Free Short Story: The Untethered House

We were excited and anxious, or maybe we were anxiously excited, but either way, this was the first house we were purchasing as a couple. It signified a big step in our relationship and our lives. On the advice of our agent, we had the house inspected before finalizing the purchase, but, well, we passed on some of the steps because they didn’t seem necessary. I mean, everything looked fine.

We should have known better.

Yes, we hired a professional to check the foundation, the plumbing, and the electrical wiring, not just for soundness but also for insecurity. The last thing anyone wants is a home that lacks confidence. We made sure there were no infestations of Dadaists in the attic (we were told that’s where they typically nest when writing manifestos) and we also had the house scanned for dentists, particularly orthodontists, who are almost impossible to get rid of once they’ve established themselves. We even had it checked for existential termites, the kind that eschew wood but keep you up all hours of the night by doubting your existence – even when you’re right there in front of them! It’s maddening.

So, when we woke up that first morning after moving in, we were quite surprised to find our beautiful backyard view of the woods was gone and we were now looking out on a strip-mining operation. We attempted to put an optimistic spin on the change, telling ourselves it was probably just the house getting used to its new owners and we’d be back at our original address the next day.

We decided to simply go about our business. We painted one of the bedrooms – post-apocalypse blue, it’s all the rage. We even attempted our first barbecue on the deck, but with all the strip-mine phosphates in the air, we had to call it off. There’s a limit to how much thyme and rosemary you can put on chicken to cover up the taste of variscite.

That night we went to bed tired but hopeful we’d wake up in our original neighborhood. Our situation only became more precarious as the next morning we found ourselves suspended several hundred feet over a scientific outpost in Antarctica. How did we know it was Antarctica? The emperor penguins tipped us off. How did we know they were emperor penguins? Because of all the coronation ceremonies.

We wrote a note, rolled it up, tied it to one of those little Hummel statues – I think it was “Girl with a Deringer Hunting Sheep” – and dropped it out the front door so someone from the outpost could let our families know we were okay. Cell phone service was really spotty at our altitude.

Knowing our families would be informed, we opened up a bottle of Chateau de Micky Dolenz, my partner’s favorite – it had hints of boysenberry, newsprint, and innocence – and discussed our situation. We both agreed we should have asked more questions of our realtor, especially when she commented that the neighborhood we were looking at was “on the move.” You know how it is though, you see and hear what you want to see and hear. We needed to contemplate our next move, figuratively and literally.

First, we came to grips with reality. We were the owners of a dimensionally unstable house. It’s not completely unheard of, but it is rare. It usually occurs when a house, which given its stationary nature, is unduly influenced by owners with a high concentration of nomadic DNA. Some houses are just more sensitive than others. My partner had Phoenician ancestors and I came from a long line of furniture movers, so we fit the bill.

Faced with our new situation, we determined we had two choices. We could relist the house which would require full disclosure, so we’d end up selling at a loss. Or keep it and have our dwelling desensitized by a gravity druid, which wasn’t always guaranteed to work, as it depended largely on the house’s receptivity. But which to choose?

We decided to make a list of pluses and minuses. On the plus side, if we kept the house and it remained dimensionally unanchored, we’d never have to deal with surprise visits from in-laws. We could also earn some extra income by listing our home on WhoKnowsWhere BNB. On the minus side, mail delivery would be inconsistent at best, our daily commute could last weeks, and throwing a party was out of the question unless it had a scavenger hunt theme.

Our debate went on for several days as we found ourselves waking up in different locales each morning. Once we found ourselves in the savannah, surrounded by thousands of migrating accountants. We let them pass through the living room while we hid upstairs. We didn’t want to risk an audit.

The next day, we seemed to be in the middle of a town square, which at first seemed benign, until we discovered it was the day of the annual hippogriff celebration, which naturally included a parade. And guess where the staging area was? Yep, right where we were. That was preferable to what happened the following day. We were precariously balanced on a ledge on K2. Lucky for us, the local sherpas offered to share their oxygen in exchange for some tea and crullers.

As much as we enjoyed the travel, the situation was becoming untenable. We had both taken a week away from our jobs to work on the new house, but our time off was coming to a close. We had to get back to our routine, one way or another.

We think the house must have sensed our anxiety because something changed.

Each and every weekday morning the house now materializes quite close to where we each work, usually in an open lot or atop a parking garage. We have breakfast, leave for the day, after which it vanishes until it’s time to pick us up at the end of the day.

Each evening, we and our newly responsive house return to our original address. But the weekends? Well, our weekend destinations are always something special.

The relationship with our house is so good now, we can leave a list of things to do on our refrigerator door and the house will materialize in the backyards of whichever contractors we need for the job. It’s come in very handy so far, especially when something unexpected happens, like the day we found a litter of hippogriffs in the broom closet.

Now, whenever we talk to anyone who’s thinking about purchasing a home, we tell them all about the three most important real estate considerations to keep in mind: dislocation, dislocation, dislocation.

About the Author: Rob Roy O’Keefe is the author of Small Stories: A Perfectly Absurd Novel.


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