He dished out his orders and trundled back through the kitchen door,
‘No need to wait this time.’
He shouted back to the apprentice as he went.
‘This time. I can feel it. I can really feel it.’
Our young inquisitive protagonist snook into the kitchen but had lost all sight. He could only hear him rattling up the spiral staircase into the darkness perhaps 40 feet above, it was hard to tell in the lamplight of the lower floor.
From the outside of the building there was no visible protrusion through the ceiling. To all outwards appearances it was a small suburban bungalow in the dirtier, poorer part of Cardiff. To the untrained eye there was nothing unusual about the bungalow at all. This time he didn’t come back, though. He waited for days but He never returned. Eventually, When he was old and Grey the apprentice attempted the stairs himself.
This probably isn’t making much sense. Motivation thats what you need right? I mean not everyone has it, or maybe it’s just that they don’t have the resources. Anyway lets rewind a bit and see what we can figure out.
So what was it that actually led the young man into his apprenticeship? Chance really. As he was walking along his usual route to the city centre he noticed an A4 cardboard sign nailed the gate of a white picket fence, which surrounded a house. He didn’t remember seeing the fence before. In fact he didn’t even remember the house.
‘DISCREET and hardworking apprentice required for various tasks’
The words were scrawled, barely legible, in a thick blue marker and the rain had caused the ink to streak down from the card and stain the perfect white of the fence like a Rorschach butterfly or a lions face, he wasn’t quite sure. It hardly matters at this point.
‘Worth a go’ he’d thought. He opened the gate and walked up the cobbled stone path to the large panelled oak door. The door was not painted nor weather treated. Its surface twisted and undulated so that it barely fitted into the frame. It was like the door was alive and trying to escape.
As he raised his fist to knock, the door was opened by an old bald man with a thick and dirty (filthy in fact) grey beard not far from knee length. Other than the beard he wore fairly unremarkable yet dirty clothing. Too-short, brown corduroy trousers, which showed his ankles and accentuated his bare feet and yellowed, unclipped toenails. He wore a black Motorhead t-shirt, which, at the other end of the spectrum, was far too big, falling halfway down his thigh and covering his arms to his elbows.
‘Leave your things in the pantry. There is a bedroom to your left and the toilet is in the yard, yes its an outdoor job I’m afraid’.
One might question the motivation behind our protagonists decision to go along with this madness but what you didn’t know (the more discerning of you may have guessed) is that our young protagonist is, at this point in the story, homeless. There were many factors contributing to this turn of events but I’m fairly sure that you would lack the empathy for such a sob story. Perhaps not but this, generally is a lie. Most of us are suspicious of every person who has the indignity to beg for money. Anyway back to our story.
His brown teeth (we’re talking about the bearded gentleman again) revealed a penchant for tea. Or perhaps for simply not cleaning (the more likely of the two). This man somehow looked more homeless than our protagonist (should we give him a name? Lets go with Bob. Bob’s a good name right?) Well Bob, being in a fairly sad state of affairs decided to trust the filthy gentleman with the bungalow with the living door. He dropped his bag in the room and reported to the filthy gentleman in the kitchen.
The kitchen was in a similar state of affairs as the gentleman that owned it. yellowed wallpaper, peeling at the edges, filthy unwashed dishes everywhere and piles and piles of bin bags. Bob was beginning to understand what this ‘apprenticeship’ was really all about.
‘My name is Merl but you can address me as Sir for now.’ He pulled Bob’s attention back to him and drew him in with his dark sunken eyes, like quicksand in the dark.
Bob eventually clicked, ‘Oh erm, yes Sir’, he hadn’t called anyone sir since his high school years and even then he found it contrived and archaic. ‘So what do you need me to do… Sir’
‘You can never, ever go upstairs.’
‘Well. it’s. It’s a bungalow right? I mean there is no upstairs.’
As the words left his mouth he suddenly realised that in the dead centre of the room. Just to Merls left was a cast iron spiral staircase (Merl had actually been leaning against it the whole time. Merl… Is that even his real name? Who knows.)
‘OK well Ill do my best. Sir’ (looks like he’s catching on) ‘and whats My job’.
‘That’s all.’ Merl (come on thats not a real name, maybe its short for something? Well its not that.) Began to climb the stairs.
‘Where are you going?’
‘Up’, his voice was distant now.
The old man hit the floor with a sickening thud. The bin bags, as it turned out were filled with feathers, which exploded into the air, about the room and out of the windows. For a moment he lost sight of him but as they slowly drifted to the floor and settled he found him curled up in pain under a pile of feathers. His ankle was black and swollen, probably broken.
‘Well call the ambulance then boy. I wonder why the hell I bothered hiring you at all!’ He rolled around in pain. ‘Christ I may as well make wings out of these feathers and fly to the top.’