It was mid afternoon and the shafts of sunlight found their way through the eucalpyts and highlighted the rusted carcases of some old trucks by the side of the road. Set apart from the old lorries was this car. I don't know the make, but it must have been quite something in its day.
Lilas welcomed us into her home. We had been sent there by a distant relative who thought Lilas would be able to fill in a few blanks on the family tree my mother was reseaching.
White haired with a pleasant face, Lilas sat in front of the tele in a leather chair. We sat opposite on a three seater lounge. My 80 year old mother, my older brother and me.
“They’ve all gone and left me here all alone” she said.
Her eyes were blue and clear and bright. She prattled on, a constant monologue. I tuned out of what she was saying and looked around the room. The carpet was a riot of colour and pattern, next to her, perched precariously on a card table was an assortment of glasses and cups. All around her was a city of cardboard boxes filled with plates and kitchen utenstils. It seemed to me she was a little eccentric. I tuned back into the conversation ...
“They’ve all gone and left me here all alone” she was saying again.
I looked at the other two and they were showing signs of concern. I looked back at Lilas. In front of her on a leather pouffe were five cups, or rather 4 cups and 1 glass - which had been carefully arranged, upside down. She picked one up and pointed it towards me. Engaging me with her penetrating blue eyes.
“Very clean” she said. I nodded in agreement.
Although she appeared to be quite lucid, it was becoming increasingly obvious that Lilas was not of sound mind. Lilas didn’t stop talking, it was a constant narrative.
We were engaged in a conversation that kept looping and short circuiting. She offered me a glass of water. Lifting a two litre bottle of water that was next to her chair. She picked up a glass.
“It’s very clean, you see” she said again.
She attempted to put the bottle back on the table next to the high-rise of glassware, and I half got up to assist her, worried that it would topple over and smash into the boxes below, but she managed without me.
We sat looking at one another, unsure of what to do next. And then a floor board creaked, onimously upstairs and I realised instantly, we were not alone...
This is pretty much straight out of the camera. It is a close up photo of a decorative glass oil lamp. No textures, no layers, no special effects. The green and lavender colours are glass bottles behind the oil lamp. And the plant matter is floating inside the oil.
You opened up your door
I couldn’t believe my luck
You in your new blue dress
Taking away my breath...
Knowing full well the earth will rebel
lyrics: Crowded House
I was alone when I took this photo.
There was no one there.
There was no one watching.
There was no child,
no gremlin or goblin or ghost.
No phantom, no spirit or apparition
peering through the grasses.
The sun came out after a day of rain.
And I took some photos of my lonely bluebell.
I was alone.
The camera does lie.
I was alone.
Things are not always what they seem.
Sometimes at night, after a lot of rain, I drive into my street at the end of the day and my headlights pick up the white trunks of the ghost gums reflected in the puddles and I think I should stop at take a photo. But often it is late and I am so close to home and I don't want to stand in the rain taking pictures, so I think I will stop another time.
I nearly didn't bring my cameras home from work on friday, and I nearly didn't stop. But for once there were few cars in the street and the rain wasn't too heavy. So I stopped. A long exposure, illuminated by the lights of my car. I set the camera right on the wet bitumen and crouched over it, so it wouldn't get rained on. I got quite wet, but hey, I was only a few doors from home and hot shower, dinner and glass of red wine awaited me.
It was a man’s voice that woke me in the middle of the night. I was fast asleep dreaming of other things. And a man’s voice, not unfamiliar, said a single word. “Alison”. It was neither compelling or accusing, but it was spoken with clarity and conviction. And I woke instantly. Transfixed, almost paralysed with fear, I listened for more...
Almost at the same time, my Himalayan cat, who had been sleeping at my feet, leapt off the bed; and hurtled out of the room. Leaving me lying there. Alone. Heart thumping, ears straining.
There was a soft glow around the rectangle of the door. Lit by one of the computers in the front room. And silence.
I was certain I hadn’t dreamt the man’s voice. It was not connected in anyway to what I was dreaming. It sounded so close, so immediate and it had cut through and wrenched me from sleep.
It was not my father’s voice, he died over a year ago. I don’t believe in an after life, and nor did he. There was no way he would come back from the grave to “haunt” me. Beside he never went to a grave, he currently resides in an Urn, halfway up the stairs at my mother’s house, overlooking the dining room, ’til we decide what to do with him. No it was a younger voice than his.
It was not my son’s voice, he was fast asleep at the other end of the house... and although he occasionally calls me by first name, he would have called out “mum” if he needed me in the middle of the night. And the voice belonged to someone older than his twenty two years.
I thought of my daughter holidaying in Fiji. Was she OK, I wondered. I am not superstitious, but if the voice was a supernatural message, then could it have been from her?
But the voice, I was sure I knew it, the voice of a lover, a friend, an acquaintance? Who was it that woke me? The sound of the voice was so clear in my head. I imagined if there was an identikit system for voices. I could go to a voice bank, my head cradled in an enormous set of grey headphones. I know I could identify the voice if I heard it again. If I could pick it out of a line-up.
The door creaked ominously as Bella returned to the bedroom. She made the little greeting noise she makes at night, that sounds like a pigeon cooing. She jumped on the bed so lightly that I didn’t realise she was there until she started to nuzzle in under the covers.
I was awake when rolling rumbling of thunder crossed the night sky. I was awake when the possums ran across the roof making their nightly journey from the old ghost gums in the street to the Plane trees in my backyard.
And I was awake when a long way in the distance I heard the morning call of Kookaburras.
It was 4am.
Soon the grey light of morning would seep through the slats of my blinds, sift through my Moroccan screen, catching itself in the silk scarves that hang there and travel slowly across the golds and satins and velvets of my quilt. Around the same time my alarm will go off and Bella will be sitting next to me, waiting patiently for me to let her outside.
And in the cool light of day, I will wonder if I really did just dream the voice that said. “Alison.”