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A Simple Idea

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You have this idea. It's not much. It's pretty insignificant in light of everything.

But it's there. Niggling.

Beneath the footsteps down the hallway, the creaking of the floors, the shadows shifting with your quiet, careful gait; it's a constant thrum. You tell yourself that this, all of this, this charred house, empty and yours, is enough.

The noise, once deafening, is quiet, white and static.

You wait patiently, by the door, and then in the living room, and then by the counter in the kitchen. You can't bring yourself to walk the bedrooms for how still they are.

How did they leave and why can't you?

You're sure it was just yesterday that the house was full, and the table was packed to the brim. Tripping feet and loud voices, speaking over each other until it was one long word.

Days never come now, but the endless night is fractured. You spend hours staring out into the ruined kitchen, but your eyes never grow fatigued. You blink and you are back at the door, hand pressing against the wood, too afraid to turn the handle.

It burned the last time you tried.

You think of moments during the long wait. Moments like when you ran down the front steps while laughing in the chase; feeling your hands soothe the dog; spitting out toothpaste and yelling at the closed door wait your turn! Moments so inconsequential that you pick apart your breakfasts for the past year, thinking of hasty toast and bitter coffee. You aren't finished with breakfasts though, so you never touch lunches or dinners.

Moments where I'm sorry but we did everything we could and look, look, it's your baby brother! Be gentle, be gentle and maybe when dad is feeling better, hey kid? lack meaning here. They're too big to be contained by these four walls, too immense to stay trapped within you. You went into the first bedroom once and never came out quite right, you're sure you're leaving pieces of yourself all over the place.

Still. The idea is humming louder with each blink.

Sometimes you look around and see what you think is a nightmare. Why are the walls black, you ask. Why are the pictures gone, you ask. Why is it so quiet, you ask. And then you look and see the house: still, but whole. You don't smile, because the people who lived here are gone.

And so you ask, why did they leave and why can't you?

The shadows lengthen with every not-step you take. It's simple: stay and watch or blink and wait. There's no choice. Here is here, but you're sure there is a there sometimes, just underneath. Always present, just, really hard to define.

Sometimes the shadows speak. They wander away from you without you and you get so angry and scared that you feel like screaming but that makes the underneath louder so you hush and blink.

The idea is simple. You think you know - you always know but then you forget, or perhaps you remember to forget?

The idea is pretty simple, but insignificant to you, because this is what you are now: footsteps in the hallway, the creaking of the floor, the shifting shadows, the burned hand, the lost voice in the darkwhycan'tIbreatheitburnscan'tbreathecan'tbreathecan'tbreathecan'tbreathecan'tbreatheee...

You stare into the bedroom for the first time the countless times you've stood here and watched and stood here and watched and stood here and watched and think your throat is tight and say very, very quietly, "I can't breathe."

You know now why the walls are charred, why they left, why the noise is quiet, white and static.

I'm dead.

You seize violently, a sudden heat engulfs the room and you stagger back, screaming I can't breathe! I can't breathe!

You run to the front door, but the flames have gotten there first. You barrel through, thinking get to the door, get outside. But the handle burns and you fall backwards, missing the fire by inches. It doesn't matter; you can't seem to choke down any air.

And then you are back by the door, one hand pressing gently into the wood.

You think, all of this, this charred house, empty and yours, is enough. You think, why did they leave and why can't you? You don't know for sure. Moments trickle by and you find yourself  in the living room, watching the door, and then in the kitchen, staring sightlessly at the walls. You blink and find yourself back at the door.

You will walk the hallway, hear your footsteps, hear the creaking of the floor and find yourself standing before a bedroom for the first time.

You have this idea, niggling away, growing louder and louder the closer you get to the bed. It's hard to define, like a dream you try to remember. Like a word forgotten on the tip of your tongue.

Your throat tightens.

You have this idea. It's pretty insignificant in light of everything.

And then you remember. And then you forget.

Your hand feels warm where it's pressing against the wood.

You have this idea.

It's pretty simple, really.