Note from the author….
I know some people will have read this story before, however some of you won`t so here goes………
When I woke up that day it was a lovely sunny morning. I was happy because I had arranged to meet up with one of my friends from an internet dating site called `Plenty more Loving`, I was going to drive to his house and we had decided to share lunch together. He and I had been mailing and talking on the telephone for six months and even though I understood that a blind date wasn`t necessarily recommended by the site, I felt we knew one another well enough by now for there to be a comfortable meeting between the two of us. He felt familiar to me, like an old pair of slippers and he hadn`t given me even the slightest hint of any sexual frisson between the two of us which suited me fine. I admit I was a little apprehensive as my date had already explained that he was something of a recluse but other than that, it felt good, I was excited.
I put on some makeup and had a spray of my favourite perfume before I left home.
His name was Jonathon and I liked him. His profile on the dating site described him as a thoughtful and thought-provoking, clever individual. I love clever men. His photograph on the dating site portrayed a handsome fellow in his mid fifties, quite tall with a silver head of hair and a close cropped white beard. He was dapper, witty in a surreal sort of a way, his humour was sometimes hard to get and he told me that for a long time, he had studied psychology. He often sent me links to poetry, plays and film that he had enjoyed and we had shared many an internet conversation on all kinds of interesting topics. I had a close female friend called Maggie, herself a trained psychotherapist and when we talked about Jonathon she had said that in her view, all psychologists are completely barking mad, however, we had laughed at her comment at the time. Little did I know what awaited me later on that day.
I suppose it might not have been so bad had Jonathon not sent me a text me a few minutes before I set off saying, `I`ve just put mother in the basement`. I found this a trifle disconcerting but hurriedly putting my mobile away, I assumed he was attempting to be funny.
It was an hour to drive to where he lived, through some pretty countryside. I had packed a bag of lunch goodies to take with me, cheese, olives, hard boiled eggs, some salami, fresh fruit…. damn! I had forgotten the crusty bread. I had intended stopping on the way, to buy some but now it was all motorway. Later I was to realise that forgetting the bread was definitely the best thing I could have done but I wasn`t to know this yet. Maybe I was just beginning to register my disquiet on some deep level in my brain.
When I arrived at Jon`s house, I gave the front door a quiet knock. It was an unassuming house set the middle of a row of terraces in a provincial market town. The door opened and just a face appeared, Jon`s face, peering at me from behind the door. He was wearing a woolly beanie hat and he kept the rest of his body concealed, he didn`t look at all like his photograph, not nearly as handsome or as young. He gazed down at me with a deadpan expression on his face and said in a low voice, `You`d better come in`.
Now I have a sense of humour and I love film, I knew this line was pinched directly from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I thought, `Is he for real? Is he trying to be funny or does he just not realise what he`s saying?` Anyway I let it go and I was ushered straight into a dark sitting room. A very dark sitting room. Everywhere was dark green or dark brown.
There was a dark green three piece suite, dark green carpet and at the windows, dark brown drapes which were pulled almost shut, keeping the daylight out of the room. I began to feel slightly uncomfortable.
I handed the bag of lunch goodies to Jonathon and he took them into the kitchen.
He made a peculiar comment that he had always found fruit to be obscene but at least he was smiling when he said it. He returned with a steaming cup of tea for me. He had taken off his beanie hat and to my surprise, was completely bald. Retrospectively I realise that he could have spiked my tea but in the event, I sat and sipped at the drink in the gloom and that`s where it all started to get really weird.
Jonathon began pacing, up and down, up and down, he was clearly flushed and sweating and I noticed that he had both hands gripped into tight fists. I could see his knuckles were white. I said to him, `You seem nervous, Jon, why don`t you sit down? If my visit gets too much for you, well then I`ll leave.` You may find this odd but I`m a counsellor and have been in many `odd` situations. Anyway, he seemed quite relieved and sank into a chair in the far corner of the room. I carried on chatting, attempting to put him at ease.
`I know you are a bit reclusive so my visit must be quite a big deal for you?`
`Yes it certainly is`, he said, `you are my very first visitor here.`
‘Oh really, so you haven`t lived here for very long?`
`Oh no, I`ve lived here all my life`, Jonathon replied.
I felt a distinct prickling sensation on the backs of my hands.
`What, you mean to tell me that you’ve had no other visitors except me, all your life?` I asked incredulously.
`Yes, that’s right. Apart from the meter man you`re the only one.`
I attempted to divert the rather strange conversation by deciding to comment on the furniture which was mostly from the thirties. My eyes settled on a large carved box up on a high shelf and when I asked about it, Jonathon informed me that the box contained the ashes of his old dog, now deceased.
Later, when I recounted the whole tale to my friend Marcus, he said, `and did you say, “My, that must have been a very large dog, the box is four foot by three!` He was trying to make light of the tale and we had laughed back then but I still shudder every time I recollect the experience of my date.
In an effort to make the situation a bit more normal, I talked some more to Jon` about my career as a counsellor which for some reason, he found hilarious. He was chuckling away one minute, muttering, `Oh yes, that`s food and water to me, food and water….` and the next minute, assuming the deadpan expression again. Suddenly and quite out of the blue he turned to face me and asked,
`Do you feel a presence in this house?`
I was beginning to feel extremely anxious by now, so I lied and said,
`I don`t feel any bad vibe`s here whatsoever Jon, nothing at all. Why do you ask?` inwardly I was thinking, `I`ve got to get out, I`ve got to get out!`
Jonathon replied in a grave tone of voice,
`Fifteen years ago, I had to have this house cleansed. A woman who was a wicca came here and went through all the rooms, cleansing them. She went upstairs to cleanse the bedrooms, `
`So, I`m not your first visitor then,` I immediately thought.
Jonathon was looking intently at me now.
`… and while she was upstairs, I suddenly heard an almighty thud and she came rushing downstairs with her nose all bloodied …`
My heart was racing. I wanted to get out!
`and then what happened?` I asked, trying to conceal the fact that I could scarcely breathe. Jonathon delivered the information slowly.
`Well then she told me that a negative energy force had lifted her bodily into the air about three feet up and hurled her against the bedroom wall. She said that there was an incredible amount of negative energy in the house,`
`Yes?` I whispered, barely moving a muscle on her face lest I flinch.
`and that the source of the negative energy`, continued Jonathon, staring intently at my pale, damp face,
`Oh Christ`, I thought, `I`ve got to get out of here. But how?`
And then, oh thank you God, I remembered the bread.
I sparked into life, a quick and happy smile upon my face,
`Jonathon, do you think we could eat lunch, I am starving!`
In reality I was extremely scared but I couldn’t let him see that. Jonathon replied gloomily, yes of course we could and then my clever exit strategy came into play.
`You know what – I`ve forgotten the bread. Do you suppose I could ask you to pop out and get some?`
Reluctantly, he agreed to go out to the corner shop for a loaf. I was so relieved and yet the ordeal was not yet over because when he left the room, he pulled the door to with such a resounding click, I thought,
`Oh Jesus, he`s locked me in!`
I stood up and tried the handle. Thank God, the door was not locked. Through the drawn curtains, I watched Jonathon`s figure reach the end of the road and his bald head bob around the corner and out of view. I briefly tussled with my conscience about how ill-mannered it would seem if I just scarpered and made my escape, about how hurt he might feel, how freaky he might feel, to come back and find me gone.
Dismissing all of these thoughts and listening to my inner alarm bells which by now were positively clanging inside my head, I picked up my coat and bag and quickly let myself out of that dreary, gloomy house. I hot-footed it straight to my car and by the time I got the keys in the ignition I was shaking so much, I had to light a cigarette to try and gather my nerves.
I imagined Jonathon returning to the house, finding it like the Marie Celeste, just an empty teacup, the fragrance of Yvresse and something like pure fear, hanging in the air.
I drove straight to my ex-husband`s house for coffee and comfort and as usual, he was totally lovely and gave me the biggest bear-hug which I needed so much.
Later, when I had calmed down enough to open my e mails there was one from Jonathon. It simply read;
‘You forgot your eggs.`