You sense something’s wrong the minute you walk in, but you can’t put your finger on it. It feels like there’s someone else in there, waiting in the spare bedroom or crouching up in the attic until you’re asleep.
You take every room in turn, slowly, walking like you’re in a film. Nothing. It’s just a feeling, like air. Cold winds inside you.
It’s night. You’re taking your make-up off at the dressing table when it first catches you. You blink, squint into the mirror and then check round to see if the reflection’s lying or not. It’s not. It’s there, lodged in the far corner of your bedroom between the end of the curtain pole and the picture of your parents. Not a picture technically, a crosstitch, but people can never tell when your work’s so neat. It was always the same, all through school; the one thing everyone wanted from you. A gift you were born with, your mother always said. A gift from Him.
A gift from bleeding fingers and fear.
You cross yourself and then the room, sending a silent apology to Mr and Mrs McLeavy-in-stitches. It has a tag wrapped around its neck, rubbing up against them in a manner you suspect your mother might have found disconcerting. You pull your glasses down off your head.
In memory of Janie Brown
It says, handwriting bigger than the house.
43/2000: may light always be
You read it twice and screw it into your dressing gown pocket. The thing looks tired, you think. A too-long traveller. The skin pinches in pools of sunken puckers, and oily marks streak across the red. Probably shiny once. Now more like scuffed shoes and chairs in waiting rooms, hovering in that half–distance between floor and ceiling. Not quite ready. Not quite.
They never move as fast as you hope they will. When you jimmy open the sash window, it sort of curls away from you and bump bumps ungracefully down the roof tiles, out of view. Still, there is air and breath. Wind. You open your mouth, feel the fullness of writing in your pocket, let it in.