Have you ever wondered why it is so different at home when you’re there alone? I think it has to do with a couple of different things. First, you are normally home when the rest of your family is there. There is normal activity, noise, and life. Then, when you’re home alone, that activity, noise, and life is all gone; all that’s there are you and the house, and whatever else is part of that house.
That brings me to the second thing: houses have history. Unless you live in a new home, or are the first and only family to live in your home, the house has had other families—other people—living in it before. Other families. Other people. You know, people aren’t all bad but they aren’t all good, either. When a house records its families’ histories, it records the good with the bad.
When we’re living in a house, we typically can’t hear what the house has to say because of all the life, noise, and activity of our own family. However, sometimes when we’re home alone, when it’s a quiet day just like so many quiet days before, those whispers can be heard. We hear the house’s story in the wind’s whispers. We notice little things that have been affected by others, not by ourselves. We see little changes that we did not make. We can see and hear how the history of others is touching our lives through the memory of the house.
It’s never something obvious when it starts. It’s always something that makes you take a second look, something that causes that brief flutter of panic in your chest. And, of course, it’s never something we can attribute to anything other than normal everyday activity. In other words, no matter how strange and out of place something that happens might be, we can’t prove that it wasn’t us that left that door open. We can’t prove that the shadow we saw move out of the corner of our eye was in fact there. We can’t prove anything, so we remain quiet about it for fear of sounding silly, or worse, crazy.
Certain objects in your house are more susceptible than others to the whispers of history, and they form clichés. The creaky door, for example, seems to be a staple of many scary stories. We have all experienced a creaky door, but it’s a different type of experience completely when we hear that creaky door in our house when we’re home alone. Who moved the door? Is there a draft? Do I dare go look? A draft is often the cause behind a creaky door, but not always. Doors can be quite susceptible to slight movements in the air. Some of those movements are natural and some are not. Maybe we should appreciate a creaky door because it acts as a warning. No one talks about the door that swings silently and goes unnoticed.
Balloons are especially susceptible to a house’s whispers. They are so light and floaty that it’s almost impossible to get one to sit still. Try it sometime. Put a fully inflated balloon on the floor in the center of the room and then walk away. Does it sit still? Does it flutter a little bit, or move across the room? Probably, but that’s just because of slight air movements in the room, right?
For Riley, it all started with a balloon, a balloon that wouldn’t sit still no matter what he did.
*** Continue to Chapter 1