The House on the Forest’s Edge

She’s lived in this house as long as she can remember. Longer, maybe. The old stone walls enfold her like a silken egg sac. Every morning she opens the window to let in the woodland breeze, and every evening she closes it to keep the shadows out. She reckons she has watched ten thousand thousand sunsets through that window, but she stopped counting a while ago. There is a broom in her hand: dried straw bound by twine to an old branch. The peeling bark scintillates between her fingers. She imagines she has swept a quantity of dust and rocks off the front steps to account for the disappearance of a small moon, passed slowly through a colossal grinder. Though she lacks evidence that this had occurred. She sweeps every day, in case someone visits her. No one has visited her for as long as she can remember.

Through the many risings and settings of the sun, she has replaced almost every part of the house. Her wooden porch chair started to rot, maybe from moisture, and flickered away to nothing. She built a new one from the wood of fallen trees. There are many fallen trees around her house, though she has never seen one fall. The bricks of the fireplace crumbled to dust like dried blood, which she swept out with her broom. The next day she dug a pit in the floor, a hollow in the dirt where flames can strive against the winter’s chill and die holding one another atop their ashes. The glass of the window was broken by a shadow, and she bound many young branches into slats for shutters. When they are closed, the house seems to regard the forest with the slumbery gaze of a many-eyed insect striving to remain awake through some long, long vigil.

The only part of the house she has not replaced are the old stone walls. These have darkened with age. In her earliest memories the bricks are white-gray like the bellies of fish dripping and gasping in a rising net. Now they are the color of raw charcoal, lichened through with filaments of acerbic green that shimmers in the starlight. In times of change and upheaval she thinks upon these walls and the matrix of rocks that compose them. There are no answers for her.

In truth, they are older than the forest around them, older than the air that flows through the slats on misty evenings. They are older than the dust beneath them and the sun that warms them, warms the landscape-universe whose center is the house and its owner. In a way, they are the creator of these things: a manifestation of an instruction, an unmoored sonnet carving through the trackless ice of data.

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