The Thing In the Chinney

The thing in the chimney.

He stared up at the intense square of blue, a vision of heaven to the dammed, at the top of the black stone shaft. He swarmed up the rough stones of the chimney like a hairy black spider, using his clawed hands and feet to grip the rough stones, thrusting his prehensile toes into the fissures and clefts. He had lived long in the tangled maze of passages, flues and shafts that ran thought the old house like holes in an ancient and rotten cheese.

He could not remember how long he had lived like a maggot at the heart of the house. He had been brought there so long ago, forced and cuffed up the chimney. A big man with a black face and a smell of soot and gin had taken him from the workhouse, had held his small vinegar soaked hands and feet close to a fire, the burning pain causing him to sob.

He remembered the man’s harsh voice. ‘Stop yer whimpering you little milk sop. Don’t know what’s good fer yer. Toughen yer skin up lovely, you’ll be fire proof.’

He was taken to a big house and the man had forced him up a chimney. It was dark and narrow, and he was frightened, but he was more frightened of the big man and his thick leather belt with it big gleaming brass buckle. He crawled up into the dark twisting flu. It got easier when he found the main chimney, there he found iron runs hammered in the wall, and he started to climb. He discovered an opening and crawled in. He curled up trying to make it all go away. He must have fallen asleep as he awoke to hear a rough voice shouting up the chimney. ‘Come down yer little rat. I ain’t waiting for yer to make up your mind, get down ‘ere now or it’ll be the worse for yer.’

He shrunk back into the passage, and found himself in a room with the remains of a wooden bed, a table and a few bones in the corner.
He heard the voice again, ‘This is your last chance come down now, or I’ll light the fire.’

He heard the flames roaring up the chimney but the room was free of smoke and a cool. Latter he crept down, but his master had gone.

He live in the bowels of the house like a maggot in an apple, learning the hidden ways of chimneys and drains. He lived a life parallel to the inhabitants, behind walls and wainscotings, sometimes only inches from them, but completely unknown. He stole food when he could, and when he could not went hungry, until he learned to catch crows and rats, and relish their still warm flesh, and when he could not find them he searched for spiders, woodlice, beetles, long pink worms from the earth in the damp cellars and slugs from under flag stones. As the years went by he grew, and changed into something not quiet human, a creature that scuttled from the light, and crawled and wriggled in the secret ways of the old house.

The house gained a reputation for being haunted, it became shunned, and slowly it was abandoned to nature, and dropped into to decay. He hunted rats in the dark cellars, and haunted the chimneys lurking in the shadows, waiting for unwary crows, which he caught and strangled.

He crouched beneath the square of blue on a stony ledge, and wrapped himself in his beard, He could see the nest, an untidy collection of twigs in a crevice. He sat listening to the squabbling of the young birds. Soon they would be old enough to leave the nest. Their flesh would be sweet and the blood warm and salty. He would sit there until one came within reach; then quick as a snake he would snatch it from the air, and quickly twist it head off and suck the blood from the headless corpse. He much preferred crows to the rats he hunted through the secret ways of the house.

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

Karen eyed the old house dubiously. ’It’s a ruin, huge and horribly Gothic, like a scene from an old Hammer Horror. All it needs is lightning, and Dracula posed against the battlements. I hate it.’

David smiled, ‘It’ll be wonderful once we get the renovations done. It’s an amazing old place, and we’ll get lots of grants, parts of the exterior were designed by James Essex. Guy who did some of the Cambridge colleges.

She looked at her husband John and sighed. ‘You really want to do this?’

He nodded, ‘More than anything else I’ve ever done apart from marry you.’ He gave her a little boy smile that he knew always won her round.’

………………………………………………………………………………………..

He awoke in the pile of rags he slept in, holding the ancient stuffed bear that had been his only companion through the years. He could hear loud voices and raucous music. He sat holding the bear for comfort rocking back and forth crooning tunelessly to himself. At last he found the courage to venture from his hidden room in the chimney. He climbed the flue, and crawled out onto the roof and hid among the gargoyles.

He looked out to see big men in bright yellow helmets and jackets unloading things from big metal carts…he wondered where the horses were. The weeks and months that followed were horrible for him as the house was transformed from a ruin into a hotel and conference center. Many of his old hunting grounds were inaccessible to him as the house was crowded with people and many times he was nearly discovered. He would have starved had he not been able to steal from the builders lunch boxes, full of wonderful things like bread, ham, cheese. Things he had forgotten the taste of. One glorious day he managed to steal a box with bacon sandwiches, and a flask of hot sweet tea. It took him awhile to work out how to open the flask, but when he did the hot sweet nectar transported him to heaven. A lot of flasks started to go missing after that.
Eventually the men left and the house was quite again, but it smelled of paint and sawn wood. A day or two latter he heard the front door open. He was hiding in the space over a false ceiling.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

‘Well Karen what do you think?’
‘Wow! What a transformation. It’s beautiful.’

John smiled. ‘I’ll show you the hotel accommodation, and the conference facilities latter, but come and see our private accommodation. I really want you to see the nursery.’

Karen looked around the nursery and laughed. ‘I can see why you wanted to surprise me it’s beautiful like something out of Peter Pan. You’ve even refurbished the old Victorian fireplace.’

John smiled ‘I had to leave away for father Christmas to get in.’

……………………………………………………………………………………………

Oddly as the place filled up with guests and hotel staff, and the building started to live again he started to become aware of his loneliness. He felt his solitude with a new intensity. He started to spy on Karen and the baby. He watched her cuddling and feeding the child. Hidden in an air duct he could see and hear everything. He would return to his dark cell in the chimney, and sit holding his toy bear, but it didn’t bring him the comfort it once did. He wanted a companion in his solitude something living. His thoughts turned to the little bundle in the nursery. Something he could love and cherish, he’d teach it to hunt rats and crows, to steal food from the big metal drums outside the kitchen, and it to scuttle through the hidden ways of the house.

He waited until all the house was dark and followed the twisting flue that led to the nursery fire place. He crawled out ears cocked and sniffing the air for signs of Karen and John, but all was well they were sleeping soundly in the room next door. He lent over the cradle and scooped up the sleeping infant in his skinny hairy arms and loped back to the chimney. He scrabbled up the flue clutching the little crying bundle.

………………………………………………………………………………………..

Karen’s screams echoed around the house. ‘the baby she’s gone!’

Blue cars with flashing lights filled the forecourt. Big men in blue uniforms scoured the building and grounds, but there was no trace of baby Emma. Appeals on television, and repeated police searches revealed nothing.

………………………………………………………………………………………………..

He looked at baby laying in a heap of rags soon she’d need feeding. He ripped the head off the struggling squawking crow he was holding, and held it’s bloody spurting neck to the baby’s lips. Emma gurgled with pleasure, and sucked avidly at the stump of neck, covering her face in blood.

The End.

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