This time, would it be different? Terry didn't know but he was willing. Why was he willing? Because he didn't have anything to hold on to other than his willingness. Terry was one of those people who would keep trying despite themselves. In a sense, he had dug a hole in his yard looking for dinosaur bones and upon failing immediately, had resolved to dig deeper rather than dig somewhere else, or possibly go to the natural history museum.
We have not yet discovered what Terry was willingly trying to do.
Terry himself didn't know, he would follow his train of incidence through his day, with nothing more concrete than some other person's story, his old neighbour's in fact, in his mind.
Old Bob Johnson had lived in the neighbourhood long before Terry moved in. Everyone expected him to be there when they moved out. A quiet, reserved man, if not outright secretive.
Nobody knew how and where and when Johnson had made his fortune but everyone was convinced he had some, with no visible means of support, his house was always in top condition, making newer houses built on the street seem old by comparison after even a few years exposed to the elements, yet Bob Johnson's house was so old it even had a name, Carter House.
Then there were the lights. Once or twice, magical mysterious lights had been witnessed by serveral neighbours, including Terry, coming from the house, concentrated in the cellar, piercing the heavy shades that draped the tall Victorian windows.
Speculation on what Old Bob was doing down in his cellar ran from smelting Spanish gold to teleporting aliens onto earth from a cloaked ship in orbit.
That last was a favourite among the teenagers. Terry didn't subscribe to any of these theories himself. Naturally people had once or twice plucked up the courage to ask Bob about the lights when the opportunity arose, at street parties or the annual homeowner's association barbeque.
Bob wasn't antisocial, he attended neighbourhood functions, some might say he was taciturn but Terry had often talked garden-talk with Bob over the years.
Until that day, 6 months ago, when a lawyer had knocked on his door.
Bob had passed away in the night, he said, Bob had no surviving family, he said.
Bob had willed his house to Terry, he said.
Terry was now the owner of Carter House.
That was months ago, now. Terry rented his house to a young couple, he needed the extra income to continue the upkeep of the house. Or that's what he claimed.
The rent covered more than maintenance, utilities and upkeep.
There was enough left over to switch to part-time teaching duties at the university.
There was enough left over for that.
And the other thing. Which Terry couldn't really put into words.
But for the first time in his life, Terry felt that something was happening, it was thrilling, not a fright but a terror, something was happening that he couldn't precisely (even vaguely, he admitted to himself) define.
Many years later, after the lights coming from Terry's place had been witnessed by at least two neighbours, the current tenants of his old place asked him about them.
He answered, as enigmatically as Bob might have done, with the following story.
Once upon a time, a husband, dutiful to his wife in all things, and truthful and thoughtful and conscientious to a fault, was confronted when he came home one day by his spouse with a question: "Honey, I was in your study the other day and I noticed that your desk drawer is locked,"
Without mentioning his disapproval that she had been shuffling around his papers or being in his study at all, he replied to the question directly.
"Yes, it is,"
"What's in it?"
No more would he say. And his wife accepted this for a while because he was truthful and thoughtful and conscientious to a fault in all other things.
But that locked drawer tugged at her and yanked at her and in the end, though she would never have put it this way herself, that locked drawer led to her divorcing her husband.
In the separation agreement,. which her husband dutifully, yet sadly signed, she made sure she got his study desk.
She opened the locked drawer on the day it arrived at her new apartment, the key already in the lock.
There was nothing there.
Abandoning all pretense, she phoned her ex-husband.
“What was in the drawer!” she knew he’d know what she meant.
“I told you so many times, nothing,”
“Why?” she yelled, suddenly all their conversations about that drawer over the years clicked forward into a new and horrifying configuration, she knew what he was going to say, word for word, before he said it, she inhaled sharply.
“I just wanted a little space.”
He hung up the phone so he didn’t have to hear her scream.
That’s the story Terry told his neighbours.
Soon, Terry was the oldest resident on the street. Everyone thought he’d die there.
They were only half right.