The sun begins to set, casting an amber glow into the house. It was a welcoming sight and cast a nostalgic atmosphere that alight a flame of remembrance in even the dullest objects in the house. It looked ‘lived-in’, whatever that meant, and surely every house was ‘lived-in’ as each step into the house revealed yet another collection of photographs, drawings or posters pasted on every wall or hung on the ceiling from one end of the house to the other. Everywhere seemed full of life even though there was no one there; the house had its own character and it was infectious. If you took a glance at the items displayed on the shelves, they all looked like they had been cherished dearly as if gentle hands had taken special care making sure they didn’t get too dusty or forgotten. The silverware shone like brand new, glasses and jars organised into dainty shelves and cabinets each painted a different pastel colour – as mentioned before, bursting with character. The amber light slowly shifted across the house, highlighting different areas and leaving others in complete darkness.
Almost immediately, the warmth that filled the kitchen shifted towards the living room, as if it was a person moving from room to room, tending to different tasks. The kitchen, in actuality was dull even with the pastel paint. The silverware gleamed but there were now spots of dullness that hadn’t been removed, the shelves were dusty even if the glassware weren’t. A thin coating of lime scale coated the sink. Through the narrow doorway was the living room where books were scattered as if left there in a hurry. The spines were worn away and the bookshelf was brimming with old and new books of varying genres. The gentle breeze outside brushed past the trees causing the sunlight to appear to be hiding, playing a game of hide and seek with the house. The lack of light only emphasised the emptiness of the house. The books immediately seemed like they were uncared for, discarded on the ground like fallen leaves on the ground. The floor itself was also covered thinly with dust which could be seen floating in the air wherever the light hit the house. The breeze ceased and the light returned once more to the living room, the warmth was back and the books looked alive once again.
To the side the wall was cut out to mimic a window but without the glass, displaying the hallway where various posters hung looking more worn out than the rest of the house. The corners were nearly falling off or were creased so much it lost its colour. The time spent with the sun on it caused the posters to lose colour as well, starting to resemble photographs from a few decades ago. The faces were still intact, even if they were harder to discern. As if it was prompted, the warmth graced the hallway to the stairs, its gentle fingers gliding over the posters and photographs with a degree of happiness that couldn’t be understood. Looking closely, the photographs were still relatively new in comparison to the posters and the light clutched them dearly. Each photograph was a different story, a different memory and sometimes a different life altogether. There was only one constant but even that was gone now. The sunlight hung around a little longer as if trying to stay with the memories made in those photos, the clutch became more desperate as the breeze returned, causing the trees to sway, spreading their shadowy arms around the house in a cold embrace. The light continued, at all costs to cling onto one photo in particular, its hands cradling the distant memory as if it were treasure.
The day was relatively warm but as the sunset there were fewer people outside, leaving the streets relatively empty. Long, golden brown hair shimmered in its light, as the gentle breeze brushed past exposing the soft, warm hue of her skin. Her eyes were slightly creased in mirth, her eyes staring up at the reddish-orange sky in a mix of fond admiration and surprise.
“It’s 7 o’clock already, huh?” Her eyes continued to stare upwards as if she was entranced by the colours of the sky. It was a question that didn’t really need answering but I gave a small grunt in response.
“It’s beautiful. I lost so much time stuck inside; this is my favourite time of day, you know.” At this, she finally turned her head to face me, her eyes glittering as the light danced in her eyes. It was a beautiful sight, she was a beautiful sight. Taking her hand, we started walking again and here and there she would tell me anecdotes of her life while I listened attentively, hanging onto her every word. Anything and everything she said was interesting, the light harmony of her voice blending with the song of the birds. We ended up in a meadow, where she led me to sit under a lone tree situated in the middle of the tantalising glow of the flowers. The meadow stretched across as far as I could see, I don’t know even know how we got here from the cobbled pathway we once stood.
“Hey, do you know where-“
“Thank you for everything.” I stood astounded as she wrapped her arms around me, laying her head on my shoulder before slowly moving away again. Her face was glistening with fresh tears and I moved to wipe them away before she turned away from me, hiding her face in her hands which were trembling from trying to keep her cries in. I brought her closer to me all the same, hugging her from the back which caused the trembles to become more intense.
“It’s okay to cry, you don’t need to hide when I’m still here with you.” I brought her hands away from her face and turned her to face me as she sniffled, one hand gripping onto my arm without realising. The look in her eyes was heartbreaking and contained a distance I couldn’t measure, as if she was waiting to be taken back before the day was even over.
8:30PM was when she was supposed to be back right? I took one look at her again before glancing at my watch…I couldn’t bring myself to do anything but let her stay with me a while longer.
“We’ll stay here as long as you want, okay?” She didn’t answer but the small, hopeful look she gave me was enough. Soon after, she fell asleep and as she slept peacefully on my lap I took the chance to take a photograph, chuckling at her habit of sleeping with her mouth open.
We stayed until nightfall. Scooping her up from her sleeping position should have been easy, she was light and a deep-sleeper but the miserable feeling that sank into me made it hard to walk. Each step was taxing, her breath at times laboured and my heart stopped every time it did. The streetlamps lit the path as I made it onto the pavement. The walk was stark white, the ground dry and dusty. There was no life here, no fun, no fulfilment…But I had to take her back, it was better for her there than out here.
By now the sunlight wavered as the day became dimmer, casting a dark shadow across the house yet the light continued to shine in that one spot, clutching onto that single photo. It was the last one in the line, and the last ever taken.
As the light got weaker, the clutch loosened until it finally let go and the warmth dissipated once more. The house at once became cold and hostile, the memories lost and in ruin as the darkness gnawed away at them.
No one was home and for the last time, no one would ever be.