She settled on a rock. The spot she chose gave her a strategic view of the house she came a thousand miles to visit. She dug into her pocket and peeked at her phone. No bars. Good. She had just finished writing her third book and she had been dodging her editor’s calls all morning. A shiver went down her spine. She looked around her as if seeking comfort from the surrounding pine trees but they swayed in directions away from her, not wanting to reveal what they know about her object of interest. She hugged her knees. If the rumors were true about the place she grew up in, she was bound to find out for herself. Rumor had it that the house seemed to have a life of its own and as it continued to age, they are seeing signs of its near journey to the afterlife. People say that never had they seen a structure that emanated so much loneliness and pain. No one ever said it was haunted though. Maybe not for people who never lived there. She heaved a sigh as a quick flashback crossed her mind. She immediately dismissed it. It’s too soon. She just wasn’t prepared for all the memories to come flooding back. A nervous laugh escaped her lips “This is crazy!” As a matter of fact, her entire journey was crazy! What was she thinking running away from her comfortable (if not luxurious) present and driving for hours just to stare at a dilapidated house from her past? She had a book that’s sure to become another bestseller for pete’s sake. Writing doesn’t simply end in the last punctuation mark of the final chapter. There are so many things she needed to prepare for right now. She was scheduled for a meeting with the publisher in a couple of hours. She got up ready to leave and was about to bid the house farewell when a dandelion caught her eye. She absentmindedly picked it up and gave it a blow. Just like old times…”Why don’t you pick some of the coffee cherries while you’re at it?” said a voice inside her head. She followed what the voice instructed her and reached for the red ones all the while thinking that she must be going mad. But she didn’t stop anyway. Working by instinct, she carefully picked one red cherry after another. She left off the orange and green ones, just how her grandfather taught her. And just like that, the huge dam where she kept all her bittersweet memories opened its gates. It was so overwhelming she felt dizzy. For a second she allowed it to drown her.
With a renewed sense of courage, she followed the path leading to the old house. It was so interesting how the path remained clear despite the shrubs growing all over the place. Curiosity started gnawing at her. She felt like Nancy Drew in The Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion. Her heart throbbed with excitement for it had been decades since she set foot in the old house. The last time she was within its walls was when they had a memorial mass for her mother. She even failed to attend her grandfather’s funeral and he was one of the few people closest to her heart. She never really cared for her grandmother. As far as she was concerned, she was just a crazy old lady. Frail on the outside but vicious in the inside. “F***k!” she muttered. That’s exactly why she gave her memories a life sentence years ago. It was also why she ostracized herself from her mother’s relatives. She was done with hating. Or so she thought. She ascended the rickety stairs. The creaking sound was not a good sign. All her weight on one step and the entire house would fall apart. The door was missing a knob so she just pushed it open and walked directly inside. It wasn’t until her eyes adjusted to the darkness that she gaped with shock. She knew how an old or “decaying” house looked like. She had it so accurately described in one of her novels. Sagging roof, rotting floorboards, stained ceilings, drafty corridors…she could go on and on. But this was not one of her cleverly written books and for the first time in her life, she didn’t know what to make of what she was seeing. What used to be brown logs for walls are now grey. She was afraid to touch it. She cautiously ran a finger on the wall. She hoped it would leave a trail and reveal the original color but it did not. The walls…the entire house was fading away…It really is dying. She recalled how her sister defined it–like entering a different dimension at a totally different period in time. Her older sister was able to attend their grandfather’s funeral and reported every single detail back to her. Her sister was in awe at how the house changed drastically after their grandfather’s passing and she just gave a snarky comment at how she was being too dramatic. Now she cringed at her own apathy back then. She quickly finished her tour around the house. There was not much to see. All furniture were gone. But she did find a bunch of neatly folded documents stashed in what used to be a cookie tin can in a corner of the old man’s book case. It was too dark for her to see what was on it. Her grandmother’s room was as bare as the others. She was half expecting to hear the unintelligible muttering of an old woman as she went in. That was how she remembered her. She was always talking to herself or to some being visible only to her. If you listen really hard, you would hear angry curses and demonic taunts. Her eyes were fiery–shining with hostility and shimmering with spite. She lived a miserable life and she made sure she wasn’t the only one. Her daughters and sons hated each other. She turned them against each other. She blamed her husband for all her hardships in life and punished him up to his dying day. She always thought her grandmother was some kind of a witch, appealing to a supernatural power to invoke evil upon all the members of the household. All of her aunts, uncles and cousins who lived under her roof experienced a series of misfortunes, her mother included. Those who left on the other hand, achieved success. But it was ridiculous. She had to stop thinking of the old woman that way. She was not evil. If anything, she was just mentally deranged and deep inside she knew that they could have done something about it. They were like uneducated fools who just left her alone on her battle with insanity. They even attributed her strange behavior to the fact that she became a born-again Christian. Some mocked her for her literal interpretations of what was written in the Bible. They wondered if she was being brainwashed by the church leader. Thinking about it now, she concluded that they were as irrational as she was, maybe even worse because no one extended a helping hand. Being a born-again Christian was probably a move she made in an attempt to stop disturbing thoughts. They were all too proud and selfish to admit that a member of the family was mentally ill and needed help. They all escaped for fear that they might turn out to be like her. Yet she had a degree in Psychology didn’t she? She knew what was wrong with her but chose to believe the irrational.
She walked out of the house, relieved by the rush of realization. Still deep in thought, she followed the trail back to where she parked her car. She hopped on the driver’s seat and closed her eyes for a few minutes. For so many years, she avoided confronting the inconvenient truth. She was nothing but a coward. How could she ever forgive herself? She opened her eyes. She reached for her knapsack that was now filled with coffee cherries plus the tin can that she took from her grandfather’s room. She opened it and carefully unfolded the paper. It was the original blueprint of the house. When she was a kid, her grandfather always told her about how he wanted the house to look like–sliding doors, bay windows… He was a great carpenter but due to a lack of funds, he was never able to finish his dream house. She finally had an answer to her question.
She dialed her friend’s office. “Hi, can you get me through to Architect Adam?”
No time to waste…
“Hey Adam, I have a huge project for you”