The Old House – Part 2
Woodford, New South Wales
Barry entered the hallway to see that the house was being sold sparsely furnished, and was surprised to see the old hallstand of his youth still in the same place. Moving into the kitchen brought back memories of his father lighting the fuel cooking stove, and of how they would sit around it listening to the old radio programmes – like Dad and Dave, Inner Sanctum, and Nightbeat, and drinking hot malted milk with arrowroot biscuits before bed. The kitchen seemed so small now, but Barry was surprised and grateful, that the oven was still in pride of place, obviously now just an antique curiosity. Opening the oven door he felt he could still smell the roast lamb dinners and fluffy scones his mother used to bake on Sundays for lunch.
Beside the kitchen was the entrance to his old bedroom, and it was here that Barry’s breath was taken aback. This room appeared to him as so much smaller than before, and Barry couldn’t imagine it was the same place. Above where his bed used to stand was the manhole that he was so scared of. After arriving home from a creepy movie at the local picture theatre, The Savoy, he had often expected an unspeakable monster to slide back the cover and descend from it when he was asleep; a beast who would pull him up into its lair and tear off his flesh for its dinner.
A single bed still stood in the same place, and Barry decided to have a rest and let the memories flow. Laying down and thinking of all the years he had spent in this room as a child, Barry lay on his side, staring at the wall, trying to make out the shape of a dog’s head in the marks and indentations, just as he did all those years ago. This realisation opened up a flood of lost memories and Barry suddenly remembered the pledge he made to the house the night before he left for his new home. Rising from the bed, he counted up from the floor the number of wooden panels until he reached the thirteenth panel from the ground and recited the vow. This time though he didn’t have the little wand he remembered he’d held in his hand on that final night in the house.
‘I’ll come back one day and buy you from the owners. I promise with all my heart. I promise. You’ll know it’s me because I will touch this part of the wall and recite my promise to you. Abracadoo- Kadah!’
Barry was surprised he remembered the little magic incantation he had made up on the spot all those years ago, as he waved an invisible wand across the wall. He’d often heard the chant spoken; softly materialising through the manhole in his dreams. The chills that flowed down his back that night as he remembered how the allotted wooden lining board appeared to glow for a moment, while a distant sinister chuckle emanated from the manhole above him, still held Barry in awe.
He stood for a moment, and touched the wall, tears welling in his eyes, when presently he broke down completely and fell onto the bed crying, until he fell into a deep sleep.
Barry had a dream that would trouble him a few times a year ever since he had left the house. He was trying to crawl along the hallway of the house to the safety of his parents in the kitchen, who, to Barry’s dismay, didn’t acknowledge his screams. He would reach the entrance to the kitchen yelling out for help, but his mother just sat knitting silently while his father stoked coal into the little oven; oblivious to his Barry’s ordeal. Then the fiend would drag him back down the hallway. Someone, or something, would have hold of his legs. Something with strong hands and sharp nails, that inflicted immense pain as it tore the flesh from his calves; as if it was trying to pull him backwards through the front door into a place that Barry knew could possibly be Hell. As always Barry woke up sweating, his heart racing, while his body shook in terror. Finally he relaxed and lay looking at the wall, again searching for the marks and scratches that to him, took the shape of a dog. Finally it appeared to him, and he could make out the shape of a Scots Terrier.
Somehow the wall seemed clearer than before, yet he’d placed his glasses on the dressing table before he lay down. Sitting up he was surprised that they were no longer there, and in their place were other items. How could it be that without his glasses his vision was so lucid? Rising from the bed he saw that the wall was covered in magazine cut outs of famous people, such as Buddy Holly and James Dean. A poster of the muscle man Steve Reeves and one also of Brigitte Bardot were displayed. He walked to the table by the wall and looked down at a model of a Ferris wheel made from a Meccano Set – a Phantom comic, and a bag of marbles. On a cork board was a half finished balsa wood model of a Spitfire aeroplane. He could smell the opened bottle of banana oil that he used to tighten the model’s wings, drifting in the air. Barry was confused as these were his possessions all those years ago in this house – in this very room. He picked up a 45rpm record by Col Joye, with his own signature of ownership scrawled on the cover, and tried to understand what was going on. A voice behind him spoke, causing him to flinch.
‘I promised that motor for your Meccano Ferris wheel, you made. I’ll pick it up this afternoon. Good luck in the sports carnival Son.’
Barry whirled around to see his father standing at the doorway. He smiled and walked out. Turning full circle to the dressing table, Barry stared at himself in the mirror.
Barry was again thirteen years old – complete with pimples and Vaseline slicked bodgie hairstyle; his skinny frame and bony shoulders jutting against his striped t-shirt. Thoughts spun in his mind as to what had just happened, and could it be a dream, or would it be permanent? If he was now thirteen and back forty years, would he be able to tell people what world events would occur, or, Barry laughed at this, make money from winning on the Melbourne Cup? The things he knew would make life so rich and marvellous for a young boy. The Beatles? He’d learn guitar now and get in on the act before anyone else. Girls? Look out women – here comes Barry!
‘Barry! Come on, breakfast is on the table. The bus will be here soon, and you’ll be late for school if you don’t hurry up.’
Barry’s mother appeared at the door. God, she was so beautiful, and young and healthy; not like when he saw her in hospital a few weeks before she died last year of … a few weeks before …’
Barry stood for a moment, his mind suddenly blank, and wondered why he thought a wooden panel on the wall beside his bed glowed briefly; or did he just imagine it? A fleeting chuckle floated on the ceiling above him. All memory of his future life leaked out of his brain like air out of an untied balloon, and all he knew was that he’d better hurry or he’d miss breakfast, and the bus. He knew he had no hope of beating Lloyd Parrington in the 100 yard run – but he would do his best. He definitely was looking forward to seeing that cute little Heather at the bus stop, and for some reason, something told Barry that this was the day he would pluck up his courage and finally talk to her. If he did, who knows? It might change his life forever.
Bio: A little while ago David noticed the house he grew up in as a child had new owners. He introduced himself and the new owners let him visit. He says that all the old memories came back to him and most of them, and the things described are in this tale – but a little bit scarier of course!