“The Cupboard of Winds” by Marion Pitman
The first thing I noticed was when the radio cleared its throat. I don’t sleep well and tend to leave the radio on all night, so when I wake up at five in the morning it’s there. I was just wishing I could sleep for another couple of hours, when in one of those pauses between discs, I heard this throat-clearing. First I thought, That’s odd; then I thought, The presenter must have left the mic on, or not realised the piece has finished. Then a voice said, “Are you awake?”
I realised then that I must be still asleep and dreaming so I said, “No.” And saying it woke me up.
The radio said, “Good. It’s about the draughts.”
“You must have noticed how draughty this house is. Haven’t you wondered where it’s coming from?”
“Uh.” I’m talking to the radio. It’s talking to me. I must be dreaming. OK, it’s one of those dreams where you think you’ve woken up but you haven’t. “Yeah. Yeah, it’s a very draughty house. I’ve tried putting stuff round the doors. It doesn’t seem to come from the windows. Maybe it’s air currents. From the radiators. Um, who are you?”
“Who I am doesn’t matter.” I’m listening to the voice now; it’s male, cultured, hard to tell the age. “Just find out.”
[…] The draught was plainly blowing from one side of the landing; it was blowing, in fact, from a large cupboard. You’d think it’s an airing cupboard, being where it is, but it’s not, and it’s too shallow from front to back to be a lot of use for anything. It tended to fill up with stuff I couldn’t be arsed to throw out, or that I use once or twice a year: Christmas decorations, board games, old greeting cards, the remains of a coffee set of my great-aunt’s, a broken tennis racket, magazines I’m going to throw out when I’m sure I don’t need to keep them – you know the sort of thing.
Now here’s the problem. This cupboard is on an inside wall, and it doesn’t have a chimney. So there couldn’t be a draught blowing out of it, right? I put down the candle, which promptly blew out, and opened the cupboard door.
Inside was quite a large space, dusty and untidy, and still containing the things that should have been in there, but considerably larger than when I last looked. In the middle, sitting on a heap of old magazines, was a tall, pale woman.
. . .