Thursday, 29 November 2012

Safe House - Friday Flash


The garden looked in good order. Trim and tidy, without being symmetrical. Creepers adorning the walls but not overrunning them. Kissing rather than smothering the brickwork. Flowers were in neat beds, but in various stages of expression. From unbudded, through fully blossomed, to those shrivelled and shorn of all petals. Requiring deadheading. There were no fruit trees he noted, the lawn clear of rotten fruit. A killing field for birds dive bombing insects. An untrammelled plain for concealed mantraps too he thought sardonically.

The glass mullion in the door was stippled like the unburned powder of a gunshot wound at close proximity. No looking out, no looking in. A world of opacity, through a glass darkly. The key bit in the lock. It felt like driving in the smallest of knives between vertebrae. He turned it and felt the tumbler give without any resistance as the door swung open silently. That was no good. A squeaky door was a useful warning system. And there it was. His new home. Again it looked orderly and spotless. Nothing out of place or untoward. Though how could he say that? Seeing as he had never been here before.

He caught his image in the smoother glass of the kitchen door. He didn't recognise himself. But conceivably that might have been because of how he was unfamiliarly framed in his new interior. Kitchen and bathroom were always key indicators of any home. He didn't feel like gauging the porcelain upstairs, so marched forward to chase down his reflection. He headed for the fridge. Milk was stood inside. He scanned the Best by date. He realised he had no idea of what today's date actually was. Events had been somewhat of a whirlwind and he was yet to catch up to them. He opened the freezer compartment. He took out two packets of frozen vegetables. They had year stamps way off into the future. Looked like this had been freshly stocked then. That they had prepared for his arrival. But not that well, or they would have known he barely ate vegetables. Fresh or iced.

He ambled over to the sink. Stainless steel, but not especially shiny. However, there were no water drops splashed against its side, nor faded impressions of them, suggesting that the tap had not been run in some time. He brought the cutting board away from resting against the tiled wall. The wood was discoloured, but there was not a single score or gouge in its surface.

He walked into the reception room. There was no one to receive him. The furniture seemed to be pressing itself hard up against the wall and away from him. As if it sensed he was trouble. That he wouldn't be around long enough to indent their upholstery with the volume of his body. That he was the ghost looming up within its interior, rather than the house itself being spectral. The room had the aura of having just re-emerged from lying under dust sheets. Nothing was mint. It wasn't a new building. Again he knew that this house had to have previously suggested habitation, even though it lay unoccupied. The dwelling had been aged carefully albeit of a non-descript vintage. So dust sheets had been wide of the mark. A dearth of human skin parings. No peeling away of any flesh to be protected from. Until now.

Since this was a safe house. A ghost house. Sitting inconspicuously among its neighbours, not drawing attention to itself. But the mere fact of nobody ever coming or going through its front door was just as likely to draw down attention upon it? There must have been a gardener taking care of the outside. Would not curious neighbours try and engage said Justice Department flunkey in idle conversation? Perhaps the man with the pruning shears only came at night? No lawnmower use tipping the wink then. A garden having been magically tended to under cover of darkness would surely raise more suspicion than it being left to run rampant? He couldn't figure out the dynamics.

And what about the men who came to read the gas and electric meters? Who granted them access to their readings? And what when the counters showed no unit consumption visit after visit? That would sunder the impression of a living, working home? Maybe they had simply turned off all the power and come to an arrangement with the utility companies that they would have no need of inspection? But the ravening Power companies would never buy that would they? They would force entry like a shot, suspecting someone was drawing juice illegally off their network.

He idly tested the window locks and rapped at the thickness of the glass as he continued his tour. From now on he would have to allow access to men with laminated IDs on lanyards. All in the guise of normality. Of a living, breathing house. Any one of those men could be an assassin to terminate his account. To cut him off. Safe as houses right? You gotta be kidding. Houses require a lot of attention. Like children. He remembered when he and his partner childproofed every room of their last abode. He couldn't bring her into this. She had to remain removed from any house where terrors lurked round every corner. Maybe he should aspire to preserving the dust sheet antiseptic ambience of the place. Never emerge out into the daylight? Of course, it hadn't been his decision. She'd reached her own inevitable conclusion long ago.

His handlers had made it clear he was on his own now. They had offered him a portal to disappear through, but they weren't coming in after him. Unlike his foes. To live, he would have to function as a regular human being. Eating, sleeping, defecating, fornicating...

That's what was wrong with the aura of the house. While Mother Nature outside had faithfully flowed with the seasons, inside here time had been stopped. There were no spillages on the carpet where a mug of tea had been thrown in anger. No dents in the kitchen partition where an exasperated fist had flown into the flimsy wood rather than a partner's solar plexus. No smells of sex, no blistered paintwork from the heat. A lack of dried toothpaste contrails in the bathroom sink, hair in the plugholes. A dearth of emanations at all, of shared lives having been embodied here. Oh he would fill it up in time with his spoors. But could he in all conscience invite anyone else in to help him populate the air in here? He might be inviting his killer in across the threshold.

Bricks and mortar solidity, that's what this place lacked for. A safe place to contain his emotions. A redoubt for his memories. He had brought them all with him inside his head. But he couldn't yet unpack them to take up residence here. They had populated the nooks and crannies, bounced off the cavities and recesses of his old home. It would take an age, a lifetime possibly, for him to consider this house truly safe.




12 comments:

kirsty vizard said...

ahhhh . . . .left me wanting more!!!!!

Li said...

As usual, love the detail; it's as though I'm walking through the house as well. (Also like the poke at the utility companies.) The story reminded me of when my son was small; he could smell my clothing and tell whether I'd been at my parent's house, my sister's, or whether I'd stopped at the convenience store before picking him up. :-)

Helen said...

Again an eye for such detail that you carried the reader into each room with you. Indeed when is a safe house really safe?

Sylvia van Bruggen said...

wow I love your descriptive talent. Really great story!

Anne Stormont said...

Involving story. An enjoyable read. Moving, introspective account. Loved the clever details. :)

Virginia Moffatt said...

Fascinating and evocative...really interested to know what or who he was fleeing from and why. Excellent.

Steve Green said...

Magnificent.

The 'detail of thought processes' just drew me along, and in.

The story does leave the reader wanting more, wanting questions answered, the who, what, and the why.

Adam B said...

It's always the detail and their connection to one another and the thematic foundation that impresses.
Adam B @revhappiness

Hawksword said...

Loneliness and suspicion. Such a sad story - not so much a new start as an old ending. Loved the "dearth of emanations".

Hawksword said...

Loneliness and suspicion. Such a sad story - not so much a new start as an old ending. Loved the "dearth of emanations".

Katherine Hajer said...

Somehow I get the feeling the neighbours will come to miss the good old days when the house was just empty.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I'm fascinated by the representation of space and you've handled it really well. Although part of me expected BBC to come through the door with the Homes Under The Hammer team.