The Locked Room
Written today and first published here
THE LOCKED DOOR
I was shown a locked door leading from the corridor into one of the house’s locked rooms. But, really, hand on heart, did a locked door make a locked room what it was? Necessarily, did one lead to the other?
I knew Arthur was the owner of the house and, as an unspoken secret between us, there was also the further knowledge that I was willing to buy the house and he was willing to sell the house … if the right price struck both of us simultaneously as the same right price. It was as if our respective (perhaps vastly different) perceptions of the locked door represented each other’s facial expression upon shaking hands … and the locked room was something we both concealed behind those very expressions.
So, the locked door was where reality met unreality, as it were. A two-way filter. One leading to the other and back again. Thoughts that were not in keeping with what I was really thinking. No wonder my tongue got carried away with its own flag-waving.
A room as an echo of its door was soon to be put to the test…
“This is the locked door to the late Mrs Archer’s room,” Arthur told me, as he banged thunderously on its panels.
“Trying to wake the dead?” I laughed. I bit my tongue to remove the unfeeling quality of what I had just joked about unwittingly. A key to removing nonsense from reality.
Arthur was an enormous man, made from ill-seasoned forest timber, as he towered over me…shaggily.
Could such unequals as us ever strike a bargain? I tried to keep the question from my eyes. Business, in a housing slump, was more a game of poker than a straightforward transaction.
He echoed my laugh. He had told me to call him Arthur rather than Mr Archer. I supposed this to be a mock friendliness to mask mixed emotions – the bittersweet feeling he must still possess about removing this house from a future where he had expected to continue living with his wife…until she had died so unexpectedly.
Neither of us spoke as we watched each other. Laughter had died to the last echo of the ceiling beams. Against any possible better judgement, I expected to hear a key scrabbling at the lock from the other side of the door…
I was, however, small enough to clamber through the keyhole … into the vast locked room. Only so vast, because I was so tiny. Arthur had lifted me and inserted me slotwise toward the darkness beyond the door. Halfway, my tongue managed to slip the tumblers one by one, as if I were the solution to every possible puzzle tree.
Arthur entered through the now open door, seeking, in utter denial, his departed wife. And he found me already primed to ignite a disease of toxic fundaments – ready to strike a deal for the next lease along the pecking order of infected conveyance.
The Spanish Flu killed many millions in 1918. I killed a few more in 2008.
“Behind each closed door there is a sub-primate.”
Rachel Mildeyes – from ‘Money Monkeys’