Writer, Poet, Antagonist

No Soup

 She stares into the open doorway for what felt like to her like hours. The darkness beyond the threshold is complete. It breathes.  A slab of nothingness where a cupboard used to be. Not a can or carton to be found. She reaches left into the murk for the light switch she knows is on the wall at shoulder height, only to feel her fingers curl around the pillar of the frame into that nothingness.  She notices it is cool and slightly damp. She notices in that same long second, that the floor has absented itself.

The usual olive cracked linoleum, the single sheet that had somehow gone the 20 years since the flats construction without being adhered to the concrete, is gone. She doesn’t miss it. it stank of stale cigarette smoke. It reeked thanks to the previous occupiers. The fug of it seeps upwards after every spring clean. By June each year, the end of each sleeve and the dangling ends of every scarf was steeped in the stench of cheap cigarillos.  She is glad that it's gone, she allows the gladness to ramble over the quietly insistent question of where the offending floor covering could have disappeared to?  She wouldn’t have minded the sudden disappearance of the shitty lino, if not for the fact that the concrete floor beneath is also gone. Gone in a way that made the decision of where to stand rather complicated.

Shuffling to the doorframe, she plants her feet on the pine flooring of the hallway and leans as far into the dark as she dares.

The thin bronze strip of a draft excluder is now a precipice. She sees nothing beyond the boundary but feels the dark extend. She feels it in the way rodent senses the opening up of space above her mousy head. Knows the vastness of human habitat once she leaves the confines of her tunnel through the skirting. She feels the vast cavern of air extending up above her despite her inability to see the ceiling.

She is sure the void in place of her pantry has dimensions, boundaries. It must have. Everything has. But, those dimensions, where the dark begins and where it ends. Such geometry is outside of her current capabilities. All she wants is soup. She is already warming the bread in the oven. just a little to soften the crust the way she likes it. heated to better receive the butter.

Barefoot, she stands with her toes touching the rapidly cooling metal of the draft exclusion strip. She waves her hand through the dense cool dark. She has trouble ordering her thoughts.

She considers, in that moment that the flat is nothing but an antechamber. A dull domestic entrance room built to proceed into whatever this space is.

Stepping back into the hallway, she closes the door carefully folding the overstocked coat hook on the back of the door so as not to trap a sleeve in the jamb. She assumes there must be some mistake, that she used the door incorrectly. Perhaps turned that handle in some way she hadn’t considered before. Maybe she has broken the room? She wonders if it is possible to break an entire room, she concludes after more moments staring at the door to nothingness that all things can break.

She is aware that rooms disappearing are not normal occurrences. She has lived 28 years without a single incident of a vanishing room. Vanishing objects within rooms. But, not entire rooms.

She considers whether a pantry can be called a room. She wonders if having a pantry made them posh. She realises that if that was the case they no longer had to worry about the burden of their privilege. It does not make her feel any better. Any darkness behind a closed door had never gone so far to swallow the walls and floor. She wonders whether that is something she should be thankful for. She wonders about the sensation of the room disappearing while she is inside.

She retreats to the living room. She is no longer hungry. Her idle inkling for soup or, maybe pasta is buried under the growing fear that the nothingness behind the door might spread. If so, she fears the hallway wouldn’t be safe. She fears that nowhere is safe. To leave the flat would mean walking past the yawning dark. Coats and gloss painted plywood would be little protection.  Then there was the front door itself.

The front door was newly fitted, solid oak, impermeable. She hated the new door.  She hated it because Graham had called the fitters to put it in when she was out. She had come home to an alien front door. Her home was no longer her home. The new door had been installed without the glass panes that the older door had. The older door had glass panes reaching from the middle bar of letterbox to the arch of the frame. This door stood solid, irresolute. Without a trace, no single reminder that a world lay on the other side of it.

Graham wanted them to change the design. Graham said the frosted Glass was a ‘glaring security risk’. She liked the glass. It meant that in the case of visitors she could see the person on the other side of the door. Discern the familiar shape of a pizza delivery guy from that of a murderer. She wanders what a murderer would look like through frosted glass.

The new door has no glass. No way to see what exists beyond its threshold. What if she undoes the deadlock and the security chain? She considers for a moment that if she opens the door to escape the dark only to find more dark. What would she do? She had no idea that the pantry was gone when she opened the door. Maybe, she thinks, maybe the hallway outside the flat is gone and she doesn’t know.

She curls her legs underneath her, suddenly cold.

She wants to talk to somebody, anybody. She reaches for the phone but finds herself unable to dial. The numbers and names are less of a problem than what she could possibly say.

‘Morning Mum’,

‘ I’ m fine. Good. Yeah’

‘Haven’t eaten yet, no’

‘Why? Oh nothing. Just the pantry. Is gone’

Graham wouldn’t be any more receptive. He was always quick to tell her she was being irrational. She hated it when he called her ‘silly’. To Graham any problem was always caused by her being emotional. When he came home three hours late without answering his phone she was ‘over reacting’. When he said, he would cook dinner and she came home to him playing computer games, her frustration was ‘further complicating the situation’. He never outright called her crazy, she knew he didn’t need to. Just the thought of trying to explain the void in the pantry to him made her feel crazy. She thinks for the first time in a long time, maybe she is mad. Maybe this is what it feels like to lose your mind. She doesn’t feel crazy. but, she thinks, maybe that is just how these things work.

The ligaments in her knees begin to set. The skin on her legs is bloodless from the compression. Cold as a corpse. Cold and stubbled as grandpa’s cheek, she remembers being held up to kiss him in his coffin. She was embarrassed as she rose that the dead man would see under the frills of her dress. She really had meant to shave her legs. The acrid taint on the air mean her toast was burning. She felt it grow in volume until it tickled at the corners of her eyes and the back of her throat. She does not move.

She cannot shake the image of the dark behind the door. It roars, a deep rumble that drowns out the tinny wail of the smoke alarm. She wonders what would be worse, burning to death or falling through infinite nothing for eternity.

There must have been keys in the door, a familiar rattle and shuffle of his entrance. She hears instead:

“Fucks sake babe!”

She thinks, ‘Hello to you too darling. How was your day? The void has come to take us. No really I’m fine.’ She says nothing. He is in the kitchen now.

“Trying to fucking kill yourself! are you fucking mad? look at it. its fucking charcoal. how could you be so careless”

She is undecided as to whether she is more insulted by the accusation of carelessness or the inane suggestion one would deliberately kill herself through the burning of toast. She remains silent as Graham thunders about opening windows and wafting smoke.

“I bet she’s in the bloody shower. I bet she’s washing her bloody hair and… Megan? are you trying to burn the flat down... eh? With your bloody toast?”

She decides, upon consideration that burning to death would be preferable to infinite falling through space. She reasons eventually, that the burning should crisp all nerve endings to the point of unresponsiveness. After all, piles of charred bone feel nothing.  Falling on the other hand, was never lethal. It was the stopping at the end that got you. Falling without end, she decided, was just another way of desiccating then starving to death in the cold emptiness at the end of all things. She wasn’t about that.

She wonders why Graham can’t take his wafting and swearing nearer to the actual smoke alarm that is still wailing. Its strangled meeps piercing even the cold stillness of her torpor. She wishes the alarm would go away. She wishes Graham with his stomping and his swearing and his judgment would just go away. She wishes she wasn’t even here. She considers for a single tick of her watch that she in fact isn’t here. That she, Megan had actually left somehow, probably without letting her self know she was going out. That feeling is further compounded by Graham storming past her curled form to open yet another window, without paying her the slightest mind.

‘He doesn’t see me’ she thinks, ‘but then again he’s never seen me. Because she is now invisible she decides she should also remain silent. She thinks it only appropriate for those who go unseen to also go unheard.

So as graham finally thinks to press the reset button and silence the alarm she says nothing. As he grumbles his expletive laden resentment at the door to an empty bathroom she stays quiet.  It is only when she hears him shrugging off his coat does she think it might be best to speak to him about the missing pantry. She thinks of the words she would use to explain the gaping hole in space that used to be where they kept the cardigans and tinned tomatoes. She finds her thoughts are interrupted, first by the numerous ways she imagines Graham calling her insane, or emotional or instable and then secondly by a scream.

It was piercing, fearful and full throated yet it seemed to recede into silence almost as soon as it had come tearing into existence. After a few seconds, all she can hear is the quiet thrumming of empty space.

She notices the chill, not so much a draught but a slowly flowing surge of the air around her being displaced. after a while she uncurls, her feet barely register as limbs as they touch the floor. She pads out into the hallway and sees immediately that the cupboard door is gaping wide. The coat hook that had strained for so long against its perfunctory attachment by mismatched screws had been torn away. It, along with most of the winter coats were gone. So was graham.

After a while. She gathers the remaining cardigans and hats, strewn as shrapnel across the hallway floor. She fishes a scarf trailing out into the dark and closes the door to nothingness. She remembers the fridge holds half a roast chicken from two nights ago, she decides reheated chicken would be superior to soup. She tips the carbonite slab under the cooling grill into the bin. She knows she is not crazy. She knows what she saw was real. She knows that Graham would have never believed her. She knows she is not crazy.

Adrian EarleComment