We weren’t allowed into the basement, despite the hours he spent there. It was his space, and we – as children – were required to respect that. Every day after dinner he would disappear down there for an hour or two at least, until it was time to come and tuck us into bed. When he emerged he would seem dazed, blinking in the brightness. He always seemed distracted, as though he’d come from some other world.
One day, back early from school, Sis and I snuck down there. We took the key from the hook and opened the door, then crept down into the dark with torches and trembling hands. Down there, in the middle of the room, was a huge table covered in miniature trees and hills. Miniature houses. Miniature train tracks and miniature people.
We scanned the landscape with our searchlight beams. There was a house that resembled ours. And there was a window. Looking in we saw a dining room that matched our own. With infinite care, Sis reached out and plucked the house from its foundations. There was the basement, complete with two creeping children.