Lauren Voaden

Once Harold had checked them in, and they’d located their room, the silence was finally broken.

“God, that musty smell is awful.”

Harold said nothing.

“Are we visiting the house before the funeral tomorrow?” Elisabeth asked, whilst peering suspiciously into a cheap white ceramic mug.

“I really can’t face the house today. It feels wrong to be snooping around before she’s even been buried.” Harold’s eyes stared into space.

“Well, it’s not like she’s going to care much now, is it?” Elisabeth said plainly. “We could just go and check what sort of state it’s in.” She stared at her husband’s dejected expression and changed her approach. “I mean, it might give you some closure and a chance to say goodbye to your mother before tomorrow.” She waited for his expression to soften. It didn’t.

“I can’t. It’s too soon. The last thing I feel like doing is walking around her old home. She’s not lived there in years, and I don’t want to imagine what condition it’s in. She loved that house.” The muscles around his mouth tightened, and he sniffed to clear his nose. “Besides, she’s left it all to me, and I know that can’t be right. She always said everything would be split evenly between my brother and me. I don’t want to even think about that house until I’ve had a chance to speak to him about it and see how he’d like to sort it.”

“You mean you’re going to see if he’d like to share the profits from the house?”

“Well, perhaps. He might even have something he’d like to use it for. He always loved that house; we both did. It’d be such a shame to have to sell it, so it’d be nice to think at least one of us was making the most of it. Maybe he’d even like to get the farm up and running again.”

“Harold, what are you talking about? It was left to you. It says so in black and white.”

“Maybe so, but I know it’s not what she wanted.”

Elisabeth’s face flushed a deep pink.

“For Christ’s sake, Harold. You’d be giving away an incredible opportunity for us. Why on Earth would you give that up so willingly? You’re not married to your brother. Think of everything the sale of that house could do for us. The amount of—”

“You’re expecting me to sell the house?” Harold interrupted.

“Well, you’re hardly going to give up your job to move back here and live in a poxy run-down farmhouse and farm sheep. Of course you’re going to sell it.”

“My job isn’t the be-all and end-all. It’s tiring, it’s stressful, and I’m getting older. Maybe I’d like to move back here and take things easier, be closer to our families.”

A heavy silence filled the room once more.

“You’d be a fool to share that house with your brother. And there’s no way in hell that I’ll ever move back here. I’d sooner the whole thing burned down than we moved into it. If those are the options you’re considering, then you’re on your own.” A hint of a smirk flashed across her face. Checkmate.

Harold looked down at the floor. He was backing down; she could feel it.

“I’m going out.”

“Where are you going?”

“For a walk, I don’t know, just somewhere that’s not here.”

With that, she flounced out of the hotel room, ignoring the downcast face that stared after her. Best leave him to stew.

Once she exited the hotel, she took a moment to decide her next move. She reached into her bag for her phone and decided to search for directions to the house. She knew it couldn’t be far away, and she might as well see it for herself. After all, that old building might signify the start of a whole new chapter — one where she didn’t need to rely on Harold. After reaching for some signal, she found the directions and headed out of the car park and down a small dirt track to the left of the main road. She let out a grunt of disgust as her shoes kicked up the dry dust that had settled on the ground, shading the pale pink fabric of her espadrilles a strange shade of beige. The ground was uneven and pitted, and, without careful consideration, sharp stones would poke through the thin soles and jab into the soft skin on the bottom of her feet. Staring down the track, she saw the sun beginning to set over a line of oak trees, turning the tips of the leaves a warm golden colour. After a fifteen-minute walk, the hedge to her left gave way to an old stone wall ravaged by dandelions, nettles and dock leaves. Her nose wrinkled at the disorder. Eventually, she reached a gate. It had been pried open, and the tangled mass of grass and reeds that had commandeered the ground beneath it had been ripped, their brown roots now protruding from the soil. The remnants of what looked to be paving slabs peeked out from beneath the onslaught of foliage, and Elisabeth noticed they led to the front door of an old farmhouse. This must be it. To her dismay, she saw that it truly was in complete disrepair: the exterior walls were crumbling, and thick moss blocked the guttering that lined the decaying roof. The colours of the world around her started to dim as the sun continued its descent behind the horizon, and the inside of the house itself appeared to be nearly pitch black. Suddenly, Elisabeth noticed a flash of light coming from the upstairs window. It was moving around the building. She squinted to make out what it might be. It must be a torch. She quickly squatted behind the stone wall, repulsed at her proximity to the dirty ground, and waited to see who the owner of the torch might be. I bet it’s his brother, she spat under her breath. Ten minutes later, a young woman emerged from the front door and slowly made her way over to a bench at the end of the garden. She took a seat, her hands firmly in her pockets. Her curly blonde hair looked so familiar, but Elisabeth couldn’t quite match the thick tresses to a name. A family member maybe? She stared at the figure on the bench for a while, eager to ascertain who it was, but her attention was soon stolen by a raging flash of orange that suddenly reached out from under the front door. It was fire.

An overwhelming panic spread through Elisabeth. Perhaps it was the terror of being so close to a fire that seemed so out of control, or perhaps it was how the bright orange glow served as a reminder of how dark the countryside around her had become. She shot one final glance over at the blonde girl, who was still sitting, seemingly unperturbed, on the garden bench, watching the flames lick the threshold of the house. Elisabeth turned on her heels and dashed back down the dimpsy dirt track towards the hotel.

Just as she rounded a corner, she almost collided with a man taking his dog for the last walk of the day. She recognised him instantly as the father of one of the girls she used to pick on at school. He often paid her parents a stern visit back when she was a teenager. He stared at her, eyebrows raised, clearly suspicious.

“What’s the rush?” enquired his gruff, weathered voice.

Unable to catch her breath and feeling ashamed to be caught in such an unsightly state, Elisabeth only managed to muster a “nothing” before continuing her sprint back down the track. She soon found herself back in the hotel car park. She took a minute to catch her breath, leaning against the concrete wall whilst her lungs heaved oxygen back into her bloodstream. Once she’d straightened her hair, brushed herself off and regained her composure, she calmly entered the hotel and headed back to the room. Harold was lying in bed watching TV. He smiled at her as she pushed the door closed. His hand reached out for her, but she ignored him and headed into the bathroom to get ready for bed.

(…to be continued…)

Transadaptation Volume 4 – Material Dissent

January: A Blinding Light and Then, All Darkness – Jonay Quintero Hernández (Spain)

February: The Opportunist – Lauren Voaden (United Kingdom)

March: A Stranger in my City – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)

April: A South African Soundtrack – Sarah-Leah Pimentel (South Africa)

May: Full Circle – Ina Maria Vogel (Germany)

June: La Lluvia en Bogotá – Adriana Uribe (Columbia)

July: Freedom – Krisztina Janosi (Hungary)

August: A Bus Ride – Svetlana Molchanova (Russia)

September: Transcendence – Armine Asryan (Nane Sevunts) (Armenia)

October: Motherhood – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

November: To be announced – (hopefully) Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

December: Open – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

Background – Context

Transadaptation Volume 3: Evanescent – Young Adulthood Transadapted, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2022)

Transadaptation Volume 2: Conceived – Childhood Transadapted, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2021)

Transadaptation Volume 1: In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world


Cover photo: Cornwall, UK – Abandoned farm house – Helen Hotson (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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