The characters in this story are from my novel In Flight. If you want to read more into them, the link is here: https://rubyray.me/buy-in-flight/
It was a time before midnight when I woke up from a window banging open downstairs in my still to-be-tamed country home. It was a dilapidated building, with lots of rot to be replaced, lots of cracks to be repaired. Its location, miles away from people, made it perfect for isolation that my lover Quinn and I were seeking.
I looked at my phone – there was still no connection and thus no message from Quinn; he’d had a 3-hour web conference, late hour for him, early for the other side of the world. It was unlikely he would come earlier than the next morning. It was strange to be without him; not because I was not used to being alone – I enjoyed being solitary most of the time; lately – avoiding people feeling sorry for me.
The reason I did not want to be alone was the house – it was frozen in time, untouched, as if something was sleeping in it and I would disturb that something by moving in. I rationalised my way around it, but I could not quite shake the feeling off.
I lay under the duvet for a while not wanting to go, but the banging frame downstairs was like an alarm going off. I got out of bed. It was the time when the summer warmth stays for the night, interrupted only by occasional storms.
One of those storms was brewing and its harbinger – the wind – had picked up hours before.
I slowly descended the creaking stairs. The strong wind had opened the window in the lounge and now howled in loudly, moving everything moveable within its reach. The weeping-willow branches, now having surrendered all their greenery to the darkness, bashed violently against the glass and seeped into the room, like multiple whips wielded by an invisible hand.
The cool wind licked my skin as I approached the window which now looked like a gaping black hole – threateningly loud, an open pathway to the other, alien side, from which anything could crawl in and hurt.
I shivered. I grabbed the window and pushed to close it. The strong gust was fighting back and my urgency to seal the menacing cavern became of paramount importance. The wind glued the window to the wall inside the room and I needed all my strength to pull it away and push it flat against it. Powerful blows pounded the glass, the wood trembled and vibrated. I knew if I did not close it quickly, the frame would crack and shatter and all the horrors of the outside world would pour in, in one drowning wave.
I pushed the frame, inch by inch fighting my way closer to the latch. With one last desperate push the frame slid into its place. The wind seemed to have accepted its loss – all became quiet and still. I stood steadying my breath, leaning my forehead into the glass separating me from the outside. The rain drops stained the glass – one, two, ten, then a hundred streaked down, distorting the full moon and the darkness into a vision of a Dalí’s painting.
Inside was comfortably quiet. And warm. Too warm, it felt, perhaps because the perceived intruder was locked out and I was out of danger. Still, the storm-induced adrenaline was not going to let me sleep. I took off my T-shirt and sat on the sofa. My naked skin soaked the coolness of the material. I closed my eyes and leaned back into the backrest.
For some reason, I thought of Ira – a fleeting thought, a sad feeling. I mentally brushed it away – this was not what I needed now. I do not want to go over this again, I had just closed this gap like I closed the window minutes ago. Done, gone, not here anymore. Moving on was my preferred option.
I breathed in deeply to reset my thoughts. I imagined Quinn – would have loved to have him with me. Then I sucked on my middle finger.
My hand travelled from my mouth, around my breasts, then belly button, then my crotch, like he normally did. I opened my legs, my fingers opened my lips, finding my clit. My saliva wrapped around waking it up. My breaths became deeper, eyelids heavier. I sighed a deep sigh, the ones you sigh when something pleasant is in store.
I was about to arch my back when, suddenly, I heard a knock, almost inaudible through the wind and rain, but unmistakably intentional.
It emanated from somewhere nearby. I closed my legs and I looked around – the floor light spread its vague rays in a one meter perimeter, outside it all was blurry, indecipherable. Too many shadows hiding in corners that during daytime could not be less threatening.
My eyes widened, I listened closely.
“Knock, knock, knock” came another interruption, now clearer. My eyes, adjusted to the ambient light in the room, could not decipher any shapes in the darkness outside. I grabbed my T-shirt and cradled it in front of me, my hands crossed across my chest. Then I stood up and warily approached the window.
The rain glued the willow branches to the glass and dragged them from left to right, like a mop. My eyes moved frantically from one point to another, trying to make some visual sense out of not much. I looked up and down, squinted.
Perhaps I hallucinated?
At this moment, this expression of a visual disturbance I would have been happy about. I would identify the cause later.
Reassured by this thought, I once again looked into the night. The rain weighed the leaves, they slid down as if tired of mopping. To my horror, what emerged when the leaves disappeared, was a face of a person. It was a blonde man, his hair rained on and now streaking across his forehead, the water making it look darker, his face pale. I instinctively clenched my T-shirt tighter and kept blinking in quick succession – it was definitely not a hallucination.
I swallowed a ball saliva and slowly stepped back, keeping him in my field of vision. He noticed my fear, hunched humbly, raised his hand, waved it slightly as people do when they mean no harm. When I stopped, he put his palms up as if “freezing” this moment, then waved to me to come closer, a tentative wave, slow movement, not to scare me into retreating again. He kept his hands up as a signal of goodwill and made a small step forward at the same time inviting me to come forward too.
Well, at least he’s not looking to actively hurt me. Maybe he just needs help.
I made several micro-steps. He pressed his forehead to the glass. The rain pounded it distorting my view. One more step, my eyes wide, taking in all the details that I may need to survive.
Suddenly, he smiled and put his hand on the glass, full palm, fingers spread, as if touching the whole of me. I stopped. Looked closer. My fear was replaced by surprise, then – disbelief.
I jumped to the window and kneeled to level with him, I placed my forehead on the glass and my palm to match his. Raindrops ran on his side of the glass, tears streaked on mine.
“Ira… My baby… How…?”
He did not mouth any words, he smiled still being pounded by the rainstorm, as if it was perfectly normal to come back from a grave, as if he had not had an accident, as if I had not caressed his coffin.
I closed my eyes and wailed. If this is some mental illness manifesting itself, I want to be ill for the rest of my life, I want to be haunted by you every single day.
I opened my eyes – he was gone. I felt the glass with my palms, the t-shirt dropped. I jumped up and looked down to see where he was but he was nowhere. My knees gave in curling me into a naked mess on the floor. My eyes open, like a zoom lens, unblinkingly focusing on the skin of my arm next to my head. For months I tried so hard to get over Ira’s death but now I did not know what to think – the vision was so clear, so unclouded, touchable almost…
No. He was dead, no doubt. I saw the bloody sheet covering his body, I collected his broken watch, muddy shoes, his shirt torn by his ribs sticking out of his chest, on left and right, our bloodied photograph. I signed the paperwork to destroy his already destroyed motorbike. I scattered his ashes. Him being here was impossible – a product of a mourning mind.
Suddenly, I felt very, very tired. I blinked getting myself out of a trance and prepared to stand up when I felt something inside the room, behind me, just by the window where I was curling. Something was inside, with me. The feeling one gets when being watched, when one knows without a doubt that they have become a prey.
My eyes zoomed onto the goosebumps rising on my arm, travelling to my neck, skull, breasts, back, legs. Fear has an uncanny ability to disarm completely, to freeze you into an immobile statuesque state, somewhere in between fight and flight, when neither is yet necessary, when the danger has not personified itself just yet.
What have I woken up?