Yesterday I posted the first part of this story. What follows is part two. The formatting on WordPress is utterly rubbish, so I apologise for any formatting faux pas.
I looked at the bedside clock but failed to take note of the time. Another cigarette was in order to so I made my way downstairs. In the wee-est, smallest hours all the lights seem brighter, casting their shadows further and deeper than when night first falls. A single desk lamp in the corner of the room caused the shadow of the crack to extend across the ceiling. I stared at it. I stared and I smoked then I finished smoking and just stared, thinking about nothing in particular until the thoughts sent me to sleep in the chair.
I woke up in a haze, like I wasn’t quite real. It was unusually warm, and when my eyes adjusted to the light I noticed that a blanket of smoke covered the room, smothering me. There was a loud popping noise as the bulb in the desk lamp exploded, the fire acting as the sole beacon in the night. The flames spread; first to sofa and then to the bookcase behind me and finally to the television, followed by a bang and a blue flash before the TV emitted an acrid, plasticy smoke of its own. My chair continued to smoulder away yet the blaze failed to engulf me and I couldn’t move. I knew I should be panicking at this point but all I could feel was a massive sense of guilt at the loss our possessions. Everything we’d worked hard for, that we’d purchased, all of our memories stored in inanimate objects, each of them going up in flames. Finally the carpet caught fire and the door swung shut of its own volition. The entire room was ablaze and yet here I sat, calmer than I’ve ever felt in my whole life with nothing but guilt burning a hole in me. In the distance I heard Iris coughing in her sleep but I remained rooted to my seat, the crack above me growing wider and wider until my lungs could take no more and I passed out.
I awoke to the sound of the bin men outside, daylight overlapping with the artificial light of the desk lamp. The living room was still intact, everything in its right place. Even the crack. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly; it felt like I hadn’t breathed properly in a long time. It appeared Iris had opened the windows and had taken my cigarettes with her, leaving a note next to the ashtray: ‘Robert, You’re going to have a sore back after falling asleep here but never mind. I’ll be home around three. Love, Eye xx”. She always signed off with ‘Eye’ in notes like this. I liked to think that it was because the Iris was part of the eyeball, but the truth was that she was a bit of a Prince fan, and in his early days he’d replace “I” with “Eye”. With a stiff back I unplugged myself from the chair and made a breakfast of coffee and fresh packet cigarettes, enjoyed over the literary delights of the Yellow Pages. The plasterer said he would arrive around 1pm. It was now 11:15am so I killed some time by showering, cleaning and listening to dead rock stars. The plasterer arrived at 1:07pm – late, but I didn’t mind.
“Some size of crack you have there, mate.”
“Yeah, it’s been there for a while. I hope it’s not serious.”
“Nah, not at all mate. Shouldn’t take too long to fill it.” said the plasterer.
I didn’t ask the plasterer his name and he didn’t offer it, each of us aware of how temporary this exchange would be. I required his services and needed his skills, and he performed his skills routinely for an agreed price. It was as easy as that. I retired to the kitchen to make some tea and minutes later I heard a blood curdling scream so shocking that it made me jump, causing me to spill milk on the floor. I ran into the living room and the plasterer was gone, if he had never been there.
Where did he go? I had a look around the house to see if he’d wandered off to the toilet, but I couldn’t find him anywhere and his van, I could see, was still in the driveway so I went outside to take a look at his van, thinking that he might have went to it to get something, but everything it was locked up tight. I then checked the front and back garden in case he was having a cigarette but there was absolutely no sign of him. When I entered the house again I pulled out the yellow pages and rang his mobile once more only to hear it ringing from the living room. Where did he go? I took a seat on the sofa and sat in silence awaiting his return, figuring that if he had went out he was sure to come back at some point given that his van, his tools and his phone were still here. After an hour no one came into the house.