The following happened once upon a time in a room in a house which was a room. In this one-room house – a studio apartment, or a shack if you prefer – lived a most spectacular young lady who went by the name of Holly. I say young, but I do not know. I say lady, but I do not know. I know this: the protagonist herein is named ‘Holly’ and I have bestowed the female gender upon her so as not to get confused with gender specific pronouns. I bestow upon her a young age, or at least younger than myself by maybe six or seven years because…just because. And in the beginning, I created this Holly in this story via a rib-tickling account of character invention.
Holly’s shack had a sturdy, usually locked door adjacent to a clean and clear window overlooking a vast and beautiful, luscious green field. She had an oak wood table, an oak wood chair, and an oak wood bed with a plump, orthopaedic mattress, goose feather duvet and pillows made from a space age material that curved around your head and allowed you to sleep softly and sweetly and not worry about neck cramps. She spent her days sitting at her chair and looking out of the window, admiring the way that the sun’s rays fell through the clouds and stroked the grass on the field like fingers of hope and comfort to a melancholy mind. She thought of where the light came from, how the clouds came to be there, and how lucky she was that at that particular moment, when the two came together and the suspended, gravity defying water vapour parted to allow the sun to shine through, she decided to cast her gaze that way. Holly was truly blessed.
Her days were not always spent staring at the sky no, for there was a large and dominating elm on the peak of a small brow where the ground ascended slightly to form a little hillock. She watched the seasons change and with it the change of the tree: the leaves turning, falling, growing; cyclical, colourful, comforting. She loved to watch the tree, watched the branches sway as the wind whispered through the leaves, rustling recommendations for future visions, speaking to her and her alone. Holly knew though, that she was not alone.
People passed by her window with regular regularity: some old, some young, some male, some female, some gay, some straight, some alive, none dead, and most came to visit the tree to sit beneath and partake of luncheon together. There were families with children frolicking in their summer outfits, laughing and rolling and skipping and tumbling, old couples still in love reminiscing nostalgically about their memories stored so deeply within their brains that only revisiting this location could unlock that box and spill them out for all to see, and everyone, everyone who came to visit had a smile on their face.
This made Holly very happy. She was happy they were happy, and she assumed (quite correctly) that they would be happy if they could see that she was happy. And they were, for they all knew that Holly lived there, and they all made sure that they were respectful of her privacy. No one asked her if she wanted to come outside and have a sandwich or a chocolate confectionary product because she seemed so content and so happy and so at peace inside her house even though they could see her looking out, and looking longingly. They were right also: she loved her little house, decorated and furnished in exactly the way that she always wanted it to be. She had no reason to go outside when she had everything that she had ever wanted right here: her door, her floor, her walls, her roof, her table, her bed, her duvet, her pillow, her chair, her window…
Her window. Her one escape, and the escape was enough. She saw how happy the children were when they were playing, but she also heard the piercing screams and wailing cries as well as catching sight of the inevitable tears that occur when push comes to shove. It wasn’t all happy laughter and sunny rainbow smiles, it was also cruel and painful hurt. No, she enjoyed what she could see, and was happy for seeing it, and that was enough, it was plenty.
Then, on a day like any other, and definitely not in Lancashire because the sun was shining again, something happened. Holly was sitting by her window watching the world turn and smiling to herself and thinking about how wonderful the formations of the clouds looked and how they seemed to form shapes that she could pretend were put there on purpose to tell a story, and she began to lose herself slowly to these thoughts. Look! There was a bird catching a worm, there was a man tripping over his cat, there was a bowl of fruit slowly dissolving into a foamy soap party, and there was a boy waving at her. Holly blinked. That wasn’t a cloud formation. There was an actual boy in the field waving at her.
Holly was startled, her heart thumping. Nobody ever waved at her, they just accepted her existence. This boy cannot be waving at me, she thought, and she turned her head to look over her shoulder just to check that there was nobody there. She was relieved to see that nobody was there, instead just the dull barren wall behind, but yet disappointed in this lack of another life form as it meant that this boy was definitely, undeniably waving at her. For a moment she was frightened, unsure of what to do, scared of encouraging anything further, yet despite herself, she found that she was waving back.
The boy laughed playfully, smiling sweetly and ran away, enticing her curiosity, Holly craning her neck as he ran out of view. He had gone down the side of her house. She couldn’t see where because she only had the one window and the one view, the one outlook. What was behind her house, she wondered? Was there another tree, perhaps? Maybe a stream with ducks begging for bread scraps from departing picnickers. How had she not thought of this, and what exactly was a duck anyway? Her mind was racing. Flooded with information, with why’s, what’s, who’s where’s when’s how’s…more and more possibilities, variations, implications, extensions…such a cacophony, an information overload! It felt as though her head was collapsing, the strain searing at her temples, clawing, colliding, crushing at her throbbing, pulsating veins like a vice in a carpenter’s workshop. She went to bed, it is all she could manage to do.
That night she dreamt that it was she who was sitting under the tree. She was barefoot, her toes curled up into the cool, green grass, the softness caressing her soles and bringing joy to her spirit. She could smell the fragrance of the season, an intoxicating bouquet of pollen, warmth and freedom. As she breathed it in, she closed her eyes and lifted her head back, taking it all in, allowing her senses to be taken over completely, the touch and the smell so far removed from what she had ever imagined when before she could only see and hear. She opened her eyes slowly and could see her house, her door and her adjacent window. At the window looking out towards where she was sitting, she could see herself. For the first time, she could see how she couldn’t understand.
At that moment she realised she could see further than ever before, she could, if she wanted, see behind her house! Such an enticing prospect was too good to turn down, and this was a dream, what harm could it do? As she lifted her eyes to look behind her house, she was stricken with panic. There were dark clouds, ominous and looming. They promised rain and storms, the push coming to shove, of darker times just waiting, lurking, creeping just where you couldn’t see, just waiting to chase away the sun, the summer, and the joy of the warmth. She couldn’t look away, this looming malevolence had her full attention.
A crash, loud. Another, louder still.
A rumble, a flash.
It was angry, it was dark, and it was coming no matter what. She knew that she could do absolutely nothing to stop it from bearing down on her.
A crash, closer. A deep, booming noise that seemed to shake the earth itself, the very solid ground upon which she was sitting seemed to sway and move as the light around her retreated, consumed by this harbinger. Another crash, closer still, closer, rocking her now, rocking her house, rocking her door, rocking her window, watching her inside completely unaware completely oblivious, pleading with her Holly please make it stop open the door and let me back in please I don’t want to be out here anymore as the darkness took a hold of her, shadows tugging at her clothes, swallowing her taking her, taking her to somewhere she had never imagined never known never wanted to know and it was all too much she was choking but she needed to
And scream she did. And she awoke from her dream.
There was no darkness. None. She was in her bed and it was morning. If there had been any darkness then it had been supplanted by the sunny, shiny joy that was her everyday. Her heart was thumping. She had never noticed the noise or the motion before. Holly pressed her hand to her chest and listened to it thump, felt it beat away at the inside of her ribs as though desperate to get out, to escape, to see what lies on the other side. And Holly understood.
She got up and went to her window. The sun was there, the clouds were fluffy and flying as elegant as before. She looked at the grass and wished, oh how she wished! that she could curl her toes in the luscious green patch just to the right of the door, to feel her sole softly brushing the tender throngs pushing up from the earth. She wanted to smell the pollen and really live in whatever it was that lay beyond the window.
She knew her dream was important, she knew that it would happen. She knew that she would cry with people with whom she once was laughing, that she would laugh with people with whom she once was crying. It was like the seasons she had been watching change for so many years, it was a cycle. She took hold of the door handle ready to face everything there and stopped. Feeling unsure, feeling frightened she placed her hand back on her heart and felt the rhythmic thump, thump, thump that the darkness had caused and looked out of the window one last time. She steeled herself: yes it was beautiful, yes it was terrifying, but for the first time ever she knew that she was alive.
She opened the door, and took her first steps.
© Kris Blackburn 29/07/2015