You May Breathe

 

When houses are first built, they only need cement to keep them rooted so that they don’t wake up at night and walk towards the horizon. The cold air inside their walls weighs them down so that they are content with their view of the grass lawns and driveways in front of them. But in a few weeks, the silence inside their hearts are broken when men and women, carrying their children, move in. Their laughter and tears make the house restless, and it wants to see the world. The owners have to weigh it down to keep its feet buried in the ground. They will bring in chairs, lamps, and sofas so that their home stays in one place. When the people leave, the house begs to go with them, but soon it is heavy with the dark, freezing air inside of itself. 

***

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Towns are hesitant to sell houses to people who’ve never owned a house before. They do not understand the care it takes to keep a house in the cement. They put only a bed and a T.V. in it, preferring their money to be spent elsewhere. Then one day they go to sleep and wake up next to the ocean, wondering if they are in the same country. The worst of these is the teenagers. Growing up, they watched their parents carefully track what goes in and out of the house. When one of their children is going through an angry mood swing, they put more bowls in their cupboards to quell the house’s spirit. Because of their parents’ care, the children never see their house move an inch. They wonder if they move at all. When they grow up, they want to test the bounds of the houses. Their parents make sure to put enough chairs into their children’s first house, but when they leave, the teenagers take them out one by one, listening for the rumblings of the walls at night. They fill the hearts of their homes to bursting when they ask their friends over to drink and dance to ear-blasting music. Eventually, as twilight sets, they feel the floor moving and watch their neighbors’ houses disappear behind them. 

***

Every once in a while, an eighteen or nineteen-year-old moves too many things out of their house during the seasonal winds. As their house wakes up, air whooshes in under the ground floor, carrying them to the sky. This is what happened with Lucy Bullock. In high school, her peers said that her glasses were too big for her eyes. But she ignored them. She lived in the school library, reading everything from textbooks about inorganic molecules to girl-meets-boy romance stories. Unlike the teenagers before her, she didn’t throw her dining table and dresser out into her front lawn to test the bounds of her house. From her books, she knew very well that the house would break away from the cement. She did it because she understood that the world was so much bigger than her hometown, where people still giggled at her ill-fitting sweaters. She wanted to see cities, climb mountains, and smell the sea. When she felt her house rising, she looked outside her window and saw how small the streets were, how insignificant everybody else was. Her heart was large. Only the sky was fit for it. 

***

Before Lucy left with her house, her parents were proud of her. She did well in school and never stepped out of line. The day after Lucy left, her parents received a letter from her that explained that it wasn’t her decision to go; it was the stars that guided her fate. In the coming years, her parents only heard from her from letters. She told them about cities from halfway across the world and the freshness of the air on top of the mountains. With each letter, her parents became more and more disappointed with her. How ungrateful was she? They had given her all they had, and she left without looking back. How could she be so insensible? Does she know what dangers lay in the world? They wrote back to her, begging her to come back. Every day, they looked to the sky with a desperation that only parents that have lost their children can have. They were hopeful, and they were grieving. 

***

It wasn’t long before the other children heard about the stories that Lucy sent back. In their dreams, she whispered to them about the vastness of the ocean and sinfulness of exotic fruits. She stirred their souls, and it wasn’t long before Knox Weber held the first flying party. The week before, he listened to the weather man reporting that the autumn winds would arrive soon. He called his friends and told them that their chance was near. They piled up all their furniture on their porches. When the wind hit, they pushed the chairs and sofas off with one mighty breath. At first, Knox’s house wobbled uncertainly to the clouds. This was the only time that it occurred to him that he might miss his hometown. Then he rose above the hills and saw the other houses. They were glowing gold from the sun shining on the leaves on their roofs. Knox looked into the horizon and spread his arms out to welcome the sunlight. 

***

Twenty-three years after Lucy left, her house was found in a tree-covered mountain range in a country two borders away from the one she was born in. The air inside her house was cold enough to keep it to the ground without cement. Nobody heard from her since. The children spread rumors amongst one another, each wilder than the one before it. She became a witch who knew the secrets of the mushrooms and the soil. She fell in love with a fairy prince and ran away with him. She cast aside her flesh and bones to meld her soul with the mountains. The rumors didn’t stop when Lucy’s parents held her funeral, who knew that she wouldn’t come back. After they buried the empty casket, they watched their daughter become a ghost haunting the town. Parents hid their children from her, prayed that she’d leave them alone at night. But spirits couldn’t be stopped by mere mortals. Each time the wind blew, houses dotted the sky like carnival balloons. 

***

With the rare exception of those like Lucy Bullock, whose heart and dreams were too large for anything but the entirety of the world, sometime during their lives, the children come back. After years of wandering the world, their houses guide them back home in their sleep. When they wake up and recognize the streets around them, they cry. They understand that although the world is big, a home is hard to find. They crave for an anchor after drifting lost at sea. Their longing becomes so deep that their houses cannot ignore them. When they wake up, the first thing they do is go to the furniture store and stuff their house with dressers and tables they don’t need. Their parents think they are dreaming when they see their children. In a way, they are. The children spend the next few months, sometimes years, watching movies with their parents and eating their mother’s blueberry pancakes. But eventually the spirit of Lucy seizes them again, and they take flight. 

***

From the ash-gray look in their eyes, you can tell which men and women have lost their children to the sky. They search the clouds every morning, hoping to see a familiar house. With each passing year, they wonder if their children are Lucy Bullocks, never looking back and destined to disappear into darkness. They look out the window and try to imagine what their children are seeing worlds away from them. They try to send their warmth across the seas. But most all, they wait so that their children can find the home that they remember.


Jieyan Wang is a high school junior who lives in Moscow, Idaho. Her short fiction work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. In addition to writing, she is also an avid painter and pianist.

Jieyan Wang