She is happy today and doesn’t know why. The house envelopes Grace in a bubble of calm, seeming to expand and contract with every breath she takes. The floor creaks and crackles a whimsical greeting as she steps from floorboard to floorboard. She always liked that when she was growing up, the constant hum of the house, the collection of little sounds that made up the background chorus. Grace doesn’t remember why she ever left this place.
The morning sun shines through the lower levels as she sits on the empty living room floor with pictures laid out in front of her. Her mother smiles back at her with a secret, her father grimaces into the camera to hide his teddy bear nature. Her two brothers have their arms around each other and look straight ahead, always serious. Christmas’s and Thanksgivings, birthdays and graduations, all laid out with great care for her to see. She knows it will never be like that again and cries. The house goes silent.
“How can this house still hold so many memories?” asked Grace.
“The logical part of my brain would say that it doesn’t, and that you’re just projecting your memories on its inanimate parts.” said Greg, Grace’s younger brother.
“But?” said Grace, raising her eyebrow.
“But my heart says that the house is a living organism, with its own organs and molecules and atoms. And they all store memories, just as we do.”
“Do you think Mom would mind me moving back in?”
“I think you’d make her very happy, wherever she is.”
There’s nobody home, the house is dark and quiet. ‘How could she ever have called this depressing place home?‘ she wonders to herself. Grace crosses the creaking floor and stops when she sees her own shadow pasted across the far wall, grossly distorted and misshapen like her memories of home. This house had haunted her dreams for so long and for all that is no less terrifying in real life. It smells of must and fear, of years of oppression and despair. The light that filters through the grey dirt crusting the window screens even manages to be dismal and dank, if light can be such a thing, nearly wet with darkness and a weighty conscience.
The door leading to the basement is slightly open and reeks of neglect and toxic earthly fumes. The gas heater may have broken but Grace doesn’t care, opening the door and aiming her small pocket penlight down the steps as she goes. She reaches the bottom and flashes her light around in a slow circle noticing the few remaining boxes of her childhood things stashed carelessly atop one another in a corner. The labeling on the boxes wore away years ago, but Grace knows exactly what she is looking for and where it is hidden.
The darkness is stifling and she has a hard time breathing normally as she walks over to one box in particular. Carefully pulling aside the mildewing cardboard flaps Grace reaches in and comes away with a handful of painfully faded pictures. Her mother, her Father, her two brothers, and a few of herself. She turns her back on the rest of the lost items and leaves the graveyard behind, returning to the surface without a single tear shed.
The fire crackles fiercely in the back yard repelling the memories of the house and its demons. Grace stands alone and slowly feeds her polaroid dreams to the fire one by one, inch by bubbling inch she frees herself.
“They loved me...they loved me not.” Grace repeats to herself over and over. “Don’t worry Mother, I won’t forget.”
If Grace tended towards melodrama more she might have taken the ashes of the spent fire and scattered them somewhere desolate and empty, just to drive the point home. She foregoes this and leaves the ashes where they fell, leaving their final destination to the wind.
Her body is shaking uncontrollably; what is real and what is fantasy. Grace can no longer tell them apart. She’s not sure if she wants to anymore. Coming home has driven a red hot stake through the core of her essence, splitting her in two. She can no longer remember the truth of her life, the truth of her childhood. The house she stands in lives and breathes, existing in light and deep darkness at the same time. She knows this is not possible, knows that this is not her in her right mind. Grace staggers towards the front door, her hands feeling their way along the crooked walls, each crack and nook in the plaster holding her back. The house has turned against her, its intent thick in the night air. She can’t breathe.
Her mothers body silently laid out in the dark pine coffin had more of an affect on her than she had anticipated. She wanted to feel nothing, nothing at all. A solid wall of apathy and morphine was supposed to keep her isolated from herself. Countless years spent building up these walls inside herself had been useless and the reasoning behind it even more worthless. Her emotions betrayed her and her mind followed.
Grace lays on the floor of the collapsing house and stares at the ceiling as it rips apart. The house swims in her vision, dust falls and timber shakes. The foundations underneath her body shiver with excitement and begin to crack and shift. Her mind has deserted her for good.
“Will this dream visit me again tomorrow?” she wonders sadly, knowing that it will. The house that had once shared so many wonderful memories with Grace takes one last breath with her and shatters leaving nothing but a dark stain on the ground.