The Breathing

Cormac McKeever

School Closure Stories

Unschool Club

















Today was the day, finally, we move to a new house. I didn’t really know what to expect. My parents had made the decision while I had been in hospital after my “accident” and we hadn’t really talked about what the house looked like. Everything had been a bit strained recently, and I knew they wanted a fresh start. They said that wanted that for me, but I knew it was them too.  When we were driving through the new neighborhood, all the houses looked the same, pretty boring actually. When we finally pulled up outside number 13, there was little to tell it apart from the first 12. Two floors, pale yellow – a little worse for wear, with paint peels visible near the roof.


I was unpacking my stuff into my new room, when I first heard it: the breathing. Of course, I didn’t think it was breathing, I thought it was the pipes in the house, churning in a way that sounded like breathing, churning and churning, in out, in out. As I explored my room I noticed that it got louder and softer in different parts of the room and it was loudest as I got closer  to the wardrobe. I inched closer and closer and was about to push it aside until I heard my mum shouting, “CONOR, DINNER.”


“So, Conor, how do you think of the new house?” my dad asked, smilining a little too brightly. “It’s great dad … But if there was one thing, I think I should tell you abo- …” Mum interupts: “He loves it Harold, don’t you Conor.” My mum said with a look in her eyes that said if you cross me, I will crumple like a coca cola can in a hydraulic press. I knew that look. That look said: don’t ruin this. So I kept my moth shut.


As I was falling asleep later that night, I thought the breathing was getting louder. I kept telling myself it was just my imagination, but as I fell asleep – as I was on the brink of falling asleep – I just couldn’t shake the feeling that the breathing was beside me, right on top of me, looking down on me.


It was the next morning. I checked the time and cursed under my breath, somehow I had slept until noon. I thought my mum would have woken me at 8 for mass. I got up and quickly got changed into my church clothes. I ran to my parents’ room – but they were not there.  I wbut they were not there either. “ok, ok, let’s not panic, maybe they have gone shopping or they’re on business thing.” So, I made myself some cereal and hung out in my room, waiting for them to return.

I was so worried about where my parents were, I hadn’t noticed that the breathing stopped completely. Then, like a punch in the gut, screaming. Lots and lots of screaming. With my ears beating and hurting it felt like it was everywhere. Then as suddenly as it had started, the screaming stopped.  In the silence that follwed the screaming, I became aware of the breathing again. It became  heavier and louder and it seemed to be coming from behind the wardrobe. I took a deep breath and pushed it aside.

I was astounded to find when I pushed the wardrobe aside, there was a room behind it. The room was enormous. It was completely white, and so bright I had to shield my eyes until they adjusted to the brightness. The room itself was impossibly large in comparison to the house. Finally as my eyes adjusted, I could see I was not alone. In the far side of the room was a girl, in a white asylum jacket with black long hair. I couldn’t tell what her face looked like, because she was turned away facing the wall. I wanted to run far away, but I was paralyzed to the spot. Slowly, the girl straightens her back and she turns her head to look at me. Her skin was the whitest shade of white, and her eyes looked completely black. All of a sudden, I got dizzy, very dizzy and collapsed. When I woke up, I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t understand what I was seeing. Then I realized, I was looking at … me. I was wrapped in an asylum jacket and staring up at myself. Somehow, I was body swapped. I was in the girls body, and she was standing in mine, looking down at me. I tried to scream and shout at the girl – who was in my body – but all that came out was a croaking sound. She looked at me with pity, then she waved goodbye and closed the door.

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