Chapter 1 - Restless
The car is moving slowly on the wet road as the rain beats down so hard it sounds like the windshield could crack at any moment. Visibility is low as the fast-moving wipers only allow for a glimpse of clarity before the rain turns the glass into a translucent filter of the outside world again.
Scarlet looks at her fiance’ and sees that a bead of sweat has formed on his forehead. It is clear that controlling the car in this weather is taking strain on him.
“Do you want to pull over and wait it out?” she almost shouts to be heard above the sound of the rain.
He doesn’t respond. He just stares at the road, hardly blinking. Perhaps her talking is a distraction he doesn’t need right now.
Her inability to assist is making the situation uncomfortable for her. She shifts around uneasily in her seat.
Even though the huge drops are crashing down loudly onto the car, the silence between them feels heavy, like a thick smoke she is breathing in. It fills her throat and remains there, blocking airflow and growing with each passing minute. It is suffocating.
Her eyes are tearing up. Panic is building.
What is wrong with me?
Robert is a good driver, and in the two years they have been together they have never once had an awkward silence. If he wanted to say something he would have, she is sure of it.
Perhaps she can try to help him look out for danger and warn him if she sees something. Scarlet looks at the road in front of her. Reality seems to present itself only for a millisecond as the wiper blades move swiftly across the window, then it blurs almost instantly from the water and the process repeats.
When she does have a flash of vision, she can only see what is in the beam of the headlights, as the dark of the night and curtain of descending water swallows everything else.
Maybe if she tries to focus on the grayness of the road, she will notice any changes in color if an obstacle appears before her vision is cleared again.
With each passing second of her staring within the beam it feels as if the road is getting more and more narrow. The surrounding trees seem to have sharp finger-like branches that reach closer with each wipe of the blades.
The choking feeling intensifies to the point where it almost feels like there really is something in her throat.
It is scratching. She tries a few times to clear her throat but it isn’t helping. Swallowing is difficult. A noise is coming from her mouth when she inhales and exhales.
She looks in the little mirror on the sun visor and opens her mouth. There is something white where her tonsils are supposed to be.
There is something in her throat.
Scarlet sticks two fingers into her mouth and try to reach the object, fighting the urge to gag but not always succeeding. Spit is already running down her chin. Robert is still just staring at the road almost like he is in a trance, seemingly not noticing the horrible guttural noises coming from right next to him.
It feels … crunchy and makes a slight crackling noise. This is definitely not what she had for lunch. She gags again as she realizes the size of it between her fingers.
What the fuck is this?! It needs to come out. Now!
Robert is focusing on not crashing the car so she will have to do this by her myself.
It feels round, she is sure she can grab it with her two fingers if she tries.
Try to breathe through your nose Scarlet. You can do this.
After what feels like an eternity she manages to get a proper hold on it. Her shirt is wet with the saliva pouring from her mouth as she starts pulling the item while trying not to vomit.
The thing starts to move but she can feel the bile rise from her stomach along with it so she quickly tugs it with force to avoid throwing up.
It is out. Scarlet gags one last time and takes a few breaths before looking at the item.
It is a crumpled up piece of paper.
What.the.fuck. I don’t remember putting this in my mouth.
The paper ball is soaked in spit, with little red lines of blood tracing through it like veins. Hesitantly, she opens up the folds and creases to reveal the contents.
It is a receipt. The missing receipt for the watch they bought her mother.
Feelings of confusion and panic flood over her as she tries to figure out how this could have happened.
She turns to Robert to try and say something but screams before words can escape her mouth. Robert is still facing the road but flesh is torn from his face, his pupils are white and lifeless and she can see bones and intestines through his torn clothes. There are blood marks all over his side of the car.
Before she could gather herself, Robert seems to see something in the road and starts screaming frantically, like he is staring into the face of death itself.
The terror in his screams makes her crawl up her seat and push against the door of the car. She instinctively looks to see what is making him react so horrifically.
There is a figure standing next to the road. The wipers have slowed and show the figure in the distance once before the car passes it.
The blades swipe across the window and the car passes the figure again. Then again. Each time the figure reappears closer to the car. Each time she can see more of it.
Robert is still screaming. She feels like she can’t do anything other than look at the figure. Fear builds within her in anticipation of what might happen when it gets close.
As the wipers move past again the figure is almost right next to the car and looking towards the her. She can see the face and feel a scream build inside her mouth. Her hands are bunched into fists as she stares at the image each time the blade reveals it.
The figure standing on the side of the road is a woman.
The figure standing on the side of the road is pointing a finger at her.
The figure standing on the side of the road is her.
Scarlet wakes up gasping for breath as Robert’s screams still echo through her ears. She gets up from her sweat soaked sheets and looks at the time. 02:08 am.
Great. I just want a fucking decent night’s sleep. It really isn’t that much to ask for, universe.
Some people assume they will have a good sleep when they go to bed. More often than not, they will be correct. To Scarlet, sleeping is a gamble. And most times, she has a bad hand.
She walks towards the bathroom in the dark. It is the middle of winter so she knows she has to change the sheets and her clothes, otherwise she might get sick. Also, sleeping in your own sweat is gross.
Her eyes take a moment to adjust as she switches on the bathroom light. The pile of clothes and fresh sheets on the counter is ready and waiting.
She has learned to plan ahead for nights like these. Every other night since Robert passed away a year ago she has had this dream and every time she wakes up the same way.
With unsteady legs she walks over to the counter and stops in a fright when she notices her reflection in the mirror. Her chocolate brown hair is in a mess and the dark rings around her eyes accentuate her pale blue eyes. A disapproving frown appears on her forehead as she wishes yet again that the dream would just give her a break.
Scarlet wasn’t actually in the car when it crashed, so her therapist thinks the recurring dream means that she is feeling guilty subconsciously for not stopping him from leaving that night.
They had an argument because he couldn’t find the receipt for an expensive watch they bought her mother. He stormed out the door to go look for it in the car but then drove out and away for some reason. She still doesn’t know where he was going, his car was found on a road heading out of the city.
She knows she didn’t stop him from leaving when he went to the basement parking, but she is also aware of the fact that she didn’t make his decision to leave for him. A feeling of frustration rises within her as she wonders if this dilemma of hers will ever be resolved.
A breeze from the bathroom window gives her goosebumps and pulls her from her thoughts. She doesn’t recall leaving the window open.
She must have, since no one else lives here. Not anymore. The apartment is on the forth floor so it couldn’t have been opened from the outside.
Maybe it wasn’t closed properly and the wind blew it open.
Scarlet walks over to the window and looks out into the darkness of the night. Puffs of fog escape her mouth from the cold and rise out the window before they disappear. There is a breeze but not enough to open a window.
Gun shots ring in the distance, followed by screams. The familiar sounds of the city of Gravenmere. A shiver makes her realize that she has been standing in front of a cold window in wet clothes and she promptly closes it, making sure the latch is hooked properly.
A hot shower is what she needs right now. Perhaps it will relax her enough to get some sleep not feel completely useless in the morning. The thought of the coming day reminds her of her late appointment and she groans audibly while opening the tap.