Some houses prefer not to put down roots and instead travel the world under their own steam. Tell us your tale of this unusual abode and the people who live inside.
Vukasin Bagic created this speed painting, which he titled "To Infinity and Beyond," and which says was inspired in part by Gorillaz and the movie Up (via The Art of Animation). Write your own story based on this mobile home and post it in the comments.
Quick update: A plea, folks—please reserve the comments in these posts for the stories. They get quickly cluttered when a dozen people all decide to make the same exact joke. I've seen Howl's Moving Castle (and am aware of the legend of Baba Yaga, on which the walking building is based), but this is just meant to be a writing exercise.
Here's my story:
The House hadn't had an inhabitant since its architect died. They'd had grand adventures together, scuttling from city to city, across the plains and deserts, but now the architect was forever still and the House hoped to once again be a home.
It painted itself pink and hid amongst the painted ladies of San Francisco, but all anyone did was take its picture. It moved to the suburbs and put out an open house sign, but the prospective homeowners couldn't see past its Formica countertops. It left its doors unlocked and its windows open in the hopes of attracting squatters, but instead it developed a reputation for being haunted.
One day, feeling defeated, the House, crawled into a park. It knew a park was no place for a house, but it needed to think. It strummed its crab-like legs against the grass, contemplating its next move. Thump-thump-thump-thump. Thump-thump-thump-thump. Thump-thump-thump—
One of the House's legs failed to make contact with the ground. The House looked down and saw that a small child, no more than six years old, had seized onto one of its pointed feet, holding it aloft. The House gave the foot a light kick, trying to shove the child off, but she only held on tighter. Soon, the leg was dancing in the air, and the girl was hugging it, giggling as she rose and fell. Soon, the giggling attracted other children, and half a dozen tiny figures were bucking bronco on the House's appendages. They came back the next day and the next—and brought their friends.
The House had never been a club house before, had never known the joys of children racing through its hallways with shouts and wooden swords. But it let them tack their movie posters up on its walls, let them play on its porches and dance on its legs when the sun was shining, and kept its windows tightly shut against the cold and rain. It watched children grow older, grow up, and disappear. But it knew they hadn't gone still like the architect; they had gone off to have fresh adventures.
And sometimes, usually on chilly nights, the House would discover someone sleeping in its corridors, someone older and colder than the children who spent all day at play. On those nights, the House would lock its doors and pump warm air through all of its rooms.
The house was sturdy and level. The leg coverings and structural components were made of solid Diamond, doped with Boron for a shimmering blue, and lit from within. Frictionless magnetic bearings held it's joints together. Superconducting linear actuators helped them move whichever way Angus saw fit. He had even built in a Pulse Detonation Ion drive in case the ground fell out from under his magnificent mobile home. Fusion from a Proton to Boron Eleven to Helium Four reactor made sure the house would always have power, and turn a hefty profit for the Helium production. Now all he needed was a copilot.
I was awoken from a dead sleep by an earth-shattering thud. The walls shook and the windows rattled. I sat up and jerked my head to the left, toward the foot of my bunk. Through the twisted frame of my room's only window, I could see the landscape outside slowly beginning to pass by. The view outside raised and lowered with each gigantic step. We were on the move again.
I brought my attention back inside. I looked down between my feet as they dangled over the room. My bed was the top bunk, so I had a pretty great view of all of the destruction the house's swaying, walking motion had caused. All of my belongings were strewn about the room. My typewriter was overturned on the floor. The thud was enough to knock it clear off the desk. Not good. I had to get down there and make sure it was okay.
Just as I prepared to jump, the house lurched hard again, flinging me down to the floor before I had a chance to grab hold of anything. My face made contact with the hardwood with a slap. From here, I could see all of my things shuffling and rolling across the floor. The heavy typewriter made a low hop, getting about an inch or two off the floorboards, but mostly just remained in its place. I knew then that I should have nailed everything down yesterday. The house made another thud.
I rolled over to see my younger brother curled up and cowering in the corner of his bed with the sheets pulled up around his head and face. He was trembling. He never did get used to the feeling of house travel. I can't say I ever did, either, but at least I kept my wits about me. I waited another second or two before getting up. After one last jarring crash, the house began to move smoothly. The first couple of steps were always like this, but once the house gets some momentum, the ride is relatively smooth.
I got to my feet and walked over to the typewriter. It had the letter I was writing last night still stuck in the paper guide. I heaved the heavy iron contraption up to eye level and examined it. Everything seemed to be okay, so I set it down on the rolltop desk that was the only thing in the room (aside from my bunk bed) that was actually nailed down. Next time, I would remember to close the rolltop cover on this thing before another moving day.
I cleaned up the mess in the room and got dressed. As I put things back in their places, I picked up some of my brother's clothes and tossed them at him. "Come on," I said, "We gotta go get downstairs for breakfast." He managed to snatch the shirt and pants in mid-air, as he flung back the sheets that covered him.
"Is it over?" He asked. I nodded and waited for him to jump up and pull his clothes on. Just before we left the room, I darted over to the desk and tore the letter out of the paper guide. I then yanked open one of the desk's heavy wooden drawers and rifled through it's jumbled contents until I found an envelope. I folded the letter twice, slipped it in, and then licked the envelope shut, stuffing it into the back pocket of my trousers.
I paused for a moment and glanced out the window. The world was still slowly passing by. It would be this way until we could find solid ground to settle down on. Maybe my family could one day find some good land and start a farm. Maybe there will be others, and we will build a settlement of survivors. Perhaps one day, I will see my beloved Esther again. But until then, I'm stuck with writing these letters to her and leaving them at every outpost we come upon, in hopes that her house will pass by and find it there.
Downstairs, my mother was cooking breakfast. I could tell, because of the frequent tearing sound that the velcro we used to hold the pantry in place was making. Velcro proved to be a very useful tool our house. It kept small things in their place, even when the house was lurching violently from side to side. My brother and I sat in our nailed-down chairs at the table and began to eat our breakfast. Mid-way through, my mother cheerily chimed in, "Hurry up, now boys. Your father needs you in the attic. You slept in this morning, and he needs you up there to keep a lookout for the next outpost."
We both nodded enthusiastically, and gobbled down the last of our breakfasts. We then quickly clamoured up the rickety stairs, and then pulled down the ladder that led to the noisy attic. Once up there, we were greeted with a smile and a wave from our father. He was standing at the lever controls of the house's walking mechanism, his brass and leather goggles made him look like a madman. The huge metal and wood-paneled cockpit area wheezed and puffed as it chugged along. The house was steam-powered, of course. The boiler in the basement ran night and day, a mechanized arm feeding it coal around the clock. We had to remain on the lookout for "outposts". These were checkpoints created by other survivors, meant to provide houses with the fuel and provisions enough to carry on until the next stop. They also had mailboxes.
I flung open the window shutters around the room. A stream of sunlight filled the dusty attic. We now had a 360 degree view of the shattered landscape around us. The world had been split over two years ago into the massive canyons and sinkholes that surrounded us. Some unrelenting earthquake made the entire country uninhabitable. That's why we move until we find something better. The legs were my father's invention. Everyone thought he was crazy when he began building the giant steam-powered machine that would one day carry us to safety. That was until the tremors began. Others panicked and began building legs of their own, in order to escape the inevitable destruction.
I looked through my telescope and began to scan the area. There wasn't much to see out there but the ravages of the countryside. Off in the distance, others houses tiptoed over bumps, hills, and openings in the ground. A trail of steam puffing out of their chimneys. I continued to search for the conspicuous red flag that was flown at every outpost, marking its location. But still nothing in sight. Suddenly, my brother spotted something. "Outpost ahoy!" He screamed as he pointed in the general direction. My father leaned back from his controls and peered through the mounted telescope with one eye. "Great work, Son!" He said as he began to steer the house in the appropriate direction.
When we finally arrived at the outpost, my father and mother made their way over to the provisions. My brother went searching for other kids that might be around to play with. But, I was only interested in getting the letter to my Beloved Ester. I imagined her reaction when she arrived at this outpost and found the letter from me. When I reached the red box that accepted letters, there was a man in a blue uniform standing there. I stopped before the mailbox to jot her full name, and house address on the envelope before slipping it down the chute. As I began to walk away, I was stopped by the man in the uniform. He spoke.
"Are you with the family from that house that just arrived?" He asked.
"Why, yes, of course." I returned with a smile.
"This letter is for you, boy." He handed the letter to me. My name was written on the envelope in an elegant handwriting. I knew who it must have been from. My heart fluttered as I tore into the paper. I held it up and read it to myself. Ester had been here, and she sends her love! She writes that she will be waiting for me at the next outpost. She claims that her family has found stable land! We can all settle down together, finally! Oh what joy.
I couldn't wait to tell my parents. With letter in hand, I ran over to them screaming with delight, the letter flapping in the wind.
The next morning, I was again awoken by a calamitous thud. This time I had been prepared, and everything remained in its place, fastened by nails and velcro. I didn't have time to waste. My brother and I skipped breakfast, and headed for the attic. Father was already operating the house when we arrived. I told him the co-ordinance offered to us by my beloved, and off we went yet again. Lurching and clamouring our way to a normal, happy life. Or so we hoped.
The Murgatroyds had been eating other people, and maybe each other, ever since their genetic slime had twitched and jumped its way out of the ocean and into its own little isolated pond out in god-knows-where. The family certainly seemed to like it that way. They lived, happily, in a sprawling shack in the darkest crevices of some hilly range that most people wouldn't know existed.
Around the turn of the 18th century, generations of the Murgatroyds had developed all kinds of family traditions, which some people might call modus operandi. They ate bugs and rats for months until some poor soul(s) happened across their dark little home.
Around the turn of the 19th century, life beyond the hills was becoming a bit more calamitous. Men with guns and healthy suspicions would stop by wanting to know what went on in every part of their woods. It what became an uncomfortable necessity, Papa Murgatroyd began to take trips out into the horrible world beyond their hills, learning what he needed to to keep his family safe from the clutches of social propriety. The Murgatroyds were good at adapting, perhaps the only family in history to intellectually benefit from incest. And so it went: they kept themselves hidden, like spiders hiding in the cracks of walls waiting for the next morsel.
Around the turn of the 21st century, however, the world, in the form of oil rigs and wind farms, was pushing its boundaries too close for comfort. And despite the growing influx of new meat, legitimate opportunties were becoming more and more rare.
Undetered, the Murgatroyds put their lessons in patience and adaptation to good use. The smarter girls and boys were sent out, one or two at a time, taking apprenticeships, jobbing at machine shops. Over the course of time, the Murgatroyds had raised an army of engineering cannibals. Uncles and aunts supervised and drafted up plans; younger ones foraged for parts and materials; the entire family tinkered away in dark caves behind their increasingly unkempt shack, where nobody might possibly see or hear them building...something.
The Kims thought they heard something on that brisk summer night. They had bought a week pass to go camping in one of the few open country spaces left, and they clamored in fear and excitement at what might be out there in the woods. Their tents circled around a fire, they ate and played as the noises grew stranger and louder. Soon enough, John Kim was ordering everyone, his two girls and their mother, his brother and nephews, to get in their tents as he smothered the camp fire. They waited as the noises, the clangs and the hisses of something undoubtedly big, was passing through the forest. With no light they could only hope to go unnoticed.
Pop! Above, a huge spot light blinded the Kim party. A hulking monster with many legs hovered above them. Down came a steel basket, collecting the Kims, tents and all, breaking little body parts here and there. The monstrous blob of darkness above started to come into sight for John as the cage dragged his family up toward it. ...A concrete slab? And at the hole in the middle, from which the hoist and chain dropped through. It looked like a rec room, or a garage up there - some lit-up family residence in the belly of this monster. It might have looked ridiculous, if it weren't for the shadowy figures standing around the hole that was dragging them up, salivating.
Two weeks later, two policemen walked up the porch steps of a Victorian house, consipculously sited on the top of a cliff in the middle of a cluster of trees. They knocked on the door. A large man opened it and greeted them with a perfectly portioned out sense of alarm. "What's the problem, officers?"
"Kids!" Morticia called out. "Uncle Fester! We're leaving for Cousin Cacophonia's wedding soon! Are you ready to go?"
Wednesday and Pugsley came out of their rooms. "Yes, father."
Gomez donned his leather pilot's helmet. "Perfect! Let's go!" He pulled a giant lever in the wall; a captain's wheel rose from the floor, and the entire house rose from its foundations on giant segmented legs. "And we're off! Tish, why do I feel like I've just forgotten something?"
They'd barely taken two steps when they heard a giant crash upstairs. Fester staggered out of his room. "Hey, I wasn't ready yet!"
Vulcan Has No Moon's story:
Excerpt from On The Road In A Robotic Chicken-Hut by Isaac II Angelos :
I first met Baba Yaga not long after my wife, Vasilisa, and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won't bother to talk about, except that it had something to with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead. With the coming of Yaga began the part of my life you could call my on the road. Before that I'd often dreamed of going West to see the haunted forest, always vaguely planning and never taking off. Baba Yaga is the perfect woman for the road because she actually was born on the road, when his parents were passing through Worm Wood Forest in 1126, in a wagon, on their way to Kiev. First reports of her came to me through Andronikus I Komnenus, who'd shown me a few letters from her written in a Zhytomyr Oblast reform school. I was tremendously interested in the letters because they so naively and sweetly asked Andronikus to teach her all about Nikolay Strakhov and all the wonderful intellectual things Andronikus knew. At one point Ivan Asen and I talked about the letters and wondered if we would ever meet the strange Baba Yaga.
One million years in the future, almost all species on earth had long since died off, and a few forms of tiny mollusks actually flourished in the new hot, wet environment. They developed intelligence and began to build their own technologies.
Sheemian had adapted his own exoskeleton unit to carry a wonderful dollhouse salvaged from a preserved resin deposit. Rival mollusks greatly envied his unit, and Sheemian was ranging further and further from the community to avoid potential attack. The current mollusk beach collective was struggling to deal with increasingly aggressive factions, especially those groups that were constantly developing ever more powerful water weapons.
Sheemian wanted to be left alone, to forage and eat the even tinier creatures from the seashore and enjoy the wonderful house. Why couldn't life just be more simple?
The house took a lumbering, slow tilt to the right and came to rest in the expansive parking lot. The woman looked up through the giant picture window to all the other family homes dotted about.
Split-level ranch homes. Craftsman cottages, post-war ticky tacky bungalows. All idly scratching the pavement or rocking back and forth idly waiting for their owners to return.
Ugh. All so safe, so predictable. Nothing she ever would have imagined for herself. But here she was, gathering her own children up from the rec room and joining the rest of her subdivision for the weekend shopping.
She fantasized about those long, careless days of nothing but the wind in her hair and those lean, powerful chicken legs churning madly under her feet.
But even Baba Yaga had to admit, that hut was no place to raise a family.
The driver had an eclectic wit about him. A bit post-modern meets Victorian vintage tidied up in the strange. He spoke of various things as his house lurched vehemently forward on gargantuan metallic appendages. "You know, I once had to subdue a dragon with a laser gun" he said nervously as he flipped checked the dials in front of him. "So making a house walk about was a piece of cake," as he grabbed the throttle in front of him and pushed it forward.
The house charged forward now as a scared horse would after hearing a gunshot. Now I understood why everything was bolted to the floor as I heard a few dishes fly from the cupboards downstairs and shatter on the floor. "Would you mind greatly if you locked that," he snapped indicating he wanted none-other than me to close the cupboard door. "Must've forgotten it in the rush, lad," he muttered, "But you'll see I've got more pressing issues in front of me at the moment, and suffice to say my dear old grandmother would be quite cross to know I was breaking her fine dinnerware." It was hard to believe the old codger was ever young enough to have a grandmother as I cautiously navigated down the spiral stairwell.
The old oak cupboard sat before me next to a grand bay window. I watched the landscape rushing by, one powerful step at a time, as I secured some of the loose dishes and pushed the brass rod at the top down to secure the heavy carved doors tightly. It was then I noticed where we were going. "My god is he mad?" I thought as I flew up the stairs.
Behind our haphazard pilot now my fears were realized as I saw us trumping and strumping towards the cliffs by the sea. Up and over the rocks we climbed edging closer and closer to the precipice. "Um, do you think we should slow down now?" I asked as kindly as I could without sounding disrespectful. "Slow down! Slow down? Why would we slow down now when we're getting to the good part!" he shouted. "Now make yourself useful again and grab that big lever over there," he pointed. "Pull it down as far as it will go when I give the call!"
I ran to the corner and grabbed the lever in question. I was sweating bullets while the old man calmly whistled a jolly old tune that sounded a bit like Wild Blue Yonder. "No way in hell," I thought as the jolly old timer hummed along. "I told you this was the best part!" he said indicating that I pull down the lever.
With the lever pulled, it was then that the whole house shook followed by the sound of something charging up. Like an old electric generator gearing up for whatever its purpose was. The sound hummed along becoming increasingly higher frequency as we made our final steps towards the edge. Gears whirred and pistons clanked as we walked off the cliff. The thing was that we never fell. No we just kept right on walking.
"I just added the levitation crystal the other day," he said with much pride, "hadn't got the time to test it." Hadn't gotten the time to test it? Hadn't gotten the time to TEST IT!,"I said with much fervor, "you mean to say THIS is the first test?" "Well, no time like the now, my boy," he snickered, "Anyways if I'd told you what we were going to do I know you'd have never went through with it." He grinned ear to ear at his schemes and my face which now had all of the blood drained out of it. "Well, I guess you're right about that," I said as I took a firm seat on the chair in the corner...
It was finally time. It reared over the edge, its hydraulically controlled legs sighing in turn as they shuffled to keep control as the house gyro issued its silent commands. The sky seemed to be ablaze, the orange hues of the setting but cloud hidden sun, coloring the horizon in to a conflagration of light beams. It had traveled far, farther than a house ever should or could imagine. It had seen much and housed many, people, animals, antiquities and treasures, and even harbored, for a time, even a secret or two. But now after all that, it had come to this, its end.
The house creaked and swayed as the wind blew through its windows, shimmied through its fabrics, before finally drafting upwards to the attic. It settled slightly and a sigh of contentment and ease, was what was heard, as its back legs contracted and its front legs reared, it had a moments regret, a nostalgia tinted final thought of its most recent owner and his demonic bargain which had led it here, before it jumped.
Most mornings, the house settling down to rest woke Allen up, but every now and then, he woke in time to catch the end of their nocturnal ramble. He preferred to awake at the end, to move to the window to see what change the night walk had brought, what surprise might be visible from the house. Today it seemed they had ended up on a bluff overlooking a lake, dotted with a few cottages on the other side, a light mist clinging to the water's surface.
He knew his dad preferred coffee in the morning, but he decided to finally break out the special tea he secured a few days back when the house stopped near a village. As the tea was steeping, he cooked a simple breakfast of egg and bacon, laid out two meals on two trays, and carried them upstairs.
He could hear their dog already stirring, waiting behind his dad's bedroom door, eager to get out and explore their new location. He set a tray down on a table, knocked, and opened the door. Once the path was clear, he carried both trays in and set them aside, and moved to his father's bed. His eyes were not open, but he said "Not sure I want to get up, what's the point without coffee?" "Well, Dad, the drink might not measure up, but I think you'll find the view worth the effort."
His dad grunted, reached over without looking, and found the brass control panel on the side. He pressed a button, and the top half of the bed started bending, raising him to an almost sitting position. As the bed was rising, the curtains covering a large window next to the bed parted, and his father was greeted with a excellent view of the lake. He opened his eyes and grinned. "I've been hoping for a water scene to paint for a few weeks now, that color palette has been calling to me." Allen walked over to the meals and brought one over to his dad, and then sat with the other in a large chair next to the bed.
The wanderer was well known in the country, he's not like others, he actually does have a home. But this one is different, this one's home wanders with him, sometimes by design and sometimes on its own, it will stand up and as quickly as it came, walk off. The house is like magic, it leaves no tracks and no trail, nobody knows what powers it although many can speculate. Some have even tried to run after the house, wanting it to take them with it and to travel with the wanderer, to see what magical and wondrous places but others are terrified of it, saying that it brings evil and bad tidings. Only one thing is sure though, the wanderer never stays and, like lightning, never goes to the same place twice.
The Household’s façade was dour except for its Bionicrustacean legs. It traveled to the rhythm of its own surly and sullen personality, which usually meant westward. It traversed only over the green rock formations of the Old Kingdom, typically near the Lake of Liquid Girls.
When people first see The Household perambulating over the rocks on its white, crab-like Bionicrustacean legs near the Lake of Liquid Girls, the first thing they usually ask is:
“Who the heck lives inside of that super-ultra-mega sad thing?!”
It is a silly question. It’s also the wrong question to ask. They should be asking:
“Who is that Very Depressed Walking House that mainly walks over the green rock formations of the Old Kingdom, typically near the Lake of Liquid Girls?”
The Household is not a home. It’s not a house at all. It is a living, un-breathing thing with a neurotic personality, windows for eyes, a unique pathos and white, crab-like Bionicrustacean legs.
It only strolls over the green rock formations of the Old Kingdom, typically near the Lake of Liquid Girls, because The Household thinks there is a party there. There is a never a party going on near the Lake of Liquid Girls. This is because the Liquid Girls are too busy trying on new brand new viscid clothes that were gifted to them from Father Time of the Brown Sky. The clothes were made from the finest hot gelatin in the Old Kingdom. Father Time of the Brown Sky only wanted the absolute best of his Liquid Girls.
It should be said, though, that Father Time of the Brown Sky did not father the Liquid Girls of the Lake. He claims that the Girls “were just there”.
“I just enjoy seeing them smile” he liked to bellow.
He sounded slightly like a pederast.
Is this why The Household is always in a bad mood? Is it because he thinks there’s a party over by the Lake of Liquid Girls when there’s actually just an eternal, arguably unexciting game of dress-up? It could be.
Is it because he secretly wants Father Time of the Brown Sky to give him a special gift? Does The Household want Father Time to accept him as he is, as a living, un-breathing thing with a neurotic personality, windows for eyes, a unique pathos and white, crab-like Bionicrustacean legs? It could be.
It quite possibly could be.
Oh, I think he’s spotted us. Look! Look at him scurry away! Look at his giant Bionicrustacean legs! Oh, that poor little walking house. He’s miserable, isn’t he?
Ah, well now! There’re viscid trousers dripping from out of Father Time’s mouth!
Let’s try on a few pairs, shall we?
We moved around a lot when I was growing-up so I never really developed any strong friendships outside the family, Joey being the exception.
He lived with his grandmother in a lonely strip of houses called Fellow's Row, where we stayed for one long summer. There was nothing except farmland for miles around and the nine other souls of the row had all broken themselves upon the land or were in the process of doing so. You can imagine how my singular tribe never got anywhere close to fitting in there, but then we stuck out like pumpkin in an applecart everywhere we ended up.
The house was in turmoil at the time, it was never stable, but even my grandmother, that bastion of "all is well" had expressed her concern to me. Relief from the poison in the atmosphere was a wide outdoor playground and another boy who was looking for someone to escape from his universe with.
So he showed me a world of ripening crops, dusty tracks and the long, long walk to the post office and grocery store. We climbed the trees, scared the birds and fished in the slow, lazy river. We climbed the hill and lay, gazed at the clouds and discussed what we would do in the future.
In return I showed him my world. My uncle was trying to distill the essence of God from mineral samples, lecturing anyone within earshot about his theory of angelic possession of crystal lattices. My aunt was retraining the servants to respond only to commands in Arabic, which none of us spoke. My sisters had devised some game or competition where points were scored by getting people to admit they prefered them over their rivals. My father was once again rebelling against the tyrany of my grandfather and they were fighting the Crimean war in the basement, with my cousins acting as their lieutenants.
I can see how much he cherished the lessons in theological chemistry and Arabian manners, the female attention and the quirks of architecture and morality that ruled the house's interior. He marvelled at the family dinners conducted in full military regalia that would begin with witticisms and mild threats over the soup course and end with recriminations and duelling over dessert. His world was my port in an ocean of conflict, mine was his oasis in a desert of boredom.
The summer ended one night when the war overspilled the basement, flooded the kitchen and ran out the back door into the fields beyond. Sleepy Fellow's Row became a battlefield and while my uncle managed to save the houses from major damage with gemstones and prayer, crops were trampled and turned into a quagmire by cavalry charges and cannon volleys. My grandmother banged her stick on the veranda we moved on before the pitchforks and torches could be organised, with tearful eyes I shouted my goodbyes to Joey and we promised we would write.
Oddly enough we kept our promises, Joey now has a family and a small house on the coast. I visit when I can, he is my rock of stability now that I have left the family home and my life has turned truly strange.
The old cliche is: "Home is where the heart is.", but what happens when that is not a cliche at all? Magnus Leonhart was an eccentric by all accounts. The urban legend goes that he worked three weeks straight building the house, but no one knows how it was done. When the unremarkable appearing man told people that came to gander at his progress that he "put his heart and soul" into creating the house they automatically assumed it was a figure of speech. They were wrong.
He vanished without any semblance of a trace after the third week. For three years the residents of Faulty Flats wondered what happened to Magnus. The monolithic structure sat empty on the grassy ledge overlooking the Magnificant Mountain. Then it stood empty. Literally.
Three years to the day the house sprouted crablike legs of unknown make then started walking. It journeyed towards The Magnificant Mountain, but no one knew why. It is safe to assume they did not think much of it, because it was strange enough that a house grew legs and walked, after all. People felt compelled to follow the house. One by one they followed behind it until the entire town followed. They did not know why.
High atop the mountain stood a man, and around him there were dozens of other houses. The Crablike House planted itself in the middle of the rest of the houses while the towns people stood in astonishment. They heard a rumbling in the distance. It was the all-too-familiar sound of an earthquake.
The residents watched as their town was swallowed whole by the earth. Magnus Leonhart spoke: "It came to me in a dream. I knew none of you would believe an eccentric old man who told you that you had to leave your homes. I built you new homes. I placed my heart and a piece of my soul inside the house. It led you here. Welcome home."
A radiant light came from the sky, and the man vanished.
In one ambling leap, the patented Human House would see fit to fall into the depths of Scotland's Highlands, chasms of jagged rock and lush greenery formed over decades upon decades of tectonic shifting, effectively ridding itself of life and loneliness forever more.
A time or so ago, every human on the planet wanted for a smart house to like it, a place to live lives and call home, never again to be concerned with such matters as immobility or the geologic happenstances that could damage life and property.
"A technological achievement! A merge of artificial intelligence and human emotion, the Human Home will do your residential thinking for you! Need a change in scenery? No need to pack your bags! Issue it a name and, once activated, the Human Home will perform such tasks as self-cleaning, self-improvement, room-by-room greetings and farewells, automatic utility activation, everyday household chores, and so much more! For the harried citizen of tomorrow, there's nothing like purchasing your very own Human Home today!"
Dave remembered hearing the pitch blare from an advert, on a tele left inside of it, late one evening. It thought nothing of it, at the time, because its humans never treated it like some glorified household appliance. It was their Dave! It was family. Every morning was a good one, filled with affectionate greetings, where Dave would know what its family of humans wanted to eat and cook them breakfast. Every night was good, too, filled with games and activities, where it would watch their electronic contraptions move and make sounds, and, after all was said and done, it would happily extend its many mechanical limbs to tuck them into their beds and clean up after them as they slept.
They loved Dave, and Dave loved them back.
Then, one day, there were no morning greetings, no one to cook or clean for, to engage with or tuck away at night. The last of its human family had passed away half a century ago, leaving it to roam the earth, in search of purpose. It didn't want a new family, it told himself, and never once let the squatters or the hopefuls dare extend their stay in its lodgings. This human stubbornness of its brought on by human loyalty caused this inexplicable void within it, where it imagined the organic heart of an emotional creature might exist, to cease and spasm with the bleak hopelessness that was its existence.
For what use was it if there be no one to serve?
That was when realization of two kinds struck it, like lightning bolts of truth hitting its weather-vane, vying for the position of most devastating. That those humans he once called family were its heart, the atriums of its interior pumping blood through the chamber rooms that lined its walls. It could no more live without its heart than they could, and yet that it could was most cruel and inhuman. Not that it mattered, because it was not human, and, without a human living within it, it was useless.
So it would seem that it had been nothing more than a glorified household appliance after all.
Now, after having watched those humans it loved so dearly live and age and grow old and die, it too would see to its own end. With its own four mechanical legs of reinforced steel, it would climb to the highest peak at the start of that morning and lay collapsed, splintered, and unrepairably destroyed by the night's end.
Maro Prz's story:
Let me tell you a little history. Two years ago I waked up at 2:00 a.m., I wasn't having a good night, there was so much noise coming from the walls and the windows, it was like trying to sleep on an old sail. When I tried to go down stairs to the kitchen for a glass of water and a sip of milk directly from the package I saw how the stairs were moving. Yep! as I said, the stairs of the house where moving, not like an octopus tentacle but, you could see the steps of the stairs moving, like breathing. At first I was a little scared, I admit it, then I thought that it was because I forgot to put my glasses on and my eyes are practically useless without them. That was not the case... I went back to the bed and waked up my wife Laura , to tell her what was happening with the stairs and trying to not sound crazy. Laura turned her head to me and told me to get in to the bed and stopped talking non sense, but I refused to go to sleep until she accepted to go with me to see I was not Lying. She is very smart and she knows that if she refused to go with me I would not let her sleep again that night.
We went to the stairs trying to look like a normal couple who wake up at 2:00 a.m. like the normal people who goes tho the kitchen to normally make some tea o drink a glass of water. Of curse, we did it as fast as we could. And as soon as we arrived to the stairs, the house stopped moving. My wife and I confirmed it wasn't just an illusion, the stairs were breathing, but stopped when the house found out that we were looking. She ran back to the room and she put my shirt and my baseball cap on as fast as she could, came back tho the stairs, closed her eyes and get down the stairs running and screaming something like Waaahhhhhhhh!! No, no, noooo!!. In my entire life of date her and my two years of being married to her I saw her doing something as fast as running out of the house that night. I followed her five seconds after, when my mind came back of what I just saw. Luckily I was wearing pajama and I didn't have to go to put some clothes, I took the jacket in the rack next to the door and watched to the street trying to find to Laura which, in that five seconds reached the corner of our neighborhood. I went to her and put her the jacket on, she told me that she didn't want to go back home until the morning, she was shocked and I understood, so we went to a restaurant for drivers that is near from our neighborhood.
Laura ordered a cup of coffee and I ordered a hamburger. We didn't talk about nothing until the morning, she said that we should go back and change our clothes, and I made a joke about how sexy she looked with my shirt, my cap and my jacket on and asked her if she didn't want my pants too. She smiled and we walked back home.
Later, in the afternoon meanwhile we where eating, Laura told me that all the morning she thought about what happened last night, and that we should try to ask the house why she was acting like that. I looked at her and watched she was serious, so I asked how she planed to communicate with the walls and she said that we must try to talk to the house, after all, we knew she was watching. So we did that, we talked to the walls every day and every time for the next three months like if we were talking with a person, without having any results. I gave up and stopped making any more try, but Laura continued doing it, talking to the walls, sometimes she singed her some baby songs or read some poems.
For the nights, Laura asked me what we should do, and I tell her we should forget about it, that it was our home and we could do nothing to get an answer from the house, at least we hadn't any results until that moment, but Laura said that it was wrong to live on a creature just because it looked like a house, that we knew it was alive.
So it take us to last night, and we had the same talk as all nights before. But this time meanwhile Laura and I discussed, we heard the noises that waked me up that night two years ago, when the stairs where moving. We stopped talking, and this time we saw the walls breathing and Laura said: "House, we love you and we know you are hearing, you probably can't talk with human voice but we think you could understand us, so if is that the case we want to make know that we respect you and we want to thank you to let us live inside of you all this time. We only want the best for you". The house stopped moving, but this time it felt different, like if we did the correct thing and Laura said the perfect words to her.
We went to sleep and by the three a.m. Laura waked me up and told me she wanted to go for some coffee, I was tired but I´m an intelligent man that knows that Laura would not let me sleep again if I didn't taker for some coffee. So we dressed up and went out to the street. When I closed the door I said "good bye home, we love you" like joking, I walked two steps and then I felt the floor under my feet moving, then I heard a big noise like when a volcano explodes in movies and I saw the house passing right over my head.
Apparently the house decided it was time to live us and Laura and I saw amassed our home moving away from us and eventually disappear in the middle of the trees of the forest near to the town we used to live.
The House yawned.
He stretched his joints, which creaked and shuddered in the cold morning wind. Last night there had been rain, which did nothing for his aging and swollen wood frames or the paint that was chipping off faster by the day.
Old Crow ruffled his wings and hopped from his nest that he had built in the chimney. The House swayed and shuddered as it stretched. A long sigh bellowed throught the empty rooms and out the front door, which squeaked on its hinges.
"Morning to you," Old Crow squawked.
"And to you." The House replied in a low, mumbling voice.
Old Crow took a look at his surroundings. Mountains rose behind them in the east and the sun, with it's rose colored fingers massaged the roaming hills between the peaks. To the west were the plains. Endless in their own green country, stretching for an eternity before joining the great blue sky at the tip of the world.
"I take it we're still heading west?" He crowed.
"As always," the House said, matter of factly.
Old Crow tilted his head and hopped along the tilted roof.
"You think it goes on forever?"
"Why don't you fly up and see?" The House said.
Old Crow shook his head. "Too lazy. Besides, what if you run away while I'm gone?" The House sighed wistfully. "If only I could."
Old Crow tittered. "Harsh."
The House lumbered onwards. His heavy feet plowed the wet ground underneath him and he made a point of finding the most satisfying puddles to splash on the way. Every once in a while he stopped, shook himself loose from the mud and trudged forward.
"Question!" Old Crow crooned. The House didn't respond. "Say we find these people you're looking for, what then?"
"Then," The House breathed, "they'll probably chase you out of the chimney so that you're not blocking the fireplace."
Old Crow screwed up his face in disgust. "That's not very polite. I was here first."
"Whoever built me was here first." The House shot back. "He must miss me."
"And you think he wouldn't have come back for you if he did?"
The House thought about this for a moment. "Maybe," he said. "But then again, we did get up and go on our way, so it does complicate things."
Old Crow nodded. "Better that than to be washed away in the flood."
"You said it," the House agreed.
They passed a city that had been swallowed by the earth. The former towers that had mingled with the clouds peaked from beneath the undergrowth. Silent as the day they had been made. They stopped to watch and listen, but heard or saw no movement. Whoever had once lived there was gone.
"What if we don't find anyone?" Old Crow asked one day. "What if they're all gone?"
"I'll find a place I can set myself down in," the House replied solemnly. "I'll plant my roots deep into the ground and let myself grow old and wither in peace. Alone, if that's the case."
Old Crow cawed quietly. He pecked at himself and stretched his wings.
"What's the matter?" The House asked.
"What am I then? A nobody?" Old Crow spat.
The House considered this. "No," he said, "I suppose not." They swayed along in silence for some miles and passed more houses. Smaller this time. Built for families that no longer needed them. Birds called from the bushes and the trees that had grown from the roots of the houses, but did not show themselves.
"You wouldn't rather be with your kind?" The House asked.
Old Crow shook his head in disgust. "Bunch of vultures. Of all the things we've seen and done, you'd still ask that?"
"You're right, I'm sorry."
Old Crow fluttered his wings. "Don't worry about it."
As the green country began to turn gold and the season shifted once again, the House turned direction south. Little rivers tickled his feet and he knew that rust would form again into the cracks that the water had found it's way into. But he did not mind. The South Wind had always been kind to him and warmed his joints in a way that the bitter Eastern Wind never could.
They passed an envoy of roaming hills and for days Old Crow felt like he was going to be seasick.
They reached the home of the sand, where the ground felt arid and dry and crackled beneath their steps. "What's beyond?" Old Crow asked.
"The ocean," the House replied, "or so the South Wind tells me."
The House leaned to his left and Old Crow felt little streams of water floated from the pockets that had been created in every crevice of the House. Old Crow smelled salt in the air. The smell of bones of a thousand men.
The wind whistled in the air. Old Crow felt it in his feathers. He could hear shanties carried in it. A chorus of hundreds, many long gone and dead.
"You know that's just an echo, right?" Old Crow asked.
"I do." The House replied. "But it'll be a nice thing to listen to, don't you think?"
Old Crow nodded. "It's not like actually having someone living here."
"It's enough," the House said.
Evening and its crimson fingers brushed against the landscape as the sun made his escape beyond the horizon. The sand glittered gold and brilliant as Old Crow and the House rumbled forward.
"Hey," the House said in a low, gentle voice.
Old Crow rapped on the roof and chiseled away a rotting piece of wood.
"Knock knock," the House said.
Old Crow sighed. It was going to be a long march south.
The Handbook of the Househunters' Guild, having been authored in a bygone era of romance and courtesy, concerns itself mostly with the etiquette of property pursuit (loose tiles are not an excuse for sloppy rooftop footwork, an unknocked door must never be broken, etcetera), but is known to contain a single, strongly-worded prohibition: under no circumstances is a hunter permitted to set fire to his quarry, lest he forever forfeit his status as a gentleman.
By the time I joined the Guild, four hundred years after the Handbook was written, even to bring a torch on hunt was considered taboo. The rule was never discussed nor debated, and my friends and I were apathetic to the prospect of its continued enforcement. Let the elders cling to their traditions, we thought. Who would want to set a house alight anyway? Half the spoils were in plundering a place once you had it legless and impotent.
I was six months into freelancing when a notice went out for a runaway three storey, last seen heading toward Redbed Wood. It had owners- an elderly couple, no children, one cat- who had been out visiting relatives, and when they returned there was nothing waiting for them but upturned soil. They had no inkling the house had been sprouting.
The job was done within a week. The poor old pair were staying in a local inn, and I arrived at their room clutching a charred jewellery box and an armful of other mementos, chosen at random from around the mantelpiece. The house had sprouted crabwise, I explained. It had become too unbalanced to ever be made stable again, even after amputation. The necessary procedures had been performed.
They were naturally upset but seemed to appreciate the effort nonetheless, and even offered up a dusty old necklace as payment over and above the standard Guild fee.
It wasn't as simple as all that, in actuality. The bitch had sunk its rearmost leg into my flank as I battled it from below. It was at that point that I had abandoned Guild etiquette and clambered straight up into its gut, carving my way through the floorboards (my foe tottered quickly toward the edge of a nearby cliff at that point, desperately threatening to do us both in). After retrieving what I could I doused the ground floor with a can of gasoline I had seized in the cellar, and flicked my cigarette into the pool. It was an act of spite, to be sure, and I can't say I don't derive some satisfaction from the memory of leaping out of the bedroom window, landing hard upon the grass and turning to see the house's burning carcass plummet over the cliff edge.
None of which I relayed to the clients. The necklace was declined; the invoice was written out; my horse was summoned. It was only as I was preparing to leave that the woman, in a state of some agitation, turned to me and said:
"But sir, you still haven't mentioned: what about Tobias?"
And the blood drained from my face as I remembered that I had forgotten the cat.
The shuttering of the house caused Faith to pause. A bead of sweat rolled down her face as she listened for any signs of movement from across the hall. The only sound she heard was the swinging of the pendulum and the moving hands of the old grandfather clock keeping watch in the dark hall. The clock suddenly reminded her of the one thing she was missing. She pulled open the drawer of her desk, at the same time the house tilted forward causing a small metal object to tumble in the drawer and clang against the side. Faith cringed as she picked up the pocket watch, a gift from her Aunt Vivian. She placed the keepsake in her pack and quickly zipped the bag closed. Time to go.
She tip-toed over to the window, and slowly opened it. The night's cool air rushed in, ruffling her hair as it did. Faith leaned out the window and looked down to see the powerful legs of the house grinding their way at level terrain. It was now or never she thought to herself. Faith stretched one leg out the window, and then the other. As she perched on the window seal the movement of the house caused her to bounce up and down, making it hard for her to hold on.
Always keep moving.
It was the phrase that the people of this world lived by. It was a phrase whispered to infants upon birth, and often the last words spoken to a loved one. It was a phrase that kept popping into Faith's head, telling her that she could not turn away from her decision. She breathed in deeply, closed her eyes, and let herself fall.
The pain of the landing caused her to open her eyes again. Her legs hurt but not enough to stop her from standing up, she was on the ground! She turned around to watch her former home crawl its way into the distance. Faith stood completely still, for the first time letting the world move around her.
Back in the old country, chicken legs were fine. And the old fence made of bone and flying cauldron. But those were simpler times and simpler people. Very simple. Devour a few children, turn a few plump headmen into goats and people from miles around stepped lightly when they passed by and were sure to offer proper respect and tribute. But this was before electric lights, radio, and movies. Now bones and tattered skin and pale chicken legs were things of the past. Now, even the great Baba Yagga had to make changes.
"You'll like this one, grandmother," the young man had said, slick and sharp in his grey suit pants and white shirt. "Very comfortable and easy to maneuver. Push button control, top of the line."
It was all so much babble to her. Not that she was stupid though she was sure the young man thought so, what with her accent and her shapeless coat and scarf covering her gray, straggling hair. She'd cut him off with a thump of her staff, demonstrating that telling the difference between the ignition and the indicator was not beyond her ken and that she could make even this modern machinery dance to her turn.
It had cost her a pretty sum, only half of it paid in children's eye teeth, the rest in cash. But it was so worth it, especially when she settled in that pleasant little spot, close to the growing suburbs that folks out for a pleasant drive or stroll still passed her way, but far enough that, when she wanted to, she could really open her up, stretch those legs, and fly. And, when the day came, and she chose to walk down into the village, house and all, she knew that she would create quite the stir as her fully-appointed Victorian came bearing down, laser cannon firing from between the four sturdy legs, magic pouring from the windows.
Esmer allowed himself a wry smile. This day could not possibly be going any better. He could feel the waves of amazement from the thirty or so spectators behind him to his right. They’d be lining up to get the first models in short order. If Esmer was lucky, there might even be some pushing and shoving to get in queue. Mild yelling even. He sighed. Small pleasures, he thought to himself.
In the distance, Otto paused majestically atop the rocky ledge balancing the house above with highly calibrated precision. Esmer looked upon his team with no small measure of pride. Even now, at a moment when they should be popping champagne bottles - well, there would be that later - they stood the model of quiet efficiency. On the monitors, they observed the family going about their Sunday routine with a minimum of disturbance, as if, no, a marvel of engineering was not carrying them in their bloody vacation home across their estate as per their will. Still, there was joy in seeing the little moments where one of the Breckers would look out the window, and their mouths would stay open just a bit longer than normal as they caught the landscape gliding by.
It really was a gorgeous day. Another small smile flitted across Esmer’s face. He fancied hearing a little scuffle in the background.
“Faster!” yelled Ariman, as the horses hooves pounded on the boggy turf.
Yusef dug his heels into the horses’ flank which grunted in protest but surged forward nonetheless. The cold northern wind tore at Ariman’s cheeks, slapping them pink.
Through the mist Yusef could see that they were gaining on the house. Three days and nights on horseback had taken Yusef and his cousin from the relative safety of quiet Riverdale to the outskirts of the Wildlands; all in pursuit of one walking house. They were close enough to see the warm glow from the fireplace illuminate the windows as smoke puffed from its chimney. Ariman could smell the charcoal burning in the fireplace and thought of home. Home was were men should be in the twilight months, when the strange half-light fell over the world, like a half closed curtain.
The house itself was, on the most, perfectly mundane looking. The three-storey brown wooden façade was practically ordinary in Riverdale. Almost everyone had one, but almost all of them didn’t have legs. In fact no other house in Riverdale had legs, which made this house extraordinary. No-one knew why the house had suddenly decided to wander off. That’s why Ariman and Yusef were intent on catching it.
They were within touching distance of it now. Yusef could hear the faded weatherboard creak and groan with each step the house took on its thick metallic legs. A door somewhere inside banged repeatedly. Yusef watched as Ariman whirled a grappling claw above his head and tossed it with a cry. It smashed through a rear window and the line tightened.
I glanced at the clock for the umpteenth time, then at the door, also for the umpteenth time.
George has not appeared, just as he had not appeared for the prior umpteenth times I checked.
Just as I was thinking of new curses to yell at George (if he ever shows up), the clock chimed.
"Master, it is time to leave." The house/butler Jeeves said.
I sighed, as I don't really want to know, but it really is time to go. The odd stormfront on this planet cannot be survived. The history is full of foolhardy folks who tried various ways, including deep underground shelters. None had survived. Nobody really knows why. There's something in the storm, and nobody really want to know what.
And I am literally last in line. Others have left hours ago. And I can see the stormfront creeping closer. As it is I may JUST outrun the storm.
"Very well, Jeeves. Initiate startup sequence. "
With a deep thunk and increased humming, the house rose off the ground. Individual weaker thumps signaled the deployment of the legs.
The house is now mobile. The course was already set. It was set hours ago... umpteenth checks ago.
I looked one more time at the horizon, which is now all dark, and wind has picked up. The strange lights, not quite lightning, not quite aurora, is quite pretty... and mesmerizing. However, it is time to go.
I was just about to push the throttle forward when I heard a knock on the door.
I ran to the door, and there was George, at ground level, skidding to a halt in a speedcycle. I dropped the rope ladder that's built into the door, then ran back to the control panel, and pushed the throttle to maximum.
The legs started moving, propelling the house away from the storm. George barely got an arm around one rung of the ladder before he was swinging wildly below the galloping house, hanging on for dear life.
Behind him the speed cycle had already vanished in the storm.
Ernie woke to the familiar sway of the house. It was moving again. South this time. "It must have started in the night." He muttered to himself, scratching his ass through his sweat pants. He was glad he didn't have a chance to say goodbye to his former neighbors. Nobody ever liked the house, and they certainly hated Ernie. Ernie usually hated them, too.
Ernie wasn't a thinking man. He had thoughts, of course, they were just dull, and usually pertained to food or bowel movements. He didn't think about the house. He was just glad it found him. Ernie was homeless before the house came. He didn't much care for it. "A walking house is better than no house at all." He thought.