I had quite liked the loom to begin with. It seemed an impossibly complicated contraption to make something as simple as a rug. The frame itself was about eight foot by eight foot square and four foot high, so it filled practically the whole of the attic room in our new house. The attic room that I once had in mind for my writing. It would have been perfect for me – the two large skylights offering plenty of light, without the distractions of watching life go by in the street below. It had been simply converted by the previous owners, with wooden floor boards, sloping plaster-boarded walls painted white, and the two end walls left as brickwork. But Maria, my wife and the weaver of the house, was adamant that the attic was to be her weavery, and seemed most unsympathetic towards my needs. So I was condemned to work on my laptop in the cramped spare bedroom of our three-storey Victorian town-house.
I even helped her set the loom up. Intrigued by the many pieces of wood and machinery with interesting names such as warp rods, lams, treadles, heddles and lease sticks. It took the best part of a day to assemble, but once Maria was up and running I sat at my laptop in the room below and tried to work on the novel I was writing. I found it impossible to concentrate, thanks to the rhythmic thuds and rattles from above as she operated the treadles with her feet and shot the shuttle back and forth – threading the weft between the lengthwise threads known as the warp. After a couple of hours I ventured up to the attic to investigate.
‘How’s it going?’
‘Great,’ she said. ‘Look.’ I looked. The first couple of inches of a blue and red rug spanned the width of the loom. That was a lot of noise for a couple of inches. She was clearly in her element, her face beaming, her blond pony tail swinging as she arranged the cones of yarn around her. This was her space, her dream.
‘Mmm – lovely,’ I said, immediately aware of, and regretting, the complete lack of enthusiasm in my voice. Her face fell and she immediately resumed the noisy weave.
As the days went by my nerves were increasingly on edge. It seemed like every time I needed some peace to collect my thoughts and work on my novel she would be up there – thudding and rattling. The atmosphere in the house was gloomy. We chatted less and less – I never asked how her weaving was going, she never asked about my book.
One day I was sitting at my desk, desperately trying to squeeze a few words out above the din of the loom, when I heard the front door open below. Odd, as we were the only two to have keys. She must have heard it as well as the sound of her weaving stopped immediately. I quickly went to the top of the stairs and to my surprise saw Maria struggling through the front door, laden with shopping bags.
‘Yes?’ She sounded grumpy.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Who’s upstairs weaving? I thought it was you, the loom’s been banging all morning.’
‘Well I’m not weaving, I’ve clearly been shopping,’ she said in the sarcastic tone I hated. A tone she used more and more these days. I quickly went up the stairs to the attic and, suddenly feeling very apprehensive, pushed open the door. No one there. The loom stood, stationary. I frowned deeply – I couldn’t have imagined that racket – I’d been sitting underneath it, cursing it, for hours. No one had come out of the room and the skylights were closed. What on earth was going on? I mentioned it again over supper but Maria just sighed and looked at me as if was losing it. Maybe I was.
The next day I again was sitting beneath the thud and rattle when the front doorbell rang.
‘Can you get it?’ Maria yelled from upstairs. I went down and opened the door to find my old friend Oliver standing there with a bunch of flowers.
‘Belated house-warming present.’
‘Thanks mate, come in.’ I chatted a while with Oliver in the kitchen while the weaving continued two floors up.
‘What is that noise?’ he eventually asked.
‘It’s Maria on her bloody loom – finally got it set up in the attic. Driving me mad to be honest – the noise I mean. Why don’t you go up and say hello.’
Oliver disappeared upstairs and I went back to my study, hoping for a few minutes’ peace while they talked. I could vaguely hear the muffled sound of their voices, then a good deal of giggling, and then the loom started up again. I expected Oliver to return, now that she had restarted her work, but after half an hour there was still no sign of him. Curiosity got the better of me and I went up. It was Oliver who was doing the weaving, Maria leaning over him, showing him what to do, unnecessarily close.
‘This is great!’ enthused Oliver glancing up at me.
‘He’s a natural,’ said Maria. I could think of no reply and left them to it.
Over the next few weeks my mood deteriorated further. I talked with Maria about the loom-noise making it impossible for me to work, but it seemed she couldn’t care less. If anything, she spent longer and longer at the loom each day. We spoke less, we spent less time with each other, and I started sinking into a depression. To make matters worse, Oliver’s visits became more frequent, and he was clearly coming to see Maria rather than me. They would spend hours in the attic together. Their laughter mingling with the thuds from the loom to enrage me further. My occasional brief visits to the attic revealed that they were taking it in turns to weave. The rug had become their rug. I became angry, dejected, jealous. The more fun they had in that damned attic the more I festered below. And all this just because he showed an interest in the loom and I didn’t. The loom of doom as I now called it. I had even helped build the confounded contraption for God’s sake, and now it was unravelling our marriage. Unravelling my sanity. Unravelling my life.
At night I would sleep fitfully, thuds and rattles ever-present in my brain, my waking hours increasingly spent searching for an answer to my torment. I had tried discussing it with Maria, and even Oliver himself, but they seemed so obsessed with their project, with each other, that I got nowhere. I was going out my mind. My attempts at writing my novel had become lines of gibberish about hate and jealousy and revenge. In my deranged state I even contemplated murder. Yes, the murder of both of them. Suddenly it seemed so simple – I would start a fire on the landing – plenty of petrol would get it raging within seconds. They would be so engrossed in their love-loom that they wouldn’t notice until too late. And there would be no escape – the skylights only accessing steep roofs and long drops. The two of them and their instrument would all be incinerated. With my new idea my depression was suddenly extinguished, and replaced with hope, glee and the joyful feeling of impending freedom.
I thought I had three enemies: two humans and the cursed loom, but I was wrong. The very next day as I sat beneath the din of the weaving, plotting my arson, I was again surprised to hear the front door being opened. Don’t tell me she’s given him a bloody key! The loom stopped but I was determined to give him a piece of my mind so rushed to the top of the stairs only to find Oliver and Maria entering the house.
‘The loom’s at it again,’ was all I could say.
‘Don’t be so stupid,’ said Maria as she came up the stairs and pushed past me. I went down to confront Oliver in the kitchen. He was standing at the sink, filling the kettle. It looked like he was filling his kettle, in his kitchen. It was as if I no longer existed in their lives. I needed to tell him how hurt I was, how betrayed I felt. He had to know before I burned them alive that very afternoon. But as I opened my mouth to speak a chilling scream came from the attic. Oliver spun round and stared at me, eyes wide. We were both frozen with shock but further hideous screams got us moving. He beat me to the bottom of the stairs and we both ran upwards. Maria’s screams were those of someone in great pain, but were almost drowned out by the noise of the loom – suddenly banging and clanking with more ferocity than ever. Then, just as Oliver reached the attic door, all noises stopped.
We burst in together, Oliver almost immediately crumpling to his knees with the shock of the sight before us. Maria was woven into the rug. At least her top half was – her legs stuck out of the end of the loom, yet to be incorporated into the fabric. She was face down between the warps, arms outstretched as if crucified, her head twisted to one side. The strong threads squashed her entire body to a bizarre flatness, even her cheeks were pushed together forcing her mouth into a grotesque pout, as saliva and blood trickled from her lips to the floor. Her lifeless eyes stared.
‘Oh my God!’ breathed Oliver. ‘Get the police. GET THE POLICE!’
I turned and ran for the stairs my mind spinning. That should be me on my knees with shock, not him.
Downstairs my hand hovered over the phone. What were the police going to do anyway? What the hell was I going to say – Come quick, a loom has eaten my wife? It looked like the large can of petrol I had hidden in the garage was not needed anymore. I realised that after all, the loom was my friend, my ally, my accomplice. And as I had this very thought I heard a crash followed by Oliver’s yells. He shouted, screamed, pleaded and whimpered. I just stood there listening. His screams became hysterical and high pitched, and then abruptly stopped as I heard another crash. And then there was silence.
I slowly climbed back up the two flights of stairs and pushed open the attic door. Maria still lay, suspended, woven into her precious rug. Their precious rug. And Oliver, now, was spread-eagled against the back wall of the attic, pinned to the wall by the main beam of the loom which passed through his ribcage, straight through his heart, and into the brickwork behind. His head hung. Blood trickled down the beam to merge with Maria’s pool on the floor. The silence was delicious.
Waves of peace washed over me. I knew I was in no danger. The loom I had once quite liked, and then learned to hate, had merely carried out my wishes. The loom had been on my side all along and I hadn’t realised it. And now the two sources of my pain were dead and I was entirely blameless. Perfect. I closed the attic door, went down to my study, and started to write.