Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A scary (true) story for Hallowe'en

Many years ago, long before I met my husband, I lived in a bedsit in a house that I shared with a disparate group of strangers. There was the couple in the room next door who would row every day to the point of violence. Sometimes I would return to the house to find 'she' had thrown 'his' belongings down the stairs. There was the young man whose mother would send him food parcels each and every weekend, convinced that he would starve without her. In the other first floor room was a young woman whose 'boyfriends' would let themselves into the house in the early hours and tap on all the doors, calling for her, until she let them into her room.

None of us said more than a passing hello to each other. Each of us drifted around the others, separate in our own worlds. If the door bell rang, the person who was nearest (or the one who was in) would answer it. If the gas and electricity meters needed to be filled up, the one who noticed would take the key and card to be recharged. We could have been alone in that house for all the notice we took of our companions.

One a frosty day one winter, I found myself alone in the house. It was a Thursday. I was ill. The house was silent. Until the other tenants returned (I had no idea when that would be), I could pretend that the place was my own. I stayed in bed with a book.

The door bell rang. I considered ignoring it. Perhaps the caller would go away. The door bell rang again, longer this time. I imagined a finger pressed to the button, knuckles white. My room looked over the rear of the house so there was no way I could tell who the caller was, salesman or neighbour. I wrapped myself up in my dressing gown and padded down the stairs.

Through the frosted glass of the front door, I could see a short, grey figure peering through. The bell rang again.

When I opened the door, the caller stepped back. She was indeed grey, a short elderly woman dressed in a grey coat and scarf, a shopping bag slung over the wrist of one arm, a navy leather handbag grasped in the other.

"Is this the key cutter?" Her voice was dry, like rough skin on silk.

Her question took me by surprise. She asked me again, raising her voice and taking a step closer.

"No," I said eventually. She looked cold, grey hands trembling. I thought about asking her in so she could warm herself. "There's a hardware shop on the high street. They might cut keys."

"Are you sure?" Closer still, she stared up at me, then beyond me, considering the interior of the house.

"Yes, I'm sure."

She grunted, then chattering to herself about the cold and her aching feet, she turned away.

It was then that I saw it, except I couldn't quite realise what I seeing. It made no sense. I almost could not believe my eyes.

As she walked away, I could clearly see that her back, from the top of her head to the hem of her coat, was covered in matted, coiled cobwebs. This was not a single cobweb that had been brushed off a hedge or even one that had been spun on a hung up coat. This was a concoction that could not have been missed, a structure that would have taken months to construct.

She slammed the gate, glared at me once, then started up the path, still chattering to herself. "Keys," she said. "Keys."

2 comments:

  1. Is this true?! Holy cow! Maybe she was a spider demon pretending to be an old woman! Or... something. More logical. Wow, great story. I know exactly that kind of house, too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's absolutely true. Still haven't figured out an explanation after all these years.

    ReplyDelete

Your comment will appear once it has been approved. Thank you for your interest.