The Spark That Left Us

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Stranger Things

Chapter 2

Stranger Things

My lifestyle in no way, shape, or form, indicated that my own strange man would be sleeping on my couch. My sister was clearly an idiot, once again unable to deal with the consequences, and leaving me to pick up the pieces.

The fact that she couldn’t have bothered to warn me ahead of time was a sure sign of this. Then again, perhaps if I had been paying attention to my own living room, this could have been addressed sooner. Ideally, before she had run away from my home. More pressing than these thoughts however was where he had gone, and why he was here, and why he was not waiting patiently where I left him for the boot. I cleared my throat.

I then made a cursory pass at looking behind the couch, and under the coffee table. You never know, do you? I slowly moved through the living room towards the kitchen. Passing the small powder room, I toed the door open and with a quick side-eye judged that no one was lurking within. The kitchen was wide open and airy, no one hiding under the butcher block table. I began to turn towards the hall leading to the bedrooms and was promptly stopped by a knife to the throat. It gently pricked the soft hollow above my clavicle and I resisted the urge to gasp. The unwanted house guest placed his other hand on my shoulder and leaned in towards my ear,

“I don’t want to hurt you. I’m not here to hurt you, I just need to figure something out,” his voice was shaking and I could feel his warm breath on the back of my neck as he paused, waiting for my response.

I nodded slightly, trying desperately to avoid the tip of the knife where it pricked at my throat. The hand on my shoulder moved to my forearm, and forcefully pulled it behind me. Grabbing me by the elbow, he pulled me roughly to the kitchen table and shoved me down into a chair.

He pointed at me with the knife, which wavered in his shaking hand,

“Don’t move, just, stay, right there,”

The now-attacker left me then, moving room to room, closing windows and shutting curtains and blinds as he went. Soon, my comfortable home that a short time ago had been warm and bright, progressively became dark and stuffy, the humidity building in the after-rain heat. He peered out the front window, anxiously, still gripping the small knife in his hand. He returned to where I sat, and crouched down to my level. I could see he was sweating profusely, whether from illness or anxiety or the heat, I couldn’t tell, but the odd sheen it gave to his strangely bright and reflective eyes in the dark made me assume he was more than completely mad.

Upon closer inspection, he was a little older than I had originally presumed, clocking in at maybe mid-thirties, an unusual choice for Clara, who usually ran with the young bucks that strutted around the clubs, closer to her own age.

What could only be laugh lines creased around his eyes, and were just beginning to form at the corners of his mouth. He certainly wasn’t laughing now, but they were there, accusatory in comparison with his behavior. Maybe he wouldn’t be so bad, maybe it was all a misunderstanding? Maybe he’s actually a fun guy? I realized at this moment that he was also wearing a suit. Not a terribly expensive looking suit and he was missing his tie, but he looked like he belonged in it, no kid playing dress up during a night out on the town.

Trying to look anywhere other than his odd, silvery eyes, I focused on a spot just above his hairline. He continued to study me intensely, not saying a word. I can’t say I was scared in this moment, now that the knife was away from my skin, no, not yet. I was more intensely confused, bordering on annoyed by one of my sister’s silly friends and whatever bizarre game he was playing. It would be better to figure out what the Hell was going on first, and continue from there, rather than give him the satisfaction of a complete meltdown.

“Have you seen anyone?”

He gestured with the knife, vaguely at the window.

I slowly shook my head, glancing at the window in question and then back to his concerned face,

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, my sister was just here, but I am sure there are less menacing ways of discussing this… why are you in my house? Are you friends with Reggie? Are you robbing me? Is someone after you?”

Suddenly the flood gates had opened – my response in the situation, somehow, was to cram as many questions into the shortest amount of time possible. He frowned slightly. Not at me, but at a rattle coming from the back door. It was barely perceptible, a slight twist of the knob and an inward squeezing of the frame, as if someone had gingerly pushed against it to see if it was unlocked. He was up instantly from the floor to the kitchen window, peering between blinds he barely parted. He suddenly threw himself back against the wall, ever so silently, waiting, breath held. I debated whether to scream, attract the attention of whoever was outside, maybe they would break the door down. Maybe they will manage to get to me before he does, cutting off my cries for salvation. I decided against it.

If this man was afraid, of them, whoever they were, who’s to say they won’t take out their only witness too? They obviously weren’t law enforcement, they would’ve come to the door, nice normal people, announcing their arrival and proclaiming their intent. I’ve never been on a different side of the law to experience otherwise.

“He’s here. It won’t be long before he finds a way in,” he whispered to me.

Still pressed against the wall next to the window, head precariously close to knocking the clock from its perch, clutching the switchblade he had threatened me with, he seemed more akin to a child, hiding from the boogeyman, than someone I should genuinely be afraid of.

“You know I have no idea who ‘he’ is right? Or who you are? Or why you’re cowering like a baby over there? Just let me go, please? We’ll forget this ever happened,”

I leaned forward in my seat, gesturing slowly and calmly, hoping to high heaven he would just leave me here and go about his bizarre business elsewhere. He peered out of the window again, and ducked towards the floor. Almost completely bent double, he scurried towards the back of my chair.

“I’m don’t know what to do, ok? I don’t know if he’ll hurt you too, I barely know what he is,”

I nodded slightly, a hint of crazy evident in his voice. He seemed genuinely terrified, and I debated whether or not I should be just as afraid of his would-be assailant.

“Do you owe him money? Drugs? Just tell me, I can try to help you, maybe?”

And call the cops the second I could get to my phone. I folded my hands in my lap, wary of making any move or sound he deemed slash-worthy. He came around the chair, holding the knife low and to his side. A sudden crash came from the front hall, the tinkling of glass and the splintering of wood. Before I knew what had even hit the house, he had grabbed me by the elbow, pulling me up and out of the chair, and began dragging me down the hallway. I craned my neck behind us, trying to see who or what we were running from but he’d already made it to the master bedroom with me in tow, and hastily shoved me into the closet. He looked around, panting, closed the door and slid to the floor, bracing the door with his back.

I flicked on the light. He pulled a piece of chalk from his pocket and hastily began sketching on the doorframe and across the floor, muttering the whole while. I could hear strange sounds coming from the direction of the kitchen. I moved towards the interior wall of the closet and pressed my ear against it. Beyond the echoing of the blood rushing through my ear, I could hear a strange howling, what could only be a tempest brewing over my kitchen table. I could hear cabinet doors rattling and what sounded like the entire contents of my cutlery drawer being overturned onto the floor. I was startled by the obvious aggression of the chaos beyond.

The stranger hadn’t moved since laying down his chalk and sat with his back against the door. Aside from the heaving of his chest as he seemed to struggle to calm down, he was completely motionless. I joined him on the floor, sliding down the wall. I was feeling remarkably underdressed in my pyjamas, as he sat there quietly in his suit. I drummed my knees with my fingertips, debating whether to demand answers to the questions that were on the tip of my tongue. He raised his head and looked directly at me, his glare speaking louder than words.

“What –,”

He raised his finger to his lips, effectively shushing me, I pursed mine and narrowed my eyes. But the howling sound now seemed to be billowing down the corridor, a combination of a whirring, whistling, and the sultry sound of satin, sliding between exotic sheets. I could hear the hall pictures rattling against the walls, and a new, more ominous buzz added to the din. It brought to mind a TV set to static, long after shows were finished late at night. Intentional and grating in my ears, I yearned to shut it out, but I felt more and more with every passing second that maybe the sound was coming from my own brain. The stranger had closed his eyes, and I took the opportunity to study him as I tried to ignore the whirling dervish destroying my home beyond the door.

I still believed firmly that he was normally not this calm or serious. He had that look, he must have spent his whole life laughing without worry. I half expected him to crack a joke, despite the circumstances, smiling wide and toothy. But he seemed infinitely tired too. Soul-crushingly exhausted would be a better way to describe it. I noticed that the cuffs and the collar of his white dress shirt peeking out from his jacket were stained, dark blotches marring what would have been crisp and fresh in another life. I hoped it wasn’t blood. Wished it wasn’t, but somehow deep down I knew otherwise.

The sheen of grime and sweat and who knows what else darkened his skin and hair, and what could only be a week or two worth of stubble highlighted his jaw. Sudden noise exploded into the bedroom beyond the closet door. He firmed his position with his back against the door, bracing, eyes still closed, his lips moving silently over and over in what I assumed was a prayer. It was deafening, the roaring, I felt we were trapped directly in the centre of a hailstorm – wood creaked and broke, wind howling and shrieking, raging mere feet away. I cowered into the corner of the closet, partially hidden by hanging sweaters and dresses, trying to escape the rush and assault against my brain. I covered my ears and squeezed my eyes tight, praying the sound would just stop. Or whatever it was burst through the door, anything just to make it stop.

Abruptly it did; a light flashing under the crack of the door. The sudden absence of sound acted as effectively as a vacuum, and took my breath away. The house, suddenly so quiet, had me believe I had lost my sense completely. I swear I could hear the ticking of the stranger’s watch, but maybe time itself had stopped.

He looked up at me, piercingly, and put his finger to his lips again. I nodded, pulling myself to standing as slowly as he did. I held my breath, adrenaline coursing through my veins that until this moment, I hadn’t realized was surging, my heart racing. He still held the door closed with one hand, and bowed his head towards the crack, other hand on the knob. He listened, I could tell, with every fiber of his body. He hummed with concentration. Then he opened the door.

I almost stopped him. I almost threw myself at the door, slamming it shut. I almost screamed at him, a sudden feeling of despair washing over me. It must still be outside. It had to be. But no, the astonishing fact was, there was nothing outside the door. Everything, every single little detail of the room remained exactly as it had a mere half an hour ago, when I arose from my sleep to the smell of brewing coffee and followed it to my sister. The sheets remained rumpled, yesterday’s clothes still lay on the chair in the corner, and nothing was touched, the alarm clock now flashing 12:00. I stared in utter confusion, my expectation of complete and utter devastation shattered, and replaced with incredulity. Was I still asleep? Am I dreaming?

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