Chapter Twenty-Two

I am hiding in an alleyway. The light is dim. Streetlamp overhead flickering. Gas must be running out. Flicker throws up alarming shadows against the wooden panels of the alley. The woman left the bar via a back entrance. I finished my drink and snuck out after her.

I was drinking, as written before, happy and left alone in the bar. I was looking at her, trying to uncover her secret. She caught me looking and threw me a voluptuous gaze with no hint of mistrust, but at the same time overwhelmed with deviance. She smiled at me, and I saw a full set of perfect white teeth. What a rarity! The brilliance! I smiled back, baring my yellow, twisted teeth. Compared to hers, mine are like the front row of a graveyard. Didn’t bother her. She smiled still. She didn’t come over. I didn’t go to her. She just stayed there looking. Finally she glanced around the bar, and slowly made her way to a half concealed door in the corner of the room. She was about to leave, when she turned to me, winked and ushered me to follow with the flick of her neck. Then she was gone.  

I looked around the bar and saw nobody looking at her, or me so I finished my drink, counted to 100 and snuck out through the same door. It did not creak, but instead slid open expelling an odd hiss of air as it did so. It was like a sigh. I stepped out into the dark alleyway. Silence. I looked both ways and could only see puddles of light from the gas lamps and, in between those lamps, awful voids of nothing. Felt as if the alleyway existed in a sort of stepping-stone of light and darkness. I would not have been surprised if, in between the gas-light portions, the darkness yielded traps of the abyss.

Plucked up courage and conviction when I made out the figure of the woman, dipping into the darkness, and back into the light. In. Out. Each time getting further away. She had a strange gait. She seemed to glide. Made no sound. I looked down at the muddy ground. I felt about. I put my eyes close to it. Inspecting. There seemed to be no footprints! I looked back up. She had stopped! She had turned! She was facing me some 25 yards down the alleyway. She was half in the light, half in the darkness. The downward shaft catching her brow, nose and cheek-bones. The upward pull of the darkness taking her eyes, her cheeks and her lips. She looked like a skeleton. Then, I swear to you Brekker, I swear to you Lucy, she slowly levitated up into the air! Up around two-foot and then she stopped. Hovering. The pinpricks of her pupils shone out, glinting like a hypnotist’s and she said, “Do not be afraid, you have travelled far. Far beyond all reason. Do not hide in the shadows. He is soon to come! He walks through walls, but before he does we will all dance. We will swim in the sky and dance. Do not be afraid, this is your place of work. Your employment. Your place to be!” 

She said it with such a distant, dispassionate tone that I grew cold and sickly with every word. I felt my shirt grow wet with perspiration and fever. I felt panicked. I looked at my hands because, for a moment, I could have sworn they were melting. I knew exactly what she meant, and yet, and yet I could not place it. It was like hearing a rhyme from the crib, the tone, the melody attaching to your heart, but as you have grown from babe and from cot, you cannot place the words. She then said, “Follow me, follow me,” and she dropped back down slowly, turned around, and carried on gliding down the alleyway, in and out of the stepping stone lights. 

I followed her slowly, maintaining a healthy distance. The fear of the voids in between the lamps replaced by the intrigue of this levitating witch. Though initially I guessed the alley to be 20-50 yards in either direction from the bar-door, I could have bet my afterlife on having walked for several hours, with no change of scenery, no hint at an end, no hope of answers. Still she glided, still I crept. The fever-sweats remained. The melting feeling remained. The understanding, and yet not, remained. I was in two places it once.

Then, without warning, she stopped floating. Without turning to address me, she said, “Beautiful traveller, interloper in your own NeverRealm, wait a while. My lover is coming to tell you something.” And with that, she levitated up another four-foot and ascended upwards and away, far into the night sky.

I wanted to scream out to her, to the town, to anyone…but I didn’t. And so I began to wait which is where I write this now. Who is her lover? What is he coming to tell me? I cannot see the end of the alleyway now. I have, for sure, travelled too far along it…seems that, without any passing landmarks or milestones, that perhaps, perhaps, it is not me that has been travelling but the alleyway. Stretching on, pulling itself onwards. No. Ridiculous. It’s the solitude making you write fanciful hokum. You have been walking and now you are in the dark, further away than you intended. Stay calm, stay alert. Breathe. You are not melting. You are not alone. You have Lucy. 

I hear something. I hear a slight wheeze. Not the friendly wheeze of Paisley (oh, how I miss him) not the sleeping, wet wheeze of Alexander Tumour Baby (who has vanished, and I have not forgotten about – will investigate when I get round to it) 

Something comes, a different wheeze. I have slunk back against the wall. Tight against it. Hard to write without looking. Have to trust that hands are writing coherently. He is coming now. I see a shape, lean, tall and coming forward through the lights – shuffling, amiable. Whistling now. Approaching. He is here.

Graham Thomas