“She’s looking at me again”.
“Shoosh, Jack. I’m here.”
“She’s looking at me. Make her stop.”
“Make her go away.”
Moroe caught the clock with her elbow and snatched a glance at the hands trapped in the dead zone as she moved across the bedroom. The eternity of 3 am, confirmed by the clock on the chest.
“Baby please. You’ll wake the neighbours.” She dragged the dressing table stool to the side of the bed, and sat gazing at Jack. She hated this. He was hardly sleeping at all now and the last week seemed to have been hell. A deep breath. There was a long wait for sunrise.
“It’s too late.” Jack looked up, his eyes glazed with terror. “Make her go.”
“You’re drenched. Here.” She wanted to wipe his brow with the cloth by the bed, but he wouldn’t let her touch him. Moroe lent forward anyway, as though to stroke his hair. The terror was still in his eyes, but Jack’s breathing had at least begun to relax. His beautiful long, dark hair. The hair she loved. “That should feel better.” She’d put her hand over his, holding his pale skin as she had every night when Jack had his nightmares.
“Don’t do that. Don’t touch me. Can’t feel it, can’t be it. I don’t want you, I don’t need you, I don’t want…
“I told you to get your hands off me, what’s the matter with you?”
She sighed, and counted to ten. Again, up to twenty. Ten was never enough these days. Never enough, not even for five minutes. Jack the lover, Jack the heartbreaker. He didn’t mean it. Couldn’t. Wouldn’t. She just needed to get him through, then everything would be alright. Count again. She could count all night and it wouldn’t help. One, two, three, four. All under her breath.
“I heard you. Don’t say the word. Don’t say anything. Don’t breath. She drains your breath anyway. I know her. She’ll be here, just wait and see. I know her. I can see her. Coming for me. I know you. I can see you’re here.”
“I know what you’re thinking. I see you. Watching me.” His voice was husky. He’d been crying earlier. He didn’t know that Moroe had seen him. He’d been curled into a ball under the threadbare blankets trying to fight it. But she had been there, as always and ever, looking out for him.
“Jack, honey, I think you should sleep. That’s all. Where’s all this coming from? There’s nothing to be scared of.”
“Scared. I’m scared. Scaredy-cat. Scared of me, scared of her. Scared of what she wants, scared why she hasn’t done anything yet. God, why is this happening? Get her away from me. I see her. Get her away.”
It seemed, for a moment, that she turned. Only slightly, as she moved towards him. The hair stood up on the back of his neck. He shivered. He could see her there clear as the far off day, and he understood her like no-one else. Jack tried to speak but his throat had frozen. But she knew it all. What he thought. What he would say. It was in his eyes. This wasn’t Jack the winner, not Jack who had the control. This was different.
“Sleep, please Jack. You need to sleep. You must sleep.
“There’s nothing there. Come on, just close your eyes. For me.”
Moroe stared straight at him. Jack’s gaunt face was grey from a week without sleep. His eyes were wide, dried the colour of burnt earth, bloodshot and sore. He pulled the blanket tightly around him. Moroe stood and walked silently to the chest. A water jug and glass stood next to the photos of Jack and Moroe when they were young. She picked up the jug and began to pour him a glass.
“She’s here. In the shadow. In the corner, there…
Moroe turned again.
“Too late. She sees me. She wants me. I know what she wants. And she’ll have me as well. I can’t keep her back any more. ”
“Jack, please, just listen to me. There’s nothing to fear. Please. Just sleep.”
Day broke late, as though it hadn’t wanted to reach the house at all. The shutters in the upstairs window remained resolutely closed, as they had throughout the night. Jack would have bricked himself into the room had he been given the chance. Anything to keep her away.
The day’s papers, and the post, were stuck in the letter box. A bottle of milk was on the step. Already sour.
The curtains were open downstairs. The room inside was totally still. The light carried on burning from beneath a bare electric flex.
Jack had once lined the room with his most holy of possessions, his books. A few had made it to the shelves that lined the height of the room. Dust hid their spines. Others were spread about the room, on the table, in piles next to Jack’s chair, and propped upon the wall by the door.
One book rested open on its spine in the middle of the floor.
The room was resting.
Calm spread through the corridors as the light bravely entered the lounge. The dust was floodlit under the sun’s gaze and danced alone about the room. No-one looked in through the window. The door to the hall was shut. A shaft of light glimmered on the picture of Jack and Moroe that was on the mantelpiece. There was no movement in the house, and no noise. Just the dreadful and empty silence.