It has been twenty years since the day I arrived here. Twenty years to reflect and become bitter. Twenty years to examine this house. And twenty years to hate everything I’ve found.
Why did I have to end up here? This is not where I pictured myself ending up. I used to imagine bright, sunlit rooms in a large, vibrant house, surrounded by those that I love. I imagined laughter and smiles and celebrations and comforts. Instead I find myself in this miserable old wreck of a house, miles from anywhere, and no one to love or be loved by. There isn’t even much furniture or anything at all to make it seem inviting or comfortable. It is all dust and filth and decay and rot. It is ramshackle and rickety, creaking and tired. It is dark and drafty at night and even on the brightest days the sunlight can only manage to send feeble, dusty shafts of light though the nearly impenetrable shroud of honeysuckle and jasmine that has taken over the outside of the house.
I am so tired.
I feel I have to go somewhere . . . but where shall I go? I have been to every spot in this house, seen them from every angle, from every perspective, during every condition of light and dark and hot and cold. There is nowhere left to go. So I stay here in this room. The room upstairs. In the back of the house. As far from where It happened as possible.
I used to stay in the room at the front of the house. I wanted to be near a window so I could look out. So I would know if anyone came near the house. I keened every day for the sound of a car approaching or the sound of a voice or perhaps the sight of a headlight or flashlight during the night. But rarely did such things happen. And after awhile I drifted to the back of the house, not really caring if I saw a light or heard a sound. No one would come. It has been twenty years and in all that time there were only a few instances of someone coming near the house. I could count them on one hand. It was strange that on those few times when someone actually did approach the house, I found that I was not anxious to see them. Or to be seen. At first I went eagerly to the front door, yearning to finally see someone, to talk to someone. But as they got closer I would fill with rage and shame and I would retire back upstairs. To the back room. And they would leave without having even come inside.
And so now here I lay. Too tired to move.
Twenty years ago I understood physical exhaustion. But to have one’s soul exhausted is unbearable. One can rest a body and cure physical exhaustion. There is no cure for spiritual exhaustion. There is only more and more exhaustion. With every passing day or hour, it only gets worse. You visit the same rooms over and over and over a thousand times. Ten thousand times. Yearnings fade and flicker and die. And there is nothing left but the exhaustion. The bitterness.
It is like lying in bed at night, sleepless, staring up at a featureless ceiling in a silent room in a darkened house. You memorize the ceiling. You memorize the faint humming of the silence. And the night never ends. There is no waking. No sleeping. No desire to get up. No desire to remain lying in bed. There is no desire at all. Only the emptiness. And the never-endingness.
The only thing that makes you want to move is not being able to bear seeing this room or this wall or this ceiling one more time. Not for one more second.
I leave the back room. Moving is hard. I used to take moving for granted. I moved without thought, almost without effort. It was as easy as taking one step, and then another, and then another. Moving was purpose and purpose moved me from spot to spot, place to place, moment to moment.
Now there is no purpose and moving is hard. Time has become thick and viscous and it is hard to push through it from one moment to the next. I cannot even discern one moment from the next. Was this the same moment I was just in? Or is it the next? It is that sense of time being blurred and smeared that makes it hard to tell if I am moving or if I am still. Was I just here in this very spot? Or did I just move here? Or have I been standing here for a year? It is hard to tell. Movement now is not purpose; it is memory. I remember wanting to be in the front room and here I am but I do not remember coming here. Perhaps I have always been here.
This front room no doubt used to be a happy place. There probably once were children that played here. There were probably Christmas trees and Easter baskets and birthday cakes. There were probably people hugging as loved ones came or departed as time rose and fell and filled these rooms with the viscous ooze of its passing. But now it is cold and dark. Wallpaper peels from the wall, no longer possessing the will to cling or remain straight or to cover what might be underneath. What is underneath is aging, warping wood that no longer contains moisture or strength or grain. It is now all dry and crumbly and warped.
These floors should probably creak and probably would if I could walk on them. The carpet has rotted away or was unraveled by rats and mice and is gone, leaving only the dusty and uneven boards below. They should probably creak. I wish they would. Oddly enough, it is a sound that I would like to hear. But there is no sound as I come into the room. Or perhaps I was already here. For a moment. Or a year.
I wonder what will become of me when this house is no longer here. This house is all I remember. I don’t allow myself to remember what happened before there was this house. Before I came to this house. What is the good of that? If I had known my life was leading me to this house, I perhaps could have lived differently, but how could I have known? Or perhaps I knew but did not want to know and so pretended that I didn’t.
And as much as I hate this house, I don’t know what will happen to me after it is gone. Already, in these twenty years, I have watched it go from being merely remote and forlorn, to being forgotten and abandoned. I have watched it lean and sag and be covered with vines. I have watched paint fade and peel and wallpaper rot and fall from the wall. I have watched metal rust. I have watched window glass slowly run within the panes like clear, chilled molasses, before cracking and falling from the weathered wood. I have watched holes appear in the roof. I have watched plants grow in dirt between planks in the floor. I have watched countless generations of spiders produce cottony, fibrous blooms in every nook and cranny. I have heard timbers pop and beams fall and windows break. The house is rotting around me and I cannot know what will happen to me when the house is no more. Will I inhabit this plot of earth that now lies beneath the house? Will it be freedom? Or yet more confinement?
I am at the stairs leading down to the basement.
How long have I been here? Have I stood for a minute? An hour? A month?
The movement that got me here is a memory, but not a very good one. Time is smashed and smeared and I remember moving from the front room to the basement stairs, but I don’t know how long the memory lasted.
I’m tired. I want to rest. But there is no rest. There is no lying down. There can be no closing of my eyes. I cannot even tell if they are open or closed. What I see when they are open is the same as when they are closed. There are no lids that can differentiate that which I see from that which I do not want to see. My sleep is waking; my waking, sleep. Everything exhausts me. Nothing revives.
I am halfway down the stairs, passing from one shade of black to another. All is darkness but I do not need to see. I have stared at every nail and every board and every crack a thousand million times and my seeing them or not does not change them one bit. They rot, but slowly.
I am in the basement and I relish the rage. It is a frozen hand in fire. It is sensation where there is none. It is a destructive cure for an annihilating disease. The rage flares and roars around me, warmth in the absolute cold of oblivion. But it is a warmth I can only feel inferentially. I know it to be, so I must take solace from something I believe should be. Rage is all there is. And it comes but intermittently, like a comet roaring through this empty space, filling it with glowing, radiant ice.
And fear. Or rage. I can not tell. They both subsume me and when I venture into the basement I descend into one or the other, but I can not tell which. It is rage at why I am here. Or fear that I am still here.
Why am I still here?
It was twenty years ago.
In that corner.
The memory exhausts me. It was the memory that moved me from there to here.
The damp, seeping floor of the basement gleams a wicked reflection, not of light, but of darkness. This soil floor. This moldering floor that has not known dryness in twenty years. This oozing patch of earth, wet with the blood I spilled twenty years ago. This lightless, unknown, hurried, extemporaneous, grave that covers the bones that used to move within me, not with memory, but with purpose. And I rage at the bastard that put me there, the wound still fresh and flowing . . . lively even in death.
And then the rage is gone.
I am back in the room upstairs. The moon would be shining through the hole in the roof if the vines did not cover it. I remember coming back upstairs. But I don’t remember when. Was it the tenth time? The hundredth? The ten-thousandth?
Why am I still here?
Copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow
I wrote this story ten years ago for Halloween and so I thought I’d post it here since Halloween is upon us once again. I originally posted it on a blog site that has long since disappeared, much like the house in this story.
This was the first (and probably the last) ghost story I will ever write. Horror and hauntings and ghosts and things like that are not my long suit. But I hope you enjoy it!