I don't know how long I walked the dark streets. It was getting light in the sky by the time I found myself shivering on the doorstep of my friend Torbin. He answered the door in dressing-gown and pyjamas, clutching a teddy bear that looked as if it ought to be called Aloysius. At first Torbin looked distinctly annoyed at being disturbed so early, but his expression melted into one of concern as he took in my dishevelled and footsore appearance.
Shortly, I was sitting inside, wrapped in a blanket dangerously close to a electric fire extravagantly set to maximum output. Torbin made me hot sweet tea, the same remedy that my mother would have applied under the circumstances, and listened to my garbled explanation. He shook his head as I tried to relate the transitory experience in the Pink Room, then frowned deeply when spoke of how Rave had tried to kill me.
Thanks to his charitable works, Torbin was no stranger to dealing with emotionally-charged situations. With him and his older colleague from the charity, we returned to the old house. When we arrived, Rave was slumped on the front doorstep, his head resting on his arms and looking as if he had been there all night. I shook his shoulder and spoke his name; only when he looked up I could see that his wrists were cut and dripping blood; the doormat where he lay was soaked.
I reeled away, sickened and horrified. Torbin's colleague ran inside to the phone - fortunately the front door was not locked - and called an ambulance while Torbin did his best to staunch the flow of blood. I was useless in this situation, alternately retching noisily and sobbing pitifully. Finally, the paramedics arrived and we were both hurried away.
Rave never again entered the old house or indeed completed his degree at the University. Somehow the message had got through, and his parents turned up at the hospital to tend for him. As soon as he was discharged, they took him away with his wrists bandaged.
Later, I would write politely to the home address I had been given, and received a stilted and formal reply that Rave had been admitted to one of those places in the country which catered for those who needed complete rest. Apparently, he had suffered some kind of psychological collapse the cause of which was sufficiently indeterminate that the catch-all description of "a nervous breakdown" was the only one which could be used.
I myself only lasted another few weeks in the old house, living there on my own. I had no stomach for parties and entertaining, instead dedicating myself to my work with long hours in the laboratories and libraries, and then drinking far too much, too quickly in a local hostelry until it was closing time. My nights were still disturbed, despite the squandering of the remnants of my modest student grant on excessive amounts of alcohol.
Oh, the house was as silent as one could have wished for, disturbed only by the noise of passing traffic and the eructation of the dragon in the basement as the ancient heating system switched itself on in the mornings. Perhaps it was my imagination but now there was sometimes a brooding presence in the old place. I could not even bring myself to go upstairs to Rave's old room, for I would have to pass the doorway to the Pink Room.
I decided to leave; I could stand no more. After a couple of pleading phone calls, I threw myself on the mercy of a friend and his ancient sofa, and rapidly packing my few meagre belongings into the boot and back seat of the battered old van of another friend who had somehow managed to acquire both driving licence and operational wheels.
With my acquaintances standing on the doorstep waiting patiently, I summoned the courage to investigate the Pink Room. I put my hand on the doorknob and turned. Nothing happened. Somehow the door was once again locked and, as far as I could see from squinting through the key-hole, the key was still in the lock.
I turned and ran, never entering the old house again.