If These Walls Could Scream
As soon as my door creaked open that night I knew something was amiss. They were all inside, asleep, Father’s snores cascading through my second floor. The children’s sighs floating to my windows and settling into my walls. There was no one on the outside who should have been entering.
The inappropriateness of his ingress was apparent as soon as he stepped over my threshold. His presence had never been inside me before. He was a violation. I wanted to throw him out through the door he’d entered as if he belonged, to shake so violently that he would retreat, or rumble my people awake, but I was stuck, firm on my foundation. I begged for the wind to gust so my old walls would creak, for him to trip over an errant toy, to crash through me and cause alarm, but he snuck on nearly silent feet. He walked through me with the same familiarity as my people – a brazen affront.
The stranger crept up my stairs, placing each foot with care, the intrusive weight of each footfall compressing my carpet. Right, then left, then right again, pausing on each step to listen to the sounds above him – the sounds from my bedrooms. When he errantly placed his foot on the creaky edge of my fifth stair I rejoiced, sure that someone would stir in my rooms above. He winced and stopped, holding his breath. From above, Father’s snores stopped for a moment, and I braced with anticipation, waiting for him to fly out of bed. Instead, he caught his breath, rolled over, and resumed snoring. I would have wept, if I were capable of weeping. The stranger let out his breath in a quiet sigh, not unlike the sighs of the sleeping children, and continued his ascent.
When he reached my hallway, the one leading to the three bedrooms, he stopped and listened down the hall. My screams reverberated through me, but to their ears it only sounded like minor squeaks and groans, barely sonorous enough to be noticed. He heard me, though, and looked around the hall to ensure no one was stirring. After an agonizing moment of stillness and relative silence, he crossed the hall to Mother and Father’s room.
He turned my handle and gently pushed open my door. I willed the hinges to creak. The sound made him pause, but it didn’t stop him from coming through yet another door that didn’t belong to him, a painful intrusion. The stranger approached the bed, then stood at the edge, staring at them for what seemed like a both an eternity and a second. Time is different when you stand in one place for centuries.
I saw him pull something out of his pocket. Well, I saw the light of the moon that poured through the windows reflecting off silver, the light fragmenting through my space, dancing on my walls. Similar light often danced through my room which they called “kitchen” off of objects they called “knives.” Cold enveloped me, as if the wind that whipped over my siding was pouring through me, even though I knew that there was no way for it to get inside; on a night like this, all my windows were sealed shut. But there was still a chill in my walls, in my foundation.
He leaned over Mother and put the silver to her throat. It slid across without any resistance and the red squirted up onto my walls. It was hot and sticky; it felt messy. Their word “blood” came to me. I’d seen it, but never felt it on me. Not like this. There was a small gurgling sound and her eyes exploded open, only to shut a moment later. The red flowed over her chin and chest, seeping into the sheets and the mattress. And she was gone. Not like a presence floating out of me or leaving through one of my doors; she was just there and then gone. A sudden, jarring absence.
Father rolled over but didn’t awaken. His body rested on the edge of the mattress. The stranger walked around to the other side of the bed and crouched down, staring into Father’s face. I prayed that Father would open his eyes, see this intrusion, and react, but Father’s eyes opened too late. They opened only after the stranger stood and placed one hand on Father’s shoulder, bracing himself. A second after his eyes, Father’s mouth opened, but before any sound could come out the red stained silver disappeared into his neck.
Blood splattered over my walls again – thick, slick. The stranger slid the silvery red out of Father’s neck, and the red poured over the side of the bed, pooling on my floors. Not like the lukewarm pools of water the children sometimes left on my floor in the room called “bathroom.” This pool was viscous. I felt it ooze through the cracks in my wood, leach into me. A visceral desecration.
The red continued to pour and seep, and Father left, more slowly than Mother. His presence lingered before being torn away, and the void I felt when Mother had gone doubled. The stranger just stared – at Mother and Father, at the silver, “knife,” now covered in clumpy red, “blood,” at my walls and my floors. Again, I wished with all of my being that I had the power to expel him, but I knew the decision to leave was his and not mine.
Finally, he moved again, rising from the crouched position he’d maintained next to the bed. He wiped the red covered silver on his pants and the moonlight caught it again, sending small fragments of light over my walls, illuminating the red, making it glow. In that moment, my walls were like art, a delicate balance of light and color, tone and shade. Horrific beauty.
He skulked toward my door, and suddenly I was aware of the children. With Mother and Father’s presences gone, sucked from me, the presences of the children were more noticeable, a stark contrast to the vacancy. I remembered the delicate weight each of them added when they were brought into me for the first time. Their existences smaller, lighter than Mother and Father, but just as pervasive. The way I was completed when Son, the second child, was brought into me to occupy my last empty room, leaving no uninhabited space. The way his existence filled me, like it had filled them.
The stranger moved through the door and into the hallway. He paused at the top of my stairs, and I rejoiced, but instead of descending, he turned and moved down the hallway toward the doors behind which the children slept. I pulled my attention to downstairs so I wouldn’t have to see, but I couldn’t stop from feeling. The splatter sprayed my walls, collected in hot, gooey pools on my floors. And they were ripped from me. Overcome with hollowness, all I could feel was him, and it sickened me.
When he finally exited I was relieved and crushed at the same time.
They were gone, but they were still in me. The accumulation of all their memories in my walls, my floor, my foundation, juxtaposed with blankness of their empty bodies, taking up space physically, but no longer spiritually. Their eyes gazing out my windows, their hands caressing my walls as they ran through the hallways, small and large voices reverberating through my spaces, bouncing off the furniture. Now they were gone and I was empty. I’d been empty before, many times, but never had I been empty when there were bodies inside.
I sat with those void bodies for days before anyone else came through my front door. When the people in uniforms kicked it down, pain ripped through me and my scream manifested as a loud crack when wood ripped from hinges. They scrunched their noses as they entered, their faces transforming to grimaces. Arms outstretched, holding blackness, they poured through my first floor, yelling to each other. The sounds pinged off my walls, traveling easily through me. Moving with care, they climbed each step one by one, multiple heavy feet on my carpet, and paused at the top, the same way the stranger had days earlier.
They opened the door to the room where Mother and Father’s empty bodies lay, and my space filled with the cacophony of overlapping shouts. More uniforms rushed up the stairs into the room. A few broke away and headed down the hall. Their light, stilted footsteps indicated their trepidation. When they pushed those doors open, their calls were more desperate. More came from down the hall and gasped and exclaimed and one even cried. The emissions of their collective emotion made me swoon.
For hours different uniforms passed through my doors, scurried through my rooms, examined my walls and floors. They touched everything inside me, picked up all my objects, scattered powders in various places, tickled me with stiff brushes, inspected me with odd colored lights. They poured over every inch of me as I stood, helpless, unable to give them any information.
When the uniforms were done, they carried out the bodies and I stood completely vacant. Nothing occupied my space, except my own sorrow, which consumed me. The only remembrance of the ones who had filled me was the dried blood, which turned a nasty shade of brown, still visible on my surfaces.
Then the sterile ones came. The light reflected off their white suits, bounced on my walls playfully, but they were not in me for amusement. They came with buckets and bottles and rags. They splashed mixtures on me and scrubbed with the rags until my walls and floors were clean. It was wet and cold; the bubbles eked into my cracks. Eventually the blood could no longer be seen, but it was still there. They couldn’t clean what had seeped below the surface, what had been absorbed into me, into my being. Deep within my floors, deep within my walls. Their blood and their screams will always be there. Always inside me.
I knew what would come next – the sign on the grass, the woman with immaculate makeup and clothes showing me to families just like the one that had been taken from me. Men and women and their children browsing my insides, appraising me, projecting their visions of the future into me. This process had happened many times before. It had always been exhilarating – a chance to be filled with new possibilities, new futures. Now, I couldn’t imagine another family existing inside me. I couldn’t imagine anything except the void.
I stood alone for months before the woman with the painted face and her team of burly men walked through my door. They took out all the furniture and knick-knacks, removing every trace of my people from my interior. They painted my walls and my doors, my cabinets and my closets. They remade me in their ideal image. But murder isn’t gotten rid of so easily. It lives in me forever.
Not long after, the woman opened my door again, and this time she was followed in by a man, a woman, and three young children – two Daughters, one Son. I felt their presences as they crossed my threshold and for a moment, I was warmed by their light.
But an instant later another presence swelled inside me – black, evil, shadows. My walls shuddered at the foreign sensation. I was acutely aware of the blood that still remained, and the eerie feeling that the blood and the shadows were intrinsically linked overwhelmed me.
One of the awakened shadows rushed toward my foyer, where the new people still lingered. There was no weight on my floors as the shadow moved through me, but the rush of it’s movement blustered like wind through my windows. Its rage tore through my space, making me want to heave.
The other shadows lingered upstairs, in the rooms where my dearest ones had been taken. They had returned to the places where they had left me, left this world. Their shadows filled me to the point where I felt ill – a feeling the familiarity of them did not quell. The shadows were them, and at the same time they weren’t the presences that had occupied me for so many years. Their lights were gone, replaced by these nefarious shadows.
The shadow that had rushed to the foyer threw itself against my walls, making audible thuds. The woman and the family all looked around, their faces contorted with confusion. The shadow whooshed through the bottom floor with such force that it made a faint whistling sound. The people continued to look around, confusion slowly morphing in to fear. The shadow rushed back upstairs, the whistle of its movement hanging in the air.
For a moment, everything was quiet. Then the din began on the second floor. All four of the shadows began throwing themselves against me so hard that I thought my walls would break apart. Their impacts made loud thuds that resounded through me, down to the people standing below. Their screams pierced through my interior and rebounded off my walls. It had been so long since I’d been filled with sound.
The woman and the family flung open my door and their pounding footfalls retreated across my porch. Their screams echoed off my siding as they tore across my lawn. The shadows rushed down the stairs and tried to flow through the door, but they couldn’t cross the threshold. Their rage pulsed through me as they rushed up the stairs and into my rooms. The shadows stayed in their respective rooms, thrashing around, throwing themselves against my walls, each impact like a gale force wind. My walls stood strong, absorbing the impact of these shadows that assaulted them.
The woman never came back. No one ever did.
I am alone with the shadows. They flow over me and through me all the time, like a constant shiver. Their cold seeps through me just as their blood had, and they have become an inseparable part of me. Sometimes, they are quiet, simply existing inside me, but more often they are belligerent – pounding against every surface, taking out their rage on me. They seem intent on destroying me. I’m broken and cracking, but they haven’t torn me down. Not yet.
I belong to them now. Physically empty, but never really empty. Haunted.
About the Author
Robin Zabiegalski is a writer and editor, currently residing in Vermont. Her work has been published numerous times in digital media including pieces on The Tempest, xoJane, Kinkly, and The Talko. Her work in digital media has garnered her interviews for LBC Radio in London and most recently Time Magazine. Her fiction has been published in Adelaide Magazine and an anthology called "Fermenting Feminism." Most recently, her short story "The Center" was chosen as a finalist for the Adelaide Literary Voices contest and received publication in their 2018 anthology. She is the former Sr. Editor of the Love section at The Tempest. Robin is currently working on a collection of short stories and a modern urban fantasy novel. She has completed a draft of a manuscript for a dystopian fiction novel, which she is currently editing. When Robin isn't writing she can be found hiking or snowboarding, depending on the season. She is passionate about feminism, LGBTQ culture, and social justice activism.