Villa Mater

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

Tāne hoists himself over the wrought iron gate and as he falls heavily to the ground, he feels it. A deafening coldness as the old building strains and grins. It had been enticing him here for years.

Villa Mater had once been a home for the elderly. But for decades now it had laid empty, victim to a desire to expedite the process of dying, and not coddle those who had all but lived their lives to the end.

“Look at her shutters, hanging from hinges upon which once they swung. Now shedding the rot of their slats, scattering them as tears to the ground”

“Do you ever speak like a normal person?”, Meri prods as she pushes open the door.

“This place has haunted you well enough, personifying it gives it a face. Faces bite”

“Faces kiss too”, he smiles.

Upstairs they easily find the room. He knows the number from the records he’d searched – 92.

Tāne steps into the room and inhales as threadbare curtains roll in the slit breeze, agitating the black creeping rot of her bed.

“I’m here now, Nonna”

He sits on the beds sodden edge, but before the throb of his sad guilt can muster his next thought, he falls back. It’s like fainting, only it’s dying and down into the mattress he tumbles.

A tunnel formed from never known memories of an old woman and then…

… he awakens, an echo.

A phantom in a deserted hospital. The ghost of a great author, stashed away and hidden from the world, here where electrodes they bit and chewed at his temples.

A film crew readies for the night to arrive. An intern named Frances, steps into the exact spot where the author had screamed through his teeth and she sieves down into the floor. A sluice. A vein that pulsates amid fouled needles that ooze from its walls and…

… she’s barely conscious, as then, she melts into the bullet ridden body of a soldier. Just enough life to contract his fingers, as she grips up out from the mud.

She feels the tickling roots of poppies as they lace down and suckle her bones and the mud becomes hard and the sun ticks away at the years.

An archaeologist huddles in a trench. A hole pocked skull at the tip of his brush. His finger touches the soldier’s bones and he grabs at his chest. He snakes down into the earth and falls out into space and through and back into time…

… and he wakes. The first blink of a newborn child. And, in these first seconds, she remembers all that has past.

Then, nothing.

Nothing for years. Nothing until the ghosts they come.

As a teen, she will be diagnosed and plied with pills as she recalls the mind of a lonely boy.

She’ll sit in the street and piss in her veins as the author he hands her the needle.

She’ll lament a poor girl who lived for the horror in films. Her dreams and passions not lived.

And she will think about things she cannot fathom. Cold. Wet living things with feet that rot in the mud and she feels the ripping ache of her soldier.

The woman sits alone in the villa because her skin has furrowed and she can no longer count backwards from ten.

“Come to me, Tāne”, she chants to the air.

Hidden away behind shutters and doors, she waits for her end as she remembers again the lives that she’s lived.

And, though nobody will listen, she knows… she knows she’s back where she began.


  1. xdhz8

    As andreavolpe34 noted, a surreal flash. I especially enjoyed the fresh use of language and the imagery.

    • Hari Navarro

      Thanks David. I’ve been working with an editor of late. She has been helping me reign in and snip off a lot of the deadwood grammar that I’ve leaned on in the past. Step by step 🙂

  2. andreavolpe34

    Very surreal and I loved how everything flowed into one another. Is villa mater somehow referring to matter? Didn’t quite get its significance.

    • phillipjhart

      Latin for something like Mother Town or Mother Villiage, literally. Given the story, could be something like Birthplace or Mom’s House

      • Hari Navarro

        Thanks Phillip, I believe your latin is on point and actually makes a lot of sense, come to think about it. The Villa Mater in my story is an actual abandoned retirement home at the end of the street I live on here in Italy. Its a wonderful sprawling walled villa that has sadly been left to deteriorate. Of more shame, though, is that many have probably forgotten the stories of those who once lived there.

        I’m just happy ‘anyone’ was able to follow it, andreavolpe34.

    • Hari Navarro

      Its funny how after the fact things take on new significance. I never considered that Villa Mater could be Villa Matter… but its a cool thought. This retirement home where matter contorts and pulls us into its memories.

  3. wasteland66

    The eternal wormhole. One would have thought that after all this time we would have learnt from our mistakes and had more respect for those who came before us. A complex and sobering tale.

    • Hari Navarro

      Seems sometimes that we only have a certain capacity for empathy. That once the tanks are full we need to syphon some off before we can continue to learn and evolve as a society.

  4. Emma Brown

    So many themes touched on here. This is wild. I feel like I know some of these lives. Another great read. thank you.

    • Hari Navarro

      Thank you Emma. I’m glad you were able to connect with some of the characters stories/ situations.

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