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A brief haunting

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A brief haunting

Postby berry » Thu Dec 22, 2011 1:42 pm

I have a terrible habit of not properly polishing my stories so they can actually be considered finished. I hope that i have actually managed it in this case, so I would like to know if anyone thinks this needs more editing. Thanks.


A brief haunting

“Do you love him?” Silence fills the car, it thickens like mist freezing in the night. I stare at the road as it disappears beneath the windscreen and wait, and wait.
“Yes.” The answer comes quietly but firmly. I stare at her for what seems like hours, she doesn’t look back; her face is a silhouette against passing street lights. The clock ticks out the seconds, it flips over 9.42. It has only taken a minute for my world to fall apart. Then the tree, I look but its form makes no sense to me, it doesn’t register on my consciousness, no room there, only my growing hate and pain has purchase. We speed towards the tree, I freeze…then everything is noise; splintering glass, splintering bone, screeching hot metal, a terrified scream …
“Alex?” I’m afraid to open my eyes in case all I can see is her body and blood, the broken headlights’ sputtering light on the scene makes it ghostly and surreal. A hand is on my shoulder, the sensation jerks my eyes open and swivels my head towards the sound of my name. My mother’s face looks down at me, all painful concern.
“I’m alright.” I say mechanically. She looks unconvinced but pastes a smile on top of the doubt and hands me a cup of tea. “I wish you would stop blaming yourself Alex, you really ought to listen to me it was an accident.” I sip the tea and nod automatically, the hot liquid slips down my throat but it has no taste, it gives no comfort. I can feel her stare, I know she wants to hear me say that I agree, that it wasn’t my fault but I can’t bear to face her. Instead, I examine my tea. She sighs deeply as my sisters’ voice floats in on the heavy silence in the room. She is saying goodbye to the last of the mourners, their voices aren’t clear but I hear my sister thank them for their offers of help and support, much of which has come in the form of recipes that fit handily into a casserole dish.
“Like there is anything they can do.”
“Sorry darling what did you say? My mother has replied and it is only then I realize I have said something out loud. I shrug and continue to examine my mug, knowing that it will be only moments before it comes again, the body, the blood, the sputtering headlights.

Another cold and lonely dawn comes; I go through the usual routine shower then dress. I sit down to a breakfast that has no taste, I try to fill my day just to feel as though I am doing what the living should be doing. Every day is the same, “you should go out and get some fresh air”, they say. So out I go it’s easier to oblige than to argue. It doesn’t really matter to me where I go. I venture outside to the park. While the quiet breeze moves the leaves all I hear is shattering glass and splintering bone. A dog barks but all I hear is screeching hot metal and terrified screams. I look across the lake but there is no pleasure in the gentle ripples. Instead of my reflection all I see is broken headlights’ sputtering their ghostly light on her broken body. These torturous pictures are my only real companions, until 9.42 comes.

“Stay home; take as much time as you need.” My boss tells me when I make yet another call to say I’m not yet returning to work. He thinks he’s doing me a favor, being magnanimous, he doesn’t understand that I don’t really want to stay at home. He doesn’t know but then none of them know what happens every night. The nights and days could be interchangeable but for 9.42pm when she returns. First she appears in the armchair by the window, she’s facing away from me, and I can only see that silhouette,
“Murderer” she whispers, it’s a slow hiss, like steam escaping. Then she turns the movement so impossibly slow it seems to last forever. The dark silhouette becomes a chin, a cheek, her beautiful brow, her long soft hair. As she turns with an unbearable scraping of bone against bone, her head lolls at an unnatural angle, now she faces me. Most of her face is missing, a shard of glass protrudes from where her left eye used to be, nothing above it but a mesh of blood and brain. “Murderer” she whispers again but this time it is a gurgle as clotted blood erupts from her mouth. I clamp my hands over my eyes and any further words she might say are lost in my scream.


“Should we call him back now?” My sister’s voice again, its a few feet behind me but it seems a hundred miles away. I know they are tired of this ritual but I have to. In front of me is the tree, it stretches obliviously into the sky with nothing but a few scratches to show for its part in my tragedy. I glance behind me; my sister’s worried frown is mirrored in my mother’s face. My mother runs her scarf through her fingers; my sister jingles her car keys. Turning away from their fidgeting, I move forward a little and touch the tree. It feels just as it did last Sunday and the Sunday before that. I scowl at it then punch it, leaving my skin and blood as a sacrifice but it holds its secrets well. Whatever it is I need eludes me once again, maybe next time. As I trudge slowly towards the car my mother and sister quickly change their expressions to tense smiles and we drive away.

“You’re not sleeping are you honey?” Her face is all motherly concern. Only she still has time for my grief. The rest of the world has moved on not knowing that I can’t move on with it, it doesn’t know who sits in my living room at 9.42 every night. This morning feels different though, somehow I know that I must go again, that the presence of my mother and sister contaminated my previous vigils. I must go alone. My sister hands over her car keys reluctantly, and after much debate, she tries to smile but cannot hide her frown as I turn away from her and walk to the car. She shouts something but my lack of interest leaves it hanging in the air. It’s 9.00pm as I get into the car and start the engine. For the first time in weeks I actually feel alive, my heart beats fast and hard, I can feel the sweat between my hands and the wheel no matter how many times I wipe them on my jeans. As I turn into that road, today dissolves… I’m back in the car, with her.
“I’m leaving, I’m leaving tomorrow.” The words spill out as though she is afraid they might not come out at all if she doesn’t say them quickly.
“I know.” I reply keeping my voice level and passionless, her mouth drops open and her face is all astonishment. I revel in her surprise.
“How did…when…” her words punctuated with panicked breaths.
“I met him.” Again I relish her surprise, her cheeks redden and confusion contorts her features. Then her face drops along with her shoulders, it seems as though she has shrunk a little. She looks at me and her eyes narrow with suspicion. She opens her mouth to speak. It opens and closes a few times but no sound escapes. Then, as though she cannot finish her previous thought she simply says “I guess it doesn’t matter now.”
“Oh it matters.” I spit the words out, my anger creeps up my body, it feels comfortable, and it feels righteous. “It certainly matters. You were going to let me believe it was all me, that I had done something wrong, going to leave me with nothing and make it all seem like we just drifted apart, but that’s not the truth is it, the truth is you…and him.”
She pouts a little her face shows genuine regret but it only stokes my anger and strengthens my resolve.
“Do you love him?” Silence fills the car, each moment thickens the silence, like mist freezing in the night. I stare at the road as it disappears underneath the windscreen and wait, and wait.
“Yes.” I look back to the road, the bend is coming, I take one last look at her and smile as I put my foot on the accelerator. Her eyes are saucers now and she grips the dashboard, she shouts but nothing can reach me now. I am serene as I steer towards the tree, one last adjustment to ensure the point of impact and one last movement, just a few inches to reach her seatbelt.

I’m back, and as that day dissolves, my smile is widens. I’m surprised it fits on my face but somehow it spreads even further. How could I have forgotten, I am a murderer. My sudden laugh startles some nearby birds from their perches, it echoes through the trees as I drive away. I feel light and free as I turn my thoughts to the insurance cheque that arrived this morning.
Outside of a dog, a book is mans best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
Groucho Marx
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Re: A brief haunting

Postby Bmat » Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:46 pm

I think I'd say You really ought to listen to me. It was an accident.

I really enjoy this story. It moves well, it catches my attention, and nothing causes my attention to leave the story. The ending makes me grin.

Good work!
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