Within a House of Self

Submitted into Contest #2 in response to: Write a story about someone who's haunted by their past.... view prompt



Trapped. Never had she understood the word so vividly. Is this what her heart felt like, stuck within the walls of her own chest? Often she would hear his knock on the door… hear his long strides pacing on her front porch. Back and forth. What did he think about as he paced? What did he want from her? At first, his visits were rare. He knocked on her door once every few weeks… then once a week… once a week turned into twice a week… then a daily visit. Until eventually she felt trapped within her own home—a prisoner to this uninvited, unknown visitor.

He never spoke, unless spoken to. The one time she did speak with him, she asked through her bolted front door: “What do you want from me?” To which he calmly responded, “To be let in”. He was never aggressive or threatening—He was simply always there.

Soon, his knocking was all the woman could hear. She couldn’t distinguish her own heartbeat from this curious visitor’s incessant knocking. The sounds became one in the same… intertwined. Lost within one another. Until the knocking consumed her. Every part of her life fell in line with the beat of his perpetual knocking—even her walk was in pace with his rhythm. She was too afraid to leave—his presence seemed to surround the house like a thick fog. She was locked in. She had just begun to come to terms with her prison-- until the floors began to shake and the walls began to crack. Before long, this stranger’s presence governed every corner of her world, as the prison cell that protected her began to crumble. His pacing kept her up at all hours. Eventually, this visitor became one with her house; one with her.

Finally one day—out of desperation, exhaustion, bravery or a combination of the three—she decided she could no longer continue on this way. This home was her, after all. The hallways were her veins; her creaky floors were her self-doubt, her sun room was her very soul. This home was her. She had become trapped within herself by this unwelcome, perpetual visitor. She ran down from the attic of her mind, down the stairs of her heart and into the front door of herself: face to face with his knock knock knock. Without second thought—out of desperation, exhaustion, bravery or a combination of the three- She swung open the door in one movement.

There he was. He was ready… had he anticipated her decision? “Hello,” he spoke gently, as if he had only been waiting but a minute-- and not months. “May I come in?”

Whether out of desperation, exhaustion, bravery or a combination of the three—she widened the door and gestured the man inside the living room of herself. For months, she had wondered who this visitor was—what he looked like, how he sounded, if he had come to harm her. Face to face with him now, there was a familiarity about him that she could not place. A sense of ease that came with him entering the home of herself. The floor’s shaking seemed to settle; the sway of the house steadied. The man was simple and unassuming. He stared at her, waiting for her to decide what came next. Jolting from her train of thought, she invited him to sit on the couch and offered him coffee. Was she feeling guilty she had not let him in sooner? Was he in need? What did this visitor want? Although she was unnerved-- out of desperation, exhaustion, bravery or a combination of the three-- her sense of curiosity was stronger.

As his gaze moved around the room, he began commenting on her home: “It is exactly as I imagined, dear one. I know you far better than you imagine. I have seen you decorate the rooms of yourself. I have seen you trying as hard as you can to unlock doors within your halls to which you do not have the keys. I have seen you cry out of desperation at the crumbling of your home. I know you do not recognize me, but I helped you decorate this place. I have come to help you fix it before it crumbles into nothingness. I am so glad you have decided to let me in”.

Tears had found their way to her eyes… why was she so affected by this stranger who seemed so familiar? How did he seem to know her situation better than herself—almost as if he were the very internal dialogue which narrated her reality? His assurance broke down any walls she had built up. All she wanted was to hear more of what he had to say—she had never heard someone speak the way he spoke. Mesmerized, she asked, “Why have you come to visit me?”

Without breaking his gaze with her, he began: “You have decorated your home beautifully, but you have not decorated it to sustain. You fear the darkness so much that you forget that you cannot always have daylight. You desire to open the locked doors of yourself with such desperation that your fingers bleed and dust gathers on your piano. Instead of fixing the crack in your wall, you cover it with a painting. Dear one, that which appears dark does not come to harm you. It comes to show you what the light cannot. I come to remind you how to live, how to be at peace at night, how to fix by being still and fill your home with music once again. I am the past you have tried so very hard to mute, and I am here to give your home a tomorrow.”

Whether out of desperation, exhaustion, bravery or a combination of the three, the woman felt as though this man was her confidant, a friend who could guide her. She began telling stories attached with the items in her home. They shared stories and she began to once more feel the beating of her heart as her own. She saw the beauty of her home, as if she was seeing it for the first time. She also saw the incredible damage which she had for so long ignored. The damage seemed to all root from the basement, as if the source of a virus. The man noticed her sudden silence-- as well as the cause.

Past reached within his jacket and pulled out a small, black box. “This is for you. Remember, dear one, without me this house would be but bricks and mortar. You cannot have a future without a foundation of your past. This beloved house would crumble if not for the layers that have created you.” She opened the box to find a rusted key. Past asked, “What is behind that door, dear one?”

The woman shuddered. She had long since ignored the door to her basement. But now she heard the knocking return, resounding from the basement door… Louder than ever before, until it deafened her. The knocking throbbed through her blood. She pulled her head into her lap, squeezed her ears to her head in an attempt to once again find her heartbeat, and rocked into herself. The knocking only intensified and her entire house shook until dust rained from the ceiling and cracks widened down her walls. She tried to scream but her voice had abandoned her. Past stood in front of her, blocking her from the horrifying scene and held his hand out, entirely unaffected. “It is time to choose bravery, dear one,” he spoke gently.

“We are composed of our history and the Scaffolding of yourself is fracturing. It breaks because you are too afraid of the memories it encompasses to fix it or to embrace it. You are afraid of the hurt; you are afraid to return to the recollections held in the very bricks of yourself. But your home cannot stand without the base on which is stands. Each moment you have survived has created you into what you are now. You cannot continue on to tomorrow without coming to peace with the yesterday that formed you. I cannot force you. This is your home. It is your time to choose. Choose bravery.” When she looked up, he was gone. The knocking stopped. The house stood with a stillness that silenced her. Her face was hot and tear stained.

She heard Past’s sweet words repeating in her mind: “It is time to choose bravery, dear one”. It repeated into a rhythm until it mirrored a heartbeat: “It is time to choose bravery, choose bravery, choose bravery”. With a new confidence rising within her, the woman stood and walked across herself to the basement door—past her windows of fear, over the rug stagnation, past her bookshelf of distraction. She heard her squeaky floor boards of doubt under each step, but her new mantra was louder. She took the key and placed it inside the old door. Opening the door, a breeze rushed up the stairs and through her, rejuvenating her entire being. As the breeze moved through the house, light was let in—walls healed—color returned to the dulled drapes—and she could have sworn she heard a song filling her house once more. A song filling her once more—“it is time to choose bravery, dear one”. Everything the breeze touched gave restoration and seemed to be the breath of life back into a dying being. She breathed in the life ruminating her house deeply and took her first step, smiling… feeling her heart beat as her own.

August 16, 2019 17:02

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