Behind every twitched curtain, eyes twinkled. The issue came with whether they twinkled with glee, gladness or gore. How could one judge a sparkle in the night, a flash in infinity except with one’s heart. So, I walked through that village to nowhere smiling sweet kindnesses. I didn’t walk out.
I hear them giggle. I feel them wiggle. I smell an unknown scent. My wife is with another man and a rage I have suppressed for a decade surfaces.
Why I carry a knife I do not know, but I do and it feels good in my palm. I act before they stir.
I stab and thrust and slice and cut and power my way through the virgin white duvet cover that shimmers in the moonlight. The fact Helen has bought a new cover, replacing the green one I chose, only increases my rage. For five long minutes, I finally show her who’s boss.
When done, I am tired but glad. I reach for the light switch which slips into my wet fingers as it should. A swift flick and we have illumination.
The bed is red. The room is red. Everything, everywhere is a liquid crimson. I look down. My new shoes are splattered beyond repair. This is the final straw. I storm out of our bedroom, down the creaking stairs and out onto the crunching gravel and scream a scream to wake God himself.
There is a click from the adjacent house and an upstairs window opens.
“What are you doing, love?” says a woman who looks just like Helen.
“Just breaking in my new shoes,” I reply, as I wipe the knife on my trousers.
The landing has a familiar air that the other rooms have not. I know there’s a picture of Helen and myself looking right at me even if I can’t see it. The picture is yet another bane; it is of our wedding day, a constant reminder of my shackles.
I sneak towards our bedroom: first door on the left. At last, the moon has deigned to show its face and shines a weak light under the door, the first to be closed in the way I expect. This angers me as what’s the good of closing a bedroom door if every other is wide open? A riddle for when I’ve slept.
I open said door in silence. The hinges I regularly oil are as quiet as I wish the stairs had been. I shut it behind me with a slight click that sounds more like an explosion in the midnight morgue.
Our bedroom curtains are thin, although tonight they seem thinner than usual, the moon pouring in from a newly unveiled night. I hate thin curtains! They stop me sleeping. I am and always have been a terrible sleeper. I might as well not bother. The absence of darkness only furthers this issue and again I curse my wife. Everything I do is for her, nothing is for me. I grow angry as I trip on a pair of large, male shoes. I am wearing my only shoes?
To Be Continued…
I bumble my way across the dining room to the foot of the stairs. Here, I pause. I know full well the first three steps creak from shoddy workmanship. Even though our house is still new in the timespan of such things, the stairs are a constant noisy annoyance. I step to the right which negates said creaking, but creak it does and I curse again. I blame my new shoes. It must be them.
If I wake Helen, she’ll get cross. But if there’s someone here, an intruder, as I suspect there is, then time is of the essence. What to do? What to do?
In my usual way, I compromise. I’m a man who always compromises. From the house we live in to the shoes on my feet, I have made compromises. I moved here for Helen to be close to her mother, an ailing chicken of a woman who hates me. The shoes I wear are brogues; I hate brogues. I bought them because Helen liked them and now their stupid, unforgiving leather is slowing my climb to save a woman who, in turn, is a compromise. Hey-ho, what’s a man to do? I climb. I ascend.
To Be Continued…
I run my fingertips across our new kitchen doors; they seem less polished, more ragged than the lacquered finish that cost me a holiday and a year of moaning. I don’t know why this is because I bought them for Helen, or so I convince my obsequious self each new day that I fawn upon them. One… two… three doors to the left and I reach back to the light switch. The switch has gone!
More alarmed now, I manoeuvre myself into the open-plan dining room banging my foot on a chair that usually resides pressed back to the wall. My new shoes are going to hate me, they’ll be ruined before the day is through.
It is a relief to grab the patio curtains and fling them aside, but I’ve forgotten there’s no moon tonight and it’s still as dark as ever. I curse under my breath. Cursing is a frequent pastime.
I want to shout out, to hail my wife and receive an answer. I don’t though. Whether it’s because it’s close to midnight, or whether I fear the reply, instead, I shuffle to the stairs.
Where are you Helen? Where are you?
To Be continued…
The gravel driveway crackles in explosions of conflicting mass, tyres on stones. It’s impossible to see who wins this war as the security light isn’t on. But it should be on? It’s always on?
I skip from the car like a child of six just glad to be home from another remorseless evening, forget my briefcase, and stub my toe on returning. Scuffing my brand new shoes is a second little annoyance. Damn it’s dark!
I root for my key; it’s buried deep, deep, deep in my pocket next to something else. When I find it, the metal cold to my touch, it’s rendered redundant. The house is unlocked. It’s never unlocked?
The door opens to a whoosh of air as though I’m a sub-mariner decompressing from hours spent under water. There’s a stale smell like a rotting rat lying dead at the side of the road because nobody dares touch it for fear of catching the plague, or getting blood on their brand new shoes. Where is Helen? Where is my wife?
To Be Continued…
“There’s never been a day without darkness.”
I remember my dad’s words with a clarity not afforded much else. He’d adjusted his starched collar with one finger as he spoke them, a bead of sweat noticeable beside one eye. This was unlike him; he never got flustered.
As I’m sure you’re thinking, too, every day is followed by night, so why the need for such melodrama? Why the need for such histrionics?
Now, as the lights dim to a claret night and the fire burns behind my eyes, as bones crack and the animal appears, I understand the truth. Soon, so will you.
One never expects to be told they’re dead not even by God himself. Is it not supposed to be a quick transition, a passage from light to dark to light again? Yet there I was lying in my hospital bed when a figure dressed head to toe in flowing black robes bent low and whispered those very words. To say I was taken aback only scratched the surface of my indignation.
“Oh, am I?” I’d returned, then felt more stupid than a goat eating chicken wire.
The figure nodded to a cracking of bones, scooped me in his steel-like arms and carried me out of the place; nobody saw us go.
Once unconstrained by roof or wall Death, for it had to be he, sailed into the sky like an obsidian schooner. I closed my eyes until I thought us stopped.
It was odd to see Death floating there. He hung like a pinned rain cloud whilst I fell away. There was no such sensation as speed, for I was beyond such things, just him getting smaller and smaller and smaller.
As I levelled with the mountains, then trees, then long grass, a cold voice cut through my madness. It said, “You weren’t dead enough.” Then I hit the ground and knew I was.
Two in the morning and I still can’t sleep. The night stands silent bereft of even cicadas. Everything is still. My bedside alarm blinks in slow motion illuminating a small, green patch of table, then flicks to darkness. When it flicks back, you’re there. You’re always there bathed in green.