The house on the corner of Badgely and Elk had been there longer than any of the people in the township of Anson could remember. Longer even than any of their parents or parents’ parents or parents’ grandparents could recall. It preceded records of property tax and the jotted notes of invading surveyors when the country was still wooded wild.
And yet, it was this great looming thing—swaths and rainbows of reflective glass jointed with hewn wood—that managed to cast shadows over all that surrounded it with the briefest exception of high noon. It was as though the shadows obeyed the house in a strong case against the sun. Nary a person could recall, either, a time or place they’d ever seen such a thing. Some said it was getting bigger. Some said it rotated so slowly as to go unnoticed, though no one could ever get decent photographic proof.
Emery Mallory couldn’t remember the last time he’d known a person to live there. No one could. The deed had been dug up on a number of occasions by a neighbor, a developer, an investor—all wanting to finally solve the mystery that would let them tear it down for good.
No one had ever been seen to go in or come out, and yet to look through hand-cupped windows was to see a furnished, dust-free, altogether lived-in interior. Even late-nigh kids in their games of truth or dare had never successfully snuck in. You see, the house had no doors, just glass pane after glass pane. And no one tried to make a door out of a thrown stone after Will Loomis was blinded in one eye by his own rebounding rock. Will was now a freak with a glass eye.
Emery Mallory was just a freak.
Or rather Emery Mallory was invisible. To be seen a freak would require to be seen, and Emery Mallory was last seen in the third grade when he had to stand up and deliver his oral report on the founding of Connecticut.
“Didn’t he skip a grade or two?” some would ask when they heard of him once more the year he became immortal.
“Didn’t he repeat sixth grade, like, three times?” others reminisced, pity on their lips.
“I thought he’d moved out of town ages ago,” said Will Loomis in particular, though the rock to the head could explain his forgetting as much as anything else.
Emery didn’t move out of town, didn’t skip grades, didn’t redo any of them either. He had still been there. He’d watched groups collect outside the Big House, what everyone called it, with plans and dares and hopes to get in. He watched as no one ever did.
Emery would. They all would take their turn watching him. He would find a way in, gather his spectators, and then he would emerge seen. He wouldn’t stop until he had. He wouldn’t be stupid like Will or any of the others.
He would get in.
And he did. It was almost as though the Big House had made it easy for him.
One overcast day where all was shadow, Emery found a seam in the glass that differed from every other seam—it caught his finger as he trailed it around the House’s edges. When he held back to free his hand—the seam, it opened. Emery marked the seam with a rock on the ground and went in.
“Hello?” he called from where he stood at the edge of a den full of overstuffed chairs and low cigar tables. Somehow he did not expect an answer. He did not get one.
Through the den, he found… another den. A tea room, perhaps, with cups on saucers littered across the small tables throughout. Then a library, much like dens one and two with the small addition of labyrinthine shelves, waist-high of in-laid wood. On and on the rooms went, many mere variations of the rooms before. The House seemed to extend forever, supporting the belief that it continued to grow over the years. Emery agreed with himself that he would only reach the other side before turning back to collect his spectators.
He was walking through a third library when his foot started to hit the floor with a clacking thud every left step, almost like the sound after school one day that had led him to discover a small metal tack in the sole of his shoe. It hadn’t gone in far enough to draw blood. He’d never felt a thing.
Emery looked down to his left foot now, expecting something similar, only to find his leg pegged. As in pirate. As in wooden. As in, below the knee, Emery Mallory was no longer flesh but hewn tapered spindle. He hadn’t felt the change. Hadn’t felt a thing.
Turning on a spindle leg, Emery hurried back through the maze of this place toward that first den with the full belief he would escape this nightmare to wake up outside, all limbs intact. The Big House seemed to have grown even Bigger in the intervening minutes, however, the stiffness in his leg making it long and slow. (And was he mistaken, or was the stiffness growing—up and up—now in his hip—now his shoulder?)
In reality—if that’s what this was—Emery knew it took longer and felt farther because it was. The house was growing, always growing, he understood, and now, in the tea room just before the den, he was spindle-legged on both sides. To a mouse, his feet would be indistinguishable from those of the tables and chairs around him (except, Emery imagined, who knew how many of these dainty teacups had once been wandering mice? This placed housed no living thing. It was a living thing).
By the time he had reached the door to the den, Emery had to brace himself in the open doorway to keep from tumbling over. It had become near impossible to hinge at the hip. He must try though. He was so close. Light slipped through the seam in the corner where he would be able to get out. He would roll in the grass and flex his feet and never come near this place again.
Emery Mallory forced himself forward, but gravity, like the sun, seemed to work for the House, sending Emery into a cartoonish somersault, as though the house—nay, the world—had tilted on its axis to create just enough slope for the teen to tumble down.
When he was righted once more, Emery Mallory was a lovely stuffed chair in pearlescent pink upholstery, four clawed wooden legs, and down-stuffed cushions. He sat beside a low cigar table and across from a deep green leather chair that had once been a curious taxidermist. From the outside, had anyone been looking, they might have seen the House settle into itself a little. As though it had just heaved a contented, sated sigh.
If Emery had been able to think, he might have wondered what was the point of a chair in a house in which no one could ever sit down?