I have been writing so much these past couple of days, in a sort of therapeutic fashion. So I thought maybe I’d share some with you because I have no one else to show it to. I actually have no name for this one and it’s definitely not great but….thoughts?
Years later men came to the house and catalogued the things they found. They wandered the house and sorted its haunting contents- the rooms laid to rest like outfits that did not suit the occasion, the stacks of hatboxes tall as each of the men that filed through the door, the glass bottles that were dull with cataracts of dust, the tinned food in the larder that might have fed a hundred men. They wore masks and dampened down the dust with sprays of water as they uncovered doorways long painted shut and rooms resounding still with the silence they had been sealed with decades ago. They found in the house a riddle which kept them awake at night, whispered across the stained and faded paint of the walls, scratched into the leaded window panes, marked out in the scattered leaves that had blown into the dining room.
In the nursery at the top of the house they avoided the uneasy gaze of the old porcelain dolls, the bare bedstead creaking its springs as if to taunt them. Here there were marks in the layers of dust on the floor, faint but visible: unreadable, misunderstood like the name of a forgotten god. They were wary of treading across the polished boards, and retreated back to the old hollow kitchen to eat their lunches, marking spread blueprints with greasy fingers.
They were men who had a love for history, or at least for the cataloguing of it, and as such were hard-pressed to hear what the house might be saying. Instead they were left with a faint sense of unease and an unwillingness to voice it. These were the last men to see anything of the House. Everyone else who had seen the house while it was still inhabited was long dead. Later still when the silk corsages and crystal decanters and the silver snuff boxes were packed in numbered boxes, and the house was left empty as a silent bell, they walked through the rooms of the house and left the subtle sadness that crept over them unvoiced.
Life still hummed there, as it will where families have lived for generations upon generations; layered upon itself and complex in its shifting aura, like dust in a shaft of light. The patterns of light cast onto the floorboards were kaleidoscopic, and shivered into life as the heavy black-painted front door was shut for the last time.
Out on the street, the men took one last glance at the intimidating house as they walked home along the cobbled streets of London.
Damien wakes with a great juddered gasp that tears at his lungs and has him spitting dust onto the floor, clutching the fabric covering his chest as though he wishes to find some purchase on his own flesh. His eyes water and he can’t swallow, so he lies prone on the floor, fighting for each breath until his body grows used to the mechanism and begins to take over.
Soon he shifts to press his forehead to the floor and push himself onto his knees. Somewhere close by but muffled through heavy layers of plaster and closed doors, someone is tuning a violin. There is enough in the quiet melody of it familiar to him for the sound to go unnoticed for a while. His fingertips dig into the dusty, worn weave of the rug, and he stands, unsteadily, bracing his hand against the marble mantle. There is a long stretch of silence before he raises his head and gazes into the mirror there, lips trembling.
Only his face looks back. Only his face with its two-day stubble and greying hair. A spare face, haunted. He’s caught in his own gaze, little trembling breaths, little gasps that might fog the mirror but do not. In another room, notes progress from low to high register with the sickening inevitability of time passing, and stop. Damien grins at his reflection: a death’s head grin with his bright eyes that still have their lustre amongst the darkness.
There is a faint smell of smoke and rosin and frankincense; also, a silence that might be the negative of the raw creak of the bow as it sounds against the string.
Sometimes silence is as much an invocation as music. Damien knows this. He knows silence and its intimate folds, the way it can change a space and spread its deadening influence into the bones of you if you live within it for too long. He has lived in its shadow for long stretches of nameless days, fumbling out the shape of his self again and again to reassure himself .
Dimensions inside the house are subtle, liquid. Time passes in stuttered surges, and sometimes he sleeps on his feet, wandering the blind corridors of empty portraits. And sometimes, sometimes, he hears that sound again: the tuning of the strings, quiet but clear enough for him to imagine the soft pink pad of a finger plucking the coiled steel; the slow progression of the scale. Then nothing.
He runs through rooms pretending he is not frantic, throws open the wooden shutters to let in the light but stirs up only dust and echoes. Sometimes he yells his brother’s name into the main hallway, voice cracked and bouncing off the hard marble, Sometimes he calls out “Brody, please,” and sometimes “Come out, I can hear you, Brody,” and once “Oh god, oh god, please come to me,” even though he does not believe in a god, any god, and never has.
But there is some unfound space in the house, where their realities might find each other, like transparencies sliding into the perfect place. He’s close, sometimes. Oh, close: the smell of rosin and old lace and he imagines he might see, at any moment, Brody’s dark hair tossed like a shadow among shadows; careless yet studied, beautiful.
They haunt the same spaces but are alone as only the dead are alone.
He lies on his back, shoulderblades pressed to the cool floorboards and leaving a mark in dust like a pinned moth. There is no sleep. There is no waking. Only that he is there for the passing of time or he is not there. He’s gone up into the attic to bring down his portrait, but the frame is empty, grey. There is no young Damien looking on, a slick curl to his lips, no cobalt sheen on his draped hair or the careless curve of his thigh. Everything is too dead here for that boy, everything is too quiet. Instead he drags the big gilt mirror from his mother’s room into his own and leans it against the wall.
When he sits up it captures him, yes, no mistaking that gaunt ruined handsomeness. For a while he does not notice the figure on the bed behind him, until he feels a fingertip run down slow behind his ear, soft, soft, and he closes his eyes and wishes the mirror would break.
Brody drops the violin.