Stretching my horizons yet again The Reclining Gentlemen and I wrote this Fictional Short together. Much like the poetic duets we just took turns letting the story tell itself! Enjoy!
The wind was throwing a tantrum outside which usually meant a huge storm was on its way. Lacy was in love with thunderstorms although she couldn’t say why. Finally alone, like she had been so many nights in the last several months, she looked forward to turning off the lights and listening to the storm bellow. It was well past midnight and her favorite place to be wasn’t home but here in the library her family had owned since before her parents were born. Lacy was seven years old when her father had taken the professorship in the History faculty, and was able to achieve his dream of moving onto the campus of the college his ancestors had founded. His young family loyally but reluctantly joined him, leaving their lives behind to support the husband and father. Lacy loved being surrounded by so much history, not only in the books, but in the ghosts of the family she never knew.
The library stayed open until 9pm on Saturday so that gave her an hour to get things in order before she settled into her Saturday evening routine. Her routine since her parents both died 4 months ago had been consistent. She stayed at the library on Saturdays originally to get away from all of her friends trying to get her mind off things. She couldn’t stand most of the boys who had grown up in this town and was content with the few friends and family she had. It was annoying that suddenly every person in town was trying to marry her off. Being an only child losing her parents…well, sucked. So the library had become her lover. And Lacy was passionately in love.
She just finished putting the last book back on the shelf when she heard the tea she had started brewing click off. She switched on the light to her small office and deftly changed into her favorite well-worn sweat pants and t-shirt. She let her hair down from its pony tail and entered the small bathroom to wash her face and her teeth. She was obsessive with brushing her teeth, in fact it was a wonder they hadn’t fallen out from over brushing. Lacy found her favorite fuzzy socks and left the room switching off the light.
She began turning off most of the library lights when the power went out. The storm was blowing in stronger and she noticed the first drops of rain were dancing on the skylights. As usual, the power returned after a minute’s break and she quickly turned off all the computers. She stopped to grab her flashlight out from under the counter, switched it on, and turned off the rest of the lights. The smell of chamomile reminded her she had a steaming cup of tea waiting on her. “Well, at least I have you to keep me warm” she said to herself.
A flash of lightning through the skylight illuminated the library briefly, and with it came the first, heavy, rattling raindrops on the roof and windows. She sat in her favorite leather armchair, with its faded and thinning red upholstery, and sipped at her tea. It warmed her, soothed her, relaxed her and she felt the worries leave her like the wisps of steam that rose from her cup and dissipated into the air. She switched off the flashlight, rested it on her lap and allowed the darkness of the library to approach her, to envelop her.
She remembered how fearful and worried she had been when they first moved here. She had taken time to settle into the new house, suffering occasional night terrors when she awoke to a room which felt unfamiliar, unlike home, even after months and years; when she awoke to dark, horrifying thoughts which were only relieved by the return of daylight. The reccurring dreams since the move burdened her waking moments and just recently the burden had turned to guilt. At thirteen, Lacy first spent a night in the library, sleeping on the pullout couch in the office, and she realized that this was her place of sanctuary, that nobody, nothing, could touch her here. Her parents worried that she was growing detached from them, from friends, from people, but the library was the only place that the fears she felt in her bedroom, the voices – from within and without her – could not find her. The library and the spirits of the past were like her guardian angels, protecting her from the words and the emotions that so unsettled her. With the flashlight off, the darkness of the library acted as her security blanket, her final line of defense against any invasive thoughts. Seated here in her armchair, Lacy was at peace from the growing feeling, the nagging suggestion, and the unceasing awareness that she had been the cause of her parents’ death.
Lacy awoke outside in the middle of a bank of fog, shivering. She had the same feeling she always had after night terrors, panic, dread, a sense of dislocation, of disconcerting unfamiliarity. She looked down to see her bare legs broken out in goose bumps where her sweat pants should have been. Her fuzzy socks were also gone leaving her beautifully manicured and painted toes glowing sunlight orange through the mud that covered them.
It was still raining but the lightning wasn’t as threatening as it had been when she had fallen asleep. Lacy realized she was tightly clenching her hands around a half dozen very thorny roses. Blood was trickling through her fingers and traveling down her arms before dripping from her elbows into a puddle atop the mud. Panicked, Lacy threw the roses to the ground and noticed not only were her pants and socks gone but she was completely nude, a figure of pale translucent skin glowing with each lightning flash. Fuck, not again.
She knew why it kept happening but it didn’t matter. The reccurring nightmare didn’t save her parents. It didn’t stop the sleepwalking, it didn’t stop the fear. Lacy had stopped going to a therapist years ago but the episodes had been increasing. What really had her worried was the library, her sanctuary, was now tainted. It was the only place she could count on to keep her safe. The only place she had never fallen asleep and ended up somewhere else. She stopped as her stomach lurched into her throat at the realization of where she was. Two blocks from the library, at the cemetery where her parents were buried, standing at its entrance.
A deeper, quieter part of her consciousness told her that she should return to the library, to safety and warmth, that she should retrace her steps now while the night would cover her nudity. But the internal voice, her voice, carried her forward through the unlocked gates. She crossed the wide gravel path, the sharp stones cutting painlessly into the delicate soles of her feet, and walked further into the cemetery. She padded silently onto the grass, and as she passed between ranks of headstones, her awareness of the cold, her awareness of her exposed body, of the thin precipitate that covered her, diminished. She was conscious only of the blood on her hands, the will driving her forward, and the two graves, side by side, where her parents, her only relatives, had lain since the accident.
A pair of clear green eyes, low in the grass, sparkled under another lightning flash before the tortoiseshell cat scrambled quickly to its feet and fled from her approach. And then she was standing above the graves. She knelt between them, looked again at the blood on her hands, diluted now by the rain, and placed her palms on the headstones. She bowed her head as images of the crash invaded her thoughts, dull memories of waking in hospital surrounded by machines but completely alone, and she felt her face contort into a grimace of pain, grief, despair. She clasped her hands into tight, painful fists and lay on the sodden, freezing grass, her naked body gathered into a fetal curl. Her mouth opened, her eyes constricted closed, but there were no cries, no tears, only stillness and silence.
Lacy wasn’t sure how much time had passed but she was aware of how cold her bones had become, at the same time she also felt a warming in her soul. It was as if her parents had their arms around her telling her that it wasn’t her fault, that no amount of warning could have prevented this outcome. She had a feeling that this was her last waking nightmare. The night terrors that plagued her, terrifyingly predicting the fatal car accident would no longer be something she feared. It was a reality she would have to come to terms with.
The storms had long stopped and the clouds were starting to clear enough for the moon to light her path home. She walked comfortably nude back to the library and just made it inside when the paper boy hit the front door with the newspaper.