BY RIVER ADAMS
My house is dead. I look for my house.
Black gaping voids of the windows—there! The doorways are empty, snarling with green-brown splinters. Come in, strangers. Come, malevolent spirits.
I walk through the poisonous jungle of the yard, the overgrown steps, up to the porch, through Cerberus’ gate, inside. I walk through my dead house. The stench of the rot. My books, swollen with moisture, molded to the cracking shelves. The red tablecloth with the pattern so remembered, darkened china on it and toxic-blue mildew where tea and bread had dried out and died: my supper. I left it here unfinished last night. On an open page by the cup, the Little Prince is holding a rose. Under the table, huddled and busy, are those I’ve tamed.
“My brothers,” I say. “My brothers, what happened to our house?”
“We are not your brothers,” they say. “We are the rats, the rats of this house. We scavenge for trash and leave droppings in the dark corners. We carry the plague.”
I ascend the wobbling stairs, tracing my fingers on the warped wallpaper. It used to be scarlet in color, with gold. The sharp and the blunt floated on it, crisscross. Hands large and small, crisscross. Now it’s brown. Brown and yellow. Brown with yellow stars.
Up in the bedroom, those who’ve tamed me are climbing the filthy walls, hanging from the ceiling, staring.
“My teachers,” I say. “My teachers, what have you done with our house?”
“We are not teachers but spiders,” they say. “We are the silverfish and the crawling creatures. We are the flies in the spiders’ webs. We are the snails. We creep through the house and cover it with our slimy trails and trap the dust of time and devour each other.”
I walk through my house. Up to the attic, the leaking roof. Down to the basement. There, in the steaming heaps of garbage and waste, is the warm place. Roaches and dung beetles are ankle deep, a live and pungent soup. Thick air. They climb up my legs and into my sleeves, they crawl on my face.
“Welcome,” they say. “We are your children. We are your children.”
River Adams grew up in the Soviet Union and came to America about the time her native civilization had collapsed into dust upon her feet. Now she is a professor of religious studies, a pianist, a translator, and a teller of stories. She lives with her family near Boston and attends Emerson College for an MFA in creative writing. She is the author of There Must Be YOU (Wipf and Stock, 2014) and many stories.