The home is the chief school of human virtues.

This photo – intended to entice, off kilter and imposing in aspect, the gormless face of a bad memory.

We meet there, in the spitting grey of a Stretford afternoon; we have walked, they emerge waif-like from a parked car. We are all anonymous, and remain so as we are ushered through the house’s maw. I spot the chrome gleam of a new Chubb as they gesture at the fate of the last tenants, whose chattels and trappings suggest they have been spirited away where they stood. The ghost face of Bob Marley draped, staring, on one wall, the floor strewn with dog-ends and the gritty detritus tramped into any house. The kitchen lay filthy in a haze of miasma and flies that made the nostrils crawl, the inhale reflex stifled. All manner of life made its home on the remains of what appeared to have once been a cottage pie. Outside sat the carcass of an outhouse, the contents of which remained unknown as our guides did not dare disturb an ancient thatch of cobweb.

By the time we were directed up the narrow stairs, weeping with carpet fibres and tendrils of dust, we knew we needed to make an escape. The bathroom housed not a bath, but a twisted font, the bedrooms were strewn with the evidence of previous life – underwear, clothing, plates and cutlery, nine precisely hammered nails showed off a collection of hats, obviously once loved. Could we jump from here? Did the windows even open? What horror would have crawled into our ears and burrowed a den before we left?

The nameless clerks somehow blocked egress with their svelte bodies, but hope was in sight – all we needed to do was ask the questions were we advised to memorise and we could be free. We looked at each other, being as discreet about our revulsion as we possibly could, panic flickering in the whites, praying we had chanted the words correctly… The wards mumbled something, shuffled aside and cleared the path back to daylight. Taking our chance and chattering our excuses we fled, taking care not to leave too quickly, but swiftly enough, out of the bedroom, down the creaking stairs, and through the front door, with the two quick on our heels. We swung right out of the house and struck up a decent pace, through the corridor of doppelganger houses, around the back of a walled backyard wilderness, and finally towards the comparatively sweet air of the motorway and the world we knew.



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