The road leads through the forest to the house. The fog of the early morning casting a shroud of mystery over the forest. The first few trees clearly visible, those behind quickly hidden by the thick mist. That said, the curves in the road were better at obscuring sight. A short walk, no more than 20 minutes later and I completely lost track of the houses, driveways, crossings and just the rest of the corners. It was early and it would take some time for the fog to disappear. I simply went on, the fog was a common occurrence throughout the autumn.
It must have been about 8 in the morning when we got to the house. The sun's light diffused, it was impossible to distinguish North from South. The wide gate and large clearing gave it away, this is where I was told to be. The rest of the house and garden was hidden away behind grey concrete bricks shaped in a large concave curve. A large solid oak gate hid the garden, a large door suggested an entrance to the house. The brick part of the wall must have been 3 meters tall, the house was given away when the bricks stopped and wooden panels took over, extending the house another 3 meters up. Small long windows extended throughout a large part of the brick wall where the house would be. The house only sparingly showed hints of its insides. The walls are white, ceilings too. On occasion pine and oak furniture gave any hint of color.
I would have knocked on the door, but it opened before I could. A tall man opened the door, wearing a heavy coat, scarf and a knitted cap. "Come on in, it's not that warm in here yet, I just got here myself, but I'm glad you could come." I nodded kindly and stepped in, the lights were out and in the distance I could hear the wood crackle. There was a thick smell in the air, damp or moist. It was a very familiar smell. While it's usually a bad smell, there was a nostalgic familiarity to it. It's the way abandoned buildings smell, it's what desolation here smells like, when the smell of living transitions to the smell of rot. When a building's occupants simply left and closed the door behind them.
While there's a definite homeliness to the smell, it's in the wood and the furniture. It's in the fabrics and clothes. It's the damp that makes the carpets feel just slightly damp, it's what pulls and pushes on the wood. As the fire works hard to heat the house the smell intensifies at first and then as everything heats up, the woods creaking, the air dries and the smell fades. It makes way for the smell of the logs burning. The heat still feels far away, but the comfort of smelling the burning wood is a kind distraction.
The house is large, we saw the smaller face from outside, the house itself extends much further away, one story up, one story down. Hallways and rooms, enough to confuse any visitor. A large corridor hugs the side of the house, like a spine connecting the front door through the various rooms. At the end of the corridor a window looking deeper into the forest, it makes the corridor seem endless. On the outside wall again the short long windows, each a distinct view to peek into the forest. The walls are covered in fine stucco and painted white. On occasion a painting adorned the walls, breaking the space. Step by step I move to the back. Each room in a way has their own dynamic. Each room has different light from outside.
I pass a large living area, the wood burns. For a moment I freeze, fixating on the fire. I snap out of it and continue. The first room, a bathroom, useless without lights. The second room is a bedroom. A minimalistic pine tree bed frame, a white matras, bags and some oak furniture. The second room is also a bedroom, again featuring a minimalistic pine tree bed frame, a white matras and some oak furniture. I put down my bags and watch outside, the entire garden wall just glass. A small grass field and beyond it more forest.
The hallway extends further, though as I walk towards the end the forest beckons me, my gaze glued to the window at the end. I wonder who lived here, their lavish lifestyles that allowed this and what moved them to leave afterwards. I'm mostly just left with questions, any real personal belongings have been abandoned, but the rest remains. As to what happened to them, they must have left in a hurry.
I return to the living area. The allure of the open fire. I gaze into it deeply and watch the flames dance around each other. The subtle pulsation of the glowing wood mesmerizing, pulling away my consciousness into a dream. For a moment I resist, or at least try to, but I surrender and the fire pulls me in. I hear people laughing and talking. At least I think they talk. It's all a blur. The fire roars and to my right I watch outside and see darkness of the night. Lights are on and the mood is set. It's a small party. I see shapes of people as they talk to one person, their shape shifts and a moment later they stand somewhere else talking to someone else. I can hear the decadence in their conversation, although I can't make out a single word. I see the slender shapes of young and attractive people in animated conversations. The moment shifts and the conversations die down, from 10 people standing, most now sit, the conversations cluster and calm down.
Now only a few people talk anymore, still animated, where they got their energy I couldn't guess, but it either has to be some kind of aid or simply the adrenaline of the moment. It must be deep in the night. Their conversations focus, a constant murmur. The night continues and when I look outside, the sun appears to rise again. The party has gone through the night. Some people have left and some are just draped over furniture, sleeping. Some are draped over each other. Yet the fire still roars when all of a sudden I inhale deeply, as though I just now found my lungs even exist. I still just see the fire roaring, the fog has lifted and the sun has more or less broken through. The house feels much warmer and I start to feel hungry.
"Have we thought about lunch yet?" I ask the tall man. "Euhm yeah, sorry, we didn't really know what to expect. But I figured you'll need some time here, we have the house for a week, I'll be taking care of the household issues. You try your best to get to the bottom of what happened here. I cleaned the kitchen and there's a couple of sandwiches waiting for you." I reply relieved, "Ah that's great, thank you. Just a word of warning though, I'm very new to this too. So I'm happy to help however I can, I'm not sure what I can come up with." Grabbing my sandwich I return to the room I left my stuff, I recline in the chair and take out my notebook. "A long party at night…"