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The Swamp

Close your eyes. Turn slightly. A few paces, then turn again. More paces. Turn to the right.

Now open them.

Behind you, and to either side, is the beach, stretching down the bay to the sea.

But that's not the interesting bit.

Outside
In front of you is a building, though that's a pretty vague term. It's definitely been built, nothing could look that ramshackle without some intent. A single storey shack, maybe only three or four rooms judging by its dimensions. A wide porch spans the front, a hammock suspended from the rough beams to the left hand side of the front door, a rocking chair to the right. A small recess is cut into a verandah post, sized, it would appear, to keep a bottle of whiskey and two glasses out of the sun. There's a less-faded patch of paint on the wall by the chair where a shadow has obviously lain, shaped suspiciously like a guitar. Talking of the paint, despite how new you know the building to be, it's already peeling off the clapboards. The shingles are already warped and cracked. The floorboards are grey and rough, and seem to have been reclaimed from somewhere. Odd when you know pretty well that they were cut from new. You may even have helped cut them.

The Wood Shed
There are a couple of doors off the porch. The one to the right is smaller, with a couple of holes drilled to provide ventilation, but no window. Despite the apparent fragility of the door and frame, the bolt bears a heavy padlock. Trying to pull it yields a surprising effect: Both the base and the lintel seem to be made of stone, the door and frame's rigidity suggest they may be iron-banded. Someone definitely doesn't want you to get in. . .

The Living Room
The other door leads into the living room. It's definitely living. There's a battered sofa in the middle, evidently well used and oft slept-on, and a completely non-matching armchair to one side. An old valve-amped crystal set wireless sits on a low table in the corner, permanently on, normally just crackling with static and white noise. At intervals it seems to find a frequency, spitting out a snippet of music, like a razor blade in a bunch of candyfloss. Stacked in another corner are some musical cases, a couple of guitars, banjo, mandolin and what looks like a box of harmonicas. The windows look out forwards, over the verandah and the bay, and sideways, over the wide expanse of sand to the west.

At the back of the living room, there's another locked door. Not as vehemently locked as the one at the front, more a "please keep out" than a "get the hell away". You shrug and turn away, it's probably the bedroom.

The Bathroom
Next to it is another door which, remarkably, isn't locked, and opens up into the bathroom. You step in, then step out again, looking in puzzlement around the ragged simplicity of the living room, then back to the pristine white room, with its huge, cast-iron, claw-footed roll-top bath as a centrepiece. It looks marvellously conspicuous alongside the chipped loo with a wooden plank seat and the mismatched, discoloured sink. The vanity unit and medicine cabinet on the wall above the sink is well stocked with medikits and a couple of dog-eared toothbrushes, the mirror cracked and yellowing. Next to the bath is a small wooden table, with a couple of books, an empty mug, and a deck of cards. Someone obviously likes spending a decent amount of time here.

The Kitchen
You wander back out, slightly bewildered, and through another door off to the right, into a more in-keeping room: the kitchen. The warm, fuggy atmosphere is contributed to significantly by the large wood-fired range, and the benches are of the slightly chipped melamine variety. Closer inspection of the knife block reveals that the owner keeps his tools brutally sharp. Sucking your now bleeding finger, you rifle through a few cupboards, finding nothing of outstanding interest, until you come to one particular cupboard which seems to be dedicated solely to the Noble Art of the Beverage. A great variety of teas, both bagged and leaf, two or three jars of coffee beans, labelled with their type. A hand grinder, espresso pot, stove-top kettle, teapot and strainer. In a back corner of the cupboard is a lone, dusty jar of hot chocolate powder, long past its usable life. Someone takes their hot drinks seriously.

The Pantry
A door at the rear of the kitchen leads to a small pantry, well stocked with a variety of foods, some fairly normal (a hung ham, a couple of braces of pheasant, large bags of pasta, rice and potatoes, racks of fresh vegetables), some more exotic (jars of obscure herbs and spices, a tray of strange looking mushrooms, a huge stinking Durian fruit) , and an immense rack of bottles, filled with a number of liquids of different colours, none of which are labelled, bar a couple which bear a skull-and-cross-bones motif. You're not sure whether these are cleaning fluids or booze (the line can be slightly blurred at times anyway), so you decide to leave well alone.

Somewhere else
Opposite the bottle rack, below a shelf, you notice what appears to be another small door. You crouch down and crawl through, only to find yourself suddenly out in the open, standing on the edge of a large gaping pit. A rope, seemingly hanging from a skyhook, swings over head, and a vicious looking bird flies back and forth across the length of the pit. As you stare around in bewilderment, an arrow whistles out of the wall behind you at chest height, and you flatten yourself to the floor to avoid coming to a premature, gurgling end. You combat-crawl across the earth, and back to the relative safety of the pantry.

The Garden
Shaking yourself, you wander back through the house and out of another side door, into the garden. Bordered by a high fence there is a small lawn and a large vegetable patch, pock-marked in places by merrily bolting vegetable plants. At the rear, behind the lawn, a large patch has been dug down out of the sand and replaced with round gravel. A solitary rounded boulder sits in the middle of the stones, and raked curves surround it. Its harmonic perfection is spoiled by the weeds growing through the gravel and the beer cans scattered at the edge. Facing the central rock there is a single dining chair, worn, faded and peeling.

You let yourself out through a side gate, and wander off along the beach, glancing back at the place over your shoulder, and wondering who would live in a house like this?. . .

 
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the_swamp.txt · Last modified: 2017/05/28 03:35 (external edit)