Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Out with the old: A creepy tale of renovation

Bird silhouetted against a window. Not an introduction to Hitchcock movies, but a window of an old flat caked with dust, accumulated since the flat was built in the 1980s, thick with bird droppings. Time for a bit of renovation.

This is fiction, of course, but inspired by bits and pieces of memory:

"DO you do basic renovation?" the lady in blue asked. And that was how a spooky tale unfolded for Danny and Jane, a young couple running a renovation business.

It turned out that the basic renovation which the lady in blue had mentioned was not very basic. It was rather considerable. Besides the basics such as new cabinets, toilet bowls and lighting she had also wanted a wall hacked down so that the second bedroom would merge with the living room -- and form a much bigger living room. She also wanted her floor tiles changed to "something more modern".

Smiling widely but rather genuinely, Danny said, "Yes we do!" The smile got wider as the list of the lady's requirements got longer and longer -- so much so that he had a bit of problem keeping pace.

"We would need to take a look at your house," he finally said as he added the last full-stop with a bit of flourish, to the list.

Chapter 2
It was a bright and sunny day as Danny and Jane parked their car outside Blk 333, Ang Meng San Road. The lady in blue was already waiting for them at the HDB lift.

"Your timing is good!" she said as she led them to her flat.

The flat was indeed very run down. The window grills have started rusting so badly that they looked ready to fall off any moment. Curtains were just bed sheets clipped onto the grills with big clothes pegs. But they were very effective in keeping off the light.

There was a musty smell about the place as Danny and Jane entered the dark house. "Sorry," said the lady in blue (again... blue seemed to be her favourite colour). "The lights aren't working. So are the fans. Now you see why I really need renovation here!" she said, with a laugh.

The wirings were particularly bad. They were exposed and caked with dust and dirt. "You need rewiring," said Danny, tapping his finger on a stretch of exposed wires. And just as he was doing that, he felt a jolt, like a mild current running through his hand. "Yes, you definitely need rewiring," he said softly.

Chapter 3
"Set, here's the key to my house... I appreciate it that you are overseeing the whole renovation for me. I really can't take off from work," said the lady in blue (yet again... her favourite colour is indeed blue).

It was again a bright and sunny day when the renovation crew reached Blk 333. The door swung open easily as Danny slipped in the key. Again, the musty smell hit their nose. Compared to the brightness outside, the house was unusually dark... and there seemed to be a bit of a draft. Strange, as it's so sunny outside, Danny thought to himself.

The first thing to go were the kitchen cabinets, and the crew set to the task with their usual gusto -- knocking and hammering at the frayed pieces of wood and yanking them off the walls. The lady in blue apparently has done a good job of packing. Those which were not to be thrown away were put into crates. She specifically told Danny that those in crates were not to be thrown away with the old cabinets, the old sofa, and the old fridge (which she said was still working, just that she wanted to get a new one, one of those which doesn't need defrosting).

The place was strangely still and quiet. Usually, nosy neighbours would come around and poke their noses in to watch the progress of the renovation and to see what kind of newfangled stuffs were being installed. But none of that. Nobody outside along the corridor either -- the whole day.

The crew continued their labour in earnest.

Chapter 4  
Danny had the greatest surprise of his life the next day. As usual, he met his renovation crew at 10am at the lift to take them up the house. But the key didn't work this time round. It didn't even seem to fit. The door refused to budge. He called the lady in blue to see if she had suddenly gone off her rocker and changed the door lock. But the voice message said: "This is your M1 Service. The number you called is incorrect."

Danny felt a lurch in his heart. The lady in blue had not paid a deposit. She said she needed just a few days, and could they start work first. Despite a feeling of uneasiness, Danny had agreed. He pitied her... (yes, reno guys do have a heart) and also he needed the business -- and the job if completed, would rake in big bucks.

Just as he was wondering whether he should call the police, a Filipino maid opened the door. "Yes? Sir and Madam not in," she said in a frazzled voice.

Through the half open door, Danny saw a sight which startled him off his skin. The tiles on the floor were not the speckled green, black and white terrazzo of the 60s which they were supposed to hack off, but modern white tiles. There were certainly no uncovered wires running like veins round the ceiling and down the walls.

"Is your Madam, Ms Jenny Wong?" Danny asked the maid who by now, was joined by a white barking Spitz trying to snap at Danny's heels.

"No Jenny Wong, Sir..." and the door was slammed in his face.

Blk 333, unit 05, but where did the one with the musty smell and the 60's decor go?

Chapter 5
It was some six months down the road. Danny and Jane had more or less put the episode out of their mind. There are some things in this world which cannot be explained away. Life goes on.

The young couple has a liking for flea market as sometimes they can find something that would just fit perfectly into the interior design of a client. There was one going on outside Tanglin Mall that Sunday morning.

As Jane was going through some old clothes hung on a rack, a blue dress caught her eye. It looked familiar somehow. It was very retro, with an A-line skirt and scoop neckline. Simple, with bell-shaped sleeves that reach the elbows. It was going for $5.

"Where did you find this dress?" she asked the woman who was manning the stall.

"Frankly, I picked it up from an old HDB estate. Its unique blue caught my eye. I happened to like blue. The sleeve of the dress was hanging out from a crate that was left at a dumping corner," she said.

"The rest of the stuff in the box were useless junk though, like photo albums, broken crockery, rice cooker, etc... I kept one photograph actually because the girl in it was wearing the blue dress. See, this one here... I pinned it up here so that customers can see how the dress looks when worn."

Danny and Jane recognised the girl in the photograph, almost at once.

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