Archive for June, 2013

We all need a bit of ‘me’ time. But what if that me isn’t you?








All those who have followed our posts over the last two years will be aware that Lethmachen is no ordinary town and that contributing to this site demands more than would be expected of the typical local journalist. Often we are confronted with outright hostility, yet more frequently greeted with a dismissive disdain as if our writing, our research, our culture has no foundation in reality, no place in society. What has this to do with you? We already know the truth about this – is the most common, uniform response if ever we seek an interview with Lethmachen politicians, Councillors, legal authorities or even the local press. As a result our work, exposing the haunted, subterranean undertow of Letmachen can at times prove exhausting, frustrating, perhaps even hopeless. So what is our motivation, bearing in mind that for the majority of us this is something we have to pursue alongside our ‘real’ jobs? On a philosophical level it is a commitment the freedom to doubt, to question, to undermine those who would speak for us. To give a voice to the silenced, the dead. On a personal level, we share an addiction to the creeping thrill that rises whenever we suspect that things are not as they seem; that the possibilities are more diverse than we have been led to believe. An open door on an empty street. Which elaborate preamble may explain why I was still at my desk late on a Friday, and took the following call from an old acquaintance (NB: we do not encourage phone calls, indeed our number is not listed – please contact the website directly).

‘You remember my flatmate Alona; I think you met her once at Chiaroscuros? Well, she moved out this morning, decided not to renew her six monthly contract. We didn’t fall out or anything, in fact we barely saw each other, passed like ships in the night. I had the impression she just wasn’t ready to settle down yet, that she was treating this as a period of transition. Well, last night we made an arrangement to sit down together for once, and enjoy a few farewell drinks. Anyway, late on in the evening we were discussing her new flat, apparently a little place on her own, which led to us exchanging tales of previous experiences with renting. It may have been due to the wine, but it only gradually dawned on me she was leading me in to this really strange story. And I immediately thought of you! I hope she won’t mind me repeating what she said, but as of today she has a new career in a new town, so it’s unlikely she’ll ever have reason to Google ‘Lethmachen’ again.

Alona said that, prior to moving in with me, she had lived with a boyfriend for the first time. Shall we call him ‘Ken’? I’ve forgotten his name already! After about four or five months of ‘co-habiting’ Ken announced he was going away for the weekend, attending a friend’s stag-do in Newquay. This would mean that, for the first time, Alona would be by herself in the flat. She was not too concerned about spending the night alone, in fact she told me that she was quite looking forward to having the place to herself, enjoying a bit of ‘me’ time. You know how it can be, even with someone you’re really fond of, sometimes it is nice to have your own space. Hence that Friday Alona returned from work in a relaxed mood, pleased with the prospect of stretching out in front of the TV with a few glasses of wine, with the bathroom and bedroom all to herself. She watched dusk fall over the town from the windows of their top floor flat, and received a few fleeting texts from Ken, informing her he had arrived safely but revealing little else. Bedding herself in for the night, Alona made a leisurely circuit of the flat, locking doors, closing windows and drawing curtains. She told me everything seemed fine until she was in the bedroom. That was when she began to feel creepy.

Having made token gestures at tidying up, peeling a few items of clothing off the floorboards and depositing them in the wash bin, Alona had switched off the light in the bedroom and turned to leave. It was at that moment, the shift from light to dark, that she thought she saw someone. It had only been the suggestion of movement, close to the ground, as if someone was crawling out from that blind spot between the far side of the bed and the wardrobe. As I said she made clear it was only a glimpse, a hint out the corner of her eye, but enough to make her flee the room. Slamming the door behind her, in the sanctuary of the living room Alona caught her breath. Had she forgotten so soon what it was like to be alone? She never thought it would affect her like this, perhaps she had grown too accustomed to being surrounded by people? Yet try as she might to convince herself it was all in her imagination, Alona could not dismiss the feeling that there was someone else in the flat, someone else in her space. Someone that wanted her space? Minutes dragged by slowly. Her mind running in circles, Alona strove to persuade herself that all she needed to do was open the living room door, walk the few steps across the hall, and throw on the lights in the bedroom. There would be nothing there. But she couldn’t convince herself to do it.

Then the knockings began. Quiet, hesitant, but persistent. Like a weakly clenched fist, at the foot of the living room door. Could it be the pipes? The people downstairs? Tap…tap…tap. No, in her heart Alona knew what she heard was close to her. The timbre of the knockings almost sounded friendly, a gentle request for entry, but Alona suspected some kind of deceit and could not bring herself to open up. Tap…tap…tap. There would be a pause for five minutes, or even fifteen – just long enough to believe they had stopped, that you were alone – and then they would begin again. But why were the raps so low against the door, as if someone lay crippled in the hall, barely able to raise themselves off the carpet? To distract herself, break this absurd train of thought, Alona tried to call, then text Ken. His mobile was switched off, no response. Should she try contacting a friend? No, they would just think she was being childish, pathetic, or simply joking. It was only after some time pacing the living room, deliberating, that Alona realised the knocking had stopped. Instead, there was a faint scuttling, rustling, first above her head, then, at intervals, seemingly all around her. She’s in the walls, thought Alona. For some reason, from the briefest of glances, Alona had come to the conclusion that the intruder was female. She was not sure if this made things better or worse. Moments later that steady tap…tap..tap resumed, this time at the living room window. It reminded Alona of the time a seagull had settled on the ledge and pecked at each pane in turn. Still, she refused to draw back the curtains. It could be all she would see would be her own eyes reflected in the glass. But what if she saw someone else’s? As the knockings roamed further from the living room door, Alona considered making a run for it. Yet every time she took a step in that direction it was accompanied by what sounded like a sudden lurch from up above, as if her intentions were immediately known, and her escape would be cut off. Besides, her door keys were in the bottom in her bag hanging on the back of the bedroom door. By the time she had delved in and found them, then fumbled around with the lock, it would all be over.

To cut a long story short, Alona spent a terrible night barricaded in her own living room, eventually curled up in a foetal position on the sofa, not daring to sleep. The knockings faded with the coming of dawn, as these things tend to do, and the next morning she left the house with the support of a friend she had called over. I don’t think she ever explained exactly what had happened to this friend though, and certainly not to Ken. They weren’t together that much longer. I think something happened in Newquay. I don’t know why she waited until our last night together to confess all this. Presumably she was worried I would evict her for being too weird! Or perhaps it had begun playing on her mind recently. After all, she was about to start living on her own again. As am I. That is probably why I chose to call you tonight!’

An interesting postscript: with a bit of prying, or ‘research’, I discovered the flat in question was on Norwood Street, one of that row of Regency buildings divided up in to rented apartments. The top floor flat in question once belonged to Jennifer Wolfe, whom our older readers may recall from a series of sensationalized articles in The Lethmachen Echo a few decades back. Jennifer was, if this is not a contradiction, a famous recluse. She was also a famous, or rather infamous, hoarder, as discovered by local authorities when they forced their way in to her flat. It took them two hours to locate her body amongst the flotsam and jetsam piled up all over the property. Jennifer was eventually discovered crushed beneath a fallen wardrobe in the bedroom. The wardrobe in question had finally toppled under the weight of old scrapbooks, newspapers and once decorative ornaments piled upon it.

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