Hold your breath, pinch your nose and dive head first into the absurd world of Thomas Howarth’s Uni Confessions.
Our tour guide was a tall, squat man of extended years. He took us to the foot of the driveway and no further, complaining of altitude sickness. The expression of a nervous liar flickered over his face as he bade us good evening, and he scuttled back uphill towards the heat of the town. The swinging glow of his lantern faded to an atom.
My housemate Burton and I stared ahead, trying to scan through the darkness like broken lighthouses. A mansion of haunted repute lay somewhere down the drive, and we’d come to enjoy a Halloween incursion. Heaving open the gates, we stepped softly onto wet gravel and descended towards the house.
The building was both larger and smaller than we’d expected. It loomed like a forest, a tin silhouette against the clay-grey sky. The front doors were open.
‘You first,’ Burton urged me.
‘You always go first at things.’
‘You know… voting. Essays.’
I ignored his feeble justifications and led the way. A stuffed Wolfhound gathered dust in the otherwise desolate entrance hall, and an anorexic staircase climbed up into bible-black gloom. I heard Burton groan.
‘Burton? Are you alright?’
‘Yes, don’t worry,’ he said, raising a hand. ‘I just need a wee.’
I deflated, relieved.
‘There’s a toilet in there, look.’ I pointed through fuzzy darkness towards a candlelit sign bearing the image of a pissing man. ‘You go and do your stuff, I’ll wait here.’
‘Thanks.’ He nodded meekly and skipped away, cradling his swollen bladder. I moved over to the Wolfhound and inspected his collar, which gave his name as ‘Basil.’ I patted Basil’s head and it detached, dropping to the floorboards and rolling to the edge of the room. As it thudded against the skirting board, I heard a wooden slam from the toilets.
I slipped quietly into the jakes. A fluorescent light blinked uncomfortably, fragmented in the cracked mirrors. Burton was nowhere to be seen. Moving around the edge of a toilet stall, I was greeted by the sight of a coffin lying in the centre of the room, draped in a curtain of urine. The liquid dripped and pooled over the tiles, roving silently towards my shoes.
I scarpered from the toilets and clicked the door shut behind me. A door across the entrance hall was open now, and from within floated the sound of a piano. Supposing that Burton might be taking a moment to practise for secret music lessons, I hooked my head around the doorframe and called his name. The room was empty, save for Basil the Wolfhound. His glass eyes, one just a pink marble, gazed unconsciously at the front of my head. I backed out of the room, its absent piano still playing, and made for the front doors. I booted them open, which took several attempts, and slipped on the welcome mat.
The world span around my head as I rolled away from the house, coming to rest against a leafless tree. A judgemental statue, a fossilised demon, stared down at me from its cracked granite plinth. I was lying now in a graveyard, the sky above me tearing into sharp raindrops. I managed to orientate myself, and staggered over to rest against a headstone. Gentle splashing caught my bruised attention, and I saw that, cut into the ground at my feet, was an open grave, filled to the grassy brim with urine. The headstone on which I leant bore an inscription, just a single word – ‘Whizz.’
Once more I clicked into reverse gear, watching as Basil’s severed head rose out of the hole and floated grimly on the surface. His marble was missing. Spinning on my heels, and thus painfully tangling my legs, I glimpsed a structure on the otherwise dead horizon. A windmill. Salvation.
I’m sitting in that windmill now, murmuring into this Dictaphone. Bursts of rusty lightning illuminate my dwelling, and I note with interest that a headless Basil is moving closer with every flash. If anybody finds this recording, no matter how much time from now, no matter how decomposed my body, please – please – type it up and publish it on the Impact Magazine website. Thanks.