By Juliana Ní Chuipéar (15), Coláiste de hÍde, Tallaght, Co Dublin
Photograph: Tim Bird/Getty Images
I suppose that a plus of living in a house so far from the city is the quietness at night. I could never sleep with noise – not a distant radio, or a snore, and whenever I heard a bump in the night my first reaction was to be pissed off at whatever caused it rather than scared.
They say that the life of a painter (such as myself) is hard work, though I’ve come to disagree. I made enough money to scrape by here and that’s that. If one day I can’t afford it, I’ll refuse to leave.
I’ve stopped working for a while now, maybe a year? Because I’ve never felt comfortable in front of a blank canvas in the first place and anything I did with it wasn’t good enough to me. Eventually I could no longer enjoy the stress of painting.
Luckily, I was involved in a car accident and I broke my wrist, so I could no longer work. Eventually it healed and I could paint again but I had long since distanced myself from the artist life and took a craft knife and stabbed myself in the wrist. I’ll never work again.
Life remains easy even with one of my hands for the most part unusable because I don’t do much in my daily life anyway. I can find entertainment in everything so I just pick a wall of the house and sit for hours in a wornish chair, looking. Sometimes while I’m in these “trances” I forget to eat, and I’ve become frail because of it. I was never a presentable person anyway so it never affected me in the slightest.
As I said, the silence is an advantage of living here, overlooking the lake. I never find difficulty with falling asleep like I did as a child.
My routine is as so: I lie down on a bed usually and I look at my bedroom ceiling, because if you look past it and let your eyes unfocus, it looks like there’s thousands of worms covering the ceiling, wriggling about and churning.
This doesn’t make me scared, in fact, it brings me closer to sleep. I find these patterns more and more frequently about the house, hidden at times but mostly out in the open – so undeniably there that they catch my eye and the next thing I know I haven’t eaten for hours.
I fall asleep with no noise.
I open my eyes and see the ceiling again, and see the worm patterns moving-not-moving about. I pick myself up and carry myself downstairs where I might eat (though lately I’ve been seeing that as optional). The one piece of furniture in the house is one that was left here – an old chair which looks incredibly worn. I can move it about easily, as I’ve fashioned some wheels to the bottom of it from an old office chair dumped down by the lake. Ah, I think, before I sit . . .
What do I want to see?
I lick my lips dryly and grip the chair, thinking about it all. There’s a few scenes in this house, though every surface provides a different one, some of them are tired from overuse. I sometimes contemplate bringing a new surface in but that sounds like a lot of work.
The wall to my right, when looked at in my ritualistic way, shows the pattern of hands clinging to each other, like a crowd.
The wall to my left shows hair being dragged and swirled.
The wall in front of me shows faceless things that rarely move – one of the more boring sights.
The wall behind me shows maggots.
Everything has a pattern, though the walls have by far the most interesting ones.
Today, I go with the right wall, where I stare at the hands moving. I move my head to the right after a few minutes of this and am not at all surprised when I discover that it’s sundown so soon. Time flies.
I do not have much food left. The food in the fridge has almost completely spoiled but I found some old cans in the kitchen press; there are two left.
I look out at the lake through the window – there’s a pattern of drowned bodies.
None of these patterns are in any way scary.
I think about how it’s been awhile since I’ve seen my sister as I stare at the worms in the ceiling that night. I wonder how she is.
Although she told me she does not like to associate with me anymore, she told me my “obsession” with patterns is not only crazy but nonsensical. She can’t see the pattern in anything, not even when I hold it right in front of her.
These thoughts make the next day more surprising – as I walk downstairs I find her standing in the centre of the sitting room. She doesn’t even look at me, instead staring past me and out the window. Even more surprising, mother pops out from behind the kitchen door and her face is much longer than I remember it being – all wrinkles and oldness and puffy eyes.
She sniffles and I remember that winter is near, and maybe she has a flu. Apparently, I was a sickly child – never really healthy. I think it’s still true when I look at my pasty skin, though I have no idea what my face looks like anymore and I haven’t been sick for a long time. I think this house is doing me some good.
Neither of them greet me and I can’t find words. My mother says:
“I expected there to be . . . more.”
“The place is bare,” my sister replies, looking quite shaken.
“Did you check upstairs?”
“I didn’t want to on my own,” my sister admits.
I snort but cover it with a cough, because she’s always been such a coward. They begin walking upstairs – how rude that they haven’t even tried to call me!
I follow them and my mother lets out a choked sob. My sister places a hand on her shoulder. I see patterns moving around us, it’s so distracting.
“Sister,” I murmur, though neither acknowledge me. At this point it’s weird.
They enter my bedroom and my mother lets out a small cry. I push past to see what happens before the roof suddenly collapses, opening up and a thousand worms spill from the ceiling. My sister gags and covers her mouth, running straight past me downstairs. My mother is drowning in them. I grab her and try to pull her away but she won’t budge.
I consider; why are the worms really in the ceiling?
My mother never leaves the bedroom and I never go up there, but my sister’s gone. I take an axe in my left hand and slam it against the right wall, and I slam and I slam and I slam, slowly chipping it away until a single hand slips out and suddenly all these hands spill from within the wall and flood the room, each wriggling and gripping each other. I scream and kick them away from me. Why can I see through the walls?
In panic, I break the other walls too. The hair spills out, along with the faceless creatures.
Maggots fill the room and I gag and hack up my stomach lining with the putrid smell. What are these patterns?
I run upstairs and the worms scatter at my feet and I see my mother lying and shaking. I approach her and see a pattern – a skeleton, all mangled and eaten at by the worms.
Why can I see?
I run and run out of the house but the patterns follow me to the edge of the lake. I drop to my knees with a wail and look down to discover that I’m not there. I have no pattern.
I think of the body I saw on my kitchen floor, so mutilated I could not tell what it was. It had a pattern of emptiness, and I remember I thought it was a nightmare.
I remember myself. I remember my sister coming to check up on me, remember the ambulances, remember the crying. I remember her hunched over the spot where I collapsed, hunched over the corpse. I remember all the times they ignored me. Was this their last visit? To get my belongings?
I wasted away to skin and bones from no food, and then what?
Am I dead? When did I die?
I look down at myself and I realise I haven’t had to eat in weeks, and I have no pattern. I am the result of a man who became obsessed with patterns – nothing.
I haunt and eventually I get stuck in the walls of the house myself. The place is seen as cursed, and when the builders come to hack it down, they break my wall and I burst free. (I am a pattern.)