Stephanie Athena Valente | fiction | In This House

In This House
                                                                                                                                         [cw: implied blood, gore]

In this house, we have our own rules. We built this house with spit and blood. It was righteous. 

In this house, I want you to imagine a church with stained glass. Think holy Mary, a pious Jesus, ghostly saints with stigmatas (I never remember their names). There’s red, yellow, orange — real ass Roy G. Biv shit — and my bloody lips, pointy, prickly shards for teeth, and missing window panes. The holy water fountains were empty (I checked), and we ate stale communion wafers (The body of Christ needs salt, said Rabbit).

We sucked the bloody glass dry, me and my crew. We combed through this small whining town until we hit here, this little church with its old moans and an inch of dust. It was beautiful, really. So—it became our home. Kel, Rabbit, and me. Always three. 

In this house, we have our own rules. The sun is also a star that’s quite beautiful (we miss it), but the sun is also a shady little bitch. Not everyone gets to call a church home, but we do. We got black tarps and some velvet quilts we stole so we can cover the windows and sleep on the altar during the day. The first few nights, I got a case of the giggles—laying on that altar almost possessed and thinking about my grade school memories from a century ago. If only Sister Birgitta could see me now. Kel says I screeched like a wayward fox in my sleep.

In this house, we have our own rules. Thus as follows:
1.	Guests need to be invited in. 
2.	The invitation must be unanimous.
3.	Kel can’t be a radio hog. We all get a say.
4.	Blood gets distributed equally. Unless you are ill, then you get more.
5.	The sun is an orgasm you can only possess at night.
6.	There’s no coven leader, we’re a democratic coven. Or anarchist (we haven’t decided).
7.	That being said, votes win with a two-third majority.
8.	Don’t disturb the nuns in the crypt. They’re fucking creepy.
9.	Silver aversion is bogus. (I personally like to wear crosses, keep ‘em guessing.)
10.	By God, stay out of the sun you idiot. 

In the beginning, it was just Kel and Rabbit. They were high school sweethearts, you see (real darling). Then a few decades later, it was me. Now it’s just us three against the sun and the world. We rat-tat-tat in an old Nissan from the early 1990s down the highway and mind our business on the road. Some rats chewed the car batteries once (Kel didn’t even eat the rats, just let ‘em go!), and that’s how we found this place. On foot, we walked through this upstate town with its nondescript college and shady main street. 

Past a few houses in the woods, we found the church. There were wild turkeys chilling out back. They didn’t even run away. I was impressed. Maybe this New York hamlet could be the place. Rabbit squealed Home sweet home at the church, and she kissed the stained glass Mary three times. It was pretty cute, if I do say so. I took a sip of blood from the flask, and said we needed some house rules. Some kind of ghoulish order. To keep the humans out. To keep us safe. And more importantly, to have some fucking fun. 

We had been on the road for so long, and I was so tired. So tired I could sleep like I was dead (see what I did there?). Being on the road isn’t so bad. Faces change but people stay mostly the same. Scared, guarded, and all lovely underneath once you get them to relax. If they know how to relax. I keep time with this journal and by staring up at the stars (oh, and the whole drinking blood thing). Life is kind of easy. I like it this way. I think you would, too. 

It didn’t take long for me to crawl inside the church’s guts. The air smelled like burnt candle wicks and prayers. The crypt whispers with ghosts, sometimes I let them tell me their life stories. But I don’t last long, I get creeped out easily. I found robes and a nativity scene, but the baby Jesus was missing. Bibles with verses underlined in red ink and names in them of people I’ll never know. Would you want to know these people or eat them? Kel asked when we were looting the rectory office. We found whiskey in the bottom desk drawer. Maybe a little bit of both, I said. And then I was too concerned with getting the party started, mixing the booze with the blood-flask and putting the tape deck on so we could dance in the pews. 

Rabbit put on a nun's habit and we laughed and laughed. I laughed so hard I cried, which would be okay except the tears were red and stained my face. Rabbit looked so pretty in that habit and her little nose sniffed the air. I wore a cross I copped from a drawer, it was hidden in a children’s bible, embossed with white leather and gold letters. At that moment, with the scratchy tape playing Mudhoney and the Cranberries, we were all blood-drunk and swaying. Kel lit some candles on the altar with the big statue of Christ looking down on us like Hey buddy, welcome home. I swear, it was magic. 

On the tape, Dolores was screeching and singing about zombies (I love that part in the song, and you will, too). I grabbed Kel by their face and said, “I love it here. I love it here. I love it here.” I said it so fast it felt like speaking in tongues. In this house, my blood was running and we felt so full, we wouldn’t need to feed for a few days. My fangs were vibrating with that delicious urge. We were dancing and swaying, and then we were kissing. It was so pure. I don’t think I ever felt that free, like a bird out of the cage, singing, falling in love forever.

In this house, we’re all the alpha and the omega. In this house, ghosts tell their own tales. In this house, we’re all of God's pretty little children. In this house, we’re born of blood, night, and raw meat. In this house, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Beeper Peddle is a writer and healer living on the East Coast. She lives with her partner and their beloved soul puppy. Beeper writes about sorrows, lies, and deep loves. When you read her work, you will dip down into her heart and end up in all manner of body parts. Should you find yourself reflected in these words, it is merely coincidence; however, it does not surprise her you share the same heart. Find her at and @beeperpeddle on Twitter and Instagram

Stephanie Athena Valente (she/her) is a copywriter. She is the author of Internet Girlfriend (Clash Books, 2022), Hotel Ghost, waiting for the end of the world, and Little Fang (Bottlecap Press 2015-2019). Her work has appeared in Hobart, Witch Craft Magazine, and Maudlin House. She lives in New York. More secrets can be found at @stephanie.athena and