Even now the house remains unchanged.
That is to say essentially the same even though of course there are small details one might talk about.
But outside –
Outside it appears that the rules do not apply.
Or perhaps once they applied everywhere but today they are confined here, to this place, to this house, with the fire.
Assuming that there were any rules in the first place, anything to constrain the house.
Perhaps it makes more sense to speak of tendencies rather than rules.
In any case he is downstairs now, and the fire is warm.
The house shakes softly.
Somehow he has never realised that even the house could shake.
For a long time he has not come here.
That might be mostly because there has simply been no need.
It is standing before the door.
It is entirely awake.
“Well, here we are,” he says.
“Yes,” it says.
“It you think about it this was always bound to happen,” he says.
“No,” it says, immediately.
“Well, here we are nonetheless,” he says.
It paces and goes round in one tight circle. It goes up to the window once, its old habit, and then it comes back.
It turns to the door and goes up to it and comes back and then does it again.
“Here we are,” he says, to himself.
“I can help you,” it says.
“You have given me so much,” he says.
“Yes,” it says, “but no matter.”
He goes to the window, the low window, the one that looks outward at all the water.
Suddenly he feels lonely.
No, that was not correct. He is anticipating it, not feeling it now.
Although it might as well be the same.
All these things are always very hard to disentangle.
Come to think of it, it has never been clear what exactly why this window was built right here.
An error, perhaps.
The point is that one can imagine this window being better placed elsewhere.
In any case he looks out of it now.
The thing about the ocean is that its size can only really be appreciated like this, in the flesh.
The water moves.
The water becomes big and comes without stopping.
This is the kind of sea which stops all ships from coming.
In fact the water is so big that it goes over the house and comes right over a long ridge of mountains.
Over the mountains there a place where there might be many homes, clustered together, on top of each other, lights intimated by each other, coming all together in this way, even though he has not thought there could ever be others here.
The water washes it all away.
It hugs the buildings with its bulk and dowses them over.
It pushes all the air aside. It is all very huge and very grey.
All this happens very slowly.
He is terrified. He is so scared he can hardly breathe.
“Can it come in another way?” he says.
“Yes,” it says.
It looks at him and then all the water is in the house.
It is simply there, without any fuss, and all of it at once, too.
“Oh,” he says, marvelling now at how small it seems. “Oh,” he says, again, realising.
It looks at him.
Light is coming from the windows, although it is pale as milk.
“I know you,” he says. “I saw you once, near the place where Erth was living. You had a name, didn’t you? You had a name. Went.”
“Went,” it says, “yes, Went.”
It comes to him and its forelimbs go on his shoulders.
There may be more limbs but the point is that it is on his shoulders and it is a great weight bearing him down.
It stares at him.
For a creature so often given to sleep it appears to be surprisingly alive.
Not alive. The word was awake, that was the word he was looking for.
“Thank you,” it says.
It is hard to hear.
This is mostly because of the fact that it speaks very softly.
Although it has always spoken rather softly, if one remembers correctly.
He recognises something strange about the way in which all of this is said, however.
That is, the creature appears utterly heartbroken.
It is very close to him. He can see all the way inside its mouth.
It has always taken care, he realises, not to draw attention to its mouth.
“I’ve done something wrong, haven’t I?” he says.
“Yes,” it says. “Thank you.”
“I can help you,” it says.
The weight is unbearable.
It lets go of him for looks at him for a moment and moves to the door again.
He goes to the window and looks out.
His hand goes on the sill.
He pulls the window open.
He struggles for a moment with the rusted bolt but then the window is open.
Water comes in and goes on the floor. He closes his eyes.
He just stands there getting wet.
It is a strange thing, that the water at this time feels so warm.
It does not come over to the window, which is to say that it remains by the door.
This behaviour is uncharacteristic.
Although he cannot precisely remember what it has done before the impression is still given that this is not characteristic.
“You should come and see,” he says.
“I know,” it says.
Why had he ever tried to hide his purpose? It strikes him that sometimes he is very naive.
“I’ll be going” he says. “I’ll be going now, probably.”
“Do you want me to go with you?” it says.
He comes to the door.
“You like it more inside,” he says.
He has no particular reason to believe this but it is true enough.
“I can come with you,” it says.
He reaches out with his hand which drips with rain from the window which is still open and he pulls the door open.
It moves aside to let the door open fully, of course.
Its feet, which it uses sometimes, make noises against the floor.
He remembers how the floor shone when he first let it into the house.
He stands in the doorway looking out.
“I think perhaps you should stay here,” he says.
“It is only a house,” it says.
That is impossible to deny.
But there is much to be said in favour of a house.
“I can make it go,” it says.
He seems to understand that well enough.
“How?” he says.
That was not at all what he was trying to say.
“It’s more than just that,” he says. “It’s not just the one thing.”
The issue is that when he attempts to speak to it he ends up attempting to say things that cannot, properly speaking, be said.
“I can make it all go,” it says.
“All,” he says.
He considers this
It considers this, too.
It appears to be striving towards something.
“Since that appears to be the problem,” it says. “All –”
He stays there in the doorway for a long time, and it remains beside him, both of them becoming drenched.
He steps through the doorway and gasps at the water.
He takes several more steps. The ground is wet and the stones are slippery and they shine. But it is not impossible to walk. It is a challenge that is not wholly unwelcome.
“The rest of them?” he says. “What happens?”
It is standing in the doorway, or perhaps it is merely sitting, or perhaps it has moved away from the doorway. Most likely it is simply standing there.
“If it all goes,” it says, “the rest go too. I can do all of this.”
“Don’t,” he says, although he takes a shudder in the middle of the word, a thrill. “Just stay with the house.” He turns around and walks on, following the very edge, swaying despite his best efforts. The water is like a physical thing, there is so much of it. But its basic nature is harmless.
“I can destroy everything,” it says, pleading.
He is surprised, but only for a moment, that it would use that word, in that way, now. But then it seems entirely predictable, once he thinks about it.
“I can help you.”
But he does not look back. If he does he might just fall apart with gratitude and he is moving now, and he is outside the house.
“There might be nothing left,” it calls, from far way.
He goes on for some time.
Then he realises something. It is an awful thought, unthinkable, even. He runs back to the house. He slips once and goes in the wet soil but he gets up immediately. It is still there in the open doorway when he gets back.
“The last thing,” he says, panting. His clothes stick to his skin, which is warm.“You were not threatening me. Are you – ”
“No,” it says. “No, I would never – How could I? You know me.”
He leans against it and finally cries without a sound. “You understand why I am doing this,” he says eventually.
It is a small thing in the doorway. “No,” it says.
“Well – if –”
“What? Say it.”
“I am sorry too. Will there be someone after me?”
“I do not know.”
“There is no rule for determining it, then.”
“There are no rules for any of us.”
“But I am leaving now.”
“And there is nothing that you can do.”
“It makes no difference. “
He looks up. “Maybe there are some rules, then.”
“Maybe. Be careful of all the water.”
And he goes again. He does not come back.