"It was to be an eventful night and an eventful morning, revealing hard and uncomfortable truths. Oh, too many truths. Truths about me that you, the reader, may not be able to forgive me for"
Just the other night I dreamt I was in a spacecraft, floating alone and with some distant world as my only company.
I looked out of the porthole for solace and in hope that I might see something that might distract me from my own sense of isolation, from my own numbing, reverberating presence. And there it was. Just hanging there, in the distance, and appearing to stare right at me and through me. The image of an astronaut.
I grew fearful. I felt my vulnerability and it made me feel instantly smaller and more frail, almost old and dying in my own body. Without warning, the craft began to shake violently from side to side. I held on to something as tightly as I could – it felt almost like some handle on the side of the craft. As I held on, I managed to look back out of the window to notice that the image of the astronaut was still there; eerily still, fixed in space while my craft was buffeted uncontrollably. Then I lost my grip and found myself suddenly weightless and unable to control my movements – I put my hands over my head to protect myself and I tucked my legs up to my body. Then, in amongst the shaking of the craft, there came the sound of hammering on the side of the spacecraft. All I could think was that it was the astronaut outside, now hammering a gloved fist on the metal exterior of the craft.
Then something caught my eye. Something close to me. A white human shape at the far end of the inside of the craft. A second astronaut, face hidden by the glass of its helmet, one hand banging slowly, repeatedly against the wall.
Unexpectedly, the violent shaking ceased but the hammering of the astronaut did not. Was I panting? Was I pleading? Was I moaning to myself in fear, or sobbing uncontrollably? I can't recall. But I can recall feeling that I was about to throw up as I watched the astronaut stop beating the wall and instead move his gloved hands up to the visor of his helmet and slowly begin to raise it. As it began to rise, right above me I heard the hammering begin again and I felt each pound inside of my temple, pounding, pounding, and the visor rising, rising.
As I recall that dream, I know that I have to tell you about Kidman's gift. The visor has to be lifted on that too. I have to peer inside and face that gurgling, pounding demon. The dream of the other night confirms it to me.
"I watched the astronaut stop beating the wall and instead move his gloved hands up to the visor of his helmet and slowly begin to raise it. As it began to rise, right above me I heard the hammering begin again and I felt each pound inside of my temple, pounding, pounding, and the visor rising, rising"
As I sit here, typing away on my laptop, I can hear a slow and insistent knocking on the door of my suite of rooms. Kidman. She’s demanding that I tell you about her gift. And, if she was paying attention to what I’m typing, she’d understand that that’s exactly what I’m starting to do. Just in my own way, that’s all.
It seems like Kidman believes me. The knocking has stopped.
“Darling, I’m home!” I called.
Okay, that was a lie. No way I said that when I got back from taking a stroll round the base of The Clansman, my local mountain, and my head still spinning with thoughts of James, Josh and the statement Mrs Ormsley had made about seeing astronauts in the neighbouring town. I’m pretty sure that what I actually said to Kidman was: “Ho! I’m back! Where the hell are you?”
“Is that you?” called Kidman in reply. “My best pal? My only true friend? The one I can’t do without? The one who knows me better than anyone? The one who will stand by me forever? Can it really be you?”
Okay, that too was a lie. There's no damn way Kidman greeted me like that. Not in this lifetime! I think what she actually said was: “Stephanie Small-Tits? Is that you? Are you home? Let me just put my glasses on. Ah, yes, it is you, Tiny-Tits, it really is you! Oh yes, I recognise your puny puppies now!”
I was dismissive. “My head is full of questions, so many questions –”
“Do you want your present now?”
“Present? Oh, yes, my present. Of course. I didn’t like to ask …”
That’s another lie, right there! I’d forgotten about Kidman's gift, to be honest. My head had been so filled with events and fragments of information about the dead presence in Mordan House, that I’d forgotten all about the fact that Kidman had said that she was going to give me a gift of some kind.
Kidman went on the offensive: “Didn’t like to ask? What does that mean? Always ask! ‘Where’s my freakin’ pressie?’ that’s what you say! Is that too tricky for you? Need a training course? Want a certificate at the end of it, do you?”
“That’s great advice, Kidman. Thank you so much for that.” I was doing dismissive exceptionally well. You know, I very nearly didn’t type that last line, I was going to throw it away almost as soon as I’d become aware of it in my head – you may, in fact, have heard the initial pre-throwing-out scrunch. Yes, that's how dismissive I was!
“It’s upstairs! I’ve got everything ready!”
“Upstairs? But it's starting to get dark! I don't go upstairs in this place when it's getting dark! You know that! And you want me to amble up there when the sun’s starting to set? Oh, yeah, let’s see how fast I can amble! Kidman? Thickman, if you ask me! You get a real poor grade for intelligence, so why don't you go flunk yourself!”
That’s right, reader, that last quote was a lie from beginning to end! Here’s what I really said: “Oh, okay.” Yep, both barrels, that’s what I gave her.
She took me upstairs to a room that she said had the best lighting. Inside there was a chair and a small table covered in make-up. There was an ironed and ready-to-wear dress, plus accessories, draped over the back of the chair, and another table to the side of it that had many of those modern tools of the trade that women use regularly to preen, prune and prissify.
Kidman declared: “We’re going to get you glammed-up! Then we’re going into town – in fact, going out on the town, I should say – to get your man! Or a different man. The days of women being picky about penises are long gone! There’s a storm, you’re a ship, and, hell, if we find a freakin’ port then we're gonna get you docked senseless!”
I could tell there was no persuading her to drop this plan. I said nothing and found myself being marshalled into the chair, before my body was pulled about and scraped and seasoned and varnished, and had various things applied to it in a variety of places – some conventional, some a tad more obscure.
“Like the way things are shaping up, do you? Like my little pressie to you?” she asked as she put the finishing touches to my make-up.
I grunted in the affirmative. That was all. Merely grunted.
But here’s what I was really thinking: “No, no, no! Don’t do this to me! I can’t possibly do this! No! Make like a sheep, Kidman, and get to flock! That’s a nice dress, but get naked and frock off! Make like dust and go fleck yourself!” I wasn't ready for this. I recalled a line from when I moved into Mordan House and it sounded like a timpani in my head: 'I shouldn't be communicating with anyone at all – that was the promise I made to myself when I moved into this house'. To myself? Was it only to myself that I made that promise?
"Here’s what I was really thinking: 'No, no, no! Don’t do this to me! I can’t possibly do this! No! Make like a sheep, Kidman, and get to flock! That’s a nice dress, but get naked and frock off! In fact, make like dust and go fleck yourself!'"
My feelings were oh so complicated. I experienced dreadful dread but with exciting excitement that was mixed with nervous nervousness, in amongst the most awfully awful fearful fear you could imagine imagining! And that was just the start of starters!
Soon we were ready to go and I thanked her for her such a thoughtful present, yet quietly and uncertainly. It was dark now. I could smell my own perfume swirling round my head as I moved towards my car.
But that was just the introduction to the gift that Kidman had in mind for me. Yes. It was to be an eventful night and an eventful morning, revealing hard, uncomfortable truths, too many truths. Truths that you, the reader, may not be able to forgive me for.
Next instalment: 51. Kidman's Gift – Part Two