CORRIDORS

  A students' magazine for mental health advocacy

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RAYMOND GEOGHEGAN             CW: VIOLENCE

 

Emma pulled up to the small ranch that she had grown up in. Although she hadn't visited in years, it was exactly as she had remembered. The powder blue house with white shutters and a white door. The lush bushes circled the house. But now there was a for sale sign on the lawn, one that would be taken down tomorrow after the papers were signed. Emma got out of her car and and turned the key in the door for the first time in seven years. She creaked the door open. The house was dull and dark. 

When she stepped in, a life she had long forgotten came rushing back. How could she have forgotten the kitchen where she did her homework every day after school as her mother gossiped on the phone? The living room where her family camped out in while watching old movies during snow storms? The dining room where game night would take place every Wednesday night; her father always let her win. The spare room where she would read on the windowsill on rainy days? The bathroom where she would fail every weekend to curl her hair and apply eyeliner? Her parents’ bright yellow room, where her father would emerge from, yawning, every morning to knock on Emma’s door to wake her up. He did that every morning when she was a child, as well as every day for the past three years. 

Emma sat in the kitchen, sitting where she used to in elementary school, eavesdropping to her mother on the phone gossiping to the neighbors. For a moment, it was almost as if she was there again as she dragged her fingernail along grain of the table, imagining the smell of pot roast cooking.At one point, she could even feel her mother’s hand on hers as she overly mouthed “FOCUS ON YOUR WORK.”.That was until she realized that that was the same phone her mother called her to inform her of her father’s diagnosis three years ago. “He’s showing signs of Alzheimer's. A lot of signs, it was all very quick,” her mother explained. Emma could hear her blowing out smoke. “He keeps talking about how him and Dave went fishing last weekend.” She took another puff. “I told him Dave died five years ago. But he said ‘No’ and then recounted a conversation that he told me twelve years ago about Dave’s daughter crashing his new Chevy. It’s been hard. First your grandfather dies and now I’m losing him. I wish you would come down and visit.” 

“I will,” Emma promised. She didn’t. 

Emma looked away from the bright yellow phone hanging on the wall and pulled out her own. It was the phone her father would call demanding to know why she didn't come right home after school, or why she hadn’t picked up milk like he had asked her to. She went to her recent calls. She scrolled down to a few weeks ago, the last call from her father, which she had ignored, followed three hours later by the call from the hospital that he was dead. 

Emma had avoided going to the house as long as possible. She had put it on the market and sold it without even having to set a foot on Ember Street itself. It was beautiful and well kept, the schools were good and it was in a good part of town. It sold quick enough that Emma could afford staying in a hotel for the length of time she had to stay. James had convinced her to see the house one last time. “You’re upset that you’re losing your old life, you dad dead and your mother in the retirement home, but you have to say goodbye to your old house. You need that closure. Otherwise, you’ll always think of that as home, and not the one we’re going to build together,” he had said at the airport, rubbing her arms with a smile that nudged her the wrong way. Yet, she smiled back and found herself in a lifeless memory, soon to be disassembled.

5:23pm: Hey James. I’m at the house. We’re signing the papers tomorrow night. I’m planning on packing up everything tomorrow, I’ll drop it off in storage, then I’ll take a flight home. Emma left her phone on the counter and wandered over to the living room. Her parents’ stereo system was perfectly in place. An array of CDs varying from AC/DC to Britney Spears were neatly shelved. Emma decided to play Abby Road by the Beetles. As Golden Slumbers came through the speakers, she leaned back in the softened with time old sofa. It was the same ugly plaid sofa that she had sworn was as old as she was. It’s feel was worn but familiar. It brought her back to watching movies on a Friday night with her high school boyfriend; close enough he could reach his arm around her, but not so close that her father, who was conveniently always in the kitchen, wouldn’t feel the need to yell at them. Her eyes closed, she heard the whispers of memories of days long ago.  

Bzzz. DING! Her phone went off against the counter. Emerging out of her past, Emma opened her eyes. It almost seemed as if it had gotten significantly darker in the few minutes she had been sitting there. Emma returned to the kitchen. The counter, where she thought she had left her phone, was bare. She patted her pockets. She went back to the living room and inspected the area. She checked between the couch cushions, where she found a lipsmackers of a discontinued flavor and $2.17 in change, but no phone. It was here, she thought looking at the bare kitchen counter. I heard it buzz out here. She headed to the bathroom to splash cold water in her face. When she opened the door, her phone was waiting there. 7:57pm the lockscreen clock read. 

5:30pm: Glad to hear you changed your mind and decided to see the place one last time. If you want to talk, don’t be afraid to call. I do have a meeting a 6 so if you go to voicemail, I’ll call you after :) 

The phone buzzed no less than ten minutes ago, Emma thought. Maybe I fell asleep and imagined the buzz when I didn’t hear it the first time? Then why was my phone in the bathroom? Did I use the bathroom earlier and forget? I must have. 

Emma a faint yet familiar voice whispered. It felt like someone’s breath was on her ear, but no one else was there.  

“Mom?” Emma thought to yell, knowing no one would answer. No one did. She made her way to her old bedroom. It was too dark out now to see without the light on, so when she turned it on, the room was brought to life. The old desk where she would spend hours doing homework in high school. The big blue comforter that, with your white walls, matches the color scheme of house’s exterior. The collar of your first dog Lucy is on your shelf. From the window you can see Clark Damon’s house, your first crush. She didn’t know when it had happened but the whisper had faintly returned to her ear, but as soon as she noticed, she forgot. Was there something strange about that last thought? Emma thought, as if she were startled out of a half asleep trance.  

Emma took out her phone again. 9:20pm it read. What was I doing? Was I writing an essay? No. I’m not in high school anymore. What was I doing? It doesn’t matter. Emma put down her phone and put it in a drawer. She changed into a pair of her old pajamas and climbed into her old bed. It was cold from being unused for so long. She closed her eyes in the dark. A familiar feeling washed over her. She felt as if it were a Saturday night and in the morning, her mother would make her chocolate chip waffles and her dad would make hash browns, her mother dressed and ready for her the day, while her father and her would sit in their yellow and pink pajamas until noon.

Emma, a whisper interrupted her memory. It was tender now. Your dad is going to knock on your door in ten minutes, you still have ten minutes to sleep in. You have that algebra test today so you’re going to need all the rest you can get.  

No, Emma thought. I don’t have an algebra test today… I don’t  take algebra…. Wait,- 

Yes, you do. 

Yes, I do. 

You studied with Clark yesterday after school. A gentle touch grazed her foot. You didn’t do well last week. The graze was a hand, it was softly running up Emma’s leg. Ms. Manson has it out for you. Another hand joined in as they both ran over her stomach. You’ll do better this time. The hands swiped along her shoulders. Clark is a wonderful tutor. The hand rested on Emma’s cheeks. For now, more hands gently joined in and covered Emma’s entire body, just enjoy a few fleeting moments left of sleep. The nails of the hands pierced into Emma’s body and tore into her. She felt herself oozing out of the wounds. She shot up screaming, eyes wide, opening to see nothing. There was no darkness nor light. Existence only included her and the hands dismembering her. They all viciously ripped into her flesh. Emma screamed but she knew it would do nothing. The whisper was now a screaming in her ears. It sounded like her but she knew it wasn’t. The hands just kept hacking and hacking and hacking and hacking and hacking AND HACKING AND HACKING AND HACKING AND HACKING AND HACKING AND  HACKINGANDHACKINGANDHACKINGANDHACKINGANDHACKINGANDHACKING AND

Emma shot up awake. The sunshine shone in through the yellow room. How did I get here? Didn’t I fall asleep in my old room last night? Why was I so scared? Emma looked at her untouched arms. They seemed thin, and they were in her father’s familiar yellow pajamas, not the pink ones she remembered putting on. She left the room in a haze. On the kitchen counter was her phone. 2pm it read. There were no notifications, but when she opened it she had six voicemails she knew she hadn’t listened to, as well as a string of texts from James.  

A voicemail from James: Emma, please call me back. The realtor called me and said that you wouldn’t let them in. She said you screamed like a mad woman. What’s going on? Please call me.  

A voicemail from James: Emma, what’s going on? It’s been weeks. I took off time to fly out and help and you won’t even open the door? I know you saw me this afternoon when I knocked. No one has seen you leave… I think that I heard you screaming. The neighbors say that when they call the police to see what’s going on you answer the door. Tell me what’s going on, I’m worried.  

According to her phone it was November 3rd. But…That’s two months from now. An unintelligible nothing of a whisper sent a shiver down Emma’s spine. What am I doing, what am I thinking? Emma began to run down the corridor to the front door, her bare feet smacking against the tiles at an urgent pace, then turned into the dining room. She slid to the ground in front of the game shelf. It’s game night, I have to pick out a game before dad gets home. She took out Monopoly, plopping it on the table. She began to set up the game. Dad will be home soon, she thought. 

Mom is talking to Mrs. Charlson in the kitchen, said a whisper. 

Yes, she is, Emma thought. She sat there smiling, shuffling cards and organizing pink dollars, waiting for her father to get home.  

He’ll be home soon. 

 

ABOUT raymond geoghegan

Ray Geoghegan is a sophomore creative writing major with a focus in fiction but also dabbles in poetry, script writing, and nonfiction. They always have a story to tell. After dealing with their own and witnessing family members struggle with mental illness, it’s great to have their work represented in Corridors.