Saturday, 15 June 2019

'This House is Not A Home' by Kathy Jeffords

I slept in the grass on the lot where they wanted to build their dream house.

I had been there for many years. I could not be roused.

They began construction around me, framing the foundation with considerable care, forgoing concrete in the section where I lay, dreamless.

Why didn’t they move me? It would have been especially easy since the property was on a hill. They could have simply rolled me off it.

The architect altered the plans to install a trapdoor in the floor of the formal dining room, the room above my underground chamber. When and if I woke, I could use the knocker they’d put above my head. Someone from the staff would scurry to let me out.

It had been a grand idea, in theory, but the lady of the manor found the trapdoor unsightly. It was covered with a rug and would’ve been soon forgotten about, if not for the visitors.

The visitors came, so curious, from far and wide, proffering coins and family heirlooms, willing to exchange almost anything for the chance to come inside, to look underneath the floorboards, to see me. They asked if I snored. They wondered if I might be dead. Doctors came, as well, some with genuine concerns about my well-being and some merely sought the fame that would come if I had some unusual medical condition they could cure.

Imagine my surprise when I woke, several decades later, only to discover I’d not only slept my youth away, I’d also been essentially buried alive in the meantime.

Oh, how I screamed when I opened my eyes and saw the man.

I was on my side and he was on his side and we were facing each other.

I shrieked.

My first instinct was naturally to run away, but there was no space to stand.

It was dark, save for a lone lantern.

“You’re fine,” he said, in a gentle voice.

After I’d calmed down, which took considerable time, he told me everything I’ve just told you.

He helped build the house. He couldn’t bear to leave me abandoned by myself down here so he crawled in with me.

I reached up, finding the rusted metal knocker with my fingers, wrapping them around it.

“Don’t bother,” he said. “I’ve tried. No one comes.”

“Well there’s got to be a latch or something. It has to open.”

“It opens from the outside,” he said, as if he’d long ago come to terms with this.

“Why won’t they let us out?”

“They moved. Quite some time ago. I could catch their conversations through the floorboards. The lady of the manor grew tired of the constant stream of looky-loos, she called them.”

“So the house is empty?” I said.

“Except for us,” he said. “You aren’t alone.”

I don’t say it, but maybe I would’ve preferred to be.

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