The steps creaked when he put his weight on them. It was welcoming, a squeaky greeting as he ascended to the veranda. A lichen-coated porch swing sat by a boarded-up window and he sat for a minute, listening to the leaves rustling in the brisk fall wind. He took a deep breath and reveled in the earthy air, the scents of leaves, wood, and the passing of decades mingling into one. When he rose, a splinter tugged a scrap of fuzz from his jacket and he chuckled.
“You can keep it,” he assured it in a light voice, making his way to the door.
It was stuck slightly when he turned the knob and tugged, but he was able to get it free with a bit more force. A wistful smile broke out across his face as he took the place in.
The door opened directly into a living room, with a covered couch and some eaten-away chairs facing the window and a weathered stone fireplace set in the adjoining wall. Across the room was an opening into a dining room, where he could see a sheet-covered table and matching chairs. A couple of paintings hung askew on the walls, sun-bleached and peeling. He twirled around, joyfully watching the gray-brown of the old wood and the various greens of lichen and moss blending into a blur.
When he had finished spinning, he walked over to the hearth, running his hands along the rough stone. He could see a not-insignificant amount of ash in the fireplace itself—beneath a layer of dust—which told him that it had been well used when people still lived there. There were areas on top of the hearth where the passing of time had been less severe, and he imagined that pictures once sat in them, monuments to the loved ones of its former owner. Every so often, his fingers encountered a nick or bump in the rock. He couldn’t help but picture the stories each one had.
He left the hearth and took a closer look at the rest of the room. When he sat on the couch, he could feel the springs pushing through the old cushions. It wasn’t particularly comfortable, but he wasn’t one to be bothered by it. Looking closely, he noticed daisies poking up through gaps in the floorboards, as if surveying the room to find more territory. The thought made him smile. He didn’t sit in the chairs, figuring that the weight might break the time-worn legs. Preservation was more important to him. He rose again to examine the paintings. One of them had peeled so much that it was difficult to tell what it was, but the second was a sunrise over snow-laden mountains. While much of its former color had faded, he could see traces of vibrance in what remained on the canvas. It couldn’t have been painted nearby, but perhaps the cabin’s former owner had brought it from a different home.
His next stop was the kitchen he had seen earlier. The cabinets were empty save for a small family of roly-polies; the dishes were long since packed and moved out. The sheet draped over the table had come to fit so well that it resembled a plain tablecloth, though the sheets on the chairs didn’t sit quite as nicely. An old, dirty window overlooked the sink, shards of glass stubbornly clinging to the frame where a pane had broken sometime before. The bottom of the sink was rusted over, and he guessed that it probably wouldn’t hold water anymore even if the plumbing was still active. In the next room over, he could see stairs leading to the upper floor of the old cabin, which he carefully ascended.
The stairs led into a hallway between a few different rooms. The closest was a bedroom, the floor of which was too unstable to walk on for long. He kept going past it, mindful of gaps in the boards as he came to the next room. This was a bedroom as well, but its floor was in better shape for him to look around.
There was an empty bed against the wall, little more than a tattered mattress on a tilted frame. Across the room, closer to the door, was a dresser coated with flaking, light-colored paint. Before the passing of time, he guessed the room had likely belonged to a young girl; he could still distinguish small, lavender flowers across its surface. He adjusted his eternally-ruffled hair in a cracked mirror hanging above, then walked over to the window. Due to the buildup of dust, the windows were near-completely obscured, but they left enough room to cast a warm light across the room. Against the opposite wall, a closet door hung slightly open, but despite his best efforts, he couldn’t find anything of great note.
The final accessible room was a bathroom. It was simple, and had minimal amenities, but he still found it charming. The peeling wallpaper was speckled with small sketches of bunnies, and a picture in a broken frame on the wall matched the theme. He took another glance around, then drew a smiling rabbit in the dust covering the mirror before leaving the room.
Having fully explored the house, he dashed back down the hallway, gathering the cobwebs from the corners of the ceiling into a cape billowing behind him. He then lightly hopped onto the railing, slid down, and turned on his toe back into the kitchen. He swept the sheet from the table with a flourish and held it out like a spectral dance partner, stepping lightly to a waltz that seemed to come from the walls themselves. He continued to twirl with the sheet until he reached the door, at which point he gave a final spin and returned both it and the cobwebs to their former places. As he closed the door, he gave the old house one final pat and hopped down the stairs, their creaky farewell echoing into the trees.