BY DR. AGONSON
The halls are dark and dusty, the only light, pale, shining through the once magnificent mauve curtains, now shredded shrouds like cobwebs hanging over the wall of cool glass which once glowed brightly in the night when the house was in use. The house was an affront to modernity: built before pluming or electricity, it was left to rot; better houses standing in happier places were refurbished. The house and grounds were owned by someone; a family held the property or something; no one really knew.
As a child I would go there. There was a place in the wall where the crumbling mortar, having given way to the constant buffeting of a stream—I had thrown a cork in this little current, and walking along its banks dreamed myself a pirate—receded so that a small child might, if he were of a mind to, and not minding the dampness, crawl under the wall after dislodging a rusty mesh. My cork had gone on ahead of me.
It is not a place that can be lightly spoken of, and yet escapes the deep thoughts a philosopher might try to wrangle it with—it was, and terrible, but I loved it. Winter had given its notice, but under contract tarried in unexpected ways: Though signs of spring were all along the outer wall, no bright daisy dared show its petals in here, and the trees, perpetually drooping, were naked, their contorted branches crossing and double crossing themselves, black shadows like tears across the clean blue sky.
Under these walked the boy forgetting his cork and pirate fancies. The long forgotten fall had left a rot upon the ground, leaves half turned to sludge, mixed with icy wetness sklurrped and pluked under the boy’s little boots.
I came to the main road I know not when, but was in a wandering daze. A child’s mind is not the most exact, and I frustrate myself with questions I know no answers for: What day? How long? How old? These questions are but sand blown away; I’m left with so little to remember. I followed the road, instinctively going deeper into this strange place.
A murder danced above me, curious carrion with laughing jests wondering at the small child below, bound to earth; they were spirits, dead things, watchers.
With such company, myself, my thoughts, and the crows, I progressed down the road. I was afraid, but found I was so happy here, away. Dreams, I afterwards, sometimes thought, but now know. I have returned, and the gates, this time they parted for me. Their metal bars, with a flaking coat of green paint, were encased in strange weaving vines that even in this current spring bore no leaf nor fruit. Black vines, knotted, gnarly, twisting, but the gates opened at my return.
I was afraid as a boy, but entranced as well. It was something like my first love, seeing that house. Of the double doors, one lazy hinge creaked, and from afar I watched the house open. The doors were green, and the knockers were wonderfully decorative. They were in the form of bloated faces, rather like a baby’s pouting face it seemed. I had never seen the like.
I spoke, “Hello Missus Knocker, Mister Knocker.”
A child’s memory holds that they answer:
“What a polite child,” Missus Knocker.
“Hello Mr. and Mrs. Knocker,” I greet them.
They are old now, and lichen cover them. I can no longer hear their voices.
Mister Knocker: “What is this child doing here?” and looking down his nose at me, continued, “I’ll not have any thieves coming past me, young man.”
“Oh hush,” said Missus Knocker, how I remember them. They quibbled and squabbled and loved each other. They were so quiet now. Cleaning off Mister Knocker with my glove, I whisper, “and how is the old soldier? Still at his post?” There is no answer. I shine the two knockers with smiles and tears.
Mister Knocker had asked me questions before letting me in, and although Missus Knocker would have let me pass, I think the old man and I enjoyed our little debates. Stepping inside, I find the house is empty, and all the spirits are gone. Wandering, I know these halls still, the library finally presents itself.
As a boy, one day I came back, and the place was so quiet. The Caretaker had left, and the strange world he had brought to life was gone. It is still gone, I fear.
The shelves of books are dusty now, and the desk, littered with papers, seems blanketed in snow. I sit in the old chair, and feel it slowly accept my weight, us both wondering whether or not this will end well. The unsure moment passes, and we settle. Through the misplaced leaves, the old scrawled notes, and the unfinished doodles, I wade, upsetting the dust and the darkness.
I remember the darkness. It was what somehow made this world worthy of being real, gave a depth to things. The darkness was in the library. Mumbling, I search for a pen as the grumbling nothing shifts, awakening. I wonder if the darkness remembers me.
The empty page’s before me now, the pen is in my hand. The house would live again.