Title: Life at the Death House
Author: Sean E. D. Kerr
Publisher: NineStar Press, LLC
Release Date: August 20, 2018
Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex
Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, HIV, AIDS, grief, addiction, illness/disease, children, tear-jerker, drug/alcohol use, gay
The locals call it the Death House, but Carol and Marco designed the New Life House as a home for kids to live, safely removed from the stigmas and judgments of the outside world.
Seventeen-year-old Tyler arrives on the doorstep, hoping that he’s finally found a safe place to die. His arrival causes the other kids to question the futures they’ve been promised, and Carol and Marco must convince them there is life after diagnosis.
Even through struggles with addictions and questions of sexuality, the residents could come to believe in the possibility of living.
Life at the Death House
Sean E.D. Kerr © 2018
All Rights Reserved
The air bit at his cheeks as he walked toward the house where he hoped he would die. After all this time, he’d made it. Tyler took a deep, satisfied breath as he slowly worked his way up the gravel driveway.
He found out about the New Life House on his birthday back in September, and had been trying to get there ever since. When he first saw the pamphlet, he nearly laughed. Strange name for a death house, he’d thought. The name just didn’t make sense to him. There was no new life for people like him. There was only death and loneliness. And pain. That’s all there was.
Despite his commitment to dying, his heart still raced at the thought. A death house. He’d already lost everything that ever mattered and then some. The only thing he had left to lose was his life, and he wasn’t convinced that would be much of a loss. There was no one left to mourn him anyway. I just don’t want to die on the streets. I don’t want to die like… He couldn’t even finish the thought.
Tyler held his breath to steel himself to the pit of guilt growing deep inside him. Why had he been the one who found the New Life House? Why couldn’t they have found it together? He’d never expected how quickly things could change in a couple of years or even a few months. How many things and how many people he could lose in such a short time. He never knew just how real life could be until the day it happened. The day he didn’t like to think about. The day he’d found he really was alone.
He stopped as he reached the edge of the paved section of the driveway, not far from the house but just far enough away so he could take it all in. It was huge. He cleared his throat and blinked as if to make sure it was really there.
The New Life House stood in the center of a two-hundred-acre piece of well-kept land. It was a large Victorian-style home with faded blue paneling, yellowing white trim, and a wraparound veranda with white paint, peeling and flaking away, revealing the graying wood beneath it. The last of the grass was fighting to be seen through spots of early snow and fallen leaves as winter edged its way in. The driveway was nearly half a kilometer of dirt and gravel, leading to the large circular patch of pavement around the front of the house, the same pavement he now hesitated to step onto.
Tyler looked over his shoulder to see how far he’d walked, but his view was blocked by a line of silver maple trees, sparsely decorated with what remained of their brightly colored leaves, that cut across the front of the property about halfway down the driveway. From where he stood, they resembled a really tall fence.
His attention drifted back toward the house. The sweet smell of rotting leaves mixed with the scent of a roast dinner filled the air, warming Tyler as he imagined what it would taste like. His mouth watered, and his stomach grumbled. He hadn’t had a proper meal in days.
What am I doing? They’re not gonna take me. This is stupid. He looked down at his worn runners, torn and caked with dirt, and wondered if his journey had all been for nothing. What if they could see right through his lies and could see what he truly was? What if they refused to let him stay? He couldn’t take another rejection. He wouldn’t let anyone have that power over him again.
Don’t be ridiculous. You’re going in. He did his best to give himself a pep talk. He was never very good at those either. The only thing he knew how to do was disappoint, but he would do anything to be allowed to stay…almost.
They agreed on the phone to let you come. Stop freaking out. They can’t change their minds that fast. He took a deep breath, stepped onto the pavement, and began his walk to the front door.
He rang the bell and waited for what felt like hours for someone to answer. “Hi,” Tyler said shyly, avoiding eye contact with the tall and athletic, bordering on beefy, man who greeted him.
“Hi there, you must be Tyler. I was expecting you about an hour ago,” the man said, smiling and offering his hand to shake.
Tyler stared at it but shied away.
The man pulled his hand back but kept smiling, seemingly unbothered by Tyler’s reaction. “Come on in. I’m Marco.” His voice was loud, energetic, and slightly more high-pitched than Tyler expected.
“Thank you,” Tyler said quietly. He looked around the foyer, in awe of its grandness. The room was large and dark with wood floors and features. On a small table next to the office, a single lamp gave off a dim glow, lighting the first few feet of the darkened hallway that led toward the common areas of the house. Across from the entrance was a wide wooden staircase, lined with red carpet that led up to the second and third floors. The sounds of children giggling and chattering in the TV room drifted softly down the hall.
“I was beginning to think you weren’t coming,” Marco said. “Just put your shoes on the rack.” He nodded toward a shoe rack already holding several other pairs of runners and boots.
Tyler did as he was told even though he was embarrassed that his socks were dirty, and both of his big toes stuck out of matching holes.
“Sorry I’m late.” He chanced a quick glance at Marco. He doesn’t look like a doctor.
Marco was wearing blue jeans and a Nirvana T-shirt. He looked like an old guy who hadn’t accepted his age yet.
“Can I take that for you?”
Tyler flinched and jerked away defensively as Marco reached for his bag.
Startled by his reaction, Marco retracted his hand, immediately stepped back, and shrunk his stature. “It’s okay. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“You didn’t scare me,” Tyler said, straightening up. “I’m not a pussy.”
Marco laughed. “I probably should have known that.”
“How could you have known? You don’t know me.”
“Most young guys who have tattoos on their necks and piercings in their eyebrows tend to have a bit of a wild side,” Marco said. “There’s an element of tough guy that comes with that look.”
“Hm.” Tyler instinctively brought his hand up to touch the black tattoo in Chinese characters on the left side of his neck and forced the burgeoning tears to dry as he thought back to the day he’d gotten it. He smirked, pleased that he came off as tough. His blue jeans were baggy and tattered; he had a black hoody on, undone over his black T-shirt that read: Do I Look Like a F*!#ing People Person?! He had put great effort into crafting an appearance that would keep people at bay. He controlled what he could. Despite his great efforts to appear tough, he was cursed with blond hair and a baby face that, in his opinion, only served to make him seem vulnerable. That’s why people always took advantage of him, but he wouldn’t let anyone do that again.
“How old are you?”
Tyler stood a little taller. “Seventeen.”
“I was pretty sure that’s what you’d said on the phone, but you look a lot younger.”
Tyler frowned and slouched again. “I know.” He rolled his eyes. He’d heard these lines before. This conversation was going nowhere.
Marco ran his hand over his bald head almost instinctively, as though it would help him come up with something else to say.
Tyler despised small talk. It was only adding to his anxiety over whether they would let him stay or not. He took a deep breath and admitted what he hadn’t on the phone a month before.
“I don’t have any money.” He said it quickly to get it over with. If it meant he had to leave, he wanted to know now.
“It’s okay. We’ll figure something out,” Marco said, reaching his hand out for Tyler’s bag again.
“I told you I don’t have any money.” Tyler pulled away and, for the first time, made full eye contact with Marco.
“And I told you we’ll figure something out.” Marco kept his hand outstretched.
Tyler cringed. He knew where this was going. It was just like all the others who said they wanted to help. It was never that simple. How could he have been so stupid?
“I’m not going to sleep with you so I can stay here,” Tyler snapped.
Marco stepped back again. “That’s not what I meant.”
Tyler gave him a confused, distrusting look.
“Oh.” He startled and clutched his bag tighter as a middle-aged woman with short, gray-blonde hair came in from the hallway. Now, she looks more like a doctor. She was wearing a beige sweater and tight, dark-green jeans. She had glasses on top of her head rather than over her eyes, something that had always amused Tyler. What good do they do up there?
“I thought I heard the doorbell ring,” she said, smiling as she walked toward Tyler and extended her hand. “Welcome.”
“Hi,” he said, shrinking away from her.
The woman looked at Marco knowingly, smiled, and said, “You know the polite thing to do when someone tries to shake your hand is to reach out and shake.”
She kept her hand extended, waiting for him to respond. “My name is Carol. What’s yours?”
Meet the Author
Sean holds a diploma in Professional Writing from Algonquin College (Ottawa, Canada, 2009). He found his love of writing at the age of ten when he released his first miniseries via Duo-Tang folder to his family and friends. He has another four novels outlined and is working on draft one of a fifth.
In December 2016, he launched the Pontiac & Ottawa Valley Writers’ Circle under the umbrella of the Pontiac Artists Association (PAA). He continues to coordinate the efforts of the POVWC and is enjoying the blossoming of a strong creative writing community.
Sean writes a wide range of genres with a particular focus and interest in literary and upmarket fiction. He specifically enjoys writing stories that deal with how people react to hardships, exploring how they come through them for better or for worse. It’s the experiences and choices that change people that intrigue him the most. Common themes include addiction, mental health, sexuality, grief and hope.
Sean lives on a farm in Bristol, Quebec, with his husband, Glen; their dogs, Suzie, Maxwell and Walker; their goats, Tyrion and Arya; and their llamas, Shadow and Angie.