It’s Happening Again…

It’s 10:30am, I have a class in thirty minutes, my head still hurts from the copious amounts of drink I’d imbibed the night before.  I’m in my underwear, in front of my PC, checking my emails, when I hear shuffling from my front door.

***

Wait, I think I need to rewind a bit.  That was now, this is then.

I guess you are going to think of me as creep, a pervert or weirdo, but I promise it was never meant to be that way.  But I have no one to talk to about this and I need someone to listen, so I don’t hold onto this burden alone.

Please don’t judge me.

***

I guess peeping tom would be the best way to describe what I’d become, but that sounds a bit creepy.  Voyeur is probably better, however even then it gives you the impression that I am some sex-pest and that is definitely not what I was getting out of it.

Being an only child and having very few friends, I had to make my own fun.  I had recently found out that my Sky Television remote control would work on other people’s systems.  Armed with mine, I set out on the streets of my neighbourhood to wreck havoc changing channels.

I snuck into people’s front gardens, tip-toeing to their windows.  Watching unnoticed would give me a rush, it was amazing, something I didn’t understand at the time, but something I wanted more of.

I was fascinated by their reactions.

Some people slept in their chairs, just like my Mum did, and were oblivious to the changes on their TV.  I’d turn up the volume and they’d wake with a start.  I had to bite my lip so my laughter was not heard.

Some people freaked out, almost like they’d seen a ghost.

Some people argued.

One day, I went to the house of one of my teachers, Mrs Glick.  I watched a man, her husband, shout at her so loud I could hear him outside clearly.

“You never fucking turn over the channel without my permission, do you understand me?” he blared into his wife’s face, spittle flying out at all angles, coating her face, flinched, nodded her head quickly and didn’t argue back.

Through the window I could see the fresh tears signal her upset.  I went white with fear, adrenaline coursing through my veins.  When that faded, I felt pangs of guilt, but also something I would learn later was a sense of power.

Over the next few days I’d visit the house, skulk in the bushes with apprehension, waiting for my own private theatre to play out.  What I saw was little more than routine, but it was comforting, to someone as lonely as me.

But Mrs Glick, she was very different to how she was in school.  She wasn’t the happy person I knew, she was sad, she was silent.  She did all the household chores, while her husband drank and slept in his Lay-Z-Boy; I felt bad for her.

The routine was shattered one warm summer evening.  I’d taken to watching them through their front window as if they were a daily soap opera, something I couldn’t miss.  I nodded off, fast asleep, leaning against my favourite hiding bush when the soft electric tones of a swing melody crackled from inside the house.  Jarred out of my slumber, I recognised the song straight away.  One of my favourite songs, *Puttin’ on the Ritz*.

I slowly peeked into the house and saw Mr and Mrs Glick both fast asleep in their respective chairs.  There was also someone else I did not recognise in the house, a someone who unveiled himself as he exited the shadows.  A man, dressed in a posh suit, top hat and tails, a bright white shirt, a bright white bow tie, bright white gloves and a cane.  He danced with his eyes shut, in front of their old vinyl record player; dancing like you’d expect someone dressed like that would.

As my eyes met his, he opened them instantly, as if he knew I was there all along; he smiled.  In time with the music he danced towards me, holding his gloved finger up to his mouth, silently telling me to keep quiet.  He drove his sparkling stick into Mr Glick’s stomach, he didn’t so much as flinch, as if the blow did not register.  The man mimed, an open hand held in front of his face and the other holding his stomach as he feigned a belly laugh, showing to me that Mr Glick was unresponsive.

In a cartoonish manner, he crept over my teacher, who seemed fast asleep.  He picked her up, put her arm over his shoulder and took her out of the living room and into the back of the house.  Before he vanished from view he looked back at me, smiled again and winked, before giving a camp wave and disappearing into the darkness.

The record finished, the needle skipping, repeating the last couple of notes of the song.

Shocked, scared out of my wits, I was rumbled, I ran back to my house.

I spent the rest of the evening on my bed, legs out stretched, a twitching mess of stress and anxiety.   Every time I closed my eyes, I saw the penetrative eyes of that man, looking at me, catching me out.

I didn’t sleep well that night.

***

I stopped my trips to my teacher’s house after that, too frightened I would see that man again.

I didn’t see Mrs Glick again.

A couple of weeks later my Mum sat me down.  She said I was probably wondering where one of my teachers had gone.    She said I was old enough to know the truth.  I gasped, worried she knew what I was doing.

She told me that the police think that Mrs Glick may have been murdered and that her husband is the main suspect, that he’d been arrested.

I was relieved she didn’t know what I knew.  I wanted to tell her about the man in the suit, but I was too scared, too scared he’d come for me.

Later on, towards the end of summer, I received a letter.  I was so excited, I never had mail.  As my mother gave it to me, I snatched it and ran up to my room to read it.  My name was written on the front in beautiful script handwriting.  I ripped open the envelope and a piece of newspaper fell to the floor.

The paper looked old, but there was no date present.  In the same clean fountain pen script was written an address and time:

*199 Ceder Close, 4:45pm*

It was signed with the name:

*Mr Ritz*

My eyes widened.  I knew who that was as soon as I read it; he knew where I lived.  I sat holding the scrap of paper in my hands, studying the writing.

My Mum stormed into my room, “Red, I’ve been shouting up the stairs for ages!  It’s time for school.”

She grabbed me by the arm and dragged me out of the room, the newspaper clipping fell from my hand, I watched helpless as it slowly fluttered to the ground.

***

The day dragged, my mind elsewhere, focusing on that piece of paper that lay in my bedroom.

I stared at it on the floor, faced down.  I checked my watch, 4:30pm.  My adrenal glands released an injection of adrenaline, a rush that filled me and quickened my heart.

*But my teacher…*

Curiosity, sure it was there, it ached and beckoned me to join it on an adventure I would surely never forget.  But, fear, fear kept me rooted to my bedroom.

I flicked on the TV, some anonymous children’s show.

*Was it Thundercats?  I cannot remember.*

*4:46pm, what happens now?*

My eyes fixated on my watch.  The digital display marched on, me on tenterhooks, expecting that each minute that passed was a minute closer to my fate; but I was not going to be a part of that.

*My teacher, what happened to her?*

I didn’t really watch the TV, just gazed at it, something to take the attention of my sight.  I remember my heart beating so hard, making it noticed, *thud, thud, thud*.  It wasn’t until the sun set, I ate dinner and the veil of nighttime drew in that I relaxed.

Whether it was the exhaustion or the relief that he didn’t come for me, I slept well.

***

The alarm didn’t wake me, but my mother shouting in my face did.

“Wakey, wakey, sleepy head!” she said, “You only have twenty minutes to eat breakfast and get ready; chop, chop!”

My sleep encrusted eyes opened blearily to see the letter she put on my nightstand.

“And lucky you, you have another piece of mail.  You haven’t got yourself a girlfriend have you, cowboy?” she smiled.

“Ugh,” I responded, embarrassed by my mother, my mind still firmly in dreamland to fully realise the impact of that letter.

***

I sat at the breakfast table, shovelling mouthful after mouthful of cereal into my mouth, while staring at the beige envelope.  I knew who sent it, but I thought, if I didn’t open it, it didn’t exist.

“Two minutes and we’re leaving,” my mother announced.

I put the letter into my school bag and finished my breakfast.

***

Lunchtime.

I took my lunch box out and put it on the stone wall I was sitting on.  The envelope fell out of my bag, as if it was trying to escape its captivity.

“What is that?” my friend James asked.

“Oh it’s nothing,” I said, reaching down to pick it up.

James swiped at it and pulled it way from me.

“Give it back!” I demanded.

“Ooooooo, Red doesn’t want me to have it,” he announced to the group, “Is it from a *girl*?”

“No!  It’s private, give it back!” I said, hopping off the wall, jumping up at it.

James held it at arms length, he was a clear foot taller, and twenty pounds heavier than me.

He ran his finger over the sealed side, and I could only watch.

He pulled out the ripped piece of newspaper and started reading, “42 Corn Street, 4:45pm.  What the hell does that mean?  Is that where you meet your *girlfriend*?”

My friends chuckled at the announcement, “No!  Gimme it!” I shouted as I snatched the piece of paper from him.

A football glided in and smacked James on the side of the head.

“You little shit!” he said, looking left to right to see who kicked the ball at him.  Geoff peered at him, looking guilty; James ran off in his direction to kick some ass.

Relieved, I sighed.  I looked down at the scrap of paper.

*42 Corn Street, 4.45pm.*

I turned it over.

*You shouldn’t let James bully you.*

The words hit me in the face like a speeding train.

***

4.45pm.

I sat in my bedroom, my computer chair pushed up against my door, hooked under the handle.  Again, the TV on in the background, only their to bring some normality to my life.  As I watched the anonymous television program I thought of him, *Mr Ritz*.  I couldn’t get him out of my mind.  I glanced at my unstarted homework on my nightstand.

I pulled my knees up to my chin, my safe position.

I closed my eyes and thought of better times, times when I felt safe; a family holiday to Spain, where I spent my time playing Gameboy, jumping in and out of the pool, speaking to my temporary friends I’d met and hung out with.

Within minutes or hours I fell asleep.

***

I awoke, the room was pitch black.

*What woke me?*

I listened intently.  Sounds, from downstairs.  I wondered if my parents were fighting.

*No, this was not the sound of people taking or arguing.*

I pressed the light on my watch, 11:30pm.

*Who was making noise at this time of night?*

I slid off of the bed and in a daze, shuffled to the door.  Opening it, the sounds became more apparent; it was music, an all too familiar melody.  The muffled snare beat emanated from down below.  The electric tones took on an eerie quality, out of place this time of night, in the otherwise quiet house.

Nervous, I crept down the stairs listening to the music getting louder as I approached the bottom.  Light shone through the gaps in the doorway leading to the living room, a seem of kaleidoscopic colours, presumably from the TV.

I opened the door.

The music stopped.

The TV so bright, in the otherwise darkness, hurt my eyes as they adjusted.

Through the open patio doors I saw her feet, my mother’s feet, wearing her unmistakable pink heels.  I watched in horror as they disappeared out of view, as if she was being dragged.

It must have been no more than five seconds until I became aware enough to run out after her.

I came to a stop on the paving stones immediately outside the house, almost falling head over heels from the sudden drop in momentum.  I looked to the right, in the direction my mother disappeared to; nothing.

The gate to the back yard was closed and still padlocked.  The whole back of the house was fenced in, unless she was pulled over them in superhuman time, she had just vanished.

In the warm quiet night I heard my heart thump through my pyjamas, a little lightheaded from the sudden exertion, I let my body fold up and drop onto the patio door step.

I held my head in my hands and cried.

***

*Where’s dad?*  I thought to myself as I wiped my eyes.

“Dad?” I shouted as I pushed myself up and entered the house.

No answer.

The downstairs was dark and silent.  I entered the hallway and walked to my parent’s bedroom in the dark.

“Dad?  Where are you?”

The ambient light of my father’s bed side lamp leaked out into the hall, it’s orangey light soothing me as it always had done when I ran down to parent’s room after waking from a nightmare.  But this time, they weren’t there to comfort me.  They weren’t there to say everything was okay; everything wasn’t okay.

I climbed on top of the bed.  The duvet flung back from my dad’s side, it was still warm.  I crawled under the sheets as I had a hundred times before; I pulled the covers up to my chin, but this time I didn’t feel safe, I felt alone, more alone than I thought possible.

I don’t know how long I lay there, but sleep succumbed, it always did.

***

I woke to the smell of bacon.

It was a few moments before I recognised the surroundings.

*This is not my bed, this is not my sheets.*

I rolled over and saw my dad’s watch on the side table, then the previous night came flooding back.

I rose quick and ran to the kitchen.

My dad stood in front of the stove, wearing his ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron, smoke filling the room; I couldn’t remember the last time dad cooked.

“Hello there sport,” he said, with a big grin on his face.

I rubbed my sleep filled eyes, “Where’s mum?”

He ignored my question and shook the frying pan, causing the rashers to hiss in their renewed position.

*BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP*

“Could you turn that off, son?” he said as the piercing smoke alarm blared, announcing that the house was burning down.

He didn’t say anything as we ate.

He didn’t tell me until after school that mum had gone missing.

I didn’t tell him I saw her disappear.

It wasn’t the same after that, like the pilot light of our life had been snuffed out.  I cried a lot, I cried until I didn’t feel like crying anymore, and I cried some more.

The letters stopped arriving.

They never found her, for all intents and purposes she just vanished.

***

That was then, this is now.

I’m all grown up, still as alone as ever.  I live with a house mate I do not talk to, a fellow student; we have nothing in common.

It’s 10:30am, I have a class in thirty minutes, my head still hurts from the copious amounts of drink I’d imbibed the night before.  I’m in my underwear, in front of my PC, checking my emails, when I hear shuffling from my front door.

An envelope slips through the letterbox, an envelope I recognise, my heart skips a beat.

*Shit.*

*It’s happening again.*

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