This week we have part 2 of The Wardrobe, so if you missed the first part, start here.
I hope you enjoy it, kinda.
The Wardrobe, part 2
The next day I turned the key in the showroom door with some trepidation. I had been reluctant to come to work. Heck, I had been reluctant to even go to bed last night, for fear of something, whether a dream or reality. The whispering seemed to echo in my head, like an ear-worm.
I stood in the doorway, looking around like a customer. Various clocks ticked, tocked, clicked or displayed silently turning regulators, catching the morning light. One started chiming the hour. It was slow by fifteen minutes; I kept them all set at different times to avoid a clamour of everything chiming at once. The showroom looked inviting. It felt tense. Everything inside was waiting for me to step in and spring the trap.
I laughed at myself and bustled through the narrow gangway that led to my office at the back. Nothing reached out and grabbed me, or tripped me, or clutched at me. I gained the safety of my office, breathed a sigh of relief and set the kettle to the makings of coffee.
Safely armed with my caffeine, I sat down to check the mail, email and phone messages, and plan the trip to the Derbyshire auctions in March.
Apart from a tension within the showroom that did not extend to the office, nothing was out of the ordinary.
Dusk comes early in February.
And with it came the whispering.
I ignored it for all of half an hour, then I got up, put everything away, and left for the night. If anyone called it was just too bad. No one was expected, after all.
At first, the late afternoon quiz show and then the news kept brightness and jollity in the room. As Masterchef came on, I realised I hadn’t eaten all day and phoned for a takeaway. Sitting back with my chicken dhansak and garlic naan, I laughed at myself for my fancies. It was just a wardrobe.
Despite the uneventful day, I found myself nodding off, so went to bed about nine.
And lay there, unable to sleep.
I heard the church clock strike the quarters, then ten, then eleven.
I realised I was listening intently to make sure there were no whispers.
I got up, made cocoa, and took it back to bed to drink.
I lay down again, smiling at my stupidity. I nestled under the duvet.
The darkness intensified.
I was floating, floating towards an oblong of deeper darkness, surging along like a surfer riding the waves. Sometimes the darkness seemed very close, other times it receded. The susurration of the waves soothed me, and thrilled me at the same time. It was a teasing, taunting sensation, asking me how close I dared go. Filled with bravado I surged towards the dark, only to be caught up by someone speaking in Arthur’s voice, telling me not to be so stupid.
I woke, my feet tangled in the duvet cover, my torso bare and cold, yet I was sweating freely. My heart was racing, my mouth dry. I staggered to the bathroom, and rinsed out my mouth.
The grey, lined face that stared back at me could not be my own.
I swivelled my lips and the reflection matched my movements. I lifted a lock of hair, stone grey and lank. How could that be? I clutched the edge of the washbasin, panting, aghast at the change in my appearance. I looked like my father at eighty.
I must be dreaming.
I returned to bed, determined to set this stupidity out of my mind.
Whether I was awake or dreaming, I cannot say, but I could hear the whispering again, all around me now. Some were kindly, saying, ‘no, leave him be’; others just laughed, and called to me, name-calling, or wheedling ‘come to me’. Now there were faces—strange, diaphanous heads floating and merging with each other most horribly. Arthur floated by and I wanted to reach out to him. Strange, he looked younger than he had when I buried him; younger even than when he’d joined the firm. He grew hale and hearty as I watched, an Arthur I’d never seen before. A young girl linked arms with him, ‘don’t give the game away’ she whispered to him, and he melted back into the Arthur I’d known for years while she herself grew plumper, and greyer, and lined, until I thought I knew her, but then matched her face with a cameo I’d got at the house clearance along with the wardrobe.
Then it was there. The wardrobe filled my vision, approaching me, its doors open, beckoning me, enthralling me, drawing me into its arms. The whispering intensified, a devil’s chorus of disembodied beings, pulling me into their circle. I started to scream, ‘no, no!’ The whispering consolidated into a ghostly hiss of ‘yes, yes!’ and rippling laughter.
I had to fight it, I had to run. The wardrobe enveloped me, enclosed me. I thrashed about in a frenzy, banging on the doors, kicking to get them away, anything to stop the closure of the ornate framework, feeding on my body. For the sudden realisation that this was what it was, a monster devouring my energy, my life force, keeping the whisperers in their strange half-existence, looking older or younger at will, all stealing the essence of life from me.
I knew that if the doors closed I would be lost. I had to escape. I had to emerge. I had to… wake… up.
I whispered as I watched the contents of my showroom in the dispersal sale. Do not buy me.
© J M Pett 2016
wardrobe photo from antiques.com