I like it here, in the summer house. It’s peaceful. The warm sunlight streams in through the windows, cutting through the fog and making everything clear and bright and simple. I can spend all day in here, just looking out over the garden, drifting in and out of pleasant little half-slumbers and not thinking about anything at all. No fog. No bad dreams. Just nothing. Nothing at all.
The rest of the house is haunted, I’m sure of it. There’s a whispering in the walls that gnaws at me when I’m alone, and even the smallest of shadows seems filled with unspeakable secrets. The wallpaper winks and rustles to itself when I look way, and I can feel a dark presence seeping up from the cracks in the floorboards whenever dusk begins to settle. The house is alive with spirits, and sometimes it’s as if I can feel them oozing into my bones.
It’s worse at night. That’s when the fog descends in earnest and the darkness unfolds out of all the little nooks and crannies like a gathering storm. I can’t get the thoughts straight in my head – the murmurs mount and mingle until they drown me out entirely and I’m all but washed away in a torrent of overlapping monologues that I can’t quite understand. One thing always comes out clearly, though – the hate. The hate and the rage speaks beyond the words and reaches into my very soul. I don’t know if or when I fall asleep, but when I awaken I’m always drenched in sweat and my every muscle aches.
It doesn’t help that I don’t really get out. Not ever. See, I have this condition. I don’t know what it’s called, but I’m in a wheelchair now and I’m often in a lot of pain. I think it’s also done something to my mind, but I’m not sure what. I don’t seem to be able to concentrate on anything, and my memory is full of holes. But maybe the fog has something to do with that – I don’t know. There’s something badly wrong with my face. When I run my fingers over it the skin feels tight and puckered like scar tissue. It’s rough and uneven and I don’t think it’s supposed to be that way. There aren’t any mirrors in the house but I sometimes catch reflections of myself in things and I have to turn away. Everything’s wrong and out of place and there’s just this pair of penetrating blue eyes staring out of a lump of flesh I don’t even recognize. Things have been this way for a while, but mostly I try not to think about it. When i do the fog just rolls in again and steals all the thoughts from my head.
There’s a woman who looks after me. She wheels me from room to room and feeds me and brings me my medicines. She’s nice, but sometimes I catch her looking at me in an odd way, as if she’s looking through me and into something else. Maybe even something that scares her. She has sad eyes and a lonely smile, and two small round scars on her back – one, two – that I hardly ever see but I still know are there.
I haven’t told her that the house is haunted, but I think she knows anyway. No-one could spend any length of time here and not realize it. The whole place is steeped in spirits – I can feel them even through the depths of the fog, lurking in every forgotten corner and clamoring for attention on the edges of my vision.
Some rooms are worse than others. I really don’t like the library, for example, with its stacks of dusty volumes scattered higgledy-piggledy across the shelves with no sense of order or symmetry. Even when I try to read the titles the letters swim and dance before my eyes like images in a dream. I’ve looked into one or two of the hundreds of moth-eaten books that stare down from the walls: they were filled with page after page of dense, handwritten text that I couldn’t make head nor tail of, and scattered with spidery diagrams that seemed drenched in arcane significance. There’s a sense of eerie familiarity about everything in that room that sets my teeth on edge and gives me a dull, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
But that’s nothing compared to the studio. I haven’t been in there for a long time. She knows that it upsets me. I can’t really explain it. It smells of paint and white spirit – a harsh, chemical smell that catches the back of my throat and burns in my nostrils. The walls are glass, but it doesn’t feel light and airy like it does here in the summer house. It’s oppressive, smothering: like being a fly trapped in amber.
There are canvases everywhere: stacked against the walls, strewn over the paint-spattered desk, lying haphazardly in piles on every available surface. And each one is like a fresh vision of hell.
There are figures in the pictures, faces, some I think I half-recognize, but they seem to loom in and out of the frames like strangers from a mist. The pictures are mad swirls of kaleidoscopic color, jumbles of frantic brushstrokes which conceal just as much as they reveal.
The images are horrific. Insane. But I can’t really put my finger on why. Hate and fear billows out of them, and a bitter undercurrent of violence flows beneath them like an icy torrent.
They speak to me, like the murmurs that seep out from the threadbare carpets, like the muffled intimations that shush themselves in the swaying drapes. Those mad riots of clashing colors tell a story, but it’s as if it’s in a language I don’t understand. A language I forgot a long time ago. Two figures repeat and recur, caught in a wild dance of passion and desire that changes through the pictures from something pure and joyous to something dark, dangerous and ultimately deadly. Obsession creeps through the canvases like a disease, slowly infecting each each image until at last nothing remains but a nightmare of writhing hate and violence, punctuated by two piercing blue eyes with a look in them that chills me to the very core.
There’s a revolver hidden beneath the floorboards in my room. I don’t know how I knew it was there, but I found it once in the dead of night. There were three bullets missing – one, two, three. My face hurts when I think about it. The scars throb and the skin seems to tighten around them. This house has seen a lot of pain and suffering in its time.
But I like it here, here in the summer house. It’s my little shelter from the storm, my last bastion where I’m safe from the endless fog that rolls in on me in multicolored clouds as dense and impenetrable as brush strokes on canvas. It’s always clear and bright in here, like a little jewel shining bright from the depths of an impenetrable void. I don’t have to think in here at all: not about the woman, not about the paintings, and not about the revolver and the strange compulsion I feel to take it out again from its hiding place and feel the impossible weight of it in my hands once again. Here in the summer house I can just sit, and watch, and wait: wait for the time to pass as I drift in and out of a shallow, dreamless sleep.