“Sometimes it is an animal,” she says one night. “Sometimes I imagine it as a cat. An old black cat caught in the corner of the room or under the bed. Something sad and trapped and calling out to us. That’s what I’m thinking about lately when I’m listening to it.”
“Yes,” he says. “It’s small and its helpless. It’s reaching out to us. It’s asking for something, but we don’t know what it wants. We don’t understand. How can we help it if we don’t know what it needs?”
“But not always. Sometimes,” she says “it has no shape at all. It is a shadow. Or something darker than a shadow. It’s on all sides of us. It’s around us and inside us. It’s a part of us, already. Do you understand? Sometimes I feel like it’s too late. It’s inside us already and there’s nothing we can do anymore.”
“I don’t know that it means us any harm, though,” he says, sitting up in bed and turning towards her. “Do you? I mean, I never feel threatened. I don’t ever remember thinking it was actually going to hurt me. Sometimes I don’t think I even really feel afraid of it, not properly. I feel horror. And dread. And sadness, as though there is something deeply horrible happening and I can’t escape it. I feel all of that, but I never feel as if I’m going to come to any actual harm. Does that make sense?”
“It’s not quite like that for me.” The words come quickly and quietly, almost involuntarily. She’s been listening carefully, but with her eyes turned down. For some reason she doesn’t seem to want to look at him directly. There is a long pause in which neither of them says anything.
“How is it for you?” He says eventually.
“It doesn’t want to hurt me, but it’s going to.” She says. “It is some dark, horrible thing waiting there for me in the night. Every time I hear it I wonder if this is the time, is this the time it’s going to come for me. I can’t do anything to stop it and it’s always there, no matter what I do. I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but one day it is going to hurt me. That’s what I feel when I hear it. That’s what I’m thinking about.”
(This is a short excerpt taken from a longer story. To read the full version for free, please visit us here. Thanks for reading.)
‘The old maid and other stories’ is Chapbook number two of four volumes forthcoming from the Olgada Press during 2015.