AJ's back with a cracker...
The darkness around me made it easier to see her.
The soft glare from her window first drew me in; a hint of flesh, innocent tease, a fleeting glimpse had I not looked twice. Pale skin, as supple and striking as summer colours, reflected against the brightness of her lights, and the curiosity of that brief moment held me captive. She was not aware of my attention.
The following night I stood at my window, out of curiosity, and she did it again, disrobing like a flower shedding petals in a breeze, sanguine expression brightened by the lights in her apartment. She stood there a while, taking in the silent appreciation of an invisible audience, before catching herself in the mirror. I watched as she ran her hands through her hair, bright blonde strands reflecting the light, but she gave me only a few minutes before disappearing from view. I felt cheated.
The next night she was bold, moving naked about the kitchen, unaware of my jaded gaze pouring through the darkness. She seemed to enjoy her own parade, and once again, she stopped to admire herself in the mirror, skirting her hands over her breasts and through her hair with intimate appreciation.
Her tease lasted an hour.
On the fourth night she stood in the centre of the room, waiting.
I knew then she had seen me somehow; seen my shadow in the darkness. It troubled me, because I was always careful not to flick on any of my lights when I watched her. But somehow, she knew. Perhaps she saw the curtains twitch, saw my reflection cast from the nearby streetlight.
Perhaps she knew all along.
I pulled aside the curtain, despite the shadows that veiled my face from her. But she didn’t move. She played with her hair, ran her hands down her stomach, a subtle tease, but I knew she was playing with me instead, easily melting the darkness between us. Comfortable now within each other’s presence, I watched her parade for an hour until she disappeared once again.
On the last night, I ventured out and stood on the corner of the street. I looked up at her window. She eventually came to the window, pressed her naked flesh against the glass, looked down at me, and then vanished.
I made my way across the street.
A soft wind rolled across the front of the apartment block, tormented the ivy covering the walls. Stagnant darkness crept through the street and sucked up the fading light of a cold December evening.
I edged towards the entrance, placed my gloved hand upon the door handle and gently pushed down. The door clicked open. I stepped inside the dimly lit hallway, made my way across the tiled floor towards the stairs.
I listened, but there was little sound.
I ascended the stairs to the top floor, wound my way to the bright red door at the end of the hall. The corridors were so silent that it appeared no one lived there, yet my footsteps seemed overtly loud along the corridor, the noise echoing around my head like vile cracks of thunder.
I pushed on the door. It swung open; her invite accepted.
A crowding silence rushed to greet me. I love the silence, the pressing nature of it. I’m a solitary creature; I live a private existence. Silence is my companion. See, my sort is not too welcome in this neighbourhood, so I keep to the shadows.
I drifted forward, surveyed the room. It was sparsely feminine, yet expensive in taste, full with glass and chrome furnishings and polished wooden floors.
I noticed the headline in the newspaper opened out on the coffee table.
Victim No 4 found dead. Police suspect local man...
Poor victim number four, a drug-addled teenager no one would miss.
‘I’ve been watching you for a while now,’ a voice said, breaking the silence.
I looked up. She appeared from a doorway wearing a white bathrobe, hair slicked back.
‘I noticed your reflection in your window,’ she said.
My insides juddered. ‘I didn’t think you could see me.’
Her blue eyes were derisive. ‘Of course I could. Only a slight reflection, I couldn’t see your face completely, but I knew you were watching me. You obviously like what you see.’
I eased forward until I was barely feet from her. The scent of fruits tickled my senses. Now she could see my face, the ghostly reflection that had watched her so many times. ‘Do you entice all your potential lovers like that?’
‘Only the ones who want to be enticed. It gets their attention.’ She loosened the belt on her bathrobe, gazed at my tall shadow. ‘You’re not what I expected.’
That’s what they all say. I shook my head. ‘No, I guess I’m not.’
‘Not that it matters. I don’t mind who I fuck.’ She slowly let the robe open out to reveal soft pink flesh. ‘I’ve seen the way you look at me. I’ve seen the way you mist up your windows. I know you want me.’
I blinked slowly, felt my hands grow clammy inside my gloves.
She unzipped my jacket, and slowly picked apart my shirt buttons. She touched me tentatively, raised a curious eyebrow.
Beneath the calm surface, I fought the urge to grab her, all the while trying to close the black hole opening out in my stomach.
She inched the robe from her shoulders and let it drop to the floor. She turned and slinked towards the bathroom. ‘Why don’t you get out of those clothes and come and join me? The water is hot.’
I followed her to the bathroom door, quiet steps across the floor, watched as she stepped into the porcelain bathtub. I wondered then, absurdly, whether the phone might ring, or a noise from outside would disturb us.
But nothing happened.
She smiled as she eased back into the foamy water. Ripples rolled against her voluminous breasts. She blew bath bubbles into the air and they glittered like slivers of frost beneath the stark bathroom light.
I took off my gloves, knelt down. I leaned in and placed my hand against her neck, touched softly.
She pointed to the door with an exquisitely manicured finger. ‘Patience. It’s £200 for full sex, so leave the money on the side table.’
I stared at her, felt adrenaline from my stomach drain into my bloodstream, but it felt like someone pulling on my innards, tearing me from the inside. The black hole shuddered inside me.
Her voice was cold. ‘No money, no sex, sweetie.’ She swept bath gel along her glistening, wet arms.
I smiled thinly, but remained silent as I straightened and moved through the doorway, mind clamouring. I had no money. That wasn’t the reason I came. I gazed out of the window; saw my apartment across the street, my darkened window. I wondered then, just how long she had been watching me. Gauging me. Tempting me.
A hint of sexual fascination had lured me, but she had been fishing, too, like a silver-eyed anglerfish, dangling an alluring bright light through the blackness to entice me into her pencil like jaws.
I wanted to have sex with her – it was an added bonus – but I wasn’t expecting to pay.
I turned from the window and switched off the light, lest someone should see, and I inched towards the darkened kitchen. My ribcage fizzed as I gazed at the assortment of knives.
Her voice drifted into the gloom, broke through my reverie. ‘Hey? You still there?’
I returned to the bathroom and the sweet smell of fruits, and I smiled as I walked towards the bathtub, listening to devious whispers forging ideas in the back of my mind.
‘The money is on the table,’ I lied.
She nodded, and beckoned me with a finger. ‘I trust you.’
I walked around the bathtub and stood at her shoulders. She rested back and looked up at me; her turquoise blue eyes fiercely bright. I stared down at her, my vision filling with satanic colour, belly filling with bile. I placed both hands on her shoulders, kneaded softly.
Her painted lips smiled.
I sucked in a breath, and in one violent jolt, I pushed her beneath the water, all my weight bearing down into my forearms.
She thrashed; legs and water heaving over the bath, heels cracking against the taps.
I held her down for a while, listening to her struggling against me, listening as though it was a lullaby of fear, then I let go. I walked around the side of the bath, and she surfaced, spluttering.
She wiped suds from her eyes, her voice heavy. ‘Christ!’
I grabbed her ankles, pulled them up, plunging her back into the water. She flailed and gurgled, but she was no match for my superior strength. Then I eased off after a few seconds, let her come up for air.
‘Christ, dammit, what the hell are you-’
I tugged again and she slipped below the water, her distorted mouth open beneath the soapy surface, her scream muffled. I eased off again, enjoying this game.
She slammed her fist against the porcelain bath. ‘You fucking crazy shit!’
‘How long have you been watching me?’ My hands were still tight around her ankles.
She caught her breath. Mascara melted down her cheeks in thick black streams. She gripped onto the side of the bath.
My eyes narrowed. ‘How long?’
‘Weeks...’ she gasped. Saliva and water dribbled from her mouth. ‘I’ve been watching you for weeks.’
I pulled her legs again, higher, dragging her beneath the water, but this time I did not ease. Instead, I listened as she thumped her fists against the tub, the sounds echoing from the tiles in bilious waves and making me feel high. Adrenaline soaked into my body, flooding every cell with ecstasy until the sounds of her drowning slowly dissipated and silence once again settled like fine dust. I lowered her legs, left them dangling over the bath, and moved to the side of the tub.
I gazed at the shimmering shadow beneath the water, watched as air bubbles escaped from her nose. Then she blinked. Fingers slowly uncurled. Her body suddenly convulsed, thrusting water from the tub, and she shot up. A strange rattling noise spilled from her lips as she sucked in air
I quickly grabbed her neck, reached to the back of my jeans for the knife I had taken from the kitchen. I leaned over, saw my reflection in her eyes; saw the demon crouched in my expression, devious and dusted with malevolence.
I thrust the knife into her neck, slitting neatly into her windpipe, then I neatly tore sideways, opening out the cherry red innards of her throat. The gash bubbled and frothed, spewed out a dark red torrent over my hands. Her eyes rolled white, then I pushed her back beneath the water again, held her down until she was still.
Scarlet clouds misted her face and soiled the water, turning it to the colour of rust.
I picked up my gloves, wiped the blade and calmly left the bathroom.
I walked past the mirror, the one she had spent so much time gazing into, and I caught my darkened reflection. The figure staring back at me was gaunt; brown eyes turned black, and in my mind, imaginary doors were slamming shut against the voices.
They would find victim No.5 soon enough.
My shirt was open. Thin beads of blood dribbled down my neck, soaked my bra and stained my breasts.
Her voice wouldn’t leave my mind. You’re not what I expected...
I never am.
AJ Humpage works full-time for a local authority, but in her spare time she writes articles for local business magazines, short stories and poetry, and she has just completed her first novel.