I haven’t left my house in ten years; after all, where would I go if I did?
The windows have been boarded up for as long as I can remember, but children still throw stones and empty glass bottles at the outside of them, knowing I can hear from within. I don’t think any of them are old enough to remember who I am, or why they should hate me. They only know that their parents speak my name in angry whispers, and that every house around mine lies empty in contempt of me. Of what I’ve done.
I don’t mind. I’ve learned to enjoy the peace.
From time to time adults will gather in the overgrown thicket of my front yard and rattle cans of gasoline, trying to muster the will to set the house alight. But I think they’re held back by the fear that burning it down will only let me out, as if I couldn’t simply open my own front door and walk freely amongst them, if I wanted to. Besides, there have been one or two who’ve tried that method before, and although my hair burned aflame and my limbs went up like a pale candelabra by the morning I was right again, as if the sun itself had turned back time.
Every couple of months someone will dare themselves to break into the house, prying the back door from its hinges and slipping through cultivated darkness, weapon in hand, meaning to finish me at last. I always hear them coming before the first nail is yanked free from the boards, but I let them come, laughing a little, or crying, depending on my mood. The last time three of them came, men in their thirties far larger than I am, but armed as if taking on a dragon. They pulled me from my bed by the hair, shining torch beams into my eyes, and recoiled, their faces rendered childlike with revulsion.
“It’s… it’s beautiful. Why? Why does it still look like that, even now?”
Somehow they overcame their horror, slitting my throat and beating my bones into splinters with claw hammers. But little by little the slithers of me inched back towards one another, and I was whole again, though every nerve screamed in protest of it for a day or so.
Blades, bullets, silver, iron, glass. Not one of them will end me, as I’ve discovered for myself on long nights of experimental masochism. With access to tiny worlds of knowledge behind small screens one might think I’d never have room for boredom again, but that novelty wore off decades ago, long before my home became my prison. The solitary confinement has simply made me introspective, morbid, driving a fascination as to how far I can push my own body without it being irreparably destroyed.
I’ve gone so far as to make an art of the slow, agonising process, looping tendons like chandeliers from the ceiling, unreeling my skin to paper the walls. Gradually the house has almost become me, a living sepulchre to which only I pay tribute.
Loneliness has made a mad woman of me, this I know- but it’s my choice, and I cleave to it. I could reach out to others, if I wanted to. An anonymous ear is only an email away, after all; I could craft a whole new persona for myself, make friends without even leaving my front door. Friends who’d never know what I am, or what I’ve done. But this is the penance I agreed to pay when people discovered what I was, and although a creature like me can scarcely be governed by human laws or morality I’ve adopted them by choice, although I know there’s not a chance of absolution.
Ten years should feel like nothing to me, but in the stagnant air of the house it’s become forever. Before I lived without conscience, as an animal, taking in excess whoever and however many I desired, man or woman. I’d pretended I was robbed, that I was wounded, that something in the house needed mending- people are flattered to be needed, and they died glowing with gratification. It wasn’t that I was hungry- I’ve never known that or any human feeling. But I ate of them as if I was starving, marinating in the glut of them, until I was caught.
By then I’d already started to tire of that life, my carelessness practically intentional, craving a boundary I’d never had. After they learned I couldn’t die they consigned me to my own four walls, bricking me in, fitting boards in layers over the surface. It was all symbolic, of course; they knew that even the hardiest jail couldn’t contain me, if I had the will to to escape it.
But I hadn’t the will. Not any more.
Still, I know that for all my wallowing and self-inflicted fasting I can’t change what I am. If I’m honest to myself I’m not even sorry, and I’d never take back the centuries of abundance, of irredeemable vice. In a way I suppose this life of punishment is merely another form of pleasure seeking, although a victimless kind. A part of me is surprised that it’s satisfied me for so long, and sometimes I’m almost fooled into thinking I’m starting to develop a shadow of humanity.
Yet on the whole I know the truth: these years alone have served myself far more than the people living out there beyond the house. As I watch the seasons turn, roads tarmaced over grass, new wires and cables and technologies built up into the sky I realize more and more that as the world grows I haven’t, not even a little. If there’s ever a day I become truly bored I know that I’ll be tempted to go outside, into that world, but I shouldn’t. I can’t be amongst people again.
I haven’t left my house in ten years; if I did, I’d be a monster again.
Writing prompt by Katie Memmot