A man sits alone in the dark. An open bottle of whiskey sits propped against his feet. The visions still come, no matter how much he drinks. Each arrives on its own schedule, riding a wave of nausea and agonizing fire. It’s more than he can take, and he knows it will never end.
He lifts the bottle to his lips and drinks. The poison burns his throat and twists in his stomach. The world spins. Pain flares in his joints and he slumps back in the chair, gone from the dark.
* * *
A young mother wakes, drawn from a deep slumber by the sounds of her screaming infant. She lurches from the bed, staggering from instinct and primal need. She stumbles down the dark hall and into the open nursery.
The child cries, frightened, wet, and hungry.
She cleans him and feeds him then sits in the rocking chair and holds him to her chest until he once again asleep.
She lays him to rest in the crib and watches him sleep until her own exhaustion overwhelms her and she makes the long excursion back to her own slumber. Her head hits the pillow and her eyes are drawn closed, but the screaming begins again.
She grunts and complains under her breath as she untangles herself from the blankets again. She pauses above her own bed and listens to the silence in the house.
Her pillows call to her, but worry nags the back of her mind and driven by a deep fear, she makes her way down the hall again.
The nursery is still and silent and coated in long shadows.
She crosses again to the crib, needing the relief of seeing her son sleeping happily again.
Her release doesn’t come. Instead, panic paralyzes her as the empty blankets caress only a small piece of paper.
Her hand reaches out to the paper without her permission. Her mind is too numb to give permission. She holds it for an eternity before allowing herself to read it and know the fear.
The child is mine. You are mine.
* * *
The bottle, now empty, drops to the floor. The man is once again alone in the dark. He weeps softly, long abandoned and longer forgotten. He reaches for the notepad and begins to scribble words across the page. They come too late. They always come too late. But, someone should know. Someone should care.
He sets the pen and paper back onto the table beside his chair and closes his eyes, ready for the next vision to come.
He does not wait long.
* * *
Two men drive through the night. Noise blares from the car’s stereo, more bass and noise than music. They pass the joint back and forth between them and laugh as they drive the needle higher and higher.
They never see the ice.
A car rolls down the street, flipping over and over. Broken glass and brilliant sparks fill its wake and the sound of crunching fiberglass and bending metal mark its passage.
As if by divine intervention, the street grabs it and holds it between a mailbox and a streetlight.
Lights and sirens roar in the distance.
Two young men will live.
No one sees the old man. No one treats his injuries. No one stops his bleeding. He dies alone and afraid. He dies in a gutter, the way his father always told him he would.
* * *
He has the paper again. Stories have to be told. He knows their stories, but he doesn’t know why.
Dawn begins to break against the far horizon as he finishes his scribbles.
Daylight brings relief. Daylight brings peace.
He pushes himself from the chair and makes his way to the mattress on the floor. His head swims. His stomach aches.
He collapses and waits for the liquor to bring the blackness. He waits to forget.
His eyes slide closed and one last vision finds its way to him. The same as last night. The same as tomorrow.
* * *
A man sits atop a pale horse, sheathed in black robes. He waits defiantly. He accepts all challengers. He has never lost.
But he knows the time is coming.
I actually wrote something very similarly to this back in January 2002. The original piece was raw. Very, very raw. I wanted to give it another go so I could see if I was growing as a writer.
I like to think I am.
I had quite a bit of fun using extremely short, choppy sentences for this one. I hope you enjoyed it, too. There’s something about trying to keep a rhythm in the writing. It’s a skill I’d like to learn to develop more.
I might have to branch out into other genres for it, though. Urban fantasy seems to meander a bit more than would allow for one or two sentence paragraphs.
At least as I write it.