“It was the cat that gave you away. You know that, don’t you?”
Adam took a step backwards away from her chair and adjusted the blinds, making sure that the wooden slats were secure and that no prying eyes would be able to see inside the apartment.
“She loves that cat. Probably loves it more than she loves me.”
He moved back towards the centre of the room but halted abruptly when the hiss of her breath became something more akin to a low growl, like a hungry dog issuing a warning to stay away from its food.
Adam took a second to compose himself.
“But more importantly, that cat loves her. When she walked through the door, there’d be a flash of ginger and there he’d be, wrapping himself around her legs.”
He paused again and lifted his glasses from his nose while he wiped the tears from his cheeks.
“But he didn’t even get close today, did he? Maybe he could sense something, smell something, was wrong. And he was right not to get too close.”
His fingers, tips now wet, moved from his cheek to his jaw and the bruise that was developing there.
“I don’t know what you’ve done but…”
The old woman’s voice startled Adam to silence and he dropped his glasses back onto his face where they hung slightly askew.
“Untie me and I’ll give her back to you.”
Adam pauses outside the double doors. He takes a deep breath and tries to compose himself. For him, the worst thing is in the not knowing.
Not knowing how she will be feeling.
Not knowing how she will sound.
Not knowing how she will look.
He switches the bunch of flowers from one hand to the other, releasing a combination of pollen and odours that almost have him sneezing. Once he steps inside the ward his nose is assaulted again, this time by cleanliness and any individuality within the bouquet he so carefully chose is washed away in a wave of disinfectant and a distant whiff of faeces.
There are six beds and all but the furthest two are empty. The floor is recently mopped and the damp surface reflects the stark fluorescent strips like polished oak. Marie is propped up by pillows on the bed to his left, reading. In the bed opposite her, the old lady sleeps.
He smiles as Marie looks up from her magazine and sees him. She looks like she is smiling back but he knows that is just the fading swelling in her upper jaw, resultant of her surgery. She looks far better than the last time he was here. He crosses the ward towards her, gritting his teeth as Marie winces when she does try to smile, seeing the pain stretch across her face.
“You look so much better,” he says as he approaches her.
“Shut your fucking mouth you mother fucking son of a whore.”
“Holy shit,” Adam shouts.
His foot hits a wet patch on the floor and skids out from underneath him. He grabs the end of the nearest bed and steadies himself. The flowers have slid under the chair next to Marie’s bed. When he finally lifts his head he looks straight into the eyes of the old woman in the bed opposite. Despite the wrinkles that surround them they are most piercing blue he has ever seen. Her mouth lolls open and drool spills down her chin as her tongue works wordlessly.
She is sat up, suddenly awake.
Despite her permeating gaze, Adam finds a smile creeping across his lips. He glances quickly at Marie then turns back to the old woman.
“You okay over there, Grandma?” he asks.
Her voice replies, quieter this time.
“Don’t you fucking patronise me, you son of a whore!”
He glances at Marie again, raises his eyebrows to match hers, and finally pulls himself back up on his feet.
“Shall I get you the nurse for you?” he asks as he takes a step towards her.
“Go fuck yourself. You’ll be the one needing a bitching nurse”.
“Whoa, okay there. I’ll just go and visit my friend over here and leave you be, shall I?
The old woman mutters and more spit runs down her face.
Adam slides the curtain closed around Marie’s bed and retrieves the flowers from under the chair.
“What was that all about?” he mouths to Marie who shrugs in return and points to her face.
“Ha”, he whispers, as he leans forward and kisses her on the forehead. “I didn’t know that you having wisdom teeth out was going to be so dangerous for me”.
“That’s not going to happen,” Adam said but he was not entirely certain he meant the words. He took a step towards her, his hands reaching out, a feeling of faint pressure on his back, edging him towards her. He blinked, trying to shake the growing haze that was falling over his eyes, his eyes and then he met her eyes and saw her face and she was grinning and she shouldn’t be grinning, should not be able to grin and…
“What the hell?”
He stumbled backwards, his elbow striking the blinds and making them shake and rattle against the glass.
“Ha. Ha. Ha. Nearly got you.” The voice was teasing and arrogant.
Adam felt his fingers curl into a fist
“And get you I will.”
The fist became tighter, fingernails digging into the fleshy part of his palm.
“Just like I. Got. Her”.
He lost control and leapt forward, swinging his arm in a wide ark, his fist crunching into her cheekbone, snapping her head back. The front legs of the chair rose up and she almost toppled over backwards.
“The little slut liked it rough did she?”
He punched her again.
“Yeah, yeah, more. Harder you little shit, come on.”
She stared up at Adam, her eyes wide open, sinews in her neck tight. Her wrists battled against their restraints, and fresh blood flicked from her mouth with every breath.
“More, more,” she exalted and he replied as she wanted.
He stared down into those blue eyes and struck her again, the flesh around her eye socket, already mashed and bruised now breaking and releasing a flow of blood.
She dropped her chin to her chest as he took his fist back again.
When she looked back up at him her eyes were green.
Marie’s voice froze him like a statue.
Adam pauses outside the double doors. He gently eases one open and pokes his head inside with an index finger placed on his lips in the universal signal of “shh”. As he slinks into the room he makes eye contact with Marie and, while keeping his finger on his lips, begins to stride across the ward in exaggerated “Scooby Doo” sneaking steps.
“You’re fuch a fool”, Marie mumbles.
“You sound better,” Adam replies. “You sound like you’ve got a mouth full of marshmallow now rather than a mouthful of golf balls.”
“Go fud yoursaid.”
Adam jabs a thumb towards the opposite bed.
“Where’s sleeping ugly?”
“Got it the first time. Just wanted to hear you say it again”.
Marie punches him in the arm as he sits down and picks up one of her magazines.
“How can you read this…?”
The door to the ward bangs open as the nurse pushes a wheelchair into the room. She smiles across at Marie and Adam. The old lady in the chair does not take her eyes off Adam.
The nurse puts the brakes on the wheelchair and gently starts to help the old lady onto the bed.
“And how are you today, my dear?” Adam calls, meeting the crone’s stare.
She does not respond but neither does she look away. Adam is sure she grins at him. A little unnerved he stands up and throws the magazine to the bed.
“Look, phone me when you want to be picked up. I’ve got to… I’ll see you later.”
“Ummm, ogay,” Marie says, a little surprised.
Adam glances back when he reaches the door, but not at Marie.
The old woman is still smiling at him as the nurse pulls the sheets up over her legs and as the door swings shut behind him he is sure he sees her blue eyes glow a little brighter.
Adam staggered backwards and collapsed onto the sofa. He felt like his body weight had doubled, trebled and that all the blood had rushed to his legs. His right fist throbbed from the pummelling he had given…
… her and he cradled it with his other hand. Blood was smeared across his knuckles but he knew he hadn’t broken the skin. The blood was not his own. It was…
… someone else’s but not his.
He’d tied her to one of the wooden dining chairs. It was all he could think of doing. He’d dragged the extension cord from the behind the sofa and wrapped that around her torso, pulling it tight until he’d been able to fashion a semi-passable knot at the back. Her ankles and knees he’d secured using a bunch of zip ties he didn’t know they had under the kitchen sink. Within seconds of her coming around they had chafed through her jeans. Finally he’d tied her wrists and forearms to her own thighs using packing string. That too was matted with blood.
She stared straight at him.
When she spoke, Marie’s voice was gone.
“Untie me and I’ll give her back to you.”
Adam felt his breath hitch in his throat.
“Untie me and I’ll give her back to you.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Oh Adam, you can trust me.”
Adam’s bowels tightened when he heard Marie’s voice again.
“Untie me and I’ll give her back to you. She’s right her with me. I can read all her thoughts, all her memories… or maybe you don’t want her back. Is that it?”
“Of course I want her back, I…”
“You don’t want her back. And I don’t blame you, the little slut!”
“What are you..?”
“Cheating little bitch was getting it elsewhere.”
The chair rocked as she wiggled her hips.
“Maybe you should let me go and I’ll take her away forever, I’ll…”
“Take the little slut away…”
“I know. I chose to ignore it.”
“You knew? And you do nothing about it? You snivelling little shit, you filthy piece of pathetic fucking, mother fucker…”
And she continued to shout at him and then the shouting became calmer and then the calm became a murmur and Adam knew he had to shut her up and he tried to stand and his legs wouldn’t work and he could feel… fingers… probing at his mind, looking for a way inside and all he could think of was a wall… building a wall around his mind as those fingers prodded his thoughts… and he had to build a wall … and he had to stop the fingers getting inside his mind… and the wall had to be built but the fingers were moving too quickly and they were going to find a way inside and then the cat jumped on his lap with a little yelp and he tore his eyes from hers and he felt the fingers rush away from him and he slumped back in his seat as this time it was the cat that hissed.
And in the chair she shook her head and sighed.
“Finally died has she?” Adam asks as he hooks a thumb to the bed opposite Marie’s.
“Yes. Show some respect will you? She died this morning.”
Adam takes the bag from her, the corners of his lips twitch up into a smile as a joke pushes itself to the surface of his mind.
“Adam, don’t!” Marie snaps.
“I was just…” he replies, tries to make light of the situation.
“Well don’t. Just get me out of here”.
Adam sat back down on the sofa, spilling a little of the water from the glass he’d brought back from the kitchen. The cat was perched on the window sill, its eyes focussed on what had been its mistress.
“So what are you?” Adam asked.
“Go fuck yourself.”
“Some sort of demon? The Devil?”
“Go fuck yourself, you son of a whore.”
“Look, if I know what I’m dealing with, maybe I’ll let you go.”
Marie’s eyes widened.
“And then you’ll give her back to me?”
“I’m not the Devil.”
“So what are you?” Adam could feel the cold beads of sweat forming on his forehead. He took another mouthful of water.
“Maybe I don’t know what I am anymore, I’ve spent so much time passing through.”
“Passing through what?”
“Your world. Your kind. One to the other to the next.”
“Like the old woman and now onto Marie?”
“You think I have a fucking choice you piece of shit?”
On the window sill the cat hissed and rose up on its haunches, teeth bared.
“So you just take what you want and cast aside whatever you find inside?”
“I pass through.”
“But the old woman died. You took her body and she died.”
“She’d have died anyway.”
“But she wasn’t yours to take,” Adam stood up. “Just like Marie wasn’t yours to take.”
“If I don’t take a body then how the fuck am I meant to survive? You have no fucking idea. Like you’ve no idea how this little slut has been playing you. Like you have no idea…”
Adam threw the glass against the wall. The shatter silenced the words coming from Marie’s mouth. The cat clattered to the floor and sprinted from the room.
“Shut up,” Adam bellowed but the whatever it was that was passing through Marie was already silent. Its bright blue eyes drew back from the doorway where it had watched the whirlwind cat flee. When it looked back at Adam the smile it showed him was not one of happiness but one of deep and ancient malevolence.
“Say goodbye to Marie,” the voice hissed.
And then the light went out of its eyes and Marie’s chin fell to her chest, her body limp against its binds.
Adam unlocks the front door of their apartment and steps inside. He turns to Marie who is slowly making her way inside.
“Are you okay? You’ve said next to nothing since I’ve picked you up?”
“Can’t you just shut up?” Marie murmured.
“What did you say?”
“I said shut up you son of a whore!”
The cat stretched itself out of the bedroom, blinking its big eyes as it roused itself from sleep. Its ears perked up when Adam spoke.
“You can be in a mood with me all you like but look who has come to see you.”
Marie glanced down at the cat and wrinkled her nose.
Ignoring the cat, Marie walked down the hallway.
She turned to face Adam and the cat bounced down the corridor towards her. It only got halfway when it froze, all of the hairs along its spine standing up like the quills of a porcupine. It hissed once and sprung back towards the bedroom where Adam could hear it scuttling under the bed.
Adam strode towards Marie.
“Hey, I know you’ve had a tough time in the hospital but I’m telling you…”
“You tell me nothing.”
Adam stopped in his tracks. He’d never heard Marie speak like that before but he’d heard that voice.
She moved towards him with a sudden spurt of speed and slapped him across his face with her left hand as the finger nails of her right hand clawed towards his eyes. He instinctively ducked and placed a hand on her sternum, shoving her backwards as the cat reappeared, scared but too inquisitive not to be involved, and bolted down the hallway.
Marie stumbled over the fleeing feline and cracked the back of her head on the opposite wall, sinking in a heap to the floor. Adam rushed to her, the colour drained from his face.
There was some recognition in her green eyes as they flickered open. She almost smiled.
And then she blinked and the green eyes were gone, replaced by an incredibly bright blue. Spittle flew from her lips and she again raised her hand like a claw.
Adam had punched her across the chin before he even thought about doing it.
Adam didn’t move. He knew he could not trust whatever it was that was “passing through” Marie and it could just as easily be faking. He didn’t think she was breathing though; her chest wasn’t moving and her nostrils were no longer flaring.
He dragged his eyes from her and to the shards of glass that were strewn about the lounge. There were tiny spots of blood on the carpet, leading off to the hallway.
Adam pushed himself to his feet and, keeping a safe distance between himself and Marie, headed off to find the cat.
The ginger feline was sat on the bed, surrounded by tiny red paw prints. It held up one front paw and meowed at Adam when he saw him. Adam sat on the edge of the bed and was surprised when the cat let him gently take the injured limb. A sliver of glass was imbedded into one of the pads of its foot. With a grimace, Adam quickly tugged it free and set it on the bedside table.
“There you go”, he said. “That might need a trip to the…”
The cat lashed out and dragged its claws down Adam’s forearm. The cat sat and stared at him and as the blood swelled to the surface Adam felt a sudden pressure inside his mind.
“What..?” he started but never finished.
“Don’t mind me, you son of a whore”, said a voice from his lips. “I’m just passing through.”
updated by @craig-jones: 02/13/16 02:03:52AM