This is somewhat of an experiment. Trying to incorporate the horror of mental illness with actual horror-genre-like qualities.
The years were not good to my previous home. Ten years since I’d been back, and my mother had left it to me since she died. But I haven’t been to see it in a while. Finally, I couldn’t take anymore harping and annoyances from the lawyers and decided I had to come.
Shingles were falling off of every side, windows were cracked and broken. The beautiful shrubs that my mother had planted when she “needed a change” after the divorce were wilted and dead. And when I looked at the door, I saw that the house was condemned. Wonderful gift, mother. I suppose it was okay I guess. Dead people always leave something behind. But I was admittedly scared to go back in there. Maintaining my stoic exterior would be extremely difficult in the home that I grew up in. Where my mom cooked and cleaned. Played games on her Kindle Fire and watched American Idol. What would I do when she was no longer in it?
The lawyers told me I wasn’t supposed to go in, but I knew that I would have to. Why was our house condemned? I couldn’t resist finding out the truth.
I twisted the rusty door handle, and after a couple futile attempts, I shook it and it opened. I walked across the threshold, peering up the moldy stairs and into the living room where I once sat watching Netflix and writing terrible poetry. Everything seemed so empty, old. Rodent infested. How had my mom let it get this way? She moved out a while back, but still kept the house. I don’t think she could leave it honestly. She kept it. Rented it out to some people who always moved out. But I guess, as her health started to go, so did the house, and she was no longer renting it or keeping it nice. And then it was condemned after she passed.
I looked around at everything, trying to remember how it felt to live there and breathe in the air. I remember wanting out, wanting to leave. The air was toxic, filled with the lies of a broken marriage and the pain that I felt but kept hidden. Everything that made me anxious was in this house. This is where I worried about everything. Work, school, family, the future. Once I left, it was like the weight was lifted. Now that I was back, my shoulders felt heavy and my lungs felt weak.
I put my foot on the stairs, wondering if I even wanted to venture the path to my room, in the bed where I cried and shook so many times in fear. I moved another step, and my heart began to pound again like a panic attack. I hadn’t had one for a while, so the sensation frightened me more. I took another step and tried to control my breathing, like I had learned in therapy all those years ago. Another step. In. Another step. Out. Another step. In. Another step. Out.
The top of the stairs was daunting and mysterious. I had expected that to disappear once I reached the last step, but it only became worse. The pure darkness of my brother’s room made my heart beat faster, because he wasn’t in there. It was empty and it was like he had never lived there. I turned to the left and saw the door where my sister and I had once slept. My breath slowly becoming out of control, I quickly opened the door before I could change my mind.
At once the air became cold and the wind blew me in. I entered. The door shut on its own from the open windows. It used to do that when I was little, but still it surprised me. I went over to look at the mirror and I wiped the dust off, to see how fearful and anxious I actually looked. My eyes were wide and my face was flushed, my mouth open in heavy, but shallow breathing. I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate on my breathing. This is my house…I used to live here. No one’s here now. It’s okay.
Then why did I feel like there was something else there with me?
I opened my eyes and glanced in the mirror again, and this time I was so taken aback that I rapidly spun around only to see nothing. I leaned against the wall and sat down, unable to believe what I had just seen. I saw two of me in the mirror. One seemed to be my reflection. The other looked exactly like me, but with a smile on her face.
Shaking uncontrollably, I felt like a teenager again, alone and scared, and began to cry into my knees. I hadn’t felt this frightened in a long time. My mother was gone. My house was gone. And yet it still had power over me. It was still controlling me, these crumbling walls, the rusting doors, the leaks. It still had a hold on me. The room still felt like the room that I always hid in, the room I always went to when I was in a panic.
Suddenly, I heard laughter. I looked up, my heart nearly leaping from my chest. I choked on my own breath. I was staring at myself, except this version of me was giggling hysterically and young.
“Wha-what..” I kept crying. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to blink the image away-the teenage me laughing at my tears. Everything seemed both familiar and foreign, as if I was in a parallel universe.
“Oh, Anna. Anna, Anna, Anna. Come on. You remember me?” She twirled innocently. “I am you. I am the you you always tried to banish. The one that pushed you to be better. The one that pushed you to be the best you could be.”
Though I didn’t really understand what was happening, I answered with vigor, “You didn’t push me to be better. You pushed me to hurt myself. You pushed me to tears. You pushed me to unhappiness. I would have rather been dead, then deal with you. You were a bitch.”