By: Monica P.

The house was dead quiet when I opened the door. I stepped inside its dark concave and smelt the scent of
stale perfume on the evening breath. I closed the door and it aired a gentle creak before its lock fastened into
place. I flicked on the foyer light switch with a strike from my forefinger. I looked around and saw a cosy sofa
to the left and a staircase to the right. I placed my bag onto the foyer rug and shouted out a greeting to tell
the house that I was home. Quietness returned to me. It was a dense silence that itched me to my skin.

I ignored my feelings and traipsed towards the small kitchen door that lay to the far right. Inside the kitchen
was a smooth stainless steel preparation bench that stood before an army of cold silver items which had been
left to slumber as they sat quietly in disuse.

I walked to the silver fridge and opened its mouth. Inside was a vial of ice water, a bar of cold pate, and a loaf
of bread crustettes. I took out the pate and unveiled it from its plastic wrap. One sniff scent my senses
spiralling, and I quickly dropped the pate into an empty bin that was covered with a film of dust. I next grabbed
the crustettes and removed one from the packet. The small wheaten biscuit was, as expected, hard and stale
as crustettes should be. I placed a corner into my mouth and took a bite. The hard crust was too much for my
delicate teeth and I felt a chip become born right away. I threw the crustettes into the bin, and then with a
grumbling stomach orating its continuing discomfort I traipsed back to the foyer and picked up my baggage.

I stormed up the flight of stairs that loomed in the corner. My burst of anger fuelled me all the way, and I
hardly felt an ounce of effort until I reached the very top. A pang hit my chest hard, and I felt my heartbeat
break its steady rhythm. I dropped my bag immediately and hung onto the wooden rail to my left. I deep
breathed for a few minutes, breathed away my bodily discomfort in having actually actioned some exercise. The
pang soon wafted away and I was left to feel a little red faced about my lack of fitness. I jotted fitness as
something to improve while back at home resting with the family who seemed to have so far not noticed my

I picked my bag up again and moved on. I passed the first door that was my daughter's room. It was a pretty
room decorated in pink paint, and light pink drapes. She was the baby of the family - barely nine years old. She
had auburn brown hair, chocolate fudge eyes, and a smile that can charm your wallet of its worth. I dreaded to
see her bloom into a teenager. She was no doubt set to strip me of my fortune. I hated to love to spoil her –
but I did anyway. I even spoilt her when on off site location. I had brought her a diamond bracelet. It was a
terribly expensive purchase, but I saw her smile when my eyes became bedazzled with it as it sat in its display
window and I could not walk away.

On I walked and passed the next door. That was my wife's mother's room. It was a plain room, with floral
wallpaper and yellow curtains. I hardly saw the shadow of the woman who lived behind it. Meals were brought
to her door and left on a tray. She wore a black veil night and day when on the move in orde to hide her
marked face. Was it hideous? I had no idea. Even in photographs the old woman was seen wearing it like some
mask that could not be pried from her. I asked my dear wife the reason for it, and she murmured out one
reason after another.

"She's unevolved." she'd say. "She's nervous. She's shy."

I stepped away from my questions that day and never looked back.

I stepped on to the third room, which was my room. I opened the door and smelt dust. It was odd, for my dear
wife always opened the windows at morning's birth. This was the room she always kept in prime condition. It
was our private retreat where our world merged and became a fulfilled one in which we could relax together,
bask on fresh silken sheets, fumble around the ornate makeup table, and relax in the hot tub that bubbled out
water from its side jets.

"Home sweet home." my thoughts cheered as I plonked my bag onto the grey carpet below my feet.

I clasped my hands together and felt something odd. I looked to them and saw a film of grainy dust that was
the colour of a boxer's bruise after a match. I rubbed my fingers together and felt the grain a little more. I
glanced back to the door and crawled my eyes over the doorknob. My fingerprints stained its brass surface that
was otherwise covered in dark grey grime. It was odd to see – so very odd.

I shrugged of a tingle that spread down my spine and decided that it was time for a bath. I shrugged off my
coat, stripped off my tie, and bent low to my feet and untied my shoe's black laces that sat in knotted bows. I
kicked off my shoes and walked to the bathroom where a deep bowl awaited my presence. I reached the
bathtub and jumped as I spied a dish of black grime. Before I could question why my wife had not cleaned since
my departure, I moved to the tap so that I may rid the bath of the black dust as soon as possible. I turned on
the hot tap – but to my surprise nothing came out. I hit the spout once and then twice over the head. Nothing,
there was nothing. Dumbfound struck me as disappointment burned through my skin. I gritted my teeth and
turned my attention to the shower. I opened the cubicle door and got chilled to my skin as my eyes met string
after string of black cobweb. I closed the cubicle door and turned away. Sweat rose on my brow as my
temperamental mind fired questions. I took my leave and raced out my skidding socks collecting a film of dust
from the tiles below.

Back in the foyer of my bedroom everything seemed normal. I took a breath and calmed myself down until my
sweat was nothing but an evaporated stain that could only faintly continue to be felt atop of my dry skin. I
glanced at the window and noticed a slight fog had arisen outside. I sniffed as I remembered afternoon fogs
could be caused from forest fire. My nostrils smelt nothing but dust. Particles wafted into my flared nostrils and
itched them from the inside. I sneezed. I was a loud and obtrusive outburst that hurt. I took a handkerchief
from my pocket and wiped my nose. Into its soft cotton swathe I sneezed once more - a sharp blow then
ceased continual sneezes.

I sighed and placed my handkerchief back inside my pocket. I glanced at my wristwatch as my stomach rumbled
out its desire to become filled with some food. It was a little after six pm – the right time to have a bite to eat.
I picked up a phone book from the bookshelf that lined the wall to the right. Dust became stuck to my skin as I
traced its pages. I found the number for a reliable fast food service, then I ambled to the bedside desk, and
picked up the phone that sat upon its glass surface. My fingers punched the number I had half memorized as I
pressed the receiver close to my right ear. Only when I had dropped the phonebook onto the bed did I realize
that the phone was dead. Questions buzzed as I moved again to strike the buttons in order to dial the same
number before its digits wafted from my brain. However no connection was made.

I dropped the phone as a smack hit me in the face. I looked back to the window and raced to it as my
heartbeat drummed out a wild jungle rhythm. I peered through its glass and saw the smudge of fog. I took a
breath, reached for the clear surface, and wiped a fleshy palm against it. The fog disappeared as my hand
became smudged with a different kind of dust that was light grey in colour. Alarm spread throughout my body
as it stiffened.

I stepped back and bumped calves against the bed. I sat as questions buzzed through me. A puff of dust
sprang out from the blanketing spread over the mattress. I sneezed once, and then twice. I took out the
handkerchief and sneezed a few more times before my nose became emersed in its cloth. I blew once, and then
again. I blew hard to rid my nostrils of the lightweight debris. I sneezed and blew at the same time, and then
shed a few watery tears as I blew so hard it made my nose sound off its own horn. The sneezes subsided
drastically. I blew once more for good measure, and then took the cloth away. I sighed out my relief as a wave
of discomfort scratched me.

I stirred, turned my head, and looked at the doorway. I got up and marched straight for my daughter's room. I
opened the door with one swing of my arm, and gasped as a new pang was felt within my chest like a dagger of
a madman as it struck at its newest victim. Black dust covered the pretty pink that sparkled with diamonds of
cleanliness. I swished my view over the light pink drapes and saw them coated with dark debris.

"Ma!" I cried out in gasp as I raced to the last door I had thus far left closed.

I turned the knob – it was easier to open then the other two doors. Immediately I lost balance as my weight
clumsily stumbled through the doorframe. I fell to the carpet below and hit my head hard against the floor. Dust
wafted up from the hairs of the carpet, black dust that was as dark as a moonlit night. The particles floated
inside my mouth and caused me to choke. I coughed and gasped as particles wandered down to the caverns of
my chest. I got up and hacked through my chokes as light sensation crept atop of my brain and caused it to
become filled with nauseousness. I wiped my mouth with the sleeve of my shirt and looked about. Black
cobwebs hung loose from corner to corner. I gasped and retreated as shock slapped me with swift force.

I scattered to the staircase, and tripped down its jagged spine. I ran to the foyer door and opened it with one
swift tug.

"Help!" I screamed to the midnight sky that had set above a tired world. "Help!" I screamed for good measure as
my hands clung to the roots of my hair.

I felt my tears dribble with saline drool as misunderstand warped my mind of its knowledge. Crickets woke from
their slumber in the dense forest that surrounded the place, and hummed their throaty tune to the world as I
hollered my last cry. My ears picked up their sound and let its song reverberate through my mind until my
exaggerations were placed inside a box.

Slowly I turned back to the house that stood like a cold cement carton. My eyes sharply darted to the left, and
then to the right. I spied cobwebs hanging off windows, crusted grey ferns leaning against walls, and grass as
dead as a skeleton's heart. It looked as though no one had lived on the premises for centuries.

Fright jabbed at me, and like a coward I ran for the car that I had left parked in the driveway. I dove inside its
belly and slammed the door behind me. Quickly I moved to turn on the engine, but stopped when I found that
my tremble-strung fingers held no key.

"No…" I whispered as I felt my pockets for the key. "No!" I repeated sharply as my pockets failed to hold the
moulded metal form.

My memory picked up, and I quickly realized that I had left my key in my jacket pocket whose form lay on the
bedroom carpet inside the house. I caught my breath as my eyes reached out to view the silent abode that lay
in entombment. Chills shivered my skin and caused it to become dotted with pimples.

I stroppily got out, and with my head hung low I marched back to the house. Inside I sped to my bedroom suite
with my eyes half closed. I stumbled up the staircase, and scurried to the doorway. I spied my jacket and my
shoes and raced over to them. I picked up both items and then raced out in swift retreat before I could view
any more wretchedness. I reached the staircase in record time and hurried to stumble down its back. However I
tripped on my loose sock halfway down, and fell. I rolled like a ball after having been pushed. I tumbled right to
the bottom step and crashed on the foyer carpet below.

My face crunched under the weight of the heavy blow, and I snorted my blood as it squirted out from my
heaving nostrils. I lay like a squashed ant fully incapacitated as my breath heaved sharply in and out of my cut
mouth. I opened my left eye and peered across at the foyer entrance and then looked out into the darkness
that lay past its frame. The crickets could be heard singing its raucous lullaby. Its tune seemed hollower then
before – it were as though the crickets had turned into husk form in the minutes past and now chirped their
song through vacant breath.

I forced myself to get up with a push. I looked back to the staircase where my coat lay hung on its jagged
shoulders. I crawled up on my hands and knees as my nose snorted in the heavy scent of blood. I grabbed my
coat, and then picked up my shoes that lay on rungs beneath. Achingly I stood and stumbled for the doorway.
My balance tipped from side to side as my vision blurred. I tried to walk in a straight line, but stumbled to the
right as my balance became pushed from its visionary path until I hit the plaster wall.

A calendar was knocked by the reverberating force of the bump, and fell from its blue tack nail. It dropped into
my fingers that were now empty of all objects. I numbly caught it as my mind whined about the pain that could
be felt on my crushed face. I glanced at the calendar and noticed that the month was set on May. I rolled up
my sleeve in order to glance my watch and saw that it was October. I glanced that the calendar again and
noticed on the second day of the month there was a circled message.

"Leaving to give daddy a birthday surprise." wrote an infant's scrawl

"Catch flight 137 at 9.30am." wrote an adult's cursive print underneath.

My mind traced back to the month of my birthday. I had been swamped with heavy work and could not be pried
away - not even to accept a phone call from my family. Many days had been the same after that one. I spent
hours travelling and working under the greatest of pressures. In the evening I would slump down to some rest
on the very same table I worked. I had no time to call anyone; only occasionally did I bother to quickly send an
e-mail message to my wife and its words were as cold as my damp mood, which could not be brightened for
anything but the return home from the nightmare that I was stuck in. I had never even thought it odd when I
had received no reply. I didn't think. I just knew I was to be gone for a certain number of months, and then
would return after my time was through.

I roamed eyes about the place and soaked in the sight of the hideous black debris that I now saw covered floor
to roof. No one was here. I looked to the calendar and recalled that no one had visited me on my birthday. In
one clarifying moment I dropped the calendar and fell to my knees as grief swamped my head with heaviness as
I realized there was no family any more.