I slogged into the house with the intention of grabbing a yogurt from the fridge and shoveling a few lumps into my mouth before passing out. But while I was rustling through the sink, trying to find the cleanest spoon, I noticed the flowers on my windowsill.
They used to be a bright puff of reds and pinks and oranges. An explosion of color.
Now, they were crisp. Crumbling. As black as sin.
I could’ve sworn that I’d watered them all week, but to be honest, my mind was fried, what with midterms and my breakup and Mother’s Day coming up. Besides, they could have died from an abundance of water, too, right?
I made a mental note to Google it. Ate half my yogurt. Spilt the other half on my beside table. And fell asleep with the television on.
6:00, my phone alarm chimed. I’d been asleep for a solid eight hours. Not bad, considering I usually woke up every hour on the hour to pee or chug water or contemplate the meaning of life. Maybe today I’d actually keep a clear head, actually get some shit done.
I was still in my clothing from the night before, a white work uniform from the movie theater, which I couldn’t wear to class, especially with all the wrinkles.
So I dusted the crust from my eyes, wiped the saliva from my lips, and walked to the closet.
“What the fucking…”
Every shirt? Black. Every pair of jeans? Black. Every dress. Every romper. Every skirt. Every scarf. Black.
I never wore that shade. My therapist convinced me that my attitude would improve if I surrounded myself with brightness, so I wore Easter colors all year round. Yellows. Light greens. Bright purples. Baby pinks.
I owned one or two black tops, at most, and a pair of black slacks for job interviews. But that was it.
Maybe someone had snuck in and replaced my clothing as a joke. A college prank from one of the friends that knew I needed some cheering up.
I plucked a hanger from the rack and looked at the dress dangling down from it. When I bought it, it was turquoise with white lace at the top. Now the entire thing was one shade. From neckline to hemline.
It still had a tear at the hip that my ex had accidentally torn during sex, one that I never got around to hemming. That confirmed it. Someone didn’t buy the same dress in a different color and replace it while I was asleep. They dyed my original dress black.
At least, it must have been dye. What else would it be?
Either way, my entire wardrobe was ruined. I had nothing viable to wear.
I didn’t know who to call, who to blame, but there had to be someone. I turned around, reached for my phone to scroll through my contact list, and—
Holy shit that was hot.
I dropped the phone the second I touched it. But even from five feet away, I could see the screen was brown with spider web cracks. Like it had been badly burned.
But that was impossible. It contained my alarm. It had chimed before. It had woken me up and I had swiped to turn it off and it was fine.
It was like everything in the house was having the life drained out of it. Like everything was dying. The flowers. The clothing. The phone.
Maybe that’s why I was so stressed. So tired all the time. Maybe I’d been mentally (and physically?) deteriorating from something hidden inside of the house. Or from the house itself.
It sounded ridiculous, but I needed to get out of there. I needed to clear my head.
I was still in my work clothes, but I didn’t care. I made my way toward the front door and noticed the light bulbs on the ceiling. Every single one was blown out. Glass scattered across the floor.
But that wasn’t the only thing. The fresh basket of bread on my kitchen table was covered with thick mold. The faucet was dripping brown slime. The blinds looked stringy and burnt.
And the walls…
The walls became black. It wasn’t a blink-and-everything-changed moment, like everything else in the house had been. It happened as I watched. I could see the darkness slowly sweep over my eggshell walls, like an invisible roller was painting every inch.
I could taste death, felt myself on the edge of its precipice.
What if the house erupted in flames? What if the ceiling collapsed on top of me? What if the doors locked, trapping me inside?
While I was imagining all of the ways the house could destroy me, my legs went numb and I tumbled to the ground.
I tried to push myself back up, still in get-me-the-hell-out-of-here mode, but my body refused to hold me up.
I reached toward the cuff of my pants to roll the fabric, to see if I had hurt myself and how bad the wound looked, but got distracted by the sight of my hands.
The veins were bright blue. The knuckles were wrinkly. The nails brittle and yellow.
They looked like the hands of an old woman.
I was unable to pull myself up, but I could still manage to crawl, albeit slowly. Pain shot through every inch of me, from my crippled legs to my fingers that had already curled up into arthritic claws. Even my gums were in pain, stinging like I had a mouthful of toothaches, and my eyesight went fuzzy.
A little further. A little further…
Finally, I made it to the front door, which was flanked by a full-length mirror and an embroidered sign that read: Home Sweet Home.
I tried to muster up enough energy to reach for the handle and twist, but I caught a glimpse of my reflection. I was paralyzed by it.
My twenty-two-year-old face was gone. It was replaced by saggy eyelids. Age spots. Lip fuzz. Bald patches. Missing teeth.
That’s when I realized. I wasn’t going to die from some fire, from the house collapsing on top of me.
I was going to die from old age.