Haunted House!

By Amelia Kushner
May 2, 2023

But you are the house. 

I cannot touch my feet to the ground and I cannot pull my brain back into my body.

I will, soon – in minutes in hours in days (at most) – and then I will forget that I ever felt this way. I cannot imagine feeling this way again. And then I feel this way again, and as I scramble for a foothold inside my body and find only slick black numb nothing, I will chastise myself: don’t you know that this is the only Feeling that isn’t make-believe?

I will despair and I will vow never to forget again. And then when I am not looking my feet come back down and I know for certain that I am fine (of course I am fine!) and that my spirit-feet will never break stride with my body-feet again. Of course they won’t! And then they do.

What is real and what is fake? What is real, and what is fake? Is there a real and a fake? Is everything fake? Can everything be real?

Blah, blah, blah. Right now my feet move in tandem. As they always have, and always will! Such questions are for Plagued individuals, of which I am not one.

When I am plagued – I am never plagued! – when I am plagued, there is a clarity. A false clarity, perhaps. But a clarity nonetheless. For The Feeling was the first thing I knew. I was born disconnected. My spirit-step a half-second behind my body-step. I would say things I didn’t mean and they would hang there in the air and I couldn’t catch up to them to take them back.

Adolescence compounded The Feeling, as it compounds everything. Adolescence is a kind of cave, isn’t it. The walls and ceiling are closing in like a hall of mirrors. A haunted house.

But I was living in the same house and going to the same school, day in day out dayindayout, and the walls and the ceiling moving in towards me looked like my parents’ drywall. Looked like the chipped-paint brick of the school. Get out, get out, get out. Get to college. Get to college. It will all go away in college.

I tucked The Feeling between the bedframe and the mattress and went to college. And it was quite peaceful! Until the new walls started pushing in. My new ceiling bowed heavy and hung in my face. What are the odds! Two haunted houses. But I see Drew Barrymore – blonde, fresh-faced, 22 – on the line with the killer in Scream (1996). I see the doe-eyed bobbypinned babysitter in When A Stranger Calls (1979) twirl the phone cord around her finger. And then I think for the first time: The call is coming from inside the house.

The Feeling follows. (It Follows [2014], I think, and I think of other movies and facts and squeeze my eyes shut even now as The Feeling resists unmasking.) From place to place, relationship to relationship, endeavor to endeavor, anything to everything. My spirit-steps fall behind my body-steps. I lose the thread.

The Feeling is mine, you see. An insidiousness of mine. The walls are the ribs and the ceiling the skull. The walls are my ribs and the ceiling my skull.

The Feeling never stuck under my mattress all those years ago. I ripped The Feeling up and out with me as I got up to leave, like a skirt hem caught in a car door.

I am bubbly blonde Drew and I am the man in the Ghostface mask. I am Carol Kane in the ‘70s, puffy-haired and sweet, and I am the haggard child-killer. I am the victim and I am the perpetrator.

The first thing I feel when I put these pieces together is Shame. This thing is mine. I am haunting myself! How silly is that.

Then Dread. I will be Me forever. Where I go, The Feeling must follow, for it is within me. (It Follows [2014]. It Follows [2014]. It Follows [2014].) It is an autoimmune haunting, a haunting which cannot be cut out of me without taking the rest of me with it.

I shame and I dread and I despair for weeks. I journal in stale words, because the passionate ones jog The Feeling out of dormancy. How could I not have known?

But eventually it appears to me. The Feeling. It does not rear its head but just lifts it up to observe. And I feel it, in there. I feel it exist as I exist, both calm, breathing in time with each other. It has extended an olive branch.

Now that I know The Feeling is mine I can sense it within me, even when my spirit-steps keep time with my body. Now that I know The Feeling is mine I remember how it feels to touch my feet to the ground even as they dangle above it. ■

Layout: Ava Jiang
Photographer: Kenny Delucca
Stylists: Mariana Aguirre & Fernanda Lopez
HMUA: Leah Teague & Rey Tran
Models: Melat Woldu, Molly Masson & Aaron Boehmer

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