A chilled wind blew through the empty house.  It crept down hallways, hissed past shards, and poured through splintered wood.  It snuffled among the closets and rooms, scattering dust, clattering blinds, and nudging doors that squeaked and groaned.  Late at night, when the wind went away, there was no sound at all.  Only a deep pervasive pause, like a breath held tight, and waiting …

Then one day, change arrived, unannounced: three in a car with silver wheels.  

One unlatched the sturdy door and all walked in, trailed by a new and gentler wind, a wind that carried the warm brown scent of new-turned earth and sun-warmed rocks.Footsteps echoed through all of the rooms, attic to basement, front to back.  Voices floated upon the breeze and gamboled along the dusty halls.  The voices lightly fingered the walls, coaxing them all to an upright stance, a hopeful and stalwart position.  When the three went away they did not take the wind along.  Nor did they take the echoing sounds, quieter now but warm and full.  And with hesitant fear, the house began to assemble once more the delicate tendrils of hope.  

The following weeks turned to hectic months, all of them flowing with promise and dreams.  All of them filled with the pungent odors of colorful paints, the gentle swirl of thick new drapes, the thudding and rasping of hammers and saws.  The once-dark cave was slowly transformed to a shining castle of light.  And the light let loose an infusion of joy, sequestered for much too long. From dusty rafters to basement floors, the house felt full at last.  It was certain now that it could absorb no more of life, no more of sound and love.   Any more of anything would surely be too much.  Yet more of everything did gush in as a bundled gift with muscular lungs and whirling fists.  

New additional sounds moved in, filling the house both day and night, sounds that no longer allowed the walls to doze in the sun and creak at the moon.  But the house did not regret the loss for it knew the sounds from other times. It also knew the day had come for the unwanted ghost, the icy shadow, the empty Dark to once and finally for all be gone. But even then, time moved on and ‘finally for all’ was not to be. 

Before, the wails had been lusty and loud, and they never continued for very long, quickly muffled by warmth and sleep.  Now, however, the wails went on.  And on.  And on.  And on.  Sometimes the hours trudged endlessly by with cries now different as cotton from steel.  Bottomless nights would drag themselves up to a searing dawn, but even then the wails went on. No matter how long the bundle was held and walked and jostled and hugged, the cries would never give way to peace.  Until one night they finally did. 

During that night came one more change as the Dark seeped up again.  

Stilling the sound and chilling the warmth, it darkened each corner of every room, filling the tiny bedroom first.  Then room followed room as each filled up from floor to ceiling and wall to wall.  But with every bend and stair-step up the house fought back, trying to stop the rising Dark.  It tried with the strength of its will alone to save the light and hoard the warmth.  But the last of its strength was finally gone and the Dark had won again.   In time, all warmth was sucked away, replaced by stillness and cold.  Then stillness, too, gave way at first to the sounds of blame and pain.  Then to the sounds of anger and pain.  Then to the sounds of pain alone.  And then …

A chilled wind blew through the empty house.  It crept down hallways, hissed past shards, and poured through splintered wood.  Late at night, when the wind went away, there was no sound at all.  Only a deep pervasive pause, like a breath held tight, and waiting …

(Flash Fiction

The House