The Hoas at the Edge

{ Title: The Haos at the Edge
Summary: There is a dying house at the end of the lane, you see.
Image: Jeremy Bishop. 2016. France.


There is a house at the end of the lane, you see. Some say the wind learned to play its drafts from it because if you step close enough, you can hear the mistrals cutting through its ravaged corners and scraping the edge of the oblivion embedded underneath the woodwork. They call it Haos Hall because they are English and anything as big as it should be called a hall, which is like saying “a castle from another planet” in these craggily tips of Victoria’s empire. What they mean yet lack the proper word for is:

a trap
from
another
t    i    m    e.

This house at the end of the lane, you see, casts such a shadow that the young ‘uns believe it grows an arm when no one is looking and clicks off the waxing Sun for but a blink, drowning all the lane in the wilds contained in the dark. When you have a hall as fervent in brooding as it, then it’s only natural to think that is probable.

There is a house at the end of the lane, you see, that sinks into the marsh it gathered to its crumbling skirts by who knows how many millimeters each day. Nobody can remember when the water started creeping across the earth to its deepest cornerstone as if it knew its true place. Rumor has it that the brick bones of the hall sucked it up out of Earth with the same magnetic field that makes visitors slip through the door when the rotting time stirring between the hanging cobwebs and dust-eaten lace curtains creaks it open even though the survivors of the lane tell them to never so much as peer through the windows.

This house at the end of the lane, you see, has seen all the wars. Everything horrible that you may dream up in fits of high fever its unshuttered eyes have likely seen in truth. That is why the mothers of the town say to beware of looking into the mirrors, especially the chestnut tree framed one that makes you think it is a diamond when it traps the light of day and winks through the shattered mosaic that used to be the Apostle Thomas. After all, something kept those wooden legs standing in the midst of the collapsed ballroom of sullen centuries gone by. You never know what scratches on the other side of the warped glass sheets.

There is a house at the end of the lane, you see, where you should never light a fire. Not in a gas lamp, not in the charred fireplaces, not even for a cigar. Great Grandmother Emelia from the house at the other end of the lane says the providence governor once hired constructors to remodel their ancient landmark, but since the leader of the crew was Irish and he saw the odd mirrors that somehow turned a loveseat and some blankets into a fiendish face, he said he had to burn the house down.

Else
there
be
spirits.

You can imagine the horrors when the gasoline the workers poured would not embrace the flame of a match. Great Grandmother Emelia swears that was when the marsh started getting so thick around the hall. Water and gasoline and Earth and decay morphed into a massive stain around it, made all the more unpleasant by the foundation of red bricks that gradually fail under the weight of things human eyes cannot perceive. But then again Great Grandmother Emelia also says the rich bog underneath the gnawing waters was as black as death before the rivers crawled their way up. Then there was Godfather Henry from a house along the lane who, bless his heart, said there were only spots of blackened dirt: “Little peaks, like the Earth gagging to throw something up.”

This house at the end of the lane, you see, has a blue door as wide as five humans stitched together. Old Vinny the Drunkard goes around each Hallows Eve to tell the story of how one foggy night he saw candlelight stream out of the shattered, painted windows like rivers of rustic gold. The moment he dipped his broken boots into the rims of the marsh so he could see who owned the dress of scarlet that lingered at the edge of the window was the precise moment he swore the candles blew out and the doorknob with a charm of a roaring lion rose and fell by itself. The sound of that hollow steel door, he says with fewer words, resonated like a nail does when it breaks through the wood of a coffin. A raging madness coupled with a wrenching sorrow drove him screaming and foaming into the church of the lane, which is what he never retells yet everyone knows because Father Rupert had been awake among the pews, eyes rimmed red from nightmares, Bible laid flat in his hands, and his eyes saw him.

There is a house at the end of the lane, you see, where the children of this lane decided to bury some sweets each time their fathers or brothers or cousins left to the big city of London, as if their bonbons and maple drops and licorice humbugs could sweeten the marsh to let them go and, further, coax it to travel through the Earth and swath them all in an air of selfish protection so they may return whole to its haunting familiarity. For once one is a part of the lane, one is an heir of the hall—a privilege that could never be relinquished no matter what honor lies in leaving it behind.

The Hall
shall never
be left
behind.

This house at the end of the lane, you see, has a single visitor each season. A bird with pink petite feet shoots down like a comet and lands on what is left of a window each time. He stays, chirping ecstatics into the dilapidated field for as long as it takes one to beckon to him. Then with a guttural song, he soars back into the clouds he seems to be a part of. If one is lucky to sneak close enough, then they would see the understanding in his melancholic red eyes: the one I wait for is not here. Yet he keeps coming; each time the puff under his beak looks more like whiskers and his hopeful songs ring with unmistakable agony…but no one ever finds a feather.

There from the porch of the church along the lane, Father Rupert saw him once and once alone a decade ago. “Christ Almighty.” He summoned Godfather Henry, who was helping lay the tables for mass. “That was Cora’s bird… Sir Henry, surely you remember.” Godfather Henry scratched the old scars on his withered cheeks as he watched the bird disappear into the clouds. “One could think the bird a manifestation. Has anyone managed to hold him?” the Father babbled on. Godfather Henry replied once he was beyond the grave, mentioning the hall in his will, where he asked his son to bury him in the marsh. Few batted an eye until that Christmas Eve came along: the fireplaces burned bright through the sagging windows, and four little stuffed stockings hung above the one in the sitting room. A woman in a scarlet dress floated past the windows with a hymn on her lips while the laughter of two boys and two girls rang out across the frozen marsh. So you see, don’t light a fire.

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