I am currently renting the attic of an elderly couple’s house. If you want to get literary, I live in a garret. The kitchen and the bathroom share a sink and are all in the same room, with nothing to divide them but a ceiling-to-floor curtain. (I call it the bitchin’ bitchen.) Point being, it’s all very boho-chic and I dig it.
Now, on the floor in the back corner of the closet/pantry where my mini-fridge lives, there is a hole. It is about 4″x9″, and it is terrifying. It emits weird groans and creaks. Cold, damp, subterranean winds whip up through the bowels of the house and hit me full in the face when I bend down to get something from the fridge. Strange earth-smells occasionally waft up. I’ve lost several bottles of vanilla extract and at least one box of baking powder to its depths, listening as they clank and bounce down to… wherever the hell the hole ends. If I were Neil Gaiman, I’d probably write a short story about the creatures that live in there and include a scene in which they bake some very vanilla-y cookies.
I’ve semi-affectionately started referring to this pit of darkness as Tartarus, in the same way I used to refer to the garbage disposal in my old apartment as Scylla and Charybdis. (Don’t judge… seeing the mythic in everyday objects makes my domestic life more exciting.) Truth be told, I’m afraid of Tartarus; it’s an irrational fear, analogous to a childhood aversion to the dark or the trees outside your window. I don’t like that this small hole reveals the insides of the house I live in without actually revealing anything about the insides of the house. Anyway. I’ve found that when you’re slightly afraid of something, it helps to fictionalize it, to let your imagination run a little wild… imagination gives you some measure of control over your fear.
Tartarus has one final quirky quality: its dimensions almost exactly match those of a Costco-sized box of Honey Nut Cheerios. A couple of weeks ago, I placed my breakfast over Tartarus’s mouth. I was sick of consigning various small objects to its depths like some sort of modern peace offering to the house-bowel-gods (feed them vanilla extract on a regular basis, or else!), and its howling was seriously freaking me out. Problem solved, right?
WRONG. This morning, I awoke to this:
THERE IS ACTUALLY SOMETHING LIVING DOWN THERE.
Likely, it is a mouse or some other small woodland creature. But, we’ve already established that my imagination is that of an 8-year-old child, and the ol’ brain has created several horrible hole-denizens, a la a medieval bestiary. (If it was a mouse, why didn’t it chew through to the Cheerios? Answer me that, readers! Answer me that.)
I spent a few hours considering whether or not I want to seal Tartarus up for good with a piece of plywood, but I eventually decided against it. Truth be told, I’ve grown somewhat attached to its particular brand of fantastical terror. It inspires me to whimsy, reawakens the imagination that would otherwise be muffled by my daily adult slog. It’s a door to another world, and whether that world is dark and terrifying or populated with fluffy, well-meaning, cookie-baking monsters is totally up to me. And that’s kind of awesome.