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  • Writer's pictureDarryl Dawson

What's it all about?: "The Crawlspace" (Part 1 of an ongoing series)

In an attempt to answer some of your questions of where my ideas come from, I'm giving you the stories behind the stories in this series of posts that will appear from time to time in my blog. If there's a particular short story that you've enjoyed that you're curious about, leave a comment either here or in the "Questions/Comments" section on the front page of this website.

Here's a useful tip for all you up-and-coming professional writers: If you're putting together a collection, make sure you give it a name that sticks. For my first book, I chose to name it after the story "The Crawlspace," because the name summons images of dark, unclean places, which is where many of the stories in the book go. Despite it not being a particularly original name as I would discover later, it fits like a glove.

The story was an early concept, first put to paper in the late 1990's then stored somewhere and forgotten. It's a story about home, particularly about how much it changes after you've been away from it awhile. It was Thomas Wolfe who said "You can't go home again"...or at least he wrote a book by that name, I'm not sure. Anyway, it's true, especially for those born in Los Angeles in the mid-1960's. When you return to your hometown after a long absence, the changes can range from subtle to glaring. Even the house you grew up in doesn't feel quite right. You soon come to the realization that you are getting old, and those little pieces of your childhood that slipped away are never coming back.

The titular room is based on an actual place in my Harbor City home. In my bedroom, there was an ordinary closet with sliding doors and enough room to hang five times what my wardrobe was at the time. On the left-hand side of the closet was a Door To Somewhere. It was just a small door, a yard by a yard at the most. Christmas decorations were stored in the space behind it, but for me it served no purpose. It wasn't that it was forbidden (my parents never made any specific order against opening that little door); it was just never spoken of, hidden from view by my Hang Ten shirts, a domestic mystery. One night I decided to solve that mystery on my own.

Wearing only my pajamas, I opened the Door To Somewhere and crawled in. What I found was a dark, dusty place composed of wood and decomposing fiberglass. No light, no sound. Unfriendly. I felt a strange sensation walking in that tiny portion of the house like I was the only little boy in the world. I liked that feeling. I sat in the room for a few minutes, absorbed in cool, dark silence. And then my skin began to itch. Violent, stinging little itches that made me feel like my body was on fire. I came out covered in dirt and some kind of insectoid vermin that bit almost every inch of my skin. My mom and dad spent the night rubbing my arms and legs with calamine lotion. I never opened that door again.


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