He sits up and swings his legs off the slab, then looks back at that precious white face. Yes, she wants to stay. Maybe a little while longer wouldn’t hurt, after all. Rising to his feet, he straightens his tie and buttons his cuffs before heading for the door. He stops abruptly, letting out a slight sigh and pulls the tag from his pocket. He replaces it around the cadaver’s big toe and steps from the room, making his way down the corridor to his office. He picks up the telephone.
Did dying moments stretch out like elastic, the final split second of your life protracting for longer than anyone could ever know? He’d learnt that male mosquitoes live for an average of ten days, yet their perception of time may allow for this short lifespan to feel to them like what we know as months. The smaller the animal, the faster its metabolic rate; the faster its metabolic rate, the slower the passage of time appears to them. Try to swat a fly and you’ll have your proof. He’d even skimmed some papers hypothesising a possible solution of mankind’s distant descendants to the eventual end of the universe: manipulation of their metabolisms to experience the final centuries of the cosmos as countless millennia.
The cricket’s nocturnal song was the only familiar sound giving them a hint of comfort as they waded through the swamp, cutting down the overgrown leaves and protruding roots upon their path. The moon’s bluish-grey glow made the foreign land seem more exotic than they had imagined, yet the sight of skeletons reaching out from the ground for help dispelled any notion that they were holidaying.
As the village dreamt, one little girl, Rehema, was woken up by what sounded like thunder. Sensing the rain, she ran to check the windows in her parents’ room. They were sealed shut. She then walked back to her bed to ensure her room’s window was shut, right before the thunder cracked louder, followed almost immediately by a bright yellow light that pierced through the blinders.
What transpired after resembled a movie scene in slow-motion. She was running to the end of the cliff, and he was standing still at first, for there was nothing he could do that would stop her. She was going to take the deadly leap to end it all! He gathered the strength to run after her like a lion chasing a deer. She though had already jumped into the air. She had widened her arms, taking the light away from the Sun as if she were a cursed angel.
“Well, like I said,” continued the monster when I was finally standing back on my feet. “I am thrilled to meet you; I have been trying to communicate with you for months now. Truth be told, I would be supremely honoured if you joined me for a cup of tea.”
The colossus looked awkwardly shy, almost starstruck.
“Would you? Join me for a cup of tea, I mean.”
I nodded in astonishment.
Standing on his doorstep was Maisie Beck. It had been years since Samuel had seen her, but he recognized her straight away. She was standing a few steps back from the door. Her hair was untidy, and her mascara had run down her cheeks. Also, her lipstick looked smeared. She was wearing a short party dress and had streamers strewn over her shoulders. She was bleary-eyed and tottering on her high heels.
Peter nodded, then looked back out at the sea. I followed his gaze. Sunshine reflected off the surface of the water, mirroring brilliance. Waves rose and fell with roaring energy. It was scary, beautiful, and oh so wondrous. I needed to come here more often.
I saw up ahead the articulated trailer of a lorry jack-knife out in front of the scaffolding truck, the truck’s brake lights igniting in glowing red against the mist of spray. The roof of the scaffolding truck’s front cab crumpled against the trailer and the flapping high visibility jacket move slowly towards me, in my direct line of sight, as I pumped the brakes.
His appeals fell on deaf ears as the captain, having waded till the water was at his waist, hurled the boy into the sea and made his way back to the shore. The boy tried to follow, but a horridly disfigured entity emerged from behind him, wrapping its blue, tattooed arms around him and sinking its teeth into the boy’s neck. He wriggled and fought, screamed and cried as loud as he could, but as the blood drained from his body, he felt limp from one limb to the other, his voice choked back by the blood gurgling in his throat.
She took a moment to stare at herself in the reflection of the glass door of the car. The beat-up Volvo showed a pair of iridescent green eyes – the kind of eyes you would see on a lonely stretch of road, caught for the briefest second in the beams of a car before the animal darted off into the brush. Agatha blinked and her irises returned to their normal dark brown. Control was becoming to her like the quails that darted between the cacti of the Arizona desert irresistibly chase-able, inevitably elusive.
The mirror from the antique shop suited Ania’s studio apartment perfectly. It was a large gothic Victorian mirror with ornate black swirls around the centred glass. It only cost her £100. Alf, the man who sold it to her, knocked £50 off the asking price. He said it was too big an item for most people, so he’d drop the price for Ania to take it off his hands. Alf spun a similar yarn to every customer, and it was effective. Alf even offered for him and his nephew, Will, to deliver it the next day.
The warm orange glow of the street lights complemented the humdrum of the city that had just woken up to flashily dressed youngins who graced every liquor store in sight, trying to find the cheapest happiness they could, all encountering disapproving elders that mused on the waywardness of the youth of today while visiting the said establishments.
Amber and scarlet leaves danced on the ground, stirred up by a Southern wind. I pulled my cardigan closer around me. Always a woman who dressed for the season, I had a large collection of cardigans specially selected for the fall. But that’s not exactly important. I took a deep breath. The fresh, autumn scent had a calming effect.
I stood in the middle of the room, looking at the open door, at the chipped tile. The memories of that horrifying night flooded my mind. All that blood, all that pain. Tears welled in my eyes. It wasn’t deserved, it wasn’t right what they did. But what was right was what came to them. All of them.
The rooster ran out of the coop, jumped onto the pole, and puffing its chest out, cried out to the twilight heavens with all its might. Then, it looked down at the sleeping village, looked up, and cried out again just as the group was leaving its gates towards the Ung’ Mountains, where the sun nearly woke.
Her bedroom window parallels her line of sight. Her bed seems so small and foreign from the outside. The quilt that Mother knitted for her lies crumpled on the end of her bed, a sign of someone who left the room in haste this morning. She gets the uncomfortable sense that she is spying on her own life and the even more uneasy thought that someone — or something — is spying back.