Hoddington House

Submitted into Contest #118 in response to: Start your story with “Today’s the day I change.”... view prompt

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Fiction

He sits at an oak stained desk in the dimly lit library tracing the contours of the wood patterns with an antique letter opener. He yawns, stretching his aching shoulders and stares solemnly around the room. The soft dink of a fly caught between the lamps lightbulb and its shade is the only sound that can be heard. On the overread crumpled piece of paper in front of him are five words, Today’s the day I change. He yawns again and stands, surveying the hovel that has been his home for the last four hours. Opened books are scattered everywhere, from the arm of the ornate Chesterfield to the Persian rug floating over solid varnished floorboards, interspersed with burnt out nubs of old candles.  A mug of cold tea sits on the side table next to a plate of untouched food.

Where had she gone? What was does this mean? He knew she was the author; the evidence was unquestioning. The way she curved her T’s and swirled the tail of her Y’s was her signature rushed handwriting. And then there was the scent that the paper adorned, her unmistakable fragrance, sealed by the lipstick kiss below the confusing statement. How had this all got so messed up?

They had moved in early January of that year, the house being on the market for a pittance and it being the focal point of her academic interest. The price should have been his first warning sign, but the house was a beautiful doer upper, and she had been so excited that he had gone along with the idea with open arms. She had been in the midst of her thirty-thousand-word dissertation into the history of the occult and its relationship to Hoddington House when she realized it was up for sale. They had exchanged the next week and were ready to move in within the month. At first it was an adventure they both enjoyed. Attempting to get heating and plumbing had been more difficult than anticipated but he had used his trade experience and on more than one occasion had assistance from the locals to get the house in a habitable state. She had immersed herself in the history of the house and its relationship to the neighboring villages. The day she found the secret library and the ancient contents it had held for generations untouched she had acted as though she had stumbled across a blue carbuncle. That was the day she started to slip away.

It was also the time that his work drastically started to pile up due to the cutbacks in staff since the end of the plague. This meant late nights at the typewriter either at the office or his makeshift study, the only room capable of withstanding a draft in the old house. The stress had him at breaking point and he had retreated into himself.   He struggled to find excitement in her research and the house started to weigh on his mind as an investment gone wrong. When he bought this up with her it spiraled into arguments long forgotten. His isolation took hold, and they used the enormity of the house to avoid each other as much as possible.

This left her alone most of the day engrossed in her research. The library was practically her bedroom as she lost track of time and would still be reading into the early hours of the morning.  The more she read, the more she learned, the more she felt the house was part of her. She felt a connection deep within her and it drew her in further. She was obsessed with understanding all its secrets and the magical past that enveloped the property.

The day before he found the note, he had told himself enough was enough. They were living separate lives, and neither were living healthy ones. He made up his mind to do something about it and get his life back on track. Returning home from the office in the afternoon, a rarity since the black death, a bunch of flowers in hand and two first class tickets on the express train to Devon in his coat pocket he went in search of his love. He found her in the library frantically turning the place upside down. All thoughts of his prepared speech out the window as he attempted to subdue her long enough to get some sense out of her. She was rambling and clawing at him, “I need to find it. I need the key. I need to change”. She repeated this rant long after she gave up fighting him. They lay entangled on the floor, her pupils glazed over and staring out into the room. Occasionally her foot twitched against the Persian rug as she mumbled her mantra. He wept as he held her. How had he been so engrossed in his work that he didn’t see what was happening to her. After a few hours he managed to get her up to their bedroom and into bed. He didn’t attempt to undress her. She had finally nodded off to sleep and he didn’t want to risk waking her. He turned the evening over and over in his head and decided to seek help from the village first thing in the morning. After a long time staring at her rhythmic breathing, he drifted off into a fitful sleep himself.

She was electric. When had she removed her clothes? When had he removed his? Was this a memory… a dream… or reality? They were separate but like two halves of a whole finally being together. She filled his mind and a sense of peace flooded them both. “I am sorry my love, but I have to do this. I have to change. This is my destiny, and you are my key. This is not goodbye my love, but a new beginning. I cannot take you with me no matter how much it hurts. This house is me and I am the house. You may never truly understand but know that I could not complete this transformation without true love. I understand that now. Forgive me and live well”.

A blindingly light encompassed them as he wept trying to hold onto her soul.  The light vanished along with her, and darkness surrounded him as he blacked out from the pain and abandonment he felt. When he awoke, he knew it was futile to search for her but was determined to do so regardless. He ran to the library hoping to see her rummaging through the treasure trove of literature with that emphatic smile on her face that he fell in love with. The scene was much like the night before apart from an envelope with his name on it in the center of the old oak desk.

She was gone and was not coming back. He had felt it, witnessed it, and knew the magic within the house had absorbed her. He knew deep within his soul that she was now part of the house. He never did find any clues to how it had happened. Never managed to convince himself to go and live the life she had wished for him. In his mind he had one purpose in life now and that was to be her guardian, her sentinel. He remained vigilant to his duty to the end of his days. Whether the house took pity on him at the end we will never know. 

November 02, 2021 17:44

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