When Evening Falls
WHEN EVENING FALLS: By Graeme Reynolds
Here I stand once more. I was not even aware of the journey. I am simply here, outside of my house, like I am every night. The road is illuminated in a harsh orange glow from the street-lights, giving the grass and trees a strange monochrome appearance that is only punctuated with brief islands of colour cast by the pure white light spilling from the windows. The scent of night flowering jasmine hangs heavy in the air. Karen planted it in the garden three years ago, and its pungency is overwhelming.
I stand in the shadows and watch them through the window. Karen is serving food to the two children, Michael and Nicki. She smiles for them, but as she turns back to the kitchen her face falls, creased with lines of worry and heartbreak. The children are oblivious to this and continue to fight over the condiments.
I want to go to her. To them. Simply walk up to the front door, ring the bell and be with my family once more. Hold my children in my arms, feel the warmth of my wife and the smell of her perfume. Feel the beat of her heart as she holds me, crying and asking where I have been.
I strain my ears and can pick up the conversation. She is asking the children about school, but her voice is strained, has a rough edge as if she is about to burst into tears. The feelings rise in me, bringing a lump to my throat. I could end her pain. All it would take would be for me to walk up to the front door and ring the bell.
Could I really do it? Go to them and watch the past few weeks vanish like a bad dream? Could I get my life back?
Movement. Off to the right, beyond the trees towards the rear of the garden. A young man in a faded black t-shirt and dirty jeans is crouched behind a bush, watching the house. He is carrying a workman’s knife and I can smell the stink of his unwashed body and the merest hint of heroin in his sweat. I can hear the blood coursing through his veins, the rapid fluttering of his heart and his shallow laboured breathing as he watches my wife and children through the window. His grip tightens on the blade and his heart rate increases. I can imagine the thoughts racing though his mind. Robbery, rape and murder.
I am on him before he even knows I am there. My hand grips his throat and I lift him from his feet. The junkie’s eyes widen and he drives the knife into my ribs. I barely feel it.
I bring his face close to mine. The stench from his rotting teeth would have made me gag three weeks ago. I look straight into his eyes and his struggling stops.
“No one and nothing will threaten my family.” I hiss. The acrid stench of urine blends with the cocktail of human decay coming from the man as his bladder gives out. Warm droplets splash against my trousers. I snap my head forward and tear out his throat without a seconds thought. His blood sprays across me, staining Karen’s prize white roses black in the reflected orange light.
I taste the disease and drugs in his veins as his life pumps across my face. I relish it. The rush hits me as his blood fills my mouth and courses down my throat. My teeth tear into the skin and I clamp my mouth around the hole, chewing, ripping and tearing. Enlarging the ragged hole to allow more blood to flow. I am lost, unaware of anything but the taste of tainted blood and the fading heartbeat of the twitching addict that I am killing.
I drop the corpse, barely noticing it as it crumples at my feet. The blood sings in my veins, heightening my already enhanced senses. The night is alive with sound and colour. I feel like a god, like I can do anything. It seems stupid that I have stood here, every night for three weeks, watching my family when I can simply walk up to the front door and wait for my wife to invite me inside.
I can see it now. She will be shocked and scared at first, but will invite me inside and throw her arms around me, tears streaming down her face. I will smell the sweet scent of her, feel her warm body in my cold arms, taste her tangy blood as it pours down my throat, before I go to the children, cracking their ribs open like the shell of a lobster as I feast on the blood from their still beating hearts.
Oh my god!
It’s suddenly all so horribly clear to me. I am not a man. I am a chrysalis, a pupae in the shape of a man, waiting for the monster to emerge. I have not been returning here every night because I miss my family. I am here because the monster wants them. Needs them.
I recall my words to the junkie. Nothing will threaten my family. Not even me.
A single tear of blood trickles from my eye, falling to the floor. A crimson raindrop. I know what I have to do now. While there is still enough of a man left to make the choice.
I climb the oak at the bottom of the garden, where I build a tree house for Michael two summers ago, and that I tore down this summer after he fell from it and broke his arm. More tears fall. I climb the ancient tree and, nestled in its arms, wait for the dawn to claim me