The stairs leading to her flat were never so steep or plentiful, nor was the lock on her door so difficult to unlatch. Shaky panic-stricken fingers dropped the keys twice. She slammed the door behind her and spun around to lock all three locks – the chain, the deadbolt and doorknob. Air refused to fill her lungs, a stitch stung her side. She turned her back and slid down the door, landing weary and broken on the floor.
The eyes were gone. The only thing surrounding her was the small and familiar space she called home. The dark wooden floors stained and nicked. The white wash walls mottled with faint water stains. Three small square windows that offered perfectly framed views of aged gray bricks. One window was cracked open allowing the sounds of London to waft in – distant car horns, a slight rustle of leaves and the mist of humidity floating with a wisp along crooked streets. Everything was just as she left it this morning.
Barnaby sat on the edge of her slip-covered sofa, eying her with intense curiosity as only a cat can embody. The fat orange tabby tilted his head and flicked his tail, no doubt demanding an explanation for her odd behavior. She detached her battered body from the floor and sat next to him. Fur swallowed her fingers as she scratched his neck. It wasn’t long before he started to rumble with a content purr. Another sign that she was home, where nothing had changed.
She closed her eyes waited for the calm of relief to settle her nerves, but it did not come. The couch didn’t feel the same under her numb legs, Barnaby’s fur felt strange through still trembling fingers. It was still hard to breathe through exhausted lungs. Lingering fear resided on the edges of her mind, poised to strangle her senses. She opened her eyes determined to convince herself she was safely surrounded by familiar walls. The same Barnaby sat beside her, her beloved bookshelf crammed with books stood her left, while the ivy plant she watered this morning was still green in it’s planter. She was safe.
It was just a trick of the imagination, she told herself. A very realistic trick. She wasn’t entirely convinced, but decided a hot cup of tea might smooth out the tension locking her body. As she got up from the sofa, an unnerving paranoia tickled the base of her skull. She stopped just short of the kitchen, wary of what could be hiding out of view. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but that didn’t mean anything. She glanced at an old horseshoe hanging on the wall above the entryway to the kitchen. A gift from her mother – an eternal ranch hand who still scratched out an existence somewhere in Texas. It was supposed to bring luck. She never gave it a second thought, but after recent events, she decided it couldn’t hurt. She reached up and rubbed her fingers over the rough metal.
Hesitantly, she craned her neck around the door frame. Nothing. Just the usual teeny tiny kitchen that barely had enough room to house her dishes. A breath she didn’t know she was holding puffed her cheeks. She grabbed the tea kettle and filled it water, feeling a little silly. Everything she thought happened this afternoon was ridiculous. Perhaps all the result of not sleeping well the past few nights. She smiled at her own stupidity. Sleep deprived minds tended to confuse reality with imagination. There was nothing strange going on except the regard she gave to her illusions.
She put the kettle on the old stove and turned the knobs. It was just another afternoon and another beginning of an ordinary cup of tea. She turned to the cupboard to grab a cup, but as always misjudged the tight squeeze. Her elbow banged into the lever handle on her refrigerator. It hurt like hell every time. She rubbed the stinging pain on her way back into the living room. Barnaby was curled up on one of the couch pillows, perfectly content in his little nest.
While waiting for the kettle to whistle it’s tune, she decided to find a new book to read. The act of standing in front of the bookshelf gave further assurance that she was perfectly fine. As always, books were rammed into any available space, bowing the shelves into unnatural curves. She groaned at the thought of her lost copy of Benjamin Lebert’s Crazy. By now it was a soaked pile of mush – lost forever in a dark alley. A book should never meet that fate. She hoped another one of Lebert’s books was hidden in her collection to take the place of the one she so stupidly dropped. Enough! she thought. It was time to stop chiding herself. Everyone had moments they wish they could take back – her nonsensical terror-filled dash would be that moment. It belonged to the past; not to be trifled with again.
From the kitchen, she could hear the slight hum of the water as it began to heat. Warmth spread through her body at the thought of a steaming cup of tea. Her eyes started scanning the spines of the books on the second shelf, when a different sound crept into her ears. She wasn’t certain, but it sounded like a fingernail dragging across the door. Barnaby heard it, too. He stood on the arm of the couch with his back arched; his hair spiked into a cat mohawk. His eyes were trained on the front door and so were hers. There was more than one nail, more than one scratch assaulting the other side of the door.
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After posting Blink, I was asked by several people if there was another a chapter to the story. I was not expecting that question and was therefore planning to keep the next two chapters safely tucked into my journal. However, after such an encouraging response to Blink, I decided to pull out those chapters. Like the first installment, this is the result of a free write, so I did very little editing to preserve the original words and feeling of this piece.
Part three will be posted next week. Stay tuned!
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