The first sign had been taped to the garage door of the blue house with white shutters. It was crisp at first, big black letters on white paper, but the sun soon rendered it faded and soft and yellow, tender as its message.
The family who had once lived inside the house had gone to the ocean, seeking sand and sun and salty air, it said. No one knew how long they had been gone before someone noticed the sign. It was like they had never been there at all.
The next sign had been taped to a large green house with a maple tree out front. They’d gone to the mountains, it said, where the air was thinner but crisper, cleaner. They’d vacationed there once when the kids were young and had never been happier. They took nothing and never returned.
The third sign appeared soon after, taped to a small brick colonial with a fenced-in backyard. There was only one word written on it.
The residents of the street grew bolder.
The Norwoods headed for a small town the father had visited as a child, where the ice cream cones were the size of his head and cost a nickel. The McCauleys were going to the house where their great grandmother had grown up, which had burned in a fire fifty years prior. The Greenes had taken off for a land that could only be found in the map on the inside cover of their favorite fantasy novel.
One by one, signs appeared, stuck tight to empty houses full of dreams.
Word spread of this modern ghost town. People came from the next town over, the next county, the next state. They came from around the world, seeking transport to the places their hearts most desired.
One person fled to the setting sun. Another to a gray day full of soft rain and unread books. There was a sign describing a lilac bush in bloom, a tree with a crooked trunk, and an old canoe by the pond.
The signs multiplied. Layers upon layers of paper coated in ink, memories and daydreams that had formerly been lodged somewhere in the stomach, the throat, the chest, deep behind the lungs.
The walls of the houses began to bow, bearing the weight of longing. But when they finally fell, they fell outward, not inward, sending the hope they housed out into the world.
Rachel Abbey McCafferty has been writing since she first learned that was a thing people could do. She’s a newspaper reporter in Ohio whose favorite questions are ‘what if’ and ‘why.’ Her flash fiction has appeared in journals like formercactus, (mac)ro(mic) and Emerge Literary Journal.
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