“With poems written down their bare backs in sharpies low on ink” from Christopher Murray.
They said he was mad. No-one went near the house. It was covered in writing; the walls, the path, the fence. Conservative villagers thought it was the devil speaking through him.
When I moved in, I wasn’t scared. He needed help, so I went to visit. I tried to read the path on the way in, but couldn’t make sense of it. Most of it was like another language.
Buzzing with anticipation, I knocked on the door. He’d probably be so happy to have a visitor.
As it turned out he was very happy to see me, and seemingly sane. We ate and chatted. The walls were covered in writing, the shelves full of journals and the tables cluttered with art. Not wanting to be rude I didn’t mention the writing.
I went back every day. He was lovely but I couldn’t shake the feeling that he needed help and sometimes I’d hear noises from upstairs. Perhaps I could bring my psychologist friend over next time?
Eventually I worked up the courage to ask about the writing.
“My wife is agoraphobic,” he began. “She’d like to come down to see you but she’s too afraid.”
I looked upstairs and saw a face disappear.
“Because she can’t go outside, I started writing her a story. Dragons, tribes, distant lands, new languages…” he explained.
I thought back to the nonsensical words on the path.
“I started writing it on the walls for fun. She just finished reading the hallway before you came,” he added. “Then I had the idea to continue it outside. If she ever wants to finish the story, she’ll have to leave the house.”
I suddenly felt terrible for assuming he needed medication or assessments.
“Can I meet her?” I asked.
“I have an idea,” he said.
With dragon poetry written down my back in a sharpie low on ink, I stood at the front door. He had added me into the story. After some coaxing, his wife came down and continued reading. As she read my back she cleared the threshold. It was the first time she’d been outside in 8 years.