Almost Everything…

The school stood before me, the figure at the window had disappeared and the hawk flying overhead, in circles, seemed to have found somewhere else to draw patterns around. The dead oak, that had once knocked at my bedroom window, was now out of sight and mind. I had crossed the circular lawn that greeted visitors, my barely visible footprints were already becoming part of the uniform covering of snow, and I was at the steps that led to the main entrance. The door should have been locked rather than standing invitingly ajar. I climb the short distance and pushed against the divide that had no intention of barring me from entry and was greeted by a cold but familiar smell of my old school. There were dust fairies caught in the stasis of half-light and there was no movement, nothing. 

I have never entered a tomb. I would not know how to feel about disturbing the silence that has grown around those dead that have been placed there to slowly turn to hardened matter. I had now expectations as to what was likely to await me but I was fairly certain that nothing that was trapped within the confines of Sandham would be good. 

Expectations:

  1. a strong belief that something will happen or be the case;
  2. a belief that someone will or should achieve something;
  3. ones prospects of inheritance.

Mathematically speaking:

a predicted value of a variable, calculated as the sum of all possible values each multiplied by the probability of its occurrence.

Maths was never my thing in that way that it was the thing for other boys. They would have seized upon this and run off into some abstract path towards understanding. My ‘special’ talent was concerned with trying to create something that had an understandable meaning, Something that provided a mast to cling to when the storm was too fierce. I didn’t know why I was there and I didn’t understand what I had to do to get out of there, or if I really wanted to get out of there, but I did know that there was something that I was missing and it was very big indeed.

I pushed the door open and it did not utter any protest. The dust did not move as I passed through it, neither did the floor throw back the sound of my footfalls into the silent interior. This school had changed its function for now it had become a crypt where not even memories roamed. The only thing that dared to move within the place was me. The door stood ajar behind me and my thoughts turned towards a quick retreat. My eye was beginning to itch a little and when I wiped it, moisture was left upon it. It was blood which meant that my journey through the barrier had not passed without injury. Somewhere along the way, a branch, or thorn, had reached down and left its mark. It was a reminder that I had broken into a place that was forbidden, a school that wished to keep its own counsel and not be forced to share. This was a hidden place that intended to keep things that way. I was an intruder, an uninvited guest who had already stayed beyond a welcome that had never been offered and a wiser boy would have left whilst I still could. If the door behind me had not slammed shut, I would have left. I would have scraped through the thorny barrier and run to whatever place was still in existence beyond this twilight world. It would only happen in a world where it   didn’t. ‘I would’ was a regret for the path not taken and I was too far along that path to turn around. Perhaps this was where it was always going to end, in this school, entombed forever with the comfort of dust.

Silence can be empty. It can be a dream or a dream of a dream. Whatever had vacated the building had done so a very long time before my arrival. The silence did not remember the end of movement, the lingering warmth of the last breath, or the scrape of a chair’s foot against the floor. In that silence, nothing dared and nothing hoped. 

I crossed the corridor and passed through the heavy wooden doors that guarded the dining hall. Outside had been caught in the grey light of the day; it was steel and gun metal, but the interior of the room was something else again. The windows had blocked whatever meagre light which existed outside and an almost total absence of any type of illumination threatened to consumed my anxieties. A solitary candle, redundant and indifferent sat on the furthest end of the table, its ancient wax having reached its ultimate descent, watched me as I made my way through the darkness. My eyes adjusted to the lack of light and I found that they were able to provide some compensation: what had been only an impenetrable block of darkness was now taking on different nuances and hues. I could finally make out a long table sucking light from any source that offered it and upon that table sat the remains of a lunch enjoyed ‘once upon a time’. As I stepped further in, more became apparent and the draft that I brought with me ruffled the air and teased gaps to appear in the ancient fabric of the curtains. And that was when I realised that I was not alone.

So, you’ve returned?  The question came from a thickening of the shadows. It was a question that could have been asked many times previously. I could have ignored it, considered it only a consequence of the breeze that was circulating, but I turned towards the place where it could have crept in. 

“Yes,” was my simple reply. 

The shape that had threatened was no longer there. In its place was an empty chair, pushed back a little from the table, suggesting that whoever had occupied it had now left. The light was ebbing in and out, the darkness following in tango. On all of the surfaces there lay a coating of time, dust that protected and guaranteed. It wasn’t the time for fun facts. But, here goes:

Dustmaybe made up of dead skin.The key qualifier there is the word may. May is unconvinced enough to nail its colours to the mast. May can be shunted one way or another depending on the prevailing wind. May allows space to change. 

Popular beliefs have it that dust is made up, mainly, of dead skin cells. It may or may not be true.

Follow the science, some repetitive wig once said, again and again and again. The science is that an individual, with an average amount of skin surface area, sheds 1,000 cells per hour. From my records, the school had been open for over eighty years and had been in use before as a private residence. If I approached this scientifically, it would mean that there was an awful lot of dust in the air, and an awful lot of that would be dead skin. Skin residue spends time floating around in the updrafts of the everyday, finally to settle on any surface that breaks its fall. The school had been empty for a long, long time and still there were dust fairies surfing the drafts. Skin is persistent. And so are footfalls. A rage of them ran overhead.

I moved towards the door which had appeared without me noticing. The thunderous racing of feet continued as I passed through the opening and into the Great Hall. As I did so, little puffs of dust took to the air and were sucked into the vortex that had been created. Like the dining room, the Great Hall was a manifestation of abandonment. It was a mausoleum and a place that no living thing could inhabit. The stained glass of the huge windows had been shattered and the remains of the tree, that massive dead oak that had tiptoed around the rear of the building to knock on my window, hung helplessly half way in and half way out of the broken aperture. There was no shepherd and there were no lambs. The sound of running feet had stopped. The first tap of the drum began.

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