This one was deep in the drafts archive. I thought I’d published it a while back, but having been back through the whole thing, I couldn’t see it anywhere, so it gives me a chance to clean out what’s in the cupboard, whilst working on some new bits.
Relentless screaming. Eyes burning, throat dry and a head full of screams.
His eyes open, shapes drifted in and out of focus. Looking around, blurred shapes became familiar objects. The alarm clock screaming “09:00” and a voice taunting him…
“Shouldn’t you be at work by now?”
Looking around, clothes, beer bottles and take-away cartons carpet the room.
“This place is disgusting…”
Getting to his feet, the voice continues.
“What’s this, the 10th time? 15th? People might be starting to think you have a problem…”
The voice comes from a smartly-dressed man in the corner, his gazed fixed, and a wolfish smile. A young man with short neat hair and dressed impeccably. He sticks out amongst the detritus, but is somehow familiar…
“You best make yourself presentable” he says.
The Stranger points over to the door, where a young woman stands. Slim, dark hair, she stands in the doorway wearing one of his shirts. She hands him a glass of water, and opens the curtains, flooding the room with light. He winces…
“Jeez Tom” she sighs “You really need to fix this fucking mess…”
Tom looks over, through the pain he can see her, haloed by the light. He nods sheepishly. The Stranger scrutinizes her, following her around as she hunts for her clothes.
“I don’t know why you let her boss you around Tommy…”
“What?” says Tom.
“I didn’t say anything” she replies, puzzled.
The Stranger gives Tom a playful shrug as he watches her getting dressed.
“Can you even say her name?” he asks
Tom racks his brain, the word forms in his brain, but he just can’t get it out.
“Sorry, hearing things… I should get dressed” he mumbles.
Rushing to the bathroom, he closes the door and slumps down against it. Trying to figure out what’s going on. His eyes close for a second and the voice returns.
“You never did answer my question… how many times does today make it?”
The Stranger looks on from the bathtub, playing with the rubber ducks.
“What the fuck are you doing in here?” exclaims Tom.
The Stranger feigns disgust
“No need for language… I’m just making conversation”
“She didn’t say anything when you asked about her bossing me…”
The stranger smiles and shrugs as Tom staggered to the shower. Switching it on, he looks back to the bathtub, and the Stranger has vanished. Stepping in, everything fades away as the warm water cascades over his face. He sees flashes of her face, her smile, and her eyes. He drifts off further. Flashes of the park. Her next to him. On top of him. Kissing him.
Suddenly, Panic. Running. He can’t see her anymore. Where did she go? Why can’t he find her?
Banging. Screaming. More running. Unfamiliar streets and dark alleys. Where is she? A figure… her? No… The Stranger. He’s pointing. More screaming. He doesn’t want to look where he’s pointing.
“Tom!” he hears a shout “Tom!”
Something grabs him. He struggles, they fall to the floor.
“Tom! snap out of it! Tom!”
It’s her. He’s in his bathroom. He’s naked and on top of her. She looks terrified. The Stranger is standing in the doorway.
“I wish I had my phone…” he chuckles.
She wriggles and pushes to get free. Tom slumps to the ground, dazed.
She throws a towel around him. She looks scared and tries to console him as The Stranger looks on, disgusted.
“Oh for fuck’s sake… You’re going to cry now? What the fuck’s wrong with you?”
“Just focus on my voice, Tom” she says, whispering in his hear.
“No wonder you’re such a fucking mess” shouts The Stranger.
“Let everything else fade away” she continues.
“You pathetic little shit” screams The Stranger as he lunges at them.
Curling into a ball, Tom screams, but nothing happens. Opening his eyes, it’s just her there. Crying and holding him.
“Tom, please come back to me” she pleads.
He looks around for The Stranger, nowhere to be seen. He grabs onto her.
“Please don’t leave me Annie…” he whimpers as he closes his eyes again.
“Shush. I’m always here”.
His eyes open. She’s gone. He’s alone, cold & wet on the bathroom floor.