“The house has good bones,” the real estate agent said to me.
Translation; It’s scruffy as all hell, but not likely to fall down any time in the near future. It was a good deal so I bought it sight unseen.
”I won’t get a phone line,” I mumbled to myself. “No internet, no TV. When I’m staying there I’ll get so much more work done.” The map showed the house with the good bones to be huddled in forest, at the end of a long drive at the end of a long road. “There will be birds and hiking. Tranquility. I’ll finally finish mixing the album.”
Two weeks later I arrive; it is 4:44 when I switch off the engine. The house looms. Not in an unfriendly way, it’s just a smidgeon taller than I’d expected. The ivory paint is peeling from the weathered boards, a broken window mars its smile like a missing tooth, the door might have once been red. “Good bones,” I mutter.
I turn the key in the lock and the old door swings smoothly. Red rugs on wood floors. A blackbird snatches my attention as it escapes through the untoothed window and sets the red velvet curtains dancing. There is an ancient fridge in which I stash the few groceries I brought, then flatten the cardboard box to block the draft. Upstairs the bedrooms are ordinary, ugly, and only slightly musty. I open the windows and make up the master bed. There is a mahogany desk barely nibbled by mice. My laptop and speakers go there.
I hum to myself to drown out the quiet. I wish I could order a pizza, but no one delivers this far out. Reluctantly, I cook and eat stir-fry. I shower, wrestling the knobs for the right temperature as I sing a song made up for the occasion. It’s nice to be alone. Finally pyjamas, pink. And bed. Red.
The house is silent, not a creak or crack. So quiet, I can only just make out the hum of the fridge. I stare at the walls in the moony gloom. The hideous peeling wallpaper with its red twirling floral designs, tracing patterns like exposed veins and musculature. I stare at the walls with eyes of glass. Eyes of stone. Eyes of unsleeping weariness. The distant fridge hum sounds like breathing. It’s soothing, and I eventually begin to drift off, scarcely registering the gradual addition of a low rhythmic rumble. Like a heartbeat. Probably pipes.
I awake during the night, moonlight gently touching my face. I can feel a cold tingle as it beams through the window. “Must have forgotten to close the curtains,” I berate myself, dragging back the covers.
The floor feels strange on bare feet. Squishy furry wetness. The rugs look garish in the moonlight, huge square tongues. I prance over them in speedy horror, wondering if the roof leaks. “It’s so warm… must be the hot water cylinder.”
I grasp the curtain and it wraps itself tightly around my hand, for a moment convincing me there is someone hiding behind it, grabbing me. I scream and punch, and it is only when the floor lurches and the house screaks like a wounded gull that I realise something is even more amiss. The curtain tangles me with its sinewy strength and presses me against the wall.
Time slows down as adrenaline courses through my body. I can suddenly see clearly in the moonlight. The patterns of the wallpaper are a tangle of veins, organs, and muscles throbbing with life. The walls move in and out as the house breathes, panting now with the effort of restraining me. The floor slurps at my feet.
I try to escape with fear’s strength. As the curtain pushes me further into the wall, those floral patterns, rosy roses and pansy pansies prick my skin and wind their thorns into wounds in my arms and back. As they rip my pretty pyjamas to ribbons I feel the slippery warmth of blood against my naked skin in sweet contrast to the pain of those vines worming through my flesh, tearing me apart and fusing me together … wrong, joining my veins to theirs, assimilating my organs, and then thrillingly the pain turns to a fiery pleasure and I stretch myself out through the structural being. Unconditional love washes through me. My heart beating as one of many. My good bones migrating to firm strong foundations.
And I notice Them then, as I am willingly absorbed. Smiling back at me from across the room. Pareidolia faces in the flowers. My new family. The house is now a home.
Kristie Addision is a musician who occasionally dabbles in story-writing as an effective form of procrastination. You can listen to her music at www.kristieaddison.com/music.