Rattletrap by Jennie Boyes

Welcome. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’d ask how you came to be here, but I know you can’t tell me. Do you know where we are? No? Well I suppose that is to be expected, so don’t be troubled. You were somewhere else, and now you’re here. That’s all.

For my part, I call this place Rattletrap, though after quite some time of being here – I don’t know exactly how long – I still don’t know its true name. Maybe it doesn’t have one.

You see the stone walls? Mmm, quite right, they are in a bit of a state. That’s our job, you see. To make sure they don’t fall in completely. God help us if they do.

No, actually I don’t know how old Rattletrap is. There are countless stairs and rooms, and many levels. I think it’s some kind of tower, but there aren’t any windows. Water leaks down the walls though, so I suppose it must rain sometimes. There may be holes in the roof, if there is a roof. I’m afraid I don’t remember the way in, and I don’t know the way out. Believe me, I’ve tried to leave, though it seems I’m also compelled to stay.

Dammit. That stone is very loose. What? Yes, I hear them, though in a way I’m numb to it now. They pound these stones, looking for a way out. I tell them there isn’t one, but they don’t listen. So all I can do is repair the walls. We don’t want the whole tower falling in on us.

Please do rest for a while. Use my mattress on the floor – it smells of damp, but I can’t help that. Food? Yes there’s food. There’s some bread and water on the table in the corner. Eat as much as you like.  Now please excuse me. I’ll just repair this dislodged stone.

Good morning my friend, or perhaps I should say good evening? You will find that time means nothing here. I hope you are well rested. I repaired this wall, but we must look for others. Come.

Yes, it’s always dark. The torches help, but I do miss sunlight. Careful, the flagstones are uneven and there are puddles. Whoops! Are you alright? Ah just a scrape, you’ll be fine.

Don’t worry, these doors are locked, you’re quite safe. Crying? Oh yes, they all cry. It’s a very distressing situation to be in, of course. I try to comfort them, but it doesn’t really help. They just want to leave. I wish I could show them the way out, but I don’t know it myself. You will get used to it, I promise. It will get easier.

These stairs are quite steep, and they do creak some. I think they’re safe, but I wouldn’t run up them if I were you. Oh, and don’t look down – it’s a bit of a drop. Just keep going, we haven’t got time to dawdle.

Ah, that’s not good. See that wall? It wasn’t like that before. The person in this room has been kicking it for hours, I bet. Here, hold my torch. I’ve got some white tape, so I’ll put a cross on the bit that needs repairing and we can come back to it later. For now, we should carry on down this passage in case there is some more damage.

Oh by the way, since you’re here to work, I think I should warn you that there is one resident who can move around Rattletrap like us. I don’t think she’s supposed to, but I haven’t been able to  find out which room she comes from. In fact, I’m not entirely certain she’s really here, though I’m not sure if that is even possible. She won’t tell me her name, but she always finds me. Dangerous? Perhaps. All I know is that I can’t predict what mood she’ll be in. Sometimes she just wants to visit me to talk. It’s quite pleasant then, and we get on okay. There are days when she just sits quietly, or weeps. I let her. Everyone cries. But be warned, there are times when she rages. I might be sleeping but then find myself woken by her screaming. Her speech abuses me in all manner of insults, and I am left shaking and hollow. She blames me for everything. It’s my fault she’s here, it’s my fault she can’t leave. It makes me very sad, but I know it’s not really what she thinks. She’s not well and doesn’t always think rationally. I understand. But it still hurts. Try and stay out of her way if you can.

Right, shine the torch there. See? Another shoddy bit of wall. It can be easy to miss sometimes, you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled. I’ve got the tape. There we go. Yes it’s very quiet in that room. Don’t worry, I’m sure its resident is fine. Sometimes they hurt themselves, but there’s not much I can do about it.

Woah! What are you doing? Don’t try and open the door! It might be a trick. He knows you’re new and thinks you might let him out. The door is locked anyway. You won’t be able to open it. Solid oak and iron, that is.

Oh do stop going on. Okay, so what if you did manage to get into that room and what if he has hurt himself? What are you going to do about it? Help him, you say. God save us. And how exactly are you going to do that? Can you get him to a hospital? No? Well shut up, then. There is no one to help. Now come on, we’ve still got other walls to check.

You want to split up. Okay, you’re right, it might be quicker. Just watch where you’re stepping. I haven’t yet found the bottom of Rattletrap. It goes deep. Once, I dared myself to follow the staircases to the lower levels, but I stopped when they began to wobble too much. Stupidly, I looked down. Biggest mistake I’ve made since being here. Why? Well, I’ll try to explain.

Below me was a pit. It was just darkness, with stairs descending into it, though there did not seem to be any more rooms. The blackness sucked me in and left me cold. I nearly fell off those stairs. The pit was calling to me, I could hear it as clear as I hear you. I knew it wanted to tip me over that edge, it wanted to swallow me. And I wanted it to.

What happened? Well, you won’t believe this, but it was that resident who saved me, the one I mentioned before. She was sitting on a staircase below, staring into the void as I was, except she could look away. When she saw me, she told me to go back up the stairs. She told me I wouldn’t want to join her, that the pit has already taken her once, and now it is always with her.

Yeah, you’re right, it was lucky she was there. Thank God I listened to that woman. I think she saved my life. If you run into her, be pleasant, even if she shouts. Shouting back at her only makes her worse.

Well anyway, I’ve waffled on enough. Go and explore, but don’t stray too far. You don’t want to get lost.

Ah, here you are. I was beginning to worry. Yes, this is the woman I mentioned. She doesn’t want to talk right now, so don’t bother her. Didn’t you hear me? I said don’t bother her. She doesn’t care what your name is. Just leave her alone. Yes, I can see she’s crying. Talking to you isn’t going to make her feel better. Fine, I can see you’re ignoring me. I’m going to sleep for a bit. Talk quietly.

Is that what you call quiet! God’s sake.

Oh great, now she’s wailing… You clearly have a way with people. Why didn’t you just leave her alone like I said you should? What? She told you Rattletrap is mine? Don’t be ridiculous. She blames me for everything, remember? It’s not my fault she’s here. It’s not my fault! Yeah that’s right love, just go. I don’t want you here anyway. Oh thank God for that. That bawling was doing my head in. Now you shut up as well and let me sleep.

Ah, that’s better. Nothing like a bit of shut-eye to make the world seem right again. Have you left any bread for me? Oh good. A crust. Thanks. No, it’s okay. Your need is clearly greater than mine. I’ll just have to find some more. Bleurgh, this is stale and really hard to chew. Glad I’ve got some water.        So, what have you been up to while I was asleep? Talking to a resident? Oh you’re having me on. Residents don’t talk, not unless… Oh, nothing. It doesn’t matter. Listen, I said it doesn’t matter, right?

A man told you he has been remembered, did he? Mmm, I see. And he used those exact words? He sounded… happy? Okay… show me which room he is in.

Blimey, you did get about on your little jaunt. My knees can’t get up-and-down all these stairs like they used to. It’s alright for you, you haven’t been here long. You wait until a few more years have passed, a few years of sleeping on the floor, feeling the damp seep into your bones, a few years of hard labour, fixing these walls every day. You’ll feel it then, mark my words.

This the room? Right. Stand back. Oh don’t look so surprised. Yes, I’ve got a key. You don’t understand. I can’t just let everyone out – where would they go? There is no way out except one. Yes I know I said I don’t know how to leave. It’s true, I don’t. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way out. You’ll see.

Okay, it’s unlocked, you can open it now. Yes, you. Give it a shove, go on. Well done. You’re in. Yes, that door is quite heavy. What do you see? Nothing? Excellent.

That noise? Oh it was just the key turning.

Now, now… Don’t try and get out. I told you, these doors are solid oak and iron. There is no way out. No, I don’t think this is funny. This room can’t stay vacant, you know. The last resident has left. If you look carefully, you might see some signs of him. Are there scratches on the wall? Yes? Typical. He did his time though, I’ll give him that. Everyone must do their time. There’s got to be some order to all this. You can’t just skip ahead in the queue.

Ah, you’re crying already. I’m sorry. I don’t want it to be this way, but this is how Rattletrap works. You’ll be fine, though. There is nothing you need now. No food, no drink, no air. Everything you were is gone, and you must accept this. One day you will leave, but I don’t know when. It will happen suddenly, when you least expect it.

Okay, I can see you are getting more upset. I will leave you in peace. Do me a favour, though. Don’t bother kicking the walls just yet. I only fixed this passage a few days ago. Give me a bit of time to savour my work, will you? That’s all I ask.

 

Jennie Boyes

Image by dife88 from Pixabay

 

7 thoughts on “Rattletrap by Jennie Boyes

  1. This little hell is brought to you by a first person narrative disguised as the second. It’s a rugged and twisty little hell complete with a fine first via the second gotcha ending. Also leaves the question as to the actual existence of the second person, by name, You.

    Like

  2. Nice one. The opening paragraphs reminded me a little of Murakami’s ‘Hard Boiled Wonderland…’

    I wonder what triggered this story? Well done!

    Like

  3. Kind of reminds me of the castle in Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake…. indeed, a twisted inner hell, the castle being the head and the imprisoned dreams inside it. Sometimes, we build our own hells and they’re hard to get out of. Cool.

    Like

  4. Hi Jennie,
    When I read this I was sure I had a handle on it, then I read Diane’s take which made me think she was onto something.
    But it doesn’t matter. This is rich in idea and vivid with imagery. I think depending on who you are and what your circumstances are decides what way you look at this.
    To write something that is generic but gives the reader individual thoughts and reasoning isn’t done very often.
    Excellent!!
    Hugh

    Like

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