At Belleview House
by Harold R. Thompson
“Who are you talking to, Henry?” Alice asks me.
I’ve just hit my head against the open closet door in Katie’s room. My eyes are squeezed shut against the pain, my hand pressing the contusion. The pain has made me angry, and I want to snap, to ask who does it look like I’m talking to? But as usual I control myself.
The pain remains a dull throb, but I open my eyes.
The room is empty. Nothing but an old brass bedstead without bedclothes, a stained ticking mattress. The walls are bare.
“What?” I say.
I’d been talking to my sister Kate here in her room with its heavy oak furniture.
I look out the window, just to get my bearings. The green curtains are gone. Outside, everything looks right and correct. I’m at Belleview House. I’m always at Belleview. I’ve lived here all my life. This is my sister’s room, here at the top of the turret, with the view of the wide front lawn, sloping down to the trees, and the valley below, all clothed in mist as usual.
I see my daughter run by, bright pink shorts and an apple green t-shirt, a stick in her hand. I’m home. I’m in Belleview.
So where is Katie? What happened to her room, to her things?
I turn to look at Alice, who stands in the doorway.
“Who were you talking to?” she repeats, eyebrows raised.
I don’t know what to say. It’s not that I’m afraid that she’ll think I’m crazy, but that I’m too flummoxed.
“I need a cup of tea,” I say.
I’m in a daze. My head hurts. In the kitchen, Alice puts a cup of tea, with milk, on the table in front of me. The dog settles at my feet with a thump and a groan.
My hands shake, my heart pounds, but I sip my tea and my head clears just a bit.
“At least Mopey is real,” I say.
Alice sits across from me. She sighs.
“Okay, who’s Mopey?”
“Don’t do that!” I say, but a sudden pang, a stab of fear, hits me in the stomach, and I feel under the table with my foot.
I look under the table. Just bare floor. Over by the sink, no water dish, no supper dish.
“Mope!” I call, shoving back the chair as I stand. My tea spills.
I whistle for the dog.
“What are you doing?” Alice half laughs.
“Where’s the dog?”
I’m at the kitchen door, looking out at the side garden. Belleview has beautiful gardens. Black-eyed Susans sway.
“Where’s his rope?” I say, turning.
I’m alone in the kitchen. My cup of tea, spilled, sits on the table. There’s no second cup.
I run back upstairs, past what should have been Katie’s room, down the hall to the room I share with Alice.
The room contains a single bed, unmade. None of Alice’s things. As if she never existed.
I almost fall down the stairs, stumbling over my own panicked feet, to the front hall, with its dark wood. The wardrobe full of coats is gone. The shoe basket is gone.
The door bangs shut behind me.
“Marion!” I shout as I run into the middle of the lawn.
I hear birds, I hear wind, I hear the rattle of the poplar leaves. I hear no human voices.
I turn and look at Belleview House. The paint is brown and peeling, not deep yellow and fresh, as it should be. But the house is there. Belleview House is real.
I sit on the front step. The lawn stretches ahead of me, and the trees, and the valley, and I notice something. The mist is gone. The mist has blown away. And in the valley stand the broken bones of the ruined city.
“No,” I say. “I don’t want these memories. I don’t want to go back there.”
I don’t want to be alone. Alone forever.
I touch the place where I hit my head. It still throbs.
“Come back,” I whisper. “Come back, I need you.”
Did the blow to the head wake me, or is this the hallucination, is this the false world?
I squeeze my eyes shut, but tears stream down my cheeks. I rock as I sob. After a minute it passes.
The pain in my head is gone.
Opening my eyes, I gaze toward the valley.
The mist. The mist is returning.
I feel the gentle touch of a hand on my shoulder.