Sesame Seed: Chapter Four.

by | Aug 28, 2023 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

Alan drained his glass and slapped a giant hand on the table which creaked under the impact.

“Let’s call it a day fella, this is potent stuff and your mind is fragile enough without pickling it,” he declared, grasping Tony’s shoulder. The other man grimaced under the big guy’s grip.

“Woah. Watch the fittings man. Do you know your own strength? You’re probably right though, I’ll be fine with that Geordie lining in my stomach.” Tony put his hand on Alan’s arm, lifted it, and grasped his hand, giving it a good shake

“Good man. We’ll continue this next week. What are your plans?” The doctor reciprocated the handshake causing his companion to wince again, “sorry mate, don’t know my own strength, ha-ha.”

“You’re in my corner and that’s what counts,” Tony replied, pulling his hand free of the monster’s grip and wringing it., “I am free all week so, at your disposal. I’ll give some thought to the next part of my story, where things started to go awry.”

“Perfect, I will transfer your next three grief sessions to Patrick, diary permitting. I still think they’ll help. Also, there’s a game on in Melrose next Tuesday, Hawick, fancy it?” Alan replied. He got up to settle his bill.

“Sounds like a plan to me. Stay over?” Tony said supping the last of his beer.

Alan turned from the bar and called through the crowd, “Aye, I’ll book The George and Abbotsford. It’s not The Ritz but the food is OK and the beer’s decent.”

“Jock beer? I’m there already,” Tony shouted back and stood by the door.

Outside, the big Scot crushed the wind out of his friend and they parted company. Tony made for the Metro, passing the spot where the crow had landed. A shiver ran through him again and he pulled his coat tight around himself. He looked at the door of the old brewery building and a kind of Deja-vu came over him. He stopped and stared at the brushed aluminium entry system. Three neat rows of three with the zero button below. In his mind’s eye, he pressed one, six then Call.

At that moment, the door opened and two students exited the building. A tall athletic-looking Chinese lad in spectacles, and his tiny companion, wearing the hijab of an Arab female. The girl was hanging from his arm like a limpet on a rock. They stopped briefly to check out the old Englishman, frozen spell-like, then turned to each other and giggled. The pair hurried off chattering in Chinese and laughing. Tony snapped out of his daydream and shook his head. He continued to the station.

***

Later that evening, he gave in to the tiredness that had deserted him in recent weeks. Switching the lights off, he made his way upstairs to the tiny front bedroom he had decided to occupy after Marie’s suicide.

The cell-like space gave him comfort with its sparse furnishings and unfamiliar closeness. He undressed and systematically placed his belongings on the bedside table. Keys, watch, wallet, handkerchief, and phone. Picking the latter up to switch it off he noticed several Facebook notifications on the lock screen. On opening the app, he read the list of comments; replies to a post he’d put on the Haruki Murakami group page. All but the last comment were from friends with whom he communicated regularly about the Japanese author. This post said simply, ‘I’m so sorry.’ The tiny avatar was of a young woman with long blonde hair. He squeezed the button on the phone and tapped the off disc. The Samsung logo lit up the room. Seconds later, darkness. Tony slipped into the single bed and was asleep in minutes.

The following morning, Tony was woken by the groaning and creaking of the council bin waggon. It was garden waste day, something in which he did not participate. Marie had had the green fingers in their marriage and the jungle that now surrounded the house was a testament to that. He turned over and pulled the duvet over his head but his bladder and head protested, symptoms of last night’s intake.

He unhooked his dressing gown from the back of the door and slid his feet into his slippers. Padding to the toilet, he relieved one of his symptoms. ’Now, where are those pills,’ he thought, massaging his temples. As he washed the two white tablets down with a gulp of water, he recalled the strange events of the previous evening, outside the Bruce Building. It was as if he’d had a flashback but of the future, not the past. ’Is that a flash forward?’ he mused, chuckling then flinched at the throbbing pain in his head. He recollected the crow, that strange chill, and the notification on his phone. The latter he doubted existed, having been in that semi-sleep state.

Collecting his morning ritual stuff together, he proceeded to make a light breakfast of Earl Grey tea and toast with marmalade. Tea made, Tony spooned a generous portion of Manuka honey into it as the toast popped up. He spread it with a generous helping of butter and preserve, and returned to the table. As he sat down, his breath froze in his throat. The teaspoon with which he’d served the honey was balanced against the side of the jar, its handle hooked on the lid. This arrangement was a trademark breakfast habit. The problem was, he’d never succeeded in achieving this delicate balancing act, unlike his late wife. The same chill as the one outside the Bruce Building, trickled between his shoulder blades like the meltwater from an ice cube.

The toast remained uneaten and the tea was left in the pot. Tony climbed the stairs and fell onto the bed. Curled into a foetal position and sobbed. He lay motionless apart from his heaving chest and gasps of anguish for several minutes. Wiping his face on the pillow, he turned to the bedside table. He powered up the phone and selected the gallery. Tony then indulged in a session of self-torment by scrolling through the album entitled Marie. Every image was a bittersweet memory, where the visual portrayal hid the tragedy of events behind it. Even the wedding close-up of his late wife, her demure smile and immaculate black bob, screamed at him like a spectre.

A fresh bout of tears was heralded by cloying sinuses and he struggled to breathe. He sat up and propped himself against the headboard. Taking the handkerchief, he blew his nose, wiped his eyes, and exited the app. That was when he remembered the notification. Tony shuffled up the bed and sat up straight. He tapped on the picture next to the comment. To his shock, the smiling young woman was the image of his late wife. Not in features but in the ethereal way they spoke to the viewer. Closing the app, he threw the phone on the bed.

“Who is she? Why is she sorry? The eyes. The fucking eyes,” he whispered, looking at the phone as if it was something vile, a dead rodent lying on his duvet.

Just then, there was a muffled clatter at the window followed by light tapping. Tony jumped up still glaring at the handset on the bed and sidled over to the window. He drew the curtains and fell back in shock as a great black mass filled the pane.

“Jesus! What the…Go on, get out of here you black bastard!” Tony screamed at the crow. The creature froze as if studying its next piece of roadkill then fell from the windowsill in a suicide leap. He pressed his face against the cold glass and looked down. The creature tumbled towards the ground and, at the last second, opened its wings and glided across the garden and out of sight. Tony began to hyperventilate. The crow and the phone had turned his tiny haven into a real prison cell. He dashed out still glaring at the offending piece of hardware, slamming his shoulder into the door jamb. The landing closed in on him and he sought refuge in the toilet, where he sat, head in hands on the seat and screamed.

Chapter Five

Tony closed his eyes tight. The vision of the two women on his phone merged together. Tighter. They exploded in a fireworks display on his retinas and his head throbbed…

1 Comment

  1. kenchildse3dc1bd91f

    A good heart rending read Brian. Wonderfully descriptive.

    Reply

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