Roxanne Carter


the door shut and she was alone. it’s dark, darling said, and looked through the uncurtained window. she will be here soon.

something was going to happen and she was powerless. a shadow on the wall, a mark i didn’t make. a dream leftover, left behind.

darling waiting, utterly passive. she shouldn’t turn her back in despair, sigh to acknowledge the evidence: every crevice aching with spiders. the house has a reputation for widows. there is nothing unusual about miles of corridor, about a girl recoiling from limitless black. she was brought here deliberately, in spite of everything. nobody noticed her eyes wide and strained. when she first came here there was nothing negative, the house utterly passive. the house waiting for something to happen. she didn’t look very closely but she saw the seaweed pulsing through the floor, the damp spot she couldn’t account for.

darling’s body, restless, will never stop daring to move. she won’t stop, won’t stand, won’t sit here waiting, holding a place, sucking on a lock of hair. she rises and pulls herself to the window, lifts herself. it is entirely up to her. she can’t get through; spoilers lurk nearby.

she turns. the window arches over her, moaning. the horrible sight of an unmade bed. the phone cord looped around her neck like a slender, black snake. darling is glad that nobody will knock at her door.

the sea has always been there, and the forest stretching to the cliff’s edge. duchess saw the dark knot of trees and the grey, listless grass. why shouldn’t i stop here, crush my fist against my mouth. if she slowed down it wouldn’t matter; the house dark, she would keep looking, turning her head to listen to the waves smoothing sand like a sheet pulled taught against a mattress. she holds her breath, duchess moans, and suddenly released, she makes an effort not to run.

she wants everything to stop, to be very still. there isn’t a long way to arrive; there wasn’t a way past the hedge. from the dark trees she catches her breath,  flickering whitely within her.

as duchess watches, a shadow movesbeside her. when does that ever happen? the grey dusk and the wind tears at her. i do understand, she says. i don’t understand, she says. she doesn’t want to but she will, she will see the small, bright beacon of the oil rigs offshore.

darling leavesthe path, heading sideways through the gathered trees. her heart rises, wrenching her. i don’t want to find the flowers, she says. too many flowers restless and yawning. a little below her, at the side of the path, something wails. darling knows where the wolf is. she hadn’t fed it last night or this morning; how could she if waiting is the only power she has?

while darling was waiting something happened. she began to draw a map. she’d been following a bird through the trees. remembering this, she drew a line in the dirt. she will go this way if she had a choice, if there wasn’t grief, the faint memory of the bird cowered low to the ground.


how could a name tell her who she is? she might be persuaded, she might notice the slight movement of light in the polished surface of the rocking chair. she might notice the microphone orbiting her head. she might keep track of her own pouting and stomping. she will get her way.

darling has nothing besides a cold weather gown, a voice drifting into hollow, her room a gourd she echoes. the bird of her jaw sweeping out dust. plenty of space elsewhere, endless hallways stroked in black. she claims she saw a shadow, nervous as a cat. she marveled, lifting herself. easy to be misled by stone.

where is she? sell this monster, get rid of that girl. clouds of cat hair erupt from the vents. she spits her cold, flossy tea into a plant.

something a little wrong about mist clinging to a beehive. she can’t help over the phone; she regrets palming the key, pulling back her shoulders and shouting. pretending she hasn’t noticed the absence, pretending she has nothing. soon there will be nothing. what she has is exactly like nothing; a key that is emptied out.

rolling her drink, sliding it across the waxed tablecloth. i had to realize the problems of adapting to an unconstrained space. i had a shrill, squandered light.

don’t you waste your time waiting, duchess said. hand to throat, her face soaked in milk. and she is done. she is done with the house, what the house might do to her. she walks along the wall, slipping one finger to expose the blood. darling looked closely and saw the difference. please keep ringing, she whispered, running.

shuddering like i’d seen something, seen something unsuspecting. i was holding my coat closed at the neck, different from the others. i don’t want to be found and i hope i don’t see any light. i will have to stop walking towards the sea. the water too deep to wade. no scream, only a soft shluck as water closes over a wound. i am dank and ill and i don’t need much.

darling would’ve done anything; please, she said stupidily. the light went out and i don’t think it was deliberate. yes it was disgusting, branches gesturing outside the window, tearing apart clouds. darling, startled by the otherwise ordinary morning. the sea rubbing its back against the shore, the hot wind. the portrait of the girl above the fireplace looks very much like her. it could be her, yesterday. it could be darling, knowing she’s being lied to. she fancies that this is her home, that she has a need to be here. the resemblance confirms that the house has been coming after her, that there is not an edge. she wants to say that there is not a door by there are several doors moving along the highway.

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