It was as if someone had simply dimmed the lights. A crooked finger on a yellowed dial, quietly rotating the knob. Not quite off, the position just before. Twilight. Perpetual twilight. The crooked finger with the cracked and dirt caked nail staying vigilant to keep the lights low as a fog began to slink in from stage left.
For all the straining of my eyes it became increasingly hard to see the house a mile down, as it seemed to back itself into the heaviness of the cloud. Even the nearer stumps of corn stalks in the field before me, battered remnants from a recent harvest, washed together like water colors on a soaking page. Waving my hand in front of my face to dissipate the cloud had no effect. It was something within our air. An absence of something in our light.
I do not remember how I've come to be here. An unfamiliar open field surrounds this house I do not recognize. I am struck by the lack of trees around a country home such as this. There is very little time though, I feel, as the slinking fog begins to settle more. A sense of something sinister, a growing lump in my chest, in my throat, feels bigger by the second. I've no time to waste, I realize. So I start towards the house.
This house can not be mine, I think, as I skip three of the four steps to the white storm door. The quaint outer decor, flowers in the sill, and wind chimes hanging so frail from their noose on the corner of the storm drain. I stop at the top step, hand on the handle to the door.
Something about those chimes. A spiral that plays a visual trick if you stare too long as it spins. Hanging metal bars that ping one another, a former beacon to an absent farmer in a lonely field. Only... the oddity I realize is that they are not pinging, they are not spinning. There is no wind; nothing to direct them in their would-be dance. This fog is not a precursor to a storm. Winds precede a storm. As do lightning and thunder and barking dogs and hairs on end.
Those things are absent here and now.
This cloud is something else, and seems reluctant to concede any ground. Also, the fading light, the dial seems not to turn. It is stuck where it allows just a haze, for the stage to be set for a dream. It feels just as that, a dream. Though, more like a dream within a dream. Down a rabbit hole of subconscious, with a veil hampering the entrance, allowing just enough to see but not enough to recognize or glean some sense. The light never fades, it only gives the illusion that it will do so soon. If the anticipation felt like poise, I would be inclined to appreciate its regal stance. This wait, this refusal to cross the threshold into darkness, feels salacious and with intent. A jaw unhinging, as dense cigar smoke escapes its maw. I am a chunk of meat skewered on a tong, hanging in the smoke, being savored. I would almost welcome the clamping chomp. I would prefer the absolution of the darkness to this unending dark dawn.
Inside the frilly appointed home the fog permeates but only so far. So far. The linoleum floor does little to muffle my footsteps to anyone who may inhabit the home. Knick-knacks perched on free hanging shelves. A cookie jar with a half dozen different types of cookies. A curio cabinet of glass front and sides, home to a full chorus of angel figurines. The little halos and white wings and praying hands ready for salvation that is not forthcoming. On the kitchen table, photo albums, opened. Left for me to see. I lightly flip through the pages and unfold a story of a woman, late in years, straining for more days that will be used only to appreciate her past - or regret it. She seems to do nothing more than hold a foot against the door as death knocks on the other side. The outside of this house and the woman's smile in the photographs agree that their facade is nothing more. Both protect against the emptiness found within. The fog and darkness long since settled in for term.
I round the corner from the kitchen to the living room and there she sits. Stone faced and wrapped in a shroud. Sitting upright in a plush recliner. Her eyes wide open but seeing no more. Her left hand lays limp on her thigh, but in her right hand she holds a picture. A print of a man and a boy, with a field of tall cornstalks as a backdrop. The cornfield just outside it appears to be. The bright blue sky overhead as the young boy and the man kiss, sharing their love for the lens to borrow, for the film to keep, for the woman to cherish. As the glaze in my eyes seeps from my vision I realize the man is me. The scene once again flares into the surreal, as I recognize the boy as my son. The lack of lightning outside is more than compensated for as memories suddenly storm my mind. I close my eyes and press the palms of my hands to the side of my temples. Not to force the memories back, but to control their onslaught so as to make some sense as they appear on the backs of my eyelids.
I hear my sons voice, with his tiny lisp sweetly intoned. "I miss you." he said, but it sounds like "mith you" with his unrectified speech impediment. We will fix it at some point, his mother and I agreed. It wasn't so bad that it warranted anxiety. We were just happy that he was talking at all. For the first few years he was extremely quiet, while seeming to soak in everything around him. He never seemed to have difficulty learning, or solving the small problems that a small child encounters. After tests a specialist told us that he was just fine. He would talk when he was ready. He came around to talking, and did so as much as he was allowed. The lisp was not a worry just yet. It was, in fact, an adorable trait for a little boy to possess. He was just a kind-hearted boy, unfettered by the worlds toxic disappointment. Nothing, it seemed, could weigh down his blithe demeanor. He was innocent and happy; unapologetic behind his insouciance. He lived life on a sunbeam and pulled on-board anyone willing to share the ride.
Suddenly, more memories come to me. I begin to remember how I came to be in this place that I never wanted to be again.