The house was huger than when I was small and gullible. Perhaps, it had grown extensions with each planning permission that erstwhile owners had instigated. But no record of such paperwork nor invoices for building works, nothing except the sheer bodily evidence of alcoves, vestigial hallways, annexes, attic-complexes, loft conversions of previously non-existent lofts, granny flats, tree-houses, gate-lodges etc. - all of which must have appeared overnight, as it were, without the interference of outside forces.
Even if one were stone dead in the imagination stakes, one could easily visualise the shock on my face as I stooped below one of the new gate arches: part of a castellated surround which made normal battlements look like somebody else's garden fence. Yet, I've forgotten to draw attention to the fact that this house was once a normal two-up-two-down terraced back-to-back so rife in the thirties in this part of Great Britian. So where were the neighbours' houses? Had they been coerced into forming part of the agglomerated mansion that my family home had now become? Not just one straight-up-and-down stairs of bone-aching steepness, but now several spiralling grand strutways which took one all over the rambling edifice. And once upon the topmost landing (which was now as airy and light as it was once so dark and dowdy), one could survey the whole of the factory town, where gridlocked geometries of true two-up-two-downs radiated outwards in terraced interminability.
It took my breath away.
I hadn't been 'home' for decades and I was now older than I was. So, not only had the mind-boggling vastness of the empalaced tunnel-back sucked my lungs clean but also had its countless Gothic floors that one needed to climb to reach the vantage point of which I speak. Yet, I proceeded on upwards until I reached, via a skylight, the massive expanses of roof, rising and falling like mathematical mountains, interpersed with forests of huge smoking chimneys.
I retained a smidgin of puff, as I scrambled over the rattly slate-racks, toting my heavy body with me. I felt as if I was lugging it from under the shoulders, ignoring the grunts of complaint which I recognised to be my own voice. And, at last, just as my breath was taken by the sky like an ocean would a drop of water, I realised what I needed to do. You see, and one as imaginative as you will see, death was much larger than life.
And Santa Claus had a present for someone not unlike the tiny tot I once was who now lay breathless in one of the many chimney-fed nurseries that were ensconced behind every gleaming corridor wall. And that present was Santa's own corpse which would prove that he had existed once, and the child who had believed in him would thus be vindicated. Yet the huge cross he'd also lugged up here pinned to the ends of his limbs had a wing-width too great even for the huge chimneys he'd overblown beyond anybody's imagination.
(Published 'Roisin Dubh' 1993)