There was no fear then. The shadows that the trees cast as night fell held no terror. It was comfortable to watch the world grow dark.
Now the inky shadows that bleed from the closet induce panic.
How did I regress to such a childish state?
Long sessions on the shrink’s couch are unnecessary. I remember the year, the day, the very hour.
It was late noon. I stood with Rex on the cracked drive of my budget apartment.
We made an odd pair. My uncle and I could not have been more different. He stood at six feet four inches and I at a much less imposing five-eleven. His broad shoulders were always at attention while mine drooped into my concave chest.
The only hint that this wasn’t a drug bust about to end poorly for the scruffy scarecrow facing the squalor of Yates street, was the eyes.
That really was the only family resemblance. The Jarvis eyes, they are peculiar, grey, smoky, and deep-set. I’ve never seen them outside our kin.
Rex was a man of few words. He dangled the copper-colored key and extended it.
“Hope this helps.” He said as I silently accepted the gift.
And with the sporty sound of his departing cherry red RX-7, I unwittingly found myself at the threshold of horror.
Uncle Rex had earned many friends. Among them was real estate mogul Taylor Gern. Though he wasn’t the most scrupulous of men. I suppose he did not deserve blackmail.
Rex’s work as a veteran detective for the Cambridge Police put an end to that.
Gern was so grateful that he gave my outdoorsman uncle a cabin among an impressive tract of land in the wilds of Purgatory Chasm.
I really don’t want to go into specifics since I’m dead set the place be forgotten.
My taciturn uncle was doing a favor for my father. I’d failed to publish anything since May and my landlord had had enough. My father was keen on neither seeing me homeless nor dwelling under his roof.
So, he implored his brother to lend me the place for the autumn, explaining the scenery and isolation would get my pen and thus my bank account moving again.
Rex only cared for the place in spring, so he had no reason to decline a family request.
I still remember how the crunch of gravel beneath my battered Honda broke the placid evening.
It was classic Massachusetts chill. I had no time to muse on the eerie shadows cast by the evening’s trees. I grabbed my duffels from the musty trunk and double-timed it to the door.
What a door it was. The thing was oak and sturdier than most walls. It swung into a magnificent wood-paneled parlor. I felt a twinge of shame.
It was failure and not success that saw me thrown however briefly into the lap of luxury. Though I did not care for the tacky dark green wallpaper or the Tiffany lamps I certainly didn’t deserve this.
My self-flagellation was short-lived. The need for warmth overwhelmed me. It was colder here than in the city. I felt it permeate the walls and breach my turtleneck.
Those walls, they were so well-kept. As the combination of central heat, woodfire, and coffee stirred my cold addled brains to action I realized what a truly remarkable thing that was.
The place was ancient. Based on the décor and material it had to have been built at the turn of the century – Victorian times.
I decided to break the romance by watching some Rick and Morty before bed.
Waking up alone in an old and empty house in the middle of the woods becomes amazingly normal after a few days.
But, not so normal that I could maintain my bad habits for long.
It was Friday that the fat dykish looking lady with a thick brogue dropped off one of those weekly meal kits. I remember this cause it was after I’d stuffed myself with some sort of yummy chowder that the first itch to write struck.
I no longer needed to knock myself unconscious with a constant stream of digital stimulation. No longer needed to quell the internal cries of plot hole, idiot, cliché, with reruns of South Park. Hell, I no longer could.
The only thing left to do was write. It’s not like I was about to go wandering round the woods.
Having spent most of my time on the pavement of Boston, I was suspicious of so many trees gathering in one place, all at once.
So, I wrapped myself in a flannel blanket, spiked the coffee, and clickity clacked away.
I won’t bore you with the details of my novel. That’s entirely beside the point.
What is noteworthy however is how easy it flowed.
This isolation thing really did work. Place and setting as McKenna termed it. Yeah, that was it.
That is until I no longer felt isolated.
With time my distrust of the wild began to fade. I’d stretch my legs on the various game trails round the cabin. Making sure to keep all my city slicker friends updated on my brave forays with Instagram uploads.
I was really hoping that Alice, my ex, would notice. That I could lure her out here. Bring back the good times. She was wacky for this woodland shit.
Besides, one casual ‘jelly’ comment, she never bit. Though there was no social media evidence of a new beau I was pretty sure she had moved on. And so should I.
And I did. I sort of fell in love with the woods. With the schedule of birdsong varying from morning to evening.
I’d grown so comfortable with it that I’d often sit for hours on the porch step in the cold dark watching the stars blink little morse code assurances above the treeline.
Well, it seemed the feeling was mutual.
The house grew familiar with me.
At first, it came in vague realizations. Just how it had sort of blossomed from the verdant soil, a part of the valley, and a part of the England that had carried this orchid hither.
How much had it seen in the interplay of dark and light, in the leaf-dappled centuries, how much of time had crystallized within these well kept, venerable, walls?
The house was a part of the soil, and the soil and the house were a part of the flux.
An angel singing in the chorus of eternity.
It tapped me on the shoulder.
I wheeled round.
There was nothing there save the open door, bleeding precious heat into the autumn night.
I got up and shut the door. Writing this off as a subconscious guilt-pang for the environment and my uncle’s pocketbook; I returned to my favorite step and began extracting a Pall-Mall from the pack.
I was cut short however by the feeling of a soft hand resting on my shoulder. A sensation very closely followed by the feeling of what can only be described as a gentle kiss on the crown of my head. A kiss that sent ripples of the oddest electric pleasure through my wiry frame.
I shot up to my feet and once again wheeled round. There was nothing.
By now I was so thoroughly unsettled that I no longer felt the urge to smoke.
I hastily retreated back indoors.
I sat dumbstruck on the couch for what must have been hours.
It was around two forty-five in the AM that exhaustion finally began to kick in and I groggily made my way to the guest bedroom.
My sleep was fitful, my dreams shockingly detailed, and always there was this ardent desire.
I longed. I longed for something that could not be. It was something that was…something that is…but something that cannot be…you see the madness this stream of illogic would induce if deeply felt?
The walls. The walls that led down. The walls that led down into the ground. These walls that hummed that sang with the wistful melody of centuries.
For weeks I wrote the most fantastic things, for weeks I barely slept but watched, notebook in hand, the edge of the wood from my favorite step.
The house dictated what I saw there, described it to me, I swear that I fathomed existence, its mystery, its essence.
What’s best. I had it in writing. Or so I thought.
Down, down, down. I wanted to be down to the very soil.
I descended the stairs and found a solitary chair sitting in the center of the cellar.
Unperturbed by this peculiar bit of whimsy I ventured forth and sat.
I did not mind the dark, the must, in fact, I found it wholesome.
As wholesome as the warmth that the gentle tap on my shoulder induced.
And so I sat…as the gossamer sleeves of some dark dress wrapped round me in a backward embrace. A single strand of fair hair fell from the face I felt less than an inch from my own. Though I did not see the lips, I knew that they were beautiful, only those lips could have given me such a transcendent kiss.
And now they whispered. They whispered a word, a foreign word, a word that still permeates my conscience to this very day.
“Hey! What the hell are ya doin…Jeezuz it’s wicked dahk down here!”
It was then that I felt awful. My mouth was drier than mothballs, every joint ached, and my ass may as well have been fused to the chair.
“You found him!?” An unfamiliar voice called from some forgotten world.
“Yeah, he’s in the damned basement…fuckin druggies wacha gonna do?”
“Shit, better call an ambulance.” A gruff voice suggested.
The hand that now rested on my shoulder was neither feminine nor delicate.
“Hey, buddy, this is Officer Joe Corvi, we got called here to do a wellne….O Jesus he reeks!”
I couldn’t answer him even if I wanted to.
At some point, I was moved, folded, and transported like some kinda mannequin to an ambulance.
Then I found myself playing pincushion in a bright hospital room.
“Just found him sittin there….half dead…”
“Yeah, he’s clean….”
Days elapsed with various visitors and attendants. I remained comatose.
At one point Alice came and hugged me. But, she didn’t stay long at all. That bitch. It hurt.
The pain was useful though. It’s what made me begin to reach for my Pall Malls.
My hand was stiff but it was moving, ever so slowly, towards….my naked leg beneath a hospital gown.
“Fuwck.” I cursed with my thick retarded tongue.
Some hours later, or maybe it was minutes, or maybe days two men in labcoats burst into the room.
“How the hell did you miss this spike?” The older one demanded…
“Nevermind.” Said the voice belonging to the bearded face that now shone a bright light in my eyes.
“Son, can you hear me…?” He inquired.
“Fwuckin bwight…fuooff…” I said trying to raise my wooden arm to shield my face from the luminous assault.
“Holy shit.” The voice standing behind the man muttered.
I was shocked to discover the ordeal that I’d been through.
Apparently, Neave O’Hara the dykey delivery lady had noticed I’d left my food untouched. At first, she thought it was just a weird artist being a weird artist. When this activity was repeated for a second week, she got worried and called for a wellness check.
She’d been the one to find me in the basement as the police searched the attic and the shed.
I’d been there for two weeks.
The doctor’s said I was essentially dead. With only the most rudimentary biological functions intact. The paramedics discovered that my heart was beating at the glacial pace of 22 beats a minute.
I suppose that those that believe my strange story think me fortunate. The novel they found made me a fortune. Though I’m not sure I wrote it. Because I never wrote again.
Despite this, I was now on an equal financial footing with Gern due to television appearances and speaking engagements.
All things that I was loathe to do but did anyway because it was my long-suffering family’s wish.
In that regard, it is perhaps worth it.
Alice tried to come back to me. But, I’d have none of it. Not only did she leave me when I needed companionship the most, not only was this a cynical ploy for a comfortable life, but I could only love the angel of the house.
It is because of her that I am now a broken child of a man quivering at shadows in the closet. Fearing and longing their embrace.
For every house is a sentinel, an eardrum, that catches the stardust and keeps it. Some that have heard enough catch an angel. And angels grow lonely for wisdom is heavy.
What will call to you from the shadows to share in its strange knowledge?
Will she hold you in the space between life and death and teach strange utterances…ah…d…ah….g….ee….t…..a…
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