The House in Orange and Blue by Jess Boldt
The basement was still. Every object, every particle was at rest, comfortable in a motionless landscape of machinery and pipes. Heat and cold were absent and every shadow that was cast from the small amount of light stood steadfast, as if painted onto the rust covered floors and stone walls. Then there was motion.
The motion was slight at first, barely noticeable to any observer. The one source of light was a hopper window that watched over the cellar. An orange mechanic’s rag was draped over the window, further denying the light from outside. Slowly, a corner of the rag began to slip from the brown nail to which it was hooked. Particles of dust moved tentatively into the surrounding air. As the right side of the rag dropped from the nail and swung below the left, millions of dust particles danced into the newly exposed light beam.
Shadows that had held their staunch positions instantly retreated from their post. At this point a leg, covered in red flake and dirt, took its part in the chain of events. A knee rose to the chest of an elderly man in a blue custodial uniform. The other leg followed and both were wrapped in the man’s right arm. A tattered half sleeve of blue material dangled where his left arm had once been. He sat on the floor, squinting at the beam of light for a few minutes. He then took his hand and ran it through what appeared to be reddish brown hair until the brown and red bits of spent metal fell in streams, revealing a yellowish grey color underneath.
The man dug his hand onto the ground. He placed the weight of his body on his arm while scrambling his feet to center himself and stand. Every joint was audible as he straightened his body. His feet shuffled through the corrosion coated floor. He brushed the red from his uniform, revealing a stained tag that read, “Carvy”.
Carvy gazed around the basement. Bottles with time worn labels were scattered on the concrete floor. Metal shelving racks that held various tins and bottles lined the walls. To his right was a wooden stairway that led up to a closed door. To his left was a large rounded furnace that had not functioned for many years. For moments, Carvy gazed at the stairs. His right arm reached over to where his left once was. His eyes dropped to the floor. He sobbed dryly as he stared at an old brown bottle. Inhaling, he turned to the furnace. He exhaled in shallow bursts.
“How many years have I been down here,” Carvy asked the metal beast. “How many years ago was it? When did you win?”
Carvy walked underneath the hopper window. He grabbed a nearby steel stool and balanced himself on it. With his arm, he grabbed the hanging corner of the orange rag. He began lifting it to the nail that it hung onto just moments earlier. His eyes averted from the light. That light dimmed as the rag came closer to the nail.
A flash of blue swept across the remaining bit of exposed window. Carvy stopped. The blue flash appeared again, this time going right to left. He dropped the cloth and covered his eyes with his hand. As he brought his face towards the light the blue flashed again. Left to right. His pupils adjusted painfully but he would not look away. Again the blue came across the window. He watched it pass again and again. With each passing, his face grew brighter.
“There’s something!” He shouted.
As he began step down when his foot slipped on oxidized stool. His body hit the cement hard. He lay there, staring at the blue running past the hopper window. He turned his body and cried out in pain. He didn’t even attempt to stand but crawled towards the furnace. His arm stretched and pulled his body past bottles and glass until he was underneath its red metal. A circular door sat in the middle of the face. The bolts attaching the various layers of metal had long been rusted. The original lettering of the manufacture was no longer readable, chipped and eroded away by time and oxygen.
Carvy pushed himself to a kneeling position. His arm banged hard against the circular door. His face conveyed the pain in his arm. He slammed his arm against the metal again. Bits of rust and dirt shook loose from crevices between the door and body. Each hit brought more pain to his arm until he could no long lift it.
He knelt there for a few minutes. When the pain began to subside, he gripped the red handle of the door and pulled. The noise of metal against age filled the cellar as the door slowly opened. One the door was open enough; he wedged his left shoulder behind the door. Bracing the furnace with his right arm he pushed until the door was open completely.
Carvy slid his arm inside. After a few minutes, he pulled out a soot covered arm clutching the remains of its mate. The large pipe that jetted from the top of the furnace began to rattle. The belly of the furnace went from void to bright orange.
Carvy felt the warmth on the back of his neck as he made his way up the wooden stairs, towards a door he had not passed through in sometime.