This House a Home

by Levi Krain

The house was stooped, smelled of dank and disregard. But he had scraped together enough savings, enough good credit, that it now belonged to him. It was his house. 

The first day the front hall was filled with a handful of boxes, a kitchen table, three chairs and a mattress. The second day, the furniture and content of those boxes were distributed to the few, cramped rooms, where they would begin their dust collection. 

On the third day, at his table in his new, narrow kitchen, he breakfasted on buttered toast and a glass of milk. 

The house kept him company, its small noises whispering to him, as he tidied up from the move. After breaking down the emptied boxes, he carried them down to the basement. The area was nearly filled with a hulking, black boiler. When he set the stack of cardboard on the floor, he noticed a crawl space extending behind his boiler. Kneeling down, he peered into the shadows, but found them impenetrable. 

On the fourth day, they installed his phone line. He called his favorite grocery store, the one that was so quiet and empty late at night, and hung up when the clerk answered. Around him, boards creaked and curtains rustled. He grunted in response. 

The fifth day, it rained. As he sat, listening to the patter on the roof, the hum of his house, he thought about the crawl space in the basement. 

The next morning, he stood at the door, wondering where he had meant to go. Somewhere, perhaps from the bathroom, something ticked. He made for the stairs, where the old, green door creaked as he opened it. He walked down, the steps groaning, nails straining. 

Standing next to the boiler, he stared at the half-glimpsed crawl space. Darkness limned his vision. As evening encroached, he turned and trudged back upstairs. 

The phone woke him, ringing once. Easing out of bed, he shuffled down the tight hall to the sitting room where he unplugged the phone line from the jack. 

Still dressed for sleep, he stood once again in the basement. He nodded at the dark space behind the boiler, occasionally cocking his head as if listening to a distant sound. Finally, he stooped, got down on hands and knees, and squeezed behind the looming metal hulk. 

Fully inside the crawl space, he inched forward, lowering himself until he had to creep and squirm to keep moving. He pushed aside the bones he found there, wedged his face and torso into the cramped space among the black dust, dirt, and beetle carapaces. He could barely breathe anymore. 

He waited. He ignored the hunger, the discomfort, the small bodies crawling on his. And he waited in the dark. Comforted. Contented. Embraced. 

Eventually, the darkness itself came and joined him there in the crawl space beneath their home.

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