Dust.

I hated how the dust puffed up around my feet, each step feeling like a little explosion. It made me feel dirty, right up to the part when the dust hit my lungs and I started a coughing fit that made me sound like a 90-year-old with asthma. The house was a disaster. I mean a complete derelict piece of shit. This was not good for my lungs, but really good for my bank account.

I started my career in recovery about 8 years ago. By recovery I mean cleaning. I began calling it by the fancy name when I got my first abandon home. It was a fluke really. I was working one of my regular once a week jobs, a small business owner, when he came up to me in a panic.

“How much for a wreck?” He stammered.

“Huh?” my response was always professional.

“I got an abandoned Tudor, got it so fucking cheap, but it is a mess! I mean it smells like ass stuffed with dead raccoon. I need it clean and sell-able, like yesterday.”

My mind raced to one thing, “well that will cost you, have to put a lot on hold.”

He looked at me with a raised eye, “figured, so how much?”

“I would have to see and quote. Gimmee the address and I will meet you there tomorrow.”

“Fuck that, I pay you for tonight and you come with me now.”

I just let out a sigh and nodded and off I was to my first recovery. It really did smell bad, and the reason was the refrigerator. Who ever left this place left it in a hurry. The fridge was full with rotting and molding layered food stuff. I mean it was rank!

The rest of the home wasn’t too bad. Dust was the main concern, it covers everything and given enough time gets into every nook and cranny. I like the term, nook and cranny, sounds dirty in a funny way.

I quoted an outrageous price and he said ok. I was shocked but kept it to myself. I started the next day and after 5 days of 18 hour shifts I had it up to my standards. When it comes to cleaning I am blessed with OCD. Crippling in day-to-day life, but awesome for hand to broom. I slip into a mode that can’t be removed until the job is done.

When he came in he looked around the house and just kept staring with his mouth open.

“Good god, this is amazing,” he whispered.

“Thanks, consider it recovered!” and that was the birth of the word.

He flipped the house quickly and became a regular. He introduced me to others in his line of work and I became quite a popular and well paid woman. I almost felt guilty for charging so much, until I saw the bill of sale once on a property. I was worth it and more.

This house was giant. Seven rooms, a huge kitchen, two living rooms and a fully finished basement. It had five bathrooms, Five! Who the fuck needs five! I was already dreading my OCD, it was way worse in the bathroom. I felt the prickles in my brain as I opened the first door. It was bad. Water stains (well what I hoped was just water) and dust.

Dust, I hated it. Over the years I have created a disdain for dust unlike anything else in my life. I spend too much time destroying dust and yet it is always there, waiting at the next house. It smirks at me from hidden rooms and high shelves, It spurns anger in me and the only relief is to destroy it.

The best thing about getting paid a lot to clean, is I can afford better tools. When I say better tools I mean some serious, post apocalyptic, punk my vacuum, kinda shit. I have sprayers and dryers, vacuums and blowers. I have a venting apparatus and a whole host off suped up utensils that would make Mr. clean cum in his white pants.

I am laughing at that, while choking on the sheer amount of dust in this house. Seriously, I have never seen it so thick. The layers have to be a half-inch thick. Brownish grey with age and thicker than I have seen in other recovers. My gloved fingers draw lines in the crap and it almost seems like the dust comes back as quickly as I draw the line.

I move away from the first bathroom and allow myself to fully take in the main hall. If you had ever read about dark caves that made you feel uncomfortable and creeped out then this was the hall for you. The light fixtures were so gross and the walls and floor was dark with grime and god knows what. I moved down the hall and felt like a million eyes were staring at me. I knew I would have to get out quickly before I lost myself.

I turned and ran to the front door needing air and a break from the dust. I burst onto the front porch and took a deep breath. I flipped open my phone and dialed.

“Okay, you are going to need about 15,000” I said into the phone without waiting for a hello.

The agreement was immediate. The owner needed a quick flip and without the OCD queen it wouldn’t happen. My name has gotten bigger with each year and the select people who I work for pay to keep motivated. I look at the house again. I think I will be there 8 days. Not a bad paycheck.

At my home I strip down quickly. I hate the dirt I gather from these homes. The dust can’t be allowed to take hold in my domain. The clothes I wore are dropped directly into the portable washer dryer I have at the entrance to my condo. The bathroom door is right beside it. I move to the shower and wash myself raw.

I leave the shower as the washer stops, I throw the wet clothes in the dryer and move into my living room. I am okay with being naked in my own space. I know that I can relax. I flop down on my large soft comforter and close my eyes,

When I wake up I am greeted by a new day. This is day one of recovery. I quickly move to my bedroom and get dressed in some very unattractive overalls. In my kitchen I make some toast and eat two bananas. I am golden.

I am out the door and down to the garage in moments. Now I am in work mode and the cloud of purpose begins to over take me. I check my inventory to ensure I have everything needed. As usual I am well stocked. I jump in the driver’s seat and officially start.

It takes about 45 mins to get to the house. In the daylight it is bigger and more impressive than last night. I pull up right to the door and jump out. I grab some latex gloves and my aspirator. Pulling up the hood on my overalls and then putting on the mask. I look like some sci-fi scientist ready for an experiment and bent on world domination.

In the foyer the dust seems even thicker. I prop the door open and move back to my van. Sliding the door open I pull the industrial hose of my main weapon. It is an industrial vacuum with a wide nozzle and power to suck the skin off a human. I turn on my generator and hear the familiar sucking sound. Starting right at the door I place the head on the ground and begin.

It is amazing how my prize possession cleans. It makes me smile to see the dark wood that was once the main hall. In minutes the floor of the entry way is clear and visible. The hose I use is long and I have a few extensions I can attach. The job becomes so much quicker. It is too strong to use on furniture, but on hard surfaces, look out!

I spend the next 2 hours cleaning on the first floor. Once I feel the bulk of the dust is up, I wrap up the hoses and switch off the generator. I grab my utility belt and head back to the house. My belt is loaded with clothes, towels, dusters and some ingenious chemicals. I feel like batman, just with different villains.

I start at the main hallway again and begin a more physical clean. Wiping down every nook and cranny is a meticulously arduous job. This is my OCD at its height. My standard of clean is way above the average human. I move deliberately and with purpose. Time slips away as my brain switches into automatic. I do not think or dawdle. I am a machine.

A few hours later and the first floor is looking good. I am sweaty and exhausted. I have no choice but to call it a day and head home. I could easily work myself in to complete exhaustion and faint right in the middle of a dust. I have learned to let that go and allow myself to return rather than clean until dead. Trust me I have been challenged with that. I have fainted on the job more times than I care to acknowledge.

At home I move to my sofa after a long shower, and let myself drift to sleep. I wake up to a scream and before I realize it is me I am up and looking for someone else. I had a dream about many people screaming and grabbing at me. It is fading fast, but the imagery is still so vivid in my mind. I do not normally dream, so a nightmare is even more annoying.

I splash some water on my face and go to my room to change. I decide to start early today and really push it. Within an hour I’m back at the mansion. I am shocked by the size of it yet again. I attach my belt and climb the front steps. As I open the door I am greeted by an impossible sight.

Dust. Dust everywhere. As thick as it was the day before. It is as if I had done nothing in the previous hours I had cleaned. I just stood silent, staring at the film everywhere. I wondered how this was possible. Did someone come in through another door and cause a gale force wind to move this dirt from another location? Unbelievable, I was back to square one.

I sat outside on the steps for a bit. The thing with my business is that it is predictable. You go in, you clean and the job ends. This was a bit of a mental shock. I went in and cleaned and then returned to the same thing. If I believed in odd occurrences I would have been a bit frightened. Luckily I don’t and as I thought about it anger started to rise in my chest. I picked up my phone and dialed the client.

As the voicemail came on I spoke, “Look, I would appreciate that any visits to the recovery location are made with respect to what I am doing here. I do not need hours of work ruined because someone came in through the back door. Thank you.”

I hung up and looked back at the door. I decide I should investigate this house further. I had looked around the main floor and the top, so maybe I missed a lower level. My instincts are right as always and there in the kitchen is a door to a lower level. I reach for the handle and pull.

The creak of old hinges gives me goosebumps. Seriously, it sounds like some old monster movie. I am staring at stairs that are not wood, but carved stone. In fact the stairs are carved right into the bedrock that the house is apparently built on. I kinda have to marvel at the sheer work that would have been needed to carve into solid stone. The stairs look damp and yes, dirty. In grab my handy super powered halogen flashlight and start down.

Most basements I know are about 15 feet at most below the main floor. This one seemed to be a lot deeper based on the number of stairs I was descending. I counted at least 50 by the time my light saw the bottom. As I stepped off the stone stairway I was in a deep subterranean vault. I walked through the fucking looking-glass on this one.

The room was like a large cave, damp and cool. Along the wall to the right of me was a smooth stone face. I couldn’t even see any etch marks that would indicate carving out the stone. I have to admit I was in awe, the sheer expense was unimaginable. I walked along and the vault opened up, It was easily 40 feet wide and about twice that in length. My pocket sun and I moved further into the cave until I noticed something coming into view.

It was like a giant robot. Massive and made of iron. I have seen many old furnaces in my day, but nothing as impressive as the monster in front of me. The front grill was as tall as me and the venting snaked from the head of this metallic beast. I put my hand to the grill and was surprised that it felt warm. There were two things that I did not understand. One was that the house was not in what you would call a snow belt and two if the house had been unoccupied for as long as the dust indicated, there was no way the furnace could be warm.

“Ah it is amazing, isn’t it?”

I spun around and shined my light at the voice that just came from nowhere. It landed on what could only be described as a ghoul. He stood about 6 feet, as skinny as a sapling. His head bald and white, except for brown, sickly spots here and there. His lips were non-existent and he wore a suit that seemed almost to small for his lanky frame.

“Holy crap,” I yelled.

“So sorry dear, I received your call and thought it prudent to come to the house.”

He sounded sincere, but his voice had an odd lispy quality. It didn’t fit  his appearance.

“I take it you are the owner? I honestly do not recall speaking to you.” I said as I quietly reached for a large screw driver attached to my belt.

“We have not had the pleasure dear. I am the owner, one could say I am part of this house. I grew up here you see…this is my home.”

“But you are selling?”

He laughed and I was creeped out!

“Ah well, times are hard and I am so very old. It is much harder to maintain the house. So much easier when I was young and strong. Now I cannot keep the house happy.”

“I noticed,” I replied, starting to feel a bit less intimidated by the old ghoul.

“So you came to apologize for spreading the dust around and ruining my hard work?”

He shook his head slowly, “No I came to see if you were alright. The dust seemed to get the best of you, I do not like anger, I prefer smiles.”

When he smiled I saw the line of teeth. They were as white as new snow and as sharp as needles lined up in a row. But big, thick, sharp needles. I immediately felt scared again.

He moved across the floor toward me and I tightened my grip on the screw driver. He was almost on me when he sidestepped and stopped in front of the furnace. He laid his hands on the grill and started to shake his head.

“I was afraid of this,” he said still shaking.

“Squatters?” I replied.

His laugh again sent me shivering.

“No, I am afraid the iron man is awake.”

“Wow, you nicknamed the furnace?” I let a giggle out.

He shot me a look of disdain and I backed up a bit. He turned and stood straight, staring at me with eyes better suited to an alligator.

“When I was a lad, my father always provided for us. He built this house for us, carved these walls and put together the iron man, piece by piece. It took him years and took his life eventually. We never understood the iron man, we do not live in a cold climate and this beast always seemed a bit of an overkill.”

He laughed at something funny.

“The iron man was an old furnace when father began to put it together. The vents upstairs were soon black with soot. Father had not vented it properly, so some smoke and soot rose from the heat made by the burnings. Soon the house was always sooty, dust was born from the iron man. Still we lived and father worked…on the iron man mostly.”

We ate well and we were a close family. Every Sunday we had some roast and then the leftovers the rest of the week. We were a family living well, but living in the dust. The smell of burning was only drowned out by the smell of mother’s cooking. Sunday became the happy day because the iron man was not able to stop the fragrance of food.

Mother died 4 years after moving in. There was no funeral, but we mourned. She was cremated and she too turned to dust. My brothers and me thought that Sundays were gone, until the smells came to us. Father was cooking now and it was as delicious as always.

I started to notice changes in us all. These teeth I saw you stare at are one of those changes. You see, without mother we ate more and more of the meat, We devoured chunks of it all week. We eventually gave up on garnish or side dishes and just ate meat.

One gets a taste for it you see. One gets a taste for meat….but I am too old now, too old to get what the iron man needs.”

I listened to his odd childhood memories and felt sorry for him. He still looked into the furnace and shook his head. His hands wrapped around the handle as he swung the giant door open.

There in the iron man was piles of ash and looking carefully I saw bone.

“What the fuck?”

The old man spun quickly, grabbing me and twisting me through the door of the giant furnace. He let go and the door swung shut.

“You see we lived in dust, the dust from meat. Father knew how to provide and the Iron Man knew how to cook. You see this isn’t just dust dear, this is the meat. The meat of mother, Father, brothers, all became sweet delicious meat. The postman, the butcher, the salesman, so many whores, so many children, all so delicious.”

I looked through the grill as I felt the temperature rise. I pushed and pulled and screamed.

“Ah dear, the old man won’t let you go. Not until you are meat. So many little pieces of so many people. It has got so hard to find meat, I am old, but you get a taste for it.

I watched him turn and start to walk away. As he dimmed from sight I heard his voice one last time.

“This dust is special, it lives after the meat has gone.”

He laughed as he disappeared into the dark and I screamed as I heard the click of gas ignite.

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