Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The genealogy room

When she finally recognised that the strange shape she couldn't smooth out of the wallpaper outlined a door she felt a wave of relief wash over her like a cool shower on a sweltering summer's day. The room was intended to be a bedroom for her brother, whose OCD tendencies had reached proportions that made it impossible for him to live alone, and she was certain that the shape in the wallpaper that merely kept her awake at nights would drive him into uncertain insanity. She lay down the hammer she'd sneaked from David's toolbox, glad she'd not needed to try hammering the shape flat, and went back downstairs to fetch a heat-gun.
David stopped her at the foot of the stairs, already holding his toolbox. His raised eyebrow was enough; she explained what she'd been doing and what she now intended.
"Oh Clara, what are we going to do with you?" he said. She had no idea what he meant, so she hadn't replied, instead drawing spirals on the carpet with the tip of her shoe. "Let's get this door uncovered then. And I hope for your sake that it's not locked by some long-lost key."
She'd smiled then, and it lit up her face with a radiance that almost concealed the dark circles under her eyes and the fatigue lines round her mouth. She'd waited almost patiently while David slit the paper along the doorway's outline and then gently lifted it off with careful, artistic flourishes of the heat-gun and a sharp-edged spatula. As he pulled the last long strip away, stepping backwards to avoid it dropping on his head, she scurried past him, fingers running over cherry-painted wood searching for a doorknob. There was none, but when she pushed her fingers into a depression near the left-hand side of the door it clicked softly, buzzed faintly, and swung very slightly towards her. She pulled it open gleefully.
David stopped folding the paper for a moment to look thoughtful, so she hurried into the new room before he could say more than "Solenoid?"
The other side of the door was no Narnia, it was barely more than a monk's cell. The walls were plainly plastered, there were no windows, and the floor was laid with slate. If she stretched her arms out, both her index fingers could touch the side walls. Then she realised that the room was much deeper than she could see, and started feeling her way forward.
A click behind her made her turn her head, and she saw David trying out a panel of three light-switches. The middle one brought the lights on, the bulbs concealed behind wall-panels of frosted glass.
At the far end of the room were two tables. Next to one was a pile of paper that came up to her waist. On that table lay a quill pen and a pot of fresh black ink. On the second table was a thin strip of paper with writing on, and then many more sheets of paper, written on and bound together.
When she looked, the thin strip of paper bore the name of her maternal grandfather who had died the previous winter competing in an extreme-ice-sculpting tournament. The other pages documented his life in astonishing detail.
She couldn't help herself. She picked a new piece of paper from the pile, wrote her brother's name on it with the quill pen and ink, and laid it in place of the thin strip with her grandfather's name. Almost immediately a piece of paper slid on to the pen's table, and the pen started to write, detailing her brother's activities. She looked first at it, and then at David.
"We have a genealogy room!" she said.

1 comment:

Marc said...

Darkly fascinating. Was almost sad when it ended, but then I thought it felt complete.