To sleep perchance to dream
There was a terrible ringing sound. It was filling the room, filling my head - why the hell wouldn’t it stop? My hand sought the offending article and I answered it from under my pillow
“Oh ya, hi Ashley, it’s Michelle?” I knew that upward inflection, but...
“Your cousin Michelle? From London?” she sounded exasperated.
“Hi Michelle - you ok?”
“Oh um, you know. So anyway, you need to go to Nana’s, OK?”
“Well her neighbour phoned, she says there’s this, like, smell? Coming from Nana’s house? I obviously can’t go, so…”
“How am I meant to get there? I don’t have a car!”
“Well I can’t exactly come from London! Just go and make sure she’s OK?”
She rang off.
I gave myself a minute to wake up and I realised what this meant. Nana. Jesus. I usually phoned her every Friday, but last Friday there had been tequila and now it was (I checked my phone) Tuesday. Shit.
Her house was 40 minutes away by train. I could be with her by eleven. I threw on my jeans and an old scratchy jumper that Nana had made.
We’d always been close. We liked the same books and she had painstakingly showed me how to knit scarves and and mittens. Every winter I’d receive a bulky care package from her, containing a freshly knitted jumper, chocolate and a tenner in an envelope marked ‘don’t tell your mother’.
The train ride was terrible. Nana had always been super active. She still did yoga for Christ sake, she wasn’t likely to just give up. She had a panic button for emergencies, wore her inhaler on a string around her neck and her neighbours were a shout away. She was fine, I told myself.
Only mum had said that she seemed...vaguer lately.
She had sounded tired when we spoke on the phone last.
She usually called me if I’d missed a call to her.
I ran to her front door and the smell hit me. It was revolting; no wonder the neighbours had complained. Inside the stench was unbearable. I covered my face with my sleeve.
“Nana?” no answer
“Nana, it’s Ashley...” Nothing. The smell was coming from the kitchen.
I walked towards it and saw that the door was shut. And then I noticed it.
From under the door a thick, dark fluid had seeped out, soaking into the carpet. My heart sped up. I had to go in; I thought I was going to be sick. In one quick movement I threw open the door and gagged with the foulness of the stench that met me.
The pipe under the sink was in bits. It spewed filthy black liquid, which pooled across the lino. I was standing in it.
And there was Nana, fast asleep on the kitchen table. A cold cup of tea, and a wrench beside her, hair bundled under a hanky.
As the door banged behind me she blinked awake.
“Cuppa tea, love?”