It’s been an unsettled day. Nothing exceptionally wrong but not right, almost as though things are being moved behind the scenes, those set-in-stone pieces that we perceive with our souls. I’m catching glimpses from the corner of my eye – don’t look. don’t stare, there’s nothing there. There is, but it’s nothing to put a finger on. Nothing anyone will believe and not call me crazy or accuse me of drinking again, at any rate. But it’s there – an almost taste, a phantom smell, a nothing that you can see brushing along the skin of your arm. Chill-bumps that follow the invisible fingertip of someone not of this plane but here, nonetheless.
Finally I sleep.
Then wake. I think –
It’s 01:00 Red alert. General quarters – all hands!!! man your battle stations!!! – the klaxons are ringing in my brain – in the air, everywhere – I bolt upright in bed enrobed in sweat, clammy with the sheets pooled around my hips, and breath coming in labored gasps.
Looking around frantically for the invader, the enemy, but there is no one in sight– did I fall asleep on watch? Was I captured? What, who, where the fuck am I? The sounds in my head are like massive footsteps punishing the earth. Slow, ponderous, arrogant – not marching, just traipsing through the night.
Dark. It’s dark in here, but it’s darker out there. Black dark. I don’t like black dark. Black dark is always a bad omen, land so is waking here, like this. Half dressing quickly, and with my pistol in hand, I am out the door and searching the treeline for signs of invasion on the way to my station.
If I were home, the neighbors would be having a field day with a half-naked man stalking the yard with a loaded gun. But I am here, not home and here is fraught with danger, not peace and safety. Nothing in sight. Not here, not now or then.
She is so far away, hopefully dreaming of when we can finally be together and forget the past, but I know better. She is here, with me, now but not then. I wish I’d know her then. Life would have been different, now. Part of me is screaming to call her, wake her, check – Baby, are you OK? But – I can feel her here, with her hand on my shoulder, whispering in my ear.
It’s not My Love: so, who hunts?
Outside, above my head, the clouds look like a barricade set against the light of the moon and the gleaming diamond chips that are the barbed wire have become dim. They roil and blow but don’t move. Then, I can see the disturbance.
They weren’t footsteps that I heard earlier, not the rat-faced bastards, either – they were wings. Massive, unheeding, the feathery wings are so dark that they suck up any light that might compete with the Cimmerian shade they throw. Impossibly, sparks dance around the wispy edges.
Her hand tightens on my bicep, around my waist and I can feel her strength pulling me back. Those damned razor-blade nails dig deeply into the muscle to let me know that she means business, and I let her drag me back but just for a moment. Then I resist and feel her grip lessen. She knows I need to witness the coming of the end.
Descending in slow majestic sweeps that seem to take a lifetime but is likely as not happening in heartbeats, the air shakes making it difficult to breathe – the atmospheric disturbance causes the earth beneath my feet to shudder as if it were being assaulted. Still, the clouds stir and boil through the ailerons, closing the gap but leaving a rift wide enough for me to witness it’s landing.
A brief regard from – is that an eye? Whatever it is, it glows in an unearthly color to which I have no name. Terrible and stunning, that eye is full of arrogance and disdain, disgusted, and all this in a glance. It laughs and the sound is in my head and in the world around me. This wing’ed creature is so damned haughty and amused by its own magnanimity, that it brushes my face gently with a wingtip still decorated in fluffy white bits of cloud before it speaks and dismisses my existence.
Not you, not now, it says in my mind, it’s voice that of a forgotten God, and it reverberates like a gong in my puny human skull, you have years to go before it’s time. Return to sleep. And take her with you.
I hear the insulted harrumph of My Love in my ear, and her familiar embrace before she, too, fades. She is safe, so perhaps I can rest, and would but I am left instead, bolt upright in bed a 1 a.m. with a thought that does not belong to me echoing through my mind.
Sleep well, while you can, little one. You and your kind are not as insignificant as you think –
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