The chair sits quietly tucked into the table in the corner of the room. It is a fairly nondescript four-legged, armless dining chair with an upright spindled back and struts between the legs keeping it together.
There is a central pattern carved into the middle piece of wood to the back of it, like a small wheel. Sitting upon it is a cushion, tied on with long fabric straps. A deep cushion decorated with whimsical images of owls, flowers and roosters, perhaps more in keeping with a kitchen setting than a living room, but a pretty cushion nonetheless.
Holly, a small 10 year old girl from along the street, has visited this afternoon to return a book that she borrowed. She enjoyed reading it so much that she insisted on returning it straight away to make sure it came back safely, which was very touching and a little on the earnest side for such a young child.
Of all the chairs she could have sat on, she pulls out the wooden armless dining chair and flops down upon it, as though the weight of the world is on her small shoulders. She then starts to play with the fabric ties looped around the back, folding and unfolding the taut cotton between her fingers.
All of a sudden, she starts to whisper quietly as though reciting a poem or reading:
“Of little things in little places,
Move with whirling sounds,
Go up away, go up away
Take flight to places unfound”
And before I could see what happens next in any great detail, like you do in a dream when you play it back in your mind over and over, the chair hovers above the floor, turns ever so slightly in mid-air and starts moving across the room. The little girl looks like she’s in a trance and she continues to recite those words over and over as the chair starts to gain a little height, dancing erratically.
I’m terrified. I can’t move. I can’t work out what’s going on and the expression on the child’s face is disturbing; has she been possessed; is she under some sort of spell? I try to help her, reach up towards the chair but it jerks away from me in the air, snatching the child further and further away from me. I notice that the huge sash window to the opposite side of our room is wide open and the chair is moving towards it.
Panic-stricken, I run blindly towards the opening hoping to reach it before the inevitable happens. Alas, I am too late and too slow. The chair instinctively knows my movements and, with its precious cargo on board, whizzes out into the warm summer day. Gone.
I crane my head out to follow its path into the sky. Holly is now gripping the back of the chair tightly, a look of fear on her face. What will her mother think? She has stopped reciting the words and looks like she could start crying at any moment. It’s the tiny people walking beneath her that frighten her; she’s so high up. She didn’t mind it so much when they were in the room (and she had it under her control whilst she spoke the magic words) but the second it left the house, it took control. Holly didn’t know that it could do this. Initially, she didn’t mind feeling the sunshine on her face, the wind wipping through her long blonde hair. But as soon as she noticed the little, tiny people the size of ants beneath her feet, all hope drained from her face and she felt quite sick.
“Come back! Come back this instance, Chair!” I shout, hoping in a largely helpless manner that my pleas will make some difference. I think I see the chair falter slightly near a lamp-post as I speak, as though it has heard me and I have affected it in some way. Holly sees me waving frantically and calling; she waves back but quickly regains her grip with both hands, the unpredictable nature of the chair’s flight really scarying her.
I call out once more and this time, the chair definitely hears me. I know because it literally stops moving around and simply hovers. “Come back to the house, Chair. Bring Holly back. She didn’t want to fly outside. Come back!”
Low and behold, with a little quiver and a wobble, it moves Holly back to the window, swooping slow and low until it finally plops down in the middle of the room. It momentarily jiggles on its legs, as though finally deciding that it wants to be on the rug, and then nothing. No more floating, jerking, whizzing or flying; it’s a chair again.
Holly hops off as quickly as possible, like a leaping gazelle who acts like her bottom’s on fire. Once away from the offending furniture, she turns and stares at it in disbelief.
“What were you saying when you first sat down, Holly? I think it made it fly.”
“Oh, just something a man once taught me when he came round to fix our sofa. They reckoned it did magical things to furniture…but not every piece just certain items. I didn’t really believe him. I definitely didn’t think that it would work.”
“Well, I think you’ve proved it does work. I would be very careful next time you take a seat and remember that rhyme, don’t you?!”
“Yes….I think so!”
And she left. I picked up the chair and put it away, staring at it briefly. As I walked out to the kitchen, I could have sworn I heard something rattling slightly.