Witch-Girl / Tempest Eyes (17/23) – And This is Her?
“All things have a place,” she says, “it is the nature of things.”
Five minutes, then ten, across the chequered floor.
The marble is smooth, because that is how marble is. It is not shiny, like the buffed marble of the lobby of the Hotel Calvary; it is not worn and dull, like the marble of the museum; it is just marble, just black and white squares, unexceptional. It doesn’t feel… right. That someone like her, deep inside, should have unexceptional marble, unexceptional anything. But he walks across the unexceptional floor anyway.
Five minutes, ten. Alice doesn’t talk, she walks at his side, not chewing her candy, just walking. He has his own thoughts, his own undercurrent of anxiety and uncertainty; a reverse-shadow trailing behind him; not there enough for him to push back down, there enough to be known as being there. He doesn’t know if he should be grateful for her silence.
He turns back and he sees, far away now, the sofa. It looks to be no more than discarded furniture. It makes him feel pity, but he doesn’t know pity for what, pity for whom.
Then Alice says, “Where is she?”
He stops walking, and she takes two steps forwards before she turns to face him.
He stands there, for a moment, waiting for the strange feeling to surface, then he walks on.
In time, a shape appears in the distance, an object on the vast emptiness.
It becomes clearer as they near, a door. “23B” in brass letters.
“It’s the door to our apartment,” he tells Alice.
He turns the knob, pushes the door open.
It’s… home. Not quite home. The familiar vista of the living room – the lights all on, as if he had only stepped out for a moment – the doorway to the kitchen to his right, the closed door to his room to his left, the calender hanging on the wall, his stool, the coffee table, her sofa (another one?), the glass doors leading out to the balcony, and, outside, the night sky.
Through the balcony doors, lightning flashes, illuminating and defining the thick, fluffy clouds that form the sky. Thunder rumbles. Another flash of lightning, thunder again. It sounds as if the sky is hungry.
He feels a slight push on his enfolded wing; Alice is nudging him forwards, and he steps in.
Stacey is not here. She is through the balcony doors, somewhere under those lightning-lit clouds.
“We have time, don’t we?” he says, rhetorically, and walks into the kitchen.
He stands at the counter, before the cupboards, pauses with his hands upon the handles. It’s strange. It’s all strange. A strangeness not good enough to be novel, not bad enough to be creepy. A strangeness before novelty, before creepiness, a curiosity waiting to be found out, a box to be opened.
He pulls the handles. The cupboard doors swing open and… cereal. Boxes of cereal. He smiles. It’s almost a relief to find something predictable.
He tries another cupboard. It’s empty. It doesn’t even have shelves, just blank walls. It’s the cupboard where the extra crockery is supposed to be kept.
He walks pass Alice, standing in the hall, and goes to his room.
It looks the same, as it should, his bed with its smooth sheet, the cardboard box that serves as a side table, a table lamp upon that, along with an incense burner (brass). He opens a cupboard. It’s empty.
Strange. All strange.
He turns to leave, stops by the doorway, by his television. He pats it twice – Hello, old friend.
He crosses the living room, pushes open the door to her room, looks in.
It looks normal, it does, it looks normal and that makes it feel strange.
Walking through the apartment, with everything normal – mostly normal, appearing normal, pretending to be normal – with the lights on, with the mess on her desk next to the glass doors of the balcony, it feels as if Stacey should be here. It feels as if he could walk those few steps and push open the door to the bathroom, and she would be inside.
It feels that way but a smaller part of him knows that she is out there, somewhere. Somewhere not here.
He pulls the door shut. Before it closes he sees, upon her side table, an incense burner, his incense burner. He stops closing the door, stands there, his hand upon the knob, looking at the burner. The same burner is in his room, he had seen it just a while ago. It’s there. It’s here. Like the sofa, double, or teleporting, or in two places at once, something. It doesn’t matter. It matters, somehow, he doesn’t know how. It matters in a small, important, way.
Normal, mostly normal, appearing normal. Not normal at all.
The door shuts with a thump and he feels, for no reason, sadness.
Alice is standing in the hall, looking at him.
“Let’s go,” he says.
She follows as he walks to the balcony, slides the door open.
A gust of wind blows in from the storm outside.
“This is her?” he asks.
“This is her innerworld,” Alice says.
A sofa, empty cupboards, his incense burner next to her bed; a tempest, raging.
“Let’s go,” he says.
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||Something witty this way comes…|
857 words / 931