To 2015 - 2016
The Unfinished House

By Molly Friedel

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    By Sneha Iyer, 12
  
The flower is dead.
 
X
 
They say that no one lives in the unfinished house on the corner of 6th and 60th Street. That the rustles and shadows are squirrels and stray cats, or perhaps simply tricks of the imagination. That all the whispered stories are made up, ruses to scare
children into obeying their parents.
 
Of course these rumors are all very true. Living in the unfinished house is impossible. Construction had halted three years ago after funds had fallen through, and the project was never picked up again. The unfinished house was left to rot.
 
They say that the builders did however install running water before the project was completely deserted. When the neighborhood children get bored, they dare each other to go inside the unfinished house and turn on the faucet in the sink in the half established kitchen.
 
The dare is a joke; it's silently but universally understood. No one would go inside the unfinished house.
           
They say that if you walk by the house at night and listen closely, you can hear a child crying.
           
Screaming and crying.
 
X
           
Newspapers burn as easily as wood. After all, isn't that what they really are? Pieces of wood, sliced ever so thinly, and painted with lies.
 
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"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
           
1 John 1:8
 
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Flowers are never truly alive.
           
They are dead. They aren't "will be dead" and they aren't "was dead." They are "dead." It is a state of being.
           
That is why they are placed on gravestones.
 
X
           
The ladies gossip about the unfinished house.
           
They have nothing better to do.
           
Except perhaps read the newspaper.
 
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Across the street from the unfinished house is a barbershop.
           
The barbershop is rarely used. The owner lives above it. His two children live below it. They were going to move into the unfinished house.
           
But, construction had halted three years ago after funds had fallen through, and the project was never picked up again. The unfinished house was left to rot.
 
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The dare is a joke.
 
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Words themselves burn far easier than newspapers. They scald; they brand. They melt and disfigure.
           
Newspaper becomes ashes. Wood becomes coals.
           
Words become torches.
           
They do not burn in passive voice.
 
X
           
Wilhelm Jacob was the manager of the building of the unfinished house. He was an accomplished man. Or so he said.
           
He had graduated from a small college in 2002 with a degree in both architecture and philosophy, and had since started his own architectural company, written three books, and been divorced twice.
           
Very accomplished, crowed the newspapers.
           
Very accomplished, echoed the ladies.
           
The unfinished house was going to be Jacob's most magnificent work yet. It would be a sleek yet cozy building. Three stories. Two chimneys. White shutters and a red door.
 
Flower boxes. Flowers everywhere.
           
The inside would be just as lovely. Oak floorboards and marble counters. Winding staircases. High ceilings.
           
Magnificent.
 
X
           
When the neighborhood children get bored, they like to play with fire. Practicing.
 
Tossing around flames with ease and honing their accuracy.
           
The barbershop children are weak. They aren't good with fire. They are easy targets.
           
Just kidding is only a Band-Aid.
 
X
           
Humans like to believe that they are special.
           
They maintain a constant haughty air and an attitude of snobbery, looking down upon everything else. They alone can wield fire. They alone can burn. They alone can create. They alone can destroy.
           
They are powerful.
           
In their minds.
           
Humans are more like flowers than they'd like to believe.
           
Truly, they are dead.
           
Dead and filled with lies.
 
X
           
The dare is a joke; it's silently but universally understood.
 
X
           
The barbershop has been painted white six times in the past three years. The store itself is made from old wood, and the paint doesn't stick very well. It peels easily.
           
When the neighborhood children are bored, they pick at it. They lazily uncover the redwood beneath. They snicker at the barbershop owner when he comes out shouting and gesturing wildly with a small pair of scissors. They pick at the paint some more.
           
The owner's children watch solemnly from below.
 
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Wilhelm Jacob has never been poor in his entire life.
 
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The ladies gossip about the unfinished house.
           
They gossip about the rustles and the shadows and the crying child.
           
Some believe the crying child is a hoax performed by one of the neighborhood children.
           
Some believe the crying child is real, however they dare not go to check.
           
Some believe the crying child doesn't even exist.
           
It is of no matter.
           
It's only gossip.
 
X
           
When the neighborhood children get bored, they dare each other to go inside the unfinished house and turn on the faucet in the sink in the half established kitchen.
 
X
           
The unfinished house has one flower.
           
It can only be seen if standing on the porch, directly in front of the door.
           
If you tilt your head slightly and look to the left, you will see it.
           
The flower is dead.
 
X
           
The dare is a joke; it's silently but universally understood. No one would go inside the unfinished house.
 
X
           
The damage from a torch is irreparable.
 
X
           
Jacob finished the first room of the unfinished house. Three years ago it had been nice, but had become overgrown since with shrubbery and weeds. A rat scuttles across the floor.
           
There are stairs in the first room, but they lead to nowhere. The second floor was never built, and so the stairs simply end.
           
Jacob finished the second room, too. It is the dining room. The ceiling is high and a faded white. Splotchy, abstract flowers are painted on the wall. They are a vibrant red.
           
The project was cancelled halfway through the third room, the kitchen. When the neighborhood children get bored, they dare each other to go inside the unfinished house and turn on the faucet in the sink in the half established kitchen.
 
X
           
The barbershop is only open on Sundays and only available via appointment.
           
People leave the barbershop changed.
           
Different cuts.
           
Different colors.
           
Different.
           
The owner's child watches from below.
 
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Perhaps human haughtiness is only a mask for human craving.
           
Craving for acceptance.
 
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No one would go inside the unfinished house.
 
X
           
The faucet in the kitchen inside the unfinished house is made from stainless steel.
           
However, it is rusted.
           
Red and orange spreads like a disease, consuming silver with eager haste.
           
The knobs to turn on the faucet are small and rectangular. The left one has been broken off. It lies lifelessly on the counter.
           
The right one, however, is still attached. Once twisted, the faucet offers cold water.
           
Once twisted, the unfinished house offers a sickly sweet peace.
           
Once twisted, forever trapped.
 
X
           
They say water can put out fire.
           
This is true.
           
On the other hand, it does nothing for burns.
 
X
           
The new edition for the newspaper comes out every Thursday.
           
In the past twelve years, the unfinished house has only been mentioned twice.
           
The first time was when Jacob first took on the project.
           
It will be magnificent, crowed the newspaper.
           
It will be magnificent, echoed the ladies.
           
The last time was when the project was cancelled.
           
Funds had fallen through, crowed the newspapers.
           
Funds had fallen through, echoed the ladies.
           
That was all.
           
That was all the ladies needed.
           
They were aesthetically pleased by lies.
 
X
           
The barbershop owner has never been poor in his entire life.
 
X
           
When the neighborhood children get bored, they place a flower on the grave.
           
So sad, crowed the newspapers.
           
So sad, echoed the ladies.
           
The grave is empty; the body was never found.
           
No one would go in the unfinished house.
 
X
           
They say that if you walk by the unfinished house at night and listen closely, you can hear a child crying.
           
Screaming and crying.
 
X
           
The dare was a joke.
 
X
           
The barbershop will get repainted this week. On Tuesday will be the anniversary of three years since work on the unfinished house came to a stop. And so the barbershop will get repainted.
           
The owner is painting the barbershop white again. This time, he has decided to hire an official company to do the job instead of attempting it himself.
           
They say it will only take about six hours. They will come on Tuesday. They will leave on Tuesday.
           
The owner's child will watch from below.
 
X
           
They say that no one lives in the unfinished house on the corner of 6th and 60th Street. That the rustles and shadows are squirrels and stray cats, or perhaps simply tricks of the imagination. That all the whispered stories are made up, ruses to scare children into obeying their parents.
           
Of course these rumors are all very true. Living in the unfinished house is impossible. Construction had halted three years ago after funds had fallen through, and the project was never picked up again. The unfinished house was left to rot.
 
X
           
The flower is dead.
  
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