When I told my girlfriend I didn't feel at home in my new place, she insisted on a housewarming party. I didn't argue, partly because she was usually right, but mostly because it seemed to make her happy, planning and inviting everyone. She put up some decorations--nothing fancy, but she said it would help liven the place up.

It didn't.

The angles and the corners didn't look right. The shadows were too long and too deep, the creaking of the doors and the house settling just a little off. She replaced the light bulbs and put up posters and it only seemed to make things worse--the light in the living room was too bright and still that weird creeping darkness came in on the edges of the room. The attempts to cover it with potted plants and additional lamps only seemed to make things worse.

There was something unsettling in the atmosphere of the kitchen, which she assumed to be the work of a draft. She was confident that when guests arrived they would warm the place up to habitable levels, but the kitchen remained almost deserted through the night, leaving much of the food and drink in there all but untouched.

Nobody stayed long. They sat around the too-bright living room, squinting and eyeballing the dark corners uneasily, had uneasy, awkward small talk, and left, suddenly reminded of some pressing engagement. Those who did stay avoided conversation entirely--and after a while, they stopped even feigning interest in food or drink. They just sat there.

A while after midnight we ushered them out, and on the doorstep they blinked and smiled and thanked us for a wonderful time, and though my girlfriend was sure they were just being polite I could have sworn they were being sincere, despite the haunted, unsettled looks in their eyes.

She lamented that the party was a disaster, and tried to come up with reasons--things I should complain about to the landlord, she said. They were all very logical and plausible explanations, and left out the possibility that the house was simply fundamentally not right.

When I suggested we sleep at her place that night, she agreed a little too quickly, and we left the house in peace.

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