Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “wallpaper.” Use it however you’d like. Have fun!

The bare wooden floor was always cold, and it tilted towards the outside wall with the small double window which was painted shut with thin white paint over decades of chipped layers and layers of paints past, and it was hung with too thin sheers which filmed over yellowed paper shades that were never pulled all the way down. The window faced south and for some reason never allowed in much sun, and so the room was always dim, with sad dust motes drifting in the dismal light that did manage to eke in.

Just reaching that upstairs room was a lesson in courage. The steep narrow staircase, with only a single bare bulb hanging from the top landing ceiling, was dark, made darker by the glossy black paint that someone thought was a good idea on slippery stairs that sagged to the right. Looking up from the bottom, you could see the door to the forbidden closet waiting to greet you if you did manage to run the stairs, as fast as you could, like death itself was chasing you, and for all you knew, it was. So you’d charge up the stairs, lickety-split as the adults would say, and screech to a halt and make a hard right into your designated room.

The house was full of closets that threatened disaster. If you made it alive past the closet at the top of the stairs, if nothing reached out and grabbed you as you flew into the guest room, well there was a worse one waiting for you when you met your destination. But even that was better than staying in the room to the left. That was just terrifying. At least this room had a night light that might work.

The narrow, low, lumpy single mattress twins were a pair, side by side, separated by a little table that held one tiny lamp. My older sister got the safer bed, the one by the windows, the one farthest from the hallway door, and the hallway closet. The one farthest from the bedroom closet, that never quite closed, that had an eerie light that would leak around its faulty door, because that closet had a window in it and it was close to a street lamp, the only one on the block. Closets weren’t supposed to have windows, but that was the least of your worries, because you knew that the poorly hung door was just an easy access portal to unspeakable horrors.

There were never enough covers on the bed and so you had to pull the thin, old, white, bumpy chenille bedspread up to your nose to stay warm and the smell of dusty fabric stays with you in your memory to this day. In my memory. In someone’s memory. The red light from atop the radio tower pulsed through the night, and at Christmas you could pretend it was Rudolph.

From the dust laden bed, you had a good view of the closet, and could see where the bony hand would slip through the crack, waiting, waiting… It was best not to look at it, but to focus instead on either the red pulsing light to your left or the green wallpaper opposite you, straight ahead. And what glorious wallpaper it was. The background was the deepest, richest green, the green of shadows, the green of secret things, hidden things, but splashed upon it were large creamy-white magnolia flowers, traced in pale pink, with golden centers. Come the morning, if you survived the night, you could trace the flowers, over and over, gently with your little index finger tip, memorizing the shape, as the deep green soaked into your soul and became the best color you had ever seen, or ever would see.

What I was listening to while writing:

7 Comments

    1. Yes, it was my grandmother’s house in Indiana. The downstairs was your basic little house that held no terrors, but that upstairs… still gives me the creeps to think about it. 🙂

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    1. Thank you. It was a surprise post from the prompt “wallpaper” but as soon as I “heard” the word I realized that old green wallpaper IS wallpaper to me. Spooky grandmother’s house and all. 🙂

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