Her house was hollow born and hungry still. What it wanted today, it wanted again tomorrow. There was Jillison and those over Jillison. They told us to bury the ghost in the body of a dead bird and dig around it. We did. Jillison shoveled the corners and charred the air. When the storm closed, no one crossed the door.
It happened once or else it was only practice. Every wall was a stranglehold or a complete stop. They were caught under my eyes and at the end of spine. Jillison said I wouldn’t last. Someone would have to come and carry the skin over me again.
A yellow hour came and then a red hour followed. Those that could speak left a stone in the throat of the corpse they chose. Their hearts beat twice all night. They weren’t wrong. The house had an hour that would hunt them too.
Wherever we went we knew the scaffolding could swallow us somehow. I did my best to keep my eyes down. Jillison taught me to untie the skeleton knot and I tried not to make mistakes. She said every obstacle was coiled and conditional and circled around us.
I did anything they asked me to. I wore cold clothes to keep the house forgetting me. I salted the corridors and unpacked their accidents in the attic. My backup hands crashed and survived. They watched me without moving. They covered themselves in charcoal to keep the house calm. Jillison carried the dead bird to the basement and tried to wake it up again.
There were alarms we could pull and disappearances we could practice. But we knew the instincts of a predatory shelter. We knew the house was patient. It wouldn’t change no matter what escapes we tried to carve or engrave. When we slept, it slept. When we were awake it sent the storm to scratch at our skin, it searched for us like our shadows were the last living things.
I belonged there, or else Jillison was alone again. I was her simplest form of self-defense, her camouflage from the scaffolding’s teeth, her only room to hide when the house was too hungry to hear us scream.