GETTING RID

For years and years Sarah had been trying to get rid of her accumulated junk, feeling that it cluttered and inhibited her mind. Then she became aware of the work of Marie Kondo, and was instantly convinced of the argument. Only keep what you absolutely need: five of everything: no-one needs more than 30 books. You can’t take it with you, since there are no pockets in shrouds. Best to do a death-clearing right now.

Grimly, Sarah began her task. Auntie’s old chintz curtains, now: they would never suit her decor, so away they went to the charity shop. The size 10 trousers: “come on, be realistic!”, she said to herself, and removed the mortifyingly small waistband from her line of vision. The Latin grammars, the Anglo-Saxon poems, the Larousse Mythology (didn’t she know all that?): out they went. Digging down, she began to find a second layer of treasures - the dress she had worn the third time she fell in love, the cigarette-box with the begging dog, the crinoline lady whose skirt concealed a teapot. How could she throw these away? They were her heart’s blood. They worked not just as aide-memoires: rather, they were dream-catchers.

Busily, she worked away at classifying her treasures, and she made three piles in her hall. Objects in the first could definitely go. The second pile she felt ambivalent about. The third set could not be sacrificed under any circumstances. To categorise the stuff took months, until at last she realised that the objects which inhabited the last category gave her a visible map of her past. They crystallised and intensified it. It would not matter now if her memory faded and failed: her tastes (always inclining to the grotesque) would be in this little museum, in portable form.

Finally Sarah had reached the bottom of the heap. She spied something rose-coloured which she did not quite recognise. It was an old worn carpet, which retained a pattern she could not decipher. She dragged it out and unrolled it. She recalled the story of Sinbad and the flying carpet. This one was surely too fragile and dusty ever to rise from the ground. Nonetheless, she sat in the middle of it, stroked its pile, tapped its frayed fringes, and said: “fly, carpet, fly!”

Nothing happened at first. Then it fluttered and flapped and slowly, tremblingly, it lifted her an inch from the ground. Six inches. A foot. Ten feet. Steadily it moved across the room and out of the window. She saw the patchwork of the city below. Sarah said: “take me somewhere different.” The carpet must have heard that many times, but it rose steadily and flew with purpose. Looking at her home for the last time, Sarah saw the books, the Italian paper-knife, the gingham dress, the bisque figurines. The objects dwindled, and she turned her gaze in the direction of the carpet’s flight. What she saw was indeed different. She could not own it, she could not know it. It was the mountain in the sun.

feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | supernatural | fantastic and paranoia | literary female gothic | gothic narrative | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest | portsmouth university | emeritus professor sue harper | feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | outstanding achievement award | british association of film, theatre and television | professor of film history at portsmouth university | film, media and creative arts | british academy and the arts and humanities research council | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest |

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