It had been a long while since I’d seen my mother, at least that’s what she’d said when she had called my landline. Maybe that should have been my first warning sign – I thought dimly as I sat in the dirty water beneath the broken staircase – after all I do not now, nor have I ever had a landline telephone. I was leaning with my back against the wall and my shoulder against a large, filth-stained mirror on the adjoining wall to my right. My reflection looked hollow: wet eyes reddened with understanding, my lips were cracked – or maybe actively cracking – and my skin seemed… harder than I remembered. But maybe that’s just the fall talking.

I’m sorry, I’m meant to be telling you what led me here, but I’m afraid I don’t have a voice to speak with anymore, so I must hope that you will understand simply from how I feel.

I had a cat once, I believe… recently even. Whenever I have to travel for long stretches of time I bring her with me. His name was Koi and I loved him very much. He was warm and fluffy and warm and I brought him with me to visit with my mother. My mother’s house was a good distance away from mine, just an hour or so too long a trip to consider making it a day trip. When I pulled up to her habitat, she did not come to the door to greet me as she is wont to do. I used my key to get inside and sat both my small suitcase and the cat carrier down by the door before shutting it behind me. I let Koi out of the carrier and he darted off to investigate the familiar corners of my mother’s home; I decided to follow suit – perhaps mother had left a note.

She hadn’t.

The girl sitting next to me in my mother’s basement is very nice to me. She is quiet and always matches my movements so as to not startle me. I think she’s pretty too, although a little bit blurry – though that might just be the tears in my eyes. I’m okay with blurry girls, though, I feel like they won’t judge me. Sometimes when I lean my head towards her, she leans in too, touching her head to mine… and when I reach my hand out to touch her, her fingertips meet my own. Her skin is cool and smooth to the touch, even though it looks thick and pallid… even though she has sinuous ridges growing from her forehead and nose bridge. Her eyes are cloudy too – that much I can tell – I wonder if she thinks I’m blurry too. I wish I could ask her-

Hmm? Oh. How I came to be in this place… Please forgive me. It’s so hard to breathe right now…

I first checked the second floor, as the stairs were right next to the front door… nothing. No mother in the shower, deaf to the world. No mother in her office, blind to the world. No mother in her bed, dead to the world. Of course there would be no mother up there, it was far too hot and dry up there; unsuitable for propagation. I returned to the place that they call a ‘ground floor’ and noticed for the first time all of the dust. The way the dust caught the light from the window made it seem almost golden in colour… pollen, perhaps? That seemed odd to me, as I had always known my mother to be a fastidious woman who would tremble at the thought of her house looking the least bit lived in. Surely if she were home… or had been here recently, she would never have let the house get in this state. I tried to call out for Koi, but my tongue felt leathery inside of my mouth and I coughed instead… I blamed the dust and I suppose I wasn’t wrong. So I entered the kitchen to look for him and saw that the basement door was open. You have to understand: the basement door was never open… and I had a terrible feeling that Koi had gone down to investigate.

I had many terrible feelings at that moment, when I took my first step down into my mother’s basement.

I can’t seem to move my head or neck anymore, but that’s okay because I am already facing the nice, pretty, and blurry girl. It’s getting hard to breathe but I think she empathizes with me; she seems to have a long string of something that looks like mucus hanging from her nose. The only thing I don’t like is that the girl seems to have brought a friend. I do not like her friend, they are way too close to her and I cannot see their body. Their neck is too long and their skin is pale and pox-marked and leathery. They’re so close to her that their rusty-coloured, wide-brimmed hat keeps on bumping into her temple and I can tell she’s getting annoyed but she can’t say anything because of the golden dust that comes out every time she opens her mouth. But most of all I don’t like that her friend keeps on whispering to her like I can’t hear them speak! Even though they have no mouth or face or eyes and were audacious enough to make no secret of it. But I could hear them asking-

What? Finish the story? No, no you’re right. I’m sorry. It’s almost done.

It was on the fourth step that I fell through and fell hard and I would have screamed but the parts of me that sang for fear for my life had already left me, even at that point. There was a splatter of filthy water and I remember being startled at how warm it was and how much that had comforted me. I don’t think I was laying down for long… I know I sat up and leaned my back against the wall. I think it had hurt, at first, and then it did not. I think something broke when I fell – something other than the stairs – and I think that something might have even been part of me… once.

And then I was with you and the nice, pretty, blurry girl and I think that that about brings us to the present.

I know you think I can’t hear you when you whisper to her. But I hear your voice, clear as the hairs that are pushing their way out of my scalp and dripping down into my ears. I can hear you tell her that eyes are not for seeing, they are for tasting. I can hear you tell her that the coarseness of my mouth is perfectly sensible, even if she doesn’t like it. After all, why should we need a mouth to have a voice? You don’t have a mouth, but you have a voice. You say a lot of things when you think you’re not talking. I heard you tell her that she’s beautiful and that neither of us are ever alone. That we are homes, not houses… that a house can be empty but a home is always a home so I could never be an I in it. That everyone is a beautiful place to belong when you cut out the pretense of self and deny the lonesome lie that any of us are anything other than a warm, moist, habitat for the trillions of tiny things that would see us used and call us a home.