I’ve broken up this short story, as my last in two consecutive parts just to break up the reading and not to make the post too chunky. I prefer it this way as it makes things more digestible from a formating perspective and it also gives me a nice continuity of posting. Plus as a side note, I woke up extra early this morning to write a epic on my experience with the spiritual recently and an updated list of recommended reiki and tarot channels (all that spiritualism the atheist in me is repulsed by) yet ended up distracted by two very testing dogs I’m now living with.
Anyways, I’m digressing, back to the story:
My phone’s alarm saved my life. Her shrill scream had morphed into its irritating beeping and, with my eyes still glued together, I dismissed the infernal thing. It was another bright and sunny January morning in the life of Nelly Pritchard and it required a black coffee and a cigarette. With the fluffy dressing gown equipped and provided the necessary nod of greetings to an unknown face in the hallway – a conquest of Room 2’s rugby enthusiast occupant -, I drifted into the kitchen like detritus on a beach. Clara, fresh faced from a full eight-hours of rest followed in, disturbing the preparation of black coffee, three sugars. She pounced onto the countertop with the energy totally unnecessary for whatever time it was in the morning.
‘So?’ She began, ‘Did you get any reading done last night or did you end up just falling into the Netflix trap?’
‘Erm, yeah, some,’ I groggily replied, gently stirring a stained teaspoon in the coffee. ‘No Netflix. Just scran and John Milton.’
‘Wholesome,’ she said, nodding from her perch. ‘Did Jack message you?’
‘No, I haven’t checked.’
Clara stared blankly in return, her knowing eyes demanding that I take action. She was irritatingly good at that and it had become a fair portion of our relationship. I dropping the spoon into the sink and blew gently on the coffee before taking a sip, holding steady against Clara’s silent instruction. It took less than a few seconds for the resolve to break and I put down the oversized novelty mug and slipped my hand into the fluffy pocket of the robe. As I inspected the phone’s screen, my heart sunk and familiar beads of sweat began to form at my temples. Clara raised an eyebrow at my sudden panic but remained still on her perch. The words on the screen were scrambled. Each time I found myself grasping their meaning they shuffled like a deck of cards in a game of solitaire. As I forced my groggy mind to concentrate on the increasingly meaningless symbols, the air became thick and clammy.
I was frozen. Only my eyes retained any notion of free movement and I forced them away from the screen – God they were heavy, like they were being weighed down by swaying anchors. Looking up I saw her. She had always been there, standing in slightest dark of the room. It was Gran, grinning with the same idiot grin that I gave her. Behind her emerged two slinky, shadowy compatriots; faceless mannequin figures made of pure ghostly darkness that stretched their elongated forms to the heights of the ceiling. A scream lost its way in my throat and only materialized as a light gasp. The bitch bared her shards of teeth at me as I struggled and fought and cried silent cries in the frozen moments of her trap. Existence outside of my focus on her and her new friends had ceased to exist. It had faded away like the peripheral vision of weary eyes. From Gran’s grin came her scream and a voice. Jack’s voice. ‘Clara, come here! I think Nell’s having a seizure and I can’t wake her up!’
Shadowy arms reached out and the Gran’s terrible cosmic maelstrom behind the grey gnashing teeth expanded to swallow reality in a thunderous cold crescendo.
Then there was nothingness. A deep black void like a starless night in the country or the deepest impressions of my therapist’s endless Rorschach tests. As I drifted through its depths, I wondered if this was the end of all things or just the purgatory. A blank space between my world and the next. Yet perhaps I was wrong on all counts and this deep inky ocean of infinity was the inside of Gran’s stomach. I had been swallowed like Jonah into the infernal whale.
Seconds, minutes, hours, days: none of it mattered. Nothingness was the only truth. I wondered if in my state that I’d had a heart attack in my sleep and my visions of old Gran had finally gotten the better of me. I wondered if I could even apply such logic to the situation if this was death. If Gran herself, the wicked bitch, was a sentient predator, hunting in her sleepless kingdom, feeding of the victims like a leech. Nothingness lasted for an eternity for it was eternity. It was the end of all things, I knew it was, that was the conclusion I’d reached after days or perhaps years of query, it was the true oblivion. Then I heard another voice. It was not Clara’s, Jack’s or even my own. It was alien and not of a language I had ever heard before yet for some reason, I trusted it and loved it like a child loves the idea of heaven. I understood; by Christ, I understood and from that moment on, every Sunday I’ve been kneeling and praying and singing the hymns. I have the words that it spoke tattooed across my forearm like I could ever forget them.
‘The song has been violated. Retrieve the child.’