He flings the sweat-soaked sheets onto the carpet then sits on the edge of the bed; more exhausted than he had been the night before.
The morning was grey and cold. I stood next to the kitchen table. Lately, my appetite has completely diminished; I can’t even remember the last time that I ate a proper meal. I looked at the pill bottle in my hand: Lithonate, 900mg – Twice daily. The shit didn’t seem to be working but I swallowed the tablet anyway. As usual, I washed it down with a glass of milk. It feels healthier that way.
I looked out at the ominous sky; it was a turbulent collage of charcoal and pewter. In spite of the inevitable rain I still planned to visit Priya. I grabbed my coat and set off.
I stopped briefly at the front door to look over my shoulder.
The roads were deserted. I made the journey in good time. My mind wandered as I drove. I felt so tired. I had planned to stop at a garage on the way to pick up a bouquet of flowers. I still have no recollection of doing so. When I arrived they were on the passenger seat.
I wonder how strong the pills are.
It is always an ordeal trying to park whenever I visit; today was no exception. The rusty Victorian gates stood ajar, rattling with each gust of wind. They were cradled from either side by two towering willow trees; stripped of their leaves by the cruel October chill. The rain began to fall as I commenced my ascent up the cobbled incline, causing my damp trousers to cling uncomfortably. As I approached I looked into her smiling eyes.
It has always been my favourite picture.
The plot is well maintained.
I make sure of that.
I placed the lilies in the marble vase. Rain dripped from their delicate petals like teardrops.
It has been a year since Priya was buried.
I still remember her mischievous smile. She was so beautiful. I loved her. I didn’t realise how intensely until they lowered her into the earth.
I leant forward to wipe the face of the headstone with my sleeve. I stopped dead. A beat thudded in my ears, though it seemed erratic. It paused, then it commenced again, then it stopped. It almost sounded like…knocking. I scanned the surrounding area. It was completely deserted. I looked down and listened intently, tilting my ear toward the sodden earth. The only sound audible was the patter of raindrops.
I stood and took up a fast stroll toward the gates, stopping for a glance over my shoulder when I felt that I was at a safe distance.
The plot was as I left it.
The only sign of life was the lilies, which trembled amidst the torrent.
Shadows lurk in the gloomy corners of the room as the television casts its sickly glare. He vacantly stares through it. An old Boris Karloff movie plays. He switches the T.V. off. A tear trickles down his cheek.
I took my pill about an hour ago, although I am struggling to appreciate its benefits. I feel so cold, lifeless.
He walks over to the record player and draws some vinyl from its sheath. It spins on the turntable; the needle tracing out the haunting sound of Devil Got My Woman by Skip James. He stands, transfixed by the spiralling black ravines.
The rain is harder than it has been for weeks. I have always loved the sound of it; it reminds me of childhood.
A knock startles him. The music ceases. The needle amplifies a repeated thunk.
I freeze with apprehension. A precession of three knocks echo through the empty house. It is the sound of flesh on glass, a dull thud. I approach the patio doors and stand in front of the curtains; heart pounding in my ears, my skin crawling.
With a swift motion I fling open the drapes.
A figure is pressed against the window pane.
Rain cascades down its wet hair, which hangs dirty and lank. Writhing insects and fresh earth cling to it.
Its eyes are intact.
She stares back at me with malignant intensity.
Her white dress is tattered and tar-yellow; the stomach soaked with blood.
In her hands are a bunch of white lilies, speckled with droplets of festering crimson.
I stagger backwards in horror.
My thighs connect with the armchair.
The impact sends me tumbling to the ground.
I pounce back to my feet and glare at the doorway.
It is empty; nothing remains apart from the swirling patterns of water.
I sit back down and wait, scanning the door and every corner of the room.
I set off upstairs.
He walks across the landing.
He stops briefly to glance at the spare room: It would never be used.
He caresses the banister which overhangs the long staircase, nods and looks at the glint in his hand.