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House Hunting

Lisa Mason has published eleven novels, including Summer of Love (a Philip K. Dick Award finalist) and The Gilded Age (a New York Times Notable Book), two collections of short fiction, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories and Oddities: 22 Stories, and three dozen short stories and novelettes in magazines and anthologies worldwide. Her story, "Tomorrow's Child," sold outright to Universal Pictures and is in development as a major motion picture.

Her SF novel, CHROME, was published in 2020. Publishers Weekly said, "Mason entertains and elicits fascinating questions about human nature in this fast-paced, action-packed science fiction adventure." Visit her at lisamason.com.
The house crouches among the tall oaks, nearly motionless amid the wild blackberry bushes.
I shift my spear from my right hand to my left, palms sweaty. My eight-month-old fetal daughter aims her tiny foot against the side of my womb. I stifle my grunt of pain.
We need this three-bedroom, two-bathroom house. It is for my daughter that my family and I are setting out on today's hunt. For me, though, this is not a good time to be house hunting.
"Do you see it?" I whisper to my husband, silently pointing with my spear tip
"No," William whispers back. He squints, holding the massive sledgehammer in his hands. "But I can smell it."
"So can I." The powerful scents of cedar-wood and roof tar and old fireplace smoke fill my senses.
Our son, standing behind the two of us, whimpers with excitement.
"Ssh!" I whisper harshly, then turn to wink at him. Trevor is strong, at seven years old, but the heavy rope net is wearisome for him to carry. He's tired and hungry, I know.
We've been house hunting since dawn, and I'm tired and hungry, too.
We've hunted four other houses today, all of them three-bedrooms, two-baths. I was infuriated when one family, with two middle-school sons to carry their huge netting, snared one, a white cottage with a gray-shingle roof. They dragged the house away through the underbrush, casting triumphant looks at us.
Three other houses stampeded through the forest and, though they were slow and lumbering, my family had failed--I had failed--to capture one. I consoled myself with sour-grapes thoughts. They weren't trophy houses, after all, too small for our growing family, too plain for my aesthetic taste.
Who was I kidding?
The houses got away.
My mother had been a skillful, expert house hunter. When I was born, she'd captured a pretty little house in a meadow. There she cooked meals and tended my father and raised me up. When I turned five years old and needed to start my schooling, she'd hunted and captured a magnificent house whose lair was near all my schools--elementary, junior, and high. When my father died, she'd corralled that magnificent house and hunted a lovely house for one. When she felt old age lingering on her longevity, she'd hunted a smaller house near where my family and I lived, captured it easily, and died there peacefully.
The cedar-shingle crouching among the oak trees comes close to the magnificent house I grew up in. I want this house. A prize capture. A trophy.
"William," I whisper to my husband, "go downwind. There." I point toward the edge of the blackberry bushes. "Go as quietly as you can. At my signal, chase it forward." He nods and sets off silently. "Trevor, unroll the net and keep it at the ready. Your dad and I will drive the house toward you." My son nods, excitement and fear in his eyes. "You have to be brave for me. For us." He nods again.
I creep through the trees toward the side of the house. Such a beauty. I creep up close to the side wall, the windowpanes staring at me warily and banging just a bit on their hinges. I whistle to my husband and son, a short tweet, and then I slap my spear on the cedar shingles as hard as I can. "Hah! Hah! Hah!"
The house bucks up on its back patio, and the rear door yawns open like a devouring mouth.
William shouts, smashes his sledgehammer through the lintel.
A window flaps out, slamming me on my head, but I keep slapping the flanks of the wall, driving the house forward.
"Trevor, now!" I scream and my son throws the rope net forward in a perfect arc that snares the front of the house. "Get out of the way of the front door!"
Trevor dives to the underbrush just as the front door flies open in a lethal swing.
William and I seize the sides of the net and secure the rope mesh over the first and second stories, tying the sides of the net on the stakes we've brought with us and trapping the house on this plot of land.
The house bucks and bangs, windows and doors flying open and shut, and whinnies and whines as if a fierce wind is whistling through it.
We stand short of breath, panting, while the house, with a rumbling snort, realizes it has been captured.
I run my hand across the cedar-wood shingles, gentling the house. "I need you to shelter my new daughter and my family." I rub my aching belly, rub the house. "We'll be good to you, I promise."
William nudges the front door, which obligingly swings open. "Welcome, home."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, May 12th, 2021


I was watering my garden in the afternoon and the concept popped into my mind like a lightbulb going off. I set down the watering can and ran inside to write the title and concept. I call that "one of the gifts from the gods." I'm grateful when the process happens!

- Lisa Mason
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