For those that havent yet read our first book attempt, Voices in the Walls, I thought I’d reproduce and share here my first experience entry. I was about age 10. Enjoy.
The one time that really shook me up and got me more emotionally and physically focused, was during a visit to an old lady that lived in a house just around the corner from my nana, in Highland Park. I would see her from time to time, manoeuvring a walking frame as she made her way to the shopping centre about 500 meters down the street. We would routinely swap a smile and a hello as she passed by.
On hearing of her moving out to a nearby retirement village, I thought I would make a quick visit to say goodbye and have a chat. Something we never actually did previously, but it seemed like a nice thing to do at the time. On entering her front door, I was greeted by stacks of boxes piled high, many labelled ‘rubbish’, no doubt a lifetime of special memories, destined for the refuse tip. We sat and drank orange juice, freshly squeezed by her own pale, wrinkled hands, just that morning. She told me her husband had recently passed. This I found odd at the time and it dawned on me then, that I had never met or even seen a man with or near this woman. I had assumed she was living alone. It was his passing, and the sudden loneliness that followed, that led her to finally submit to spending the rest of her years confined to a stuffy retirement home.
Her home interested me. It was a gloomy place, with the only colour outside of the browns and greys provided by a glass bowl of shiny green Granny Smith apples and a modest sized bouquet of bright red roses in a tiny crystal case sitting on a coffee table – a goodbye gift from a next door neighbour.
As the contents of her home were pretty much packed away in boxes and the rooms were empty, except for a few pieces of bare furniture, I asked if I could look around. She nodded and ambled away to the kitchen, whilst I softly and slowly walked the hallway, peaking into each doorway. At the end of the hall was the master bedroom. It was dark and damp-smelling. The brown-stained curtains were pulled tightly closed. It was a room devoid of light, life and happiness. I detected the slight residual odour of a cigar or pipe tobacco, perhaps engrained into the walls and ceiling. A remaining memory of her husband?
In the middle of the room stood a double bed, old, stained and sheetless. Sitting on the bed to soak in the dank, mothball-tainted atmosphere, I soon became aware of a dark shadow in the far corner. It filled the corner, about a foot across, from the floor to the ceiling. At the time I didn’t pay much attention to it. It was just a shadow. I glanced at it, not taking much notice, as I scanned the room. Then the shadow moved. As the movement hit my retina, I spun back round to the corner to see the shadow undulating slightly from left to right. Snapping into detective mode I attributed it to a number of quick-fire, random explanations; curtain movement, light coming through said curtains, or just a neat but completely normal trick of the lighting that I hadn’t encountered before.
The shadow then moved across the wall, ever so slightly. I checked the curtains. No wind movement, no unusual light coming through. The shadow continued to move, slowly along the wall, a few centimetres at a time. When it stopped moving, it continued undulating. I stood up and went to the door, feeling uneasy. It was then I noticed the room had become unnaturally cold. I stood in the doorway, fixated on the shadow. The shadow must be cast from the window somehow, I told myself, as it started to move along the wall towards the doorway I was standing in. It was then that it dawned on me; the shadow wasn’t actually moving along the wall but was in fact about a foot out from the wall!
I stood, transfixed and feeling the ever increasing chill as it got closer. When it was about a foot away I shut my eyes. To this day I don’t know why I did this. The chill enveloped my body for a second or two then disappeared as I opened my eyes. At that time, I assumed it had passed through me to leave the room. This instantaneous assumption made sense for that brief timeframe, but to this day am still unsure of what happened and the thought of it has stayed with me ever since. As I said my goodbyes to the old lady, I realised I still didn’t even know her name.
I’m sure on the way out the door, as I descended the entrance stairs, that I was being watched. I also felt a sense of guilt. Was it because I was walking away from the lonely sadness of someone in need, other than the old lady? Someone that needed comfort and love? A friend?
Maybe it was due to me being young, naïve, and having just been spooked, but it certainly felt like it at the time. Whenever I’m in the area I always make a special detour to drive by the house.