The Return

Robin Riback
7 min readDec 15, 2021

“Where your fear is, there is your task,” Carl Jung.

A ghostly frightening image of a head, two palms, and a torso black against opaque glass.
Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

THE RETURN: March 2018

Rusty door hinges squawked as Chloe Masters tiptoed into her childhood home. Through the dimness, she saw black mold crawling the walls and flies swarming appliances made decades before the digital revolution.

Back in third grade, she scampered in this room to find her mother sitting on the couch, waxy and slack jawed. A bug buzzed in her shimmering eye.

She shuddered.

Now she looked upward into a gaping maw with twinkling teeth. She realized she was peering through the ceiling, looking at the stars in an ebony sky.

She jolted, pivoting toward the sick sweet smell of that old honeysuckle perfume.



Mom stood framed in the doorway. At a ten-foot distance, that floral house dress was still vibrant with cartoon bees perched on yellow daisies. As a baby, Chloe touched the bug wings with her chubby finger as she counted them, “One, two, free.”

Her old toes gripped Dr. Scholl’s sandals. Uncomfortable and clunky, those wood blocks with blue plastic straps marched themselves into obsolescence long ago. Dad had joked, “Your feet are hanging on for dear life, Hannah.” Little Chloe clapped when he morphed his fingers into grasping claws. Now mom moved forward with a hollow clip-clop.

“Mother, May I,” thought Chloe as she took one baby step forward. She was close enough to see capillaries crisscross mom’s sallow face. Once, on a fad carrot diet, mom’s skin turned bright orange. Tonight, she resembled a pale parsnip.

Abandoned old house interior. Looking from a staircase above — below, a floor scattered with paper. A window to the left we can’t see outside.
Photo by Greg Panagiotoglou on Unsplash

Air whooshed suddenly from the wrecked ceiling above. A T.V Guide flapped on an end table. Those horrible kitchen chimes clanged. Chloe imagined she was in the guts of a stalled car that just got jumped. Gears ground and sparks burst as the rust bucket cough, cough, coughed back to life.

The queen and her pawn stood in stalemate. Chloe’s eyes moved left as mom’s eyes moved left, Chloe’s eyes moved right as mom’s eyes moved right…

Robin Riback

I write humor self-help articles & fiction with a smudge of the dark side. Do you want to write stronger, better, faster? I can help.