It was the clove of daytime, the brink between afternoon and twilight. The sky was a dim blanket of gray clouds. The air was thick and moist, buzzing with cold, and a slight musky smell.
An old, creaking house propped up at the edge of town, striped with creaking wood planks peeling with white paint.The windows were dulled with layers of dust, and wind whistled through the gaps and over broken pieces of glass.They were old bones, a skeleton. No one ever went near that house. A baby had fallen out the window there, and no one ever dared to look for it. There was also the weird musky smell, and layers of rotting leaves and pine needles in the yard.
A few teens had dared each other to go in once and saw a weird mildew coating the walls, flakes with growths like butterfly wings. No one tried to go in there again.
It was there, and then, that something, under the layers and layers of dead leaves, those layers of dead leaves in the backyard, began to move.
crunch crackle crackle
He couldn’t see. He couldn’t breathe. Something was pressing down on his lungs and filling his nostrils with a rotting smell. It was like burning rubber. Moist, papery maple leaves stuck to his face. He tried to move his limbs.
crackle crackle crunch
Twigs popped and snapped like fireworks and brittle leaf veins cracked like old paint. The weight began to loosen.
snap snap crackle
Air flooded into his lungs, rough with crawling fungus. swirling with the dust of dead leaves. Dead leaves and cracked yellow bones fell away from his body. Sallow ribs and broken limb cores.
His head lolled groggily on his shoulders, a fungus like butterfly wings blooming from one eye socket. They’d eaten away the jelly inside. When he breathed, he could feel them fluttering. His blood flowed sluggishly under bleached skin. It gleamed dully, as if it was made of polished white wax. His frozen limbs were tingling and fizzing as numbness poured out of them.
Old deer bones littered the leaves around him. Some of the skin and layers of tissue from his arm were missing. It was a bloody rose blossoming on his shoulder, a meaty blot of lichen. Bits of bone had been chipped away by rat’s teeth. From his back, thin strings of mycelium trailed into the earth.
He looked up. The sight of the house and the trees was blurred at first, but came into focus. Faint ghosts of memory wafted around him, like loose cobweb that fluttered in his empty skull. Residue. They weren’t his. But the whispers of them filled his mind as he breathed in.
He breathed in the knowledge in the air. The knowledge that he was a person. How to speak. That these-these people-they often spoke to each other, and that they were often in houses, but not this one. And that they usually wore more than dead leaves, so he got up and went through the back door. His footsteps creaked up the rotted stairs and he found some clothes in an oaken wardrobe. They fit him perfectly, and only had a bit of mildew on them.
He breathed in that a child-an infant-had been dropped out the window here, and died. He wasn’t sure why this was important.
Butterfly wings lined the walls like ivy that creeps over stone ruins, spiraling in blooms and layering wing over wing, dripping water and mingling their flaky fungus and floury scales with the natural molds and dust of time. Bleached like bones in the sun. He resounded with the room, feeling a strange sense of oneness.
He coughed, and a wing fluttered from his lips. He creaked back down the rotted stairs.