Word Count: 500
By Michael S. Jones
I can’t remember when drafts became whispers. When did heated air bleeding out of chinks in my walls change character. When did seeping air becoming sibilant?
Back then I turned toward Jim’s empty chair more than once, biting off some remark he would never hear. I caught movements in the corner of my eye. Were they grief-driven fantasies? An echo of James? Or, in hindsight, was it her?
The day of the accident shown crystalline blue, but a vagrant cloud darkened the porch as I passed under chiseled roses the color of dried blood.
I’ve always known if home was empty or merely quiet. I knew immediately that Jim was not asleep in the den.
The news came with a knock on the door. James was crossing on the green when a taxi knocked him and his bike twenty feet. I sat on the stoop and wept as the officer kept my
Grief changes but it never ends. I continued, and in some ways thrived. But when I came home I always sensed the cavernous emptiness of our brownstone…until the whispers.
They divided and became syllables, audible but always just out of understanding.
Once I came home cross and shouted,
“Be quiet!” And the house became silent and empty immediately.
Days later, sipping chamomile, I spoke to the nothing.
“I like your home,” I said.
Her reply was clear but without resonance… lacking depth that lungs and larynx offer.
“I’ve always hated it myself,” she said. “Women weren’t consulted in my time. As a woman of means I seldom left home and now never will.”
“I never feared you.”
“And I never liked the occupants of my house until you arrived.”
“Where is your husband?”
“I don’t know. And your Jim?”
“I don’t know either. I felt YOU from time to time since he died, but always knew it wasn’t him. Why can’t I see you?”
“‘Women are to be seen but not heard.’
Perhaps now it’s the other way around.”
“What is your name?”
“And your husband’s?”
“I almost don’t remember.”
One day I brought dusky red
roses for us both.
“They’re nearly the color of my door-lintel flowers,” said Annabel. “Do they smell wonderful?”
“Yes,” I said. “Sweet and rich.”
“He carved those roses for me,” she said. “The only part of the house I ever loved.”
“He loved you very much, I think,” I said.
“More than I did him, perhaps. I almost don’t remember.”
We were talking during tea time, though only I drank of course.
“Why didn’t you show yourself to my predecessors? Did they fear you?”
“Perhaps, but people changed so much. Radios, then televisions and those horrid video games. Your century is a cacophony.
YOU became quiet only after Jim died.”
“So you’ve hidden inside for a century?”
“Well, stayed inside anyway.”
“Then you CAN leave?”
“I have no substance… Doors can’t hinder me.”
“Well, you are my best friend and there is a garden nearby. Let’s take a walk together.”