The Gilded Dream

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Lauren

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The kids around here talk of a house that’s haunted at the end of the road. It’s a justifiable assumption; one look at the abandoned, ill-tended house sends shivers down the spine. The plots of soil that used to house flowers and shrubs now are conquered by brown, wild weeds and ivy that contorts its spine to cover everything near it. The ivy’s claws choke every other green thing in a battle for dominance that no cheerful plant could ever survive. And as the weeds twist and writhe over the cracked and fragmented posts of a fence, the canopy of two trees in the yard create shadows that mimic the movement of something sinister. The ugly, once immaculate white posts of the fence that impale the ground wear their years no better than the house itself: both are cracked with wooden fangs sticking out of their sides. As if that square jungle of a yard wasn’t enough to stir the kids’ imaginations, the house creaks and groans when disturbed by the wind, which was a haunting thing to hear. The dilapidated shutters cling desperately to their frames; one more thunderstorm would be their death sentence.
The kids were right (as young imaginations often are): the house was haunted. But it did not possess the undead or disturbed spirits that are classic of a haunting. Instead, years ago, there lived a man and a woman of a normal sort. Never could a sound be heard from inside; never was there an expression but the shallow smile on their faces. Society had decided they would wed, and shortly after it decided again that they would have kids (it dictated one boy and one girl). Society then told them to push the kids to go to the right schools, get the right jobs, never mind passion. They searched in vain for a semblance of worth in their lives that had only brought them confining jobs and means to live. Back then, when the house still had remnants of beauty, the façade was kept up as the inside fell to disarray. There were few genuine emotions contained in those walls. While together, the man and woman lived lonely lives, surrounded only by the comfort that they had conformed their life’s purpose to society’s wishes.
The kids around here play as their imaginations soar to fit their dream of the day. They pretend to fight the ghouls that dwell in that shell of a house. No one dares to tell them to sit down and think practically. No one dares to tell them to stop being dramatic, to stop chasing every new whimsical idea. They defy conformity at every turn, bold enough to grasp at the strands of their ambitions.
The man and the woman, however, died, with no one left behind to miss them save the two obligatory children. And so, in that house there were no demons but those in their heads; no skeletons but those in their closets. The kids around here talk of a house that’s haunted at the end of the road, but the truly haunting thing is living your life in the comforts of society’s dream, and still truly and utterly alone.

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