My uncle Wilson lived in a very old house that he’d inherited from his grandfather. Sometimes we’d visit around Christmas time because mother said he was lonely.
“He always was, even as a boy” she said with mix of fondness and sadness for her sibling. “And now I think his inheritance has swallowed him up into that part of his nature and he hides in it. It’s only right we try to draw him out, at least at Christmas. Even Wilson should have some time in the sun.”
So we visited the old, dark, quiet house. Wilson would greet us but then lurk, out of reach, day upon day, until my formidable mother dragged him to the Christmas dinner table and ordered he do the honours carving the turkey. Then we’d see him smile and sometimes he’d even joke a bit. Under everything he was as human as any of us.
“Not that you’d know it,” my father would growl when my mother couldn’t hear him.
The thing is, I think both my parents were right. Uncle Wilson could be very normal sometimes and even seemed to enjoy our company eventually, like it seeped into him over the days each time we stayed. But he was also so full of secrets. And the biggest one of all was his special room.
Down the hallway from all the bedrooms was one room with a perpetually locked orange door. Uncle Wilson never told us what was inside and said no-one but he could enter. My mother didn’t remember there being such a room when they visited their grandfather as children.
“It’s like it sprung up out of nowhere after grandpa died,” my mother would marvel. “I don’t remember a room being here at all.”
Uncle Wilson wouldn’t be drawn on the subject, no matter how I tried. I developed the theory that my great grandfather morphed into the room on his death, just so he could remain in the house. If so, Uncle Wilson was the only one welcome in his company.
But I noticed something else, after a few years of Christmas visits. Every time Uncle Wilson looked thinner, frailer, and less substantial. It was really like looking at someone turn into a ghost. And every year the orange of the door turned brighter, like it drank him in.
So I reckon one day we’ll visit and he won’t be there. Not as himself, anyway. He’ll be part of the house and merged with his Grandfather.
And I bet you anything on that day the orange door will be so bright it will almost be red. Just like the life-force itself, like blood.
Helen M Valentina (c) 2019