I rambled down the cramped dirt road. To my right, there was a sheer cliff face. To my left, a row of Victorian houses, each with their own personality. Some had moss covered rock fences, others had wood sheds. Before I arrived here, I tried to remember what this place was like. I had been bogged down, always wistfully desiring to return to this summer home, but there was always a reason not to go—there was a new project due, I had just finished a project and didn't want the hassle of driving up here, my fiance and I had planned a romantic getaway in our house. I was just busy. Then she died. It came as a surprise. It wasn't like I thought she'd live forever, but she was 32.
I passed the white, the green, and the eclectically painted homes and reached the Maine House. It was owned by our uncles, but my sister loved it so much, they passed it down to her. As a sort of family tradition, we all held a share of the house. It was a family house. It was for childhoods and summer.
I pulled into the dirt and gravel parking spot. I looked out across the treeline and at the foggy and grey expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Waves roiled up against the beach. The three small islands were still squatting in the distance. I could hear the crashing. That soothing sound of the mysterious ocean. I stepped out of the car.
I placed a hand on the cool rock fence, moss growing out of the cracks. There was a metal gear stuck in a rock. The rock was warped. I sat down on it. When we used to come here as children, we arrived in a mini-bus. We'd stock pile the back with everything we needed for the two weeks and more. My sister and I would have our own seat. When we'd arrive, we were all tired—my dad was the worst off, of course, but as children, we just hated the sedentary blandness of driving for 8 hours. We wanted to scatter, run along the beaches, clamber up the cliff path, check out the local, yuppie hotel for interesting people, fellow kids, and when we were older, some hottie.
Luggage would stack up by the door as we lugged in our blankets and pillows—not because the house didn't have it, but we always brought a little of home here. It made us feel safer.
I pulled out the key to the house and unlocked the front door and entered the mud room. The house was strange, thinly built, as though it would whisk away like in the Wizard of Oz, and the rooms nestled together in odd angles. The mud room was a rectangular room, small, and opened to bother the kitchen and to the dining room. No one went through door to the dining room.
The kitchen was torn apart—there were no bowls, no flatware, no food in the fridge. There were two boxes on the kitchen table, something that was to be left behind, but beyond that, the kitchen was empty. The entire house was like this. The bare skeleton remained—the furniture, little odds and ends that didn't matter, but the charm was gone.
Tomorrow, the new owner was going to arrive. I would give him a little tour, even though he already had one with a real estate agent, but it would be one between owner to owner. It would be a silent passing of stories. The new owner and his family would make new memories and I would make my last one.
I wandered through the house, watching the waves and the three islands out the window, innocuous in the daylight, the fog dissipated in the sunlight. The second floor, filled with bedrooms, four to be exact, all in their silent state. Our parents always reserved the nicest room for themselves. My sister and I, we often shared a bedroom, and yet sometimes we'd brave the nights alone. Each bedroom had its own share of nightly terrors. In the attic, the effervescent presence of ghastly things seemed saddened today. There was always stuffy feel that mingled with that fear that you were being followed, being watched by some long past soul. The scorch marks in the one room never helped the matter. Neither did the despairing state of the attic bedroom and the murky red water in the abandoned bathroom.
Night would fall in several hours, so I left the house to visit the cliff path. As I left the house, the porch swing creaked goodbye.
The path was rather iconic—rocks, moss, pines, and rich brown earth. It was never a difficult climb. It was just a perfectly, friendly forest scene. The path leveled off and the pines always ended. Short, stocky blueberry bushes scattered around and I watched my step for the rocks formed nooks and crannies. It was always like walking into a barren land to me, despite the blueberry flora. It was the sky and the ocean. There was a harsh, glaring blue and grey. The world was bright compared to the pine walkway. Down this rocky and blueberry patch, the pines grew back. I always contemplated about this spot. Why so barren? My sister thought it was from a creature from beyond. Once, we found bones in the pines.
I walked to the pines up ahead and sat down on a rock ledge in the middle of the pathway. I used to bring an old laptop up here to write. It was usually a failed venture. The scenery was always more interesting than the screen. There were gauges in a tree nearby. Every summer, we'd find them up here. Only once we walked further among the pine path. We found a dense forest with two wooden slates forming an X across the entrance. Due to the thickness of the trees, we couldn't see far past the blockade. The path quickly delved into shadows. We never even dared each other to go further. We just stared into it, then left.
I wandered the pines for a while, feeling whatever beast it was watching me. Usually I felt that trepidation—would I become its next snack? And yet this time, I wasn't afraid. It had been about 10 years since I've been here last. It must of wondered where I went. It must have been thinking about how I have grown. I thought that it would be getting older, maybe it had its own family now. Maybe it was the son, hearing tales of two little girls running through the woods and now it finally has seen one of them. A monster fairytale, just as it was a fairytale for my sister and I.
I left the pines, passed the barren blueberries, and clambered down the pine slope and walked down to the yuppie hotel for dinner. I made sure to grab a handful of mints as I left, just as I always did as a kid.
Night fell as I stalked the house alone. As the sun set, I sat on the screen-covered porch in a wicker chair. The porch swing continued to swing at a lazy pace, back and forth, creaking along the way. Every so often objects moved in the house. It seemed a beneficial or neutral spirit, more minding its own little business than attempting to harm the two little girls that would stalk its movements in fascination. We would camp out at night, watching the swing. Sometimes we'd leave little gifts on it. When it became too dark to see, I left the porch, ensuring to place a mint on the swing.
I threw two logs in the fireplace and lit the newspaper. We always kept plenty of wood in the outside basement. I watched as the wood crackled, reveling in the warmth. I stood, keeping my hands warm. After some time, I stood by the bay window, staring out at three ghost lights that hovered over the three islands. Our father always told us that they were lighthouses, but when my sister and I dug through some newspaper clippings in the attic, we found an article about three widows, their husbands lost at see.
The fire died down. I turned on the lights as I headed upstairs. We had a system, my sister and I, in order to never be caught in the darkness. We would turn on a light, turn on the next closest one, then turn back to turn on the first light. We kept up this chain. The shadows couldn't get us then.
On the second floor, I paused at the first bedroom. It was the white room. It held a double bed. I opened the door and peered in. Empty. The linens were gone. The first time we came here, we found a porcelain doll resting on the pillows. She had black hair, black, shiny eyes. She wore a white dress and black buckle shoes. She should be in some box somewhere on her way to a storage unit. No matter where we place her, she always appeared back in this spot.
I closed the door and opened the next one. The yellow room. It was small, very cramped, and the walls angled oddly. We always felt time was slow in here. Even the light seemed yellow in here. At night, you could hear a faint voice singing an indecipherable lullaby.
I moved on to the third room. There was a pair of twin beds in here. A dresser stood in between the windows facing the beds. We always found candy in there, like magic. We theorized that this room once housed a pair of young tricksters. I was going to sleep here tonight. I turned on the lamp and closed the door and walked to the window. The three lights were still flickering in the distance. I listened to the waves crashing. The sea was always beautiful at night.
In time, the lamp flickered and went out. This happened a lot in this room, only at night. The door creaked open. That never failed to send a shiver of terror down my spine. A stomped my foot on the floorboards. The lamp turned back on. The door closed. I smiled.
I slept on one of the beds. I had brought a sleeping bag for the one night.
I woke up to the sun shining on my face. I sat up. Today, I had to give the key away. After I dressed and brushed my teeth, I walked down the hall to check the white room once more. The doll wasn't at the headboard.
I packed my sleeping bag and my toiletries. I ate a Nutrigrain bar and sat on the porch. An origami lily made out of the mint wrapper sat on the porch. In time, the front door knocked. I pocketed the lily and answered the door.
A man stood there. He had horn rimmed glasses and a mustache. He smiled and somewhat unassuredly asked if this was 98 Club Rd. I invited him in. I gave him the tour. He asked about the pipes and about the fireplace. I told him they worked fine, ever since the house was built. After the tour, I gave him the key. I told him I was going to walk on the beach one last time before leaving. We shook hands and I left.
It was low tide and I clambered down the glittering and iron-red rocks. I walked along the beach for a mile. I turned back and walked along the base of the cliff face that the pine path perched upon. My sister and I used to collect crabs and sand dollars. I used to hate the beach; something in the sand felt like maggots burrowing into my skin. Once, we dug a hole until we found sand worms. They were terrifying, their heads reminding us of tapeworms. Their bodies were segmented and they were very long. In horror and disgust, we never dug deep enough to find them again.
After a while, I headed back. I clambered back up the rocks for the last time. I passed the house for the last time. As I headed to my car, I heard a howl. It was loud. I turned to look at the pine path. Standing among the woods was a furry wolfman. He was tan. We stared at each other. He left, the bushes and trees cracking and swaying as he passed.
I thought about the theories my sister and I had about the Maine house. The timeless room. The porcelain doll. The vigilant ghostlights. The trickster twins. The spirit on the porch swing. The wolfman. I wondered how much of the house was real. How much of it was fantasy. I ate at some crummy diner along the way home. By the time I reached my home, it was midnight. I threw my keys on the couch and headed up to bed. A porcelain doll sat on the pillow, her black eyes shining. She wore a white dress and had black shoes. Her hair was black and perfectly straight.