“This is the place,” he said as they met in front of the house. He smiled—a genuine one this time—at her.She looked passed him and inspected the house. It was a squat, boxy two-story construction. Its interior was made of wood panels. The paint, formerly white, had been aged to a blend of various grays. In places where it was chipped, patches of discolored yellowed wood peeked out. On each side of the porch, two beams connected the base to an awning. She counted six windows: two on the front of the first floor, one on either side, and two on the second floor. Each was either boarded up or sported fractured glass like bruises.“Not much to look at.” His voice startled her. She had nearly forgotten he was there, sweating uncomfortably in his cheap wool suit. “But it is a family heirloom of yours. Probably has a lot of sentimental value, right?”She said nothing to him.He cleared his throat. “Well, shall we go see what she looks like inside?”They walked a short way along the dirt driveway up to the house. On either side of them, crabgrass and tangle weeds threatened to latch onto their ankles and trip them. A warm, southern summer wind blew dust upon his pants and her bare legs. The specks tickled her skin.The porch steps groaned under their weight. They held firm, though, and supported them like someone lifting a box at the weight limit of their strength. They reached the sad looking front door. He twisted the loose knob and pushed the door forward. It fell off its top hinges and hung there, lopsided, like a child swinging on monkey bars.He paused for a brief second, then turned to her. “Looks like you’ll have to get that fixed.” He chuckled weakly.She responded with a barely audible, “Mmhmm.”“Before, we go in, I must warn you to be careful. The wood planks had rotten in some places. Best to watch your step, Ms. Jackson.”She nodded. He led the way, slowly, picking his path with dire caution. She let him talk, ramble on really, about the history of the house.“Your great-great-grandfather, Pappy Jackson, built this house with his bare hands at the turn of the century.” He flashed a smile at her. “The turn of the 20th century, not the last one.”She tuned him out as they arduously continued their tour. She tolerated him because he was her family’s attorney. She didn’t want to put him, Sam Gould, off unnecessarily. Rudeness wasn’t her style.Besides, he was the one who had mentioned—offhandedly—the existence of this house at the reading of her great-aunt’s will. Her parents, siblings and cousins weren’t interested in the old property. And why should they had been? Sam’s description of the dilapidated state of the house was spot on. It wasn’t worth the headache of fixing up or tearing down.Plus, none of her living relatives had the Sense like she does and her great-aunt did.As Mr. Gould droned on, Ms. Jackson concentrated her will on opening the Sense. She built up her chi in her lower chakra, where her belly was. When she had gathered enough chi, she sent it up through her shoulders, into her arms. There was a burning tingle in her fingers as her chi was released.Her chi radiated from her fingers like threads of spider silk. The gossamer strands dripped from her spirit like gold thread from Rumplestilskin’s spindle. They spread out, like graceful feelers, and searched for the spirit of the house.A house has a spirit—or, rather, a myriad of spirits merged into one giant soul. A house was a living thing, just like humans, animals, plants, and rocks. They all had spirits. What made houses unique was that they absorbed the spirits of its components into one conglomerate.Every wood beam, metal pipe, termite—everything and everyone that lived or died in the house—gave a portion of its spirit to the house. Some, like fixtures such as a fireplace, gave the entirety of their spirit to the house’s collective. Others, like a dinner guest, added a piece of their spirit to the whole.A spirit isn’t one thing. It is formed from all the emotions within the vessel. It is a conglomerate of one’s perceptions of one’s experiences, one’s memories. Pieces can be left behind in places with a heavy concentration of spirits, like a house.For instance, a sense of pleasure can linger for years after a dinner guest who enjoyed her meal had left. A burglar could leave behind fear, apprehension, and desperation.Ms. Jackson sought out this spirit of the house with her aura. It wasn’t difficult to find. She weaved her chi strands into a blanket that swathed the house in great sweeping strides. She felt the house’s spirit everywhere her blanket touched. If it could be described, the spirit of the house had a cold, clammy feel.It was dying.Houses—especially those built to last, like this one—had notoriously long life spans. As long as it didn’t blow over or burn down, it would most likely continue living on, even if no living creature visited it. It would feed off the spirits and memories lodged deep inside it, sort of like a starving body cannibalizing itself until there was nothing left.But this house had new spirits added to it constantly—Ms. Jackson could sense them. Life surrounded the house: there was a grove of poplar trees out back and about a hundred yards away, there was a small freshwater pond. With all these spirits in the area, the spirit of the house would not be without sustenance for very long. However, the house was weary of living, tired of life.It had witnessed generations of people, roaches and rats grow and mature within its warm walls. It had been nearly burned down several times during heated arguments between her great-great-grandparents, and those scars ran deep. Then there were severe storms with 70 MPH winds that threatened to topple it over. The house remembered the Great Depression, and the burden from brick-heavy senses of hunger and desperation from the family remained within it, though the people that added those emotions had since passed.The spirit of the house reacted to Ms. Jackson’s presence. Her blanket of chi felt warm and welcoming to it. It longed to communicate with someone with the Sense. It caught the blanket in its own aura, and used it to pass sensations into Ms. Jackson’s mind.The spirit of the house released festering fear, hatred and anger festering into Ms. Jackson’s web. It showed her the night, generations ago, when the Klu Klux Klan visited the Jackson family. The Klan rode in on horses, rifles in their hands and bloodthirsty hounds at their feet, and demanded the life of Pappy Jackson. Half a dozen of them kicked in the door and stormed the house, shouting as they smashed the family’s possessions. They dragged Pappy Jackson outside by his thick, kinky hair. They pulled his wife and three children out too, to witness Pappy’s punishment for some imaginary offense.The Klansmen beat Pappy to an inch of his life with the butts of their guns. Pappy did his best not to give them the satisfaction of screaming, but failed. He sobbed and whimpered—not for himself, but because he couldn’t protect his wife and children from viewing such savagery. The wails from his wife and children, and the barking from the dogs drowned out Pappy’s pleas for mercy before he slipped into unconsciousness.Tiring, the Klansmen let the dogs finish off Pappy. The dogs tore away chunks of skin and flesh with their teeth and claws. Pappy didn’t feel a thing, because at that time Pappy was already dead. He left slivers of his spirit—his anguish and fear from that night, along with pleasure experienced when he was inside his wife and his excitement when he held his children for the first time—to join the mass inside the house, while the remainder of his soul traveled to the Beyond.The Klansmen eventually departed, dragging Pappy’s body from one of their horses.Experiences of intense emotional trauma were prominent memories for the house of the spirit. Ms. Jackson experienced the lynching of her great-great-grandfather from various points of view as if she was there. She felt the love and sadness of her great-great-grandmother, Iona; fear and confusion from the children, her great-grandmother and two great-granduncles; anger and envy of the lead Klansman, bloodlust from three others, and uncertainty from the rest; starvation from the dogs; and the sharp stench of fright from a group of nearby fireflies. There was even a sense of peace radiating from a leaf flittering about in the wind.The spirit of the house was thrilled Ms. Jackson accepted its memories. It readied more to send her. But there were too many powerful emotions, too many painful memories residing in the old house for Ms. Jackson’s will to endure. She called back her blanket of chi, unraveled it, and let its threads slink back into her chakra. She kept one strand in the house. As long as she was there, she wanted to remain connected to the house, even if she was emotional exhausted, physically fatigued. She hadn’t realized that Sam Gould had stopped walking and was staring at her intensely.“Are you okay, Ms. Jackson?” he said.She retrieved a Kleenex from her purse and dabbed away sweat from her exposed cleavage before answering. “Yes, I’m fine.”Then she sensed something from the chi strand she left in the house. In her mind’s eye she witnessed an image of a girl—who resembled her great-aunt—being chased by a swarm of bees. It ended abruptly. Ms. Jackson thought the vision was strange, but brushed it aside. She was about to ask Mr. Gould if he could show her the second floor when the same image replayed.Her body stiffened. Visions and other stimuli acquired through her Sense normally didn’t repeat. Spirits tend to have fleeting and random trains of thoughts, and often jump between different experiences without any particular pattern. Rarely did they share the same memory more than once, unless they were trying to send a clear message.The house was attempting to tell her something. What, Ms. Jackson didn’t know. In practical terms, she was still a novice, just understanding the abilities of her Sense. Her great-aunt had trained her for two years before falling ill and eventually dying. Ms. Jackson was left to figure out the mysteries of her gift alone.A child, my great-aunt as a girl, running from bees, thought Ms. Jackson. What could it mean? What is this old house trying to tell me?Her great-aunt was fleeing danger. Was there danger nearby? The image replayed again, and Ms. Jackson paid close attention to each detail.She saw something she had missed before. In the beginning, a beehive fell from a tree branch. The bees came pouring out and chased her great-aunt.The beehive is the house for the bees. It fell. The bees rushed out.Then she understood.“We have to leave. Now, Mr. Gould.”“Hmm?” He studied her expression. “Don’t you want to tour the second floor, Ms. Jackson?”“We don’t have time, Mr. Gould. We must leave right now.”Ms. Jackson’s tone was authoritative. Although he had only met her on a few occasions, Sam recognized this level of sternness was atypical to her character. Something was definitely the matter.Mr. Gould didn’t press the matter. “As you wish, Ms. Jackson,” he said.This time Ms. Jackson led them, rather hurriedly, out of the house and off the porch. She didn’t stop until they were beside Mr. Gould’s car. It was then that she remembered she had left a chi strand in the house. It was still attached to her. She turned to face the house and waited.Nothing happened.Why is it hesitating? She knew why. She recalled one of her great-aunt’s earlier lessons: most living things obstinately hold onto life for as long as they could. Houses were no different. What the spirit of the house needed was encouragement.Ms. Jackson reached into her spirit, into her memories—passed the happy ones and into her most recent pain.She’s in a hospital room, standing over her great-aunt. Tubes are attached into the old woman’s nose, needles stuck in her arms. She looks like something from a science-fiction movie. She’s unconscious, in a diabetic coma, but the beep beep from the life machines indicate that she’s still alive.Her great-aunt is holding on. But why? She was always a fighter, never backing down. Whether it was sexism or racism, she used her Sense to beat them both. She carved a life for herself outside of being a maid for some middle-class white family or loyal wife to a carousing drunkard—lives too many of her sisters and friends had simply accepted as fitting a woman of color in the 1940s.But right now, her battle is against illness and time. They are much tougher to overcome. In time’s case, it is impossible to overcome.Ms. Jackson wipes away tears. She understands what she has to do. She closes her eyes, reaches into her chakra, like her great-aunt had shown her, and summons a single thread of chi. She wraps it around her great-aunt’s weakened aura.She sends her great-aunt one of her earliest memories.She’s a toddler crying in her bed. Her great-aunt enters the room and sits on the edge of the bed. Her great-aunt asks why she is crying, and she tells her about her nightmares. Her great-aunt takes off her necklace and places it around the girl’s neck, then explains that says it is an amulet that would protect her from bad dreams. Then she kisses the girl’s forehead. Comforted, the toddler settles into sleep.Ms. Jackson pulls back her chi strand. She leans over and kisses her great-aunt’s forehead. Her tears drip like rain.“You don’t have to fight anymore, Nana,” Ms. Jackson whispers. “It’s finally time to relax. Go on. Go in peace.”Her great-aunt’s life monitor flatlines.Ms. Jackson couldn’t stop tears from falling. She began withdrawing her chi strand from out the house. When its tip was on the edge of the porch, an image surged into her mind.This time, it was of her parents, much younger than she ever remembered them, sitting on the porch stargazing. Her father reached behind him and produced a tiny box. Her mother, fascinated by the stars, didn’t notice his actions. He whispered her name, and she finally turned to him. He held out the box, a gift for her. She kissed his cheek before accepting the box. Gratitude gleamed in both pairs of eyes.Thank you.Ms. Jackson nodded as her final chi strand returned to her. Her Sense, even without her aura probing and at a distance, felt the spirit of the house let out a long sigh.Then the house’s beams buckled. Its roof collapsed and its walls folded inward. There was a series of loud crashes as the house came apart. A gust, carrying dust and the smell of rotten wood and lead paint, wafted passed Ms. Jackson and Mr. Gould. They both instinctively covered their eyes and turned away their faces.Using her Sense, Ms. Jackson saw a vast white cloud, the spirit of the house, flutter up from the ruin of the house. It reached a certain height, then burst into numerous glowing spirit orbs. The spirit orbs were small spheres, no bigger than a marble, tinted in various shades of the primary colors. They hovered above the wreckage, like a swarm of a million rainbow-colored locusts. They glittered briefly in the setting sun, as if saying farewell, then vanished into the Beyond.“Oh, wow. Glad we got out of there when we did,” said Sam. He took off his glasses and wiped dirt and debris from them with a handkerchief. “Good thing you told us to leave when you did. You, Ms. Jackson, have impeccable timing.”Ms. Jackson took out a Kleenex and dried her tears.Mr. Gould heard her sniffles and turned to her. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, misunderstanding the reason for her tears. “I’m sure this is quite painful for you, this being your family’s legacy and all. Especially with the recent passing of your great-aunt. Madam Fannie Mae Jackson was a good woman, and a dear friend of mine. She’s sorely missed.”Ms. Jackson nodded. “Yes, it is just as you say.”Sam did something he normally didn’t do for his clients. He reached out and patted Ms. Jackson’s back. “I know everything seems to be happening suddenly and at once, but try and cheer up, okay? After all, it was an old house.”Ms. Jackson smiled—for the first time in weeks—and climbed into the passenger side of the car.
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