You enter her through a tall, narrow doorway. This is impossible without an invitation. A hallway decorated
with red wallpaper welcomes you. In darker red: stems, leaves, stamens, petals. Voluptuous, monstrous
roses. You can hear a soprano singing upstairs. Once inside, you are free to roam at will.
The living room is cluttered with naked men on all fours, forming coffee tables, armchairs, a sofa. An
amusing tableau. The air is thick with sweat and aftershave.
In the kitchen, you will find a fridge made of teeth and a wooden table, on which a chess board has been
set up. Black to mate white in one move. Do not open the oven: its door conceals Hellmouth. Previous
tenants can still be heard screaming down there.
The dining room is used only for formal occasions, principally wakes. Everything in here is black: walls, floor,
ceiling, furniture. A single naked lightbulb (painted black, out of respect) hangs low, inches from the table.
Eating is strictly prohibited.
There is a downstairs loo. It is rarely visited, except for by men desperate to masturbate in peace.
She has a garden, but we won’t go there. If you really want to have a look, go back to the living room and
out through the patio doors. It’s not very interesting.
Go upstairs, guided by the singing. There are three bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor. One
bedroom door is made of meat, one is cracked white plastic, and one is covered in a wiry gloss of dead flies.
Making the right choice is crucial. Once you’re in, you’re in. You have to be sure you can commit. All three
rooms have their merits, as you can imagine, but you have to be right for the room, otherwise you’ll end up
in a pickle.
The bathroom contains stainless steel machines designed to scrub your filthy genitals and rinse your
There is an attic too. Go and have a look. Follow the singing. The stairs end in a door. Open it. Step in. There
is no need for me to tell you what is waiting for you in there. Try to enjoy it. The sores will heal, with time.
If you ever come back, I recommend a visit to the basement. Accounts vary. Some describe it as an
unremarkable storage area that smells of damp. Others insist that it houses unspeakable horrors. A small
minority claim that descent into the basement induces an overwhelming sense of tranquility. They are all
wrong. Why don’t you find out for yourself?
How to write a novel
Empty the contents of the box onto the table.
Place the lid of the box face-up on the table. The picture on the lid is what you must emulate.
Very, very slowly, assemble the pieces. Ensure that every piece fits perfectly into those adjacent to it and that you do not deviate in any way from the picture on the lid of the box.
At the earliest opportunity, tell people you are writing a novel. Do not become angry when they express mirth or a lack of interest.
Continue assembling. Tell yourself that this is important work and not a mere hobby.
Pause now and then to sit back and admire your handiwork.
A considerable length of time will pass before you finish your novel. Do not rush it: haste leads to errors. Keep returning to the table, the picture you are trying to recreate, your work-in-progress, the jumble of unplaced pieces.
Remind people that you are writing a novel. Do not become angry when they express surprise that you still haven’t finished it.
When you have placed the final piece in the correct place, savour the moment. Now take in every detail:
the cosy domestic interior, the young woman, the boy, their relationship, their story.
Optionally, remove the pieces representing the faces of the young woman and the boy. The dark wood of
the table becomes their masks. The story is enigmatic now, perhaps frightening.
Alternatively, dismantle the picture and create a new one at random from the pieces, forcing them
together even if they do not fit exactly. Discard pieces you do not like. Make a strange shape.
If you wish to turn your novel into a poem, simply set fire to it.
Finally, leave the room and never return.
How to make a poem
For the best results, you will need a magnifying glass and the sun. If these are unavailable, a box of matches
or cigarette lighter will do.
First, gather together a bundle of dry leaves, sticks and other flammable objects from your garden.
Optionally, douse them with petrol or alcohol.
Next, place your bundle on a flat surface and set it alight.
Stand well back and watch the flames.
Advanced poems require more ambitious materials, for example a book, a chessboard, a tree or a house.
Do not worry if your poem does not rhyme or does not make sense, or if your whole neighbourhood is
consumed in a conflagration. It is out of your hands. A poem cannot be controlled by its maker.
James Knight is an experimental poet and digital artist, whose work has appeared recently in Fur Lined Ghettos, The Interpreter’s House and Guest. Void Voices, his reimagining of Dante’s Inferno, was published by Hesterglock Press in 2018. Two of the pieces (“How to write a novel” and “How to write a poem”) have appeared recently in Spanish, in Luvina, the literary magazine of the University of Guadalajara, Mexico. Website: thebirdking.com. Twitter: @badbadpoet.
Banner Image by James Knight.