The Walking Wardrobe
This was the worst thing that had ever happened to Ella’s wardrobe.
“You’ll be ok,” it tried to reassure itself.
But this was bad.
It didn’t feel strong.
“You’re still standing.”
The wardrobe quaked in place.
“You’ll pull through.”
But this was worse than…than anything to date.
Worse than that time when Ella had hidden a cupcake on its top shelf, under a sunhat, and the cupcake had attracted a mouse. A mouse that had scratched and nibbled and peed into the grain of its wood.
This was worse than that time when Ella’s brother, Kyle, had hidden inside it, and jumped out at Ella, making her scream, and thump the wardrobe’s door, like it was the one to blame.
This…. was frame-shakingly worse.
The wardrobe hunkered in the corner of Ella’s room, in the dark, shuddering silently, feeling like it was coming apart. Like its sides were splintering. Like its door was dropping off its hinges. It wanted to wind back time, to five hours ago. Before Ella had played Toy Story 3 on her laptop, loud enough for the wardrobe to overhear every word. Well, to be accurate, she had played two-thirds of the film. Then her boyfriend had rung and she’d stopped the film.
Film night over.
“Scoot, Kyle! Scoot!” She’d shooed her little brother off her bed, and out of her room. “Thank you! So help me God.”
Hours later, when she was done with the call, she’d simply clicked off her lamp and drifted into the slow, steady breathing of sleep. Usually the wardrobe loved the sound of Ella’s night breathing, but Toy Story 3 had set it on edge. It had gone so bad in the film when Andy had gone to college. What was going to happen when Ella went too, this autumn? The wardrobe would be left behind, for sure. No one takes a wardrobe with them to college. They take suitcases. Or boxes. Not wardrobes. Ella would take the clothes from its innards and leave it …an empty shell.
And Ella wouldn’t be there anymore to open her bedroom windows, so it could hear the sounds of the street drifting up and in. Ella wouldn’t be there to tap on her laptop, or to chunter along to her music. It would be so quiet. So dead in this room.
And now there was the looming shadow of removal. What if Ella’s parents sold, or donated it, to make space for something new? An exercise bike for Ella’s Dad? A desk for Ella’s Mum? They could send it packing in a moment.
Even if it did get to stay…. it would likely…be bad. It would be stood there, like a coffin, in the corner of the room. No Ella to listen to, as she breathed in and out.
Out with the old. In with the new.
What was it going to do?
By morning, the wardrobe had a plan.
It waited until Ella went out for her morning run, and then it shuffled one slow, minuscule step at a time…across the bedroom and out onto the landing. It finally reached the top of the stairs. Now all it had to do was lean forwards until it could throw itself down, and break apart, into a heap of firewood.
It clenched its wooden feet and strained in place.
Kyle’s voice cut up, from the bottom of the stairs.
The wardrobe felt every fibre in its being stiffen. This was not the plan. It was not meant to fall on top of Kyle and crush him into human firewood. Human soup. No.
It heard the whoosh of the front door opening, and Ella coming back in, panting from her run.
And then all family hell broke loose….Ella shouting, and Kyle protesting, and Ella’s Dad huffing in from the kitchen, and thumping up the stairs, pushing the wardrobe back against the landing wall, like it was under arrest.
“Don’t lie Kyle!” Ella yelled.
“I swear, it wasn’t me. I didn’t touch it.”
“Do you know how dangerous that was! Why would you even…?”
So much shouting. Panicked shouting. Scared shouting. Outraged shouting. And in the noise and the scuffle, Ella’s Dad manhandled the wardrobe back into Ella’s room and into its usual corner. The wardrobe stood there, shamefaced. It was wrong that Kyle had been blamed. But what was it supposed to do?
The wardrobe waited and waited, listening to the muffled, balled-up shouts, until finally Ella stormed in, flung its doors open, and grabbed a fresh shirt from a hanger. The metal hanger swung in place, with a jangling sound that twanged the wardrobe’s nerves.
Ella cursed as she changed.
“Knock, knock, Ella?” It was Kyle.
Kyle knocked again…on the actual bedroom door this time. The wardrobe felt its wooden frequency, reverberating with its own.
“I’m going to be late for work. What were you thinking Kyle?”
“Are you changed yet?”
“What time will you be back?”
“Same as always.”
Kyle was silent. The wardrobe felt his silence.
Then Kyle called through the door, “Do you want to finish the film tonight?”
“Sure. Step back from the door. Coming through.”
The wardrobe listened to the bluster of Ella leaving for her Saturday job. And when it all went quiet he could still hear Kyle breathing, on the landing. In, out. In, out. He wasn’t such a bad boy.
Maybe…maybe when Ella left for college there would be a time when Kyle might leave his door open… while he was taking a shower, or down in the kitchen getting toast. And the wardrobe could shuffle over, and tuck itself into the corner of his room, quiet and useful as could be. Could that work?
The wardrobe steadied itself. Thanks to Kyle, it might get to hear the end of Toy Story 3. Tonight. It would pay extra hard attention. Please, please, please let the ending be good.
I was thinking about portals, and the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But then the wardrobe took over, and dragged me into a whole different kind of story!