She wasn’t alone, they watched over her. They lived in her ceiling
Sharon – protagonist + ‘sparky’ blonde
The Pig – no one knows from where he harked
Bluebell – haughty + graceful, displaying enormous flowers
Baldus – kind hearted genie with a flatulence problem
Curly – little person, blue-eyed + ginger-curly-locked, the wisest of them all
Doris – likes to organise everybody + everything, and keep her knees from being exposed
The 1980s Artex ceiling of my childhood bedroom. And Clive Barker’s fabulous novel Weaveworld about the inhabitants living in a magical rug.
The first time Sharon saw them she thought she was dreaming. They summoned her attention by their chatter which had begun as something amicable about their surprise at finding a pig to a full blown argument about who the pig was going to belong to. Apparently the pig had presented itself the very same day Bluebell had returned to her usual spot, five inches from the eastern window.
Bluebell was a tall slender figure, in long swishing skirts, a low-cut off-the-shoulder top and bountiful bell-shaped flowers in her flowing dark hair. In another world she might have been a Spanish flamenco dancer.
“It’s mine. No doubt about that.” Bluebell insisted pointing at the pig.
The pig simply snorted before returning to the lovely bale of hay that had only just appeared. Only yesterday he was somewhere completely else and now today he was in pastures of undulating Artex. He was going to make the most of it.
“On what grounds…?” Interjected Baldus, the rotund genie who had a wisp of smoke for a backside; a backside that was half inside a genie lamp.
“Well, did it not arrive the same day as I?” Bluebell said smugly.
“But yer was here before, that pig weren’t.” Curly said in his soft voice. Curly, blue-eyed and ginger-curly-locked, was the wisest one of them all, however his modest demeanour and diminutive appearance belied this fact. All too often he was overlooked and overtalked. He was a small person who carried a walking stick and wore sensible practical clothes – suitably rubber-soled shoes that had a good grip on the Artex terrain, linen trousers with handy pockets, a white cotton shirt and a brocade, intricately embroidered waistcoat that brought the whole look nicely together. He also carried, secreted away inside the waistcoat, an especially sharp dagger.
The genie lamp suddenly expanded, width-wise and there was an audible explosion. The full head of ginger curls atop Curly’s head lifted – and straightened – in the ensuring wind. Doris, standing close by, stared at the queer sight quite forgetting to hold on to the lifting skirts of her dress. She was a respectful and outspoken woman on important topics, such as good manners, tidiness and keeping the peace, and she blushed a rosy-red at the exposure of her naked knees (unfortunately, her bloomers with their anglais lace trimmings didn’t reach so low).
“Can’t you fart at the other side of the room?” Doris complained, waving her hands, the blonde hair in her ponytail bobbing along with the rest of her. “That way… by the wardrobe? You’ve left a green smudge on the ceiling.”
Curly nodding, said: “Absolutely should he go there. Or he should not be eating the Artex to begin with. We all know it makes yer flatulent.”
“Flatulence!” Doris echoed, she just couldn’t bear it.
“I wish the genie would go over there by the wardrobe.” Bluebell announced, whose long swishing skirts had only dimpled in the blast. No doubt the voluptuous flowers in her hair masked the stench with their sweet blooming fragrance. She hadn’t needed to wrinkle her nose in the tiniest disgust.
At that point the genie popped entirely out of his genie lamp and disappeared among the 3d twirls and swirls of the ceiling by the wardrobe on the far side of the room. He looked as startled as they felt.
Curly gasped. “The size of that bottom! How could it have ever fitted inside that tiny lamp?”
“Thank goodness for that. Although, wearing underpants is desirable.” Doris sighed, wringing her hands. “I do wish there were no arguments.”
“And I wish that pig…” Began Bluebell who then stopped mid-sentence in alarm.
“What?” Curly said in a soft exasperated tone.
Doris wrung her hands. “Where’s the pig?” She said, her anxious question hanging in the air along with the dissipating remainder of the fart.
The bale of hay was still there albeit reduced roughly by half in volume. A few strands of it were flecked about parts of the ceiling. The pig had made admirably quick work of it.
“Gone.” Bluebell said. “You lot frightened it off.” She said this with a smug grin.
The Artex shifted and sighed and Sharon laughed at the incredulous show, this mini-theatre living in her ceiling. What a strange dream I am having she thought. She turned over in her cosy bed and fell into a deep sleep with a curious smile on her face.
The three characters stared down at the female human’s blissful sleeping form.
“She’s laughing at us!” Doris said, red-cheeked.
“I had no idea she could see us.” Curly said, truly perplexed.
“Well, I’ve got to go and find my pig.” Bluebell announced, beginning her graceful climb over an especially rugged bit of Artex. Quietly, she wished for sensible rubber-soled boots.
Sharon slammed the door behind her. It couldn’t produce a loud dramatic effect to serve her current mood though. Because her father had some years earlier – while still alive and kicking in the most obnoxious sense with his demands of ‘You won’t live under my roof if you…’ etc. etc. – had dampened the thud of the door when closing in its frame with some padded tape. The old man could hear everything. And everything annoyed him. But he was louder than everything. The long, loud running commentaries of TV presenters that irritated him – ‘You say you’re back next week (for the next programme) but you don’t know that! You might be dead!” Etc., etc., etc. ‘That idiot can’t talk, he’s got a lisp! Back in the early days of television the likes of him wouldn’t have a got a look in’ (about a certain presenter on a long running nature programme). Her polite mother would bury herself in a woman’s magazine or pretend to be preoccupied with the wallpaper or ceiling, saying nothing.
So, the door didn’t actually make much of a noise – outside of its muffled thud due to the padded tape of some longevity (Dad would have been pleased he’d got his money’s worth) – although it was quite a rich thudding sound and the air from the hall whooshed into the room and tickled the yucca plant by the window making its leaves flutter in a breathless way.
She didn’t bother closing the floral pink curtains that had seen better days back in 1984. Instead she just flung open the heavy doors of the oak Art Deco wardrobe and began stripping off her clothes. Without a care that Pervy Piddleton next door might be spying at her in her cotton undies through his thin net curtains from the window conveniently opposite.
She’d just come back from work at the local corner shop, where she stocked the shelves and sometimes served behind the counter. She had an astute eye for the various shoplifters so Mr Panjit out of gratitude always gave her regular generous bonuses of out-of-date chocolates and crisps and sometimes some frozen food if it’d been in the shop too long and could be unstuck from the freezer floor. Other than her successful method of detaining and reprimanding spotty boys and girls dressed still in school uniforms, and reclaiming the stolen sweets and two litre bottles of cider, she suspected that Mr Panjit also appreciated her substantial chest. Another reason of his gratitude. There were too many times she caught him wistfully staring at her from the other side of the shop. Usually when he was pretending to fuss over the restocking of the pasta packets that tended to topple over if one didn’t watch themself. One time she actually got caught in the crosshairs of Mr Panjit and Pervy Piddleton – Panjit at the pasta packets, one end of the shop, and Piddleton at the other end of the shop, by the door, pretending to eye up the sugar-free gum (something he never bought) on the counter next to her. Sharon didn’t know whether to laugh out loud or cry. She was aware of not being particularly ‘pretty’ with her teddy-bear figure leaning more towards the ‘over-stuffed’ and her blue eyes that approximated one another too closely. However, she was buxom, blonde and normally sparky, if not sparkly. She’d remind herself that here were two men who’d seen their heydays back in 1963 of The Beetles and basin haircuts, and that they were lonely. And also being men, not very bright in the big-brain department.
“Hello Mr Hiddleton!” She almost shouted and his head creaked into action, following the new direction his wizened eyes were taking through their grubby panes of glass eyewear. He fixed her face with a weak stare. Completely unaware of his indiscretion. “We do have some lovely breasts Mr Panjit just got in.” She said, sparky not sparkly.
“Eh?” He shuffled awkwardly one step backwards.
Mr Panjit beamed from the pasta packet shelf. “Ah yes Mr Hiddleton. Lovely chicken breasts. New in today. On special offer.”
The pasta packets wobbled a little in excited anticipation but didn’t topple over. Mr Panjit removed his arm from the shelf. It had been a close one.
Sharon pulled on and climbed into sweatpants and a sweatshirt that said ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’. The room was dimly lit now as it turned to evening. The sun viewed from her window was low on the horizon, a burning orange ball. She was going to put on the kettle and make a big mug of tea to have with the chocolate digestives Mr Panjit had given her, but instead she just sat with a (muffled) thud on the edge of her bed and cried. She thought about her dear departed Mum – Oh God she missed her! And she even spared a thought for her dear departed Dad, the old annoying bugger. Sometimes life just got too much. It was always the same, nothing exciting ever happened. Go to work, come home from work, Sunday to Friday. Every fortnight alternatively tasting biscuits or soft ‘crisps’. Every Saturday a pampering with a face mask and self-painted fingernails and a DVD of some gibberish that would make her momentarily forget where she was in life. She didn’t actually say the L word, but she was. She was lonely at times.
Something like a long, quite audible scratch sounded across the ceiling. It punctuated the tears. She thought it must be a bird, even though birds didn’t really make sounds like that.
She really knew it was something else. But she also knew that if she was to look up, she wouldn’t want to see what it was.
Her hand reached for a tissue from the box of them on her night table. Why she then looked up she couldn’t explain.
The ceiling, the white Artex darker than it should be even in this low-light seemed to not be as flat as it should. Instead, it gently bulged outwards as if pregnant. She stared mesmerised, not able to look away. A slow ripple of something crossed within a three foot square, just off centre, directly above her. She’d once had a friend, a nice woman really – too kind so that people took advantage of her – who’d seen things that weren’t really there. Sharon thought as she usually did, it must be my nerves.
That night she dreamt of a frolicking pig amidst a confetti of hay strands, she heard distant laughter and envisioned a wonderful sight for a weary soul such as herself. In the lush grass atop a steep hill were a pair of boots. They were of red and glossy material with flowing silver laces and steel hobnails that glinted in the moonlight. But best of all they were rubber-soled.
I hope you enjoyed my story. I will be writing more. Just busy finishing up a second ‘paper’ towards the 2nd year of my Psychology with Counselling degree.
Love to all
Copyright Faith McCord 2022
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.