Reaching into the Gaps
by Mike Hickman
The possessed linen bin stood on the landing between the ottoman and the wardrobe. It was only right, I think now, that odd notions occurred to people there, because thats where time and history and incident had gathered in the house. The ottoman containing every school uniform any of us had worn going right the way back to the early 1980s. And the rickety wardrobe that, for the longest time, contained Petes stuff after his room had been emptied. When hed not exactly moved out but had stopped coming home of a night. Any night.
Its like they say, those people wholl tell these tales: memories and emotions get stored up in the floors, walls, and ceilings. In the very bricks of the building. And once stored, if you are receptive, and if you know how, they can be replayed.
So why shouldnt there be memories and emotions stored up in a sticking plaster pink linen bin alongside the used underclothes and the snotty hankies?
Youd want the evidence, of course, and I understand that. I do. And it comes in a form that your sceptical self is, I appreciate, unlikely to find as compelling as photographs or documents. Its in the reaction. They say that children and animals are more receptive to echoes from the ether, and we saw that. We did. John standing there, four or five years of age, staring at nothing on that landing. Wed seen it in the cat, too. Sooty, freaked, his tail frizzed like a sparkler, in precisely the same spot. But this was different. Not least because John could speak.
Oh yes, we could have asked him what he was looking at. Im sure mum did. Just as Im sure he answered her. But there was also what he said without prompting. The conversations he had with the man he saw standing there.
Its dark, the little boy said one time, and if thats not enough to already have the hairs uprooting themselves from the back of your neck, I dont know what is. Why is it dark?
Before you ask, the light was on. I wouldnt go up there without the light on. None of us would after a few instances of Conversations with the linen bin Zuul.
Wed have to guess what the replies were, of course. Like listening to one half of a phone conversation. They do say, you know, that there is nothing more distracting than hearing half a phone conversation. Your brain tries to fill in the gaps, no matter what ought to be more important at the time.
So, yeah, Id try and fill in the gaps. Perhaps we all did. Maybe some of what we learned was reassuring. Its not the kind of thing we talk about much, you know?
The man by, or even in (why not?), the linen bin clearly told John it was safe. That he had nothing to be frightened of. And, yeah, the first few times we heard one of these spectral tête-à-têtes, it was clear that John was reassured by what he was saying.
It was dark, but no harm would come to him. There was a way out. A line John repeated, almost to the point of mantra. There was a way out. There was.
It didnt matter that his mother hadnt heard him. That she hadnt come running. The man said that, too, even when she was standing right there, listening to her sons response. When I was standing beside her that time, too.
It didnt matter that it was dark and they hadnt come. It would be alright, the man was saying. I was as sure of those words as I could be, reaching into the gaps in the conversation, watching the boy sometimes mouthing the reassurances back at the spectral denizen of our over-sized plastic washing basket.
It would be alright.
But, no, no, youve not got it, have you? That wasnt the reaction I meant. Admittedly, a kid seeing something beyond our realm is a trope we all understand. If such a thing happened in front of us provided we didnt suspect hed been put up to it or had seen stuff on the telly he really shouldnt we would all move that bit closer to believing. But thats not what I mean.
Im surprised you didnt read about it. It was in the paper.
When the wardrobe toppled.
Thats the reaction I mean.
When we found John too late, but he was so sure things were going to be alright.
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