The Ivy Halls

In upstate New York, there was once a sweet corn farm with rows and rows of cobs separated by lush stretches of forest. On the farm lived a father, his adolescent daughter, and his pregnant wife. Well, that is until a warm spring day when all the leaves were vibrant green and the flowers were in bloom. The wife went into labor and came out draped in a cloth. The infant, later to be named Ellis, then being held by his sister, let out a cry as he was carried out. To any outsider the endless corn and compact forest looked the same as it always had, but to the residents, as many who have had to mourn can attest, their land had become beige and crumpled.

The children grew and the daughter was married to a businessman. She moved off the farm and left her father and brother to fend for themselves. As Ellis grew, so did the ache to follow his sister to the city. He never completely felt as if the place most would call a home really was one. It felt more so like it was meant to serve him as a stepping stone like it did for his sister. But for the longest time his obligations to his father kept him back.

The need to start anew eventually grew undeniable, so he made plans to leave. These plans were not quick to be fulfilled. He had made preparations and packed bags with necessary supplies. On the day of his planned departure he opened the front door to find that, during the night, a large oak tree had fallen on the barn. It seemed to nicely fit into the cracked open side of the barn. The overgrown vines and moss so gently draped over the branches into the wooden planks beneath while scattered rays of early sunlight peeked through the foliage. When standing, this old oak was, in many respects, the perfect example of its species. It had the boldest leaves and gnarliest of knots and stretched as high and wide as the barn and its squiggling branches were arranged in a glorious fan. Ellis could not in good conscience leave his father to repair the barn alone, so he stayed. He unpacked his satchel back into his dresser drawers and picked up his tools.

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The weathered barn and tree stump sat with a clear view of the fatigued father. His muscles increasingly pained him each day. A doctor attributed his deterioration to aging. That was not the cause. As his muscles began to have tremors, Ellis started to feel the same fatigue but to a lesser extent. This development puzzled the doctor because the sickness could no longer be considered caused by aging. Neither man was showing signs of any illness typical in the area. The three concluded that something new around them must have occurred to onset it. To try and find the root of their pain they checked in with people they interacted with and those who got their food from the same places. These attempts to find answers were nevertheless fruitless. They even checked the well to make sure nothing had fallen in and rotted but all they saw were the roots and vines that had always been hanging down there.

The father ached so much and his joints became so stiff that he became bed ridden. All while his own health declined, Ellis maintained the farm and tended to his father’s growing needs with the help of some neighbors. As the mystery illness progressed, the father slowly developed a distaste for eating which only made his muscles deteriorate at a faster pace. All he could bear to consume was water and small meals throughout the day. Not long after this, he slipped into a coma and, within a couple days, he ceased breathing. Ellis draped his father in a cloth and sent him to be buried next to his wife in the family grave plot.

Gradually Ellis’ health bettered as he was planning the funeral. He was again well enough to manage the farm by himself as long as the main things driving him were the weight of his grief and the desire to be close to his father. But, directly under that loyalty was the desire to abandon the bleak future that awaited him and flee to the city like he had originally planned. That ever underlying hope had been reignited when Ellis had spent time reconnecting with his sister at the funeral after so many years apart. These fresh stories of joy she shared with him could not be denied as a cheerier way of living than dwelling on the past.

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Winter turned to spring again and the freshness in the air turned to freshness of the mind and heart for Ellis. He had tried his best to continue his father’s work, but it was time. Time to finally leave. There was nothing to hold him back; no debts to pay off or people to watch over. Ellis was finally disentangled from the web of things tethering him to that desolate place. In time, he found an apartment in the city with the help of his sister’s husband. He then packed up and sold all of the farming supplies and other things that he no longer needed. He even found one of his neighbors who wanted to buy the land and house off of him. Over that next week, he packed up all of his belongings into bags and trunks so they would be ready to load onto the carriage.

The day before Ellis’ departure, he decided to take a stroll through the fields and forest until dusk when he went inside to cook dinner. As he was setting out his clothes for the morning and folding the remaining items into the last trunk, the sun fell and the world was plunged into its nightly period of darkness. Ellis heard some rustling of bushes as some small creature found its bed for the night as he ate dinner. Cleaning up and packing the dishes, he thought of all the possibilities of his future now that he was no longer going to be confined by the endless corn and compact forests. He thought of an open city street with people everywhere and not a single corn cob in sight. Sure there were some parks, but the tallest things were buildings and the noise was constantly exciting. No more rustles disturbing the silence or menacing trees.

Ellis gathered his things and opened the door. To say he was shocked at what he found would be to say the least. The opening to the house was so tightly encapsulated by ivy and vines that nobody could pass through without some kind of machete to cut through. In fact, the vegetation not only covered the doorway, but the entirety of the house and the rows of forest had grown over the crops until they were one again. Ellis went to the kitchen drawer to grab a knife to try and cut through the vines. His attempts were futile; every time he cut a piece it would regrow in a matter of seconds. He was not going to get out.

The vines separated the house from the land and the land subsequently became detached from the world around it. When those plants grew over the house, the house itself began to fade. The knowledge of the very existence of the house and everything in it at the time began to seep out of people's minds. Those with little attachment to Ellis and his land forgot them almost immediately. With a little extra time, even in his sister’s mind there was no recollection of ever having a life other than the one she now lived.