It dates back to a time before you were born, believe me, I know. We shall start and end our tale in the year of 1867, that is how I know it was before you were born. Claudia was just recently overcame by a wave of curiosity of her father, and the only reason, that she knew was he was a person was because she knew it took two people to made one child. Simple as that.
Claudia had never asked or even mentioned about where her father went, because it was too risky to ask her mother. Her mother was always outside, sweeping the front walkway of the mansion. It was a long walkway, but never short enough for her mother to clean it for the hours she did. Claudia feared her mother.
But it happened every day. Everyday, when Claudia went out to see if mother was alive, her mother would notice. Now this may not sound odd to you, but a peek out the window, she would notice. Peering from the top window upstairs, her mother would look up and wave pleasantly like it was completely normal. Claudia’s mother would beckon her down and ask the same thing, “Claudia, could you help me sweep the walkway?” and everyday Claudia would say no to her offer.
And this had been happening for years before Claudia could remember. She would sit alone in her bed beside the window, and listen to the gentle sound of the old broom on bricks…
So the only thing Claudia had been taught (that she could remember) was how to properly sweep with the broom. Nothing else, the rest she had learned in school, but she was not allowed to go anymore, her mother would not let her.
Claudia would stay locked up in her home all day with absolutely nothing to do. There was never anything new in her home, no fresh food except for the corn and tomatoes, “Pity food,” as Claudia would call it.
So on a good day, she would see a shadow pass by on the wall, in her many hours a day staring at random household objects. Paintings and books (for she had read all of the books in her house many times), furniture and floors, but never windows, no, never windows. She had learned that lesson.
Claudia lived in a gothic house, on a lonely road off a bridge. She and her mother lived near to other families, one family owned a gothic house, similar to Claudia’s, but grew vegetables and raised livestock in the back. They had a perfect family, that Claudia envied, the mother and father had been happily married for thirty years, and they had five children, two girls and three boys, in which all of them were around her age. When she was little, she asked them several times if she could be apart of their family, they graciously declined, be sent her home with a bag of veggies, and a porcelain doll that one of the children stopped using.
But it, of course, would not be a very interesting story without Claudia saying, “Yes,” to her mother at least once,now, would it?
It was a breezy October day when she decided to say yes. Claudia had planned this all out late at night (that’s when she thought the best), and here’s how she planned it out; Claudia would walk modestly and cluelessly outside of the house to get some fresh air. Her mother would ask her, “Claudia, could you help me sweep the walkway?” and she would reply, “Yes mother,” and proceed to sweep the walkway with her little broom. Claudia didn't quite know what was going to happen after that, but when she stopped she knew something would.
It was the morning, around six o’clock in the morning, and the growing anxiety overcame Claudia, and she couldn't wait any longer. Her stomach churned like the sea as she bursted out of her room, and ran downstairs, calming herself as she approached the front door and wandered out into the front lawn.
Her mother was on her knees weeping the path, in her usual attire, a black gown that ran past her ankles in billowing folds of silky fabric, which was no longer that silky, and the lace around her ankles was tattered and worn, as her mother was. She was once alive, and beautiful, full of joy and wonder, full of emotion and human. But the forces of obsession took over her mind and body, to a tidy walkway, and tattered lace.
“Claudia, would you help me sweep the walkway?”
“Yes, mother,” Claudia nervously took the hand broom from her mother, and got on her knees and began to sweep away and pebbles and dust. Cccchhh, cccchhhh, the sound of the bristles against stone made the hairs on the back of Claudia’s neck jump. Ccchhh, ccchhh, the walkway getting cleaner with every sound, like nails on a blackboard, ear piercing screeches from hell, oh God, how much longer could she take it? Claudia stood up, her nightgown had dirty ovals from where she was kneeling. She quickly looked around for her mother, to see her face to face directly behind her. She jumped back and screamed, her mother was stone faced.Claudi stumbled back in a panic (for she feared what was to come next). Claudia was on the ground, feeling as if she was overpowered by her mother, who was a small, but from different angles, she was a tyrant.
“Why aren’t you sweeping dear?” Claudia jammed the hand broom into her mother’s hand, and ran up to her room, shaking. She dove onto her bed, with her knees tucked into her chest. She leaned over to peer out her window, and her mother looked up. Claudia whipped the curtains shut, making the room dark, and keeping the room dark. Her jaw shivered violently. She grabbed one of the over stuffed throw pillows her mother had made her long before she was born. Long before she went insane. Claudia had never really considered her mother insane, until that morning.
After a brief nap, claudia woke up, and took off her gown to change into proper attire. She opened the bureau that was beside her bed changed, and went behind her door to get her cardigan. She swung the door casually, and screamed in absolute terror. Her shadowy mother was standing in the corner, holding the hand broom out to Claudia.
“Mother! Yuh-you, you’re in-” she interrupted herself with a scream, and her mother started to walk towards her. She screamed again, and sprung onto her bed in a panic.
“Why are you in here?” she screamed to her mother.
“I wanted to see if you could help me sweep the walkway,” her mother replied in a monotone voice. Claudia screamed back at her, “No, no mother I will not, I will never again, you have done nothing, nothing for me in over ten years, get out, get out of my room!” Silently, her mother turned out of the doorway, Claudia slamming it shut behind her. She listened to her mother’s shuffling feet down the hallway, until, there was nothing to listen to.
Claudia collapsed onto her bed, tears pooled in her eyes, then spilling over, and pooling again in her ears, but she never cried.
+ + + + +
She woke up the next morning, or so she thinks that, hoping for a better start to her morning. She peeked out her window, and her mother was on her knees in the corner of her walkway, the soft sound of bristles on stone echoed in her ears, they soon haunted her, day and night. Her mother looked up at her, and Claudia whipped the curtains closed. Claudia dressed herself, with no surprises, then laid in bed quietly, listening to the sound, cccchhhhh, ccchhh, for the rest of the day, thinking about what had happened to her, she had nothing better to do anyways, so why not question it? How, and why was she back behind her door? Why not in front of the door, like anyone with manner would know. Why not knock on my door, or maybe ask me at a different time of day, when I am ready? Why did she bring her broom with her? Why did this happen? What went through her mind? How long had she been there?
For years, she had done nothing with her life. Nothing. Why now? Why now did her mother give her something to think about. Why did Claudia ask now?
Nonetheless, it was over, the trauma was in the past, and she could now move on.
+ + + + +
A normal week went by, until the next. Claudia grew slightly ill, from the lack of sleep, and got pimples from stress. Claudia watched her every move, and always peeked behind curtains and doors before entering a room, except that one day, when it happened. Claudia went into the bathroom one evening to wash herself in the tub. Claudia carefully ran the bath, prepared a sponge and soap. Clearing the bathroom, and double checking every corner of the room, before undressing. Claudia slowly lowered herself into the cold water, the hairs on her body rising. Light from an opened window behind her made a calming environment in the room. After soaking, and getting used to the water temperature, she reached for the coral sponge her father had gotten her long ago. Taking the bar of soap, and lathering her arms, then scrubbing it into her skin, watching the bubbles foam on her, washing away the sweat and panic from the nights before. Claudia felt tears running down her wet cheeks into the bathwater. I am simply washing away the past through my eyes, I guess, Claudia thought, cleaning her legs.
“Claudia,” a voice said. She jumped and stood up, spilling water from the tub onto the floor, exposing her pale breasts to the voice, “Who is it?” she screamed out.
“It’s your mother, sweetie,” the voice responded, Claudia seeped down into the water until her chin rested on the surface. Claudia jerked her head around the room, scanning for her mother’s black skirt. She turned her body around, and saw her mother in the window.
“Mother! How-how’d you, there is nothing there. What are you standing on, what…” she stuttered to her mother, and her mother just smiled and said, “Claudia, could you help me sweep the walkway?”
“N-no, mother, no! How are you up the-there?” Her mother whisked the comment off her shoulder, and told her, “Okay, I’ll ask again soon, sweetie.” Sweetie? Claudia couldn’t remember the last time she was called that, if she was ever called that. Her mother was gone after that, and the sound of bristles on stone pierced her ears again. Carefully, she raised her body from the water, and peeked out the window with one eye. Her mother was down on the walkway sweeping, but what perplexed, and, terrified Claudia, was that there was nothing below.
+ + + + +
Claudia had been having nightmares after that. They were messy, out of control, and dark. Very dark. Screaming blurs, peppered with glowing eye, eyes from things that live under her bed. Hooded figure came up to her vision, and displayed teeth, and the teeth would morph into her sweat, and tears.
“Mommy!” she screamed, like a child, “Mother I need you,” she said through tears. They streamed down her plump cheeks. Claudia was afraid, and wanted her mother for the first time. She needed the comfort of warm arms around her, while she sniffled. She wanted to feel what it was like, to be with a mother who loved you, she was cold, and alone. Her only cure was her mother, but if she did this, Claudia would be haunted again, even though it wasn’t promised. She was never going to feel that feeling, love, and that was promised.
Claudia woke up that morning, with tear stained pillows and drool on her bottom lip. She wiped her face briskly, and sat up. Her vision went foggy for a moment, but she refocused. Claudia looked around for any signs of her mother. She felt very alone now, that was good.
As her senses adjusted, and the clear sound of her brooming outside. A cool breeze billowed her curtains from the pane. Today, was going to be better for her, she thought. And this is where it begins.
A beautiful day, sun was streaming from scattered clouds, it was cold, but Claudia thought of it as a pleasant cold, and she wanted to go outside, but her brain warned her mind.
You know that thats a bad idea!, Her brain told her, But today is good, and you are happy, the weather is treating you. Please, just this once, for a few minutes, or, hours, but no matter. Just, just this once. Her mind said. That was a very convincing argument. Claudia was in yesterday’s apparel,
So there was no need to change, but she did put on a thick cardigan. There was no time for shoes, so she put on her lambskin slipper, lined with wool. She couldn’t contain her glee. But why was she so happy? But that didn’t matter. She was alive! That was all, what else did she have to say. She raced to the door and flung it open (she was pretty sure she scratched the wood) and breathed in the crisp autumn air. It was cool and fresh,and the smell of orange leaves and rain filled her lungs. This was it. She was free. But there were no problems, which, was suspicious. Claudia just couldn’t put a finger on it at the time. This frustrated her, she had never been so care-free or worryless, it just wasn’t normal. A growing nervousness arouse in her stomach, and she felt the happiness slip away from her fingers, like soft silk that she couldn’t grip.
It wouldn’t last, she had already confirmed this. She had been confirmed this since the day she came to be, since the day two people had made one child, since the day hell was cast upon both of their poor, poor lives, as well as her own. Why, she was killing herself with her own life. Why not set herself free from this world, and do everyone around her a favor. The neighbors wouldn’t have to feed her anymore, her father could give two s***s about her, and her mother, well, her mother would probably live another hundred years, and sweep the walkway until she wore it down to dirt. Until she buried herself in hell with the devil. Deep within the fiery wrath of Satan’s hands, wrapped around her throat, finally separated her from her broom, the broom. It will be damned as well.
Why not find time to die.
+ + + + +
Claudia did not die. She continued, because the natural growing anxiety of death overtook her thoughts, and she survived, but barely enough.
More depression took over her life, and nervousness took over death, and she was between, not dead and not alive. Ears bleeding to the sound of the soft bristles on stone. She laid in her bed, and the sound became white noise. She stared at the ceiling, getting lost in the blank colour of it. Her eyes shifted when she heard her mother over the silence saying, “Claudia, could you help me sweep the walkway?”
There was no response. There was no acknowledgement, Claudia had barely processed it at all. There was no reason for her to. Her mother spoke again, “Claudia, dear, help me sweep the walkway,” and that was when Claudia jolted up. Her mother’s voice tripled, and her own vision rocked back and forth, colours overlapped and she began to sway. She scanned the room for her mother, and jumped when she saw the shadowy figure in the corner. She didn’t say anything. There was nothing to say.
“Claudia?” there was no response again, the only sound that was to be heard was one of silence, despair, and sorrow. Tears streamed down the side of Claudia’s face and into her ears, blurring all sound she wished not to hear.
Time passed, that’s all she knew. She didn’t know whether her mother was there or not (but did it matter?). She was finished. Finished with life, with herself, with her mother, with time, with her mind. She surprised herself, but consciously sat up, quite abruptly, and walked herself over to her window. She lifted the glass, and stared out onto the stones, where she heard the soft, Cccch, cccchhh, of the broom bristles on pavement, and then there was nothing.