are you sir? We found your tracks, but we didnt see you, From the other end of the phone.

      Im in the house near the road, the gray one. I will be there soon. Just let me say goodbye to this warm-heart hostess.

      Well, sir, nobody lives nearby, and i havent ever seen such a house at all.

      Maybe the snow is too heavy, and you cant see clearly.

      What are you talking about sir? Its not snowing!

      Really?  Oliver stood up.

      And the only house nearby has burnt down.

      At this time, he glanced at that newspaper on the table. Astonished, he saw that the date was ten years ago.

      When did the fire happen?

      Um...about ten years ago; a woman died maybe, Im not sure.

       The phone slipped out of his hand, and a sensation of stupor oppressed him. I must be insane, he muttered to himself and tottered towards the windowsill, looking at the falling things in the sky and reaching out for one. Yes, it wasnt not snow at all. What he had caught was just a crumble of ash.

      Suddenly the wall started to burn, ceiling and wallpaper falling piece by piece. The closet collapsed in the fire, and dense smoke besieged Oliver. He stumbled out of the room rapidly only to find the first floor was already ablaze. He was completely on the verge of panic; flustered, he ran downstairs. The lower hem of his overcoat started to burn, but he didnt care, he was just want to flee from this horrific house. But when he was desperately running to the door, a charred crooked hand grabbed his left arm. While he did not have time to look at that thing, the whole house collapsed into ruins instantly...

      Down was breaking, the snow has just stopped, and everything was dull and soundless.

       Nothing broke the silence until the police knocked on the truck window. Oliver suddenly woke up in his seat, visibly shaken. The terrible fire and smoke had disappeared, like in a movie scene, and had changed into the familiar drivers cab, safe and sound. He slowly opened the door, stepped in the snow with a sigh of relief, real snow. He looked around; there was no such a house but only a large ruin and a shabby mailbox.

      Whenever Oliver later talked to his friends about this awful dream, They always thought he was out of his mind and maybe a little insane. But he firmly believed it was not a dream because he had seen it with his own eye, the number 1017 on the blurry mailbox, and on his left arm, a scorched, dingy hand print.