Seeing in the Dark

by Robert Jacobs



I'm alone in the house reading The Murders In The Rue Morgue. Mother says I'm only fourteen and a boy shouldn't read that kind of stuff, and maybe she's right because our house is miles from any neighbours and I get scared being here on my own. It's almost nine o'clock and it's been dark for some time. The more I read, the more frightened I become. Every sound, every creak makes me jumpy. Outside, the full moon is half obscured by dark clouds dense with foreboding.


My mother has left me on my own for the third time this week. I wish my father was here. He just walked out, she said, ran out on us two weeks ago and left us with debts up to our eyeballs. She said he was a useless piece of shit and good riddance to him and we'll be better off without him.




It's almost ten o'clock. She said I have to be in bed by ten and heaven help me if I'm not asleep by the time she gets home, and she doesn't want me growing up to be a sack of shit like my father. The lights downstairs are all off and I'm reading by torchlight so she won't know if she comes home.  I've pushed a chair up against the door. Edgar Allan Poe has me so uptight, I'd die if something taps on the window or the phone rings or something, but I can't stop reading. I want to, but I can't.


I pause every minute or so to listen, to work out what this noise is or what that noise is, and it's driving me crazy because it feels like a scene from a zombie film. I imagine that every sound I hear is some ghoulish dead bastard coming up the stairs to get me. It’s too much, I can't stand it, so I climb out of bed and stand perfectly still, then take the torch and make my way into my mother's bedroom. I take my father's shotgun from the wardrobe and hold my breath so that my lungs make no sound at all. The world is silent. I pull out some cartridges and load the shotgun and return to my room.




It's eleven o'clock and I don't want to turn off the torch. I shine it over by the door and check that the chair is still there. I think I may have nodded off for a moment and worry that I might doze off and not hear the chair being moved, not hear someone creeping up on me until it's too late. I'm holding the book and the torch, and the shotgun is across my body so that no one can take it without disturbing me. In my mind I go over what happens if they try to take it, and I picture myself pulling the trigger and blowing a hole in their chest.


I check the clock and it's just gone midnight, for crying out loud, and I realise that I did doze off and anything could have happened while I was asleep. I swear there's a noise downstairs, not an obvious noise, something secret, something that doesn't want to be heard.


My body goes rigid.


I put the book down gently, raise myself out of bed and tip-toe towards the door with the gun in my arms. By the door I listen, ears straining, but don't hear anything. Just as I relax, there it goes again, and it really doesn't sound right. I'm sure there's something terribly wrong down there.


I move the chair slowly and turn the door handle carefully like I'm defusing a bomb, and drag the door open and stand there listening. At first I hear nothing, then there's something: brief, hushed. It appears to come from the lounge, and holding the shotgun in front of me I creep downstairs, silent like a ghost.


The door into the lounge is ajar just a fraction. The lights are off in there, they're off everywhere, and I curse silently because I've left the torch in the bedroom. I wait a moment so that my eyes adjust to the darkness, but I hear the noise again. My legs are shaking, they can't take much more of this. I have to act now.


I push the door softly. It glides open without a sound. Moonlight streams into the room from the window opposite. The back of the sofa is towards me. My mother's head hangs over the end of the sofa, face up, moonlight framing her hair, and her head moves strangely, as though she's being forcibly strangled. She makes a noise from her throat like it's a last desperate croak before the life is choked out of her.


I lift my hand up to the wall and hit the light switch. A man's head appears from the other side of the sofa. There's disbelief on his face when he sees me with the shotgun, and I swing it up and yank the trigger and the gun goes off. My mother screams, sound rushing from her throat. I run around to the other side of the sofa and the guy's face is gone, it's gone, his head is a bloody mess and he's slumped on top of my mother. The pair of them are stark naked, and I just don't get it. I don't.


My mother screams over and over and her face and chest are streaked with the guy's blood. Her arms point straight upwards into space.


She pushes the man off her. His body lands on the floor with a soft thud. She jumps up.  She doesn't seem to care about being naked. Her screams and her bloody face chill me to the bone.


She stops screaming and says, "What the hell? What have you done? Put the frigging gun down."


She looks at the guy's body and covers her mouth with her hands. She looks at me, then at the body, and she keeps doing this, then she bends down on all fours, still naked, and throws up on the carpet.


When she's finished, she leans over and checks the guy's wrist. She's calmer now. She looks at me, looks at the gun, then stands. She fetches her leather skirt from the back of an armchair and puts it on, then her bra. She gets a cigarette from her handbag and lights it, takes a few deep puffs then stubs it out and grabs the guy's ankles.


She says, "Give me a hand."




"You've killed him. Give me a hand."


I try to lift the guy under the arms but he's heavy. Between us we drag him into the hallway. She goes into the kitchen and comes back with the key to the basement and opens the door. She drags him down the stairs and I follow, helping as best as I can, but the body bumps down one step after another.


It's dark down here. There's a light bulb, but it's dim. The air is damp and smells rotten. She drags the guy over to one corner and moves some cardboard boxes out of the way. I stand in the middle of the room, watching. She pushes the body against the wall and stacks some boxes on top of him, but they fall over. She builds them up again so that they're piled on top of him, and the soles of his feet and his ankles stick out from underneath. Next to them, in the corner, I can see the bottom of one of my father's shoes under some boxes, and part of a sock. My mother notices too and she looks at my father's shoe then looks at me, and we stand there staring at each other without saying a word for a long time, and then I get it. I really do.




I put the shotgun back in the wardrobe in my mother's bedroom. She's on the bed in the skirt and bra. I stare at her for a while, then go back to my own room. I leave the light off and pick up the book and the torch and carry on reading. It's still dark, but I don't feel sleepy and the noises don't bother me any more. All the same, I decide to wait until daylight before putting her in the basement with the others.

©2006 Robert Jacobs

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