Just as I left it. Devoid of change, seemingly immune from the ravages of time. An overgrown lawn. An infestation of weeds bursting through the cracks of the driveway. I’d expect these things, but they do not greet me.

My memory remains just as I left it. Still standing, firm against the backdrop of the trees. Side-by-side with its wood and cement and vinyl and glass brothers. A pretty box on a pretty street just like all the others, only left to ruin in my abandonment.

The neighbors have mowed the lawn. Have gathered my mail. Have plucked the weeds from my garden. Not because I asked, but because they prefer things remain as they were. Clean. Tidy. Comfortable.

Unremarkable.

I enter my code. 1793. The front door unlocks, and with a single step I cross the threshold, back to the place I once called home.

But something has changed. Something beyond the stink of rotten garbage and moldy carpet. Something about the way this place holds me. What once was a glove is now nothing more than a torn sack, hanging loose against the form I now refer to as self. Surrounding me, performing an echo of its former duty, but unable to stretch and wrap around me in a protective embrace.

Why I’ve decided to return, I can no longer recall. Yet something tells me I’ve followed the correct path in coming here. For where else would I have gone, other than the place where my feet took me? I did not choose this path, but I must follow it.

I place the package I acquired along my journey onto the coffee table, facing the dead black of the powered-off television and retreat to the kitchen. Clangs and bangs form a raucous symphony as I sort through the cabinets, searching for the biggest pot I can find. I heft it to the sink and fill it with water. Place it on the stove, set it to boil, and go back to retrieve my package.

Hours later, as I wake from my slumber on the living room couch, the stink of rotted garbage has not disappeared, but has been covered by something sweeter. The thick steam of an earthy stew.

Marcy’s head will need several more hours in the pot until the skull is clean.

I can wait. I can sleep.

For I know dreams will not visit me whilst I slumber. Not this time.

Continue to Chapter Thirty-Five.