The Writing On the Wall

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
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Submitted: March 11, 2015

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Submitted: March 11, 2015

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The Writing On the Wall

The writing on the wall appeared sometime in the deep dark of night.

The windows and doors had not been moved; all their locks unbroken and untampered-- nothing was misplaced. There could not be sighted a single rendition nor vase so much as even  slightly askew.

The scrawl was done in perfect, arching strokes--all of onyx ink. Yes, ink. Not paint or marker or anything else of the sort.

Ink.

While that may at first seem inconsequential, the width of the penmanship bespoke a much larger utensil than is readily available to the common person. It would seem, as absurd as it may sound, that some crazed giant, with tools and thoughts of his own, entered my house all in silence,  whilst I slept peacefully and completely unaware only  but one room over, and took the painstaking care to deliberately and clearly write the meaningless question: “Hello?”

It was written just outside my bedroom door so that it was the first thing I saw on my morning routine. I’d stopped and stared in silent stupor for  just one moment before an irrepressible fright overcame me and sent me about the house in frantic excitement.

The search being completed with no notable findings, my apprehension had been sated. I returned to stand before the defaced wall.

I regarded the calligraphic script as a scholar would, and noticed something. I looked closer. Closer. I leaned towards the wall so that every bit of its being could be taken in-- I could not be mistaken else I might, with its telling, be thought a fool.

I cannot say how many minutes I stood there, leant forward and squinting (ironically like a fool) at the writing.  

Had the ends of the letters seeped so slightly down since my first sighting? If indeed they had they hadn’t continued to do so, so what does that mean?  Had I a phantom or  poltergeist or  some manner of spectre now? No, no, it wouldn’t, couldn’t be that, I convinced myself.

For all this though, I realized the length of my inaction and pointless pondering and was once again sent about in an excited flurry.

No time for showering this morning, so I dressed myself as fast as I could bid my body move and fled from my own home.

Not so fast, though, to forget to lock the door.

---

I’d just finished threading my arm through the last opening of my winter coat when the neighbor called out.

“Hello!” a thin voice broached.

“Hello,” I waved back, and turned forward. I was not in the mood for feigned care and discourse at the moment.

But then I stopped and faced her once again.

“Miss Letterman, you didn’t happen to see anything strange at all last night, did you,” I queried, nonchalant as one can be with such a phrase.

“Strange? What do you mean strange,” her weak voice bravely spoke out.

“I-”

“Alien strange?”

“Well-”

“Because… maybe,” she interrupted a second time and then proceeded to look back and forth, as if watching for anyone or anything that might be listening.

“No, not alien,” I gesticulated dismissal, “as in, someone sneaking around my house?”

“Someone?” she asked with an odd inflection, “or something…” leaning in as if waiting for my agreement.

“Ok.” I nodded. “Well,  I’m already almost late for work. Thank you, Miss Letterman, for the information,” I said as genially as I could manage. Her lunacy was a constant source of irritation to me.

“Yes, yes,” she nodded. I turned away once again and made my way to the driver’s side of my car. Before I entered, she spoke out a last time, “If you have any more questions,” she paused, “well you know where to find me,” and finished with a smile. It was clearly an invitation. She must have been lonely, but I had no inclination to encourage her delusions and so would sadly not be gratifying her.

She re entered her house, newspaper clutched close, robe pulled tight. She was set in her ways, I suppose, and no cutting cold would or could keep her from her daily delight.

I turned the key and started the car; the engine roared and then faded to a quiet hum that, even in its slightness, reverberated down to the bone. The radio came to life at the same time, letting loose the brilliant renditions of myuu. He was an obscure pianist, who I only became cognizant of on an odd whim. He composed, or at least played primarily dark pieces.

The day was gray, the clouds mottled the sky dark and darker-- the cold was cold, what else is there? Perhaps the fact that it bit into the skin like frostbite when the listless wind decided to breathe its wintry exhalation.

The seat, for that matter, was probably even colder than ice. The heater pulled its fair share, though, and was quickly warming the little space I’d soon be piloting. My shivering stopped after a short while.

Several minutes later I pulled out of my driveway and crawled along the road, watching the leafless trees sway and pull with that deplorable, magnificent wind. Long, long icicles hung from all their dead or dying branches, making such a terribly beautiful thing form and follow the grace of  Earth’s sweeping breath.

On days like these, the cold seemed to diffuse into everything- paling all hues to a point of ubiquitous and poignant pallor.

I didn’t mind it so much, as long as I wasn’t out in it. But I cannot deny that it brings about a certain inexplicable melancholy. Perhaps it is the lack of movement-- all seems lethargic. Yes, musing over it now I must say that is as much a part of it as anything can be. It seems, in the cold, that everything slows, almost at the end of their span. Like the life is ebbing out of them and into some incorporeal sea.

The cold seems to repress and restrict everything.

But I did not mind it.

The drive, following suit of my observation, could be conducted in no other fashion than as the world around it. It was not my fault, though, but rather of those around me. Even saying that, I’d have driven quite slowly on my own as well. We’d had a storm the night before, despite the air being as frigid then as it was now. I would have preferred the pure pallet of snow, draping the world in white, but somehow the water did not freeze in the air and  instead waited until it had flooded the streets and drenched the houses and soaked the trees.

So considerable care was required when navigating the various turns and calculating the appropriate stopping distance.

For every thousand persons who took this caution, there was one who did not. For every one who did not, at least two paid the price.

I followed the paved path until I came to a four-way stop. There hadn’t been too many other cars on the road. Mine was a journey spent in solitude.

I braked early, a past experience speaking volumes across the years.

When I had been a child, my family and I crossed the bland state of Oklahoma, returning from a trip. The oddest thing about it was, I never wore my seat belt, it restricted me. But that day, only 15 minutes prior I had decided that, for no other reason than a sudden capriciousness, I would indeed wear it.

We hit a patch, or patches, of ice and slid for too long. My dad, who had been driving, called out, saying, quite calmly: “Hold on.” He turned the car to the field of grass, hoping in vain that here the ice would at least be less absolute. The car flipped two or three times, I don’t remember the actual act of flipping, though. Even immediately after I could not recall that span of time.

My dad was ejected from the vehicle, thrown in the midst of the car’s failure. I was the first from the wreckage, the only one who could seem to unfasten their seatbelt, as the car had finally come to a rest bottom side up.

I remember the fleeting image of my father lying in the pale road, unmoving. My feet were bare and they hurt with the pain of asphalt coupled with the brittleness of cold.

I remember the first few cars who had the kind of blackened, awful heart it takes to drive past that. Imagine! A man lying in the road whilst a child runs about an upturned car and not a single soul stopping to ask even “why?”

The ripples of that accident never stopped, though. They kept pushing and pulling until they’d circled the whole world and had come back  and began all anew.

I do believe it set off a series of events that led to the eventual separation of my parents.

With all this in the back of my mind, I braked early.

Another car, going the opposite direction as me, did not brake quite early enough. He slowly slid out into the middle of the intersection as his car turned almost 45 degrees.

The driver looked quite frightened during the process and embarrassed afterward. It was a minor, harmless incident but it reminded me of the necessity of care.

There were many things I’d openly defy, but ice was not one of them.

I listened to its rules and followed each down to the letter.

I proceeded on my route, albeit slowly. Several streets later I was driving at thirtymiles per hour on the outside lane when a car flew past on the inside. At my best guess, it was travelling a good sixty miles per hour.

Then, as anyone could have foreseen, it hit a bit of ice. The car immediately veered to the left, where the only median was a single turn lane.

As I said, anyone could have predicted the outcome of such careless driving, but to actually witness it was awful.

It collided almost directly head-on with another car of the opposite direction.

The force of that meeting was tremendous and it resounded like the monstropolous detonation of some explosive intended to harm. Parts of the vehicles flew up and around, while the cars rebounded from the collision. One of them, the one that’d passed my shoulder, lost its footing and tumbled an unbelievable amount of times.
Then, silence. It’d begun to snow, and in its falling there seemed to be a purposeful muting of the world’s natural aural tendencies.

All the other cars stopped too, pulled off to the side of the road.

People started getting out of their vehicles-- the passenger side of the faultless car opened and a woman rushed out. The driver’s side of the windshield was marked by a hole of shattered glass. She was dressed simply: jeans, jacket, and scarf. Her blonde hair was curled and even from here I could see that fortune had been kind to her features.

She ran to an indiscernible mound lying in the snow, blurred, perhaps, by the endless falling flakes, and fell to her knees. She didn’t scream out, or make much of a noise at all.

Several people were on the phone, talking in low voices smothered even further by the clouded white all around. Others were gathering around the woman-- but they did not dare touch. Her anguish was awful to behold and, as they had seen the same truth she had seen, knew too the vanity of any attempt.  The driver of the car that swerved had not emerged from his vehicle. His was lying upside down, pockmarked with innumerable dents and breaks, in the middle of the street.

A few men approached his, and, at this point, I had begun exiting my own car.

The woman looked up as I stepped out, and met my eyes.  Her countenance was of pure, unalloyed grief. There, lying before her, was a someone she’d loved, who she’d continue to love long after too-- and she would never again  hear him speak, never again feel the joy of watching him delight in the laughter she’d caused. All of this taken from her in the  span it takes to breathe three breaths, dealt by cruel and indifferent fate.

She mouthed, so slightly, the question, why? But, to me, it didn’t seem to be rhetorical. She was asking, specifically, why this had happened. Then she repeated it, this time with more pronounced annunciation, though still not yet with any sound.

She framed the word a third time, but  in this there was the beginnings of an understandable, and irrepressible anger-- for how could one not be angry, if the world should suddenly decide that the thing they held most dear was negatable?

Slowly, the people standing around her began following the object of her focus, till almost the entire congregation of samaritans had fixed their eyes on me as well. Their solemn faces watched me as immovable as the hills and pallets of snow behind, interspersed only by that what was still falling. Even the people who’d gone to investigate the upturned vehicle had stopped to stare at me. At this point their scrutiny was more than uncomfortable, and it soon seemed to teeter on the edge of outright hostility.

The woman was still repeating the question; slowly her voice gained pitch till she was screaming, screaming over and over again: “Why?”

No one moved.

What was going on? I stood there, because they stood there. The situation was  entirely unlike any I’d ever experienced...right? I endured the weight of their boring stares until their expressions turned from that of serious sorrow, to ones of animosity-- true, frightening enmity was thus endowed to their visages.

I feared for my safety, as irrational as it may sound. I hadn’t done anything, in fact, I’d stopped my car along with everyone else to give whatever assistance I was capable of, despite my abhorrence and consequent avoidance of such lamentable occurrences. Yes, I was worried for my well being so I turned and re entered my vehicle. The piano music resumed, accompanied by a lilting violin that seemed to trace the somber air about. I tried to mute the lugubrious masterpiece, but the dial for the volume was not responding to my efforts.

I figured attempting to make a U-turn would cause a problem of some sort so I simply drove forward, continuing down the road and passing the cars all still parked on the side of the blanketed black.  My windshield wipers were needed in order to maintain visibility, as that incessant snow still hadn’t let up. So it was that I crawled away from whatever tragedy I’d just  witnessed,  each and every soul that still burned motionless as their means of commute-- and the one, or two souls that’d been extinguished lay softer still. I could neither confirm nor affirm the status of the driver who hit the woman’s car, as the men and women who were supposed to be aiding the person were creepily fixed and attentive to my snail’s pace. No police powers had come yet either, and beyond that I couldn’t hear the familiar and what would have been comforting wail of sirens.  

I didn’t go to work. As soon as I was out of their line of sight, I’d made whichever turns would lead me home as quick as possible.

It wasn’t until I’d actually pulled into my driveway that I remembered the writing.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend the remainder of the day trapped in those walls, but I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather be doing either.

I unlocked my door and went within, making my way to the vandalized wall with cowardly trepidation.

The ink was gone. No bit of it remained, no smudge or smear of black that might tell me I hadn’t simply imagined it. The paint was as smooth and unmarked as they day I'd leased the house.

I didn't know what to think, was I to be worried or consoled in the discovery of its disappearance? On one hand its absence might mean that it'd never existed at all, but it might as well mean that whoever ( or whatever) had put it there in the first place had returned. But assuming that that something did indeed pay me a second visit, why be so courteous as to clean the mess they'd made?

It was all very absurd and whichever possibility I could so divine was either equally or more ridiculous than the last. The only thing I truly knew was that it wasn't there anymore so I let the facts be and resigned myself to quiet night of reading, relaxing and television.

---

Can you hear me? A beautiful voice whispered, ethereal and surreal. Are you still there? The woman sounded tired, wearied by untold travails.

"I am here," I called out, in the boundless dark, "but this is the first time, you sound like I've been here before?"

Please, she sounded so defeated.

"I told you, I'm right here," but it was no use. She did not speak again, and I was consigned to spend my sleep in an odd state of wakeful stasis, until at last, through much difficulty, I opened my eyes to the white of my ceiling, and the dutiful spinning of my fan. It was still dark, very dark, so I laid there, wondering as to where my sleep'd gone.


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