Larger On The Outside

Dter1 went back to my parents’ house to pick up any mail still going there. It was her first time setting foot at the property since leaving the week before Christmas. I could tell something was bothering her after she came home, but I did not pry. She remained apart from me for an hour up to her own shenanigans before she declared there was something she had to say or go bust.

“The house. It’s hollow, Mom. It’s not just empty, it’s hollow. I didn’t realize how full the house was with spirits before until I walked in and felt the emptiness reflected back at me. Did [the Regulars2] leave when we did? Where did they go? Because none came with us.”

That’s a good question. All these years, I had assumed that the house was full of spirits because of the hole I had opened in my youth in an attempt to prove that ghosts aren’t real. All the paranormal bullshit that happened after was my fault, I had assumed, and it was my responsibility to mitigate the damage as best as I could and care for those spirits that was now attached to the house.

Except when I made my announcement to them that I was leaving, the universal response from them all was “It’s about damn time”, and nearly all of them said their farewells to me then. (The Wood Statues demanded to come with and they did.) Because of their farewells, I had assumed that they were going to remain behind in the now quieting home.

I have been back to the house several times for a mail run. Sometimes I went inside to be polite as Mom showed off what she did with my and Dter’s former rooms. It was in my room that the seance was held decades ago. A lot of shit went down in that room in the decades since, including the summoning of Birto and [Patient Caller].

Nothing. Not even the echo of a memory. (As an aside, Mom is disappointed that I don’t really give a rat’s ass what she did with the furniture in the rooms. “I don’t live here. As long as you’re happy with what you’ve done, then what does it matter what my opinion is.”)

“Did [the Regulars] stay in the house for our benefit, Mom? To keep us company when Granma was on her shit again? The house is hollow, now. The walls felt like they could collapse at any moment because everything real has left.”

I did not answer her. In light of the manipulations that were used to keep me from giving up all hope during those years, I have to echo her half-pained questions. “I don’t know. I left the house to Mom’s responsibility, both spiritually and physically, as is her due as a legal owner of the property. What happens to it now is not my concern.”

Later, as we were cleaning up after cooking, she squeezed water out of the washing sponge and held it up to me. “Here. This is how the house felt. Like a sponge that was once wet but has since dried out. It is clear that the sponge used to be wet, but it is also clear that there is no water left in it. The house itself isn’t good or bad, it just is, but Granma… If our woo is hereditary3, and can run on instinct…”

She put the sponge in the dishwater and watched it plump up again. “Granma’s every other word to me was how much she misses me and wished I hadn’t left with you and she knows now why I supposedly ran away with you. She’s feeling the emptiness of the house. She doesn’t like having to sit with just herself and Granpa for company.” We both stared at the floating sponge. “Mom. I don’t want to go back to that house. If I absolutely have to, I want you with me. I don’t want to go there alone. [Granma’s age] years is a long time to perfect being a bitter bitch and I don’t want to find out how much of her woo is blind instinct and how much is intentional workings.”

I took the sponge out of the water, squeezed it empty with excessive force, and placed it on the drying rack to air out.

“Then don’t go back. I’ll deal with Mom as necessary.”

We finished cleaning up and went on to our separate goals. The house is as the house does. There is no morality assigned to it. In reflecting on all the “interesting places” I’ve been in, what made them interesting was the actions and consequences of independent actors, not the place itself. I had not discussed my observations and feelings regarding the house with Dter. Her observation was unprompted and her report completely spontaneous.

Perhaps it’s Stockholm Syndrome, but I have the hope of returning to that house one day, as its owner. But I also recognize that wish as the theme of the Lost Wanderer that I have been acting out for years. For now though, the walls will remain hollow and dry. I will not be squeezed out for her greed again.

[1] My daughter’s pseudonym in all of my public writings is “Dter”. Pronounced as it’s spelled, “d’ter” or “daughter”. Because I am not a creative person who loves spinning a pun out of thin air. Nope. Not at all.

[2] Once I started becoming aware of the spiritual, supernatural, and/or paranormal shenanigans going on in the house, I identified a core group of spirits that were always present. Nicknaming them “The Regulars” to differentiate them from spirits that just appeared once then moved on, the Regulars were a constant presence in the house. Mostly staying to themselves and avoiding interaction with the living, towards the end of our time in the house, they had started making themselves known to Dter as well. In hindsight, I can see how their interactions served to remind Dter and myself that we were still living ourselves.

[3] On my mother’s side of the family, there are stories and legends of the womenfolk having experienced supernatural visitations. The family lore is that none of the men have experienced these things directly, but it is the women who have had visions, stepped between worlds, commanded animals and streams, and other behavior that are sometimes acceptable among good Christians but usually isn’t. The family stories follows the maternal line to “Margaret”, who was kidnapped into slavery from the African continent. As I was initially raised to be skeptic of anything religious, it is the family’s perception that I am an indifferent agnostic who can’t be bothered with any of this spiritual or religious stuff. A perception I will use to my advantage to keep me and Dter safe.