I really should have known that something was seriously wrong when the food started communicating with me. And I listened.
Flat 17, Elderberry Way was my first property purchase; something I’d dreamt about for a long time, never really thinking that it would happen. Not this soon anyway. My plan was to save, save, save. That I did. The five year plan to buy a flat was a year in when spur of the moment, I bought a euro lottery ticket and won. Unbelievable. I don’t know what made me get one, because I only ever bought one on my birthday. I never did want to be sucked into that, must-buy-a-ticket-every-week-with-the-same-numbers-just-in-case-the-numbers-came-up, sort of thing. The lottery is random; I just got lucky.
The flat was a few years old. I remember walking passed the plot during its construction, visualising myself at home there; preparing my single meals from scratch, wandering out to the sunny balcony for fresh basil that I’d grown from seed-one of many herbs in my little sanctuary.
I was glad people had occupied it before me. At least any problems with the building would be ironed out in the early days, and as I was led to believe, the building would settle in its foundations.
Week three, in Flat 17, was the first time I recall the beginning of the end.
I’d taken a week off work to redecorate. I chose to wallpaper throughout, apart from the bathroom and the kitchen that I left; I was happy with the colour schemes of apple white and mellow yellow in the respective rooms. Some people found papering hard work but I found it therapeutic; all that ripping and scrapping off the paper, like peeling the skin off the flat's face; literally giving it a makeover. I was updating its look, I guessed.
At lunchtime I was passed hunger, due to the fact that a wall can never be left unfinished. In my mind, to stop papering mid-wall, well, it was sacrilege. I went into the kitchen to make a cheese, ham and rocket sandwich, only to realise, when I opened the fridge, I’d eaten the last of the slices the day before. What to do? I plumped for jam on toast, a favourite snack. As I waited for the toaster to do its thing, I got out the new butter from the fridge and peeled back the paper liner from the spread, and loaded the knife ready. I looked back at the paper liner at the words I missed on previous occasions. It read: Change is good. Never look back. Nice message, but what did that have to do with butter? How quire? Whose idea was it to put a random message in the food?
I checked the last tub that was on the side, ready to be washed prior to disposal in the recycling bin. This one was different. It read: Use a spoon. What? Use a spoon. What? Instead of a knife? Well it would make spreading it interesting.
The timely ejection of the toast stopped me from pondering too long about the odd messages. I smeared the butter with the knife, and then unscrewed the raspberry jam, putting a dollop on each of the two slices. The lid rattled briefly on the counterpane in my haste to damper by stomach pangs.
What was going on? I munched away on the toast and read what was written on the lid: Duck and dive to stay alive. Was I missing something? What was the connection? There were other lids that I used as saucers underneath the small plant pots. I collected them all from the kitchen and bathroom window sills and lined them up. They were all the same brand; I never bought any other after discovering that one.
There were twelve lids but only five, probably the newer ones, had a message. I read each one, and then assembled them into something legible. Use a spoon; Keep it safe; Use a spoon; Reflect. It looks back; Change is good. Never look back; Duck and dive to stay alive; Home sweet home?
Two different products were saying to use a spoon so I got one out of the draw. I looked at the spoon, still intrigued by the messages and their potential meaning. Concave or convex; both reflected. They reflected what was behind me. I froze. What was I to do? Look back? I daren’t now that the food had spoken. Never look back. So I used the spoon, as I was instructed, and saw something reflected in it. The convex reflected things the correct way and the concave the opposite. This always fascinated me as a child, but today, fascination, well, it was here in droves. I hoped my imagination was making fun of me today.
In the spoon was something shining back at me but it wasn’t clear. It moved as I moved the spoon, it flipped and righted itself as I turned the spoon 360 degrees. I peered closer at the spoon, trying to make out what it was. Then I realised that if I pulled back, I could get more of a panoramic view, if but a small one. What was it?
I did a stupid thing. I turned round to face my tormentor.