The house on Lilac Lane had belonged to our family for generations. If the walls could talk, I'd know exactly which stories they'd tell. The same stories that mirrored the crumbling state of the house they occurred in—stories of devastation and warped truths in the lives of those who lived in the house.
My mother had died a year after I was born. The doctors say it was indirectly caused by a complication during my birth. It's a horrible feeling you know, being told you were the cause of your mother's death—however direct or indirect it may be. People had said in passing that my mother was just as beautiful even after I was born despite the paler colour of her face and the lack of strength that confined her to a wheelchair after I was born. Back then, the house, even with the ivy intertwining it's way up the walls and the way the bricks even then seemed misplaced with its variety of shades, was beautiful too.
My father did his best to make my life as normal as possible and when I was six, he remarried. I suspect you all think I'm going to tell you that she was a horrible person who beat me and made me clean the house and sleep in the basement. Well, I could but that would be an outrageous lie. Crystal was a wonderful person. I liked her because she never tried to be my mother, and I know she loved my father very much. But I noticed that she never really looked at me. I asked her about it once, when I was about thirteen. I expected she'd laugh it off and tell me she had dinner in the oven so I should go occupy myself until it was done. But she went quiet for a moment and then looked at me and smiled.
“You look just like your mother.” she finally said and I tilted my head. No one had ever told me that before. I suppose people didn't want to bring that up because it might have been too troubling to hear. I knew I had my mother's deep chocolate brown hair, but her eyes had been green and mine were an ordinary brown. She didn't have freckles, I did. And as far as I could tell, I'd gotten my height from my father. In any case, what baffled me, even more, was the fact that we had had no photographs of my mother around the house—well, there was one, of my parent's wedding, but her face wasn't clearly visible. She was facing my father as he lifted up her veil with a frightened yet loving smile on his face.
I'd always looked at that picture as I tried to imagine what my mother had looked like that day. Was she just as scared as my father? Did she laugh at the expression on my dad's face as I often did when I looked at it?
The one thing I had never done when picturing what she could have looked like, was put my face on hers. Remove the freckles, make my brown eyes green... is this what my mother looked like? Was my smile hers?
“Audrey?” I'd snapped out of my daze and she continued telling me things about my parents that I'd never thought to ask. She had said that she'd known my mother back then. They'd all went to the same High school together. Crystal had loved my dad from afar then. She'd said she still seemed to be doing that now. “Ethan and Lua were soul mates and when she died, well,” she looked down at her hands then, twisting the wedding ring my father had given her some seven years ago before she took it off and set it on the table. “I realized he'd never love me, I'd never had any false notions that he could love me as much as he loved your mother but...” she trailed off as the tears started. I liked Crystal, more as an older sister than a mother, and seeing her cry I only wanted to comfort her, even if the reason she was crying was—however directly or indirectly—because of me.
She and my father got divorced soon after that but I kept in touch with her. She'd later told me that she had only stayed for so long because, like my father, she had only ever wanted my life to be as normal as possible, "And a girl needs her mother."
She's remarried now and has a daughter of her own, she'd asked me to be her godmother.
When Crystal left, my father never remarried, and I never asked him why. I already knew. I was old enough to take care of myself, and anything else that I would need a woman's touch for, I still had Crystal. He didn't have to pretend anymore. He didn't have to hide his still aching heart under the guise of loving another woman that was not my mother. Even though I didn't need a mother and even though she was still in my life, Crystal's leaving felt like another death. The house seemed to feel its loss too. As much as I tried to keep up Crystals' impeccable cleaning habit, things beyond my control started happening. Like the roof leaking, as if even the inside of the house needed to cry over the loss, even on days when it didn't rain. It was weird, but I'd never paid much attention to it.
My father died when I was in my sophomore year of college. He was only fifty years old. They told me he had had a heart attack, and since I was the only one who he'd let take care of him, and I'd left home to get the 'full college experience'... he couldn't reach the phone.
I never went back to college after that and my dad left me the house in his will so I hadn't needed to worry about rent or tuition anymore. When I moved back in I'd notice that the leaking had turned to mold, and even after I've paid someone to get rid of it, the musky scent of it still lingered along with the dust that never seemed to settle in rooms I figured my father had never been in.
I eventually married my college sweetheart. I moved him into the house I'd grown up in. It was a weird shiver I felt that day that I attributed to the coming Autumn, or maybe the giddy excitement I felt about starting a new life with the man I adored.
I found out several months later that I was pregnant and it was the happiest moment of my life. Though, I'll admit the thought that whatever complications my mother had had may have been genetic or something, and would indeed happen to me, did creep up in the back of my mind, I was comforted by my husband's presence day by day.
But then I'd had the miscarriage. I'd concern myself with my own well being I hadn't even thought that something could happen to the baby. I thought then, that there was another name to add to the list of people I was—however directly or indirectly—involved with the death of. I thought I was a harbinger of death to those around me and I wouldn't try again for another three years. I was devastated and heartbroken, I looked to the house for it's an outward show of the pain I felt on the inside but this time I didn't notice anything.
Charles, my husband, had always pictured himself the family man and even though he tried his hardest to understand and accommodate my internal fear and struggle with death, he'd never hid his desire to have children. So I pushed aside my fear again and we attempted to conceive. For five years, we've tried and failed. Something about the miscarriage had prevented me from ever having children again.
Charles was devastated but he'd stayed by my side. It seemed like with me, everyone around me only ever got bad news. Even our house had started to fall apart. There were cracks in the walls, dust seemed to settle in every room whether we used it or not, the wood of the stairs seemed to ease themselves out with a mellow sigh with every step you took. There was a banging at night, that I could never pinpoint the source of, that echoed through the house and into my dreams.
We finally called someone to fix the place but they had said that it would just be cheaper to buy a new house than to do everything that needed to be done to make the house livable again. I thought about it for a while. That house had been in the family for generations, I'd grown up in that house and I'd thought our kids would too. It seemed I had no other choice or any feasible reason to keep it. So we sold it and are living in a new house on the other side of town.
I think it was the best decision I'd ever made in my entire life. Even though I loved the house and the history, I was finally convinced of what I should have always believed. It was the house and not I that was the cause of the deaths and the devastation. And I know what you're thinking, “Myths like that are never true.” But you see, I have proof. As soon as the papers were signed and I was no longer the owner of that house, I felt another shiver. But this time it wasn't one of a bad omen, it was a good shiver, an exciting shiver, and a few weeks later I found out that I was pregnant again; twins. And when they were born, I had named them both after my mother's; Crystal and Lua.
There it stood. Beauty decaying as the generations push forward. Technologies advanced at a speed in which the years of growth is still out lived by the roots of its domain. Concrete surrounds, from sky to ground, concrete people with concrete minds are all to be found.
Phones in hands and faces down, walking forward, these zomboids are raised by the screen. The world is different now, sensitive and anxious. Not like when you were founded where hard work and brawn and beauty would be encouraged. The past sounds so majestic doesn't it, we worked hard and everyone received one of you, a car and wife soon to follow a family.
It's all different now, we are slaves to a world, no matter how hard we work things seem out of reach. Creativity is a cost, you put it aside to work and attempt to provide for yourself. The fun of living is sometimes dwindled, due to the economic strain a person must bare just to existing in the world we breathe in.
These are my thoughts as I walk past you, deeply rooted well built with astonishing architecture and handcraft wood accents. An old house enriched with history and past lives.
Those were nice thoughts, better get back to watching these Vines.
I watch them zip by, fast, occupied. They do not notice me anymore. Once I was loved, bustling with life, a jewel of warmth. Now I am weathered, and the wind seeps through my frame. I know I am old, and I do not blame them for abandoning me. Their busy, changing, lives have no need for me. That’s how they live, fast, they burn through life as hot as the sun. I have watched many grow and die within me. As steady as the rise and fall of the moon, I have sheltered them. My time of life is done, I just wish my bones could be used once more or the earth would take me quicker. Mother earth is taking me home with the reach of her arms of vines. I can feel them taking me back into the earth. But she is slow, and every day I must watch them live their lives without me. If only they could take my walls to build others, take my wires to connect others, take my pipes to replenish others. Or I wish a great fire to take be back to mother in ashes...
No, I must not lose hope. Someday a bird may forge a nest within in me and bring me life once more. Or, curious children may come to play and hide in my many rooms… Yes, I will not wither alone forever.
Till then I will wait, watching them live without me.
I could never wake from sleep without thinking about it.
I could never walk down the street or idle in a distracting, populated place without it always being present in my mind. From the day I had seen it, that house haunted the forefront of my consciousness like an amicable ghost. It was ever-present in my head, and the funny thing was, I don't remember when it started. Surely houses can't call out to you, I thought, standing across the street from it, hands buried in my hoodie pocket.
It was chilly. Evening of some overexposed winter day. Everything looked gray to me. Except that house.
That old house that stood like a dejected queen, alone in her kingdom of trees and cradled by the warmth of the vines that hugged her walls. Every other house on the road was wood, easily burned to the ground and horribly modern. This one was brick, and happily old-fashioned. Somehow still bright red after all these years of being neglected. I wondered if maybe it was the house's dignity and almost... valor that appealed to me. How even though it remained uninhabited, it never gave off a spooky feel. People never shied away from it when they walked by. They just never looked at it.
I told myself that I would buy that house one day. I would work hard and save, and I would bring life back to her kingdom.
There was never a moment I didn't think of that house. Never a moment where I chose to walk by and not look at it. To admire it in all its glory and beauty. At some point, I began to believe houses are alive. For better or for worse. Good intentions or bad. Because that house —house number 777— seemed to breathe life into me.
The day came. It finally came. When I could buy the house.
I had never been so excited for something. I had never been so ecstatic about cleaning a house as much as I was. It shined with a radiance that filled my chest with something warm, a foreign feeling that made me feel good. The queen was shielding me, granting me her warmth, and a portion of her kingdom. She covered me with her silver lace and clematis, and welcomed me better than my own kind could have ever. I never thought a house could give me purpose and a will to live like that one did. I never expected to find a place where I felt so comfortable.
But I was still kind of lonely. It was just me in the house, and no matter the warmth and the sense of being, I couldn't shake the crave for company. The house seemed to sense my downtrodden heart. At night she creaked and cried, and she seemed to age along with me. Then one day, I found company. Not in the form of a human, but in the form of a homeless little kitten. It was thrown in a box, shoved carelessly in some alley that I happened by, and much too tired to even try to escape. Somehow I heard it mewling, sorrowfully, like dark ink spilled across a clean canvas, despite the bustling of the streets and the clamor of the people around me.
I took it with me, easily holding it in one hand, and the house welcomed both of us back, bright and beaming.
I went to a local animal shelter a week afterwards, to find my little kitten a companion. As I walked down the line of cages, my attention was drawn to a shadowy sort of dog, huddled in the corner of her pen, and glaring at the world around her with eyes of violent despair. They said that she had been in a bad situation, neglected and mistreated. Nobody that walked through the shelter had ever stopped long enough to ponder about getting her because of the challenges she would pose. She was guarded, holed up in her fortress, and ready to tear at anyone who attempted to even knock at the doors. I had asked how she was with other animals, and they said better than with humans. So I took her. I didn't disrespect her space, and I talked to her softly all the way back to the house.
I was nervous, standing in front of that queen, with a dog who didn't know what love was and who come with her own fortress already built, but the house didn't care. The house just... accepted us as we came. Inside, the kitten ran up, and though the dog growled, the tension between them was... not there. I was filled with that same warmth again when I woke the next day to find them both huddled together, sleeping peacefully. I was glad that she had someone to open up too, to let the walls down a little, even if it wasn't me quite yet.
It took me a year to realize why the house called out to me so much. Why it felt so right with me in it along with my two animal companions. It was the first semblance of a home I had ever had. No other house had felt like home to me. This old-fashioned brick house covered in vines; it resonated with me. I needed nothing else, for I had found it.