The second installment of a side project… when wrapped up in the world of a novel and hit a roadblock, it helps to take a break and do something completely different. And thus Beecham’s Nightfall was born. It’s not perfect, unedited, just a quick diddy for amusement.
For the first part in this series click >here<
Lying in the steamy water, letting the heat draw tension from muscles, which was helped along by a glass of wine I delicately balanced on the rim of the bath tub. Recalling it had been six months to the day since being woken by the police banging at my door. With the sun setting behind a neighbors yard, the two constables were bathed in a golden light, and I instantly felt relieved – like a pair of angels reporting for duty. However the night quickly turned sour after they reported that the scene had been cleaned of any evidence to corroborate my story. They were here to take my statement. At first I panicked, imagining scenarios of B-Grade Horror Films where I’d be declared a loony and subsequently committed. Fortunately, both young men were sympathetic and eager to hear my version of events… well the version without my imaginative interpretation. Plus I had collected my own evidence: which they promptly confiscated.
I’d received two follow up phone calls since, assuring that the matter was still under investigation, and checking to see if I had any further information. I remained tight-lipped about my supernatural version. The last thing I wanted to do was sully the investigation with fanciful theories.
It was a Godsend when the police had taken the clippings, photos and samples I collected, for it enabled me to forget it all the quicker – convince myself that it was entirely a bad dream. Except for when I slept, it all replayed in my subconscious, the screams, the gut-churning snap of breaking bone, the shredded chunks of dog I’d had the unfortunate experience of slipping in. Each time those images flitted through my mind, it was accompanied with the sense-memory of the repulsive coppery, rotting, stomach acid fumes. I’d woken and chundered a number of times, caught with a full stomach; but lately the nightmares were having less impact.
Any inclination to delve into further mysteries evaporated, and I flourished in the uneventful domesticity of work-home-eat-sleep routine. Finding there was nothing better than a mechanical and monotonous schedule to ease a troubled mind.
For the first week after the police had paid me a visit I had agonized over the choice whether to take some accrued annual leave and get away, far away, like overseas – Venice, where I had always longed to go. Instead I had opted for the second choice, and spent my savings on increasing security around the house. Installing cyclone shutters, sensor lights, security cameras on the front and back doors, and converted the concrete storage space under the stairs into a make-shift panic room.
Hearing a slight noise, I languidly gazed out the barred bathroom window to identify the tapping and scratching sounds of a tree branch flapping in the buffeting wind and rain outside, a shiver rippling up my arms, I slouched farther into the piping hot bubble bath. Every noise frightened me since that night trapped in a rusty furnace, terrified by the heavy breathing at the grill where I hid, followed by the most violent animalistic screams. Tomorrow I’d need to trim back the tree again.
Arriving at Dawson and Associates early the next morning I was greeted in the small freshly painted lobby by the other two partners, Andrew Fancis and Steven Bast.
“Good morning Miss Rosenthall, you’re nice and early as usual.” Mr Bast greeted with a big smile.
“Morning Mr Bast, Mr Francis.” I nodded to each of them intending to continue to my desk.
“Can you check Errol’s diary to see if he can squeeze an appointment in this afternoon with Normanby Trucking. They are a potential new client that could bring in a lot of business for us.”
“Certainly. I’ll email out a meeting invite. Do you have the particulars?”
“Skye will have them.”
“And is there any background information so I can prepare for Mr Dawson?”
“I have a little, but could you be a dear and do a little more research?”
As easily as I got along with everyone at work, Mr Bast continually called me ‘dear’ which always felt condescending – it was an old man’s term of endearment, but coming from a thirty-something overweight man, it just felt wrong, even if it was unintentional.
I swept past the chatting gentlemen and headed to the reception desk which was still empty, leaving a sticky note on Skye’s computer screen asking for the details of Normanby Trucking. Continuing to the rear of the building where my cubicle was situated outside Mr Dawson’s office, I booted up the computer ready for the day’s tasks. Completing a small folio profiling the transport company before my boss tenderly walked up the hallway, always quiet and respectful, carrying what I guessed was another bag with a tupperware’d meal.
“Ah, Ida. Good to see you this morning.”
“Morning, are you well?”
“As much as these old bones can be. Here’s something Kathleen made for you. She’s trying out a new recipe which I’m afraid is a little too spicy for me.” He handed me the plastic bag.
“Let her know I’m very greatful.”
“She wants to know what you think, she want’s to use if for a dinner with friends next month.”
“I’m sure it will be sublime.”
Mr Dawson leant on the top of the partition signifying he was more in the mood for a chat than attacking the piles of work littering his desktop.
“You know my nephew is visiting this weekend from Melbourne, maybe if you are not busy, you’d join us for dinner. I’m afraid Kat and I will bore the poor lad to death.”
“Mr Dawson, I hope you are not trying to set me up?” I gave him a cheeky smile.
“Goodness no, you’re much too nice for him. Kat has been asking to see you again, and you work so hard, we thought it would be a nice break from the routine.”
“In that case, I’d be delighted.”
“I’ve forwarded your messages to your inbox; and Sue from Mendlesons wanted you to call her back quite urgently. Also Mr Bast and Mr Francis wanted to schedule a meeting with you and a new client this afternoon. I’ll email an invite shortly, but here’s a dossier for reference. I’ll need to schedule your four o’clock with Mr Ceder if you approve?”
“That sounds fine Ida.” He flipped through the folder I handed him. “Did you prepare this yourself?”
“Great work. We might have to think about promoting you sometime soon, if your interested? I was thinking about having you manage some of our larger client accounts. Give it some thought will you?”
“Uh.” I stuttered, taken completely by surprise. “Sure.”
That effectively ended the conversation as my face turned a shade of beetroot and Mr Dawson cleared his throat several times before retreating to his den.
Saturday was upon me before I was ready, and presented to Mr Dawson’s doorstep in heels and a dress, it was the first time I’d bothered to dress in anything other than my work clothes or sweats in months. The anticipated awkwardness throughout the evening was nowhere to be seen; in fact I had a marvelous time. Mr Dawson’s nephew, Jacob, was hilarious company. A good five years younger than myself and still possessing that glassy-eyed exuberance and optimism for life, he amused the table with anecdotes of adventures in the big city. I couldn’t remember the last time I had laughed so much. I retired for the night with a full belly and a kiss on the cheek. Failing to notice the darkness, or imagine sinister eyes watching me, I unlocked the front door and made my way to bed.
The night out had broken a ritualistic spell that consumed my life over the last six months, my routines began the falter in which I had placed so much asylum. Although I still dead-bolted the doors and windows, tucked away indoors before the sun kissed the horizon of an evening – my bravado returned as I tenuously checked over the news for any further animal mauling. No missing persons. No dead bodies. Appeased to find a vacancy of such stories in the bulletin, convinced that my fears were mere fantasy. No more would I become statuesque, like a kangaroo caught in the headlights of a semi-trailer, entranced and wide-eyed at small sounds. The adrenaline soaked synapses of my brain matter connected noises to their harmless sources: branches in the wind, a passing car, a party down the block… everything was explainable. No longer was I going to remain a neurotic; locked in an old house with the ghost of a garroted teen.
The remission of my over-cautious nature was noticed by those around me, even Skye Merrick, our receptionist, invited me to lunch with her frequently.
“So tell me, who is he?” She asked, while masticating a mouthful of salad.
“The guy who’s put a skip in your step.”
“There’s no guy.”
“A girl?” Skye leaned in excitedly.
I rolled my eyes. She was always so animated, her head stuck in the latest rag mags, wore way too heavy foundation and hair hot ironed straight like brittle yellow straw. A victim of name fad’s from the 80’s, Skye epitomized every blonde joke. She had a heart of gold and dreamed of leaving our small community for the active nightlife and club scene of a city. Maybe Mr Dawson should have introduced her to Jacob?
“No girl either.” I replied dryly.
“Well what is it then?”
“I got offered a promotion.” I grasped, not wanting to re-tell a story that would have her thinking I was schizophrenic.
“No shit! You gonna be a fully-fledged accountant? Is he grooming you as a new partner for the firm?”
“No, Mr Dawson asked if I’d be interested in managing a few accounts for the firm. That’s all.”
“Well congratulations. You deserve it.” She finally swallowed the mouthful of food before continuing. “We should celebrate!”
“I don’t know. I haven’t even accepted it yet.”
“Are you stupid. Of course you’ll take it. And we are having a girl’s night out!”
I was more concerned if I objected Skye would end up spraying her food to convince me as she chomped another all-too-large bite full of her lunch. Besides, what could it hurt? It’s about time I reclaimed my life.
As my social life re-emerged – with the assistance of Skye setting me up with Chris Sturgess on our evening celebration – a couple of lunch dates later I escaped from work Friday afternoon as she and Mr Dawson began to prod me for details. I wasn’t the type to discuss my personal life with anyone, and the thought of divulging any part of my dates, or feelings, turned my stomach.
Ensconced back in my familiar four walls I deliberated over phoning Chris to ask him out on what would be our first official date… maybe at Flinders Restaurant for dinner?. It wasn’t too fancy but had an intimate enough atmosphere.
Time to stop being a coward.
Refusing to fade into history like Nanette, I picked up the phone. And then promptly put it back down.
Maybe after a bath… and some dinner.
Falling back into my nightly routine I ate, bathed, and checked every window and door. Unencumbered by any further excuses, I made a second attempt to dial Chris’s number. It was already late, the sky past the purplish bruise of a sun long gone. Scrolling through my contacts I suddenly felt the familiar prickle of hair along the back of my neck, sensing something with claws and teeth watching through the half closed shutters in the dining room window.
Just ignore it! You’re nervous, that’s all. No need to succumb to your over-active imagination.
I found Chris’ name in the list on the touch screen of my mobile phone.
Don’t look. Don’t look!
The window beckoned to me.
I pressed ‘Call’ listening to the dial tone. He didn’t answer, instead redirected to his voicemail. I searched the wall desperate for an invitation that sounded casual and cool. Then I stared out the window.
Another set of eyes were staring back.
That reflective eye-shine that cats have. Clear and close. I took a deep calming breath.
It’s not real!
And then they blinked, moved ever so slightly.
Just an animal. A dog, a possum. Nothing sinister.
Was I having a panic attack because I had to ask a boy out on a date?
I took a few steps towards the window, fixated on the twin yellow-pearl glowing orbs following my movements. I was safe behind iron bars and locks. At the glass pane, unable to make out an outline of whatever animal had me under surveillance. With my free hand I reached up slowly towards the external light switch. The motion sensors should have lit up the yard like the midday sun, so, more than likely this was nothing.
I flicked the switch.
The yard was immediately illuminated – and empty. But the eyes remained fixed upon me. They were further back, in the scrub behind the house. Now that I had some perspective on the distance of whatever was watching, I realized it was big! The eyes were far apart at that distance, and up high. Six, maybe seven foot tall.
And then they blinked out.
Finally snapping out of my reverie, I ducked behind the wall.
Realizing I’d just left a five minute message to Chris consisting of heavy breathing, I hung up. Running about to re-check the security system, the locks, turning off the interior lights as I went, I refused to let paranoia consume me. My hands trembled and I could barely hear a thing over the blood pounding in my eardrums.
I curled up on my bed for hours, mind buzzing. I was safe. This house was a veritable Fort Knox. No matter what it was that I thought I saw, the house would light up like a Christmas Tree, alarm blaring and a reinforced panic room for me to escape to, counter-measures before dissolving into a pathetic, cowering child. Reassured, I lay a while longer, restless, before resorting to a sleeping tablet and relief in a chemically induced slumber.
Things always look better in the morning… in daylight.
It was noon by the time my drug fueled and drooling coma wore off. I felt a little foolish about last night. Petrified by some innocuous mammal in the bush, and leaving an ominous sex-pest voicemail on Chris’ phone. How embarrassing! Maybe I can shrug it off saying that I must have pocket dialed him? Brushing my teeth and throwing on my regular weekend uniform, grey sweats and sneakers, hair wrapped up in a twisted knot atop my head. Skipping any breakfast I ventured outside to inspect the yard, determined to prove that I was in fact, a complete idiot.
Examining the tree line first around where I had seen the mysterious holographic irises taking in my house, I uncovered a section of ground compacted and disturbed. Small twigs and under brush were bent and snapped leading a trail away into the hills. But the track also continued right into the back yard. Whatever over-sized rodent it was, had made its way to the house.
I checked the bins first, but they yielded no results. Retracing my steps and inspecting the perimeter I discovered scuff and trample marks in the ground at several places along the wall, just under the windows. Something was casing the house, peering in. I couldn’t make out any foot or paw prints. But thank heaven I’d had the forethought to install security measures.
Just as I was about to return indoors I noticed part of the wall glistened with a water mark, now dry, its crystalline residue coloring the render with a yellowish hue. I bent closer and caught a spicy, definite uric scent. Checking the rest of the walls, each corner had the same discolored patch. Something had marked this as its territory. My house, me, firmly locked in its cross-hairs.
If I’d eaten breakfast, I’m fairly sure I would have thrown it up. Suddenly, the six months since my night in the abandoned church seemed like yesterday. And I knew in my gut – as inconceivable as it seemed – that there was something out there, be it animal or animal-like, which had hunted me down.
© Casey Carlisle 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.