This story is a signpost. Its details are fuzzy, and will probably change significantly.
Its purpose is to help me get a foothold in parts of the story I don't understand yet.

Neither of us wants to go in.

Neither of us sees
another way
off the roof.

Once we’re in my room,
my sister closes the door.

I start pacing.
This is bad. This is bad. This is bad.

Be quiet, she snaps.

I don’t know what else to do
so I put Journey in Satchidinanda
on the record player and sit
on the edge of the bed
with my forehead in my hands.

It lasts about a minute
before my sister rips
the cord out of the wall.

Are you paying attention?
She points sharply to her ear,
then to the floor.

I bend down
reluctantly.

The furnace is calling
to everything: knives clank
on stone. The couch boils thick.

Mom’s records warp and soup while the freezer coughs
and the basement door lunges after the stairs. Mom’s hidden bottles pop
and in the next room we sing happy birthday to Dad’s cake. Fresh bread steaming
from a bag in the doorway, the porch floor exploding on the ground. Jenna waving Tunnel in the Sky, laughing, her toes on my knee, my hand on the palm of her foot burning, burning, burning, Mom’s chicken and chowder and my book bag, melting on the banister in the front hall. Perfume. Ice cream wrappers. Burning. The furnace call crawls the stairs, over Dad’s ceaseless drawings The Woman The Woman that woman, burning, his ties, the coat pile. Everything sharing itself by fire, my brother’s beads and batman lamp the showerhead Visions of Tomorrow and Andy and boxes and boxes the hallway the light Jenna mocking traffic Jenna married Jenna fumbling with her diaphragm pressing me into the wall into her bed that goddamn drawing mocking me flapping in the flue like a flag—

I’m throwing
my air conditioner
to the driveway
and clawing the window
screen. I turn
to my sister
at my desk
and she’s not
moving. What’s wrong
with you?!

I turn.
I can hear fire
clearing
the attic.
Help me!

Just shut up!

She grabs
my hand and yanks
me towards
the door.
Before I can pull
back, she opens
it and
I can hear

nothing.

Minutes pass.

I open my eyes.

Where are we?

We could be in the basement
or my room, or in Mom’s office.

In the house.
She says it so softly
she’s almost whispering.

Where in the house?

It’s like we’re in every possible room
at once.

The house inside
the house.

I don’t understand.
How do you…?

She sighs.

Remember when I was 12
and I disappeared for a week?

You were gone for two days.

Whatever. That’s where we are.

I walk toward a door
which is then an archway,
then a countertop.

How long can we stay here?

We’re lying in a garden
with tomato varieties
I’ve never seen before.

We can’t.

We don’t know how.

What do you mean,
we don’t know how?
I’ve lived here
all my life. I can live here.

Tell the house I’m staying.

She hops off a mod leather couch
as it condenses into a bathroom sink.

She grabs my shoulders
and turns me toward
a door which is a window
and a fireplace and the long intestine
of a plumbing line.

You tell it.

I sit for what could be
a year,
or a month,
or fifteen minutes watching
the walls turn: oak
bark to sand-
stone, the floor red
dirt, the ceiling a constellation
of paint and plaster, glass
and air. Then something happens.
We’re in a kitchen
and it’s not changing.
Women in old maids’ uniforms
are carrying platters with food
and drinks toward the front hall.
I know exactly where we are.

My sister crouches in the corner,
eyes closed.

The Woman, slip dress
and riding boots and all, is leaning
into the window, into the back yard.
I walk up to her.
I tap her on the shoulder.
She doesn’t move.
I say, Excuse me?
She doesn’t move.

I tap her again, and this time she turns
and walks through me, toward
my sister, and walks through her, too,
into the front hall.

My sister stands
and puts the gentlest
hand on my shoulder.

Then the kitchen is gone,
now storm doors
becoming counters, becoming windowsills
becoming leaves.

We both start to cry.

Come on.
We walk
one room to another.
My sister leads.

Sometimes we take a sharp
right through a window
that only exists for a moment.
Sometimes we wait
until one room has become
another, and a door appears
back to the room it used to be.
A year could pass.
Maybe an hour.

Finally, we’re in front
of a door we both know
is the last.
It’s leaf-green,
with a yellow handle, warm
under my fingers.

Her hand on the knob,
my sister turns, looks me dead
in the eye
and smiles.

You know, she says.
You always worry too much.

And throws the door open.

The force of it blows right
into my face all I can smell
is soot and hair
melting near me
the ceiling is dripping
brackish globs of once-white
paint onto my bed and the air is so thick
suddenly I can’t find my sister
the walls are rattling
with the wind

my books
and papers and sheets are ballooning
up like an hourglass
then falling
back into leaves
and globs
and soot

my house is gone

there is only fire

then across the room a small blue
light appears and I feel something
on my hand cooler
than fire my sister’s hand pulling
like a ghost

toward the window

and then it’s clear

in this moment
we must learn
to fly

Added: April 13, 2013 | Last changed: June 7, 2014