by Jessilyn Rich
I spent the next week hiding within the attic of the house. As rain pounded the village, even the world seemed to be grieving. I closed the shutters and curtains from prying eyes. I turned out the lights, and lurked in the shadows. I ignored doors being knocked on and let telephones ring themselves quiet. I just sat in my chair, beside the window of my sitting room, thumbing through an old photo album, waiting for the next horn to sound. I slept by day, and waited by night. The only thing worse than waiting for something you want to happen, is waiting for something you don’t. Haunting memories splashed against my insides as the minutes ticked by; it was only a matter of time.
I continued to isolate myself from gossiping lips, and curious stares, until the cupboards were so bare that even the mice were beginning to complain. I yanked money from the coffee can on the counter, stuffed it in my pocket and slipped shoes on my feet. The fog of the morning still hugged the village tight, as I stepped onto the porch. The ships that remained in the harbor at this time of morning were nothing more than ghostly silhouettes. Darkness still loomed long after the sun should have risen, and the air was so damp and cold it chilled the lungs with every breath. The wind beat against everything within its reach and mud caked my shoes, as I walked through the yard and down the street. I pulled the hood of my jacket tight around my head, trying to shield myself from the blistering sting of the wind. Off in the distance a horn slipped through the fog and I froze like a startled cat, until I realized it was nothing more than a warning of a ships location to those around it.
The walk into the village felt longer than usual – or maybe my legs just felt heavier. This time of day had become my bedtime, and my body ached for sleep but my insides ached even more with hunger. The streets were empty except for a few hurried shoppers, slipping from shop to shop, heads down against the wind. On days like this no one lingered outside for long. I tried to enter the market as the wind attempted to play tug of war with the door. It closed with a bang behind me. Talking and laughter fell silent, as curious eyes caught sight of me. I grabbed a basket and hurried after the things I needed, trying to ignore eyes that burned into my back as I slipped down an aisle and out of sight. Once loud and talkative voices became whispers sliding down the rafters of the shop. I carefully selected empty aisles, grabbing items without stopping, avoiding gossiping conversation and inquisitive stares of those I was forced to pass. I knew I had become a topic of conversation, very rarely does simply a person’s presence silence a room so harshly if they hadn’t been recently talked about. I avoided eye contact as I placed my items on the counter, and waited for the total. I knew it was rude, but I couldn’t stand the weight of idle conversation or nosy questions. Thankfully the clerk took the hint, and spoke no more than necessary to complete the transaction. People meandered near by looking at items they didn’t need, as curiosity overtook any sense of manners they might have possessed. I grabbed my bags and hurried out the door, almost grateful for the bitter bite of the wind. Most people didn’t know the whole story, they didn’t know the truth of what happened; instead their curiosity was fueled by stories of long ago or whispered speculation. They whispered of the secrets thats hung behind the curtains of the window on the third floor, of the old house next to the docks in the harbor. They whispered of the candle that had burned in the window every night for years, before disappearing into the grave with the window’s previous occupant. They whispered of the silence that fell over the house all those years ago, and the strange girl who had taken the place of the candle, the very night it had been burned out. They whispered of the unmarked graves on top of the hill overlooking the lighthouse, that no one seems to know anything about. They whisper about the many secrets that lurk in the cracks and crevices of the shore. If only they realized what it all meant, and knew that it was happening again.
Categories: Arts & Culture