I don’t know why it always fell to me to clear the loft out. I’m the wrong size and shape for it to start with. Well over six feet tall and quite a way north of twenty stone. Clambering up the ladder and squeezing through the loft hatch is always awkward. And once up there I need a crash helmet to protect my thick head from the low eaves.
Apart from a three feet wide strip down the middle, there is nowhere I can stand up straight up there. And of course, everything is stored off of that strip, in the low, dark, angled corners. Additionally, I don’t trust the wooden boards that act as the floor up there. One board has broken when I’ve trodden on it. How many more will?
How is it that each time I go up there to clear it out there is so much new stuff dumped there? Is it breeding up there? Magically multiplying in its own little world as we carry on our own lives down below. Or are the rest of the family sneaking up here when I’m not around and dumping the stuff they don’t need anymore but are reluctant to throw away?
I try to remember how long it had been since I was last up here; certainly at least six months, but surely not a year. Apart from the corner with the Christmas decorations and empty suitcases, the whole space had been cleared. And yet now there are enough boxes of who know what to open a shop.
No one will admit coming up here and putting this junk here. I suppose it is so they don’t need to get involved in cleaning it out. They all act as if they don’t know about what there is here, but at least don’t complain about anything being missing when it gets cleared out. No one has run to the tip to reclaim a stray item, or hurried to the charity shop to buy back what has been given away. Well, as far as I know that is.
Clothes, books, jigsaws, toys, CDs, tools, pillows, a camping stove; where does it all come from? And how the hell did there come to be a full drum kit up here? It beggars belief. Hours it takes me to get it all down and into the garage where it can be sorted properly. I don’t know how many trips I’ve made when I find the tin.
A heavy golden heart shaped tin. There may have been patterns or flowers on it at some point in the past, but they have gone and just the metal remains. It is all plain metal apart from the sticker with my name on it on the side of the right-hand curve at the top of the heart shape.
I’ve never seen this tin before. In the countless times I’ve been in the loft and moved boxes, cleared it out, this tin has never been here. I have not owned such a tin and I have never put a sticker with my name on it. On anything in my life. Even as a child I used to rip out those little tags my mum would sew into my clothes with my name on them. Why would I ever need a little label to tell me what was mine, or to remind me of who I was. As if I was some kind of idiot.
And yet, here it was, a heart shaped tin with my name on it. I shook it but nothing rattled. It was heavy, and there was something moving in there, but more of a slow slide of mass rather than anything jumping around. I tried the lid but it didn’t want to move. It would require some brute force, and possibly tools, so it would need to go down to the garage with me.
On the way down I stopped to ask the rest of the family if they knew about the tin and where it had come from.
My wife was in her office, she spent most of her time there now. Not even looking in my direction as I came in and asked her about it. she didn’t bother with a response. The chair turned and she reclined there staring at me, glassy eyed, but saying nothing. I shrugged and left her in her silence and moved on to my son’s room.
He was, as always, lounging on his bed, music playing. Yet again there was no response, not even his usual grunt of acknowledgement.
Next was my daughter, again another typical teenage repose, lying on her bed, some mindless reality TV show blaring in the background. The response was the same. No response at all. Ignored as I always was.
And so I went to the garage. I put the tin on top of the work surface and looked for something to help me prise it open. I got a flathead screwdriver and forced it into the join and pushed until the lid popped open.
It took me a few seconds to work out what it was in the tin. Three deep red or maroon spongy objects sat in the tin. In that heart shaped tin were three hearts. Three human hearts. And it all came back to me. I had tired of being ignored. Being treated as if I was a stranger in my own house. I had flipped. I had cut the hearts out of my family, and left their dead bodies in the places I had killed them.
That’s why there was no response from them now. They were unable to respond. Unable to speak. Unable to give me anything but glassy, dead eyed stares.
They were beginning to smell. I would need to do something about them. But whether to take them to the tip with the junk from the loft, or to take myself to the police station and hand myself in for these heinous crimes; that was the question.
I looked at the tin. I had gotten the heart shaped tin from a charity shop. One I had taken items to the last time I cleared out the loft. A heart shaped tin for me to store hearts in. The symbol of love for me to store the life giver of those I had loved. Of those who no longer loved me. What I had done was horrific.
I put the tin down and started to try to do the same to myself as I had done to them and dig my own heart out of my chest to join the others in the tin.