Fiction: This Old House Is All I Have

By Artoria
In the deep night there are no thuds, no hooks, no bass nor melodies, only my own breath and heartbeat. The hallways and empty bedrooms are silent, an ultimate silence that only I populate. Through most of the day only the outside threatens this imposed quiet. Sometimes, though, I can still hear mother playing her Moog upstairs, trying to clinch a downtempo melody through the crumbling plaster and rotten wooden panelling. She’s not really playing anything—she’s dead, and only the memory remains, ingrained from the years of nights I spent with my rough cotton pillow over my head, failing to drown out her and father’s post-session revelry. Midnight. One A.M. Two A.M. Three. Four. Sometimes even five. School in the morning. Later, work. Later yet, nothing. Somewhere there was a three-year gap of university, which is barely worth mentioning other than that I was away from home for the first and only time. I remember very little of those years. I may or may not have had friends—what I did have were neighbours, and they played the modern strain of the music my parents worshipped, and listened to, eternally. At home the music came from above or below, belligerent and pitiless whines from a party at the Pearly Gates way past closing time; at university it came from all sides, barraged like a Skinny Puppy aficionado in Guantanamo Bay. At least at home the source was identifiable. My parents’ music became the idol of my iconoclastic intent.
To get everything you need to know about my parents, all I need to do is tell you my name: Rave On Autumn Summers. Yes, that is my legal name. My parents referred to me as Autumn—‘Rave On’ was used as a joke. If I was going to the shop, going to meet school friends, or even just leaving the house for a walk?—“See you later; Rave On, Autumn Summers!”—the same wide-grinned laughter (mother’s shrill cackle and father’s idiot bellow) every instance, as if they’d just come up with it for the first time. Nobody ever calls me Rave (nobody calls me anything).
Father teased me a lot when I was young. I would never dance with him: “I’ll make you rave yet, Autumn!” he’d say. I’d grimace. I never liked the hard beats, squishy synths and robotic rhythms. Eventually father and mother both lost interest in trying to make me dance, and instead focused back entirely on their music. My brother, David, paid them more mind than me, but we were both distant children, and they were too wrapped up in the infinite rave to bother connecting.
Summers passed. Both father, and then, three years later, mother. That was three months ago, now. Her funeral was a nightmare, and not because I was losing a parent: for a start, the function was not held at a house of god, but at the Church of the First Funk. The club was mother and father's core haunt, a hangover from the days of acidic euphoria, those fabled perfect years when the drugs were pure and the music was hard—father was one of the original deejays, a position he held every Friday night until his death. The hallways were tight and grotty, the scent of old piss in the air. The first song to play at the funeral—which set the tone for the event—was Joey Beltram’s Energy Flash, which was mother and father’s “our song,” the one they danced to at their wedding—I’ve seen the footage, and they were both gurning in their whites and blacks.
The music set the tone, as I said: belter after belter, the remains of the Abrasive Network all around me, not a tear in sight; it’s not what she would have wanted, after all, any weeping. All she’d have wanted was for the night to never end. The only speeches that were made were shouted over the PA system. Eulogies set to the omnipersistent four-on-the-floor kick. The way some of the synth stabs teetered on the edge of the atonal always gave me the image of melting plastic, hissing away sulphurically until not even the atoms of the skeleton were left. Nightmares on wax, indeed. Mother’s coffin was left on a specially-constructed plinth in the centre of the club for the entire duration. As the function continued, I realised the congregation had started to sway and stagger; clearly they had all taken tabs, or pills, or something; a great hall full of past-their-prime ravers, eyes turning in on themselves, the music swelling as if to burst, and all I could do to save my sanity was march on out of there and never look back. They could bury mother themselves.
I settled into the silence of the future. The house had at last lost its buzz, its pulse. After father’s passing, mother started speaking odd words, saying that father was still here, that he was bringing the “godfather” with him, that the beat went on, and that they were still making songs together. But those witterings are gone now. The incessant records are stilled—no more Mr Fingers, Orbital, Juan Atkins, Virgo Four, Shamen—those unbearable omnipresent aural lashings that persisted unopposed for nearly three decades are, at last, deceased. Dead. Cold in the fucking ground, like father, and like mother.
Three floors: four bedrooms, three bathrooms (two ensuite); the ground floor is open-plan, restructured by my parents as a dance floor; the middle floor is my bedroom, two other guest rooms, and the main bathroom; and above that is my parents’ old recording studio, their bedroom, and another bedroom, which used to be David’s, and is still preserved how he left it. My room is mostly bare—no posters, no records or CDs, no laptop or computer, no instruments; no videos, DVDs or Blu-rays; nor a television, nor a stereo, nor a radio. Just a double bed, wardrobe (sparsely filled), a bedside table and a set of drawers.
Fully detached, the house stands alone at the end of a shady suburban lane; from the outside it is an imposing, ectomorphic sight: all three stories hunching up angularly alongside the boughs of the tall, elderly oak trees that line the road; the slate stone exterior walls crawl with vines, the gable roof slouching under the June sun and showers. That’s how I imagine it, anyway; I don’t see it from the outside anymore.
I’m in David’s room now. The walls are still covered in Hüsker Dü and Mclusky posters, two Fenders and a Danelectro resting in the corner, his record collection neatly curated on the shelves. He left behind a few books and DVDs, too. This is the first time I’ve been in here since long before David went away.
To get here, you have to go through the studio. The gear in there is probably worth tens of thousands, although usually all mother played in the last few years was her favourite Moog. Father was the producer of the two; mother played the synth and did vocals. They had enough hits in the ’90s to afford all of their crap, although you probably haven’t heard of them. They released tracks under various names: Belladonna Skies, The Emissary, Black Curtain; but their hits were released under their actual first names: Ivy & Lucian. The big three tracks were I’m My Own Grandma (a deep house reworking of the Vaudeville standard), Your Love in Reverse, and Summer At Night. Most of the royalties that raised them up from squatting acid ravers to borderline bourgeois came from French progressive house producer Taut Odyssey sampling the main synth line from Summer At Night for his insipid crossover hit Let’s Get to the Summer (It is Summer) in 1998. This was usually the last thing I’d tell anybody I met, for all of the coos and whoas it got. That said, I don’t meet people anymore.
David left behind everything he owned other than an old leather suitcase that used to belong to father, along with the clothes packed in it. I can’t remember precisely how long it’s been since I was last in this room. You have to go through the studio to get in. Mother and father didn’t clean the place—I imagine they went in here as much as I had for the past four years—so the ceiling corners are strung out with vacant cobwebs, and a fine layer of dust coats all of David’s erstwhile possessions. I rifle through the records, pulling out albums by the Feelies, Pavement, Drive Like Jehu, and Jawbox. Eventually I decide on Slanted and Enchanted by Pavement, which I remember my brother saying was “probably” his favourite album of all time, and I set it to play on his turntable. The warm, lo-fi electric guitar tears out of the speakers with youthful immediacy.
Sometimes, when our parents were in a particularly raucous mood and were playing Phuture’s Acid Tracks on repeat at full volume until dawn’s earliest groans, David would barge through their studio and come to my room, where he’d comfort me with his old walkman. He’d sit on the side of my bed and watch over me as I listened to his indie rock mixtapes and tried to fall asleep. Only later when the music from our parents’ studio took on darker textures did he stop. Through those years, it was as if the studio was a wedge between us—and, it was, really, literally—so only when our parents were out could David and I spend time together. We would hang out in my room, and David would show me all of his favourite songs from his favourite mixtapes, and sometimes play guitar for me. He would leave as soon as our parents returned, so as not to get trapped between rooms. Occasionally I would implore him to stay, to sleep tops-n-tails in my bed instead, but other than one solitary night just before he left, he would simply smile, kiss me on the forehead, and leave.
I never learned to love the music he loved. To this day both jagged indie rock and thumping techno make me feel some combination of tired, annoyed, and on edge; the more electronic it is, the more it makes me feel outright sick. I turn off the record player and pass back into mother and father’s studio. I linger for a moment on the threshold; there’s a prickle in my system, what I briefly imagine to be what the first tingle of a molly come-up feels like, a hesitance I can’t explain. I look around the studio, but it’s the same as ever. I check behind me—just David’s empty room—and shut the door. In the studio, it’s unusually cold, and I wonder whether the chill is damaging the musical equipment. Doesn’t matter—let it decay. I run my fingers over a vintage Roland TR-909. I wouldn’t know where to even start with this stuff. I can’t imagine what about it was so divine to mother and father.
An hour later, I find myself sifting through their record collection. All of my childhood nightmares in one place. Music to listen to with friends. Music to dance to. Music to make you feel good. Music to keep you up at night, music to break you apart from your brother. I can hear those darker-toned vibrations in my head, the music my parents worked on up to father’s passing. When David left, the tones only got darker still. The drums dropped out, and without David, I was left alone to fend off mother’s mournful vocals and coiled synth lines. He left no letter or note. We hadn’t spoken for a few weeks beforehand, and so resolution was left to decay in my already-fractured psyche.
I can only assume that David left because of mother and father. He spoke to them; I didn’t. They didn’t even try to approach me. The last time I spoke to mother was before father’s death; before even David left. Now, alone in this house, I wish I could speak to them. I always intended to meld back into their lives, but they never gave me the chance; they spoke only through their records, and their songs. These boxes of records, then, are their posthumous voices. I flick through the 12-inches: It’s a Cold WorldI’ve Lost Control, bugbear Acid TracksUndercoverSet U FreeLet Me Be Your Fantasy, all tracks I unfortunately know so well. I set Frankie Knuckles to play.
It’s different when you choose to confront that which has haunted you: you take back a modicum of control, as if to prove you aren’t really scared. You face up to your parents, to society, to the world. I think this song was written for me.
Music has never sounded like this before. What did it mean to mother, or to father? I never found out David’s real feelings about house and techno, either. He never seemed as perturbed as me when it was oppressively stamping upon my bedroom ceiling. He’d simply hold my hand, stroke my face and let me know everything would be okay.
But the music isn’t scaring me now. It’s finally baring its true self to me, letting me into its realm. It all seems so obvious: mother and father were privy to this cold world, they lived inside it; maybe they didn’t mean to trap me in it, too. But that doesn’t mean I can forgive them just like that.
Trapped in the grooves of the vinyl is all of my pain and fear, placed there by mother and father. I can’t take the abomination this music has made me into. It—isn’t fair.
I rip the record from the player, the needle dragging across the sheened black surface, and hurl it at the wall. It shatters and splinters, the shards raining across the floor.
For a moment, I feel as if David is here with me. I hear the pop-crackle of my brother’s record player from his room. I turn, and his bedroom door is somehow open again; but my brother is nowhere to be seen. The record crackle has stopped. There is no-one, nothing, here but me, standing yet again in cold silence.
Icy sweat clings to my forehead as I wake, shivering. I’m trying to piece it back together: the dream, that is. Fragments remain, scrambled, in need of repair.
Even though it’s almost July, there’s a draft running through the house. I sit at the kitchen counter, realising that the dream is gone. I remember music, faces, something else—what was it?—no, it’s gone. I’m still quite sure I didn’t reopen David’s door yesterday. It could have been the draft—perhaps—I don’t know. The Frankie Knuckles song is still cycling through my thoughts. Cold world. It’s getting colder. Every next summer colder yet; soon there will be nothing but winter.
I’m being dramatic, as usual. It’s cold because this entire floor is a re/deconstructed dance floor. The kitchen is tucked away just perfectly into the corner where it wouldn’t cause any issues to visiting members of the Abrasive Network whilst they jack to audio nostalgia. The future doesn’t exist for them, just one long present, a near-corpse twitching coincidentally in time to the beeps of a failing life support system. Some of them have tried contacting me, but I refuse—I refuse—I have no reason.
The date is the twenty-first of June in the goodly year of 2021: the summer solstice. When father lived, that meant the biggest party of the year; of course it did, because why spend summer’s peak anywhere but at the Summers house? That tradition is three years dead and I am celebrating it in my own way. When father killed himself, mother tried to blame everything she could; the house was alive with her ranting, no audience to pay attention to her nonsense. She took to talking to herself much of the day. To her it wasn’t a suicide: the overdose was accidental, it was a bad batch, you name it. Then she took to blaming David. If he hadn’t left, etc. In my room I could try to ignore her, but she knew how to project. Even if we didn’t speak directly, she made herself heard. I was perhaps the one person she didn’t include in her rantings, but that was because I was who she was performing for. I knew that I was who she really blamed.
A sound comes from upstairs: mother playing one of her melancholy melodies. I listen to the noise in my mind, trying to place where I’ve summoned it from. It’s a simple four-note progression. Of course: The Bells by Jeff Mills. Detuned and slowed down. I’ve heard it a million times before. But, then: the kick drum comes in; it’s quiet, but it’s there. I can’t be imagining this like usual. It’s too clear, too real. I grab a knife from the draw and stalk quietly upstairs. The melody continues. It’s getting louder. The drums are fully engaged, the synth bass rattling away too. It sounds like a live band filtered through a host of delay and reverb pedals. I walk across the first-floor landing and turn to face the stairs leading to the studio. The door is open, and the music is pouring out in provocation.
One step. Two. Three… closer and closer. As I reach the head of the stair, knife slippery in my sweaty grip, I’m just in time to see David’s bedroom door slam shut. It wasn’t even supposed to be open again, again. I recoil down the stairs. What the fuck is this. My breathing falters. This house is empty, how I always wanted it—deserved it—I earned this solitude. Everything I put up with this last year, stuck in this house with mother as disease swept the country and the world. She is dead—dead women don’t play synths.
In the studio, the record player ticks and crackles; it’s not playing anything. The box of records is out, singles and EPs scattered across the floor. The music swells in volume: it’s coming from David’s room. I scream his name. It must be him—he must know about mother’s death—he’s come home. I scream it again. Nothing. David wouldn’t do this to me. He loves me. He would never do this to me, his sister, his love. I scream his name again and again until I’m almost in tears. Then I scream: Whoever you are, just stop, do whatever you have to, whatever you want, I don’t care anymore.
Still nothing but The Bells. The instrumentation is changing: it sounds even more like a live band, but even more so an orchestra: actual church bells clang in fiendish clamour, loud as hell.
This is my house—it is all I have, all I have left, everything—I made my peace, so stop—I survived this long—to hell with it.
I stumble towards the door and turn the handle, knife raised above my head.
Inside David’s room is nobody. The 1997 Kat Moda EP spirals on the record player. There is nothing odd about the music anymore, it’s just techno, just music… I find myself sitting on the floor with the EP sleeve by my legs, the knife discarded nearby. How long have I been here? I’m all alone. Side A has finished, just pops and crackles now. I remove it from the player and put it back into the sleeve. There are twelve-inch vinyls all around me, including a copy of It’s a Cold World, quite intact. Mother, are you there? Are you listening? I like techno now. I like your house. Can’t you see? Can’t you hear? Mother, father, what would it take? Why does everyone leave?
I’ve brought the house into David’s room. What would he think of me if he could see me? Where are you David, my sweet brother?
I collapse onto my back and close my eyes.
Silence: silence. Good God, give thanks to the silence. For hours and hours I lie in utmost quiet repose, until I open my eyes again. It’s still light out, of course. As if the summer would never end. I’m in the foetal position, the draft coursing up and down my spine, sending minor cramps into my calfs. I can see under David’s bed; there: there—another crate. It’s scuffed and black, with an unlocked metal latch. I pull it out from under the bed.
Stamped in white on the side: Ivy & Lucian; Belladonna SkiesBlack Curtain; The Emissary; and finally, Autumn’s Coda (Godfather).
I open the box and find exactly what I’m expecting: more twelve-inch records, these ones the surviving master pressings of mother and father’s musical exploits. I know of the other projects, but I have never heard of Autumn’s Coda. Is this for me? Yes, it has to be. My parents left me a final gift and didn’t think to tell me.
The Autumn’s Coda track is called Godfather. The b-side is named End of the Summer.
I take the record out of the sleeve and put it onto my brother’s player.
“I’ll make you rave yet, Autumn,” says the record in father’s voice; quiet, but discernible. Distant, should that be—a thudding kick drum comes in, a solemn bassline oozing somewhere in the house. I turn up the volume—nothing comes from my brother’s player; it is coming from beneath. Downstairs, the music plays. My mother’s lonely synth lines come in, wordless vocals crying like an incantation. I pull the record off the player and spin it across the room like a discus, and it clatters on the floor, intact.
“Make you rave / make you Rave / make you, Rave,” says my father’s sampled ghost.
The music continues. It swells from beneath. It is distinctly their music, so obviously from their late period by the burgeoning darkness of the textural undercurrents. Mother’s backing vocals sound like a weeping child, broken in neglectful disappointment.
I walk to the studio door and look down. A figure stands there. I left my knife elsewhere, so it’s no use now. Besides, the figure is David. In the summer light he looks so beautiful. I call out to him. He’s so far away despite being so close. Please, brother. Save me from the music.
He’s so still, standing there in his long brown coat. He turns and walks downstairs. Stay, my brother. Please don’t leave me again. Please.
The music gets louder and louder. Atonal clashing keys and chords, accidental polyrhythms. I feel sick from its immensity. I think I can hear voices, revelry. It’s all going down in the Summers house tonight.
I stumble down the stairs, the sound too much for my fragile self, all of my childhood terrors come at once. I walk past my empty room and follow David downstairs. The corridors of this old house feel tight, like the concrete piss-soaked hallways of the Church of the First Funk. In my blurred vision I sense transparent figures passing me, dancing on the stairs, mingling and melding.
David? Can you hear me? Say something—please—please.
I make it to the dance floor. They’re all here—the entirety of the Abrasive Network, that collection of X-heads and acid burnouts that encircled mother and father’s legacy; they’re young again, yet not entirely opaque; ethereal souls writhing in bleak rapture to Ivy and Lucian’s dark, mournful creations.
But it is not mother nor father on the decks—the figure is larger than father could ever be, and is barely human at all—but it is him, isn’t it?—is it?—this shadowy DJ mixes and swirls through the deep, dark house, parental and authoritative yet silent in himself—a godfather?—his face is obscured by a mask—no, not a mask—skin of gleaming black vinyl, grooved, etched—faceless otherwise—a long coat hiding his bodily form which seems to heave and shift—
I cannot take it—I fall to the floor. A lost child. This is not my home, my house. God, how can they stand the cold? This can’t be summer—
Ah I remember: the dream: David, you spoke to me, didn’t you? What did you say?
Where are you now—there: I see him: beautiful brother, help me.
Suddenly we’re face to face—
And why do you think father—
And why do you think the music—
But you loved me, didn’t you?
We didn’t need to sleep top-n-tail, we weren’t children anymore, it was only us, together, in my bed, as you gave in to my cooing and fawning and took me in your arms, if only to quell my fear of that stupid music—
You knew your jagged indie rock wasn’t enough, and I wish it was, but it was you I wanted, I needed someone else, someone I loved, to give me hope, but did it not?—
They weren’t there for us, David, it was just us—left to our own devices—
God, how you felt inside me—
You weren’t there after father found out, and after he—
All too much, it wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t your fault—
I didn’t want to be alone, I didn’t want to dance or rave. I just wanted warmth and care and they didn’t give us that, did they? Too busy with their tracks and their club, their scant hits, their undeserved royalties, their drugs and their friends. If we couldn’t connect on their level then they didn’t give a fuck.
I took from you exactly what I wanted. I thought you wanted it, too. It was an unspoken agreement between siblings. But you had friends, didn’t you? You had girlfriends and nights out and you had your job, whilst I quit it all and stayed inside all summer, every summer, until the very end, until you felt the need to stay here with me, stay with me in my room until mother and father returned, and when you left to return to your room, was that because you feared their music too, or did you fear me and what I desired? But you gave it to me eventually. Your spit all across my chin, your seed inside me that never bore fruit, the look on your face when it was all over, in that one moment I lay in my own ecstasy, their music still pounding above us, they would never have known unless you—
And then you—
And then father, too—
And eventually, mother—
All the while, the Godfather plays on. He plays all the hits, the gift of Stygian song, constructed of every track they ever produced, a fruit more meaningful than mere children; I am inadequate. This is their legacy, this house, and I only inherit it through silencing it. The house that house built.
David, please stay—please stay with me, I would be a good sister—
Please don’t leave me again—
I love you—
His face fades from sight. The reborn Abrasive Network dance on, into the end of summer.
Mother’s spiralling synths are now one with her tearful voice, a final farewell undeserved.
To hell with it. I always hated this goddamn music. Let it end, let summer end.
In the deep night, once the light has left and darkness has settled into an interlocking quietude of looped nothing, there is only my breath and heartbeat. A draft runs through this cold world, an emptiness full of voiceless whispers. It is a silent house, devoid of rhythm, sound and company. It is mine, all mine.

Artoria is a London-based author of psychological and transgressive fiction. They have been published by Misery Tourism, and have upcoming novels with Andata Express and Feral Dove.