|Photo Credit: Morguefile by Simon Atkins|
I have wanted to write you ever since I arrived. Grandma has clearly fallen off her beam. It has been clear, really, from the moment I set foot in Summerland House, but I have been kept so busy with the wreckage of this domicile, I have hardly had time to breathe, much less write to you, dear cousin.
Grandma every day sits in her rocker by a window that looks out upon her expansive lawn. I must remember you have not been to Summerland. (This is not to say that you are missing much, but it did amuse us when we were very young.) I will describe the view for you from that window. The lawn rolls out for seeming miles of un-raked leaves and veers into thickets of rowan, where it erupts into strange toadstools in the deep shade. Red, phosphorescent yellow, green. Striped, spotted and rayed like exploding stars. An otherworldly rainbow exists there after rain.
The place is frankly odd. Things seem to move in the grasses as if the hills of green were water full of menacing fish which shift as the eyes passes over them. It's nothing I'd want to look at—mostly un-pruned hedges and flowers that have escaped their beds and creep across the landscape like soldiers on their bellies, petals dragging in the dirt and leaves going to grey. But there she sits. Hours after hours, from before the dawn breaks until well after breakfast, and she asks me to bring her tea and various blankets. She says nothing else. And she looks. At what?
About the inside of the house, things have gone to wreck. Dust jumps in clouds off of mantelpieces where a book is set. Splotches of a purply-grey mildew span the tile in the guest bathroom. I have had to clean it with what I could find, which wasn't much—chiefly lemon juice and baking powder under the sink. When I shower in there, it's difficult to feel as if it might not leap onto me and become something of a leprosy or a measles, a damning rash splashed across the canvass of my skin. I wash my hair and get out as fast I can do.
The worst thing, though, has got to be the cobwebs. They are all about the place—not just along ceiling beams, higher than I can find a tool to reach, but on the furniture, on the edges of quilts in un-used rooms and on various oddments about the place. The place is wrapped up like a corpse in a shroud! I can't seem to get all of it. You have to realize the largeness of this old house. It's a small castle, really. Three stories. Nine bedrooms. Four bathrooms. Two kitchens. Drawing rooms. Hearth rooms. The lot. The places for cobwebs to settle are infinite indeed.
Here is what really bothers me, Ann. I can't quite make out what happened to Grandma. She shows no sign of stroke. Doctors can find, really, nothing outwardly wrong with her. And yet she sits, speaking little. I know you hardly know my father's mother, but you will have to remember that my Grandma was quite a talker. She kept, as well, a neat house. She permitted a spiderweb or two, I'll grant. This drove my mother to fits of shivers, but Grandma persisted. My father, having grown up with it, was the same.
"Spiders need a home as well as you do, Lydia," they would both tell my mother at Thanksgiving.
My mother of course would grimace, argue or grow silent and morose. But the spiderwebs remained. Grandma must have cleaned up the old ones, though—those that had been abandoned by spiders, because I never remember the place like this. Grandma spent most of her time sketching, writing and cooking, but she did clean. And she had help then, of course. Where the household help can have gone to, I don't know. Certainly, none were old enough to have died when I last was here a year and a half ago. And Grandma has the money to pay them. Her bank account statement, if nothing else, proves that to be the case.
I hope, dear cousin, to leave here within a week, as soon as I can complete the cleaning process and hire some new help. I suppose I should put Grandma in some sort of hospital, but it seems too cruel, somehow. She is a part of this house and land as much as a toadstool from the soil beneath those rowan trees. Besides which, what would I do with Summerland? I'll have to make the drive back up regularly to see that she's OK and ask the staff the write of there is the slightest problem as well.
Please tell our employer that I will be back as soon as I can.
This letter, I'm sorry to say, was found in the drawing room of Summerland a week after Alice failed to return to her job as expected. Upon arrival, friends, including the aforementioned cousin Ann Ridley, found her as if asleep under a copse of rowan trees. Her body was wrapped in cobwebs completely as if shrouded for her burial, still and cold, but showing no sign either of harm or of disease or decay. Her grandmother, one Eleanor Alice Summer, was seated in her rocker at the large front window overlooking the lawn, where, upon the arrival of the search party, she quietly continued to rock and to hum.