New Fiction by George Gad Economou: “Sounds of the Night”

 There’s nothing extraordinary about hearing the toilet flushing in the middle of the night; unless, of course, if you live alone.

At 3 am, the flushing startled me. It had been a long time since anyone had slept over at my place. I was trying to sleep off three bottles of wine.  My head was heavy and my body numb. I didn’t jump off the sofa, as perhaps I should have, instead I raised my head from the soft pillow and peered into the darkness.

The darkness looked back.  I saw the familiar ghosts that have been surrounding me for years and the known whispers still lingered in the air.  There was, at the same time, something new, a fresh breeze of evil that froze everything in the room. If I could have, I would have run, but in my hazy state all I could do was observe. The bathroom door creaked as it opened and closed.  I saw the shadow standing in the kitchen.

I was still trying to figure out whether I was dreaming, while still staring befuddled at the shadow lighting a cigarette in the kitchen; the blue smoke arose quickly and evaporated. There was no other sound but of the crackling of the burning cigarette while the clouds did not allow the pale light of the moon to illuminate the room.

The shadow seemed all too familiar. I froze, lying face down on the couch, glaring intensely at it from underneath the blanket. The shadow began talking, but despite the perfect stillness I could not hear its voice. Alas, I recognized the words used, as they were the same words I often uttered while standing at the kitchen having a quick smoke: “just one more sip, just one more drag, and I’m coming to bed”.

A pile of dirty clothes hid the bed, not having being used in months; not since the final whispering ghost exited my life for good. Still on the couch, safe underneath the heavy covers, I heard the words of the shadow echoing in my head, even though no sound reached my ears.

The empty bottles laid on the floor, amidst the layers of dust, stale tobacco, and wasted blow, and yet, there was nothing I could do. The faintest light penetrating the loosely sitting blinds on the window reflected on the glass and hit my eyes, bringing forth memories of better times; of nights, where my bed was occupied and I drank and smoked my life away in the kitchen, wishing to be alone.

Suddenly, I was all alone, with no one to call and ask how I am doing, and I wished for the past to become the present and for the future to be different than the blanket made of snow that was waiting for me in the corner. The shadow in the kitchen put out the cigarette in an ashtray that shouldn’t be on the counter and walked in the main room with confident steps.

I still could not discern its features; I could not tell the identity of the night intruder. I couldn’t move, I was numb, both from the drink and the fear, and the shadow idly sat at my desk chair, its fingers hovering over the keyboard.  A shiver ran through my spine, I wanted to react but was helpless.

I heard the keys being pressed rhythmically creating music I had long forgotten, and my heart sank. The shadow had taken my place, while I was still suffering from a headache that could kill even the most savage dinosaur.  More voices echoed in my head, words long ago uttered by lips, memories erased by drink.

It all came back, as the shadow typed purposelessly, the keyboard suffering under the brutal writing and smoke began filling the small room. There was no oxygen and I was suffocating slowly, while the shadow seemed unfazed by the ever-changing environment. I sat up, finally, ignoring the tremendously violent jolts of pain that shot through my body. My head on the verge of exploding, barely able to hold my eyes open, I looked around and I was all alone. The smoke had evaporated, the shadow vanished.

Only the bottles on the floor indicated the reality of the situation, and I looked about in complete bewilderment. Once more alone, the voices in my head had ceased and the perfect quietness of the night was reigning. It didn’t feel good, even the shadow was a pleasant change of rhythm and I laid back on the soft pillow, as I observed the room spin around me while fighting my urge to vomit.

I was determined to start afresh; quit the bad habits and become a new person. I sat up, struggling to ignore the horrific pain that arose in every inch of my suffering body, and filled my glass pipe with some freshly-cooked ice. It was time to stay awake, fight for the dreams I had betrayed.

The first cloud of blue smoke arose in front of me and I saw thousands of faces arising from within it; faces long forgotten, eyes once adored, lips once tasted.

Another puff was dragged and the crackling of the pipe was the only sound that violated the peace of the night, overshadowed abruptly by the flushing of the toilet.