I used to be quite beautiful. There was a time when the people in the town would look up at me in awe. I could see them, their mouths slightly parted at the sight of me sitting magnificently upon this hill. They were all deliciously envious.
Oh, how the Mistress would dress me up for parties! She would have ribbons of the brightest colors hung from my banners and at night she would turn on every light so that I would glow and everyone would know that I was to be admired. I would shine just for her. It was then I knew she loved me. It was then I knew she was happy.
But those days are long gone now. It takes more and more effort every time to drag the memories forward from my crumbling walls. I should know better than to go digging shouldn’t I? Digging always brings up bones.
They were demons, each and every one of them. I’m not sure why the Mistress looked on them like she used to look upon me. They seemed to cry all the time. Once they came along there were no more parties, no more glitz and glamour. The little beasts would draw on my walls and dent up my floors. They would sometimes make the Mistress cry.
I couldn’t just do nothing, you know. A house’s soul desire is to comfort and protect our Masters. I wanted her to look on me as she used to. I wanted her to throw lavish parties again where her laughter tickled my floorboards clear up to my attic.
It was nothing more than a little punishment for hurting me. No, hurting the Mistress. You understand, don’t you?
One night, late in the cold months, I opened up a crack in the nursery. Nothing more than a sliver, but enough to bring an icy chill across the room.
I never meant to make the Mistress sad. I am not to blame.
After that there was a party of sorts. It was a somber affair with black ribbon and nothing but crying. I didn’t understand why my Mistress left and didn’t come back. I never saw her again.
Empty is the worst thing for a house. We grow old in the solitude without the voices and the laughter to keep us alive. We have nothing but the echoes of what used to live, nothing but shadows and regrets that eat away our floorboards and crack our icy windows. Neglect is the worst type of punishment for a house.
By the time my new Mistress found me I was barely fit to stand straight. My windows were all broken and my roof was bowed in the middle like an old mare from a heavy rider. The ivy that had once been scourged from the garden had returned to cling to my side. It was warmth at least, but nothing compared to the new Mistress.
She crawled in one day through a broken window. She was smaller than my last Mistress and a great deal younger. I knew she was my Mistress when she stepped to the middle of my grand room and delivered a low curtsy. She danced beautifully and all at once I could remember the parties again. When she was all done dancing she laid a blanket out on the floor and examined the swirled patterns on my ceiling. She would smile and I was happy again.
I knew that it couldn’t last, after all what kind of house could I be for her? With my broken windows and cracked walls, I could never protect her like I should. I suppose it would have happened sooner or later. Something in me was bound to break.
One day my new Mistress was practicing her graceful steps on the staircase when her foot landed on a rotten board and went through my floor. She pitched forward and cried out. In that moment I remembered the baby. I remembered it crying, and babbling and sometimes laughing. And I remembered the silence too.
I cracked my floorboards trying to break the young Mistress’s fall, trying to minimize the damage my withered old body could do. I held her and kept her up out of the dark basement. I kept her where they could find her, just long enough, though it tore my already rotten pieces. I tried to save her. I tried to save me.
It wasn’t long before they came, the machines that eat houses.
A house’s death isn’t quiet and it isn’t easy. We hold on and we stand firm until we are ripped apart piece by piece. We grasp onto the echoes. We grasp onto the memories that were supposed to live forever in our walls until there is nothing left to grab. Until there is nothing but silence. I clung to her. I clung to the laughter and to the baby who never was. I selfishly held onto the light as if I could take it all with me. They are taking me now, piece by piece. My ugly, shell is crumbling around me. I used to be beautiful. I used to be.
There is nothing easy about dying, not even for a house.