"gradually I've come to realise that my house is haunted by the ghost of a dead astronaut"

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

17. Hiss and Crackle


"I suppose I kind of edged my way closer to the source of the sound, almost the way that you see soldiers edging towards the enemy, leaping and scurrying from one safe position to another. The grating, crackling, hissing noise, that stopped and started every now and then, I eventually located to a cupboard on the first floor of the house"

Then, all of a sudden, everything changed.

For weeks nothing of real significance happened at all. Nothing. Not a thing. At night I rarely felt spooked either. Something appeared to have lifted. My mood, the house’s mood, or his mood?

My thoughts gradually changed towards the contents of Mordan House. Before, I looked at the house’s objects sideways, with a degree of uncertainty about what the fullness of their shape might bring or mean. Now, the old and faded name-plate stickers that were on many of the doors, turned from being sinister to quaint and sweet. Things like the wallpaper in some of the rooms that had struck me before as garish and disconcerting became brash, colourful and exotic. Even the old newspapers and magazines that were piled here and there and discarded hither and yon altered from being ugly, faded and crude into a kind of present from the past, rich with life that was preserved in each page like prehistoric bugs sealed in amber. The physical shell of the house still appeared like a neglected crypt and my sensibility could not surround, imbibe and embrace it in any way, but the detail, the minutiae, the tiny parcels of old fact littered throughout its rooms were things that I could respond to, study, appreciate and ultimately start to feel for.

Feel. What a pretty word. How far from me has its meaning and reality been for such a long time now! Say it right, and the word stretches right down inside of you like the reverberations of a chime. I’d forgotten that. I’d forgotten how to feel.

"The physical shell of the house still appeared like a neglected crypt and my sensibility could not surround, imbibe and embrace it in any way, but the detail, the minutiae, the tiny parcels of old fact littered throughout its rooms were things that I could respond to, study, appreciate and ultimately start to feel for"

My days were a tad curious though, I’ll admit. Often I wondered who I was trying to be. At times, I would think that I was trying to be the real me; at other times I would think that I was wearing a disguise that was ill-fitting and that I bumbled and jerked and tripped in it. When I wasn’t walking on the slopes of the Clansman and breaking into excited runs, I was gardening. I wasn’t so much a ‘ho’, as a woman with one! That statement is a Lizzie-ism – it’s the kind of thing she would say and I hear her voice as I type the words! At the back of the house is a wide-open garden space that the previous owner must have first forgotten to mow some time in the late ‘70s, or maybe the hippies liked it being all natural. Instead of tackling it by cutting, planning, weeding and sowing, I took a pathetic six-foot square section that was close to the house and against the stone wall that surrounds the garden, and I started to turn over the earth and plant small flowers. It was a sad splash of life. It was like one tree nurtured in an entire rain forest desperate for preservation. But it was all I could handle, if the truth be told. I put the flowers in randomly and, when finished, it looked to me like some complex check-mate move, florally represented!

But this 'feeling' duped me. I couldn’t avoid forever the dark-faced apparition with the ambition to confront me.

The signs were there, but I chose to ignore them. The signs said: “You think the strange events are all over, you think the house likes you and accepts you now. You think that the force of your personality and your presence has dispelled the strangeness, sent it back to where it originated from. You think you’re safe. But you’re not.”

I turned away from the signs. I took them in my hand, I squashed them in a tight fist and I imagined the contents disintegrating and slipping through my fingers like powder. At the same time, I looked at the sun. I looked at bright lights and I avoided all thought, sight, hint and sense of darkness or shadow.

Yes, the signs were there. In retrospect they were so many and varied that I’m not even sure that I can recount them all. I’m getting used to the sounds that this house makes, so now I can distinguish between the early sounds that just confused and threw me, and the ones that also confused and threw me but that I now know were manifestations associated with the astronaut.

For example. I recall using my electric whisk for scrambled eggs one day. I pressed the main switch intermittently - on-off on-off, loud drone on, then loud drone off - to ensure that everything was thoroughly mixed and separated. When I was satisfied and ready to put the eggs onto the hob, I noticed that a similar droning noise was coming from somewhere in the distance, inside the house.

I suppose I kind of edged my way closer to the source of the sound, almost the way that you see soldiers edging towards the enemy, leaping and scurrying from one safe position to another. The grating, crackling, hissing noise, that stopped and started every now and then, I eventually located to a cupboard on the first floor of the house. The courage needed to finally open that door and peer inside seemed to take an age to come – but if I could have harnessed the energy contained in the rapid beating of my heart then I would have opened the door before I’d even reached it. Not only did I take forever to decide to open the door, but forever was doubled in the time it took to open the door fully so that I could see inside.

"When I was satisfied and ready to put the eggs onto the hob, I noticed that a similar droning noise was coming from somewhere in the distance, inside the house"

Inside – much to my relief - was a large copper boiler, hissing and rumbling and groaning. Various pipes extending from it were shaking violently under the control of some unseen pressure. I sighed, and something sank inside and untied itself in a delicious way. The only ghost that I was aware of at that moment was the materialisation of my mother at my shoulder shaking her head slowly but with great certainty. And yes, I felt very very very stilly indeed. Thinking that the boiler looked and sounded unhealthy, I decided to flick a switch that lay close-by and hope that it would lessen its violent condition. Almost instantly the boiler started to settle and calm. I closed the door and turned away, feeling a little more that the house was starting to respond to me. “Sit,” I thought, “heel, walk, lie down and play dead!” I would soon have the house eating from the palm of my hand!

Yet no sooner had I started to walk away from the cupboard than the house bit back. The sound started again. But this time it was different. Still emanating from the cupboard, the sound now was more like brutal eruptions of white noise, rattling, dissonant and jarring - and with the vaguest impression of a voice hidden in the cacophony and muffled by the closed door. To this day I am sure it said: “Your turn now! It’s your turn now!” Subsequent events have, I think, proved me right. My system responded and instantly little tentacles inside gathered themselves together into a rude and nauseous ball, some great aching knot at its centre. I began to step away – there was no more struggling with myself. With every step I kept my eyes fixed on the cupboard door, fixed on the door handle for fear that it would move from the inside. After ten or so steps I was close to the stairwell, the monophonic stop-start crackle continuing without let-up. Just as I thought that safety was within reach, an extraordinary solitary thump vibrated the cupboard door, the wood jolting visibly under the force. I remember hearing nothing more after that. In seconds I was out of the house and into my car, my hand on the glove compartment lever as I wondered if I needed an inhaler or not. But it wasn’t the tight, hampered sound of my breathing that was the overwhelming impression in my mind, it was the dry, bitter taste of fear that burnished my tongue and coated my throat.

I called it ‘nothing significant’ and I found a way to put it out of my mind. Then, all of a sudden, everything changed again.

1 comment:

The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

You are suffering from what I can only assume is nostalgia for a normal that never was. It is that or the gardening is tricking you into a false sense of security either way the truth remainds, you are in danger.