Well, I promised you flash this week and flash you shall have. I think I mangled this one by drafting too much of it in my head but as ever feedback is welcome.
By Neil Beynon
Awake. Something’s wrong: my tongue feels like worn carpet, head feels like it was used to wear the carpet down. The floor is too close. The bed the wrong shape: too small, contorted and whose voice is that.
I’m in the living room, not a good sign.
I unfold from the couch, the television prattles on at me incoherently, the presenter’s monotone merging with the noise of my headache. What was I drinking last night? Where’s the bloody remote?
Something bites my foot.
I hop clutching my wounded limb, there is a piece of sharp plastic that looks like the corner of my television remote sticking our of it. As I sit down again to remove the splinter I notice the chunk of plaster missing from the wall, I should fix that…later. God damned it hurts pulling out the plastic.
As I bend to remove the splinter my bladder screams in protest, full of whatever I managed to pour down my throat last night, and propels me from my chair towards the bathroom, my foot trailing blood in my wake. Jo and I must have had a fight. I can’t remember what about. The empty vodka bottle clinks loudly before shattering as I trip over it and I pause for a moment to see if it has woken Jo.
No. All quiet.
The curtains are open in the bathroom. The sky outside is beginning to lighten lending the world a curious kind of silver half-light, illuminating an alien world that is both familiar and weird. The dawn cannot be far away. I’m surprised I didn’t wake Jo. I wonder if anyone else is up at this time?
I muse on this as I piss.
My head still feels really bad and as I move the knuckles of my right hand, the bones grind in a way they’re not really supposed to. Something streaks across the garden. I’m looking out at the terraces behind our house, wondering whether I can catch a crafty glimpse of flesh from some of the open curtains. And so I don’t really see it properly. It’s too big to be a cat and too agile – leaping over a man high fence – to be a dog and too dark to be a fox. A grey shadow that moves so fast that I see nothing other than a smudge of movement textured like fur, maybe a flash of something red and yellow, did it look at me?
I’m not sure.
I finish up and step to the window, pressing my face to the cold glass, ignoring the condensation as I try to make out its progress but it’s gone. Perhaps I imagined it? I’m tired and aching and I really need to go back to sleep until my head works again.
I pause at our bedroom. The door is almost shut and my hand – my right one, the one with swollen knuckles – traces the cracked and splintered pits that have been driven into the wood. I can hear breathing the other side of the door but I can’t tell if Jo’s sleeping or awake. I push the door a little, it creaks on the hinge and the breathing stops for a moment. My bruised knuckles scream at even the barest of contacts with the door and I let go. I hear breathing resume even as I hold mine, swallowing down the cry I want to make at my broken hand.
Softly I pad back into the living room.
I swallow a couple of painkillers with what I think is a glass of water but is actually the remnants of my vodka. I cough. My nose burns with the escaping booze. I’m never drinking again.
My eyes close, I try to remember the evening’s events. I open my eyes again to look at the strange pattern on the other wall, a dark gaudy stain across the plain derivative paper and for a moment it looks like blood. A hard fist clenches in my chest.
My eyes follow the stain down and I see the cracked plate and desiccated food on the floor below. The fist in my chest loosens a little as I sit up and, thinking of the shadow I saw, I open the curtains to watch the sunrise come up. It’s been a while since I did that and I need to be calm before Jo appears, not let on that I can’t remember.
I’m asleep in moments. My mind wanders the fragments of the night before, as I watch myself argue with Jo on some level I know it’s a dream. And yet I don’t, it’s like I’m watching someone else, someone I know but not me.
The noise brings me awake in a heartbeat. It is a loud crack, a single shot in the dark, a silver bullet for the grey shadow or perhaps the front door slamming shut?
I’ll ask Jo in the morning.