A young man awakes in his home from a brutal attack, but somethings terribly wrong
Waiting For Sleep
By Sara A. Mosier
© Copyright 2010
The air was almost solid and icy cold as it traveled out of the mouth of Christian Butler in a long smoky trail as he ran clumsily over endless mounds of over grown tree roots protruding from the browning grass of the small forest of oaks. The easily forgotten forest that hid the suburban neighborhood away from the big cities down below.
These tree roots, in their plenty; meaningless to anyone else but this man were life or death, one trip and he could very well be finished as he was outnumbered by two men following closely behind him. This pursuit began with a never ending amount of blood traipsing out of the maroon colored living room of his home out into the dining hall before ending in a pool in the kitchen. Clutching at his dark hair he hardly had a chance to react to the shocking discovery before he was running for his own life. A man about his own height standing at six-foot maybe taller was simply standing amongst the blood in an eerily silent manner. There had been no time to grab the phone, only time to bolt out the back door.
His lungs began to burn as the frosty air forced its way down his throat, his fingertips were numb, his heart was hammering, the blood in his ears pounding making everything muffled and dull. But his brain was sharp with fear which could have been the only thing that kept him moving. Not much farther from town, he told himself, only a half of a mile at the very most. His footing slipped out from beneath him as his wing-tipped brown shoes hit a patch of ice sending him now rolling down a small hill before slamming him into one of the thick oaks. His ears were searching for the close footsteps as he feigned for even a whisper of breath to enter his burning chest. His ice blue eyes searched amongst the failing light of the day, he pushed himself up against the tree to catch his breath and listened. Carefully trying not to make sound in the dry, dead leaves he was sitting in he turned to look around the other side of the tree. He could see the city lights twinkling against the lavender and orange sky. He had to get to town, he had to get out of this dense wood if he were killed here the authorities may never find him. He began rising to his feet when he heard the click.
His piercing blue eyes locked onto his pursuer, “Such a waste of strength” the man spoke without feeling, “I won’t kill you…I will merely lead you in that general direction”
“What do you want?” he implored breathlessly against the ribs he undoubtedly cracked when he fell.
“You already know why I’m here” he replied almost nonchalantly, walking a few inches closer so they now stood facing one another.
“No, I don’t know…I don’t know!”
A ferocious bang filled the air. He awoke on a bed of yellow and red leaves. The sun was peaking over the horizon when he opened his eyes. The pain in his side had subsided and the man he had been talking to was gone.
“What happened?” he asked himself, everything was so silent, there was even the startling absence of crickets chirping.
He pressed his palms to the damp earth and was able to sit up without pain. Where had that man gone? The sudden lack of his presence was the only question so far swimming in his mind.
The air was crisp but not cold like he expected, everything around him was illuminating. The new light of day was flickering and shimmering off every dew-dripping leaf. He was aware with the notion that he had been gone more than only a night’s length of time. The trees, the grass, even the sky itself seemed oddly absent as if the whole world was far away and out of reach.
“I really must’ve hit my head” he again whispered, resting fingertips to his temples as he rose to his feet. Another thing he found strange was that he didn’t feel that he had run for miles and slammed his body into the tree at the bottom of the hill and that the night before he was almost sure that he had broken a rib, maybe even more than that.
He studied his surroundings, which wasn’t much really, trees, trees and more trees. There was nothing in his sight to tell him where this man had gone. Maybe he got spooked and ran off. There was no one here with him. He was alone, the thought struck him so suddenly that he that he felt as if an invisible undertow had begun pulling him to the ground, he fell against the tree resting his cheek against the gritty bark. At least it should feel gritty, he thought, but a sickening numbness enveloped his entire body. As if every inch of him had gone to sleep, he knew damn well his flesh was against the tree but he could not feel it. He pushed away from the tree, the invisible tow pulled at his limbs, pulled at his mind but before he even realized he was moving he knew he was running as if the assailant was again behind him in close pursuit, maybe he was. But much like the ocean feeling had began like a sledge hammer he collapsed and fell into a thick blackness.
When his eyes opened again he was staring up into an afternoon sky the sun had eaten away the moisture from the leaves above as well as below. He sat up, resting his back against the thickness of the tall oak and looked ahead. How had he come back here? Something was out there and he felt trapped, detached from anyone that could possibly help him.
Out of the silence of the chilly afternoon he heard a barking, loud and close. His black lab appeared at the head of the steep hill he had tumbled down.
“Sam!” he called out and down came the dog in a clumsy gallop.
He had never been so happy to see that dumb animal; Sam had to have escaped from the backyard when everything went down. He held onto the neck of the dog and held him in a tight hug. He took hold of the dog’s collar and the dog led him away from the oak trees. He waited for the same overpowering feeling but it never came, so again he blamed it all on the fact that he had to have hit his head in the fall.
Funny that the dog seemed to be leading him home, like he didn’t know his way and in some ways he had indeed forgotten, perhaps the memory of home was simpered away with unconsciousness that was his only guess. He stepped through the doorway and not only heard silence but felt it as well. He stood in the main hall stiffly, but slowly made it into the living room. Nothing was like it was the night before, no blood, no broken lamps, no overturned chairs. Even now he couldn’t quite recall what had actually happened; even the flickering memories of blood began to fade but some how it didn’t matter. He tried and tried to put the pieces together but the more he tried to the more tired he became so he sat down in his recliner and rested a hand on the head of his dog.
“I’m sick Sam…that’s all it is…I’m just sick”
So he sat, his eyes staring off in the direction of the kitchen, knowing that it indeed that that room held some importance but that need dulled like when one fights to stay awake. Like the undertow he had experienced before a sickening sadness he couldn’t understand swept over his mind and so he did the only thing he thought he could do…he slept, with his Labrador resting his head on his lap.
The sound of the door bell rang loudly into his ears, at first the sound was important but was quickly pushed aside as he got up from the recliner. The bell rang loudly again, he pulled open the door irritably when it chimed for the third time.
“What is it?” he answered sharply, but no one was standing by the door. He had had his hand on the doorknob when it had rang that last time. No one would have had time to move away from the door.
“Hello?!” he called out into the darkness.
Today had already been more than strange and now this.
Sam was barking loudly in the kitchen, when Christian came into the kitchen two of the cabinets were wide open. Sam was suddenly barking at him as if to tell him something. He heard the click of the front door and bolted in that direction, “Who’s here!” he shouted. No one answered, nothing but the stillness of the house with its pops and cracks. Again that same awareness of unrecognized time passing ate its way back to his senses.
He no longer had a longing to sleep but was now crawling the walls with anxiety. He was too afraid to leave the house and the phone was dead. In fact the electricity wasn’t working even half of the time.
He did however sit down on the row of stairs outside, but he wouldn’t go any farther than that. How long he sat there he didn’t know but he felt a set of eyes on him and to his surprise locked eyes with a young woman walking her dog.
“Hello?” the woman’s voice broke through the moist morning air.
“Hello” he replied, trying not to let on that he was indescribably relieved to see another living soul.
“I’m sorry I don’t mean to be rude…I didn’t think anyone lived here”
“Why do you say that?” he asked, brow furrowed.
“Well, the windows are all boarded up you would assume that the house was abandoned”
“No…” he turned glancing up at the many windows and indeed wood stood in their place.
“There was a robbery recently, the windows were damaged” was all he said.
“Oh” she said smiling to relieve some of the tension that had built up amongst the thick air.
“My name is Aubrey” she said, moving close enough to put out one hand.
He too her hand in his and smiled, “I’m Christian”
“Are you new around here Christian?”
“Fairly, only a few months…I think I’ve sort of lost track of time”
“That can happen here, don’t worry you get use to things and it will all make more sense.”
His brow deepened, “What do you mean by that?”
“I can’t explain to you, you’re going to have to figure it out for yourself. Just be careful, if you think too hard you may end up back where it all started” the woman took up pace and was gone.
He fled back into the house when he heard his dog barking.
The sound of a car’s engine drew him to the window of his bedroom. Peeking through the cracks in the boards, in his own disbelief he saw his sister getting out of her car and heading for the front door. Why would she just show up like this? She lived a good four hours away, she’d never come over without calling. But it didn’t matter he felt a tremendous wave of relief as he dashed down the stairs to the front door. Not even waiting till she rang the door bell he wrenched the door open, “Beth, you have no idea….” But he stopped as suddenly as he’d started. There was no one there, no car and certainly no Beth. Abruptly her voice was in the house.
“I just can’t believe this happened” he heard her speak in a choking voice, “She was going to have the baby and….they were going to be the perfect family. How did they find them?”
“They weren’t suppose to make contact with family until after the trial, he did, it didn’t take them more than forty-eight hours to find them.” The unknown voice explained.
Christian was frozen in blood stopping fear. Images were piercing his mind like flying glass. A room full of blood. Then he was running through the woods and he fell…at the bottom of a hill. Where had all the blood come from? He’d come back from the garage where he’d been working on the car and found her in the kitchen drenched in blood.
“Oh, God” he whispered to himself as the voices began to fade. He could see the kitchen from the front door. The images began to move with no sound, his wife begging for her life before falling to the floor in a silent thud. Someone was there and he ran.
Like a punch to the gut, the words that the woman outside the house had spoken made sense and quite suddenly he was back in the rain drenched wood sitting on a bed of leaves staring up at a dew drenched group of trees.
“Christian” someone whispered making him jump back violently, he hit the tree but he couldn’t feel it, he simply stopped moving so his mind assumed he hit the tree. He turned around, his eyes feeling swollen but in a way he couldn’t identify.
“Who’s there?” he asked brokenly, his palms pressed painfully to the ridged trunk.
“It’s me Christian; you have to follow my voice.” The feminine voice continued to whisper in an evocative tone.
A part of him made him walk towards the voice, he knew the voice. There he would find peace, a part of him sighed.
“Amy” he said, his voice tear clotted.
There by one of the thick barked oak trees she stood, silent and smiling. His memories came in a wave of pain and pleasure as he moved quickly in her direction.
Unlike the trunk of the tree he felt her flesh, warm, comforting and real. She pressed her full lips to his and he felt breath in his body again. Everything seemed to be enveloped in light, he felt himself fill with warmth. The fear, so confounding and consuming waned away like drugs to a great pain. He felt as if he were lifting and everything became brighter and he was aware of everything. He and his wife had been murdered, he’d been chased into the woods and killed. As he wondered unaware of what had taken place he’d missed seeing her there by the trees, she’d always been there, waiting for him.