Thin, towering hardwoods, heavy Spanish moss draping the canopy, and thorny vines woven between the limbs and trunks, acted as a curtain, shrouding the glade where the old house sat. Trudging down what was once the driveway, but now was thick with tall grass, Vance searched for anything familiar and failing miserably.
He whistled a tuneless song, wanting to fill the silence that deepened as he made his way closer to the house. Every few steps, he would rub the back of his neck and arms, sure something was crawling on his skin.
Half expecting a prehistoric creature to come crashing through the woods, Vance felt like he was going backward in time. The forest growth was unusual. In the intervening years since he lived in the house, there should not be this much proliferation. The tree and underbrush were like unchecked cancer. Vance swore he could almost see the woods expanding as he pushed through the .
The light at the end of the tunnel of branches brightened. Vance slowed his pace, hunching over and tiptoeing around the last bend in the driveway. Opening before him was a sunlit glade, grass knee_deep around a ramshackle house. The roof caved on one side of the house in by age and weather, its windows either broken or green with slimy moss. Hanging from broken hinges, the front door gaped open, the house dark and foreboding.
Vance stood at the foot of the steps leading up to the front porch, staring into the blackness yawning ahead of him. He nearly fell off the stairs as he climbed towards the house when a flight of pigeons burst out of the collapsed roof.
He hesitated at the doorway, peering in the darkness, a flood of light spilling into the room from the room to the right. Vance went toward that light and the house’s single bathroom. The closer he came, the more leaden his feet felt until it was like dragging a millstone.
The door to the room was long gone, empty hinges mangled and hanging from bent screws. The walls were spattered with black flecks beneath smears of green algae. Vance knew the spots were not black mold, but old, dried blood. Squinting in the sunshine, he was insulted by the cheerfulness it attempted to bring into the room.
Standing in the threshold, a flood of memories threatened to drown Vance. He was taken back to a time when he was a mere boy guilty of getting his clothes dirty. Even as an adult, so many years later, he still only took showers.
Without going into the room, Vance retreated from the light, regretting his decision to come home. He ran outside without exploring any more of the decaying house. Frozen on the porch, a scream of panic rose in his throat. The woods had reached the glade, growing at the speed of a tsunami, closing off any escape route.
Moving back inside, Vance waited for the walls to collapse. Once again he regretted coming home.