Some time ago, quite when I cannot say, as this information was relayed to me without that important detail being imparted, in a town not too far away, although quite how far escapes me, lived a rather obsequious elderly gentleman. Well, I say elderly gentleman but to be honest with you I can only say with certainty that the person in question was elderly, being unaware of the gender of the character whose tale I am about to impart. Perhaps it would be best, for the sake of accuracy, that the farthest I go in describing the main actor in this story is that he or she was human. This human inhabited a large green house. Sorry, come to think of it, when this tale was told to me some two decades past I remember that it was stated that the house was not green at all, but blue, sky blue. It’s my house that’s green. How silly of me to confuse the two.
The house had ashen windows. I don’t mean the frames, which were of a gorgeous although faded yellow, but the glazing. It was the glazing that was ashen, dry with the grime of a lifetime. Isn’t it true that you can tell the age or wellbeing of a person by the condition of their property? Fresh faced young things starting out in life often have fresh faced houses, the facades dressed up as if for a night out, window panes gleaming. I have often thought that the sunshine reflecting from the polished surfaces in some meaningful way reflect the energetic eyes of the occupants. The glazing of the elderly or troubled however is unwashed, dull panes reflecting dull, tired or sorrowful eyes, although maybe I am mistaken with this assertion. Window cleaners, doting family members or a keen home help can often deceive, managing to portray a lively exterior view that has no bearing upon the character within. Suffice to say, for the purposes of re-telling this strange accumulation of chance incidences, the glazing that so featured the sky blue house was dark grey.
If inside the house and looking through the glass to the world outside, you would not be mistaken in believing that a great calamity had befallen the town within which the house was situated. Perhaps the town endured a permanent dusk brought about by an apocalyptic war or that an oppressive storm cloud hung overhead, ready to shatter the quiet with thunder and hail, but never managing to do so. Of course, if you peered through the glass at night time you would not notice the gloom encountered from a daylight visit. Maybe then the occupier of the house was nocturnal. This could explain away the tawdry condition of the glazing, for a night owl would not notice the accretion of dirt and dust and guano that besmirched the once gleaming panes.
I am of the opinion that the occupier was not of nocturnal habit. Not now, for surely by now the human is underground. Not participating in a caving expedition or hiding out in a public shelter or even tunnelling just for the hell of it, but carefully laid in a well crafted casket and covered with six feet of damp earth. And not then, as this story has the key participant engaging with fellow town dwellers, visiting the local shop to buy such essentials as bread and cheese and on occasion partaking of a fine wine at the popular ale house.If I think a little upon this point, I must conclude that surely I am getting this all upside down, topsey turvey so to speak. I do apologise most profusely for my uncertainty. It is simply that I want to reveal the bare bones of this story with as much precision as I have at my disposal and re-telling a tale passed on to me when I was still able to effect a sweet glance from youthful eyes leaves my intellectual abilities rather hard pressed.If there had been a late night shop I assume that our human may well have been nocturnal. But then as this tale is set some time ago it is unlikely that late night shopping existed, such welcome facilities being a most modern addition to popular lifestyles. Now, that ‘Some time ago’ is bothering me. If the tale had opened, as is traditional with such things, ‘A long, long time ago,’ I could be sure that late night opening was not offered as a service to the town’s inhabitants. But ‘Some time ago?’ How long ago might that be?Well, the knowledge of whether or not our protagonist is a creature of the night has no bearing on this tale or of its final outcome, so I will press on with the telling without making a judgement on the matter.
The gentle and quietly mannered human’s house was dark and gloomy, both day and night. Natural light rarely streamed into its rooms, perhaps on occasion the hallway and the rear vestibule thirstily soaked up a few of the sun’s rays when the front or back doors were gingerly inched open. On a bright day shafts of light managed to penetrate through the windows, through pinpricks that shone like stars where a tiny area of grime had been dislodged by the scratching habits of birds or larger insects.So, the once sparsely furnished… oh… I have just placed my imagery into the story, sorry. I have no idea how the house was furnished as this tale is, in the main, concerning the actions of the dweller and not the style of dwelling. In no way is this meant to be a grand tour of, what was, to be fair, a very average house. I was imagining a large and ramshackle Victorian period terraced house, on three stories. The kind of house that was never opulent never had servants and was furnished with all of the accoutrements for a comfortable existence, but nothing more. This is a shame really as I do rather like the gothic style and wish now that I had imagined the property as a crumbling pile replete with stuffed animals, wrought iron coat stands and a few odd gargoyles.As I have my image of the property fixed I think that at this stage in the tale you ought to do the same. Please take a moment to consider the property that you are going to place our human in and please don’t be tempted to follow my design, unless of course, you are taken with my descriptions. Saying that, here we may have a problem. For if you imagine the house in reasonable detail and I go on to describe certain pertinent features we may not coincide. In fact there will surely be a conflict and this will be detrimental to the flow of the plot. So, I am afraid that your vision of the house must go and you must accept mine, inadequate though it may be.
Now, where was I? The once sparsely furnished house… Damn my memory, why did I say once? Nothing changed in all the years our character lived in the sky blue house. ‘Like a filthy museum’ was how it was described to me. Please forgive me for my seemingly distracted recall of this tale, but I do so wish to well elucidate the story and as previously mentioned, to do so with a good degree of accuracy. I will however endeavour to continue without further rambling.
The sparsely furnished house exuded a dark aura, an aura of impenetrable gloom. The surfaces lay heavy with a thick layer of dust and the fabrics developed clouds about them when ruffled or brushed against. It is interesting to note that house dust, or a good proportion of it, is human skin. Of course it also consists of other materials; animal dander, fibres from clothes and carpets, tiny flakes of wood, that kind of thing, but every arm itched or every head shaken delivers a shower of DNA. This human ash travels upon unnoticed currents, searching for a suitable position to rest. The sky blue house with its ashen windows and gloomy, dusty interior would have been a nightmare for me to visit, for I suffer with asthma. But that is bye the bye. Let us agree that the house was unkempt, creepy if you like.
The occupier, as I have intimated, was not one to be fiddling with the interior decoration and as such I imagine that the furnishings belonged to a good few generations past. Being very old the human did not place much import to general appearance and would mostly spend each day dressed in a threadbare gown, originally made with materials of the most exquisite quality. Thick woollen socks adorned their feet, the rule of the house being that shoes were never worn indoors. As an aside and this is an important point to make, later in the tale shoes, or the house-owners shoes in particular, will play a key role in establishing the heart of the story. That style of dress, by coincidence, tends to be how I spend my time at home, comfily clad in gown and thick socks. I am thinking that I may have a good deal in common with the sorry character of this tale, but at this distance both in time and place it is now an impossible comparison to make.
I ought to be getting to the nub of the story, as I can tell by your fidgeting you are keen to be told of the quite eye opening events that took place, some time ago behind those ashen panes. Unfortunately, and I say that most sincerely as I have very much enjoyed getting thus far into the tale, I am going to have to cut short our gathering. I am expected this very afternoon at a conference of assembled luminaries from our town to deliver the keynote speech and I fear that I am already running late. Please forgive my unseemly departure and bear witness to my solemn oath that I will continue the telling at another, more appropriate time. This next meeting, I promise, will be free from later commitments enabling me to reach the end of the tale, which I assure you is most dramatic and unexpected. So, until next time and with all good wishes to you, I must be gone.