It was too late. Stupid dare or not, she had to see this through.
But she stood frozen by the icy air, suffocated by the thick, putrescent stench filling the room. She recoiled, but the sense of horror wrapped itself maliciously around her, seeping into her pores, oozing into her hair, caressing her scalp. There was nothing to do, no help she could give or receive.
She could only watch.
Suddenly, the book was snatched out of her hands. Her friend’s laughing voice intruded into her imagination.
“Are you aware that you’re reading The Exorcist by peeking through your fingers?”
(This is a response to the 100 words challenge in Velvet Verbosity. The word for the week was “frightened”. This one happens to be a true story. I usually get completely caught up in whatever book I’m reading, provided it’s well written enough, which is why I never read horror. A friend of mine, however, dared me to read William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. Suffice it to say that I never watched the movie, or read anything like that again.)
I used to know the exact moment you walked into a room. I would feel you there, and I’d turn, and a sense of peacefulness would grow inside me, immediately, without exception. I could be hurting or afraid; it didn’t matter. Your presence meant that no matter what was wrong, there was still something right.
Now it’s all too easy to pretend you’re not there. To see a photograph and look at everyone but you. The longer I could look away, the more it meant that the obsession was over.
Boarded up shops and busted streetlights. Graffiti, broken glass, and overflowing garbage bins. A sudden burst of unruly laughter from the teenagers huddled together down the rain-slick sidewalk.
The man stood still, heart pounding, out of place. Did he get the address wrong? No, the voice mail told him to wait on this corner tonight. So he waited, desperately praying for 16, 842 hours of torment to end.
Suddenly, there she was — pierced, tattooed, trembling. Wild and strange, yet achingly familiar. Uncertain. His heart broke for her. How could she be uncertain?
Vanessa. Vanessa. Her name was pure pleasure on his tongue, impossible to say without an exultant smile. Smooth as the silk of her skin, sweet as the scent of jasmine in her hair, soft as the sensuous touch of her hand. His every prayer answered. Nessa.
He worried that he’d suddenly wake up and find that it wasn’t real. That she didn’t really smile at him with his kiss lingering on her lips, that the tenderness in her eyes was merely a trick of the light. His Vanessa. How was it even possible that those words together can be true?
The tears were dry. The violent, heartrending sobbing that had shaken her until it felt like she would shatter had stopped. Everything had stopped, except pain.
Night had slowly darkened the room, but she barely noticed. She lay on the bed, an exhausted ball of numbness and blank grief. She hadn’t moved for hours. She might never move again, she thought.
Suddenly, she felt a small nose touching her cheek. It was the stray kitten she found yesterday, snuggling close and purring in pleasure. Slowly, she lifted her hand to draw it closer, seeking its warmth.
She watched him preparing to leave, ruthlessly choking back the anguished doubt within her. He was busy, that’s all, she told herself, that’s why he never lingered. She knew he wanted to. She knew he loved her. She mustknow that. Didn’t she?
Tears flooded her throat. No. He mustn’t notice. Forcing the harsh despair from her voice, she murmured, I’ll miss you. He smiled distractedly, checking his watch, already on his way out. Don’t suffocate him, she lectured herself. But she wished, oh dear God, how she wished it was just a little harder for him to walk away.
It came to him unbidden, his father’s memory. Here, in his slow execution, it wasn’t his crimes that haunted Ishmael but Abba’s unwavering faith during his severed life. Stoned to death on false accusations, Abba had been innocent, a pawn in games of power.
As was the man dying excruciatingly beside him. Ishmael knew it as surely as he knew of his own guilt — the teacher was blameless. He could also be something more, someone Abba would have recognized. His corrupted heart, humbled at last, could not reject it. Offering what faith he had, he pleaded, “Remember me in Paradise.”
(This is a response to the 100 words challenge in Velvet Verbosity. The word for the week was “unbidden”. I chose this subject because I’ve always wondered about that thief who acknowledged Jesus as he was crucified. What sort of man was he, that he recognized the Messiah in that horrible moment of death when others, even his fellow condemned criminal, did not? This story is just my way of making up an answer to that question. I thought it would be as good a reason to write as any. :-))