Stories & Poems ~ Short Stories:

~Safe as Houses

It had been years since Walter had seen his late father’s hat. Walking into the spare room, Walter’s attention was drawn towards a dark fissure in the side of the mahogany wardrobe. There was a bulge in the timber. Damp, he thought; but combing the surface with his fingers, he discovered the wood was dry. Opening the door, he looked inside and saw on a shelf - the hat. Somehow it looked larger than he remembered: a trick of the light perhaps. Reaching in he tried to remove it, but was surprised to find the soft fedora now vibrant and firmly wedged in the space where once it had comfortably sat. Walter reached both hands in and tugged - the wardrobe rocked. Slowly he wriggled it free, and once free dropped it with a start onto the floor. He looked at it from the distance of his height, with the uneasy gaze that a monkey might look at a snake. He bent down and examined it, trying to reconcile the size and properties with those recorded in his memory. Placing the hat to the side of the wardrobe he left the room.

The next day he returned to the room and noticed compression marks on the pile of the carpet, suggesting the wardrobe had moved. The hat was now wedged between the wall and the wardrobe. He prised the hat free again and placed it in the middle of the room, testing it with his foot.

Worrying about the hat had begun to affect his sleep. Each day he opened the door to the hat’s room and it seemed to have grown bigger. He took his father’s old hand saw from the cupboard, but was unable to mutilate the hat: it seemed somehow alive and he turned away. He left the saw outside the room and from that moment couldn’t bring himself to open the door.

He looked at the door each morning before leaving for work and one day he was sure the door was bowing outwards. Within his rented flat, within the converted Victorian house, his life was being squeezed. He couldn’t concentrate at work and sat quietly, barely able to move. His manager thought him physically unwell and sent him home.

When Walter returned home he noticed cracks had appeared above the spare bedroom doorframe. He started to fear for the structure of the building and wanted to contact the landlord; however before he could find the landlord’s number, the building had started to rock. He raced to each of the other tenants’ doors - no one replied. He rushed back, grabbed a sports bag, pushed some clothes in and ran down the stairs as cracks burst along the walls. The staircase started undulating beneath him and the spindles started to detonate with pieces flying in all directions. Outside, the main door swung back towards the frame, but couldn’t close. He looked upwards just as the upper floor exploded, raining bricks, concrete, glass, slates and roof struts down on him. He stood transfixed and heard his father’s voice screaming at him. “Get Out! Bloody well... get out!”

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