As soon as the crooked timber door began to open, I knew that this was a bad idea.
The darkness that twitched and throbbed with excitement on the other side and the laughter that I heard rattling about the insides of my skull. And I was tired of this game now I realised. Really tired. And I needed to get out of this hospital and find my way through Deadwood and all the way back to the rolling downs. Where I could stand upon the ridge and taste the cool scent of the river Bourne upon my tongue. And peer down upon the valley I called home and the crease of fields that leaned in towards my little village down there. And my eye that would seek out the collection of red bricked terrace houses until my gaze came to fall upon my own house. Eddies car collecting rust and propped upon four stacks of bricks. And my Mummy busy in the kitchen and Eddie on the sofa watching boxsets and calling out his demands to Mummy where she busied herself in the kitchen. And I could almost see it now. My Mummy by the sink and the bin overflowing with empty cans of Kingfisher. And the tears that were flowing from Mummy’s eyes as she peered through the kitchen window and waited for her daughter to return. And Eddie sharpening his knife in the living room.
“Creepy.” Bieber said, leaning in cautiously towards the folds of darkness that had so patiently waited for him on the other side of the crooked door. “What is this place anyway?”
The memory of Sister Dixon returned. How I had seen her racing away from the shack the day before. The deathly pallor to her face.
“It’s the woodshed.” I said, and something about the word that seemed to flow over my tongue as though I had spoken it before. Which was weird because I was darned sure that I had never spoken those combination of words in the whole of my life.
“The woodshed?” Bieber replied, turning from the darkness that reached out towards him from behind the open door and studying me for further explanation. And I was pleased to notice this time that he had discovered those pesky marble eyes of his he had misplaced back there upon the lawn. The flecks of green and amber that flickered around the edges of his iris and appearing like the death throw of a supernova. Bieber studied me and blinked.
“What?” He said, his eyes narrowing and the folds of skin that appeared against his smooth brow.
“What?” I replied in return, my gaze still fixed firm upon his supernova eyes and how beautiful they seemed to me I thought.
“What you looking at?” He said. “Why you looking at me like that?” he asked.
“Like what?” I replied, and I was starting to wonder how long our conversation would go on like this for.
“Like that!” he said, opening his eyes wide and attempting to mimic my expression I presumed but appearing instead like an image of Momo, and that made me chuckle at least. I shook my head and bit down upon my tongue so that I didn’t laugh.
“I’m not looking like that.” I said, and Momo’s face still dancing around inside my head. I imagined some nerd in Tokyo somewhere slaving for hour upon hour to create the ghastly meme. And what did they know of fear, I thought to myself. What the heck did that Tokyo nerd know about fear?
“You were looking like that.” Bieber continued, and I was getting really bored of this conversation now, really bored. And tired of Bieber pulling that messed up Momo face at me. And kind of hoping that his eyes would pop out sometime soon so we could get this whole sorry incident over and done with and I could get back to SpongeBob and the rest of the loonies back there.
I shrugged my shoulders and rattled the chains around my wrists a little in frustration as I pushed past Bieber and in towards the darkness of the woodshed that had waited so patiently for the two of us to enter. My shoulder brushing for a moment against Bieber’s shoulder and a terrible scream that rattled through the folds of my brain and brought the hairs to stand upon the back of my neck. But I didn’t mention that to Bieber as I pushed on past him and stepped inside.
I paused a moment and steadied myself against the door.
My eyes adjusting to the anaemic light in there.
The smell of timber and oil and rust and something else too that I couldn’t register.
An image that flickered and firecrackled against the inside of my mind. Of being here before. The smell that blew in towards me from the past. The memory of standing in a place like this with someone else.
Bieber discovering his confidence it seemed as he pushed by me and stepped cautiously into the darkness that invited us inside.
“Cool.” He said, turning to his side as he brought his hand towards a wooden bench that had remained in shadows until that point. “What is this stuff?” He said, bringing his fingers to settle upon a rusted hunk of metal and lifting the object from the bench. The weight of it against his hand so that he was forced to bring his other hand around it and lift it before his face. He peered this way and that at the rusted old thing. I watched as he brought his face a little closer to the metal teeth that were snapped shut and brought his hand around the arc of the metal jaw to where the hinges and the coiled spring was found at the back.
“It’s a badger trap.” I said, watching as Bieber brought his fingers to the rusted old teeth and noticing how he winced a little as a flake of old iron splintered against the tip of his finger. I turned away from Bieber and studied the insides of the woodshed. My eyes adjusting to the meagre light now and my gaze that fell upon one ancient tool after another. Row upon row of rusted pieces of metal. Shafts of light that pierced the darkness here and there where the timbers of the rickety old shed did not quite meet. The smell of dust and dirt upon the air and something else. A smell like stagnant water. Something familiar.
I turned my head again and noticed behind Bieber, hanging against the far wool, was a metal bale fork. Two fearsome spikes that were poking out from the old fork towards the darkness and standing right about the same height as Bieber I thought. And the notion occurred to me that it would be unfortunate to trip and fall against those two fearsome spikes that were hidden in the darkness. And that a nasty mishap could happen if you were to fall face first towards the rusted barbs.
“A badger trap?” Bieber said, repeating the words I had used and cautiously lowering the metal jaws back towards the timber bench and motes of dust that lifted and danced upon hidden currents of air. Cautiously, he moved a little further towards the darkness of the woodshed and the secrets that it held.
The sound of my feet shuffling now in the opposite direction where my attention had been grabbed by a dark puddle of liquid in the furthest reaches of the shed. And all the while my eyes that were lifting and studying the tools that were hanging from every available inch of space within the building. An ancient old scythe with an arc of metal that seemed to continue forever towards a cruel point. The scythe hanging precariously from a rusted old nail. A thousand nails that punctured every available inch of timber. The sensation that we had somehow found ourselves at the centre of a pin cushion.
The puddle of darkness that remained upon the floor in the distance that beckoned me forwards somehow. I turned my face briefly from the pool of ink that so intrigued me and noticed a patch of light to the side of me and a dustsheet that had been pinned against the timbers to obscure a window that remained hidden behind. The sheet illuminated a dull yellow in colour by the daylight that remained held back.
The smell of earth that tickled the insides of my nostrils so that the little hairs in there twitched and I had to hold the sneezes back. And a sudden scurrying movement against my feet which meant that I jumped back in fright. I lowered my gaze to my red sneakers and spied a centipede scurrying across my laces so that I yelped a little in surprise.
The sound of Bieber calling out from the darkness behind me as I watched the centipede scuttle over my laces and continue on a straight course towards the puddle of darkness at the furthest corner of the shed.
The smell of stagnant water.
“You all right Mandy?” Bieber called, and the concern that I heard against his voice and I loved him for that, I really did. And I reckoned that if the two of us hadn’t been banged up in this nuthouse then we might have gone on a date to Vue Cinema and shared popcorn and diet Pepsi and munched upon cheesy nacho’s whilst we watched a crappy horror films or something lame like that.
“Yeah….” I replied, studying the scurrying centipede and the course that it followed towards the puddle of darkness at the edges of the woodshed. My gaze narrowing a little as I watched the centipede scuttle over the edges of the dark patch and somehow disappear completely from existence. As though the centipede had fallen across the edges of a black hole and been sucked right out of existence in an instant. I leaned in a little closer, not quite believing what my eyes were showing me. “……I’m fine thank you.” I said.
I placed a cautious step closer towards the circular patch of nothingness ahead of me and thinking to myself that I wasn’t fine at all. That I was far from fine actually.
“I’m absolutely fine.” I said.
My voice betraying me this time I reckoned and the words shaking against my larynx and the sudden notion that I knew this place, that I knew what might be discovered in here.
The sound of Bieber’s feet behind me as he cautiously shuffled through the darkness towards the spot I had been drawn towards.
“What is it Mandy?” Bieber asked, the scuffing sound of his feet against the damp earth behind me as he cautiously approached. “What’ve you found?” He asked.
And I felt sorry for him then, I really did. The two of us alone in here on our Scooby-Doo adventure. Elma and Shaggy. Two crazy kids and the mystery that we investigated together. And not once had Bieber asked me why I had dragged him all the way out here away from the others and away from the hospital and the blinking CCTV cameras. Not once had he asked me why I was forced to wear these chains the whole time across my wrists and across my ankles. And not once had he asked me why I had screamed out there upon the lawn when he had turned to me and his eyes that had been torn away from his skull and the flesh that was sticky and red back there.
I placed a step closer towards the patch of darkness where the centipede had popped clean out of existence.
“Dunno?” I said, and that was the truth at least. I did not have a god damned clue what that black hole was doing in the corner of the woodshed and I didn’t have a god damned clue why Sister Dixon had raced out of here with such fear etched across her face. So that I reckoned if I’d been close to her, I would have spotted that the makeup had cracked and fractured like a spider’s web across the whole of her beautiful face and the skin that was revealed beneath would be green and rotten.
“Here.” I said, turning my face cautiously towards the rag of light towards the side of me but my gaze that remained fixed firm upon the dark puddle ahead. “That sheet over there.” I instructed. “Pull it back.” I said, and part of me not wanting to look, part of me wanting to get the heck out of this creepy old woodshed with its rusted tools of torture and the scent of earth and stagnant water that tickled against my nostril hairs. Those rusty old nails that protruded from every inch of timber as though we were at the centre of a pin cushion. Bieber’s gouged out eye’s and the gristle and the muscles that twitched away back there. “Let’s let some light in.” I said.
The sound of Bieber leaning out behind me and his hand grabbing hold of the coarse material as he pulled it back from the window. A sound like a nest of bats had that been disturbed and were flapping around my head.
The light that flooded in in an instant and the corner of the room that was revealed. The darkness that was pushed away. The object revealed against the floor and the shadows that scuttled against its edges.
“Oooh.” Bieber exclaimed, leaning in across my shoulder to study the object we had discovered that had remained hidden beneath the darkness of the woodshed. “What is it?” He asked as the weight of his body pressed against my shoulders and my eyes fixed upon the perfectly round circle on the floor. My eyes that were fixed upon the crumbling red bricks that lined the edges of the circle. My eyes that were fixed upon the metal portcullis that had been fastened firm against the edges.
“It’s a well.” I said, and my voice not mine I thought. The words crumpled up like old leaves.
“It’s a wishing well.”