By Jules

Author Notes – This short piece was written about three years ago – and has been mostly hidden away. So I thought I would bring it out and dust it off.

…the muscles in my legs are burning, my lungs are on fire and I cannot catch my breath. There is no time to stop, not even for a second. I push my body further over the edge of no return.

The sense of urgency coming from the very pit of my stomach grows until the unmistakable and awful taste of bile reaches the back of my throat, and throwing up becomes a real threat.

An unseen worn board gives way under my weight, and I struggle to maintain my balance. The battle ends when my knees cracks painfully against the wooden floor. I feel a multitude of large splinters in my left-hand that was used to prevent my fall, but failed.

My green jacket provided little protection from my attacker and is shredded in many places. The shirt I am wearing sticks to my back due to the dirty sweat running down the back of my neck.

I force myself to stand back up again, despite my body’s exhaustion that is coming in stronger waves. A hot flame of pain sears and curls around my side where the flesh has been torn open. Blood is running freely down and soaking into the waist-band of my pants.

I feel dizzy and light-headed, my steps becoming shorter, erratic and confused.

With barely contained relief, my hand grips the round door knob, turning and pulling at the same time. But to my abject horror it is locked. It refuses to open.

“I was trying to do the right thing. I only wanted help. I didn’t ask for any of this!”

But my outraged cries of unfairness are drowned out within the echoing chasm. The room is oppressive, the very walls oozing pain and exuding anguish, like a heavy cloak weighted around my shoulders. ‘Something’ is here and doesn’t want me to leave.

The faint scents of lavender and vanilla I had smelt earlier, are much stronger now, and linger in the very air that I am trying to draw in.

The image of the young woman I saw in the window was either a cruel facade or terrible hoax. She had been beckoning me in to help her.

“Let me out!” I yell hoarsely, the end of my futile plea is choked off with desperation.

Suddenly the door swings open, and I gasp out loud with relief, not caring how weak I sound. I scramble to my feet again and barrel through the door frame, only to be greeted with more choices.

Two different directions, two different staircases. Choose the wrong one and I could remain trapped here. I could be lost in this house forever and not able to get back.

A hollow laugh from behind and my subconscious makes its own choice, causing me to race down the stairs, two at a time. A painting of a previous resident hangs on the wall, a sign that I had chosen correctly. I had been this way before. But the man in the portrait is now mocking me.

Once back outside, time itself has been altered. What had felt like minutes inside the house, has now been lost and unaccountable hours.

Gripping the mane of Cochise, I have her racing like the very devil is closing in on both of us. A put the lip of a canteen to my mouth, but instead of drinking cool refreshing water, it feels like I am swallowing sand. I toss it aside, swiping the edge of a torn sleeve across my forehead to keep the sweat from running down the side of my face.

Coming to a familiar bend in the road and I am almost home……..freedom is a reward with its own euphoria.

But my horse jerks abruptly with a gut-wrenching shriek, crashing to the ground. Her beautiful neck lies twisted at an awkward angle. She is dead. No!

I sit upright in bed, trembling as a bolt of pure terror strikes at my very heart, freezing and ripping apart my very soul.

The scream wants to escape the back of my throat, but is interrupted by a soft knock and a silhouetted figure standing in the doorway to my bedroom. Thankfully the darkness of the room, masks the fear that oozes out of every pore.

“Are you alright, Joseph?” my father asks with concern lacing his voice. A light curtain flaps around from the breeze outside.

I promise him that I am alright and that it was only a bad-dream. I am not called ‘Little Joe’ very often now, and cannot seek my father’s company each time a nightmare chills me to the core.

He understands me better than anybody, and accepts the need to show maturity and my unspoken request for space.

Darkness and silence returns to the room once the door is closed.

A shard of moonlight shining through the window is enough to see the mirror that stands across the other side of the room.

The girl from the window glares back at me with a sullen and morose look. It hadn’t been a dream. She has followed me here. The escape wasn’t real!

I clap my hands over my eyes and pray that it is all in my imagination.

The atmosphere in the room has changed, and I lower my hands……… No! No! No!

I am back in that room again.

“Let Me Out!” I scream.

Standing in the window, slapping my open hands against the glass pane, but nobody can see or hear me?

Upon reflection when I first saw her, the girl had been warning me to stay away!

I have saved her from eternity, only to doom myself and replace her until the next lonely soul comes along the deserted road outside and this abandoned house.

There is no way back…………..

the end …….