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You Bring the Ghosts to Life

I visited the body of the house last night.

Every day they breathe new life into it: painted color in the cheeks of the shudders, hardwood floors creaking, new and tentative. Wind pushed through the unlocked doors and unsecured windows, impatient and on the verge of tantrum. I carried a lantern and pretended I was a Brontë heroine maneuvering an unfamiliar manor, the madwoman howling away above me, skittering and dragging her skirts behind her. The oaks and maple trees swayed, branches creaking. It was very loud for being so silent. My breathing echoed, and I was completely alone.

I love ghost stories, and made the mistake of pretending to be one.  It wasn’t difficult; the stars shone brighter than city lights, scattered in the bowl of the sky above me.  My feet dodged piping and empty soda cans, tufts of construction dust raising to meet my knees with every step.  Ghosts lived here, yes, but I knew them all.  They had been disturbed day in and day out by boots and plans and cigarettes, and now they watched me from the closet, skeletal fingers tracing patterns where the door will one day go.  I suddenly smelled fire. In my imagination it crackled.  The scorch-mark where lightening came climbing down from the sky eight months ago was concealed by a new layer of concrete, but I knew it was there, humming smugly. The house was hungry without furniture or pictures on the walls, never mind the exposed sockets and the lack of paint. It wasn’t ready for me, and now, startled in the darkness, it prepared to rally and swallow me whole.

I went outside, my lantern beam swinging wildly against the writhing trees, and its orange glow caught a set of silver-dollar eyes in the woods.  A fox jumped into creek-bed and disappeared, his tiny body battling against the shrieking of the wind. A pile of burned roof and deck from the workers’ latest excavations into the under-regions of the house lay in the driveway, moody and gray. They were tearing out our rotten teeth. These were the last pieces now.

I got into my car and left the ghosts behind for one more night.  Soon the body will take its first breath, and we’ll go home.


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