Some handle it better than others. I tend to dwell on things, to make them seem much worse than they really are. Harold is an eternal optimist; it irritates me how he’s so cheerful all the time. Always putting a positive spin on it. Like there’s some good in being cut in half and abandoned on the side of the road.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been here now. One blistering sun after another tends to make me lose track of the days. My paint is peeling, I look shabby and unloved. But I guess I am unloved and unwanted. That’s why I’m here.
Footsteps crunching in the gravel alert us. We suck in our tummies, try to stand tall. My posture isn’t so good these days—it’s hard to stand straight when you’re in two pieces. Harold almost glows; his joy threatens to send me into a spiral of despair. The humans approach, a young couple, hand in hand.
The woman shivers as she catches sight of us. Her styled black hair glints blue in the harsh light, swaying gently over her shoulders. She has a kind face, and I like her immediately. The man carries himself confidently but the way he tilts his head reveals his inner uncertainty. They come to a stop in front of me, gazing up into my eyes.
“It’s so—sad.” She looks around, taking in the other houses. “Can you feel it? They seem so desperate. A graveyard for abandoned houses.”
He laughs, but it’s a fragile laugh. “You have such a vivid imagination Siobhan. Be thankful they can’t feel anything; being cut in half would have sucked.” I can tell he’s been affected by the atmosphere, despite his callous words.
“Come on,” he mutters. “See if we can find one.”
Siobhan wanders around me, checking me out while the man continues down the gravel path. I breathe shallowly, anxiety fluttering through my boards. She comes closer and strokes my patchwork paintjob, sighing in compassion.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers. “I can almost feel your pain.”
I shudder, her sympathy nearly my undoing. It would not be seemly to cry; the tears of a house are incredibly disconcerting to humans. The man returns, his face a brittle mask.
“I’m not sure we’ll find what we want here.”
“Can’t we take one home?” Her gentle features twist with worry. He grimaces.
“We’re not talking about a puppy or a kitten, Von. Where would you put it? We only have room for one, and it has to be the right one. We’ll probably have to build.” He puts a hand on her shoulder. “We should go.”
She stares at me a moment longer, then with a flick of her hair she whirls and hurries back down the path. He chases after her, concern etched on his face. I hear her sobs as she passes out of earshot. Sighing, I settle back into my familiar crooked slump. Harold’s beaming smile has slipped a little. Nancy is weeping, and her groans and creaks grate on my raw nerves.
A cloud passes over the sun, a welcome reprieve from the unrelenting glare. Cars roar past on the motorway. Excited voices carry on the breeze and the rapid tattoo of running feet draws near. Again we ready ourselves for inspection, holding ourselves with a pride none of us except Harold feel. Weariness descends upon me but I don’t allow myself to slouch.
I can smell something unpleasant. What’s going on?
Thwack. Splat. Splatter.
Something hits me, something hard but wet and gooey. The scent is strong and foul, and I’m glad I have no stomach. If I did I’m sure I would vomit. A group of boys runs rampant through our midst, wielding eggs that are surely rotten. Harold yells in outrage but the boys are too amped up to hear him. It takes sensitivity to hear a house, and these boys are anything but sensitive.
They whoop and laugh and when they run out of eggs they pick up stones and throw them at our windows. One of Nancy’s cracks and my bathroom window shatters. The houses are wailing in terror, but we can’t escape. How can you run away when you have no legs?
The boys tire of their sport eventually and leave us, our peace broken. I hear one boasting that he will come back and burn us all down. The others scoff but agree it is a good idea. Nancy wails but to them it is the sighing of the breeze through the leaves, nothing more.
And then they are gone. Raw egg drips to the ground, permeating the air with a sulphuric odour. If there is no rain soon it will dry like glue on our boards and the smell will linger for weeks. The drought has stretched on for months now, so I entertain no hope that it will break soon enough to spare us this torment.
The day fades into dusk, and I yearn for the electricity that used to course through my veins. I miss the light; I confess I am afraid of the dark. We sit and decompose but we still feel fear and loss. We still wish that someone would come and see our worth, and take us home. But I know that for most of us, this truly is a graveyard.
I have to give a shout out to Icy for her story House Hunting as it reminded me of a story that’s been lurking in my mind for a while, the story of houses that are removed and taken to what amounts to a secondhand “caryard” for houses.