SIXTY-NINE, 2.0

Halligan walked slowly through the farmhouse, admiring the various portraits on the wall and the fine wood furniture. When they reached the sitting room, he looked up, noticed the stars above, and said, “Why don’t you have a roof?”

Mr. Seaver said, “Sit, won’t you? We’ll tell you everything you want to know.”

Halligan sat, continuing to stare at the night sky, the gorgeous view oddly juxtaposed against the roof of the home. The stars looked brighter here, and he appreciated how far they were from the city. He’d grown up on a farmhouse, much like this one, and was experiencing flashes of childhood — night fires, throwing various tree branches into the fire and waiting to decipher each individual scent.

Mrs. Seaver brought over a glass of brandy, for which Halligan was grateful. He sipped, washing away the sudden anxiety he felt when he looked away from the stars to the rest of the house. The wood finishes were smooth and glowing yellow from the fireplace, and Mr. Seaver’s grin held a pointed, devilish quality, with shadows seeping at the corners of his lips.

“Now, Mr. Halligan, have you come to stare and admire, or do you wish to know more about our home?”

“Oh, I’d like to know everything there is to know. My editor insists on it.” Halligan pulled out his notepad, welcoming the shift to the professional tone. “I understand your home has quite a history, but I wonder first about your curious driveway, which is quite lengthy, and a road of grass. My question, then, is how do you know where to go?”

“We’re country folk, always have been, and we’ve lived here long enough that we know all about our property.”

“Well, I myself grew up on a farm, you see, but this road, the one that leads to your driveway, well…it’s odd, I think, in that it seems to…how shall I put this…” Halligan squirmed in his seat, unsure how to articulate.

Fortunately, Mr. Seaver, with his smile widening, picked it up. “It disappears behind you. The grass, it is extraordinarily springy, for lack of a better word. Oh, you could stand on a patch of grass for an hour, and the moment you step away it would spring right back up, as though you were never there.”

“Right,” Halligan took a sip of the brandy. “Tell me, you’ve lived here all of your life, how did you and Mrs. Seaver, how did you two meet?”

“As any couples do: same place, right time. Edna?”

Mrs. Seaver’s lips did not smile, but one end curled up in distaste. “My father almost bought this land. I met Leo at the first meeting to discuss the sale, and it was love at first sight, I suppose, that and anything to prevent my father’s brutal land grabs is fine with me.”

“So it’s a marriage of, well, business?”

Edna spoke before her husband could get out a word, “Yes, completely. That is, it was, until I moved in here.” She looked at the sky admirably, through the hole above them where a ceiling and a roof would normally sit.

Halligan cleared his throat, then said, “Yes…it is quite charming. What can you tell me about the architect?”

“My father,” said Mr. Seaver, “was no architect. He happened up on this plot when he was twenty-four, and looked up and saw the sky as potential. It’s a reminder of the possibilities. He built every wall with his own two hands, and everything inside it he gathered from his travels. He journeyed very far, had many experiences on this world and others.”

Halligan sipped his brandy, ignoring, for the moment, the odd phrasing. “Don’t you get cold?” He looked around again. The statues in the far corners were mostly in shadow, but did indeed have a unique, other-wordly feel to their appearance.  The table between he and the Seavers was a light metallic grey, but a light seemed to flow inside the translucent table legs.

He realized that he was sweating, and attributed it to the fire.

“Never cold, never hot, we’re always in an ideal state,” said Mr. Seaver. “There’s a  deal we made, when we were married, to never live beyond or below our means. We produce just enough to make ends meet, and give enough to the Gods to satisfy them, and we –”

“Sorry,” Halligan held up his hand, his pen trembling in his fingers, “you said, ‘Gods’? Can you clarify that?”

Mrs. Seaver smiled, and for the first time the shadows on her face cast by the flames added a horrific appearance to her lips. “The Gods who watch over us all. You must know them, Mr. Halligan. You’ve been talking to us under their gaze for some time.”

Halligan looked up again at the starry night sky.

“You might call them stars, I suppose, but they’re there, watching us, protecting us, and above all else, allowing us to serve.”

Halligan finished his brandy, unsure what to ask next. He excused himself to the bathroom, and was disappointed to hear that the outhouse was the only bathroom on the property.

Outside, he suddenly felt afraid of entering the outhouse, approaching with trepidation and staring at the half-moon carved on the door. He looked back at the farmhouse, and the sky above it. Swirling out of the rooftop, unnoticeable on his approach earlier, was the shape of a laughing face. It was lit from below, and seemed to be smiling and moving among the falling snow.

Halligan blinked, and it was gone.

Moments later, so was he, driving as far and as fast as he could. He managed to find his way back to the main road, and before he drove off he took a look behind him. The grass had seemed to grow in over the dirt path, and as he looked back tree branches leaned in, blocking the entry altogether.

The Seavers were never heard from again, and any research into their past was also lost, as Halligan discovered in the library the next day. By the time he reached his editor’s office the following Monday, he’d already written and article about worship in the heartland, forgetting where he’d placed his notes.

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