The House on Jackson Street
Written By: John Westrick
Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
I used to walk with her, now I walk alone. We used to marvel at the beautiful houses together, now I look down at my feet. Each home a grain of salt in the wound, each house a reminder of what I lost. Even though it hurts, I still find myself continuing our walks. Sometimes pain is good. I’d rather feel the pain of her passing, than not feel her at all.
She’s alive when I walk. She’s the shadow that strolls behind. Though I can’t see her, I can feel her. Her presence is like a windbreaker draped across my shoulders in an especially violent storm. The pain isn’t gone but it’s bearable when I’m moving. I can’t speak to her, but she’s there. When I trip over a root, a hand steadies me. When I veer off course, I feel a gentle nudge.
And every day I end up in front of the same house on Jackson Street.
A grand home, at least at one point it must’ve been. The windows are boarded closed. The door is locked. Beware trespasser signs are strewn haphazardly across the tangled mess of the once impressive lawn.
I feel her presence strongest here. It is almost tangible, as if she’s hiding behind a thin curtain. I call to her, yet she never answers. I reach for her, yet I can never lay hands on her. It is here on my journey where my emotions get the best of me. Every day I come, every day I cry.
The neighbors look at me with trepidation, but long gone are my days of caring what others think. I stand there an old man, face in my hands and weep for the woman I lost. Let them think what they want, but my Lenore was worth every tear.
I feel a tap on my shoulder, and look up to see the front door of the house swung wide. Light is pouring out of it, and there she is, my Lenore. I rush towards her and the gaping maw, towards the woman I’ve lost. The woman who heard my cries and has returned for me.
As I barrel forward through the brambles and overgrown weeds, I hardly am aware of the scrapes and cuts. Nor does it bother me that I trip over a hidden bottle and go tumbling face first in the dirt. I sling myself forward with the stamina of a much younger man.
And then, I am there standing in touching distance from her. It’s definitely her. She’s got the same strawberry blonde hair that always tended to leave me breathless. It’s wrapped in a French braid with a daisy tucked behind her left ear. She looks younger by nearly twenty years. Her nose and cheeks are dusted with a fine layer of freckles.
I began to giggle like a schoolboy as I remember I once tried to count them. Twenty-three is the highest I got before I found my mouth on hers. And suddenly I have an inappropriate urge to pull her close and continue the kiss in front of God and all the neighbors.
Shortly before I do just that, she vanishes, leaving me standing in the front door alone once more. I look around the hallway and notice it’s fully furnished. There is no dust or decay. The parlor is in perfect condition. Even more shockingly I hear someone playing the piano. It’s Fur Eliza and I could recognize that sound anywhere. Lenore was playing it the day she died.
The Turkish rug leading down the hall looks familiar, the pattern of the wolf howling at the moon, the picture of the ship sailing in rough seas. I know it. I walk forward, no longer in control over my own body. Instead, everything begins to flash in front of me like a movie. I see my own hand reach for the gilded door knob. I know on the other side of this door is a set of stairs that leads to the great room.
Still, I don’t remember, I can’t remember. They threaten to come back, but I don’t let them. I don’t want to remember. I’m back. Oh God have mercy on me, I’m back to the day my wife died.
I come to this conclusion even as my own traitorous hand throws wide the hallway door. I fight for control. I do everything in my power to not see. My eyes fling wide and I look to see the back of my sweet Lenore’s head, the damned daisy still perched behind her ear. She’s playing and she doesn’t know I’ve arrived.
I know what is coming but I don’t want to. Yet those damned feet, those mutinous mother fuckers keep pushing me forward. First up one step then two, before I even know it, I’ve scaled half of them. Now I can see her back, she’s in a flowery dress with what looks to be hummingbirds sucking at the honey. Fur Eliza is ramping up, and the song is nearing its climax.
And then I see it. Him to be precise. He’s lounging in my chair, drinking my whiskey, with his shirt partially unbuttoned. Rage, white hot fills me once more. I look to the left and then the right, and that’s when I see my cavalry saber hung on the wall for decoration.
I remember the outcome, yet I can’t force myself to let go of its hilt. My hand turns white from grasping it so hard. There’s nothing I can do to lessen my grip. I see myself marching up behind her sword held high in one hand.
Fur Eliza climaxes as my arm swings. I strike her left shoulder blade and with a discordant whine the music stops altogether. Inwardly I scream. I curse my God’s damned temper. I watch as she slumps out of her chair.
Without a second glance, I am charging the man just beginning to look up from his comfortable spot in my seat. My blade penetrates his right abdomen, he lets out one shriek before my second swing catches him directly in the throat.
I am appalled at the blood spurting from his nearly decapitated neck. My hands are scarlet, I feel wet stickiness oozing down my face. Yet I can’t control my own limbs as they swing and swing and swing, chopping the man into kindling. I try to close my eyes but they won’t, so I see his hand go flying. I watch as his innards come bubbling out of his abdomen. I split his head like a grape and watch his brain matter leak out of the side of it.
To my dismay, I hear a gurgling sound coming from behind me. I turn knowing what I’ll see but powerless to stop it. I look to see my Lenore’s face towards me trying to speak. Blood bubbles drizzling out of the side of her mouth. I don’t need to hear the words to know what she is trying to say. “Please, no more.”
Pity fills my heart and my own eyes refuse to cry. “Please don’t do this,” I scream at myself in vain. I watch as I slowly move towards my former wife letting the blade carve a wicked groove into the marble floor. With no mercy my arm swings the blade up once then twice then three times, and all goes black.
Finally, I regain control of my limbs and body. I look up to see a vandalized great hall with a nasty groove in the marble floor, and there my chopped wife lying on the floor looking up at me with dead yet still very much alive eyes.
I see the monstrosity of my late wife clamber to her feet. Her left eye slides out of its socket running like egg yolk down her face. Black pustule blood leaks from her wounds. Her right eye locks with mine and in a slobbering wet noise she said, “I will never let you forget what you did here. Jail wasn’t enough for you. You didn’t stay your hand, so even in your Alzheimer’s I won’t let you forget. Same time tomorrow, honey?”
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