The house stood on the cliff, near to the crumbling path. Long before, it had had a garden with a terrace and steps down to a beach hut, below which had been the gate and the mooring post.
Now, the house creaked and tottered, deciding which way to go.
Mabel stood at her front gate watching, half horrified, half anticipatory. She had moved out the night she had woken up to find her feet pressed up against the window as the house moved under her. Scrambling up the bed, she had grasped the bedclothes for purchase, but they tumbled past her to end up at the wall. Fear gave her an edge and she managed to pull herself up off the bed.
Luckily, her bedroom door had swung open during the landslide. Mabel dreaded to think what she would’ve done with the door stuck shut. She smashed a window at the front and threw a couple of duvets out to break her fall. Without a phone, she padded barefoot off through the fields to her nearest neighbours. Their house was set further back.
Mabel had cried. All her lovely things gone. All her documentation gone. All her clothes gone. She borrowed some from her friend, but she didn’t feel like herself in them. Neighbours rushed to remove as much as possible from the building before it was deemed unsafe. Not that they could rescue much.
The house acquired celebrity status. TV crews were up there every week. Surveyors checked the house’s measurements each day. Mabel came and sat with the house, wanting it to be over. The council promised to rehouse her. Her insurance company had initially been complacent, telling her it was an act of God and therefore not covered by them. The barrage of emails, voicemails, Xs, (formerly known as tweets), even letters, all engendered by the coverage of the TV reporters caused a sea change and they were close to an agreement of a seven-figure sum. Mabel would be rich.
All she wanted now was the house to die. Each day she surreptitiously pushed at the corners and wall she could reach without anyone noticing. The house had its roots deep in the ground. It didn’t want to go. It rocked like a loose back molar. Mabel talked to it, reminisced over the life they’d lived together until the house could bear it no longer.
The house waited until the sea pounded below, calling it home. It gasped and sighed, then gently slid into the night.
Mabel arrived the next morning to find it gone, bar a few broken staves and a half-eaten wall. The TV crews returned to capture Mabel throwing a symbolic wreath onto the detritus that was fast becoming flotsam. Soon nothing was left among the bubbling froth. When nothing more could be seen, the crews disappeared. Villagers hurriedly put up for sale signs on their houses previously considered sheltered from the erosion.
That night, Mabel’s neighbour’s house creaked for the first time.
© Liz Berg