It is dark, so dark I can not tell if my eyes are open or closed. A heavy weight presses down on my chest, pinning me to the bed. Am I awake? Perhaps a paralysis struck me as I slumbered.
Something has disturbed my sleep, something alien to the lonely stillness in this empty room. Living alone in an old farmhouse set in woodlands and several miles from my nearest neighbour, I would feel relieved for almost anything to explain my sudden return to consciousness. The creatures of the night, owls, badgers, foxes and the varied rodent population I am used to. This was something different. I try to listen, to hear again the noise that woke me, but now there is only silence.
Then I hear it, the whirring sound of an inkjet printer spraying globules of dye across a page. I relax. So, I am not going mad.
Hell! Yes I am! The computer should not be on. I distinctly remember switching it off before going to bed. I sit bolt upright and open my eyes. The digits on the bedside clock glow red at 03:15. It is still almost as dark, even with a definite awareness of being awake. A pale silver luminosity from the full moon beyond the curtained window only softens the blackness between the shadows to a dull shade of grey.
The chattering of the printer continues from the other room. I hear it clearly. Only a thin, partition wall separates my bedroom from the spare room I use as an office. The bed is warm, cosy; I have no desire to move, but throw back the covers and lower my feet to the ground. The linoleum is cold to my feet as I stand and pace across the room. A feeling of trepidation seems to exude from the walls, immersing and hampering my movements in glutinous folds, almost like wading through muddy water in a lake. I open the door and step into the corridor, surprised that even with no electric light I can see as if in twilight. The door to the computer room, as always, is ajar.
The printer still hums and I hear the slapping sheets of paper as they feed into the machine. I push the door further open, and put my head through the gap. Relief calms my fluttering heart. It is only a small child, a girl of no more than eight or nine years of age, bending over the computer.
I step into the room.
Wait! I have no young daughter now! As far as I know, there has never been a small girl in this house…
She must have heard me enter; she turns toward me. I wish she hadn’t. I have no idea how long ago she died; it must have been a while. Her petite face, blue, swollen and bloated with death, exudes a sickly luminescence. Her lips are cracked, and purple, while the eyes, white sightless orbs, gleam with an eerie pallid light. From the sight of the hideous gash across her throat, I guess she was brutally murdered by some insane psychopath.
Her hair is dark, tousled, uncombed and drips dank slime onto her shoulders. She wears a grey-white funeral gown, splashed over the rotting fabric with patches of green mildew. Something black, spidery, a parody for a tongue squirms between decaying teeth as the putrefying flesh of her cheeks draw the mouth into an evil sneer.
I want to run but can not move. She glides toward me, not walking, but floating several inches above the ground. The sickly stench of decomposing flesh from a mortuary or a mass grave assaults every gasping breath of air in my throat. Those eyes of the damned stare, burning into mine as she holds out two hands clutching a sheaf of papers. Without comprehension, mine reach out to take the sheets from her. The moment I hold them securely, she begins to fade, beginning from the lower part of the shroud until the only thing that remains is that ghastly face. Even this dims, becomes transparent. The light from the eyes pales into oblivion. The final part to disappear is the sneering, Cheshire-cat grin leaving me alone with the papers.
I begin to read…
© 2008. Robert A Read.
Note: I submit this to introduce you to my muse. Her name is Monique. She can take one of many visual forms, usually with the intent of putting the “fear of God” into me. Does she not realize? I am a writer; I have no fear of God or muses… I love her, even if she does disappear on vacation when I need her most.