AFTER THE RAIN
By Paul McAvoy
Suddenly it was raining.
There seemed to be no warning of the downpour, and it came down hard and heavy, lashing at the pavement, forming quick streams and puddles of water that glistened with the lights from the lampposts. With the rain came the emptiness. A normally busy road, even at that late hour, was now devoid of all traffic, as though it had all been swallowed up.
I had a ten minute walk along the main street: my small house was across the road and down a quiet cul-de-sac. I hunched my head forward, braced for a wet journey home, but as soon as it began, the rain ended. I looked up at the sky and the dark clouds as they passed by. A full moon appeared, as well as a scattering of stars.
I turned my gaze from the sky and looked ahead. That was when I saw her. She was about a hundred yards away, along the main road. I guess what first drew me to her was the fact that she seemed to be the only sign of life on the road other than me.
I headed in her direction, silently studying her as my footsteps slowed a little and my eagerness to get home subsided. She looked quite out of place on the main road. There seemed to be something wrong about her. It was hard to put a finger on. To put it bluntly, she made me feel uneasy. For one thing she was looking out to the road, and she was also wearing a white dress with what appeared to be a veil. The white dress, which looked old fashioned, seemed to glow, but I supposed that that was probably due to the lights from the lampposts reflecting on it.
I contemplated crossing over the road and keeping out of the way, but I kept on ‘our’ side of the road. Before I knew it I was right up to her. She did not move as I approached her, and stayed in the same position, looking out at the road. It was hard to see her face or detect her age due to the veil over her face. But I guessed from her profile she was no older than forty.
‘You okay?’ I found myself asking as I reached her. But she did not move, did not say anything. ‘Never mind,’ I muttered as I passed her, quickening my pace. I crossed the normally busy road, looking out for traffic that wasn’t there. I turned down onto the road where I lived. Halfway along, I paused and looked behind me. The woman had moved and was now stood at the end of my street. She was looking my way. I felt a chill race through me, like a current.
‘This is just getting weird,’ I said to myself.
I quickened my pace and headed for home, fumbling in my pockets for my house keys. I could sense her eyes upon me, even though I tried to tell myself that was probably not the case. I got inside my house and switched on the hallway lights, shutting the door behind me, a bit quicker than I normally would. I locked it, and I made sure it was firmly secured. Then I went into the living room and looked out onto the street. She was not there.
I closed the curtains and went into the kitchen, where I poured myself a large glass of wine. I drank half the glass in one gulp and exhaled, feeling the effects of the alcohol. I felt slightly better. I walked upstairs to my front bedroom and looked down onto the street.
I quickly pulled away from the window. She was in my garden. I took in several deep breaths, and then looked out the window again. Her face was still hidden under the veil, but I could tell she was looking up at me. I felt numb with fear and my body went rigid but I managed to snap myself from out of my inertia… This had gone far enough… she was really beginning to scare me. I hurried down the stairs and yanked open the front door.
‘Look… you…’ I began. I looked all around me, but the woman in white was no longer in my garden. I walked up the garden path to the gate and looked onto the road. She was nowhere to be seen. I checked the garden once more, shaking my head.
I went back inside, locking the door behind me, and checking the handle to be sure it was locked. I finished the wine and decided on a second glass. I went upstairs and sat up in bed watching TV for a while, during which time I checked the garden again (she did not return), until my eyes started to grow heavy. I turned off both the TV and light and went to sleep.
I dreamed I was back with Sam and we were in bed together. Oh, I missed my ex-girlfriend… so much so that it hurt at times. There had been no one since we split up over a year ago. I did not want anyone else. But here we were, back together. I guess I knew it was a dream, but it was nice anyway. In the dream I felt her lying next to me in bed. I was secure and I felt like the happiest man in the world. All the hurt, the falling out, it never happened. We were together. I felt her cold body next me, I sensed her cold hand touch my shoulder. I relished her cold caress. I felt the hem of her dress rise up and her cold legs entangle in mine. I beheld the brush of a kiss on the back of my neck from her ice-cold lips…
My eyes shot open as the realisation hit me: This was not a dream. A lot of other thoughts exploded in my mind in that moment. What was going on? What the hell was going on! Who was in my bed..? Why were they in my bed?
I sprang out from under the sheets, untangling myself from the person’s legs. I think I knocked my bedside lamp onto the floor. I turned my face to the bed, even though I could not see much in the gloom. I just saw a shape on my bed. I opened my mouth to scream, to call out, but nothing would come. All that would come out was a whispered choke. The shape began to move.
‘Don’t… leave… me…’ said a female voice.
‘You!’ I blurted. ‘’You followed me here… how did you get in my house?’
But my guest made no reply. I hurried over to the light switch and flicked it on. But no light came. I flicked it off then on again. Nothing. I went onto the landing and switched on the landing light, but this did not work either. I looked back at the bedroom. I could hear movement. She was getting out of bed.
I hurried down the stairs, not really having much idea as to where I was going and what I was going to do. I could still feel her cold kiss on the back of my neck. I reached the foot of the stairs and then turned into the living room. Here I turned the light switch on, but again there was no light. A fuse must have blown. I stood at the doorway and looked towards the stairs. I could hear her moving upstairs, in my bedroom. She would be coming down the stairs; she would be coming for me. Soon.
I stood and I watched the upstairs, but she did not appear, nor were there any more sounds of movement. The darkness began to clear a little bit as my eyes grew more accustomed to it. I looked around at the clock on the DVD player underneath the TV. 4.15 am. I turned back to the stairs. Could I have dreamt it all? Perhaps not what happened outside when I had seen her on the road, that had been real… but her being in my bed? I thought about it for a moment. A nightmare… wine before bedtime always made me dream too vividly. If not, how had she got into my bed?
I recalled her cold body, her icy kiss…
That was when I felt her embrace. She grabbed me from behind, her hands locking around me. Her touch was like ice and this chill quickly raced through my body, spreading like a virus. I felt her lips against the back of my head. She pressed her ice cold hips against the back of my legs.
‘Don’t leave… me… I said…’ she muttered.
I must have said something, but cannot remember what. I tried to pull away from her, but she held me tight, and with extraordinary strength. The more I struggled, the tighter her grip became. But not only that, I started to grow weak too. Her frozen hold was sapping all the strength from me. I fought to free myself. But it was battle I could not win.
I stayed my struggle briefly. ‘What do you want?’ I asked, gasping for breath.
‘To be a part… of you… to belong… with you… you are mine and I am yours…Don’t fight… me… I might hurt you… I don’t want to break you… your body is so easy to break… so easy…’
I stopped trying to pull away. ‘Okay,’ I panted. ‘Let me go and we will talk, talk about this belonging stuff. How’s that sound?’
She paused. ‘You will run away.’
‘No, course not…’ I told her. ‘I want to chat… really. I was just scared before… But I am not scared anymore.’
‘I don’t like it when… you run away.’
‘I promise I won’t run away now.’
The lights came on, filling the living room with brightness. She let go of me, but I was not for keeping my promises. I ran. I did not know where I was heading, nor did I think of how I had tried to run away from her in the bedroom and she had still found me. I just ran. I headed into the kitchen, flicking on the lights and looking for the backdoor key on the kitchen worktops. I could not see the key anywhere.
‘You ran!’ came her voice from behind me.
I turned around. She was at the kitchen door. She held out her left hand, palm upwards. The door key was in her hand. I looked at the hand. The nails were dark and the skin was grey.
‘How did you get the key?’
She did not answer. Instead she lifted her right hand to her face and began to pull up the veil. I watched silently as the lace was removed. Her face was horrific, so much so that I took an unsteady step backwards. The grey skin was lean against the skull and where the eyes should have been were black hollows. Yellow puss ran down her cheeks, like tears.
I tried not to look, but it was impossible. Then she spoke again, but her lips or mouth did not move… it was as though the words were being sent to my head telepathically.
‘I want you to be with me… why can’t you accept that. I have come from a long way for this… for you. I want to love you… you called me, and I came…’
I shook my head violently. ‘No… when would I have done that?’
‘One of your…. earth years… ago,’ she told me.
I had a sudden memory, a month or so after the beak-up with Sam I had got drunk alone in the house. I had cursed my luck with the opposite sex and asked whoever might listen why I could not keep hold of a girlfriend… I had generally felt sorry for myself. I had wished I had a girl whom I could keep. I had also fallen asleep on the sofa with a glass of wine on my lap… a glass I spilt over myself during the night.
The thing before me continued, ‘I came here tonight and I entered the vacant body, removing it from the soil, taking it from the wooden box. I was alive… and now I am here.’
‘You took the body… from the earth!’ I gasped. ‘You…’
She started towards me. ‘We will share this body and be as one…’ She held her hands out and they glowed a strange colour, between powder blue and gold. ‘Hold my hands and we will unite.’
I needed to fight her somehow. I could not keep running, as I had nowhere to run to. I looked around for some kind of weapon. Kitchen utensils, kettle, a drainer with a few pots I had washed earlier. Then I remembered. A few months ago there had been some burglaries in the area and I had kept a baseball bat under my bed. I had taken it downstairs a week ago when the culprits had been caught and I had put it in the kitchen. I rushed over to the sink and yanked open the door underneath where the bat was lying amongst bleach, polish and other such cleaning stuff. I turned around, raising the bat.
She was unmoved at the sight of the bat. ‘I came for you… you will be mine…’ Her hands glowed even more and light began to radiate from them, covering her arms.
I took a deep shaky breath and took aim. I paused. It felt wrong. Crazily enough, I still thought of her as human, even though she was far from that. She began to advance, and I made my move. Biting back any lingering doubts, I hit out with the bat; it crashed against the side of her head. The skin and bone smashed into an explosion of pieces. I exhaled, taking a step backwards. Now headless, the creature took a step towards me. I expected her to fall, but she came again. So I hit out again, and again. I do not know how many times I hit her with the bat. I found myself sat on the floor amid an assortment of bones and gore. She lay still and the glowing colours from her hands slowly died away.
The police did not know what to make of it, and I know I should have made something up, but I told them the truth. I think they were going to charge me with body snatching or something at one time, but there was no evidence. I think they considered having me sectioned, but nothing came of it. The body was cleaned up and put back in its rightful place underground.
The kitchen was cleaned up, and things returned to normal. Life goes on, even after such inexplicable events.
But I don’t like to walk home on my own at night. I find it hard to sleep at night and get four hours sleep if I am lucky. I keep expecting to feel her touch.
I remember the words: You called me, and I came…. I have come from a long way…
I want you to be with me…
I guess it is all so clear now. Crazy, wrong, mad. But, so clear. It makes me feel sad, angry; it makes me feel scared.
I feel her icy grip now. I feel it spreading all over my body…
And it lingers…
This one is from my story collection Cold Skies, available on Kindle at the moment for a modest sum (about a quid). Here's a link .