Terry

I really should have picked up on the first hint. It was staring me right in the face but it was so subtle I just didn’t cotton onto it at first. Something in my life has changed; everything and nothing is different, I don’t know what happened but now, I feel like an imposter in my own skin.

Friday has crept up on me like the bad end of a surprise. I’ve been working such long hours, for so long that I barely knew what month we were in anymore let alone the day. The moment I cracked my eyes open against this morning’s six am sun I knew something was wrong. Sitting up and rubbing a hand across my eyes I took in the familiar sight of my bedroom, wardrobe door slightly open, the same bedspread, the Terry and Lea matching dressing gowns that I hated hanging from their hooks on the bedroom door, last nights clothes slung across the chair in the left hand corner; everything in its usual, messy place. I shrugged off the uneasy feeling that had taken up residence in my stomach and slid my way downstairs, stuffing my legs through my creased up trousers at the same time.

Gliding triumphantly into the kitchen, I tightened my belt to its usual fifth notch in and smiled at the back of my wife’s head for a brief second before it hit me, the second hint.

“Hey, er, darling. What did you do to your hair?” She turned her face just a little so I can see the side of her face in the morning sun, she’s juicing some smoothie thing for lunch later. I don’t need to see all of her face to tell that she’s frowning.

“Nothing. It’s been like this since forever, dummy.” I want to reach out, to take a strand of that short, brunette hair and tug on it, wanting it to come away and reveal the long, golden blonde locks I know so well. Not once in our ten years of marriage have I ever seen her with any other style.

“Very funny. Did you dye it overnight or something? That’s some dedication Lea.” She turns around fully now, frowning, as I knew she would be. She sticks a finger in her mouth to lick off some blitzed fruit and cocks her head to one side.

“Terry, did you leave your brain upstairs asleep? Look …” She gestures to the wall behind me where we have a few pictures from our wedding hanging. I peer at them, expecting to see the same thing I’ve seen every single damn day for the past ten years.

“I’ll be damned.” I whisper to myself as I take in endless pictures of us together, and Lea on her own, sporting that brown bob. The lengths change a little, one right up under her chin, another to her shoulders but it’s not long and it certainly isn’t blonde. I feel the bottom fall out of my stomach.

“Terry?” I feel a comforting hand on my shoulder. “Terry, are you ok, you’re a bit white.” I take a gulp of air and gather myself.

“Yeah, yeah I’m fine.” She doesn’t look convinced. “I must have just dreamt it, you know one of those lucid things.”

“Uhuh.” She says and kisses the end of my nose before sliding my lunch along the counter to me. “Get your butt in gear then or you’ll be lucid dreaming about getting a new job if you’re late again.” She slaps my dazed and confused ass on the way out of the door and before I know it I’m in the car, driving absent mindedly.

I fucking know she had never had brown hair, I know it in my god damn bones and yet here we are, all brunet and shit and I don’t know what happened. My brain chews it over, everything just feels wrong, the colour of the houses I drive past everyday seems different, the stop sign that I swear was never there before. I shake my head a little bit to clear my thoughts; these damn dreams getting in my head.

I pull into my usual space in the parking lot and hot foot it up the steps of the building two at a time, the office is quiet, Friday mornings are usually worked from home, or so many of my lazy ass colleagues thought. I reach into my pocket as I see my office door approaching on my right and swipe the shiny piece of plastic through the chip reader. It beep a couple of times and a light flashes; pushing on the door I heave in surprise when it doesn’t open. Scanning the card again I watched with round eyes as the light flashed red, my entry denied. I stepped back, confused, head darting left to right. This was my corridor, my floor, fifth door in on the right, this was my office without a shadow of a doubt. I scanned the card again, something akin to rage beginning to bubble up inside of me.

“Hey Terry!” Someone called me from behind me, I felt a clap on the shoulder and turned to see Jordan Stenmark hovering in the corridor.

“Hey man.” I muttered before turning back to the door.

“Trying your hand at a spot of breaking and entering?”

“Something’s wrong with my card. Damn thing’s broken, it won’t let me in my office.” My fuse is short today, super fucking short.

“Well, call me stupid and all but wouldn’t it help if you tried it on your actual office door?” I stop, card mid swipe and glare at him. Jordan frowns a little and gestures to the name plaque I’d not even thought to look at yet. I raise my angry eyes to the golden lettering that leered down at me, mocking me.

Jordan Stenmark 

Head of Sales 

I stared at it for the longest time, unable to take it in. First Lea’s hair and now this, something was wrong with me, really wrong. Jordan reached across me, his suited arm snaking past me to pluck the card out of my quivering fingers, placing a hand on my arm he led me across the corridor and swiped us in; I caught the name plaque on the way in:

Terry Harding 

HR Manager 

“What’s up Terry? Are you hungover or something?” He looks concerned, the same way my wife did. The office I’m in is definitely mine, just on the wrong side of the corridor. What the fuck is going on here?

“Do you want me to call someone, Lea maybe?”

“No, no. Just give me five minutes, I’ll be fine.”

“You sure, buddy?” I nod back at him, unable to speak through the whirring cogs of my mind.

I don’t know how long I sat; head in hands, staring at the water cooler bubbling away. There is a little crowd gathering outside my office, I can see their shadows outside the blinded window. Hushed whispers float through the cracks in the door, it sounds urgent, pressing. Maybe something has happened, maybe someone is ill … maybe it’s about me. A shiver runs across me and a great need to know what is being said fills me. I’ve never been the sneaking type but today, I have no self control.

I slid along the whitewashed wall, keeping to the tips of my toes desperate not to make any noise. I don’t want to be seen so I keep myself away from the window, and make it to the door. Pressing my ear to the crack, I hover my head away from the wood, the door moves in the frame and I don’t want to make a noise. When did I get so paranoid?

“He’s in there now?”

“Closeted himself in the first moment he got. I didn’t really get a chance to speak to him.”

“You could have pushed him a little harder!”

“Or yeah, sure and have the whole thing blown apart. I’m not that clumsy you know!”

“Fighting won’t help us now. Will you two calm down. How much does he know?”

“I’m not sure. I think he’s picked up on something, I’m sure of it.”

My heart is racing now. God what is this! What do I do? Jordan that dick, he’s setting me up in something, if only I knew what it was. I think about locking the door from this side and waiting it out but where is that going to get me? There’s no way out up here, no street facing windows. I keep listening.

“Did Lea do her bit this morning?”

“From what she told me he woke up shaken, but otherwise fine. She thought we were all on track.”

I take myself away from the door, unable to compute what I am hearing. Lea, how can it be true? Maybe she was coerced, forced into taking part … or maybe she is in on whatever is happening to me. I’m scared now, frightened to leave and frightened to stay. I don’t know what to do but I have to do something, and do it fast. I decide to make a break for it, it’s the only way. They don’t know I’ve heard them so if I just act cool, keep it together I can do this. I straighten myself and, rearrange my tie and ruffled hair; taking a deep breath I grasp the door handle with purpose and push myself out into the corridor.

The chatter stops instantly. Silence pours into the corridor and no one moves a muscle. I keep my hand on the door handle, not quite wanting to let go if it’s comforting metallic shape.

“Hey Terry!” Jordan says, a little too cheerfully. “How are you feeling buddy?” I do a quick scan of the people in the hallway, all faces I know; Janet from reception, Vince from tech support, Lance from security and a few others, about six altogether. I can’t outrun this many.

“Fine, I just want to grab a cigarette and a coffee.”

“Are you sure you’re ok Terry, you look awfully white.” Janet pipes up.

“Yeah Terry, you don’t seem too well.”

“Terry, is there anything I can get you?”

“Terry, talk to us.”

“Terry?”

“Terry?”

Time seems to stop and all I can see is this sea of faces pouring in on me from every angle, bleating my name and they just won’t stop. It’s crazy, they look crazy, heads all cocked to one side in mock concern. They’re my co-workers, people I’ve known for years but they’re not, they’re different now, something has changed.

I mumble something about needing air and making a dash, walking just a little too fast down the corridor and around the corner; shouts of “Terry, wait!” ringing in my burning ears.

I make straight for the car, keys fumbling in my hands, rattling, ringing with my desperation and fear. I jam them into the lock and throw myself in. I lose no time in jamming it into first and peeling out of the parking lot. I don’t know where I’m going, I have no money, no clothes, nothing but I can’t go back, and I can’t go home.

I wish I’d noticed that first clue earlier. I don’t know how I didn’t register, how I didn’t know. My name isn’t Terry.

Walking with Demons – Ghosts

I’m not a good man. I’ve never been very good at pretending to be anything else either so it came a huge surprise to everyone when I met and eventually married Amaterasu. Being the director of a large, inner city company that specialised in corporate business areas it was important that I practiced my cut throat edge.

I was so good at it. I lashed out and patronised and frightened people until I had what I wanted from each and every one. My job was my life. Before too long though it became obvious that my dark nature was over spilling into other aspects of my life. Never before in my life had I been violent, until I suddenly had a wife and small child to come home too.

That nag, nag, nagging really got under my skin. The thought of opening the front door after a long day of bitching at people to be greeted with a  surly expression, a screaming child and a list of endless jobs that still needed completing was too much to bare.

I became distant. I barely ever went home, I worked late; I even began an affair with one of the temps in on the floor below mine. A sweet, quiet girl, no strings attached sex on tap and little peace from the never ending riot that went on at home.

It was all a little too perfect, everything was sweet for me, I felt as though I’d lost twenty years of stress, hard work and responsibilities. It all began to unravel when Amaterasu found out about the other woman.  She screamed and cried and created such a riot that I just had to leave the house. The bar across the street was more home now than that cold, wretched box that I’d paid a small fortune for.

I don’t mind telling you I was plastered by the time I stumbled back across the road at one am. A stomach full of Sake had done little to alleviate my terrible mood. I fumbled with the keys, wrenching them this way and that in the lock until, finally one of them clicked.

The door swung open to capture Amaterasu in it’s black painted frame. Her skinny arms were folded across her pointlessly small chest. I’d always secretly hoped she might get some work done after the birth of our son but she’d never seemed bothered about her appearance. She’d gotten fat, she’d gotten lazy and demanding, she was everything I hated all rolled up in one great huge ball of woman.

As she began to screech, I don’t even really remember what she was saying, the urge to reach out and silence her started to itch at the back of my mind.  In my head I could see my long fingers reaching around that soft flesh of her neck, the part that’s just above the collar bone. The squeezing felt so therapeutic, the release of so much anger and bitterness with a little shaking and pattering of feet and the endless screeching would stop. I’d be free.

I don’t know when I acted on my impulses; all I remember is takin the body to some remote place and hiding it as best I could.

For two years no one has really questioned Amarterasu’s disappearance. Her family was destitute, desolate and poor health was a constant problem, a fact they had gleefully hidden from me until after the marriage had taken place. She’d had minimal contact with them by her own choice so no one thought it odd when she didn’t call or visit. My parents asked on the few occasions they stopped by where she was, I made the relevant excuses; shopping, out seeing friends, on a course, the usual things you’d tell people after you’d murdered your spouse. She had no job, no bills, friends were few and far between and it was easy enough to fake a correspondence with them. It was all too easy to just cover it up.

The only person who did notice was my son. She had been the only contact the boy had had and he missed her presence almost immediately. Even when he watched me bundle her lifeless body into the boot of the car he looked for her everywhere. I feel for him, he is the only thing in my life that I truly love and to loose him would tear me apart.

Things ticked along as normal, days were the same, routines were established, I didn’t have a care in the world. The girl I’d been seeing became my new partner and before long she moved into the house I’d shared with Amaterasu.

I only started to notice the odd things that were happening around the house when my girlfriend pointed them out. The usual “supernatural” stuff would occur, vanishing keys, some banging noises in the night, someone walking over your grave. It was never anything that really bothered me and I chalked it up to an overactive imagination and the age of the house. Before long things gravitated to a point I could no longer ignore.

My partner pointed it out first. “Do you smell that?” She asked one afternoon about a month or so back. At first I didn’t notice anything but as I walked towards her I was hit with the stench of a perfume, sickly and strong.

“Jesus, what did you do? Shower in the stuff?” I asked, clamping a hand over my face.

“It’s not me! I’ve not put anything on today and even if I had, that’s not mine.” Her eyes had narrowed in suspicion.

Taking my hand away from my face apprehensively I sniffed the air cautiously. It was definitely perfume. It was familiar, like the calling of a memory that tugged on my mind; I couldn’t place it.

“You’ve not had someone else in here have you?” She asked me suspiciously, sniffing at my collar.

“No. I’m not stupid enough to bring another woman back here. I never brought you here when Amaterasu was still around, did I?” I saw the hurt flare up in her eyes at the mention of my wife. Her name, the perfume smell; they ground into my mind as the cogs began to whir. It was hers, the perfume; it was Amaterasu’s.

Turning away from the scene of confusion in the living room I stalked into the bathroom and clapped the door closed behind me, locking it with the hook. I dove into one of the little wicker boxes that still held the few beauty products my life had owned and fished out the one perfume bottle that lingered in a bottom corner. Spraying a little into the cap I took a lungful. It was the same stuff, without a shadow of a doubt. I was a little spooked, but I wouldn’t say I was scared, not then, not until a scream echoed through the house at a blood curdling pitched.

I came tearing out the bathroom, panting and still holding the perfume bottle in my hand. I promptly dropped it as I took in what greeted me. My girlfriend stood at the entrance to the kitchen, clutching the doorframe with both hands. Every picture of my wife, the ones I kept up for our son, to show to the relatives and friends who occasionally visited had moved. They sat on the coffee table, the shelves, even the floor closest to the kitchen. Amaterasu’s face stared out intent in every smile, each one now a sinister grin. The smell of her perfume began to waft back through the house as her many eyes stared intently at my girlfriend.

The Shadows

Gray’s shoes resonated along the dark corridor like the rapping of impatient fingers upon a wooden desk. The smart, rapid click of his highly polished shoes gave off the demeanour of a man in a hurry. The dawn was just beginning to think about peaking over the horizon and the sky was tea stained with a smart pink that hinted at the bright day to come. To anyone watching him from the shadows they wouldn’t have seen anything out of the ordinary, simply a man clothed in black trench coat stretching to his highly polished formal shoes.  One lace flapped idly in the breeze that scuttled over the bare floorboards, barely catching the attention of its impatient owner. The shoulder length black hair curled lightly around Gray’s shoulders framing the pale face that was barely visible in the shroud of his upturned collar.

The door to Gray’s bedroom slid open as silently as a breath of wind. Throwing off his trench coat and prying off the tight shoes, he gazed around the room with keen eyes. At first glance there was nothing irregular about the place; from the dark, oak desk littered with papers and financial documents to the strong backed arm chair that stood proud next to the large fireplace on the southern wall. The only startling thing about the place was the lack of light, even at this late hour the vague waxy shine of the moon light should have been creeping through the slits in the curtains that remained hurriedly pulled to did not penetrate the thick darkness. He shifted his presence over to the window and took one last longing look at the rising dawn before dragging the curtains together to completely envelope the room in darkness. He reached up and using the index finger of his right hand gently wiped away the winding tendril of blood seeping from the corner of his mouth before lifting the lid of his coffin, the satin as inviting as the softest pillows. Lowering himself in the vampire closed up the lid and settled down for the day.

The footsteps of someone approaching the heavy door of his bedroom could only have been heard by his keen vampire ears. The sound of padded feet crept their way up the winding staircase of the stately English home. Shifting his position in the chair slightly Gray hurried his face into the deep shadows cast on his left hand side as the door gently swung open a crack on the hinges. The light from an oil lamp spilled into the room, creeping its way around the doorframe and pooled around a delicate pair of bare feet that appeared in the doorway. The petite toes stopped short of the carpet, tentatively bending over the wooden instep that separated Gray’s inner sanctum from the outside world. A small, brunette head peaked around the doorframe, nervousness showing through the haze of fascination in her eyes. Amelia; young, sweet, fresh and pulsing with a life so strong it made his heart pound with longing to drain it from her.

As she stood in the doorway; her hair coiling around her pale pink cheeks and a dusting of the ends falling prettily on her chest; he praised himself for his impeccable choice. A desperate silence fell upon the room as the pair took in each other, unsure of the first move that should be made; Gray, nonchalant in his uncaring fashion and Amelia, mindful of his difficult moods and brooding stupors. The silence dominated and all but swallowed them until one dared to break it.

“You required my company Master Gray?” The vampire sat forwards, his elbows now resting, poised on his knees; his flawless white complexion falling into the light available for his scrutiny. Her sharp intake of breath was the only indication she had seen the vampire light in his steady eyes. He shouldn’t really have asked her here, she was too lovely to be playing his usual games of cat and mouse with, but it was that beauty in the face of his unnatural evil that drew him to her. Still he said nothing as he beckoned her into the room with one long, pale finger that curled enticingly with each new gesture. From the moment her delicate feet touched the carpet she was destined to die.