Thursday, 4 December 2008

Following Annabel

He bought a new hat before he met her today. He wanted to look a little offbeat, out of sync with the world around him. He felt sure that would appeal to her.
She was so cool, so sure of herself. She didn't look like an Annabel. Her hair flowed pitch black down her back, her blue eyes stoked those around her with intense excitement; her lips, ruddy and enticing, she'd bite them when she was thinking. She'd bite sometimes while she was kissing, too.
She didn't mention the hat when she saw him, but she looked at it and smiled wryly. She kissed him slowly on the cheek and drew her fingers slowly down his face as she withdrew. Those same fingers then wrapped tightly around his hand and she set off, running at a startling place. "There's somewhere wonderful I've found," she shouted back at him. "I want to show you."
They danced through the back streets of the city. Flying down alleyways and along narrow streets he saw a world that he'd never noticed before: the city in daylight as a warren, almost deserted.
And then on a thin, overhanging street she slowed and walked quite genteelly to a door ajar. "I don't know how I found it, the first time," she said softly to him, smiling excitedly, "But it welcomed me, all the same. That's how it felt, anyway."
The girl shook her head then, as if she had been speaking gibberish and undoing all the hard work she'd put in establishing her casual persona.
When he stepped through the door, the young man was surprised to see the still furnished hallway of an apartment building. There even seemed to be a communal phone connected there.
Annabel looked back at him from the staircase. She’d already bounded halfway up one flight. Her head was turned towards him. She bit her lip and held her hand out, beckoning him.
He wanted to go upstairs with her, so much, but something about the house left him uncertain and uneasy. He stepped slowly towards the stairs, listening intently for some sound from this dead house. There was nothing. He stepped onto the first step as Annabel said, “Hurry! Come on!” and disappeared up the second flight. He heard her padding on across the landing. He was so scared of going up there with her, he looked for a reason not to go. Was that blood on the stair carpet? He almost wanted it to be, but he kept on, plodding up the stairs, feeling colder and more awkward with each step.
It seemed to take an age to clear the stairs and reach the landing. Why did he feel such dread? There were four doors, all closed, and the window shutters were all fastened. Where was Annabel?
He saw more stains on the carpet of the landing, more stains on the wall and, then, a bloody smear upon the old white door. Second to the left, a shaft of light illuminating the streak of red dried upon it. His body shook. What happened here?
He heard Annabel then. She was on the other side of this door. She was whimpering. And she was speaking to someone.

(To be continued...)

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