Feature image by F.E. Clark, Daily Painting — 14th February, 2018
A girl is standing on the landing. I look up the stairs at her. I can’t see her face, no matter how I peer. The dusty afternoon light scatters in through the street-side window. The girl’s features blur and shift as if a veil’s been drawn over her head—a black veil. It shimmers in the air between us.
A foil star glitters on the step below the girl. I know it’s real because it’d been stuck to my shoe. I remember it ripping off as I ran down the stairs earlier. I’d wanted to keep it, but there hadn’t been time to peel it off my shoe then, and there isn’t time now to pick it up off the stair.
I try to warn the girl, quietly, because I don’t want the man to hear me. It seems so important. The words meld in my mouth. All that comes is a glutinous moan. My ears buzz with razor sounds. My breath catches. The words are angry hornets panicking inside me—like my breath. I must warn her.
The girl doesn’t give any sign she hears me. She’s still gazing out the landing window. I try harder to warn her. Shards of light explode in my vision, I gutter and fall.
It’s dark when I surface. There’s grit on my cheek and in my mouth from lying on the concrete floor at the bottom of the stairwell. The star on the step far above me is orange now from the streetlight outside. I’m shuddering from the cold that’s seeped up into my bones. I cannot seem to muster the energy to get up. The girl’s still there, looking out the window. The black veil catches the fake sunset light from the streetlights.
I remember now that the man hadn’t expected me to visit this afternoon. I’d meant it as a surprise. He didn’t answer my knock and I’d let myself in. I can’t remember what happened then, just the image of the woman lying in mess of Christmas decorations. Her eyes blank, a halo of blood darkening around her.
It was the star from his decorations that stuck to my shoe. That’s now he’d known that I’d been in his room. That’s how he knew I’d seen what I’d seen.
The black veil shifts and sighs. The star twinkles. The girl on the landing comes and goes in time with the beat of my heart. That’s when I understand—it’s too late to warn her. That’s when I understand that the girl is me.
Suddenly, I am standing on the landing. The foil star glitters on the stair below me. I’m keeping watch out of the street-side window for the man to return. My black veil catches the light. I’ll make sure the man falls before he reaches the star on the stairs. I’ll make sure he sees me one last time before he falls.
F. E. Clark lives in Scotland. She writes and paints, taking her inspiration from the magical place where she lives. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her words can be found/are upcoming in: Molotov Cocktail Literary Magazine, Poems for All, Occulum, Moonchild Magazine, Ink In Thirds, Folded Word, Ellipsis Zine, Luna Luna Magazine, The Wild Hunt, Speculative66, Nitrogen House, and 404 Ink. And in anthologies: Flashdogs Solstice, Calendark, and DeadCades, and Nothing Is As It Was from Retreat West.