Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be here in our rented apartment in Taylor Wimpey’s empty luxury development The Denizen. You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was. Chang is so pleased to see me improve! He laughed a little the other day, and said I seemed to be flourishing in spite of my wallpaper.
I turned it off with a laugh. I had no intention of telling him it was because of the wallpaper—he would make fun of me. He might even want to take me away. I don’t want to leave now until I have found it out. There is a week more and I think that will be enough.
I’m feeling ever so much better! I don’t sleep much at night, for it is so interesting to watch developments; but I sleep a good deal in the daytime. In the daytime it is tiresome and perplexing. There are always new shoots on the fungus and new shades of yellow all over it. I cannot keep count of them, though I have tried conscientiously.
It is the strangest yellow that wallpaper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw—not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things. But there is something else about that paper—the smell! I noticed it the moment we came into the flat. Now we have had a week of fog and rain, and whether the windows are open or not, the smell is here. It creeps all over Taylor Wimpey’s luxury ghost home development The Denizen. I find lying in wait for me on the stairs and in the lift. It gets into my hair.
Such a peculiar odor! I have spent hours in trying to analyze it, to find what it smelled like. It is not bad—at first, and very gentle, but quite the subtlest, most enduring odor I ever met. In this damp weather it is awful. I wake up in the night and find it hanging over me. It used to disturb me at first. I thought seriously of burning down The Denizen—to get rid of the smell. But now I am used to it. The only thing I can think of that it is like is the colour of the paper! A yellow smell.
There is a very funny mark on this wall, low down, near the skirting board. A streak that runs round the room. It goes behind every piece of furniture, except the bed, a long, straight, even smooch, as if it had been rubbed over and over. I wonder how it was done and who did it, and what they did it for. Round and round and round—round and round and round—it makes me dizzy!
I really have discovered something at last. Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out. The front pattern does move—and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.
Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern—it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.
They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside-down, and makes their eyes white! If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be half so bad. I think that woman gets out in the daytime! And I’ll tell you why—privately—I’ve seen her!
I can see her in the corridors of The Denizen and in the private cinema and games room in the basement! It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight. I see her creeping up and down. I see her in the pocket park at the back of the building, and creeping all around Fortune Street Park too.
I see her approaching the Giddy Up coffee stall in Fortune Street Park, creeping along, and when a car passes in Fortune Street or Golden Lane she hides in the bushes. I don’t blame her a bit. It must be very humiliating to be caught creeping by daylight!
I always lock the door when I creep by daylight. I can’t do it at night, for I know Chang would suspect something at once. And Chang is so queer now, that I don’t want to irritate him. I wish he would take another room! Besides, I don’t want anybody to get that woman out at night but myself.
I often wonder if I she is in several places at once. But turn as fast as I can, I can only see her in one place at a time. And though I always see her she may be able to creep faster than I can turn! I have watched her sometimes at the other end of Fortune Street Park, creeping as fast as a cloud shadow in a high wind.
If only that top pattern could be gotten off from the under one! I mean to try it, little by little. I have found out another funny thing, but I shan’t tell it this time! It does not do to trust people too much. There are only two more days to get this paper off, and I believe Chang is beginning to notice. I don’t like the look in his eyes.
Chang knows I don’t sleep very well at night, for all I’m so quiet! He asked me all sorts of questions, too, and pretended to be very loving and kind. As if I couldn’t see through him! Still, I don’t wonder he acts so, sleeping under this paper for three months. It only interests me, but I feel sure Chang is secretly affected by it.
Hurrah! This is the last night but it is enough. Chang is working a long and late shift. However I’m not alone! As soon as the sun set and that poor thing began to crawl and shake the pattern, I got up and ran to help her. I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we had peeled off yards of that paper. A strip about as high as my head and half around the room.
And then when the day broke and that awful pattern began to laugh at me I declared I would finish it before I left! We catch a flight home from Heathrow this evening. So I must get to work. I have locked the door and thrown the key out of a window. I don’t want to go out, and I don’t want to have anybody come in. When Chang returns I want to astonish him.
I got so angry with the wallpaper I bit off a little piece at one corner—but it hurt my teeth. Then I peeled off all the paper I could reach standing on the floor. It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it! All those strangled heads and bulbous eyes and waddling fungus growths just shriek with derision!
I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise. But I wouldn’t do it. Of course not. I know well enough that a step like that is improper and might be misconstrued. I don’t like to look out of the windows—there are so many of those creeping women and they creep so fast.
I wonder if they all come out of that wallpaper as I did? I am securely fastened now by a rope! I suppose I shall have to get back behind the pattern when night falls and that is hard! It is so pleasant to be out in this luxury apartment and creep around as I please! I don’t want to go outside. For outside you have to creep on the ground and everything is green instead of yellow. But here I can creep smoothly on the floor and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way.
Why there’s Chang at the door! It is no use, young man, you can’t open it! How he does call and pound! Now he’s demanding the concierge fetches him an axe. It would be a shame to break down that beautiful door!
“Chang dear!” said I in the gentlest voice, “the key is down on the ground, I threw it out the window”
That silenced him for a few moments. Then he said—very quietly indeed, “Open the door, my darling!”
“I can’t,” said I. “I threw key out of the window!”
And then I said it again, several times, very gently and slowly, and said it so often that he had to go and see, and he got it, of course, and came in. He stopped short by the door.
“What is the matter?” he cried. “For God’s sake, what are you doing!”
I kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him over my shoulder.
“I’ve got out at last,” said I, “in spite of you! And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!”
Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!