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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Short story: The Stalker

Short, tense story I wrote in 2015 about a man being stalked by his ex-wife.

Sam was seated on the sofa, sipping a cup of herbal tea freshly brewed. He could feel the hairs on the back of his neck start to tingle with nerves. Standing up, he made his way across to the TV, turning it off at the main. Turned around. He wondered why the kettle had stopped. He was sure he had left it on. There was no sound. Frowning, he crept into the kitchen. No sound. Touched the kettle. It was still warm and stiff with water, just as he had left it. Came back into the living room. TV was still off, the dent of his backside imprinted onto the sofa. He shook his head, thinking he was going mad. Walked over to the stairs, peering at the brown canvas of the staircase, twisted around each other like a boa constrictor.

Sam edged nearer to the staircase, convinced that he could smell the scent of Marina's perfume. How could that be, he wondered. Surely this had nothing to do with the news of three escaped convicts from a woman's prison nearby. Marina had been taken away, without a doubt. He hadn't heard from her in months. Or was it weeks? So why was the faint smell of her perfume still wafting downstairs? Perhaps he was nostalgic. It was, after all, the same perfume that he had bought her on their one year anniversary. He paused to re-capture the memory. The two of them standing on the balcony of the hotel, ready to get friendly after a hot meal in a nearby restaurant.

He shook his head free of the memory. That Marina was a different one from the girl he knew now. That one was cheerful and bursting with life. The one he had come to know now, who had been close to dissecting their pet dog (Spike was dead now) had transformed into someone he could barely recognise.

The smell of her perfume was growing stronger. Sam decided he had to investigate. Headed upstairs, taking each stair one at a time. The tip of his trainers weighed-down that same creaky stair. He flinched, cursing as he remembered that he had forgotten to get it oiled. That stair was often a nightmare. In the night, if either of them had had to go downstairs to fetch a hot cup of coffee (or tea, as he preferred) they would jump at the creak of that stair.

His foot passed over it, his adams-apple slitting across his neck as he swallowed. Scratched the back of his shaven head. Marina had always hated that long hair of his. During their marriage, she had said that if she wasn't so crazy about him, she would hack off that darn haircut of his like no tomorrow.

He swallowed again. Touched the top of the stair, ready to coil round onto the  landing. The mouth of what had been their bedroom door was wide open, ready to swallow him inside. Sam frowned. He hadn't remembered leaving the door open. It was a lonely, secluded room now, a bed tailored for two housing only one. He preferred to sleep in the room next to it, the guest room.

He placed his damp hand against the white door, as if it could tell him what would be on the other side. The smell of her perfume had now grown stronger. He was sure he could feel her, the soft weight of her body, the acid blonde hair that used to slip through his fingers every time they made love.

The bed was swathed in scarlet bedclothes, just as he had left it. Preserved. Mummified. Burying with it the memory of what had been four years of precious marriage, first sweet and then sickly. They had met at university. Both so young and unknown to what lay before them, the rest of the world stretched out like an elastic band. Not that he had known it would snap in his face.

Sam swallowed again, his feet tapping themselves around the room at a three hundred and sixty degree angle. It was empty. The window was open, a breeze blowing through the white curtain, but she was not there. He started to back away, out of the room. Not much lay there. A bed, a wardrobe, a table with what had been photographs of their wedding and university days and snapshots of family members. In there were pictures of him and her together, with friends. He paused to check them now, before he left, his heart wistfully heaving in contempt at the girl he had married. Smiling. Arms around his neck. It was amazing what time could do to a person. This was before, before she went mad, before her brother had died, before when she could still string audible sentences together.

He had tried to help her. Day after day, she became more and more restless, more reluctant to go out. Started telling him what to wear, where to go, who he could see. As time went on, she became more and more possessive, suspecting him of cheating with the secretary at work (he barely knew her name) and slithering after him like a shadow in the background.

Sam stepped back until he was fully out of the bedroom. He sighed. Rubbed his hands on his jeans again. Perhaps the smell had just been his imagination. Although now it was pungent, and was wafting behind him. Also he realised that he hadn't quite remembered to lock the door downstairs last night. Where had he been again? His friend's 24th birthday. Pissed out of his face. The faint ghost of beer still lingered on his lips.

Marina had never liked that friend of his much. In fact, now that he came to think of it, after she went mad she didn't much like most of his friends. Wouldn't have been happy about him going out with them. Not at all.

Sam began to turn his head around. His heartbeat had frozen. Breath went dead. Feet now faced forward, the rest of him following. She stood in front of him, her hair cut in symmetry. In one hand, she held a flat knife. In another hand, a photo of her brother. 

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I've published three YA fiction books and two poetry volumes. To check em out, copy and paste this link into your browser: