I place my hand on the cool brass knob and turn. The latch gives, and with the smallest push, I let go as the door swings open.
I stand at the threshold, staring inside. A cool wind pushes me ever so gently as my left foot leads me through the doorway, followed by my right. One step.
My eyes dart every which way as my head move as slowly as possible, taking in what I can.
My chest loosens as I exhale – I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath.
I reach for the doorknob to pull the door closed behind me. I hear the faint click as it settles into place.
With the door closed, though, it somehow seems even quieter. My pupils dilate to adjust to the darkness. I hear nothing. I see nothing.
There is an odd familiarity to the eeriness of it all.
The dining room is to the left; my legs carry me into the room as I remind them to be careful – as if they needed the caution. They remember the way.
My hand drops onto the smooth table as I pass by, dragging it along and leaving a trail of polished wood in the dusty landscape. The china cabinet tingles with every tiptoed step I take, whispering an indistinguishable message; or maybe it’s the chandelier. I can’t say for sure because I can’t see well enough to know if it’s still there.
The room is pitch black, but I stare into the darkness, remembering the way the sunlight from the windows used to hit the china and the chandelier, causing the light to fragment and create small rainbows all around the room. I loved those rainbows.
I stare for a moment, admiring the rainbows of my memories, until my legs lead me away.
I enter the kitchen. My mind’s eye projects every memory I have all at once into the darkness. The happiness. The nostalgia. The pain.
There should be a refrigerator to my left, an island countertop straight ahead of me, perhaps three or four barstool chairs, all well-worn the last time I saw them, and undoubtedly tattered by this point. I reach my hand forward to touch one, coming into contact with more dust.
It doesn’t feel the same; it feels cold. Hard. Indifferent.
I turn the memory reel off as I make my way to the sink, hoping to wash the dust off of my fingers. I grasp the cool metal handle in the pitch black and twist it towards me; nothing happens.
I try the other side.
A loud sputtering bursts forth, as if laughing at me. As if to tell me how foolish I must be for thinking the water possibly worked here anymore.
I turn both handles to stifle the jeering before wiping my dusty fingers on my pants.
I back my way out of the kitchen and into the hallway that leads to the stairs. I grab the handrail to swing myself around the banister and onto the first step, but I stop myself as I look into the abyss that is the living room.
It looks back, saying nothing.
I feel nothing.
We stare at each other for several seconds; feeling drains from my brain as I listen to nothing but the beating of my own heart. It’s as if the pitch-black abyss was Medusa, capable of sucking the life out of anything that met its gaze and turning it to stone.
I blink, breaking the staredown and restoring feeling to my fingers. And my mind.
Turning my head, I grab the handrail again, and carry myself to the second level, step by step.
At the top of the stairs, I pause. A draft sends a quiver down my spine and my hair stands on end.
I jump as something flutters behind the door to my right. Bats, perhaps – startled by my presence and flying away. I wondered if I should turn and fly away, too.
I lean against the top of the handrail, breathing heavily as my heart rate tries to come back down. I shudder from another breeze.
Heart still pounding within and goosebumps enveloping my skin, I stand upright, remembering the purpose of my visit; I make my way to the left down the hallway. The floorboards creak beneath me.
It’s a long way to the end of the hall.
I take one step and – a-ha. There they are.
The floorboards begin to speak.
You can’t do this.
You’re too scared.
Naïve little thing.
I pass a bedroom on my right. I consider going in, to get away from the voices – I thought I could do this, but perhaps I was wrong. My right foot steps toward the room.
See? You’re a coward.
I quickly draw it back: no. I have to keep moving forward.
Let’s see how long she lasts this time.
My heart skips a beat as I nearly trip on the overturned rug; I manage to land on my feet as the memory of bolting back to the front door floods my mind. The first time I had visited, the voices disturbed me, and I ran, sacrificing the rug in the process. I should really smooth it back out – or at least remember that it’s there.
I realize my mind has wandered, and I’ve made it a few more steps down the seemingly endless hallway. The voices begin eerily serenading me again.
You live too much in your own head.
You have no idea what you’re doing.
You’d better listen to us or you’ll get yourself into trouble.
This is where I gave in and retreated the second time. I remember how unsettling and ruthless these voices are.
Am I going crazy?
Yes. You’re insane. You and everybody else in the world know it.
I keep walking, but the urge to flee grows with each step.
You’d better leave now while you still can.
Why am I still here?
You’re a coward and you always will be.
Why do I keep moving forward?
Don’t worry, you’ll crack. You always do.
Why do I keep coming back?
Why *do* you keep coming back? This house isn’t yours.
Except it is.
Wait a second.
It is mine. It always has been.
Years ago, the voices invaded my home; they created the darkness and pushed me out by making it a miserable place to live. They forced me out of my own home – and for whatever reason, I let them. I don't even know where they came from or why I let them in in the first place.
But regardless of how or why they ended up there, this is still my house, and I want to come home.
And every previous time I’ve wanted to return, the voices scared me back out.
Not this time.
I keep stepping forward; my legs are heavy with fear as the voices grow louder and crueler.
You don’t belong here!
This is our house now, you silly little girl.
But I am determined. I continue reminding myself that this is my home, that this is where I belong, not them.
I keep walking.
I keep walking amidst their insults, brutality, and spite.
I keep walking until I reach the room at the end of the hallway.
The only room left with light left in it.
The room that will help bring light back to the house again.
The room that will help me make my house into a home again.
I place my hand on the cool brass knob and turn.
… … …
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