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As the sun pierced through the narrow slits in the fine Venetian blinds, Maureen kicked off the covers. While she looked around the dilapidated room, she mused as to why she couldn't bear to change it. What about this room, her bedroom, was so important? It hardly mattered. Nothing mattered anymore, hadn't for years.

Staggering her cold, naked body toward the door, she dragged the blanket off the bed behind her. She felt stronger, more in control of herself and her emotions. Still a wreck, though. If she could see herself in a mirror, she would hardly recognize the specter of her former self.

With a shambling shrug, she hoisted the dilapidated blanket over her shoulders. Somehow, there was still no respite from the frigid fall air. Grasping the door handle feebly, she twisted. A small victory, as the door gently swung ajar.

Moving down the hallway she mused at the paintings and pictures on the wall. She couldn't recognize much of it. Children's artwork, presumably Harold's, between photos of… relatives? It felt like an eternity since she had left that room. Everything about the house was foreign to her.

As Maureen turned the darkened corner and glided into the kitchen, a question formed in her mind. A question she'd had for so many years.

"Why do I bother?"

Why get out of bed? Why change the house at all? Why go on living? Why…

Her thoughts were interrupted as she glanced at the calendar on the fridge, barely discernible in the pre-dawn light. October 28th. The day she lost Harold.

Harold, her beautiful boy; her infant son. The moment he was lost to her, she was lost to the world. Haunted by tragedy, it all came creeping back.

Before she knew it, Maureen was struck by the scent of fried food… chicken fingers! The frigid fall air was replaced by warmth. Not just from the chugging, dated heater, but from love and happiness. She remembered how tired she was, working two jobs to care for Harold, alone. Living in her father's old home, just to make ends meet.

Taking in her surroundings and basking in a strange nostalgic euphoria, something almost made her scream. Just like it did every single year.

Young Harold sat at the table, pushing chicken fingers around his plate with one particularly long poultry digit. The sun caught his golden blonde hair, nearly blinding her. Tears began to stream down her face.

Maureen could see herself in the corner, fifteen years younger, preoccupied with a phone call. The old corded phone's coil entwined between her fingers, she looked happy. Who was she talking to?

"Mommy," young Harold began, "I'm thirsty!"

Young Maureen held up a single finger, too busy for her darling boy, and turned away to face the window.

A pit began to form in her stomach, as Maureen watched her naïve younger self disregard their child. Young Harold stood, frustrated, and made his way to the cupboard under the sink. Quietly, he pulled out a colourful bottle with a cute little lemon on it and smiled.

Helplessly, Maureen began to yell. To Harold, to herself, to anyone who could hear her. But nothing came out. She was frozen, in place and in time. Dread washed over her as young Harold poured the liquid into his cup. He made a confused face as he held it to his nose.

"No!"

Harold put the glass down, a momentary relief. With great fervour, Harold began to wolf down his chicken fingers. Young Maureen hung up the phone and approached the table, ignorant of the mighty thirst that young Harold's salty chicken fingers had wrought. As Harold picked up the cup again, and put it to his lips, young Maureen noticed the cleaning solution on the table. Curiously, she picked up the bottle…

*Gulp*

And thoroughly examined it…

*Gulp*

Young Maureen froze, turning her gaze to Harold. He put the half empty cup back on the table, and grimaced. All the while, rooted in place, Maureen screamed bloody murder at her young self, in futility.

Young Harold turned an awkward greenish-pale before his shallow breaths turned to convulsions. Moments later, he was on the floor. Young Maureen ran to him, screaming. Panicked, she rushed to the phone.

As Maureen watched the horrific scene replay itself in front of her eyes for the 14th time, she fell to her knees and wept. How long did she wail, cry, and scream? She couldn't say. Time felt like little more than an abstract concept to her, these days.

Finally, the house resumed its normal silence. Maureen wiped her face. She was back in the cold, unlit kitchen. But like everything in the house, aside from her room, things were different. A new fridge, different shelves, and a child safety lock on the cabinet under the sink.

The sorrow overwhelmed her, as it did before. When they took Harold to the hospital, when the police accusingly "questioned" her, when she attempted to take her own life… she knew it was too late for Harold.

The melancholy of the morning twilight washed over her as she wept, broken, on her knees.

"Why? Why do I re-live this every year?"

As the sadness faded, her pitiful form stood, emboldened by a new emotion. Anger. Anger at herself, anger at what she had become, and, despite her unwillingness to come to grips with it, anger at Harold.

"He should have known better!" She hissed to herself.

Maureen had lost what little composure this "life" offered her, just as she did every year. She began to rampage about the kitchen. Throwing cutlery, smashing dishes. It seemed funny, in a strange way, that this of all days was when she felt the strength to do so.

Soon, the kitchen was a disaster, but she wasn't finished. Maureen howled like a banshee, a mixture of screams and cries. That is, until something broke her chaotic tradition. A voice. A woman's voice.

"This is insane! Every fucking year?"

"Honey, it's just the one day, we can…" a second voice stopped, as the two strangers turned the corner to the kitchen.

The couple was momentarily speechless as they turned on the lights. Maureen stood, naked, blanket on the floor as the couple stared straight at her, or rather, right through her, at the horrible mess.

"This can't be real! How can we make a home here?" The woman yelled to the man.

"It's… it's never been this bad before…"

Maureen, now seething with rage, began to scream ever louder. The couple was paralyzed by the shriek. The woman fell to her knees, hands clasped over her ears, as the man ran to the cupboard under the sink, and desperately fumbled with the confounding child-proof lock. Moments later, he pulled out a sprig of dried sage and matches, and hastily lit the end ablaze.

A thick, white smoke began to billow out. To Maureen, it seemed as though it engulfed the entire kitchen. Her shrieks were halted, replaced by hacking coughs. She began to feel weak and frail. The state to which she was accustomed.

"We can't live like this, we can't raise a child here, Harry. She's only getting worse." Maureen heard the woman plead, through tears, before storming out.

The man stood for a moment, taking in the anarchic display. With a sigh, he walked back to the cupboard, put the sage and matches back, and pulled out a small, stained scrap of paper.

"204-555-9386 - Father Walter"

Maureen stared at the man, wondering why he hadn't even acknowledged her. There was something familiar about him.

The man thumbed the paper and pulled out his cell phone. He took a deep breath, muttering to himself…

"Damnit, mom…"

Ghostly home



Written by Tewahway
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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