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  • Writer's pictureNatash Cox

Short Story: The Cottage

I return not long after the storm had passed. Ash still hung in the air, dust covering the once white snow. The cottage looks different now; hollow and fading. As though the storm took with it more than just the physical. I walk across its threshold for perhaps the first time. I had entered this cottage before, but never truly explored it. The place was a shell of what it was; the warm hearth shattered, soot covering every surface, leaving footprints where I tread.

‘I did this,’ is all that floods my mind in this dry, cracking home. ‘I could have prevented this. I could have made it sturdier or been here when the storm hit.’

But hindsight is often cruel in that regard; it never tells you that you did the right thing. As I look around at my home, I think it more resembles a grave. A true silence fills the air, along with the smell of dirt. I find peace in these sorts of graves. Like the dead are sitting quietly with me– reminding me of the calm in silence, reminding me of what beauty can be found in pain.

I curl up by the fireplace – the place we dreamed to be, but I could never be found. I lay there, tears soaking into the dehydrated floorboards. Watering a dead plant, hopeful my presence could bring it back.

I lay there for what felt like lifetimes – the lifetimes we never got to live. And I weep, hard. I drain my body of pain. I scream into the flaking pillows. I smash the nearby lampshade. I shake in pain so much that the dust is lifted off the cottage. The cottage becomes my pain, pulsing with my aches. It becomes a temple to my suffering; of all I lost in the pursuit of more, of freedom, of peace. But what is freedom if my home is broken, my life gone. The heavens open one last time and they pour down rain so calm yet so mighty. It seeps into the walls and down the chimney, and pools up through the foundations. It washes away the dust, dirt, and remaining household items until the house is hollow. It cannot undo the damage, but I soak in the rain for just a moment. Praying to myself, praying for the strength to live on.

And I realise in the silence, in the calm, that I miss a home I never entered, I miss a life I never lived, I miss a person whose heart was never mine to have.

And the cottage door closes behind me and I am left inside, destined to become the cottage. Destined to grow in time. Like watering a dying plant, I at least have to try.

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