"As I moved, I knew I was Kidman. Running from me, Stephanie Fey. This was how it felt to be pursued by me. To be pursued by an empty and desperate soul, caught up in the death of a dying planet that knows and believes nothing, yet must hold onto something, anything, just to keep death at bay. Poor bitches! Her and me!"I couldn’t sleep.
“You can’t sleep, can you?”
“No, I can’t sleep. Who the hell are you anyway?”
“Oh, great! That’s all I need: another imaginary pain in the ass. Oh, here’s an idea: sod off! Some of us are trying to sleep around here, you know!”
“Yep, I’m imaginary alright. No getting away from that one. So, what are you thinking about?”
“Stupid question! We won’t get on too well if you don’t get smart. After all, you’re the only person paying attention. Who else is listening around here, if not you?”
“What are you thinking about?”
“If you must know – although I know you already know and you’re just trying to make sure that I stay awake! – I’m thinking about being unable to sleep, about being alone, about being crazy and about seeing things, about having been a stalker, about that damned James and the fact that I slept with him, and about the fear I put in others and all because I was lost inside and tried to hold onto a myth of my own making, about my bloody interfering mother and the fact that I never call her 'mom', about being a little girl in Flagstaff and how simple life was, about my brother (wherever he is!), my best friend Dizzie Lizzie (wherever she is!), and about where I’m gonna go from here, and then I think about James again and why I feel nothing towards him right now, when for so long I was feeling such intensity. Oh, and about Kidman – and how much I thought I loved her when all I loved was who I desperately want me to be! And I’m thinking about the fact that I can’t sleep, when I feel so achingly tired! So desperately tired! Oh, did I mention that already? Anyway. That do for you?”
“Thanks. Listen. I’ll let go if you will.”
“Let go? Of what? Hey, you implying I’m being a tad indecent down below? Now, you listen: some girls do and some girls don’t – and this girl don’t!”
“All that stuff you’re thinking about, I’ll let go if you will.”
My head was reverberating. I had that momentary disjointed feeling when you think that your mind has just slipped slightly out of your head – it happens just before you fall asleep. That slight inner slide of different properties. I felt it and something inside said "Yes" to sleeplessness and we both let go together. Delicious and, because I was so tired, slightly painful too, as if burly hands were roughly dragging me down into sleep.
Then a new disjointed feeling.
At some point I woke up and looked around me at the dark shadows of the room. I was awake, and yet something made me feel that I wasn’t awake. There must have been a full moon outside as I could see the outline of things in the room, all milky white. But something was different. All the shadows looked different – something about the perspective was odd. Also, my body felt different. Light. Unbound. Severed in some way. Disjointed in some way too. My hand moved to pull myself up to look around me and I found that the bed wasn’t there. The quilt was draped over me but I wasn't lying on the surface of the bed. I shouted out, I'm sure. The shout was loud and fuelled by sudden panic. It was instantly clear to me – although how it had happened was beyond comprehension – that I was floating above my bed, unconnected to the ground, disconnected from the physical world.
As I panicked I found myself scrabbling in the air. But although I scrabbled, it didn’t change my position, I was still floating above the ground. Then it struck me what had happened around me: there was no gravity. I was hovering as if in space. I was on the ground, in an old and dilapidated house in Scotland, miles from anywhere, and yet I was off the ground as if in a space station or on a space walk. At that moment I also recognised the milky white light. It was not the light of the moon at all.
"The quilt was draped over me but I wasn't lying on the surface of the bed. I shouted out, I'm sure. The shout was loud and fuelled by sudden panic. It was instantly clear to me – although how it had happened was beyond comprehension – that I was floating above my bed, unconnected to the ground, disconnected from the physical world"The curtains were closed over so I couldn’t see the shape of the ghost of the dead astronaut but there was no mistaking that it was him.
There was a brief moment where I thought I should move towards him, not resist him, let him come through, let him take me. Why not? What did I have to lose by not running, or to gain by running? It was all the same. Everything was the same. Walking away from society or walking back to it. Sleeping with a complete stranger and watching him walk away. And gradually feeling nothing towards it all, just a great emptiness. And this glowing, lifeless entity wanted me more than anything else did. More than I wanted myself, or more than I wanted to preserve myself. So, why shouldn’t he have me? Oh, you know you’re in trouble when the best the male sex can offer a girl is the ghost of a dead astronaut! Not only does he refuse to ever take his boots off in the house, but he won’t even remove his bloody helmet!
His light seemed to get fainter, as if he was moving away. But this was just temporary. I then saw the light dramatically increase in size before the room shook with a great thud and a crack of glass that seemed to slice through my ears. Maybe it wasn’t the room that shook, maybe it was just me, my eardrums reverberating, my senses jolting, my nerves suddenly painfully alert. Just like had happened before, the astronaut must have thrown himself against the glass to try and get through. Judging from the sound, this time he must have succeeded more than before. I found myself still floating, but upright now; I could move in any direction I wanted but just not down to the ground, it seemed.
I had to get away. What kicked in was a sense of self-preservation, from somewhere. Perhaps instinctive. Perhaps some deep-seated self-love that wanted expression - this seemed absurd to me, but who knows what exactly it is that kick-starts us to stay alive. As another great cracking and wrenching sound tore through the room and seemed to slice through my nerves in a long scything motion that made me feel both sick and sore, I found myself almost swimming through the air towards the main door to my suite of rooms. I grabbed things and pulled on them to give me leverage and direction, and kicked and waved my limbs to aid movement. I needed to get away. The astronaut was battering with so much force that it was clear that it wouldn’t be long before he finally smashed the window and its frame and found his way in.
I glided out of the main door and into the hallway, still amazed at being off the ground. If I looked outside, what would I see? Planets, stars at ground level, perhaps even the Earth in the distance, a space station moving slowly towards the house to dock with its front door? Maybe it wasn’t space that had fallen, maybe it was the house that had risen up into space, now orbiting the Earth like a satellite.
Now there was silence from my suite of rooms. No more sound of forceful banging. Down at the end of the hallway at the house’s front door, I could see a light moving around the door frame and surging like a short spike through the keyhole. He seemed to be following me. He seemed to know where I was. The door frame shook as a forceful thud bore down on it and I saw the handle judder.
I grabbed the banister and began to make my way up the stairs. For some reason, as I past different landmarks, I saw images of Kidman at different places where she’d been. First, sitting on the stairs as the Smelly God and his smelly assistant worked. Then the small upstairs room where she was when I told her I’d found the key to the room in the basement – as I glanced outside the window the astronaut’s glowing figure floated by. The room where she’d got me ready to go into the neighbouring town to meet James – the astronaut’s gloved hand was held in a fist and momentarily beat against the glass. The room where we’d dressed-up and role-played – the figure there again, grabbing the frame of the window and shaking it to see if it would budge. The notion of having had these internal experiences sickened me and added to the absolute nausea inside of me, but also I felt an aching loss for the fact that the Imaginary Kidman wasn’t there. If only somebody was there to help me! Why did I have to be alone all the time? Always in the dark. Always within my own darkness. Always haunted by myself! Always alone in it all. And always fighting to survive against terrors, when the greatest terror was the thought that I might suddenly decide I didn’t want to survive anymore. The greatest terror was myself, that my own deep-seated weakness would overwhelm me, and all strength, all obstinacy, all the grim determination within the gloom, would crumble and float off into space like dust. But not yet. It hadn’t happened yet. There was still hope. Small, oh so small, so very, very small. But still glowing a little. Thankfully glowing.
"Now there was silence from my suite of rooms. No more sound of forceful banging. Down at the end of the hallway at the house’s front door, I could see a light moving around the door frame and surging like a short spike through the keyhole. He seemed to be following me. He seemed to know where I was. The door frame shook as a forceful thud bore down on it and I saw the handle judder"
Or was this tiny stab of iridescent hope taunting me? Could the astronaut take me any time he wanted? Was he showing this little hot coal of hope to be pointless? Could he crush it under his heavy boot whenever he wanted, and was he just biding his time? And did this ember have no intention of growing? Would it always stay this dim, and was this dimness a sign of dying and not a sign of life?
How can I know? How can the present ever answer these questions? The incomplete, tottering, insubstantial, flighty, short-sighted, ignorant present. But it was all I had and I had to protect it as best I could. No matter what it turned out to be. So I held fast to the little glow somewhere inside and frantically thought how I could get away.
Frantic thoughts turned into frantic movements at some point. I looked around me and realised that I was on the upper floor of the house – the one with the doorway that I never wanted to enter, the one up a few steps that either led to a cupboard or another room that was higher than all the others. Across from it was a room that I had never looked at before and I hovered beside it, holding the doorframe and wondering at what lay inside. It was a large room with an enormous old brass bed inside. None of the other rooms had beds, they were all mostly empty. The bed itself seemed to glow. I wasn’t sure if it was with its own autonomous glow or if it was due to the figure of the astronaut that had appeared at the window to the room.
Somehow I could see him so clearly – clearer than ever before – this figure with the pitch-black visor, breathing slowly and painfully like a dying soul on a life-support machine, shining so strikingly. Almost beautifully, in some ways. And through the window, words came from him, muffled and almost like a whisper through the glass: "It's your turn. It's your turn now."
Bang! He threw his shape against the window, desperately trying to find a way in. Then, straight after, he again hurled himself against the window and an upper pane cracked with a sharp sizzle sound. As another thump rained down on it – from his hand, the front of his helmet, his knee, his shoulder – the frame buckled and the window caved in. Glass tumbled down on the floor and the sound was so stark that it was like a hundred harsh stings that made me wince. As the glass shattered on contact with the floor, there was another great thud. But this time not from the window. It was from somewhere else. Then I heard it again. Again not from the astronaut outside, but from the door to the mysterious upper room, or whatever it was. Then another thud, this time with another smash – this one was from the astronaut outside. As I glanced at him I saw the entire window disintegrate and his heavy, powerful presence floated through. Bang! Bang! More brutal thuds from the door at the top of the stairs. What was in there? And what was it that was trying to get out? Another astronaut?
I had to get away. No time to think. It had to be another journey back down the stairs. Grabbing hold of things as best I could, I moved back down the stairs, not sure where I was going, not sure where I could go. The occasional desperate look behind me told me that the astronaut was in pursuit. Again I heard the words, rasping in a staccato, transistorised manner – mechanical, and distant within the crackle and hiss that surrounded them: “It’s your turn. It’s your turn now.” Repeated over and over again, but with slightly more anxiety each time. My turn? Was it my turn to be stalked? Was this revenge for my stalking of Kidman? If so, I deserved it! And I deserved to flee with nowhere to go, and with nowhere to turn to!
"As the glass shattered on contact with the floor, there was another great thud. But this time not from the window. It was from somewhere else. Then I heard it again. Again not from the astronaut outside, but from the door to the mysterious upper room, or whatever it was. Then another thud, this time with another smash – this one was from the astronaut outside. As I glanced at him I saw the entire window disintegrate and his heavy, powerful presence floated through"
More mammoth thuds resounded through the house from above me, from behind where the astronaut glided towards me. Then I heard more battering coming from in front of me. From the front door again? I felt surrounded. Behind, above, in front. Perhaps there were more than two of them now. Everywhere, the presence of dead astronauts moved towards me.
Was it perhaps then that I realised that I was struggling to breathe? My old nemesis of acute asthma had returned, but fully-formed, fully-present, without me being the least bit aware of it growing. It was all caught up within a feeling of sickness and terror that had been with me since I had woken up. I could barely feel any air getting into my lungs. It was as if great hands were grappling for air, but there was nothing to get a hold of but tiny, barely usable pockets of the stuff.
Without warning, I found I was falling. So sharply and so quickly. Down to the ground I fell with a colossal and painful thump. My left knee and the side of my cheek hit off the hard wooden stairs beneath me. As I lay there, I expected to feel the astronaut’s hands on me. My muscles were tense like fists as I anticipated his grip. I could still hear his voice: “It’s your turn. It’s your turn now.” The intensity of the sound having increased to such a level that I wasn’t quite sure where he was. But also his proximity was masked by the banging sounds that seemed to surround me. Then I vomited. I think it was a mixture of unparalleled fear and the inability to breathe. I saw the sticky yellowy-grey flow of it dripping from one stair to the next before me. Gravity had returned and I tried to pull myself to my feet to continue my retreat.
Another glance behind me and there was the astronaut a mere flight of stairs above me. But he was also on the ground, no longer airborne. It was an unusual image. I almost wanted to stare at him to see what this meant. But there was no time, in a second he began to move towards me purposefully. I was exhausted. There was little energy, or even life, left in my body. I could smell and taste my own vomit. I could feel my body so heavy all about me. I could sense the contracting of my lungs and every dying muscle fighting to preserve them. Terror was indistinguishable, mixed as it was with illness and nausea. And there were tears in my eyes. Another thing I hadn’t noticed before. But the tears were making it hard for me to see. Everything was blurry and my feet stumbled down the stairs with terrible slowness. The sound of great thumps rocked my ears, the sound of the astronaut’s feet hard on the wooden stairs, the sound of his words, the sound of my own rasping, all ghosted in and out of me as if I was disintegrating. As I moved, I knew I was Kidman. Running from me, Stephanie Fey. This was how it felt to be pursued by me. To be pursued by an empty and desperate soul, caught up in the death of a dying planet that knows and believes nothing, yet must hold onto something, anything, just to keep death at bay. Poor bitches! Her and me!
"The intensity of the sound having increased to such a level that I wasn’t quite sure where he was. But also his proximity was masked by the banging sounds that seemed to surround me. Then I vomited. I think it was a mixture of unparalleled fear and the inability to breathe. I saw the sticky yellowy-grey flow of it dripping from one stair to the next before me"
Was that a handle? Was that the handle to my suite of rooms? I pushed down on it and moved through it and then I heard its familiar click behind me. The click of it locking. Securely locking. My hand gripped the lock tight, as if my hand would somehow re-enforce its steadfastness. But not for long. I sank to the ground. Darkness was complete around me, there in the corridor that leads to my three rooms. I still couldn't see, but I had security of sorts.
Bang! Again? So soon? Oh, not so soon! Would there be no respite? Not even a minute, not even a few seconds? Could he already be at the window of my living room again, finishing what he’d started? No. This time the sound was within my own rooms, right inside my safety zone. I’m sure I gasped, and my head turned round – finding the last pocket of energy – as if I could see the sound and focus on it in the blackness. Where did safety lie now? No, it didn’t lie anywhere. It had always been a lie.
Another noise. This time the sound of furniture moving – a chair or table, probably in my main living area. I suddenly felt the fingers of darkness squeeze round my lungs, ejecting more air, entirely constricting my ability to breathe.
Then it happened. The events of the last few minutes had been so shocking and they had consumed my attention to such a degree that I was unaware of a full asthma attack coming on. Like another intruder it grabbed me, its hands on me, violent and ruthless. I was helpless, my hands, my legs, my torso, my mouth and eyes and throat wrestled with it, right there on the floor beside the door. I couldn’t get to the lock of the door now, all hope of escape had been stifled irrevocably. The astronaut and his presence had me trapped. There was no escape. I had delayed this moment, but I couldn’t delay it anymore. As I gasped and grunted, as my whole system screeched for breath and my lungs rattled as they lashed out in every direction for dear, lovely wonderful air – oh, any air at all! – I vaguely heard other noises close beside me: fast-approaching footsteps, more furniture being rocked and struck, an approaching scent of some kind, a sound of fumbling, and the tangible feel of a physical frame closing in on me. A spark close to my face. A shadowy face looming close to me – cloaked more in the night than in flesh. Was I about to breathe for the last time as I saw this indistinct face? It felt that way. Somewhere inside I prepared myself for it. Then I heard the words:
“You silly moo-moo. You’ve really got to invest in a new lung!”
Perhaps more fatal than if it had been the astronaut before me by the light of that match, the realisation that it was my best friend Lizzie almost killed me with relief in an instant.
Then she said: “Hey, what’s that shiny 'man thing' hovering about in the trees outside? Is that some kind of prank?”
Man thing. An astronaut? Outside? Lizzie had seen it! It was real! Real?
I think that the last thing I felt just before I passed out was a warm tear easing its way down past the cold ones, relaxed, relieved, and tickling me with a hint of joy in its little stream.
Real! Real! What would Kidman say? Oh, what would she say?
Next instalmant: 56. I Hope and Allow