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The Lights That Bind

A story of protection

By Alexandra HubbellPublished 3 years ago 8 min read
The Lights That Bind
Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Their new house was all glass on the side facing the forest. In the daylight, they could stand and watch the lanky pines sway in the wind and the sun peek out over them in splintered rays. At night, with the interior lights on, the glass became like an inquisition room. Elizabeth’s little family was on display like fish in a tank as they ate dinner, argued over the dishes, sat in the living room together. The wall became a shadowbox displaying her son Ben scrolling on his phone, rolling his eyes when she asked what he was laughing at on the screen as though letting her in on the joke was an immense inconvenience.

Adam usually sat working on a case, his nose buried in files, and she was left to read and observe their reflections in the glass, wondering what was watching them outside. Adam said the original owners built the house this way for a reason, so the glass wall would face the striking view of the dense forest as it cascaded in hills down to the valley below. He assured her that the only spectators would be foxes, owls, raccoons and squirrels. There wasn’t a human for acres, even at the front of the property.

She’d been arranging the attic to make space for Ben’s old bunk bed, the one they’d used for sleepovers when he still socialized. He’d become a hermit since the move and had claimed the walkout basement as his room after just a few surly days sleeping in the bedroom next to his parents’. He spent most of his time down there, the door locked shut. Her husband Adam insisted that it was just a phase. Adam wanted to get rid of the bed, but she hoped one day it could be used for grandchildren. It was well-made, and they had the room for it. She should at least hold onto it in case it could be sold.

The attic was the only floor that didn’t have a glass wall, and it felt claustrophobic in contrast to the rest of the house. She began moving boxes—most of them Ben’s old toys that he’d shoved up here rather than organizing and donating them like she’d asked. She came across a dresser she didn’t recognize. Adam said the original owner was an old man, recently widowed, and he’d left behind some pieces he no longer needed. The dresser was a heavy, solid mahogany. She considered waiting for Adam to come home, but she didn’t want him to insist they take the bed to the dump instead. She squatted to slide the dresser, but it barely budged. She took out the drawers, hoping to lighten the load. The bottom right drawer stuck, and she pulled the brass knob, jiggling the drawer up and down until it shook loose. Inside was a steel box and a small black notebook.

She opened the book first, and there were manic scribbles drawn across the first two pages. As she squinted and held the notebook at arm’s length, she saw that it was a sketch of the tree line in the backyard. Among the trees, someone had drawn tiny circles, grouped in twos, scattered throughout the trunks like pairs of fireflies.

She ran downstairs. Adam was still at work and Ben had soccer practice. The sun had sunk just behind the trees as the November sky began its early descent into darkness. She kept the lights off, and a shiver zipped her spine straight. She held the notebook up to the woods, comparing them, searching for gaps in the foliage. The evergreen leaves were thick despite the weather shifting, and she went to open the door for a clearer look. The handle stuck, and she yanked the door open hard, the wind blowing in stray leaves and whipping her hair wildly around her face. As soon as she stepped onto the deck, the breeze shifted, slamming the door abruptly, sealing her outside.

A sudden stillness settled into the yard. The blustering wind disappeared, like all the air had been sucked from the property. The trees stopped swaying, the windchimes went silent, her hair plastered across her cheeks. She took a deep, ragged breath just to make sure time hadn’t completely frozen, and her chest rose and fell in response. She scanned the woods until she went cross-eyed, searching for circles, dots, spots among the leaves, then jumped when she heard Adam’s car door slam in the driveway.

She collected herself, turned back to the door, and caught her reflection. She looked like a madwoman, her mismatched house clothes covered in dust, hair matted and tangled. She pushed the handle, but the door wouldn’t budge. She pushed again, putting her full bodyweight into it, and still nothing. She backed away from the door, and her eyes caught the woods reflected along the full wall of glass. Pairs of glowing orbs appeared, blurry in the mirror, among the trees. She held up the notebook, and it matched the circles scribbled on the paper. She gasped, turning around to catch them in the actual trees, but she was blinded by a sudden white light from inside the house. Adam had turned on the overhead bulbs, and she could hear the tinny sound of some alternative band through the seam of the door.

Adam danced as he poured a finger of whiskey from the bar cart, and she watched him waltz through the living room, catching his own reflection and fixing his hair in an uncharacteristically vain way. Who was he when she wasn’t watching? She looked at the notebook. Who was she? She pounded against the glass and yelled his name. He squinted at the door, and ran to let her in, and as he did she tucked the book in her back pocket.

“What are you doing out there?” he said. He looked down the deck and gestured to some missing boards. “I thought we agreed not to go out on the deck until they inspect it again?”

“I just needed some air,” she said. “After being up in the attic all day. Dusty up there.”

“Alright,” he said, searching her face for further explanation, but she gave him a tight smile. “Well I’m gonna start dinner then.”

“Great,” she said, and watched as he two-stepped into the kitchen. She pulled the book from her pocket and turned the page. More scribbling, this time, a rough sketch of the back of the house. Those circles were drawn in wild strokes, like a child’s interpretation of a tornado, all along the lowest pane of the house. The walkout basement. Ben’s room.

She flung open the basement door and ran downstairs for the first time since they’d moved Ben in. Her heart dropped when she saw the door leading to the backyard flung open wide, the wind rustling papers Ben had taped to the glass wall. Each paper had a circle drawn on it, and they were placed exactly where they’d been in the notebook drawing. The door was covered in papers with bible verses, evil eyes, and spiraling sigils written in black sharpie.

“Mom?” she jumped at Ben’s voice. “Mom, why are you down here?”

“What is all this?” she asked, her voice shaking.

“It’s just some school stuff,” he said, his own voice catching in his throat. “I’m handling it. Mom, you need to go upstairs. I’ll come too, ok? But we have to shut this.”

He spoke to her gently. That hadn’t happened since puberty had begun severing their bond. He held out his hand for her and she took it. There was a canister of salt on his desk, and he coated the threshold before locking the door shut. She didn’t ask him why. They ascended the stairs, to the light-filled room, air thick with the smell of bread and the buzz of red wine and the throbbing drum beat of another obscure band. Adam was singing, and Ben didn’t even roll his eyes. Elizabeth sat him down on the couch, squeezed his shoulder, then excused herself to the master bedroom.

She pulled the only curtains in the house shut. She’d insisted on privacy in the bedroom despite her husband’s joke that only the birds and bees would see inside. She flipped through the book, sketch after sketch, then found a list of supplies. Salt, holy water, sage, palo santo… It continued to the back of the page, followed by scribbles of the same sigils she’d found on Ben’s door. Next to each symbol was the single word it represented “clear”, “block”, “clean”, “bind”. The book was full of instructions, supplies, prayers, rituals and blessings.

She ran up to the attic, ignoring Adam’s call to join them for dinner. She reached for the metal box in the drawer and flipped open the clasps. Her jaw dropped as she saw crisp green bills stacked and wrapped, arranged symmetrically in the tiny safe. She counted them twice, then sat a moment, blinking slowly and watching the orbs dance behind her eyelids each time she shut them. Twenty thousand dollars. She looked back in the drawer, tucking the money away carefully, and noticed a corner of paper peeking out from under the box. It was a torn piece from the notebook, with cursive looping down the page:

This house is a blessing, but it is cursed. If you’ve found this, then I must be dead. If you’ve found this, then you know how this money has to be used. I’ve given you a list of supplies. I built the glass wall so they never have to enter. It’s easier this way. They are curious. They are watching you, and you must watch them. As the discoverer, it is your job to guard this place, and your job to keep its secrets, even from those you love. The more people that know, the more aggressive they become. They feel fear. I’ve left you all I know, all I’ve saved, so you can do all you can. Don’t let them leave the property, and don’t let them inside.

“Dinner’s ready, Mom,” Ben said, his long arms draped over the bannister. She hadn’t heard him on the stairs. He saw the note, and his face blanched. “What’s that?”

“You won’t be doing this alone anymore,” Elizabeth said, her eyes welling at the thought of her child down in that basement, her husband chastising him for still having night terrors at his age. He locked the door and faced this by himself. “I’ll help, but you have to move upstairs. I won’t let them get in.”

“Ok, Mom,” he said, keeping his voice steady. His face suddenly crumpled, and he rushed to her, wrapping his arms around her tightly. “I’m sorry. We can’t tell--”

“I know, baby,” she said and handed him the notebook. “I know.”

“Dinner’s getting cold!” Adam yelled. They straightened up and walked downstairs.

“Ambience,” Adam chirped, lighting the candlesticks on the table and lowering the music.

Adam hummed along as he chewed. Elizabeth and Ben smiled when he caught their eyes. Elizabeth faced the glass wall, watching their reflection as Ben talked more animatedly than he had since they’d moved, his body finally relaxed. She double took at the reflection of the tapered candles flickering in the window, two glowing orbs floating against the barely visible trees. She drew invisible symbols on the pane in front of her. Clear, Block, Cleanse, Bind.

“Pass the wine, Liz?” Adam said. “Elizabeth?”

“Sorry,” She said, grabbing the wine and shaking her head. “The candlelight looks so nice there, in the window.” Bind.

He smiled and filled their glasses.


About the Creator

Alexandra Hubbell

To see more art:

Insta @alexandrahubbellart

To get more art:

Etsy https://www.etsy.com/shop/AlexandraHubbellArt?ref=shop_sugg

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