I was an old man, living in a very old abandoned house. It was more of a shack really, consisting mainly of one large room with crumbling wallpaper and gas lamp fixtures mounted on the wall that were years out of use. There was a cot tucked away in a corner where I slept, and the rest of the room had been converted into a workshop of some sort. A roll-top desk, as well as several wooden tables, were stacked with books, sheet music, maps, charts, and various measuring instruments. A white lily bloomed in a jar, stimulated by a mild electrical current. There was no furnace in the house, and my only source of heat and light was a fireplace which had the springs and gears from a broken clock scattered on the mantle. I had only the contents of the room to fuel the fire. I spent the winter nights deliberating about which books and papers I could spare to keep me alive.
Since I didn’t officially hold the deed to the house, I suppose I was technically homeless, or at the very least a squatter. With my ragged coat and unkempt beard, I looked every bit the part. The police would frequently stop by to harass me, knocking at the door or tapping at the window pane. It seems that they couldn’t exactly prove that I didn’t own the house, but they hoped to trip me up with their questions. Sometimes I suffered these interrogations with as much polite equanimity as I could muster. Other times I couldn’t deal with it, so I took to to hiding down in the cellar with the spiders.
On one such occasion, as I crouched in the dark, I could hear the officers’ muffled voices outside. They were taunting and threatening to arrest another homeless man that I knew who was a friend of mine. I heard the thud and tired groan as he stumbled into the snowbank, followed by the cops’ laughing as they hauled him up. I felt compelled to respond to this. I stirred in my damp hole, but then a strange hand, more prudent than my own, reached out of the dark and covered my mouth, preventing me from calling out. If I came to the defense of another homeless man, I would be giving myself away.