"Then I heard it again, quite clearly this time. A voice, yes, but singing gently and ever so quietly. And singing a tune that was very familiar to me. A tune that I felt at the back of my neck as the muscles tightened"
"Run, you dozy bitch, run!"
A hand, its fingers slender and pale, grasped my hand, its fingers dull and gnarled. I felt that hand tighten. Its touch was soft, yet also oddly insistent. The touch shot up my arm and there was a peculiar feeling that, all of a sudden, my arm was real – transformed from something lifeless or asleep into something flesh and bone and riddled with susceptibility to all manner of sensation. When had it last felt real? And if real now, what was it before? Is it only touch that makes us real?
I looked up, my sight still singed with the two opposing lights that I'd seen elevated above me and hovering with their throbbing menace. Now, I found myself looking between the two apparitions of the dead spacemen and into two profoundly unreal eyes.
"Don't you hear me, mad bitch? Run!"
Kidman hollered the words into my face – this time her pale, thin hand pulling at me hard. My body approved of the pull and accepted the momentum. I found myself getting to my feet, my direction guided by Kidman.
"Some sound in the woods around me made me stop and I spoke out loud before I had time to think about the words"
Then Kidman let go and again I found myself running, this time pursuing her image. It seemed like an endless endeavour of mine that had been taking place for oh so long. Me: pursuing the idea of Kidman, ever out of reach. Me: reaching out to her, forever breathless and failing. Uneven ground rose and fell beneath me, branches dived and swooped from above me. All the while, the surreal shape of Kidman danced ahead of me as I tried desperately to keep up. Gradually her image became almost like a bright handkerchief sailing on a breeze before me, while I breathed heavily, painfully in her wake. It was as if a weight was growing in density and mass inside me, while her incandescent image grew smaller and smaller. This great, ever-increasing burden, weighing on my stomach, on my legs, was slowing me down. I looked inside for energy and found my mind disconnecting from my body and unable to command any more movement.
But it was not tiredness that finally stopped me. "What? Who said that?"
Some sound in the woods around me made me stop and I spoke out loud before I had time to think about the words.
It was a human voice that I suddenly thought I'd heard close by and its words directed at me. All around, there were bushes and tall trees, and no sign of anyone. Ahead of me, there was still that dot of bright colour – Kidman dwindling, dwindling. The empty, living silence of the wood hummed all around. My hard, coarse breathing blasted into the silence with no ability inside capable of controlling it. My eyes flashed all around me, looking for some sign of movement, some sign of life. And above me there was no sign of the astronauts either, just blank, empty sky. All was just shadowy green and great solid walls of darkness quivering everywhere.
"It was a human voice that I suddenly thought I'd heard close by and its words directed at me. All around, there were bushes and tall trees, and no sign of anyone. Ahead of me, there was still that dot of bright colour – Kidman dwindling, dwindling"
Then I heard it again, quite clearly this time. A voice, yes, but singing gently and ever so quietly. And singing a tune that was very familiar to me. A tune that I felt at the back of my neck as the muscles tightened: "Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day ..."
"Who's there? Who is that?"
The voice stopped. The silence winning through again. Again just my breathing and the light groan of different breezes in different locations around me.
But then, all of a sudden, behind me: "... Never let it fade away."
This time I gasped and my head jerked in the direction of the sound but I said nothing. I felt I couldn't say anything. Fear, full-grown, seemed to have its face right up against mine and it was proceeding to breathe an acrid staleness down inside of me, intimidating any possible response that might be there. Still I could see nothing but the swaying of branches and the shimmering of leaves in the breeze. And a meagre handkerchief of bright womanhood in the distance, now looking at me, staring and calling out to me.
"Keep running! No matter what you encounter. Never. Ever. Stop. Running. Bitch!"
And with that she was gone again. And so too was I. This time my feet moved without any consideration or decision-making from me, in the same way as I had spoken aloud without thinking earlier. Energy from nowhere. Propulsion out of nothing. Kidman drawing me on.
The ground crunched beneath my feet. Where was I going? Was this the right direction? Where exactly would this take me? I longed for touch. Is it only touch that makes us real?
Then. There it was. Mordan House. Big, solid, square, empty house that had never been a home. But then. Between me and the house. Twin lights. Bright. Right in front of me. Exploratory. Invasive. Prohibitive. And searing across the gravel that lay at the front of the house. My first thought: the dead astronauts had me and I was about to be plucked. My second thought: no, not yet; I wasn't to be plucked quite yet.
"Then. There it was. Mordan House. Big, solid, square, empty house that had never been a home. But then. Between me and the house. Twin lights. Bright. Right in front of me. Exploratory. Invasive. Prohibitive"
As I realised what I was seeing, and realised also that I had no idea whose car headlights were trained on me and whose car was parked on my gravel driveway. Shadows flexed in amongst the brightness before me and I was aware of a car door opening and a figure rising up out of it; it was just one shadow flexing itself in amongst all the other passive shadows around me and impossible to tell who was alighting from the car.
A voice quite quickly provided that missing piece of information: "Practising for the next Down-and-Out Olympiad, are we? Oh, good for you, Steph. Good for you!"
I tried to catch my breath. Tried to catch my senses as they frantically batted their wings in the air around me. What was she doing there? What was that bitch Ormsley doing outside my house?
Next instalment: 47. "Did You See Them? The Dead Spacemen? Did You?"