Friday, 31 October 2014

Clatter Crash

Night creeps into Govan early on this Hallowe'en. Do the shadows in the close seem darker and stranger? Is that footsteps you hear as you walk calmly but oh so quickly up the stairs? An over anxious rat-a-tat-tat on the letterbox gains admission to the safety of a Hallowe'en soiree; dooking for apples, nuts and sweeties in bowls, and eerie lanterns set around the room - pumpkins now replacing tumshies cos howking out tumshies is too much like hard work.
By flickering candlelight, a favourite terrifying tale is recalled and we draw in closer together to listen.
The story's setting isn't spooky; school holidays in the blistering summer of 1976.
Diva's mum and dad go on their first foreign holiday and leave their son and daughter alone with a strict warning there's to be nae perties.
Diva, with her pale skin and red hair, finds the sun doesn't agree with her and invites some friends to a house party in the heat of the day. There's crisps and ginger from the shop, ice cream from the van when it comes round. All the windows are wide open above the street but no air blows through the two rooms and kitchen.
From the press in the bedroom, Diva brings out a Ouija board and sets it on the table. The friends gather round and press their fingers lightly to the glass. No one's quite sure what to do, so there's a lot of laughter, some of it nervous.
In the cool of the evening, the friends cross under the river on the subway and walk about Kelvingrove Park and down Byres Road before returning home.
On the second day, Diva is taking this seriously. Just one pal turns up to sit in the heavy atmosphere of a shady kitchen. It's easier to control the laughter when just two sit at the board and after a few false starts they begin to feel as though the glass is moving on its own, speedily dragging their fingers from point to point. They can scarcely look at each other before a tremendous boom sounds in the bedroom and both jump to their feet in terror and run to the outside door, falling over each other to get out and down the stairs, jumping two and three at a time till they stand in fear in the middle of the street.
Sure it was the wardrobe falling over with a crash, they wait for Diva's brother to come home to re-enter the house, by which time, another half a dozen pals have mustered and they scale the staircase together to inspect the damage done by the poltergeists.
Jackie throws open the bedroom door, the ceiling is high with a single pendant light hanging from the centre. The bed is covered in a pink candlewick, with pattern of green leaves and yellow flowers, smoothed out and neatly tucked under the pillows. Room for one plain wooden bedside table and the wardrobe against the wall. Yes, there it stands, unmoved. Jackie, with the girls trailing behind, checks every corner of the house but there's no evidence of anything that could have caused the unearthly crash.
On the third day, there's a big attendance at the unhallowed gathering. Diva struggles to conjure up the same intensity with so many crowding round the table. A couple get bored fairly quickly and depart, one girl feels frightened and persuades another to get her down the stairs. Just five left and fingers on the glass. Diva asks the question - who was it that made the noise yesterday? Was it a message? Was there something to . . . before she finishes speaking in her strangely high, breathy voice, they are assailed by an ear-splitting racket; clattering and clanging of pots and kettles, banging of cupboard doors and slamming of drawers, cascading metal cutlery and shattering plates resounds through the door and bounces off the walls. With screams and yells, the girls leap up and out of the front door, diving downstairs at a pelt and standing quivering in the street. The safest place they can think of is Elder Park where the sun smiles down on picnics and play.
By teatime, they gather again at the closemouth to await Jackie's return from work. He just shakes his head at them and alights the stairs with a swagger and a smirk and a line of lassies following him up. He emerges from the kitchen with the immortal words, "Ye never washed ma cornflakes bowl. Whit else is new?" Everything stands untouched and unmoved from when he last saw it at breakfast time.

So what was it? What was the noise and the cause of it? All these years on, and Diva testifies it was true. Now, on this Hallowe'en night, how do we get back downstairs without a scream!?!

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