The Hidden Room
The other week I had an old friend come to visit. Apart from a chance meeting at St Pancras station about three years ago, we’d not seen each other for over four years so there was a lot of catching up to do. I also managed to arrange for some other old friends to come over for a few drinks on one of our amazing local pubs. Happy faces all round, and talking at a hundred miles an hour as we packed years’ worth of chat into a few hours; there’s been a lot of changes in the companies I’ve worked for (one I do still work for but has changed hands since I began) and not all of them have been good. The building where the companies were both based when I began working for both has now been sold; it was a listed building just off the old historic high street in the small port town where I used to live. I spent very little time there but it was the sort of building with funny little winding stairs, steps up or down in odd places, and after dark a somewhat uneasy feel to it. I never went upstairs, much to the surprise of the others, but when I mentioned that, a secret about the building emerged.
There was a hidden, inaccessible room.
On the very top storey there was a large room that ran half the length of the whole structure, for which there was no door. Given the cramped nature of the various offices at the time, this is baffling. My friend who now owns the company(which is based elsewhere now) wanted to knock through and find out what was there but the boss emphatically told her to leave it alone. In the past, a ladder had been put up to peer through that high window; the room was very dark and contained lots of what might be classed loosely as lumber and rubbish but there was no visible sign of why the room had been bricked up and made inaccessible.
While I was growing up, there had been a large house on my way to school. One of the rooms there had been bricked up: a bedroom where at some point probably in the 1960s a schoolboy of seventeen had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a shotgun. I know little more about this story but when the family of someone I knew from confirmation classes moved into the house, I finally entered the house. I’d know the previous inhabitants very slightly, enough to say good morning to on my way to school but never to ask impertinent questions about this tragedy. The house was elegant and well cared for when I visited with my friend, but her mother (who still chats with my mum) told me a bit about that hidden room. The previous occupants, an elderly couple of military background had had the room unbricked but it had never been used as anything other than a storage room, apparently avoiding it even though they had chosen to open it up again. My friend’s mother told me the room had had an atmosphere that was very dark and sad-feeling; no one wanted to stay in the room for long, whether or not they knew the story. “I wasn’t having that,” she said. “I could sense the boy’s spirit still there, somehow, so shortly after we moved, I waited till the family were out. Then I went in there and I prayed that the poor boy would find peace and be released.” She spoke some more about this time of prayer and what she felt and experienced, but that’s not relevant, other than that the atmosphere of doom and misery lifted and as far as I know, has never returned.
So why had a sizeable room in a building that was pressed for useable space been blocked off and lost?
We speculated, sometimes wildly, as we talked of it. Had it been my property, I would have had it opened for sure. Yet the potential for menace and unwelcome discoveries had put off my former employer. The place has been sold now and I have no idea whether the new owners have even spotted they have a significant extra space they can’t currently get to.
I have a dream that recurs on a fairly frequent basis. I dream that I have found a hidden door, one that has always been there yet I have never seen or noticed. When I open it, I find either an extra room or more often an entire suite of rooms beyond it, fully furnished and ready to inhabit. Often there are signs that someone does live there already; furniture and décor is present that I vaguely recognise as mine, though when I recall details later they’re not anything I can assign to any home or period of my life. It’s not an uncommon dream, as I have heard of a number of people who have it. During our time on the coast, when we’d moved from a larger house to a smaller one, I dreamed it quite often. The sense of needing more room perhaps influenced it.
While the story from my teens might well have been involved in the creation of this dream, it has persisted for many years. I wander through hidden chambers, exploring sometimes fearfully what lies there. The interpretation might be to do with how we all have unrealised potential, or possibly hidden and lost memories that we only acknowledge during our nightly wanderings through the landscape of our dreaming psyches.
Yet just as that original hidden room in my home town was walled off due to such tragedy and trauma that the family was unable to ever set foot in that room again, I wonder if the hidden room in my dreams also houses events and memories that my psyche has chosen to build walls against, yet lets me through from time to time, to see if I am ready to remember and deal with whatever truths or tragedies I’ve shut myself off from?