The aim to
'Write a travel log in which you encounter a mythical creature.'
Right from the start I felt uneasy. I was happy to have left Arthur, of course, but the weeks of decision-making and preparing, dissembling even, had left their mark on me. Now all I wanted was to be alone to rediscover myself, as it were, and to prepare myself for the years ahead. I was so accustomed to company, even poor, critical, cruel company that the thought of being alone was terrifying.
The Bed-and-Breakfast establishment had looked reassuring. It was just a semi-detatched house in a side-street. It represented relaxation and rest. The friendly owner added to my sense of ease. She was a dumpling of a woman, cosy and uncomplicated. 'Make yourself at home' she said. 'I just have to pop out for an hour or two. But I'll be back to cook your meal.'
Chintz and cheerfulness.
A neatly manicured lawn and orderly marigolds.
The stuff of normality.
But 'the other' entered the house as soon as she had gone. Don't ask me how I knew. It was just that the temperature seemed to drop and I sensed 'the other'. It was my imagination, of course. I shivered and reminded myself that being alone was unusual for me and that I was hypersensitive. Then I heard breathing. Or did I? As soon as I held my breath the breathing of 'the other' ceased too. 'How stupid' I said to myself. 'Get upstairs and unpack; have a shower and a rest. You'll get-over this nonsense in no time.'
Creatures of the mind.
Sly, insidious, ruffling the hair at the nape of one's neck.
Yet not existing at all.
I almost scuttled up the stairs as though 'the other' were behind me. But, of course there was nothing there. Even so, when I reached the room my hostess had directed me to I slid inside as quickly as I could with my suitcase and bolted the door. I was actually laughing at my fears even while I was experiencing them. For good measure I pulled a small armchair across the room and hooked it under the door-handle!I pulled a change of clothes from my bag and laid them on the bed. A shower would calm my nerves.
I went into the bathroom and locked the door securely. Soon I was standing under the shower feeling the blissful warmth of the water cascading down my back. I breathed deeply. It was all over; the actual tension of my marriage breakup and the imaginary fear. I relaxed.
Warm water encompassing,
The sound of it shutting one away from the world.
Calm, refreshment and cleanliness.
It was then I realised 'the other' was still with me. I stiffened. 'Get a grip!' I told myself, 'You're just overwrought. Maybe Arthur has finally won by sending you mad!' The shower was full of steam. My wet hair was covering most of my face. My eyes were stinging with soap. I couldn't see clearly but.....
Up from the plug-hole, eerily, slimily,
White and flimsy like steam.
The great slug with the human eyes ascended!
I screamed but no sound came! I dragged crazily at the shower-door but it would not open! My feet slid on the tiled floor! I banged against the glass! I cowered in the corner. It was then that 'the other' spoke. 'I told you you would never get away from me' it hissed. Where had I heard that voice before?
Suddenly I recognised it! 'Arthur!' I screamed. Suddenly I felt myself enveloped in the cold, misty, body of 'the other' and Arthur spoke. 'You never believed in an after-life did you, my love. I am dead and I see no reason why you should live. Come with me!'
Returning from whence it came!
Sliding, slithering, descending, twisting, diminishing.
And, within it, another life.
The newspapers had a field-day with our story, of course. 'Husband commits suicide; wife disappears from locked bathroom.' The mystery was never solved. But I believe in an after-life now.