Category Archives: Rooting

Rooting Around – Part 4

[This is part 4 of the 4 part short story Rooting Around, you may want to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 if you haven’t already]

Somehow Sean had expected something to happen from just touching the box. Like it would innately be able to read his desire and take him where he wanted to go to. In fact nothing had happened when he had touched the corner of the box other than he’d realised that the box was made of cardboard rather than wood as it had seemed in the half light of the attic.

He saw that some tape was holding down the flaps on the top of the box, and he started to pull it back towards him. His knees felt very uncomfortable in this position so he sat back down to help him, but kept – very slowly – pulling the tape towards him. Sitting back down made some of the blood rush back to his head. With this he realised that actually he was quite drunk. Was he ready to meet his previous self and explain to him how he should change his life?

And maybe it wasn’t such a good idea anyway? Suddenly Sean wasn’t so sure he wanted to go through with it. He would have to stop being himself to win Jen, and he wasn’t sure that he was totally ready to do that. Sean quite liked being Sean, he wasn’t sure he didn’t like being Sean more than he liked Jen at this point.

And anway, surely he didn’t have to travel through time immediately. That’s one of the beauties of time travel, you’ve always got a chance to do it again if it didn’t work out the first time. Maybe he’d have a coffee first and sober up? And maybe a shower wouldn’t be the worst of ideas?

The only downside to this plan was the exit to the attic. The arrangement of the attic was such that the light switch was not within reach of the ladder. But, he thought, he’d be back up here in a little bit, maybe he’d just leave the light on when he went down this time.

As he stepped down the ladder the full force of daylight re-entered his eyes. And he found himself blinking more than normally. Everything looked so normal. Up there everything had seemed so surreal. It was like coming of a movie theatre after seing a film during the day.

He walked down stairs and walked into the kitchen. Oddly he couldn’t find any coffee in the cupboard, actually there wasn’t anything in the cupboard which he was sure wasn’t right. He walked into the living room, and realised that there was completely different furniture in there.

“Hello,” said a voice from an armchair that Sean didn’t own, it was the old man who Sean had bought the house from, “having fun travelling through time?”

Rooting Around – Part 3

[This is part 3 of the 4 part short story Rooting Around, you may want to read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already]

Sean was fully awake now, looking at this box. Could it actually be true? A time machine? It seemed so far fetched. He suddenly realised he’d just been sitting there staring at it. He tore his gaze away from the box for a second. He tried to digest what it could really be, or even if it was real. He looked back, it was still there. He was so unsure of what it could be that he wasn’t even sure that it would still be there when he looked back. But it was. The cold reality of the situation was that the box was still there tempting him. Still there reaching out towards him. Calling him to use it. But should he?

When would he go back to? That question almost seemed impossible to consider. It almost wasn’t worth a question, the answer was so obvious. He would have to go back to that night – the night that he took Jen to the party. Could he just stop her from meeting his boss? He’d surely be able to convince himself to not go. He could remember how nervous he’d been to go to the party in the first case, so surely it would be easy to convince himself that his worry was founded.

But what would happen if he didn’t take Jen to the party? Sean suddenly realised that the only reason he’d decided to go to the party in the first place was as a last ditch attempt to keep Jen. So maybe it wouldn’t save Jen. Or at least he’d have to come up with something else really brilliant. But what could he do. Anything he thought of instantly gave Jen the chance to hook up with somebody else. Maybe the problem had come earlier in the relationship?

Perhaps he should go back to earlier and convince himself to be more considerate earlier. Maybe if he went back to the very beginning then he could make things better. Make things right for Jen right from the very start.

So it was decided. He would go back, maybe an hour before he met Jen, and tell himself what he needed to do differently. And with that decided, he got up onto his knees and shuffled forwards and touched the box.

[Tune in for the final part next Friday (or Saturday, sorry about the delay on these everyone)]

Rooting Around – Part 2

[This is part 2 of the 4 part short story Rooting Around, you may want to read Part 1 if you haven’t already]

Sean dragged himself up through the hatch and into the attic. He stood up and found the light switch. He’d only been up here once before, but he’d already worked out that it was a really stupid idea of whoever it was to put the light switch up so high that you couldn’t reach it from the ladder. It was bad enough coming up the ladder, but going back down in the dark was particularly hair-raising.

What this room needed was a particularly good clean. That’s what Sean would have done if he was keeping any of this stuff, but this stuff was all going to be loaded into the back of Sean’s car and taken to the dump. He’d get all of the stuff out and then he could work out how to clean this space. He turned around slowly trying to take in the sheer amount of stuff that was here. How many trips to the dump would it take? 10? 20? Far too many was what he decided.

He looked at the floor and realised that it was completely covered in dust and grime. He shifted one pile of boxes to one of the clear spaces and saw, as he had hoped, that the floor under the boxes was relatively clean. He climbed over some of the boxes and sat in the clean space he had made. It was like he was in the kind of fort that he used to build as a child. It felt relatively safe and reassuring. Since he’d moved into the house he’d never really seemed to be able to fill it enough. He’d always thought that this sensation wasn’t really anything to do with the amount of stuff that had turned out to be Jen’s so he hadn’t been able to take with him, and that it was more about there not being another person there. The silence of somewhere empty is deafening. It’s partly the way they aren’t speaking but it’s partly the way that you know as you return home each time that everything will be in exactly the same place as you left it. When he was living with Jen he had resented the fact that she kept moving everything, now he knew that he missed it.

But maybe there was more to the amount of stuff side of things. There were, after all, some rather strange spots in some of the rooms downstairs. There was an empty room that really looked like there should be a dining table in it. And in the living room the fact that there was only a tv and a single-seater arm chair certainly hinted at being alone. But, Sean thought as he settled in up here between the boxes, here for the first time he felt safe.

The light from the florescent bulb was creating a shaft of light that fell just a few feet in front of Sean, and as he looked through it he could see all of the dust particles dancing through it. He watched them fly in every direction and it was very peaceful. Something truly distracting. He let out a giant sigh as he slightly decompressed, letting go of a very small part of the stress that he’d been carrying in between his shoulder blades for the past few months. As he exhaled all of the particles of dust sped up, and moved in different directions. And he watched as they slowly came back to their normal non-interrupted pattern and fell again as they had before he had disturbed them. He was very tired, he hadn’t been sleeping well at all, and now as he looked at all of this around him he started to feel very sleepy. His eyes slightly lost their focus, but then something suddenly snapped them back, and he was suddenly wide awake.

Just beyond the shaft of light, the box just beyond it, had written on the side of it, in professionally printed lettering – “Time Machine”.

[Tune in for Part 3 next Friday.]

Rooting Around – Part 1

It had been a month, and Sean knew it was time to go up into the attic. He had been avoiding it since he moved in. It was a complete mess up there. Why hadn’t he paid more attention to that estate agents check list? The old man hadn’t been required to clear it, and now it was all just up there, sitting there. Somebody elses stuff that just hadn’t been wanted any more. He had tried to motivate himself by watching Cash In The Attic and Antiques Roadshow, but Sean just wasn’t that lucky. He knew it would just be useless junk. He wasn’t even interested in it.

He went to the fridge and took out another beer, returned to the couch and sat there trying to decide why he thought he was so unlucky. The answer he knew was exactly the kind of thing that he hadn’t been thinking about for a while. It was the reason he was here in this house that he didn’t really like. It was the reason he was sitting on the couch drinking beer at 11 in the morning, and had had time to watch daytime television like Cash in the Attic.

But he had been trying hard, really hard, not to think about her. And he had started to wonder, just recently, if perhaps this effort wasn’t part of the problem. Perhaps the fact, that he hadn’t stopped and actually thought about it, was part of the reason why he couldn’t stop thinking about it. Each time the thought surfaced he would bat it away. It seemed to be every few seconds it would occur to him.

He would look at the way that the cutlery was arranged in the draw and know that Jennifer wouldn’t have arranged it that way. He would look at the way his living room looked like a dentist’s waiting room and know that Jennifer would never have laid it out that way. He would look into the fridge and know with a vague nagging sense that raw meat and cooked were supposed to be on separate shelves, and one was supposed to be above the other, and know that he’d been told a thousand times but had never bothered to really remember. And he knew he was certainly doing the washing up wrong, but couldn’t remember why.

All he knew, all too well, was why he was in this state. Sean had introduced Jennifer to his boss, and that was it, she had left Sean for his boss. This was the short truth of the situation. That was all of it in a nicely packaged single sentence. A single thought. If only he had never introduced them! Then none of this would have ever happened. They had been happy before that. Well sort of. But if they’d never gone to that stupid office party then none of this would have happened.

Could he have done more to stop it? Could he have tried to win her back? Maybe he could have, but he didn’t realise that she was going until it was all far too late. She had already fallen in love with his boss long before Sean had ever realised that she had had fallen out of love with him. And what wasn’t to love about him. Tony was a sort of perfect man, he had money, a great car, knew the good places to go to dinner, was cultured and knew about the theatre and stuff and he was sporty. He didn’t know as much about movies as Sean, but then that might have been something that Jennifer appreciated about him.

She was always asking him to stop analysing movies in the car on the way home. It wasn’t fair, they had used to love talking about movies when they first started going out and now what, she wanted him to change that as well? He’d changed to much for her already. He’d started putting the toilet seat down, he had worn shirts with collars, he’d done the washing up without being asked, he’d even not sworn when her parents were round for dinner. What more did she want? She wanted him to take down some his movie posters and stop talking about movies as much? Well that just was different! He could understand the other stuff, he knew he had just been getting away with stuff before, stuff that he shouldn’t have been doing anyway. And actually, once he tried it, even he could admit that he looked better in a shirt with a collar. But this stuff was different. This was changing something about him. But that’s where it had started to go wrong. He should have resisted, but he couldn’t.

He had decided to surprise her, to do something different. So on one movie night he started getting ready like usual, but when Jen had come in to ask him what they were going to see he presented her with the invite he’d been given at work. It was an invite to a swanky party. He got them all the time, not that he told Jen, but he never went. They were a perk of his job, he just didn’t like them. He just didn’t like all of the smoke and noise he told himself. But that wasn’t true, he loved all of that, he feared parties because they required him to make small talk, to make polite conversation with people who never had anything interesting to say, to listen to them babbling on about how they got there, what the traffic was like, how well they are doing in their boring pointless jobs. And then to hear himself doing the same back to them. He hated all of it, he was afraid of it. He saw it like some kind of gladiatorial challenge, the test being could he think of something to say the next time the other person stopped talking. Every time there was a pause in the conversation, his heart would start pounding, as though it was keeping a time of how many seconds had been silent. Fearing the shame, fearing the silence and especially fearing the inevitable moment where the person would say something like, “right well I’m going to mingle, I’ll catch you later” and then wonder off.

He feared them also because of the attractive women who would be flirting just feet away, not necessarily with him, but close enough. They made him sweat and he was sure they could smell it. And now it was worse because when he was with Jen, he felt that he shouldn’t look, and that she would see him looking or even just think he was looking. So now he just kept flitting between men, staring at one of them, and then violently snapping his head to the next guy trying to avoid even resting his eyes for a second on any of the women, even though he wanted to. Then he’d start worrying that Jen would think he was a gay and he’d start sweating again. So, taking Jennifer to a party instead of a movie was a big move for Sean.

And that’s where it all went wrong, thought Sean. He finished his beer and put it in the recycling box. Some things, he thought, had stuck. He liked the recycling box because it was like the beer walls that he used to construct as a student showing off how much beer they had managed to consume in a weekend. The box showed how much beer he’d drunk in a fortnight. Same idea.

Something about the word boxes triggered a memory in Sean’s mind. He remembered all too suddenly that he was supposed to be clearing the loft. Okay, he thought, I can do this. He went upstairs, opened the hatch, lowered the ladder and went in to the loft.

[This is part 1 of a 4 part story, check back next Friday for Part 2]