The old farmhouse shudders against the oncoming wind, frightened of even more damage that would settle a score it hadn’t known it owed. A whistling sound screams against its sides and squeezes through the cracks under the doors, more eerie than a little bit, precursor to the squall that will come after midnight, when the house is all tucked in and snoring comfortably. An old cocker spaniel lies on the mat by the kitchen door, ears cocked, ready to defend his family against whatever is making the horrible keening noise. Of course that noise is him, but he listens nonetheless, oblivious.
A fire crackles in the stone fireplace, warming the thick rug in the den as the sparks get perilously close. The young man of the house stoked it quite full before he turned in for the night, as is his nightly habit, meant to ward off the need to get up in the middle of the night to re-fill the behemoth. A patter on the roof would remind him of little feet running pell mell across its surface if he were awake to hear its drumming. It is night rain coming down slowly but surely, and it will soon multiply in frequency and in pressure, but for now it runs across like the lost child they have tried so hard to forget.
A solitary human soul is tortured in the face of the nearby onslaught. The years have not been kind to her. Her lined face and the deep creases around her eyes are testament to that, that and long nights without sleep. She fights against herself harder than the elements pound on the house she has called home for longer than she would care to admit. Her back is ramrod straight against the wall as she sits up in the bed she shares with a corpse.
Her husband has been dead for approximately twenty minutes. It is what woke her up, his dreamless slumber, the cold rigidity of his back that was pressed against her while her arms wrapped around his middle, pretending to sleep. She knew the moment it happened, too, when the breath left his body like a hiccup that seeks release. Then he was still as death, and she knew it was much more than a metaphor. Still, she stayed in place with her body against his until the cold was too much for her, the chattering of her teeth betraying her body’s reaction.
The rain begins to pound harder on the slanted roof, the small children running faster across its mottled surface, seeking escape from having to grow up and deal with difficult decisions. She envies the ghost children their innocence, their sense of purpose, as the pounding reaches a fever pitch that would have awakened the man beside her if he could have been waked. But it is not to be, she knows, and she sighs, her breath a cruel reminder of what she cannot take with her when she goes, of what her companion took for granted. Until it was gone.
Somewhere from the direction of the kitchen a dog begins to bark, soul-aching tones that remind her of other deaths, of other times when she herself was more alive that she is now. But no one else will take her responsibility away from her, and nostalgia can’t bring back the man she loved. So she closes his eyes with her fingers, lovingly, even though he will never know what she did, and she crosses to the solitary window in the room, sliding back the sash and opening it wide, letting the rain wash over her in sheets. She prays for the strength to be still.