The house was a rambling thrown together affair, with many oddly placed rooms and 17 doors. This house had been built back in the early 1930’s and then added on to innumerable times over the years. Originally the house was built in stone but many of the additions were not. This gave the house a rather mottled outside appearance. On the inside some of the exterior stone walls had become interior walls adding to the strange appearance of the house.
The house was filled with the remnants of other households. When old family members would pass the unused or unclaimed household items and old furniture would be brought to the house. This was much cheaper than putting the dusty boxes into a storage unit. All past eras of style and popular taste were represented in the odd mish mash of furniture and fixtures.
The resident was a quiet man of the age that most people call middle. He was unexceptional and unobtrusive. His best quality seemed to be that he could be easily overlooked. He lived a predictable routine in this strange old house. Often the ladies of the neighborhood taking an evening walk would see him sitting at his table in the big picture window watching the sunset. They would wave in that obligatory way and he would feel compelled to wave back.
The resident was allowed to move into the house long ago when he did not have anywhere else to go. His kindly aunt had taken pity on him and given him the keys to the old family home on the condition that he take care and maintain the lawn. This was so the aunt would not need to pay a local landscape company to keep the weeds within the city's height requirement. However, he was good with his hands and soon breathed life back into the house.
It was on the first night he spent in the house that the first ghost had come to him. He woke to find a man standing in front of a large picture window looking far into the distance. The man was dressed in Victorian era clothes with a walking cane and tall top hat in hand. The man looked long out the window unflinching, then with no rush at all he fished a pocket watch out of a vest pocket and checked the time. With a snap of the lid he turned on his heel and strode across the room exiting through the middle of a wall where no door had ever existed or will ever exist. He stared at the wall for a few moments and then rolled over and promptly fell asleep.
Weeks later he asked one of his sisters if they had ever seen a ghost in this house or in any other. She claimed that ghosts don’t exist. She was very religious and felt that ghosts were not the souls of dead people. He changed the subject. For him religion was a recollection from his childhood, a memory of a feeling. Unlike his sisters who were very faithful, he had never had faith in much of anything. Nevertheless, his sister continued to pester him to be better than he was, as his brother wished him to become worse than he was. For him, he simply was.
Over the years he would see many more ghosts throughout the old house. Sometimes he would startle and jump at their sudden appearance. At other times he would ignore them completely. He had begun to notice that the ghost did not seem to want anything from him. He found this reassuring because he was not sure what to make of them and the thought of having to divine a purpose for their appearance made him queasy. The ghost did not seem to wish for any sort of commutation, they simply moved through the house. Or perhaps they were drawn to the house for some unknown reason.
He never saw any ghost that he recognized although he often wished he could. A visit by a favorite aunt or uncle or from his beloved grandfather appealed to him very much. He would sometimes think about a particular ghost. Many stood out from the others. The little old woman with the warm shining eyes and paper thin skin or the man with the muddy boots and wide brimmed cowboy hat. He would wonder about the family that they had left behind. Likewise he would wonder why the ghost did not appear to those family members. This of course led to the thought that perhaps they could not. Perhaps the ghosts were not allowed to appear where they wished. And why did he see them? Was he meant too?
In the beginning he had looked into the history of the house to discern if any of the ghosts were somehow related to the property. Other than a lucky near miss by a huge tornado that destroyed much of this end of town late in 1954, the history was unexceptional. Although two deaths had occurred in the home neither of these seemed to be any of the ghosts he saw. He looked into the recent death records in an attempt to find a face he had seen and to trace a pattern in their appearance. He found none and soon gave up the endeavor. To him the ghosts were as random as strangers in a train station.
The snow was gently falling on the landscape through the big picture window. Again he sat at the kitchen table with his cup of Earl Grey, spiced with honey, lemon and liberal amounts of bourbon. He felt the warmth rising in his chest and blossoming in his cheeks. His mind wandered over the years roaming from hope and regret to love and loss. Despite his affinity for liquor he maintained an incredibly sharp memory. He was halfway through one of his favorite memories when he noticed her.
She stood near the little gas space heater as if to warm herself. She stood with her back to the window taking no more notice of the snow. He slowly moved his eyes in her direction without moving his head. He had come to the decision not to stare when he saw them, he felt that it was somehow rude to intrude into the moments when they appeared. She was shabbily dressed in ill-fitting dirty clothes. She seemed young and alone, and yet her eyes were hard. It startled him when she turned these hard eyes on him. He was sure that she could see him and he quickly averted his gaze. After another sip from his steaming mug he shifted his eyes in her direction to find that she was already gone. He shivered despite the liquor.
In bed that night he thought about the girl. He suddenly had the thought that she must have been one of the homeless that the recent cold snap had killed. Guilt at his good fortune washed over him. In similar circumstances it could have been him out on the streets instead of in this old house full of unwanted possessions. With this thought in his head he fell into a final uneasy sleep.
He found himself in the dining room in front of the big picture window. He stood next to the table without remembering how he got there. Glancing out the window he noticed that the snow had all melted and even the grass was beginning to leaf out. He heard the front door open and the measured steps cross the great room. He turned to see his sister slowly open the glass door and step up into the room. She slowly cast her red rimmed eyes over the room. He smiled at her but she took no notice. Instead she took two quick steps and sank into his favorite chair. She stared blankly out the window. He turned and stared out the window with her. After a moment to soak in the view of the world through the window he turned and strode across the room exiting through the middle of a wall where no door had ever existed or will ever exist.