Taylor gasped and woke bolt upright in a panic, sweat dripping down her face and back. She stared wide-eyed out into the darkness of her room trying to gather her bearings and calm her erratic heartbeat.
“What…?” she muttered to herself in the middle of the darkness. Of course, she was alone. She was always alone. No one was there to hear her.
She rubbed her clammy face nervously and peeled her reddish-brown hair off her forehead. She then span round to pick up her phone, which was sat untouched on her dark brown and cheap bedside table, resting next to the half-empty bottle of whisky. She pressed the button on the front of it and the room lit up from the screen. 22:11 flashed at her from the dark. With a groan of frustration, she threw herself back onto the bed. It was still Thursday night, it wasn’t even the morning yet.
She draped her thin arm over her forehead for a few minutes, going over the strange dream that had evidently woken her up; a strange red creature was laughing at her. It had large horns protruding angrily from his head, sharp yellowing teeth behind an evil grin, black leathery wings spread intimidatingly wide and a sharp tail wiping back and forth as if mocking her.
Along with a strange burning smell that she could almost still feel lingering in her nostrils, she heard voices; shouting, yelling, crying and screaming. The sounds pierced through her as if they weren’t coming through her ears but through her soul—
Suddenly her head came alive with voices and she gasped, bolting upright again. They got louder and louder the more she thought of them, until she closed her eyes instinctively and they suddenly vanished.
She opened her eyes again, carefully looking out into the darkness in fear. She was very much alone. Pushing the crazy thoughts back, she grabbed the bottle of whisky from the bedside table with a slight grumble and took a large swig. Clearly she was imagining things, she hadn’t slept properly in days, and it was obviously starting to take its toll. She had work in the morning too and she already wasn’t looking forward to it. At least the whisky would make it easier to bear for now.
She took another large swig of the liquor, replaced it on the bedside table and collapsed back on her bed. She closed her eyes while trying desperately not to think about the strange dream but instead focus on trying to sleep.
The next morning, Taylor stood in her compact kitchen trying desperately to ignore a raging headache. She managed to drink the remainder of her whisky last night, just to get to sleep. She regretted it of course… she had no alcohol left.
She grabbed a cereal box from the cupboard above her sink and poured the contents into a bowl that was already sat on top of the kitchen counter top. The news was playing in the background on her small cheap TV, which was sat lonely in the living-room. She watched it while shoving large spoonfuls of cereal into her mouth and lent against the divide between the kitchen and her living-room.
She had luckily managed to find some clothes after having a shower, changing out of yesterday’s shirt that she fell asleep in, and was now dressed in yesterday’s simple black work trousers and a plain white—yet thankfully clean—t-shirt. It wasn’t a work t-shirt, it was actually an unused gym t-shirt, although it was plain enough. But just in case, she wore a black jacket over the top of it anyway. The jacket was well-worn, the colour was fading on the outside, the reminisce of the old dark black was seen around the breast pocket and the sleeves were starting to fray where they were slightly too long—which she liked, as it kept her wrists warm. She always seemed to get cold, especially at work when the air-conditioning was always on, even during the winter.
She watched the news play while a frown steadily creeped onto her face. Something had caught her attention.
“A young man by the name of Samuel Chaudhary has been reported missing, his mother last saw him at six o’clock yesterday. He is reported to have gone out with friends after having dinner with his parents but has not returned home since. Samuel is twelve years old and may have been out with friends of the same age…” explained a news reporter with a tight blonde bun. The woman wore a sympathetic face that appeared to be just the right level of professionalism without looking upset at the report or too happy. Taylor hated that, seeing a news reporter that looked too happy when reporting bad news.
Taylor wondered what it would be like for that poor mother, knowing that her son didn’t come home that evening. She wished she had a mother who would be worried about her own whereabouts if she went missing. What if she were to just pack a bag of essentials and disappear? Not show up at work. Not tell anyone she was leaving. Would anyone care? Her own mother had died a long time ago, a particular time of her life that she wasn’t too keen on remembering. She had no other family. No father, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, not even grandparents. It was always just her and her mother. It wasn’t until recently that she started to wonder why there was no other family, it never occurred to her before that it was a little odd. Her hand automatically went up to the small scar on her cheekbone, a habit that she had only recently gotten into.
The news reporter moved on to the next piece of news; explaining a strange sighting of a flying animal seen in the early hours of the morning. But Taylor snorted at the media hype of what was probably just an escaped parrot or something and turned off the TV. She remembered there was something like that that happened before, and it turned out to be a large African Grey parrot, someone’s pet that had accidentally escaped and caused a bit of a stir.
After eating the last spoonful of cereal, she placed the bowl lazily in the sink unwashed with the rest of the unwashed plates, bowls, cutlery and even a discarded pizza box from two nights ago and grabbed her work ID from the side. She had to leave early anyway, she needed something from the shop. Something which she was supposed to have left of last night if she didn’t drink the whole bottle. It was Friday today, she would need it after she got home… it was going to be a busy day.
Taylor sat slouched on her usual bus in a daze, the number 277, which she caught from her usual bus stop at 07:15. She stared out of the window, her face resting lazily in her right hand, while her arm was resting on the side of the bus’s window frame uncomfortably, watching the pitiful world go by while the sun made an appearance for another day, creating deep oranges and yellows against the dark gloomy clouds.
She watched a young woman attempting to walk down the road in the opposite direction the bus was travelling, a red-faced screaming toddler squirming in his pushchair as the young mother apparently still half-asleep spoke into her mobile phone. Taylor wondered who she was talking to. A boyfriend? A friend? A work-colleague to explain she was going to be late for work yet again because her son didn’t want to put on his shoes again?
This led Taylor to wonder what everyone else in the world was up to. She wondered if maybe there were others out there that had lives more interesting than hers. Or at least lives they liked. Or did everyone else in the world get up every weekday, to go to a boring job, only to come home to eat and sleep, drowning their sorrows into a bottle of whisky at the weekends? Although those days were starting to seep into the weekdays now. She wondered what her life would be like if things changed? What if she didn’t have to drink? What if… her life had more meaning?
Before she had chance to daydream about what her life would be like if she didn’t have to work, didn’t rely on alcohol anymore and that she had a bigger greater purpose in the world, she felt a strange feeling resurface in her chest. She re-focused her eyes out of the window and glimpsed someone walking unsteadily from a road. There was something unusual about him that caught her attention.
Luckily the bus slowed down for a set of works traffic lights which had moved from amber to a rather definitive and resounding red and thus giving Taylor a direct view of the road on her right. The road was more like a side street that followed up the side of the bridge that the bus had just emerged from. There was a black BMW sat on the pavement facing up the road on guard, a large blue gate which was open to allow people to explore, but the street only seemed to hold some sort of shops or buildings that were utilizing the space under the bridge, their graffiti-riddled shutters down and looking unused for years. On the other side, tucked in a corner, was an overflowing dumpster with litter of soggy paper and carboard left abandoned around it.
The man she saw walking out from the street was now holding himself up against the blue gate, slightly silhouetted against the rising sun behind him. He was wrapped up in some sort of fabric to keep himself warm, his slightly dark yet young face looked sunken and in pain, dark circles framed his strange eyes. She would have just thought the poor guy was just a homeless person out on his luck looking like he had just resurfaced from a safe place to squat for the night. But those eyes didn’t sit well with her. She wasn’t sure if it was a trick of the light or something, because of the sunrise behind him and the typically British cloudy day.
The bus jerked forward again to continue past the now green traffic lights, knocking Taylor’s elbow off the window edge and breaking her eye contact. But not before the man managed to look right at Taylor. His face furrowed into a curious frown as if he somehow knew she had been there watching him.
But those dark eyes weren’t just dark… they were completely pitch black.
When she looked back out of the window to the exact spot the man was, he had somehow vanished. She attempted to press her face to the window in order to look down the road behind the bus and even looked across to the opposite side of the road where another street ran up the other side of the bridge, but there was no sign of the strange man.
What also made her blood run cold was not only those pitch-black eyes, reminding her of the creature in her dream, but she realised she experienced the same feeling she had in her dream too. A feeling she couldn’t quite explain, it was just there in the depths of her being. It was like trying to explain that she heard voices, but they didn’t come to her ears, but from within… so was that strange feeling.
Suddenly a mixture of voices came into her head again, just like they did last night. She gasped and closed her eyes tightly and pointlessly shut as the inside of her head came alive with a mumbling and muffling mess of sounds. She knew it was talking, but she couldn’t make out words let alone sentences. She held her hands to her temples and groaned, the more she thought of them, the louder they got.
“SHUT UP!” she yelled suddenly, her voice reverberating in her ears. The voices stopped. Only the hum of the bus’s engine and the surrounding traffic was heard. No talking.
She blinked and looked up, seeing a few faces nervously staring at her from their seats around her. Of course, the voices were in her head, no one else could hear them.
Am I going mad? she thought to herself, as she deliberately diverted her attention to the outside world once again. Even the bus driver was looking in his rear-view mirror to see what the fuss was about.
She sighed and took the bottle of alcohol that she had bought from the shop that morning from her backpack, she had told herself she wasn’t going to take even a sip until she was home and could finally relax. But it didn’t take her a lot to convince herself she needed a sip. Ignoring the strange look she was getting from a young girl in the seat on the opposite side of the bus, Taylor unscrewed the cap and took a large swig of the calming liquid.
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