Friday, June 02, 2006

White Lilies

I turned the music down thinking that someone was knocking at my door, but as soon as I did so, the sound stopped. I made my way into the hall and through the mottled glass panel, I could see that there was no one there.Once back in the living room I could hear it again. It was coming from the other side of the wall. It wasn’t that loud; just a faint tapping sound. I turned the music back up and sat back down on the sofa, I couldn't hear it anymore because the music was now louder than before but, now that I knew it was there, it began to trouble me. So I turned it down again and put my ear to the wall. It was still there.

At first I wondered if it was a response to the volume, but it was too constant and rhythmic to be a complaint, so I assumed that the neighbours were doing a spot of DIY: perhaps hanging a picture or putting up a shelve. So once again I hit the volume, filling the room with the sound of Killing Joke and throwing myself on the sofa. Every now and then, I thought I could still hear the tapping above Mr Coleman’s screaming ... or rather smell it. Like a sickly sweet perfume it lingered just above the rest of the noise in the room. It was beginning to irritate me.

The next evening I noticed it again, the same faint tapping coming from the same spot just above the fireplace filling my room with the sent of white lilies. I was growing curious as to what they were doing in there; surely it doesn’t take two nights to hang a picture?I had lived in the house for around six months and London being London, well ... you don’t always get to know your neighbours, do you? I had seen them once or twice and nodded hello to one of them over the garden fence. They were both young girls, both blonde - probably in their early twenties. They seemed pleasant enough and up until now, I hadn’t heard a peep out of them.

The irritation continued for about a week, always in the evening, never that load, just short delicate bursts of rhythmic tapping emulating from just above the fireplace. My curiosity was now on overload.I slipped out of the house at about 10.30, through my front garden and the open gate and on to the pavement, where I paused for a moment. There were two men on the other side of the road, niether seemed to notice me - both were deep in conversation which held the potential of becoming an argument, so I busied myself by examining the lock on my gate until they passed.

Next door’s garden was overgrown to say the least. There was only two plants that I thought I recognised amongst the green stuff that obscured the view of their living room window.I made my way along the pavement towards their gate, looking for signs of life over the wall. There was a light on but from beyond the garden I wasn’t able to see a thing.The gate opened with ease. Once inside, I closed it behind me and edged my way up the path towards the door.

Tentatively, I entered the undergrowth and crouched beneath the window, which wasn’t easy with nettles and thistles attacking on all fronts. At first I couldn’t see very much, I was so frightened of discovery, I daren’t move. A dim orange glow came from a rather ugly seventies looking lampshade which made the busy patterns on the wallpaper look shit brown. I could see the top of a cluttered bookcase and part of a RadioHead poster but that was all. I had to reposition myself, which was painful but accomplished. Now I had a good view of the fireplace and the source of my irritation.

Facing the hearth, stood a very small man. The top of his head was barely level with the mantelpiece. He was smartly dressed in a well tailored black suit and stood erect, almost statuesque in front of an old gas fire. He was elderly; how old was hard to tell. He stood in profile, his pale complexion and white hair tainted by the lamplight. In his right hand he held a silver pocket watch which he observed constantly, in his left, above his head, he held a small silver hammer.

Gary O Connor

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