Monday, May 23, 2011

The dark side of a vacant house

Photo: This scene is near Houston, Texas, but the atmosphere reminds me of Knicely's house.

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In rural Alberta, a vacant house opposite our farm belonged to our neighbours, the Knicelys. I wasn't sure why they left, but thought it was because the place was spooky. The front and side walls, clad in faded and weather-beaten shingles, were visible from the road.

The back wall, unseen from the road, was a very dark brown. For some reason, its wooden boards never faded, in spite of bleaching sun, drifting snow and powerful prairie winds.

I felt drawn to this dark wall, but I was feared it. Every once in a while, we three kids would go over for a quick heart-in-the-mouth peek. Holding our breath, my brother and I followed our older sister through the overgrown grass, took one look and ran.

We kept our distance from that dark face with its single high window, and never went there alone. Perhaps we needed to share our sense of guilt about trespassing.

The mind works in mysterious ways. Rationally, I knew that house was perfectly innocuous, and that wall was no different from the others. For reasons I still can't explain, I loved being spooked by that dark wall.

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