Half-Truths

Water runs in a narrow stream under the house. Pebbles on its shores shift with the water’s flow, which shifts with the wind. The house also shifts, its travel relegated to a diameter determined by its tether, tied at the opposite end to a tree, and the weather.

Looking at it while ankle deep in dead leaves earns a double-take. Really all you can do is look at it and assume someone’s living in there. Retrospection may falsify them, but for now your thoughts surround the miracle of it. Sky appears as its backyard, the house nestled in a valley of sloping blue and rustling white, the grayish brown of earth out of view. You then realize the stream needs no diversion, no ditch.

Your mind jumps to what could be gained by acquiring all previously next-to-worthless marshland, rivers, and lakes—to if you’ll need to evict the current occupant.

You reach for your phone to text and email a picture of it to everyone you can think of, but you’re in a dead-zone. No matter how distantly and indiscriminately you trace the house’s diameter you can’t pick up a signal for the simple and nearly instantaneous task of sending a picture of it to a potential investor who you’re sure is the perfect person to go in on with but is also discrete in ways that competitors won’t know about it, or at least the person who by the time leaks it you’ll be far enough along in your endeavor that it won’t be much of an issue.

But you can’t. It’s probably for the better. They probably wouldn’t believe it anyway. They’d see the photo and think it’s ironic, but not real. With today’s phones they’d think it’s a joke and try to ‘like’ it or something, but definitely the last thing they’d think is that it’s real. They’d probably, actually, think you’re crazy. You’re better off without a signal.

The house hasn’t moved much, so you decide to regroup, reset, reboot. But you’re not sure how long it’ll be there, if whoever’s inside, if in fact there is someone inside, is planning on leaving any time soon, because, you assume, the house could go anywhere. The best thing to do is just to keep your eyes on it. Make sure it doesn’t leave your sight, and, all the while, keep in mind others may know about it and want in.

Through the windows you see a yellowish light. It wasn’t there before, or at least you don’t think it was. It was day when you found the house but it’s dark now. The lights could have been on the whole time but you didn’t notice because they were washed out by the much brighter, much cooler, daylight. Besides, it was the miracle of it that had initially caught your attention—how were you supposed to also pay attention to the lights in the windows?

Either way, the fact that the lights are on, yellowish ones probably in the shape of candle flames, doesn’t necessarily mean someone’s in there. People leave lights on to deter criminals when they’re not home, so, more than likely, there’s probably no one in there.

All your energy is now directed toward finding a mailbox to see if it’s stuffed with coupons.

Peter Halley,
Peter Halley, “Waiting for Forever” (2011)

Inside the house are many cells and vestibules. Some are the shape of elongated rectangles, both vertical and horizontal. Their walls are built with a synthetic material smooth like glass, colored in neon hues spanning the full visible spectrum. The occupant is asleep. She’s dreaming of a distant land. The dream is so vivid that broad, waxy leaves begin to grow around her, nearly filling her entire setting. A panther approaches. The leaves recede, de-then-re-materialize into innumerable grains of sand aggregating a vast desert. Lucid, she wishes it were this way in real life. To someone who has never been inside, the house seems like a meteorologist’s green-screen. What’s seen and felt inside there is relative to each’s previous experiences.

Henri Rousseau,
Henri Rousseau, “The Sleeping Gypsy” (1897)

Its tether is made from something you can’t specify from your point on the ground. It’s attached upward at canopy height. You’re least of all a nocturnal tree-climber, so maybe you can somehow snag the tether, pull it down, or if necessary sever it and kite the house to a place less out in the open.

The tether doesn’t give. It’s rigid, doesn’t budge despite your best attempts, but it silhouettes spaghetti with the slightest shift of atmosphere. Fallen branches that look like claws splinter at the knuckles. Your entire downward force does nothing to prevent it from remaining taught. The yellow-backlit windows stare down at you.

“What are you doing in there?”

You repeat, louder, more frequently, desperately. You trace the fluidly circling shadow the moonlight on the house casts. It’s a trapezoid whose shape barely breaks form. Only the tree’s thorny, entangled nest of a shadow intersects it. The narrow stream is stationary.

Your footprints are now indiscernible. They don’t reflect any pattern or direction there are so many. Muscles and vertebra in your neck tighten. Your eyes are strained. You resolve to shouting in the direction of something you have little proof is inhabited. Staring down at you, the windows are both opaque and transparent. Widening, your eyes redirect skyward.

“What do you want?”