The Tree House

Moving day was always a nightmare, no matter how many times I’d gone through it. New state, new town, new house, but it was always the same. Four walls and a roof, as my Dad would always say. This particular house did not stand out in a crowd, a white ranch with light blue shutters and a white door. The yard wasn’t a sight to be held, either — unless you can consider an unkept lawn and a few overgrown rose bushes lining the drive a welcoming sign.

I was always the first one in the new house, it was the only family tradition we had. Dad would unlock the door and step back, allowing me to go inside and get a feel for our new surroundings. As I stepped inside, a cool draft sent shivers down my spine. “Did you already turn the electric on, Dad?”

“No, honey. But the realtor said it has always had a bit of a draft!” He shuddered as he spoke, stepping in behind me. “Not to worry, it will be great on these hot summer days!”

I’m not sure if he forgot that it was 90 degrees outside, or if he was in denial, but a ‘draft’ has no business being that cold in a day like today.

I shrugged it off and took a look around the new “home”. The kitchen was drab, mostly white with a stained, yellow fridge. It smelled like an ashtray. Everything in it had a layer of grime that I could only guess meant the last owners were heavy smokers. The kitchen and dining room were the same, white with a slightly yellow hue.

Down the hall were three bedrooms, all roughly the same size, the only difference being the view from the window. I chose the farthest from the main area. It overlooked the lone tree in the backyard, housing a small, yet sturdy, looking treehouse.

We spent two days cleaning the layers of grime off the walls and putting the house together before finally having done enough to relax. Sure, we still had a ton of boxes, but they could wait. Throughout the entire two days, the treehouse continuously caught my attention. I would find myself staring at it, imagining the children who used to play there. I pictured a man and his son, laboring each weekend until they finally finished and stood back to admire their work.

Curiosity won, the moment I stepped out from the kitchen to the back yard. A small path I hadn’t noticed had been made from the porch steps to the tree ladder. A few stones placed carefully, carved an awkward, albeit charming pathway to the tree. I didn’t worry about how long the planks had been nailed the to tree when I started to climb, I was determined to get inside. Twelve steps up, my eyes finally made it above floor level. I stopped climbing as quickly as my heart dropped into my stomach.

Bones, bare bones with shreds of old clothes sat resting against the far wall. The mouth of a small child gaping open with no muscles to hold it shut, seemed almost happy to have company. I gasped and lost my footing, falling down to the stone path below.