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Dark were the clouds; damp was the soil. Rain was yet to pour again, and he was yet to tread again. Motionless was he, as the deep, hollow eyes of his absorbed the house before him.
The walls appeared as if they were being scaled by the moss that formed long vertical trails all over. The rusted metal roofing over the porch appeared to just be hanging for its dear life.
The modest dwelling was surrounded by a mighty army of lalang grass, no shorter than his hip level, which he stood amongst.
All in all, it appeared as if the house was being besieged by the elements and the house appeared to be frivolously, albeit valiantly, holding out.
The elements were surely winning this one, he thought.
He saw empty and hollow eyes staring back at him in the form of the shattered windows which revealed nothing but the darkness within the structure. If at that moment he had heard the house speak unto him he would not have been completely surprised.
What would it have said though?
He wondered if it would yell at him to leave, like the bitter, grumpy old man whom he once knew as a neighbour. A moment later, the crumbling exterior of the house reminded him of a certain familiar Pan Mee aunty, whose face bore so many wrinkles that her eyes would disappear into them every time she smiled at him. Would the house share the same welcoming quality in its speech?
The sky only hesitated to pour down on him, but it had no qualms about bellowing and wailing from above to remind him of its capabilities. Hearing the thunder, he switched his glance to the sky above and decided it was urging him on through its awesome yells that he should step forward.
He lifted his feet off the dirt, one after the other while his arms treaded through the sea of greenery around him. He soon graduated onto the paved flooring that preceded the front door. He reached out to grab a doorknob so rusted he was convinced he’d contracted tetanus from it. With just one grip he could just barely feel out the mobility in the doorknob, indicating it was not locked.
All around him, he saw nature itself waging a grueling siege against this house, and here he was, finding his way in by simply twisting his wrist. With the door swinging forward, the dim, soft light of the outside world flushed in, only to grant him visibility of the next three steps.
And take three steps he did, no more. The sky began to groan in a groggy and intoxicated manner. He felt the crunch of plastic wrappers beneath his feet. With the limited light, he made out that it was a bun wrapper. There had been human activity in there, he deduced. He was unable to decide how to feel about that. Worried for his own safety, as he had no clue who now called this place home, angry that this once sacred place was being desecrated by someone not wanted there, and comfortable, knowing someone out there still made use of the place.
He found himself, in a hall of dust and shadows, a living room that housed nothing but filth and dark creatures. The room was full of junk and debris, but the sight he saw was pure emptiness and indifference. He thought it didn’t matter what he felt about someone living inside, for the house itself had no room for feelings or emotion. Whatever feelings that the house was worth had long fled, possibly shattering the windows on their way out, letting dust and shadows take their place.
He inhaled the dust and was not amused by the sensation in his throat. Marched forward he did, letting his eyes adjust to the low light level, towards one of the crumbling walls which he could see. On it were barely intelligible pieces of graffiti: some squiggly lines, some random names, and what appeared to be some gang signs. All done in different colours and with varying levels of skill. Markings of those who had trespassed on the property before him.
Who were they? What were they doing in here? Of what significance was this house to them? Probably just a bunch of hooligans looking for cheap thrills in an abandoned house he thought.
As he reached his hand out to the wall to feel it, he sensed the dust and filth that had found their home on it. It wasn’t always so. There was a time when these walls were smooth and held together not a mere structure of brick but a home for a family. An abode full of chatter and life. He knew this all too well.
He felt about the wall with his fingertips, his sense of touch filling in for where his sight was inadequate. He continued to feel more dust. Still, his fingertips continued their exodus across the wall, seemingly having a planned destination in mind. Then his fingers met a bump on the wall. Surprised was he, as his fingers traced their way around the rectangle-shaped obstacle in their path.
A frame hung by the thread over a rusted nail that barely stayed on the wall. In it, he sought out the photograph it housed. He lifted the frame off the nail and used his phone flashlight to assist him. To his dismay, there was no photograph, but shards of shattered glass in its place.
Disappointment filled his heart. Growls from the sky filled the air. He dropped the frame and continued his expedition into the house with the help of his phone flashlight. As he maneuvered through the heaps of junk that surrounded his feet, he found his way to a small room by what must have been the living room. It was small and quaint, as was the whole house. Much smaller than where he stays. This room housed a bed so small and a drawer even smaller.
A moment was taken to understand it was a room for a child. A smirk escaped his lips as he took in the modesty of the place which seemed so foreign to him.
His knees found rest with him taking a seat on the bed frame. His heart found respite as he had finally found a part of the house not completely tarnished by the elements. His nose, however, did not receive refuge from the assault of the dust that filled the air. He let out a rough cough which was matched by thunder again. This time it sounded calmer than before, and it was followed by the hissing noise of the rains pouring down.
As he took in the sound of the shower from above, he reached out to the drawer and pulled on one of the handles. In it, he saw more dust, and pieces of garbage. Yet another place desecrated by trespassers. His hands searched through the junk and deep within he found a small white sheet. It was not visible to him; he was guided by touch again. It had a smooth feel of plastic, though coated in dust.
The rain then grew louder, and he accepted that he would be kept inside the house for a while because of it. With that, he pulled out the sheet and shined his phone light on it.
As the light fell on the sheet, he saw in his hand a photograph. Standing around the white blur that was the glare from the flashlight, he saw the house he was in, a man, a woman, and a child. The house stood with pure white walls, free of moss. The father seemed carefree and in love. The mother was full of life. He knew the man, the woman, and the house all too well, no matter how much they are the opposites of what they are in the picture at present.
The shadow of his past rested in his hand, as the little boy in the picture now sat on the empty bed frame in the dusty room reminiscing. The rain outside would keep him in for a while.
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