I have rebelled against Chuck’s four part tale to be worked with others over the next four weeks (unless he changes the rules). Instead we have a two-parter for today and next month, both 1000 words long. I’ll fill in some random titles or ‘Must include’ stories in the weeks in between.
Unlucky for some (part 1)
The awareness of glimmering light on the outside of my eyelids insinuated itself into my dreams.
I surfaced, staring at the ceiling, reorienting myself into the world from under the lurid pink and orange waves. Fleeting glimpses of the events of the past hours, although the psychologists say dreaming lasts milliseconds, remained with me, along with the fear that lay in my belly like a late-night takeaway.
There had been a fair. There was often a fair. Sometimes with those great gondolas that swung up into the air accompanied by screams of delight. I never understood screams of delight. Screams of fear did not delight me. Sometimes it was a helter-skelter, although I’d only ever seen one in picture books when I was a kid. Other times it was the secrecy of a track on sodden grass between mould-smelling canvas walls, walls so high you could only go on and on…
When I was a kid that track often ended at a high wall that I couldn’t get over. I tried and tried, and turned to go back but the canvas had gone and the wall surrounded me. A normal, brick wall. I tried to climb out until I was crying, and then I woke up. I’d got a book from the library Interpretation of Dreams, and decided it was fear of the future, the unknown beyond my exams. They loomed large, did exams.
I never dreamt of the wall after school. Even when I was stressed out over jobs, partners, houses, kids, I was never stuck in that place with the wall. The fairground, that was another matter. I wondered why it was the place that kicked things off. I never had any clear memories of what happened there, only the starting point and moving off into something even more bizarre. Did something once happen to me in a fairground? Or was it just the mystique of the fair and its characters?
This time I’d ended up under the sea with some fish. Blue and purple fish. An orange sea with pink streaks and shadows. I knew what water was supposed to signify, but I couldn’t guess the rest. The unease in my stomach remained.
I padded to the bathroom, relieved myself without turning on the light, and then gazed at my face in the mirror by the light of a grey dawn. I knew I wouldn’t be any happier with my reflection in better light. It would do, even though I had no idea where the young person with the nerves about her exams had gone, and what old woman had replaced me in the mirror. “You’re as young as you feel” they said. I was as young as I thought I was, but my body felt ancient. Back into the bedroom, I proved my encroaching dodderiness by knocking my make-up mirror off the dressing table; it cracked. Seven years bad luck for a mirror. I could still see well enough in it to do my make-up though. I dragged myself out of auto-pilot, got ready for work and wandered around doing minor chores while eating a bowl of cereal until the man on the radio told me it was time to leave.
The road over the moor was icy despite rising temperatures making the mist obscure the middle-distance. I ground to a halt to let some sheep cross, remembering how next door’s black cat had leapt across the drive in front of me as I’d left the house. So difficult to see black cats. I’d nearly hit it in the dark two or three times this winter. Was it perversity that had it dashing across my gateway every time I moved the car, or was it superstition? Did it have to cross my path to justify its existence? As the straggling sheep ambled on, grabbing a mouthful of herbage from the kerb, I looked to the side, my eye caught by the sight of three witches around a cauldron. It was just huddle of boulders. I swear they weren’t there normally. Why today? My stomach returned to hubbling and bubbling. The cereal should have settled it. I hope I still had some indigestion tablets in the drawer of my desk.
I had to brake sharply three more times before I got to work. What was it with people today? Did everyone have a death wish? The third person dashed out from under a sign hanging from some scaffolding. A new estate agent was in town, doing up the old bank building that had been empty for five years. Their logo of a blue fish disturbed me. I couldn’t think why. I parked the car round the back of the row of shops, and discovered the back door was still locked, so I strolled around the front of the buildings, along the pavement part-blocked by cars despite the yellow lines showing the parking restrictions. I grinned in satisfaction as I spotted the traffic warden working her way towards me, noting details and slapping tickets on windscreens.
The window cleaner was already at work; he did all the shop fronts twice a week unless you paid him to do them daily; today was his day for the upstairs windows too. I hesitated, since his ladder was right in front of our shop entrance. He wouldn’t be long. I could wait. No I couldn’t, I had a conference call booked for eight-forty-five and the sheep had made me late.
I ducked under the ladder and unlocked the door, dashing to the alarm panel before it went off. Then I threw the switch for the coffee to brew. Looking to the front door, I saw the window cleaner had moved on. Why did I take these risks?
I took my mug back to my desk and dialled in to the conference call number. I whistled a discordant tune while I waited to be connected, then realised what I was doing. This was not the day for that.
It was, after all, Friday the thirteenth.
(c) J M Pett 2015
Come back on March 13th for the end of this story