Illusory

Flash Fiction July, 13

The building before me is impressive, stretching up as far as the eye can see and carved elaborately into half a dozen tall sculptures, half form and half function. They’re weathered, no longer sleek and glossy but rough and dry from keeping their occupants sheltered from storms for the last 251 years. Ivy winds around the windows, trapping them closed and as I brush my hand over the wall, it scrapes my hand faint red, though it’s gone before I’ve had the chance to blink.

I haven’t been back in a few decades and I’d forgotten how beautiful the mansion is. It’s lain in abandon since my departure, not quite crumbling around my ankles but certainly close to collapse if no-one maintains it. I’ve inherited it from myself though; a few short forged documents and I’m the sole heir, a way I’ve learned of managing my elongated life span.

Fog rolling in doesn’t impede me as I make my way over the cobblestones, instinctively picking my way over the pavement and letting my boots click loudly over the stone. There’s really no need to do so – there’s no-one around. People today don’t want to live in a drafty old manor with no internet access, and this suits my purposes beautifully. From years observing them, I’ve noticed that they have no interest in peaceful days looking out over the lakes.

My trunk clatters behind me and I can remember a couple of centuries before when this was the norm for this place, having guests in rickety coaches making their way over the driveway for dinner and parties.

There’s no-one in the area who knows me now and they certainly wouldn’t want to come for dinner. There are to be no grand events in the manor this century; possibly not even the century after.

The heavy door swings open too easily under my strength, crashing back against the wall and I take the chance to speed inside before it closes and the lock sticks. There’s no light, it occurs to me after spending entirely too long skating my fingers over the wall looking for a light switch. Electricity was the one thing I hadn’t expected to need, but strictly speaking I don’t need it. I’ve become too used to this century and its dependence on electricity while doing my best impression of being human.

The rest of the room is dry, and the slight gusts my movements make stirs up years worth of dust; the window is jammed, and the furniture moth-eaten. I remember years of entertaining guests as a human; after the transition there were long periods of isolation and solitary travel only happening at night. My memory casts back to a sister, playing music on the piano, a second sister drawing portraits and selling them for extra spending money until the time she was married, and her husband insisted she stop because she didn’t need to earn money.

I traverse the rest of the house, half of which was stripped bare last time I fled, hoping to either create a clean slate or destroy every last shred of my mortal memories. All that remains now is a jumble of memories which don’t fit in anywhere, don’t have any set context for allowing me to place them in a situation that makes sense.

As I walk, the extent of the ruin becomes apparent. Walls are covered in peeling wallpaper from my last excursion, half-covered in spiderwebs. There’s a layer of grime everywhere and weaker spots have begun to crumble entirely. In the smaller parlour the fireplace gapes open with decay, still piled high with burnt-out coals and ash, stones on the ground directly below.

My family’s portraits are no better. They’re still clear enough for me to make out my parents’ and sisters’ images, but the lack of maintenance has discoloured complexions and clothes and eye colour. For a few hours I lose myself in trying to superimpose memory over the canvases, trying to recreate the exact shade of my mother’s grey eyes or my sister’s blonde hair. The memories are lacking though, I haven’t called them up in so many years that I have forgotten more than I intended.

In my old bedroom I find a pile of things that no longer mean anything to me, and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that if I’m going to spend the next two centuries here in any kind of comfort I’m going to have to rebuild the entire place.

The ivy is left on the building, the last thing I tell myself to look after, and anyway, it looks pretty. Hides the disarray inside.

The next day is equally overcast when I go out to start collecting supplies and hire a skip, which fills alarmingly fast. Despite my perfect recall I have no memory of making the trips to throw things into it, but the evidence is in the shattered balcony window and the pile of stuff that has missed the bin after I miscalculated my throws.

Within two days I’ve had two bins of things collected and replaced the skips, ready to begin the rebuild. It’s easy enough to work fast and my lack of tiredness means I can – and do – work through the night painting and stripping walls and cleaning.

Every time I return from a new shopping expedition I see the ivy sprawled across the walls, and it’s deeply tempting to climb the walls, hang on to the window frames and tear it all out. The building is overhauled within a month, piles of new books installed in a library and just enough phone coverage to be able to use it in most rooms.

In the end I have a fairly modernized home, all ready for the next century of living, and I leave the ivy where it is. My sister planted it, I remember now, and it’s survived all these years.

Anyway, it’s a good reminder of the disarray that befell the manor.

 

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