I am here.
At least – I think what I did has worked. Perhaps.
The letter appeared when my back was turned, tossed on the floor, in the tangled sunlight of the windows in the greasy beige afternoon.
This is not a reflection on the quality of your letter. The afternoon is always beige, but the greasiness is new, a thick quality to the air that I imagine means that the house is listening. That or it will collapse on me like a cartoon house, walls and ceiling gliding silently in to crush me , though I know that is mechanically improbable.
I suppose that if the house tried a door would open in one of the walls. But I do not think, especially now, that the house means me any harm. I am almost certain, now, that it is lonely, not dangerous.
The house also is not mine. I came here through the attic door, but I think we are not in the same place, or perhaps time. For one thing, the house where I am being kept is not incomplete, though it is sparsely furnished and very desolate. It may be a shell, but it is not, I think, sick or broken. It was waiting.
Yours may, however, be in a similar state. If it is, I may have made a very important discovery for both of us. If it isn’t… I doubt my advice can do any harm.
I promise you that I am not a ghost. Your letter was written on the back of an application that I typed into the computer the first day it started working, which I was surprised to see again, in crisp black and white, and I did not find it under a floorboard.
A small confession: my name is not actually Anya. At least, not in this life, where no one has been around to tell me what name belongs to me. My name was Anya, several lives ago, and it was the first one that came to mind when I first faced the pen pal application and needed to assign a name to myself.
It is not a bad name. Yours is nice too. At the moment I am not sure that, if I remember anyone named Kiana, I am still capable of attaching the thoughts to the right sticker. I have rather a lot of memories to go through.
I must stop rambling. I assume that your house is something of an urgent matter. Mine has been perfectly fine while I wandered, ignorant and lost, between baseboard and window and wall, but yours may be in need of your help.
… At the moment I am not entirely certain how I achieved whatever I have just done, so I will explain.
I walked into the center of the front room, the place where the house, if it had a face, might keep its tongue or other organs of taste. I stood, staring at the front door, which I have never opened, and I swallowed down the hard shivering of my throat.
“Hello, house,” I said, “I am here.”
“I hear you,” I said.
“I want to know why you are keeping me here.”
There was no thunder or lightning but the afternoon light sharpened briefly, became louder and more attentive, banishing the lazy motes of dust that drift before the satisfied sunbeams. And then the air around me thickened, so heavy that it became hard and soupy in my lungs, before it thinned to a more gravy-like consistency.
Behind me, a letter appeared.
Since the letters from my other pen pal continue to deliver themselves, I assume this letter will reach you and return by the same mysterious process as the first. I have double spaced, since I assume you may need the paper.
Please tell me if talking to your house works for you.
If you’ll excuse me, I must go speak to the refrigerator.
Author's Note: This is a response to Kiana's Letter. These letters are part of the Pen Pal Project, so they won't make sense if you don't read both halves! A convenient masterpost of my letters and their recipients' responses is here.