august prompt: dread
It was not the dark that filled her up with dread, but the light. She liked the dark, enjoyed the quiet of it. Her house was old, the walls filled with memories, and most of them were not hers. There was history in the texture of the walls, the layers of old and peeling wallpaper. Stories of times forgotten because no one was around to share them. In one room of the house, the one she called the drawing-room (even though she had no real idea what a drawing-room really was), there was a large mannequin. It had come with the house, and it was old and made out of wood. She had found a slightly musky smelling hat in the attic, and it had reminded her of gangsters from the twenties, the ones who ran liquor during prohibition. She, herself, had not witnessed the 1920s but she had watched enough movies to make an educated guess, and that hat had seen illegal booze runs, she was certain of it. She had placed the hat at a cocked angle on the mannequin’s head and named it Jeb. At night, in the dark, Jeb leered at her with his hat, but it never bothered her.
No, it was not the dark that filled her up with dread. It was the light.
As sunlight began to bleed through her windows, windows that still needed curtains because the ones that had come with the house had been too ratty, too moth-eaten to salvage, her heart always caught in her throat. Sunlight showed all the imperfections of the house too clearly. Imperfections that she could dim a lot easier, weave into magic when darkness clouded them. Sunlight, more than the artificial light of lightbulbs, showed clearly what needed doing, what needed fixing. And often, it was too much.
That peeling wallpaper — layers and layers of it — foretold hours of work to come. Fingers getting sore from it because the tools she had bought, tools that were supposed to help with removing wallpaper never seemed to work. It was like a magic spell kept the paper on. And each time she felt a sense of victory, each time she removed on a layer, dread would pool in the pit of her stomach as a new layer was revealed. How many families had come through this house? Owners eager to make changes on the walls and the only way all of them seemed to know how to do that was to glue paper to them. In the dark, she could at least pretend like the layers did not exist. Pretend like she was actually making a dent in that work.
During the day, Old Jeb, in all his wooden glory leered at her. The hat looked less like something a gangster would wear in the day, and more like a cheap costume. She could not pretend the hat was nearing a hundred years old during then. No, she had to be reminded, as she gazed at it that the owners’ of the place just before her, liked to have themed costume parties once a month. That hat was a cheap imitation of the real booze running hats of the 1920s. Daylight made her realize the truth while in the dark, at night, she could romanticize Jeb and the fashion choice she had made for him.
During the day, as sunbeams streamed through the windows — dust falling like near-microscopic snow — she would see how worn and beaten her wooden floors were. Floors that the realtor had promised she could easily fix-up. Floors that were original to the house! But she noticed patches of newer wood, mixed in with the original. A hodgepodge that had been hidden under rugs during showings. Old and new mixing together, and maybe it could have been beautiful, but whoever had done the patching had done it quickly. Had not cared to match the wood properly, or maybe just had no idea how.
At night, as moonlight streamed through her windows, she could dance barefooted on the wooden floor and pretend they were fine. Every grain matching like it was supposed to. Each old, and original to the house. In the moonlight, the floor looked nice. Her feet pounding a beat that only she knew. The kitchen, oh she did not even like to think about having a kitchen during the day.
No. During the day dread filled her as she could no longer ignore the mounting bills to pay, the leaking pipes, and the roof too. That had begun to leak about a month ago, and the roofer kept canceling on her. Buckets were placed strategically around the house, anything to salvage an unsalvageable floor. Day time the pinging of rain in the buckets screamed to her what a money pit all this house was but at night? At night it was a soothing symphony, thunder shaking the house, and rain tinkling merrily in the buckets.
Moonlight meant magic to her while sunlight was nothing but dread.