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Lights Out

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

By Lily Peavey

Lonely is the house sitting on the old windy hill. Drab and dull, blending into the dreary gray backdrop of an always darkened sky dressed forever in clouds threatening rainfall, but never weeping onto the dry grass below. Overgrown and wild, tangles of shrubs spring from the ground, leaching the soil of its riches, leaving the perpetrators themselves to shrivel up into dead plants and disappear under heaps of dead trees and brown grass. Alone stands a single willow, its leaves long gone, danced away on the unending winds until the skeleton of a once-majestic beauty is all that is left. Limp twigs once adorned with green now are bare and fragile, swishing in the breeze. On the edge of the willow is the lake, a murky thing with a rotted log sticking out from the layer of muck settled on the water’s surface where a lone bird occasionally perches to rest on its journey far, far away from the lonely home.

The house itself is less a house than a mansion. Rather, a dark manor with foreboding towers settled comfortably in the middle of the expanse of property. It was intimidating, warding off all stragglers who may have once hunted for safety within its massive halls. But now, seemingly haunted, it lay wholly abandoned and uncared for. Its exterior is blocked by moss and greenery sinking between the stones of the foundation, seemingly sprouting out of the manor itself. Inside is worse. The darkness and dampness of the interior is amplified by the constant gray skies and the grass covering some of the windows, preventing the rare spots of sunlight from slipping through the few unbroken windows.

Inside, however, the manor remains furnished but instead of velvet cushions adorned with silk tassels and shining gold furniture, it remains with only moth-eaten fabrics and pillows and wooden furniture with cobwebs and dust clinging to it. Chipped paint and shattered glass decorate the once-majestic building now, having been plundered by thieves in the weeks after its youth vanished. What they could not take was laid to ruins, leaving it to time to do its worst.

A fallen chandelier lies in the center of a great ballroom, too heavy to steal but too valuable to not try to take. The floorboards beneath it ache with the strain of keeping it above the floor below for so many years, and tiny cracks have begun to splinter the wood, a sign of its age. The entire manor is collapsing, slowly but surely. It collapses under the weight of its history, its legacy, its sheer age and the disappearance of its youth. The chandelier, the ballroom, the beauty of the manor once drew people from far and wide to attend.

They came for the parties, but stayed for Dahlia. The lavish parties, thrown almost every weekend in her honor by her father, who adored her so. Women in shining gowns of shimmering blues and greens and pinks and silvers. Glittering, adorned with sparkling gems stitched into the seams in sharp designs without sleeves. Once-long hair cut short and styled with flowers and headbands. Men dressed sharply in tuxedos with bow ties, white flowers tucked in their lapels, offering dances to women or sipping champagne in the corner.

Every time, Dahlia would dance. Long brown hair, sparkling blue eyes, Dahlia was stunning. She was light in a darkened ballroom, twirling with various suitors throughout the night in dresses of pale silk and gems adorning her wrists, neck, and fingers. She exuded life. She was joy and sunshine, and she brought the foreboding manor on the hill from a dark and lonely place into a glowing landmark, envied by those around it. The riches may have built it, but Dahlia was the one who helped it grow. If not for Dahlia, then the mansion would have collapsed long ago.

But Dahlia could not stay youthful forever, no matter how much she attempted to. Her supple skin slowly grew calloused with age and work, the sparkle in her eyes dimmed until they turned from bright blue to a dull color. Still, Dahlia danced, yearning for the joys of her younger years. She danced the nights away and swayed until the morning and until all the guests who had come for her were gone, and repeated the process over and over again as the years dragged on. Wrinkles set in after a long while as her hair became gray with age, her movements not as free and graceful as they had once been.

As Dahlia aged, so did the manor. Small fragments that had fallen apart and were once tended to with great care were left aside. Paint chipped and went unfixed, bulbs flickered but there seemed to be no rush to replace them, and the lights of the dance floor dimmed. Dimmed as she grew and her youth faded away to the point of no return. No longer did she dance in glamorous silks, and no longer were the parties thrown on every weekend.

As the gem of the countryside fell ever closer to inevitable death, her beloved home did the exact same. It creaked, crumbled under the weight of its own age. Lonelier did it become still, as the ones who attended to Dahlia and her manor left or passed away, the people at the bottom of the hill shunning it further still to remain in its squalor.

As she lay on her deathbed, the world seemed to still. The overgrown plants stopped their constant shivering in the icy winds, the boughs of the massive, dying willows ceased their creaking as Dahlia waited for the life after life.

The silence unbearable, the few who still remained by her side already mourning the inevitable loss. And she inhaled her last breath in and breathed out for a final time. Her spirit floated along the winds, escaping her body that tied her to the ground, to the manor. She closed her eyes, a blink far too long to still have a beating heart, her breathing stilled, limbs becoming limps against the silk cloth of her bed.

As Dahlia died, the manor did as well. The chill seemed more fierce than it had ever been before, as if it too mourned the beauty it had lost. The manor, condemned to its eternal loneliness, accepted its fate. And, with a final grand flourish to regale its former glory, the lights went out.


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