If You Close Your Eyes

Inspired by Pompeii by Bastille.

The Hollow House is going to be demolished. The whole town is in shock, but there's nothing anyone can do about it.

But Sami and Tom are going to try.

My entry for the "Inspired by a song" contest!

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1. Part 1

  When I hear the news, Tom’s house is the first place I can think to go. I run as fast as my legs can carry me from the Hollow House across the field that separates it from the rest of the town, clamber over the fencing and jog down the street towards his house, slowing down to catch my breath. He’s just going out the door as I approach. He smiles when he sees me but his smile turns into a look of alarm when he sees the state I’m in.

  “Sami, are you alright? What’s-“

  I cut him off. “It’s the Hollow House. Just went up there. It’s got a big sign on the front door, there’s all these council notices everywhere, I can’t believe it, I...” I trail off and compose myself. “The council are pulling it down.”

  “What? But they can’t do that, it’s a listed building isn’t it?” he says, sounding as stunned as I feel.
  I shake my head. “Used to be, but apparently it’s lost its status or something. They’re saying it’s unsafe, it’s scheduled for demolition.”

  “No it can’t be, they can’t pull that house down! They just can’t! It’s insane, that building’s been there for years and years, it was an old building when my grandma lived here!”

  I would have laughed at Tom’s reaction if mine hadn’t been so similar. Whoever had called it the Hollow House had chosen the name well. A dilapidated old townhouse just on the outskirts of town, it had been abandoned for as long as anyone could remember. There had always been muttered complaints about it from people who claimed it was used for drug-dealing, but no one had ever actually believed any of it. It was where little kids played at being ghost-hunters and teenagers could find a reprieve from their parents. Their parents knew exactly where they were, though: the house had been their place too, and their grandparents’ before them.

  It’s a town landmark, and it’s being torn down.

  “...I just can’t get over it, what are they think- Sami, are you even listening?”

  I blink, twice, and turn to face him. “Yeah, yeah, you can’t get over it, it’s madness, and so on and so on, I said exactly the same things as you,” I say with an empty laugh.

  Tom sighs. “There has to be something we can do.”

  Neither of us says anything for a moment. I watch Tom’s face as he thinks. His dark eyes are unmoving and unblinking, staring at something in the distance, and he chews his lip and frowns. Then he looks back at me. “Let’s go to the house,” he says, “maybe we’ll think of something in there.”

  “We can’t. The doors have these massive locks on them, and they’ve boarded up all the windows.”

  He shrugs. “Since when have locked doors stopped anyone from getting in there? They can’t have blocked every entrance, and if they have then we’ll have to kick the door down or something.”

  I laugh properly then. “Like either of us could kick the door in!”

  “You doubt my strength?” Tom says in mock outrage, flexing his muscles – or what muscles he has anyway. It’s not exactly an impressive sight, and it just makes me laugh even harder. He tries to look offended, but he cracks a smile and there’s laughter in his eyes. “Come on, we may not need my superior strength, I’m sure we can find a way in.”

  Still smiling, I wait for him to come down the garden path then we retrace my footsteps back up to the house.

  We walk in silence through the field, the tweeting of birds the only sound in the cool evening air. Everything seems so peaceful, but my mind is still in chaos. Memories of the house are flying in and out of my mind unbidden, like I’m flipping through the pages of a photo album too fast to understand what’s happening in the pictures.

  Tom breaks the silence. “We first met in that house, didn’t we? Do you remember?”

  I smile and nod. “Of course I remember. What were we, seven or eight?”

  I had persuaded my mum to take me there after school after I heard someone in the year above me say it was haunted. I thought my mum had stayed outside, but I know now that she followed me in to keep an eye on me the whole time.

  I’d felt so grown up. It was scary in there: some of the windows had been boarded up so it was dark, with only the occasional shaft of sunlight pouring in through gaps in the windows. The floorboards had creaked, the wind had whistled softly, but my heart had pounded so loudly I barely noticed any of it.
 

  I heard a floorboard creak in the room I had just left, and I spun round, my breath caught in my throat. And I backed away, as slowly as I could, right into Tom. We spun round and screamed in each other’s faces for a good few seconds in pure terror. When we finally stopped, breathing quickly and loudly, I looked at him and he looked at me, and I frowned at him, trying to discern from his appearance whether he could be a ghost or not. I eventually plucked up the courage to ask him.
 

  “You’re not a ghost, are you?” I said, trying to sound brave but my voice coming out squeaky and tremulous.
 

  He wrinkled his nose at me. “Course I’m not, stupid.” But his voice lost some of its confidence when he said, “And you’re not a ghost either, are you?”
 

  I wrinkled my nose up and said “Course I’m not, stupid,” mimicking him. We watched each other in suspicion for a few moments longer, then he beamed at me. “I’m Tom, not a ghost.”
 

  I put my hand out to him. “I’m Sami, Tom Not-A-Ghost.”

 

  “I must have called you Tom Not-A-Ghost for weeks before you told me it wasn’t actually your name,” I say, grinning.

  He laughs, throwing his head back. It’s a golden sound, full of warmth and the promise of summer. God, he looks lovely.

  My head snaps away from him and I feel heat creeping into my cheeks. This is Tom, I berate myself. What are you thinking?

  Tom looks over at me, the corner of his mouth lifted in a half smile. “What are you thinking, Sami Tom-Not-A-Ghost?”

  Damn it. “Uh, nothing, nothing...just thinking about the house I suppose,” I say, stammering a little. I’m a terrible liar at the best of times, and Tom knows me better than most. But the house comes into sight, and I am saved from any questions. Metal fencing has been put up now, stark and cold: such a contrast from the house it surrounds. Tom stops, his lips parting as though he’s trying to speak. Then something changes in his eyes and he sets his jaw and carries on.

  We reach the fence. It’s too high to climb, nor does it look sturdy enough to hold us, but we can’t knock it over either. Tom circles the house to see if there’s any way through, then goes back around it the other way, as if a doorway would magically appear in the fencing if he went round anticlockwise instead of clockwise. I wait for him at the front of the house, looking around for anything that could be of use. At first my eyes pass over the oak tree without taking it in - much like the house, the oak tree is such a permanent fixture that I barely notice it - but something makes me focus on it. 

  A branch hangs over the metal fence.

  I walk over to it, my mind suddenly whirring. This is our way in. The tree is huge, but its trunk is gnarled with plenty of creases and crevices to use as footholds. It's been years since I last climbed the oak: it is by no means an easy climb, but I had managed it as a chubby nine-year-old. Surely it couldn't cause me too much trouble now?

  "Sami? Sam, why are you staring at the - oh," Tom calls, coming over to me. He stops, knowing what I’m looking at. “Oh god, I know that look on your face. You’re not seriously thinking of climbing up there and jumping over – oh god you are, aren’t you?”

  I say nothing. My silence is enough of an answer for him, and he groans. “Look, at least leave it for a little while or something, okay? We must be able to think of something better than that!” he said, running a hand through his hair.

  I smile at him. “What, climbing a tree is too simple? Come on, you know it’s the only way to get in there, and you know that having people in that house is the only thing that’ll stop it from being pulled down! People have tried petitions and all that official stuff, but have they listened? Have they hell, they’ll do whatever they like – but not if there are people inside!

  “Yes, genius, I know all that but we don’t even know when they’re pulling it down yet. There’s no point in us getting in there then realising that they don’t even want to demolish it for another month.”

  That stops me in my tracks. I scowl at the ground, knowing he’s right. “Fair point I guess.” I look up at the house, taking in the crumbling stone facade and the cracked windows, and sigh.

  Tom puts an arm around my shoulders. The unexpected contact makes me jump and I look at him, my heart beating just a tiny bit faster. Stop it, Sami. “We’ll do a bit of digging,” he says, “find out what we can, see when this is all supposed to happen.” He smiles at me. “And then we’ll stop it from happening.”

  I try to stop myself, I really do, but I can’t help but smile back at him.

 

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