Friday, 8 June 2007

LATE ONE NIGHT By Kathleen Aisthorpe

(The task was to compose an original tale with an animal as the main character).

You know you’ve heard it. You’ve heard it many times, every day, a step on the carpet. It sounds no different now. The sound woke you only because you don’t normally hear it in the middle of the night, when you are alone.

There it is again, another step, making a logical stride. You know, you know with every alert sense in your being, the direction the toes of the unseen foot point. You’ve heard feet move everyday across the carpet, from one end of the living area to the kitchen and back again. The walls aren’t sound proof, you know the sound distinctly, and you are wide awake and alone.

Now three steps.

Just as you know that sound is a step on the carpet, you are pretty sure it can be only another person. You are awake, you are alone and each step is toward your bedroom door. Your heart is pounding and your breathing is closer to the rhythm of a steam train going downhill, your brain is an incoherent jumble with every cell and nerve screaming for the flight button to be pushed. Now, just when you need to most, you realise you can’t move. You can move your eyes but they are glued to the doorway.

Your ears are straining into the gloom trying to stretch to where the eyes stop seeing. Silence, fills the space between the steps, not even a car in the street. Silence so loud it starts to buzz, the rhythm of your heart intertwines and becomes the same rhythm of the buzz.

Buzzing, buzzing, you’re trying to remember to breathe, you can’t move your arms, you can’t scream, nothing.

Four, five, six, seven steps.

You know the distance; you know how many steps it takes. You know you are about to see who and then you do. The curtains filter the light from the street lamp and there is no way you can turn it off, let alone try to cover your head with the sheet.

Buzzing, buzzing your whole body tingles with the buzzing; your heartbeat is no longer distiguisable. He is standing in the doorway, highlighted against the dim shine of the paint of the open door, covered head to toe in sliver grey. Almost as tall as the door, his cloak seems to sparkle with points of light forming and reforming. His hat is low over his eyes but you know he is looking at you. Somehow you know, you just know, he has a momentary pause before he draws his sword.

Who carries a sword?

You know, you just know he does, you know it’s there & for some reason you know, but this knowledge is not comforting. His pause however was all that was needed. The buzzing, the buzzing, your body is filled with buzzing and then it happens.There is nothing you can do, as fast as you can blink an eye, it happens, like a wave it crests over your feet, and the flesh from top half of your body is rolling back with the wave. Rolling faster than thought, curling over the feet, rolling up your legs, body, chest. My God the chest! There is something in your chest, there’s noise, movement and still the wave is rolling, curling over the throat, the head. You’re roaring, no it’s roaring, no you’re roaring, no, no, no. What’s with the roaring noise, you know you can’t roar. A panther lands between you and the figure in the doorway.

Who carries a panther?

If you could move, you don’t know what you would do, you can’t move so you just stare. The panther is onto the figure at the door in one powerful movement, the menace of its growl signals the intent of its attack. The figure has his sword in hand, the moment of contact is an incredible sound, both instantaneously disappear into the wall and floor.

You stare; you’re not even able to think about what happened, you can see your door in the dull reflected light as it has always been. You can hear noises; you know the cat has consumed the figure that was just standing at your door, looking at you.You’re staring, staring, there is no way you are asleep and having a dream. You can’t move you can’t speak and your body is still tingling after being ripped open like a sardine tin. You can’t even rationalise that a panther just jumped out of your chest. You just stare; your heart maintains its high state of anxiety.

The panther steps out from behind the door which is stoppered against the wall. It’s looking at you and you’re looking at it coming toward you. You can’t move so you wait, surrounded in buzzing and tingling all over.

You’re staring, breathing and buzzing so the panther sits, right there beside you, looks at you, you’re looking at it and words come out of the buzzing.

“Be still, sleep now” You’re staring and the last thing you remember is the panther watching the door in perfect patient stillness. As your body pulls toward sleep you know things about this animal that you wouldn’t have thought of before, you know you have an understanding, you know so much that it could be a part of you.

You’re awake, it’s morning, you’re alive and your sane, the room is the same and your cat calling at the window to be let in. You stumble out of bed, you stumble back, and the cat is talking to you, talking, talking. You mumble pleasantries, it refuses to go to its breakfast instead it jumps on your chest looks at you, talking and sniffing your chest. The cat jumps to where you last saw the panther, sniffs the carpet then emits a low growl.

You’re astonished, already you had convinced yourself that last night must have been a one off bad dream so what is the cat doing. It sniffs and growls then runs to behind the open bedroom door and attacks the carpet. Growling, clawing, chewing it attacks the very spot the two had disappeared into, the very spot the grey figure at the door was consumed by the panther, you throw things to make it stop but it won’t stop. So you run and drag the cat out and put it out of the room. The cat comes straight back totally focussed; growling clawing, chewing. You’re buzzing, tingling and totally confused, what happened last night? What happened, what happened?

“Be still”

Kathleen Ann Aisthorpe © 2007

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