Juggling life through a bi-polar lens. Sometimes up, sometimes down. Mostly trying to tread water in the middle. Creating a likeness to a normal life. Whatever "normal" is...

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Tiny Bit Scary, This One!

OK, peeps! This is one of the pieces I sent in for the final assessment on my writing course. It's 1138 words, and a tiny tiny bit scary- so if you want to skip it till halloween, be my guest!

Otherwise, hope you like it.

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A Letter To My Neighbour

Have you any idea what you've done? The enormity of it?

Years, it was, I suffered with the hauntings. From house to house, the ghosts moved with me. Finally, here, just three years ago, I was freed from the terrors. And now you have let them back in.


*

Unable to sleep within any ‘normal’ kind of pattern for years, now, I have come to follow a routine of sorts, around a nocturnal clock. Mostly, this means I pass my partner, Tony, on the stairs in the morning; he on his way to work, me, to bed. More lately, my night-times have evolved to include peaceful walks in the garden to spot statue-like frogs by torchlight, or check that birdfeeders hold enough for the greenfinches’ breakfast.

Winter nights are spent by the fire, sipping tea and watching old comedies on videotape. Whilst the bright, summer dawns are met in the coolness of my study, where I’ll be exploring emails and listening to the reassuring sameness of the World Service. Unexciting. Unthreatening. Undisturbed, but for the mouse.

I always called it ‘the mouse’, even though I knew that ‘he’ was very probably just one of a fair sized family. Two or three hundred, one edition of BBC Wildlife magazine suggested, although I hid that particular edition from Tony. Any hint at the vastness of the Common Woodmouse’s promiscuity would result in all kinds of pained expressions on Tony’s face. I developed antennae for mentions of such things on wildlife programmes and would intervene with the remote control before the news reached his ears. Such news reaching such ears effected a change in topic of conversation that I did not want to hear: traps.

And so, for nearly two years now, I have cleaned floors more studiously than necessary to the naked eye, pulled out units and machinery from our fitted kitchen to get to the pencil-lead droppings hiding behind, and agreed, enthusiastically, whenever Tony remarked on how we only ever saw one mouse at a time.

Ah, yes. Except there was that one time when - but on second thoughts, the mouse was probably just very speedy. No reason at all why it couldn’t have been the same one behind the sofa and just ducking behind the oven. Just very quick, that’s all. Anyway, no need to say anything. They kept the ghosts away, you see.

*

Have you ever been haunted? It isn’t like in the films. You don’t see their thin, wispy fingers reaching out from just a hint of desperate, beautiful young face. And you can’t help them. There’s no good thinking you can carry out some unfinished business for them and then deliver them into some brightly lit niche somewhere.

They don’t communicate with you. All that M. Night Shyalaman stuff! That’s just to make you feel important, make you feel you have a role to play. But you have no role. Only fear.


God, the darkness. It has so many shades. You think of it as black, but that’s wrong. I first knew this as an eight year old child, lying, stiffly, with frozen fingers clutching the tips of my blankets to my screwed up face, as some hideous creature emerged from beneath my bed. Transparent, it was, yet perfectly detailed, as though drawn by some pencil artist after Drurer. Different shades of pencil in different shades of darkness. I lay staring into it, too afraid to scream or run or blink, barely able to breathe through the leaden weight of my body.

Over the years, I grew more sensitive to the subtle little changes in the atmosphere when a haunting was about to begin. The clicks in the empty kitchen, the straining floorboards, the groaning stairs. I would turn up the television volume, make a ‘phone call, read a book. But soon it would be there: the Presence.

So many times I turned, expecting to see who had just come into the room, only to find an empty space. A sudden coldness down my neck as I did the washing up. A breath against my face as I sat in the bath. Eyes following, watching, burning into my back. But whose?
And then came the laughter. Nothing could be ominous in the sound of children’s laughter. You think not? Distant, yet just behind you. Faint, yet following you down the stairs. Four or five of them. Chuckling, conspiratorially. Always stopping, just as you turn.


I learned to sleep sitting upright in an armchair, too scared to switch off lights and climb the stairs to bed.

*

Strange, the way the ghosts followed me from house to house. Whenever I moved, they were there. I was never sure if they followed me or if they went on ahead. But it would never be long before they made their presence known. My heart would race and the curdling cold sweat come back as again, the familiar, watching Presence returned to hover menacingly in the corners of the room.


Then we moved here. A new house, new town, new county, new neighbours, shops and doctors. And it wasn’t long before the mouse popped out to greet us.


My nights were now filled with entertainment as he examined the new furniture brought into his home. I left food in a corner for him, experimenting to find his favourite dish. Pine nut kernels were a firm favourite. As was anything chocolate. Lettuce and cabbage were surprisingly welcomed, as was a bit of cooked aubergine that got dropped and swept into his corner rather than cleared up. Mushrooms were firmly rejected. ‘Quiet as a mouse’ is the saying, but it proved to be as untrue as the one about them liking cheese. And through his noisy little escapades I came to disregard every little sound.


A rustle from the kitchen? Just the mouse. The door creaked? Opened, slightly? Must have been the mouse. No draught boded ill any more. No knock, scrape or shimmy caused a shiver. The only mischief in the vicinity was four-legged, round-eared, long-tailed and benign.

*


And now. The biscuits and pine nuts I left down for him five nights ago are still there.

You said you’d heard mice in your attic and were going to ‘Phone the man at the council’.


What have you done?


What did he do?



I’ve been sitting here for hours, listening. I did hear some scurrying across the kitchen, even a crunch. I checked the biscuits a few times, I was so sure it was him, but nothing.

I thought Tony was coming downstairs at one point. I was so sure I heard him walking across the landing. The boards creaked, and then the stairs broke into a rhythmic thud....

The pills don’t work without the mice, you see. Not on their own. Not without the mice....

15 comments:

Rachelle said...

ooooh!
Deliciously creepy!
And I like the twist at the end, so you are left wondering- was there a ghostie? Or is it all in her head?
Sweeeet (as we say in the states :))
Slainte~
Rachelle

Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

Had me hanging off my seat. I couldn't help but love the character - hanging onto sanity by a thread (or mouse). So poignant, sad, and real. You truly have a gift, bonny lass - I feel very jealous. (Smile)

Helena said...

Rachelle, Shrinky:

Thanks!

OK, I'll come clean. It isn't fiction. All except the name of my partner, and that we've been here 3 1/2 years, not 2, is real.

I was enjoying having mice. I know it isn't hygienic, but I loved them. Now they've suddenly gone, because of the pillock next door.

Grrr.....

Made a video of one of them, here!

They were fun. And yes, at night, they were a comfort. All the little noises that make me jump, I used to blame on the mouse.

I know there's one in the garden though, saw him the other night. So the pillock didn't kill them all.

Papoosue said...

Wow Helena, I loved that piece of writing, had me on the edge of my seat.

I'm glad the pillock didn't get them all. x

CHEWY said...

I once read a short story about an alien invasion. They were tiny, landed on a windowsill and entered a house at night. The family cat came to the rescue and disposed of all the space invaders. None of the humans were aware of the "war" that occurred that night in their home.

Where there's one mouse (in the garden) there's sure to be more.

Helena said...

Papoosue,

thanks!

I'm now putting hazlenuts in the corner of the garden where I saw one. I think this was a bigger one- a yelow-necked mouse. They are very cute. Anyway, the nuts have all gone by morning. Horray!

:^)

Helena said...

Chewy,

that's a brilliant story! Wish I'd written that one!

I hope you're right about the garden mousies...

;^)

david mcmahon said...

Absolutely gripping. Now, where's that tutor of yours? I want to have a robust discussion with him/ her!!!

Victorya said...

Wonderful story! And one to which I can relate, without a cat to blame all nocturnal sounds on, my apartment is a lot creepier. A good psychological tale and well told!

Jeni said...

Very well written! I don't know how old I was when I became afraid of the dark because when I was a pre-schooler, it held no fear for me. But boy, I do remember-all too well-being in bed, terrified of the night. I was afraid to get in bed because I just KNEW there was someone or something under there, ready to grab my leg as I got up into bed. Once there, I just knew something was going to come and whisk me away or was lurking in the house as I would hear every noise the house seemed to make. And now, in my dotage, the tv set runs constantly, the noise drowns out any house noises that could scare me. Usually, with the little grandchildren running around throughout the day and evening, their sounds silence other things I would hear were I all alone. The only thing that hasn't been "caught" is whatever makes the cold draft where I tend to sit and which I can't seem to find its place of origin and no one else seems to notice it.

Helena said...

Jeni,

That mysterious draught sounds very odd! I wonder what it could be... if the others don't notice it I'd be after blaming one of them for it!
Hmmm... seriously though, some places do have unexplained cold spots, but then, the others would feel it, wouldn't they?
VERY odd.

Anyway, I'm glad to hear I'm not the only 'grown up' who sleeps with some background noise/light on.

I have the radio on low, connected to my ear with an ear-piece so as not to disturb my other half, and a small lamp that I leave on. I leave the lamp on the floor near me, so it doesn't really light up the rest of the room.

When we went away in the summer, we had to prop the door to the en suit open slightly, so that there would be some light!

Helena said...

Victorya,

Sometimes having cats would be even creepier- as they would just stop and stare into mid-space for no reason! Gave me the willies! LOL!

Helena said...

David,

WOW thanks for the post of the day boost!

It was a male tutor. I did a search on him. He has one novella published, in an anthology. It's a science fiction tale. And there's me thinking he had no imagination....

;^)

Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

It always writing with a thread of truth that proves the most searing. It's also the most difficult to write, but it's so worth it. I love you girl, I'm so blessed to know you.

Helena said...

Ah Shrinky,
that's a kind thing to say, and gave me a lift. THank you!

:^)