700 words or less, begins with “Some people swore that the house was haunted,” and ends with “Nothing was ever the same again after that.”
I’ve always liked the concept of living things that we are symbiotic with, such as houses and cities. I figured in a world with living homes, it’d be easy to confuse a sick house with a haunted house. Unrelated to that, but related to the vodka that shows up in the story, I wrote this while I was deep in my alcoholism phase. I’m better now.
by Eneasz Brodski
Some people swore that the house was haunted.
Of course the house was simply ill, but in a way they were right. Jack’s departure was a presence in itself. He shone brightly, and in his absence you could feel him missing, like a retinal afterimage on the soul, in fuzzy negative colors.
The symptoms didn’t map to any particular disease. The door wouldn’t unlock for her, she had to insert and twist a key, and the lights rarely came on, but the temperature was stable. Most concerning was the phone, which was always a few seconds off. A delay of a few seconds in conversation was merely annoying, but a few seconds anticipation was sheer vertigo. People couldn’t handle hearing a reply to something that they gradually realized they had been about to say. Shannon avoided the landline now, and stuck to her cell.
Shannon moved to the refrigerator and tentatively pulled it open. It had been a bad day. Jack would get his way, he always did, and she wanted him to. His unassuming smile came easily in court, his posture relaxed in a suit that seemed glad to be relieved of its burdens. In warm tones that made her smile he detailed how her mental condition made her an unsuitable mother. She basked in his nearness, watched the calming flow of his motions, when he explained their son’s refusal to stay with her. It was true, Ricky was six years old and took strongly after Shannon.
Her toes began to chill as she gazed at the half-empty vodka, caught in hesitation. But she was losing custody anyway, this would change nothing. She frowned as she withdrew the bottle. She was faithful with her medication, she hadn’t had a manic episode since high school. If the house hadn’t gotten sick she could have made a case, but who would trust someone that couldn’t even care for their home?
The domestic physician couldn’t find any cause for the illness. He’d tested the ducts and the pipes, sounded out the load-bearing walls. After nearly an hour he turned to her, shook his head.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say your house was depressed”, accompanied with a nervous laugh at such absurdity.
Jack and Shannon had watched the pregnancy test together, and with the first traces of blue Shannon found herself in his arms, being swung in great circles around the room as he whooped and cheered and she laughed and wrapped her arms around him, pushing her face into his chest, feeling the rumble of his joy course through her and electrify her and spark life into the beginnings of a new person inside not just her, but them both. It was the second greatest day of her life.
Now Shannon shrunk into a corner of the dark house and slowly collapsed to the floor, drink untouched in her hand. Of course the house loved Jack more. Even a house could feel the love he radiated, could resent the person responsible for his leaving. Everyone did. Her friends had abandoned her for Jack, her son had abandoned her for Jack, and now even her house had abandoned her for Jack. Bitter heat stung her eyes, wishing he was here to hold her and make it alright.
The greatest day of her life had been almost nine years ago, when a man with sparkling blue eyes and an easy smile had first extended his hand and spoken “Hi, I’m Jack.” Shannon knew in that instant, and without hesitation Shannon abandoned Shannon for Jack.
Nothing was ever the same again after that.