537 Collectors Road
When a house becomes a home, it can take on a life - or afterlife - of its own as it seeks a perfect collection of permanent tenants.
People move to Louisiana to get away or to settle down. Perfectly lovely people, most of the time.
Like the newly wedded couple the house met many summers ago on the doorstep of 537 Collectors Road. A man and woman whose love shone bright in their eyes no matter the darkness or shadow that leered. Perfect for each other, perfect together, total perfection.
And they thought the two story Queen Anne style with its wrought-iron fence and looming oak tree was perfect, too. They said it had space for the family to grow and change. But if they changed, if they fell on hard times, the perfection would curdle.
Preserving them was as easy as loosening a gas valve and leaving security measures to fail. The neighbors found them three days after they’d died, still asleep in each other’s arms.
537 Collectors Road sat empty for months after that. Or was it years?
When the news finally settled and once the proper safety measures were restored, the next occupants moved in with a beautiful, bouncing baby boy, happy and healthy. Almost never cried, smiled for the first time before he could see past his toes - perfect.
His mother slouched on the couch all day, and her husband slaved away at his job all night. Gradually, the babe’s smiles became less frequent. As though he could see the unhappy future unfolding before him.
Within his home’s walls nothing could hurt him and he wanted for nothing. His parents called it SIDS but the couple kept inside the house called it a blessing.
The boy’s parents fell apart after that. After the inevitable divorce, neither could afford the upkeep of a classic home as floorboards came loose, roof shingles melted away, and any other way to drive them to their wits’ end.
For the next few months, a clever man with a dazzling smile and selfless heart tried to convince more people to move in at 537 Collectors Road. But not everyone he chose was as carefully selected as they ought to have been. When a possible tenant walked in with a limp, she found the stairs wobbly and short. The man with foul body odor noticed water damage from several leaks. The next man with small children couldn’t keep the front door locked. And a young pair of lovers were blown out by drafty windows.
But the realtor himself showed a certain something that appealed to the house on Collectors Road. He never gave up, got bogged down, or acted rashly. On a cool spring morning, after another failed showing, one of the stone steps on the front of the house came loose under his foot. He careened headlong onto the pavement with nothing to cushion his fall.
After that the house inhabited only these few. But the bliss could not last forever, as perfection fled at the first chance.
A man landed in the house next. Alone. His flesh all but fused to his couch seats as he survived off social security, disability, and alimony. That year rain bled through the roof and mold festered under the wallpaper. The man did not move. Electrical outlets surged, stopped working, and malfunctioned. He still did not move. When fire spread along the western half, surrounding his plush chair, he did not move. The house was unable to stop the fire it started, and the group it had gathered grew like a distended belly.
The damage from the fire and rain brought scorn to 537 Collectors Road as it flitted between imperfect emptiness and the random array of handymen and house flippers who found that the property refused to cooperate with even the most basic of operations to repair it and return it to the market. Almost as though the house had a mind of its own.
Until a family landed on the property, a family in just as shoddy state but held together with a desire to acquire perfection. A mother, father, teenage daughter and young son. Their tastes and skill kept the house in working order and even repaired it, restored it to its former glory. But the girl hid herself away more and more, confused by the trappings of adolescence and afraid of what changes the future would bring. A nuclear family would be an addition worth celebrating but the house’s plans were only laid for one.
One night the daughter took a kitchen knife and found the stairs that creaked during the day held her silently aloft while the family slept, and that the locks on the bathroom held firm behind her even with the age of the doorframe. The house carried her blood down the shower drain and kept her empty body as its prize.
In the quiet nights that followed, the house became saddled with a piece that it had no part of. A man in the grips of overdose stumbled through the wooded swamps and alleys that comprises the land, pulled like a magnetic force somewhere he would be held in memoriam - 537 Collectors Road. He collapsed against the roots of the willow tree and drew his final breath to leave the house with his remains, as he remained in spirit alone.
The house could only bury him, suck him into the ground and wrapped up in the willow trees roots.
Yet, after a time, the human that still lived put in the tree a large, wooden owl with reflective eyes to keep away rodents. In a way it served as the reminder that the house had no hold over the living. It controlled no memory, nothing beyond the boundaries of its property line.
Just when this despair overwhelmed them all, these pieces captured within the walls, another hand took the deed and looked upon the house. He hammered in a sign to the ground, “site of 537 Collectors Road apartments.”
And the house became lighter, brighter, reflecting on the eyes of the owl in the tree and casting shadows while it imagined the perfect prospects that would come.
About the author
Elizabeth Kaye Daugherty, or EKD for short, enjoys a good story, cats, and dragons.
Though she has always written fiction, she found a love of creative nonfiction while studying at Full Sail University.