This story was a submission to our March 2022 Short Story Contest.
I'm finally going back to the house. The house where things I'll never be able to explain happened. Things I chalked up to my imagination. I walk up the driveway, my parents left me the key to the house in their will. I had texted my sisters and asked if they also got keys, but they didn’t respond. I wanted to invite them to come with me, help clean up mom and dad’s stuff. I knew no one would willingly go back there anyway. No one but me, I struggled for a moment to jam the old rusty key into the keyhole and turn it. It clicked and as I look back I can’t help but wonder why I'm doing this. Is it guilt, curiosity? I mean selling it wasn’t an option, it’s conditions were too bad but I couldn’t exactly live in it either. I walk into the house and look to my right, I see the living room. It looks like a picture, everything is lifeless and frozen in place. It looks as if everyone just got up and left everything behind, I look out the window and start to regret coming so late, it would be dark before I left. I haven’t been here since I was a kid, all 6 of us together under the same roof, this roof. I figure I'll just take the important things, the looters can have the rest. I go through to the kitchen, there are cans of tuna everywhere, I can’t tell if they were from our old cat or our brother. Liam, he worked at a canary or he did, until he died. He was the oldest, everyone thought he was gonna be the one to make something of himself but by the end we didn’t really know who he was anymore, I don’t think he did either. I started climbing up the stairs to the second floor, the wood staircase spiraled, it looked almost as good as new. I reached the top and looked over the vast hallway of rooms and decided to start at the beginning, my sister Emma's room. I haven’t seen her since our parents' funeral, she's 16 now and living with our cousins, but the Emma I knew was only 9. I walk into her room and see exactly what I remember, the walls were pink with white shapes she painted on herself. I see her old music box forgotten on her dresser. I open it and hear a tune I haven't heard in a long time. It brought me back, Emma was always making up stories. At first it was cute but after a while my parents started to get worried. Looking through her drawers seeing if there was anything I could get for her, I saw a small pink diary. I open it and see in bright crayon letters the words Emma’s Diary. Curiosity overtook me as I debate to myself whether or not I should open it. March,2,2012, Today I got into a fight with mom. She said if I'm gonna disrespect her there would be consequences. I didn’t believe her but when she sent me to bed before dinner I was furious. I wanted to show her the consequences of making me mad. I opened the window and crawled out, I felt like I was finally free. I flew down to the ground and- I close my eyes and then the book, silly girl. I put the diary in my bag, I figured she might want it. Next I walk into Liam's room. He would've been twenty six if he hadn’t died. I look at his desk, strange sketches of the house covered in vines littered its surface. As well as cans of tuna as high as the ceiling. I see the prescriptions on his bookshelf Schizophrenia. It said, from the day my parents brought him home from the psychologist I didn’t believe it for a second, Liam has always been the sanest person I've known, I always knew there had to be more to the things he was seeing. I walk back into the hallway, the sun will be setting soon and I've had minimalistic progress, I underestimated how hard it would be to come back here. I step into mom and dad's room, they never let us in here as kids, always said it was “dangerous”. The room barely looked like it was ever lived in, no family pictures, no posters, nothing. I walk out to the balcony. I look down at the backyard and see my childhood, Liam playing on the swings, Emma jumping around the little pond and -CRASH! I jump almost a mile high. Something must've fallen. I run back down the stairs and found that I had left the door open. Lenny had come in and knocked over the tuna cans, Lennys a weird name for a cat but Emma found him and we couldn't exactly argue. I couldn’t believe that he was still alive or that they left him. I open one of the cans with the can opener that is still safely tucked away in its spot in the cupboard. He started happily licking up the food as I headed to the dining room. I shouldn’t have left home when I graduated, maybe if I hadn’t things would be different. I look at the chinese food laid out on the table, molded from years of being here, no one bothered to clean up before they left and I never got the chance to ask my sisters why everyone left so suddenly, in leaving I squandered my relationship with my sisters, I was just so eager to get out of there. Maybe it would be best to stay for a couple weeks and explore the mysteries of the house. There's so much I don’t know. I pulled my phone charger out of my bag and plugged it into the wall, looks like I'm here for the night.