Sleep Walker

Sleep Walker

He walked through the front door, out of the house. That he did not open the door before passing through it should have surprised him, but he thought he was dreaming, so he accepted it as normal.

It was night, and few street lights were still on. The only other person walking the streets at that hour did not even glance at him, even though he was wearing his paisley pyjamas. He paused to think. Where was he going? To her place, of course, where else?

He walked through that front door, too, and upstairs to her flat. For a minute he stood in front of the door, thinking that he should knock, but then stepped in.

It was quiet and dark and smelt of cooking, a familiar savoury odour. She must have made a curry, the lamb one he liked so much. That hurt, that she could serve up his favourite meal to someone else.

He walked to the bedroom, not wanting to go there but unable to resist the pull.

There they were, tangled up together, sleeping in quiet contentment. The red rage came down on him then and the need to do damage. Swearing at them he tried to pull the duvet off. Nothing moved and they slept on. Gathering all his anger he hurled it towards them in one roar.

She woke up then, suddenly sitting up. She saw him, she screamed. Afraid of the humiliating scene, him in their bedroom dressed only in pyjamas and fury, he turned and ran, pulled back through the streets and into his bed.

Only a dream, he told himself, but there was no more sleep that night. He was a roiling ball of emotions, misery and rage twisted up together.

Walking through the streets in the morning felt more dreamlike than the dream. Once he even checked to make sure that he was not wearing pyjamas. Nobody noticed him, but that was normal — they were all caught up in their own lives and he was nothing out of the ordinary.

Someone saw him. He felt it and looked in the direction of the feeling. It was her. She stood quite still on the other side of the road, glaring at him. Afraid that she really had seen him in her bedroom last night, that it was no dream, he turned and hurried on his way, muttering to himself ‘It was a dream. Just a dream.’

That evening he stifled all thought with hours of television, trying his best not to dwell on personal things. Even so, once asleep he got out of bed and walked into the street again. It was raining heavily but the rain did not soak him, passing right through him as he had passed through closed doors.

So there he was again, staring down at them waiting for the rage to build up and explode, but it did not come. There was nothing but a bleak, cold emptiness where the anger had been. It really was over, he was alone and there was nothing he could do about it. But inside the cold was a small, hard thing, icier and stronger than anger. Hate.

She did this to him. She would pay. He left that place and went out to walk the streets, planning how to make her pay.

‘She shouldn’t have left me,’ he muttered to himself. ‘She was mine, she betrayed me.’

‘Are you sure?’ said someone behind him, and indistinct darkness in the shape of a man.

‘Of course I’m sure,’ he yelled.

‘Did you ever tell her how much you liked that curry? Didn’t you always tell her nothing but how worthless she was?’

‘Turns out I was right, wasn’t I?’

He moved away from the questioner, walking, walking.

‘What do you want to do now?’ it asked.

He stopped, turned his head.

‘You know, I’d really like to kill her. Maybe I’ll kill you, too.’

There was a deep laugh, like a bell chiming at the bottom of the ocean.

‘You’re at a crossroads,’ said the questioner. ‘Which way will you go?’

He was at a crossroads. Straight on or to the left led to the bridges over the River Lost. To the right or back the way he came led into town, but the questioner stood in that direction. He turned and walked straight on, towards the old bridge. It was a dream, it did not matter which way he went.

That was when he noticed that the town was exactly the same as it would have been in reality, with none of the strangenesses that appeared in dreams. Except, of course, for the questioner following a few paces behind.

‘Have you ever thought of blaming yourself?’ that creature asked.

‘No I have not. This isn’t about me.’

‘You don’t think so?’

‘I know so.’

That sounded weak. These questions were starting to chip away at his carefully cradled hatred. He kept on walking faster, faster, down to the river, but the questioner kept pace with him.

‘Didn’t you say you loved her?’

‘Once I did, but you can’t love someone who leaves you, sneaking out while you’re away, not even facing you.’

‘And why did she leave you?’

‘Because she’s a selfish bitch.’

‘Because she was afraid of you.’

They were on the bridge now, and he could take no more of this. He swung around and lunged forward, grabbing his pursuer by the throat with both hands, choking as though it was her throat. A cloud drew away from the moon and he saw the questioner’s face. His own face.

Still he wrung and crushed until his other self grew limp and fell into a dead heap at his feet.

His anger was not sated. There was a woman on the bridge, looking right at him. She saw what he had done. Now he had to kill her, too.

She did not run away from him, nor seem afraid of him. He wanted to make her afraid.

As he took her throat in his hands, she wrapped her arms around him and fell backwards from the bridge, taking him with her, down, down, into the cold waters of the River Lost.

HIs cleaning lady found him the next day, in bed, asleep forever. Drowned, his lungs filled with river water.

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